The Accuracy International Arctic Warfare rifle is a family of bolt-action sniper rifles designed and manufactured by the British company Accuracy International. It has proved popular as a civilian, police and military rifle since its introduction in the 1980s. The rifles have some features which improve performance in very cold conditions, without impairing operation in less extreme conditions.
Arctic Warfare rifles are generally fitted with a Schmidt & Bender PM II telescopic sight with fixed or variable magnification. Variable telescopic sights can be used if the operator wants more flexibility to shoot at varying ranges, or when a wide field of view is required. Accuracy International actively promotes fitting the German-made Schmidt & Bender PM II/MILITARY MK II product line as sighting components on their rifles, which is rare for a rifle manufacturer. The German and Russian Armies preferred a telescopic sight made by Zeiss over Accuracy International`s preference.
In early 1980`s British Army started the search for the replacement of the aging L42 Enfield sniper rifles. Main compettitors were british companies Parker-Hale with their model 82 bolt action rifle, and Accuracy International, with their PM rifle. Eventually, PM rifle won the competition and was accepted by British Army under the designation of L96
One of the most notorious features of the PM rifle was design of the stock. Instead of the solid polymer or wooden stock, PM/L96 used hollow polymer stock, made from two halves and assembled around aluminium bedding block, that extends to whole stock lenght. L96 also was equipped with backup iron sights.
In mid-1980s Sweden forces began their own quest for the new sniper rifle, that could survive heavy nordic environments. The AI again become the winner in this race with improved L96 design, named "Arctic warfare". In 1988 Swedish forces adopt AW rifle in 7.62mm NATO chambering under the designation of PSG.90. British Army, in its turn, also adopted this improved design under the designation of L96A1, as well as many other militaries and Law Enforcement agencies around the world. In 1998, the Bundeswehr (Germany Army) also adopted the AW Super Magnum rifle chambered in .300 Winchester magnum (germany designation 7.62x67mm) as Scharfschutzengewehre (sniper rifle - german) G22.
Built by Accuracy International of Portsmuth, England, this line of rifles is among the best in the World of sniper rifles today. This rifle can shot less than 2" (51mm) groups at the distances of 600 yards (550m), using boat-tail match ammunition. Arctic Warfare is a line of 5 rifles. Original Arctc Warfare was designed for the British military. It gained its designation by special anti-icing features, allowing sniping operations to be carried out under Arctic conditions as low as -40C (-104F)! Other models are Police (AWP), Suppressed (AWS), Folding (AWF) and Super Magnum (AW SM). Three first rifles designed for 7.62mm NATO ammunition, while Super Magnum can be chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum, .300 Winchester Magnum and 7mm Remington Magnum. AW has a 26" (660mm) barrel, AWP has 24" (609mm). AW SM barrels available in lentths from 24" (609mm) to 27" (686mm). The standart scopes supplied by Accuracy International are Smidt&Bender 3-12X variable or the Leupold Mark 4 fixed 10X scope.
Some years later, the Swedish military were also on the hunt for a new rifle, and in the early 1990s Accuracy International entered an upgraded version of the PM, now known as the AW or Arctic Warfare. This was the start of the Arctic Warfare name, which became the primary name of the rifle family despite its earlier names.
The rifle now featured special de-icing features allowing it to be used effectively at temperatures as low as −40 °C (−40 °F). The stockhole, bolt, magazine release and trigger guard on the AW are large enough to allow use with heavy Arctic mittens. This version was accepted into use by the Swedish Army in 1991 as the Prickskyttegevär 90 (Psg 90).
The modifications to the original PM or L96A1 made the British Army decide to adopt the "improved" AW version as well, designated L118A1. The rifles were fitted with Schmidt & Bender MILITARY MK II 3-12x50 telescopic sights offering the operator more flexibility to shoot at varying ranges, or in situations when a wide field of view is required. This rifle has seen service in recent conflicts such as Operation Granby and Operation Telic.
