Steyr SM12 SX Mountain
- By Pete Moore
- 2 Comments
- Last updated: 21/12/2018
Steyr Mannlicher have always had a good rep for offering accurate rifles, which has been appreciated by many sporting shooters, be it on paper or in the hunting field. Their original SSG (sharp shooting rifle) was top choice amongst bolt-gunners back in the day. This distinctive design has served as the basis for all their future, fullbore models, albeit with subtle changes to controls and feed systems.
Next came the SBS 69 action (safe bolt system) the familiar butter knife bolt handle remained, as did the monk’s cowl shroud but the side-mounted sliding catch of the SSG was replaced by a 3-position, tang-mounted roller safety. Which, like similar systems, is fast and does not disturb the shooting position. I owned one of their Scout Rifles for some time and liked it. More main stream was their Pro Hunter series, which was marred in the early versions by the overly flexible synthetic stock. Steyr sorted this, but the introduction of their CL II saw the much improved SX synthetic furniture option.
Jumping ahead, the SM12 SX uses the same bolt design and action but replaces the roller safety with a tang-mounted de-cocking system. There are five options, all with the green SX stock. On test, is their Mountain model in 30-06 but there are also; The Light, Standard, Semi-Weight and Stainless. in a range of calibres, and barrel lengths.
The new SX stocks come in a pleasing olive green and are far more rigid than what came before. An integral aluminium bedding block ensures maximum accuracy potential too. The forend is rectangular and tapers to an under-cut tip; in all, making for a handy package. The Mountain name indicates a slimmer/lighter build that is easier to carry, but the downside is normally a shorter barrel and reduced weight. Good on your shoulder but could be a bit lively in recoil, although its 20” barrel was not ‘whip thin’ as some Mountain guns, but at 7.3 lbs (un-scoped) thankfully not as light as it could be.
Calibre choice is generous, although not all will get the best out of that 20” tube: 222 and 223 Rem, 243, 308 and 270 Win, 7mm-08 Rem, 7x64, 30-06, 25-06 Rem, 6.5x55, 8x57 JS and 9.3x62. The barrel shows Steyr’s signature hammer-forged build with its distinctive, exterior spiral pattern.
The receiver is close-topped, yet with a generous and long ejection port, so no problem getting your finger inside or single loading!
Feed is from a polymer, 4-round box magazine with integral release catches. The trigger guard is moulded-in and big enough for a gloved finger, the blade is broad and nicely curved, and the mechanism offers a single set option. Standard pull is around 3lbs, which is nice and crisp, but you can set it lighter by pushing the rear of the blade forward until it clicks. This drops it to around 1 lb, which is light for hunting use; so, just be aware.
I was initially surprised to see a de-cocking system. Though eminently safer, as if the action is not cocked it can’t fire accidently, experience has shown me that some systems are harder to operate than others. My Blaser R8 is a good example, as that is very hard to actuate easily without dropping the rifle from the firing position. Tangmounted, it shows a low thumb catch with an inset button. It pushes forward to FIRE red dot exposed and, in this position, you just push the button and it springs back to SAFE, white dot showing. Operation, though firm, is easy to accomplish without losing position. When cocked, an indicator pin protrudes from the rear of the bolt shroud.
The bolt handle is what’s called a ’butter knife’, due to its shape. It sits well proud of the stock and is easy to manipulate and cocks on opening with little disturbance to the firing position. The butt shows a low comb and ambidextrous pistol grip and thick rubber recoil pad. Length of pull is a generous 14.25”. The flat, grey phosphate metal finish blends well with the dull green and black furniture and the SM12 looks good and feels purposeful. QD sling studs are fitted and it comes pre-threaded ½ x 20 UNF for a moddy.
I fitted it up with a Leupold 3.5-10x50 scope, Hardy Gen IIII moderator and Harris BRS bipod. Ammunition went to Hornady’s 30-06 M1 Garand 168-grain A-MAX Match and their Custom, 150-grain Interbond, the former is not deer-legal, but the only 168 I had. A load with a 168 SST or similar bullet would, however, do the business.
Sans moddy, recoil was typically 30-06 witnessed by a big push, rather than a kick! The Hardy has an integral muzzle brake and made it very manageable. My concern was the barrel length, as the 06 does like a longer tube for a full burn and therefore maximum performance, which you won’t get here; as these are pretty much 308 Win figures; see BALLISTICS chart! However, accuracy is very good for a sporter and at ethical distances it’s going to take down most game
Ammo: 168-A-MAX Quoted speed: 2710 fps Actual speed: 2564 fps Actual Energy: 2464 ft/lbs Accuracy: 0.6”
Ammo: 150-Interbond Quoted speed: 2910 fps Actual speed: 2755 fps Actual Energy: 2541 ft/lbs Accuracy: 0.7”
I’d not tested a Steyr since the CL II in late 2015 and had nearly forgotten what a nice rifle they are to use. However, prices have risen significantly in three years as back then the CL II cost £1084, today the SM12 Mountain is over £1600, which, compared to some other European brands, is expensive. Pity, as it’s a cracker, I blame the Euro!