The Bullpup concept is rejected by some as antiquated and over-rated. I feel that it is an ingenious way to shorten the overall length of the rifle. The idea of the bullpup was born in the era of the cold war where in order to respond to attacks, the best way to mobilize units was to launch mechanized units in response to the immediate attack.
Far from obsolete, there are new bullpup designs on the market. Lithgow Arms USA has announced they will be bringing the EF88/F90 improved bullpup assault rifle to the USA pictured above. The F90 is a variant of the Steyr AUG developed for the Australian Defence Force to replace the F88 (their designation for the AUG) bullpup rifle.,
Today, the Israeli military still uses this philosophy of mechanized warfare to great effectiveness. In this regard, the bullpup was developed to answer the need for a more compact rifle with the ability to keep the range and effectiveness of a conventional rifle. This was accomplished by moving the trigger mechanism forward and moving the feeding system to the rear. This design actually has great effect with few real downfalls. The issue with the designs that were used is the fact that a lot of them, such as the FAMAS, were thrown together with little testing and consideration to long term service life and reliability. This issue was answered almost right away by the Steyr AUG right from the start. The rifles qualities and reliability were immediately recognized by many nations, such as Australia.
The most recent example of a successful bullpup design is the Israeli Tavor platform, which has recently seen upgrades to further help it compete with the M-4/16 platforms. From what I have read and heard, the Israelis feel that they have found the secret recipe for successfully employing the bullpup and making it a rugged and reliable design for the world to respect. In the US, this design has seen a lot of popularity in the private market. I feel like a large majority of the shooting world here in the US tries to define what works and what doesn’t off of whether a design is familiar, or cool to them.
When looking at the general concept of bullpups, people seem to think that the SBR(Short-Barreled Rifle) is the best substitute. There are a few things that they are not considering along the way when they make this statement. The SBR was designed to answer the issue of lacking power in pistol caliber submachine guns, while also shortening our rifles to a more handy size that will suit our needs in urban environments.
The problems we have encountered when shortening the barrel length of the M-4/16 platform is the direct impingement system tends to not favor this shortening of the gas tube, resulting in numerous malfunctions and lower life spans of the rifles internal components. The response to this concern has been to replace the direct impingement systems with piston systems similar to the G36 rifles. The pistons seem to have resolved a lot of the reliability concerns, but the problem still remains with the loss of velocity that occurs with the already under-powered 5.56 cartridge. Of course, the caliber itself does not lack power, but it is quite temperamental when it comes to terminal effectiveness. Range and velocity have a big part when it comes to effectiveness of the round, if you understand or even have experience in this arena.
For this reason, the SBR tends to lose out on the versatility that the bullpups do not seem to be limited by. When going from long to close range, and back again, the bullpup proves its suitability as a universal design, which is more than what can be said for the SBR or tradition M-4 carbine. The only thing I see people needing to get used to, but can be an issue is the transition from one shoulder to another. When you do this, sometimes you can experience brass in the face, but it usually isn’t bad if you do it right. The other thing is reloading. Bullpups seem to be overly criticized for the method of reloading. The thing I found is that it is very convenient for the most part because naturally, we wanna keep our extremities close to the body when we are under the influence of adrenaline. Reloading a bullpup is very easy since you can manipulate all controls without pulling the rifle out of the shoulder and even without bending the arm out further than 90 degrees.
There are many reasons to consider a bullpup as a practical and universal design. But I feel that these reasons are overly ignored in favor of this idea that consistency in training is a prime factor. The idea of going to different platforms is to see if something else works better. I have found that going from a traditional system to a bullpup design was very easy and in fact made me an even better shooter. This caused me to turn my attention to bullpups and now I see them as the best rifle designs for general usage. if you give them a shot as I have, you may find yourself feeling the same way.
Featured image courtesy of thefirearmsblog