Rifle system family
The Accuracy International Arctic Warfare model has since spawned an entire family of sniper rifles using the Arctic Warfare name, and has been adopted by a number of other countries, including Australia, Belgium, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Latvia, Malaysia, Norway, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Other AI rifles descended from the L96A1 include the AI AE, and the AI AS50 (see variants below).
Most Arctic Warfare rifles are chambered for the 7.62x51 mm NATO cartridge, but it can also be fitted for other cartridges. It is mounted with a muzzle brake to cut down on recoil, jump and flash.
Each country`s rifles differ slightly. The Swedish Psg 90 for example, uses a Hensoldt (Zeiss) scope and can also use sabot rounds. In 1998 the German Bundeswehr adopted the first folding-stock Magnum version of the AW chambered in .300 Winchester Magnum (7.62x67 mm) and with optics made by the German company Zeiss as the Scharfschützengewehr 22 (G22).
The AW`s complete parts interchange ability and reliability in adverse weather conditions have made it a popular, if expensive, weapon. The rifle offers good accuracy (a capable marksman can expect ≤ 0.5 MOA consistent accuracy with appropriate ammunition), and its maximum effective range with a Schmidt & Bender 6×42 PM II scope is around 800 metres (870 yd).
The Arctic Warfare family`s main competitor in production of high-end factory sniper rifles is the Sako TRG product line, with similar capability but lower price than the Arctic Warfare system.
The AW system is almost unique in being a purpose-designed sniper rifle, rather than an accurised version of an existing, general-purpose rifle.
The modular design of the AW system allows for flexibility, serviceability and repairability under field and combat conditions. Major components such as barrel and bolt can be switched between rifles, or replaced in the field by their operator with the help of some tools. The chambering can also be switched by the operator as long as the barrels, bolts and feeding mechanism can handle the shape and size of the cartridges.
Rather than a traditional wooden or polymer rifle stock, the AW is based on an aluminium chassis which extends the entire length of the stock. This chassis system is marketed as the Accuracy International Chassis System (AICS) and can be used for all Accuracy International rifles. All other components, including the receiver, are bolted directly to this chassis. Two hollow polymer "half thumb-hole stock panels", usually coloured green, dark earth or black, are in turn bolted to the chassis, creating a rugged, yet for its sturdiness comparatively light, weapon.
The Accuracy International receiver is bolted with 4 screws and permanently bonded with epoxy material to the aluminium chassis, and was designed for ruggedness, simplicity and ease of operation. To this end the heavy-walled, flat-bottomed, flat-sided receiver is a stressed part, machined in-house by AI from a solid piece of forged carbon steel. AW rifles are supplied in two action lengths—standard AW (short) and long SM (magnum). The six bolt lugs, arranged in two rows of three, engage a heat-treated steel locking ring insert pinned inside the front bridge of the action. The ring can be removed and replaced to refresh headspace control on older actions. The AW system cast steel bolt has a 0.75-inch (19 mm) diameter combined with gas relief holes in a 0.785 in (19.9 mm) diameter bolt body and front action bridge allowing high-pressure gases a channel of escape in the event of a cartridge-case head failure. Against penetrating water or dirt the bolt has milled slots, which also prevent freezing or similar disturbances. Unlike conventional bolt-action rifles, the bolt handle is bent to the rear, which eases the repeating procedure for the operator and reduces the contour of the weapon. The action cocks on opening with a short, 60 degree bolt throw and has a non-rotating (fixed) external extractor and an internal ejector. Firing pin travel is 0.26 in (6.6 mm) to keep lock times to a minimum. Finally, an 11 mm (0.43 in) integral dovetail rail located above the receiver is designed to accommodate different types of optical or electro-optical sights. As an option a MIL-STD-1913 rail (Picatinny rail) can be permanently pinned, bonded and bolted to the action, providing a standard interface for many optical systems.
The free-floating, heavy, stainless steel barrels (stainless steel resists throat erosion better than normal barrels) for the available cartridge chamberings all have a different length, groove cutting and rifling twist rate optimized for their chambering and intended ammunition. For .243 Winchester the twist rate is 254 mm (1 in 10 in), and for .308 Winchester/7.62x51mm NATO variants it is 305 mm (1 in 12 in), except for the suppressed-barrel variant. If the consistent accuracy requirement of an operator is no longer met the barrel can fairly easily be renewed. This is normal practice for active high-performance precision rifle operators, who regard barrels as replaceable. The barrels are provided by the Australian Madco Arms (button rifled), and the Scottish company Border Barrels, who cut-rifles them on Pratt & Whitney rifling benches. Twists are one turn in 10,11,12,13 and 14 inches for 7.62 MM depending on RFP.
A three-position, firing pin blocking safety lever on the bolt shroud allows the bolt to be manipulated with the safety on. If the weapon is decocked, the firing pin can be felt at the end of the bolt action, making it possible in poor visibility to feel whether the weapon is ready to fire. The safety-catch of the weapon is also positioned at the rear, showing white if the safety is on, red if not.
The two-stage trigger mechanism has an adjustable trigger pull weight of 10 to 20 N (2.2 to 4.4 lbf). The trigger assembly can be easily removed for cleaning by undoing two socket-head cap screws.
Cartridges are fed through the bottom of the receiver using a detachable, double-column, steel box magazine. Rifles chambered for .300 Winchester Magnum or larger use a single row magazine.
AICS (Accuracy International Chassis System)
The Accuracy International Chassis System (AICS) can be configured for various actions (all Accuracy International and some Remington 700 receivers), triggers, and other items. The AICS version for Remington 700 receivers was introduced in 1999. The basic variant is the AICS 1.0 with a fixed cheek-piece. The AICS 1.5 variant has a fully adjustable cheek-piece. The AICS 2.0 is a folding stock that reduces the rifle`s overall length by 210 mm (8.3 in) when folded and adds 0.2 kg (0.44 lb) to the rifle`s total weight. The AICS 2.0 has a cheek-piece that adjusts sideways and for height for optimal cheek position when using night vision equipment, or telescopic sights with large objective lenses. There is also a quick-adjust cheek-piece option that has a spring-loaded cheek-piece in conjunction with a quick-adjust butt plate.
The AICS side panels are made from a high-strength polymer and are available in the colours olive drab, dark earth or black.
Sling attachment points are mounted on each side of the rifle, so it can be carried flat against the back and used comfortably by left- and right-handed users. A front attachment point is situated below the fore end and can be used to anchor a target style sling or replaced by an adapter for a Harris bipod.
The United States Special Operations Command uses the AICS as the Mk 13 Mod 5 rifle chambered in .300 Winchester Magnum. The Mk 13 Mod 5 utilizes the "long-action" bolt of the Remington 700/M24 receiver and has a precision barrel that can be fitted with the suppressor of the Mk 11. It has a 3-sided Modular Accessory Rail System (MARS) for mounting optics on top and picatinny rail accessories on each side, and a folding bipod. The Mk 13 is to be gradually replaced by the Modular Sniper Rifle.
The AW is usually equipped with an integrated bipod and it also has a monopod mounted on the buttstock.
Accuracy International accessories for the Arctic Warfare system include a selection of PM II series telescopic sights made by Schmidt & Bender with laser filters for the military scopes, aluminium one-piece telescopic sight mounting sets, MIL-STD-1913 rails (Picatinny rails), lens hoods, various optical and kill flash filters and lens covers for telescopic sights, auxiliary iron sights for emergency use, cleaning kits, muzzle brakes/flash-hiders and suppressors, butt plates and spacers to regulate the length of pull and butt angle to the requirements of the individual shooter, buttspikes, bipod (adapters), handstops, mirage bands, soft and heavy-duty transit cases and various maintenance tools.
There are two main types of AW series models. Models offered by AI, and type classified models in service with governments. AW models are related to, but not necessarily exactly synonymous with specific models adopted by countries.
PM (Precision Marksman)
The rifle from which the Arctic Warfare family was developed. In this original form it entered service in the UK in the mid-1980s with the designation L96A1 (chambered for 7.62×51 mm NATO).
AW (Arctic Warfare)
The basic `improved` version of the L96A1 (still chambered for 7.62×51 mm NATO). The name stems from special features designed to enable operation in extremely cold climates.
Adopted as the following:
- L118A1: version in British military service
- Psg 90: version in Swedish military service. Psg is short for Prickskyttegevär ("Sniper Rifle").
- SR-98: chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO from a ten round magazine, it is the standard issue marksman rifle for the Australian Army and is also used by various law enforcement agencies. This variant features threaded barrel (for a suppressor), an integrated adjustable bipod, a free floating barrel and; a folding stock with adjustable butt pad, cheek pad, and a rear mono pod.
According to the Accuracy International AW brochure the AW is available in 7.62x51mm NATO and .243 Winchester chamberings, though on special request other chamberings that will function in the AW bolt action can be fitted.
AWF (Arctic Warfare Folding)
AW model with side-folding polymer stock.
AWP (Arctic Warfare Police)
The AWP was a version intended for use by law enforcement as opposed to military, with AWP standing for Arctic Warfare Police. The most notable features were that the distinctive frame was black coloured, not a light green colour. It also has a shorter 24 in (610 mm) barrel than the AW model. The AWP is normally chambered for 7.62 mm NATO/.308 Winchester or .243 Winchester ammunition, though it could be chambered for other cartridges. The AWP is distinct from the Accuracy International AW AE, which also has a black finish but is a cheaper non-military version of the AW series.
AWS (Arctic Warfare Suppressed)
The AWS is specifically designed for use with subsonic ammunition which, depending on the target, gives an effective maximum range of around 300 metres (330 yd). Its noise levels are similar to those generated by .22 LR match ammunition. The weapon is fitted with a special .308 Winchester/7.62x51mm NATO 406 mm (16 in) long barrel which has a twist rate of 229 mm (1 in 9 in) and an integral suppressor. The AWS barrel/suppressor combination has a total length of 711 mm (28 in), which keeps the weapon`s overall length within normal limits. The user can remove the barrel/suppressor combination and replace it with a standard AW or AWP barrel in about three minutes. As with all such systems, the sight will need re-zeroing after a barrel change.
AWC (Arctic Warfare Covert)
The Covert system is essentially an AWS with a folding stock with a 305 mm (12 in) long barrel/suppressor combination with a 203 mm (1 in 8 in) twist rate. It is supplied in a small suitcase which houses the rifle with the stock folded and the barrel/suppressor combination detached. The polymer suitcase is lined with closed-cell foam featuring cut-outs for the stock/action/optics/bipod combination, the bolt, the suppressor, a magazine and a box of ammunition. While the Covert system`s compacted size is considerably smaller than that of any conventional system, its special barrel and integral suppressor keep the weapon`s overall length within normal limits when deployed.
It is notably used by the USSOCOM 1st SFOD-D (Delta Force), the British Special Air Service and the German KSK (designated G25)
AWM (Arctic Warfare Magnum)
The AWM is essentially an AW adapted for chambering dimensionally longer and fatter, more powerful magnum cartridges: specifically the .300 Winchester Magnum and the .338 Lapua Magnum.
The AWM chambered for the .338 Lapua Magnum cartridge has been adopted since its first introduction in the British and Dutch armed forces in 1996 by several armies:
- L115A1 and its `improved` version L115A3; UK designations of AWM chambered for .338 Lapua Magnum.
The AWM-F was the first AW variant featuring a folding stock and has been adopted since its first introduction in the German Army in 1998 by several armies:
- G22 (Gewehr 22 or Scharfschützengewehr 22) by German Army, it features a folding stock and is chambered for the .300 Winchester Magnum round (designated 7.62x67 mm).
On 25 September 2012 Accuracy International announced on their company website that the AWM .338 Lapua Magnum rifle was being replaced by the more versatile and modular Accuracy International AX338 rifle, although still available to order.
AW50 (Arctic Warfare .50 calibre)
The AW50 was introduced in 2000 by the British and Australian armed forces and is an AW rifle re-engineered and chambered for .50 BMG (12.7x99 mm NATO).
- G24 (Gewehr 24 or Scharfschützengewehr 24): German Army designation of the AW50.
AW50F (Arctic Warfare .50 calibre Folding Stock)
The AW50F is a variant of the AW50 adopted by the Australian military. It differs from the standard AW50 in that it is fitted with a folding stock (hence the F) and Madco barrel.
AE/AE MkIII (Accuracy Enforcement)
The Accuracy International AE was introduced in 2001 as a cheaper, somewhat simplified, less robust version of the L96/AW series intended for law enforcement, in place of the more expensive AWP or AW models intended for military use. The AE bolt-action differs from the larger, more angular AW design. The round AE receiver is lighter than in the AW models. The action of the AE is not permanently bonded with epoxy material to the aluminium chassis and can be removed. Unlike the AW models, the AE can not be ordered in a left-handed configuration. The AE is fitted in 7.62×51 mm NATO calibre and its barrel is 610 mm (24 in) long. In 2009 the AE was updated to the AE MkIII. The AE MkIII rifle system uses AICS 5 and 10 round magazines, has a removable trigger group, and a screw-adjustable cheekpiece. An optional 508 mm (20.0 in) barrel with muzzle brake or tactical suppressor mounting facilities and a folding chassis are available.
The Accuracy International AX338 long range rifle series was designed for long, high-powered super magnum cartridges and was unveiled in January 2010 at the SHOT Show tradeshow. It is a major design evolution based on the AWM variant of the AW series and its development was according to Accuracy International partly driven by a Precision Sniper Rifle (PSR) U.S. Special Operations Command solicitation. The AX 338 rifle is chambered for the .338 Lapua Magnum round and features parts that dimensionally or otherwise are not interchangeable with the AW rifle series. The AX338 was designed as a modular multi-calibre rifle, meaning it can be user changed from .338 Lapua Magnum to .300 Winchester Magnum and 7.62x51mm NATO by exchanging bolts, magazines and barrels.
Compared to the AWM, the bolt action of the AX338 is longer and wider and the internal magazine is lengthened, allowing the unimpaired use of .338 Lapua Magnum cartridges loaded to the C.I.P. (Permanent International Commission for the Proof of Firearms Portable) maximum allowed overall length of 93.50 mm (3.681 in).
The AX338 bolt is 22 mm (0.87 in) in diameter and the bolt, bolt head, locking ring and barrel tenon construction were designed to be significantly stronger and more capable of handling higher chamber pressures and temperatures and thus higher bolt thrust safely compared to the AWM variant. The bolt construction is significantly revised, allowing removal of the bolt head from the bolt body with simple hand tools. Cartridge/calibre changes can be accomplished by the change of a bolt head or complete bolt assembly. The interior of the bolt has a new safety feature added that will prevent the rifle from firing on a partially closed bolt. An improved leaf-spring AW 7.62 style extractor should enhance the cycling reliability of the bolt action. This extractor can be removed and reinstalled with the help of a bullet tip. The top of the receiver features a MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny rail for mounting aiming optics. As an option this rail can be provided with a forward canted angle optimized for extreme long range shooting. The diameter of the barrel threading was enlarged and is unique to the AX 338. The rifle is fitted with a 27 in (686 mm) long .338 in (8.6 mm) calibre free floating fluted barrel as standard. The AX338 has a non conventional 238 mm (1:9.375 in) twist rate to adequately stabilize longer, heavier .338 calibre very-low-drag projectile designs that became more common in the 21st century. Other barrel lengths, calibres and twist rates are available as options. The two-stage trigger has a new trigger shoe that can be moved for and rearwards by 0.5 in (13 mm) and has a 3.3 to 4.4 lbf (15 to 20 N) adjustable trigger pull. The AX338 uses new 10-round double stacked .338 Lapua Magnum steel magazines that are inserted into a revised magazine well.
Further the AX338 features a revised external chassis stock system with an octagonal shaped fore end which envelops the free floating barrel offering modular attachment points for user (re)movable MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny accessory rails on four sides. Several lengths of octagonal shaped fore end and Picatinny accessory rails are available as options. The rear of the stock can be either a thumbhole or a pistol grip configuration and has a butt spike as standard. The minimal possible length of pull was reduced compared to the AICS stocks to facilitate usage when wearing thick clothing or body armor. The stock has a left-right and height adjustable cheekpiece as standard or can be fitted with an optional quick adjustable cheekpiece. The pistol grip can be fitted with backstraps of differing sizes that combined with the movable trigger shoe enables the trigger to be tailored to the individual shooter. An AX AICS stock is planned for Remington 700 short and long bolt action based rifles.
The AX series rifle is also available in a smaller 7.62x51mm NATO dedicated AX308 version with a smaller short action with a bolt diameter of 20 mm (0.79 in) and in a larger AX50 .50 BMG version with a bigger extra long action with a bolt diameter of 30 mm (1.2 in).
Users (7.62×51mm NATO or smaller chamberings)
- Algeria: Algerian Gendarmerie Special Operations Force (Détachement Spécial d`Intervention de la gendarmerie nationale).
- Armenia: AX-338 and L96A1 are in use with special force snipers.
- Australia: Australian Defence Force with folding stock known as the SR-98, Police Tactical Groups.
- Czech Republic: Purchased a number of AWF rifles, mainly for the use of Special Forces.
- Greece: Special Anti-Terrorist Unit (EKAM).
- Hong Kong: Special Duties Unit.
- Italy: PM variant. The AWS variant is used by the 9th Parachute Assault Regiment and the AWP variant is used by the Carabinieri.
- Malaysia: PM and AW variants are used by the Malaysian Special Operations Force.
- Malta: Armed Forces of Malta.
- Netherlands: Korps Commandotroepen (few AW and AWC 7.62×51mm NATO chambered arms available).
- New Zealand
- Portugal: Portuguese Army.
- Russia: Used by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia and Federal Security Service of Russia.
- South Africa: South African Police Service Special Task Force
- Sweden: Adopted the AW rifle in 1988, designated PSG 90.
- Ukraine: Used by special forces.
- United Kingdom: L96A1 entered service with the British Armed Forces in 1985.
- Iraq War
- Afghanistan War
Sniper Rifle - Anti Personell
7.62x51mm NATO (.308 win); Super Magnum: .338 Lapua (8.60x70mm), .300 Win Mag, 7mm Rem Mag
Varies with model (L96A1: 6.50 kg)
Varies with barrel length (L96A1: 1124 mm)
686mm (.338 Lapua), 660mm (.300 and 7mm)
4 grooves, rh
5 OR 10 rounds
detachable box magazine
In service dates:
1982 (L96A1), 1988 (AW), 1990–present
detachable aperture type iron sights day or night optics
ca. 800 meters for 7.62mm NATO variants, 1100+ meters for Magnum variants
850 m/s (2,790 ft/s)
CR 156 GA ACCURACY INTERNATIONAL ENGLAND NATO stock number; serial number (all on the left side of the action).
Manual safty catch on left side rear of action. Forward for fire, back for safe. The safety catch locks the bolt, trigger and firing pin; the bolt cannot be closed when the safety is applied, and the safety cannot be applied unless the stiker is cocked.
Mag catch behind mag. Remove mag, empty out any ammo. set the safety catch to fire. open bolt to extract any round remaining in the chamber. examine chamber and feedway, close blot press trigger, replace mag.