Accuracy International Arctic Warfare

Accuracy International Arctic Warfare

Infobox Weapon
name= Accuracy International AW

origin=flagcountry|United Kingdom
type=Sniper rifle
service=1982 (L96A1), 1988 (AW), 1990 (psg90) - Current
used_by= See Users and civil users
wars=Afghanistan War, Iraq War
design_date=1982 (PM), 1983 (AW)
manufacturer=Accuracy International
production_date=1982 - Current
number= Approx. 3000 L96A1 for the British Army
weight= 6.5 kg (14.3 lb)
length= 1180 mm (46.5 in)
part_length= 660 mm (26 in)
cartridge=7.62x51mm NATO,7 mm Remington Magnum,.300 Win Mag,.338 Lapua Magnum
action= Bolt-action
velocity= 850 m/s (2,789 ft/s)
range= 800 m (875 yd)
feed= 10-round detachable box magazine
sights= detachable aperture type iron sights
day or night optics

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.

Generally Arctic Warfare rifles are outfitted with a Schmidt & Bender PM II [ [ Schmidt & Bender PM II] ] telescopic sight with fixed power of magnification or with 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 product line as sighting components on their rifles, which is rare for a rifle manufacturer. However, the German and Russian Armies preferred a telescopic sight made by Zeiss [ [ Zeiss: Telescopic sights for handheld weapons] ] over Accuracy International's preference.


The Accuracy International PM (Precision Marksman) rifle was entered into a British competition in the early 1980s as a replacement for the Lee-Enfield derived sniper rifles then in use by the British Army (e.g. L42A1). Accuracy International's name for this rifle was the PM; the Army designated it as the L96A1 and outfitted it with Schmidt & Bender 6x42 telescopic sights. It was selected over the Parker Hale M85.

A few years later, the Swedish military were also on the hunt for a new rifle, and 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 would become 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. The stockhole, bolt, magazine release and trigger guard on the AW are large enough to facilitate use with heavy Arctic mittens. This version was accepted into use by the Swedish Army in 1988 as the Psg 90.

The modifications to the original PM or L96A1 made the British Army decide to order the 'improved' AWP version too and designated it as the L118A1. The rifles were fitted with Schmidt & Bender 3-12x50 PM II telescopic sights. This rifle has seen service in recent conflicts such as Operation Granby and Operation Telic.

It 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, 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 7.62x51mm 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. The German Bundeswehr adopted a folding-stock Magnum version of the AW chambered in .300 Winchester Magnum (7.62x67mm) and with optics made by the German company Zeiss as the "Scharfschützengewehr" 22 (G22).

The AW's unique 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 x 42 PM II scope is around 800 m.

The Arctic Warfare family's main commercial competitor/equivalent on the high end factory sniper rifle market is the Sako TRG product line, that is capability-wise, generally on par with the Arctic Warfare system but somewhat less expensive.

Design details

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 reparability under field and combat conditions. Major rifle componets like the 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 different cartridges dimensionwise. [ [ Accuracy International AW Youtube presentation] ]

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. All other components, including the receiver, are bolted directly to this chassis. Two hollow polymer "half thumbhole stocks", usually green, are in turn bolted to the chassis, creating a remarkably rugged, yet for its sturdiness comparatively light, weapon.

The AW is usually equipped with an integrated bipod and it also has a monopod mounted on the buttstock.

The AI receiver is bolted with 4 screws and permanently bonded with epoxy materiel to the aluminum 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 offered in two action lengths - standard AW (short) and long SM (magnum). The six bolt lugs, which are arranged in two rows of three lugs each, 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 (19.05 mm) Ø combined with gas relief holes in a 0.785 in (19.94 mm) Ø bolt body and front action bridge allowing high-pressure gases a channel of escape in the rare event of a cartridge case head failure. Against penetrating water or dirt the bolt has milled slots, which also prevent freezing or the occurrence of other disturbances. Contrary to conventional bolt-action rifles the bolt handle is bent to the rear, which eases the repeating procedure for the operator and reduces the contours 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, a 11 mm integral dovetail rail located above the receiver is designed to accommodate a number of different types of optical or electro-optical sights.

Cartridges are fed through the bottom of the receiver using a detachable, double-column, steel magazine.

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 is tactile at the end of the bolt-action, making it possible to feel if the weapon is ready to fire or not in poor visibility. The safety of the weapon is also positioned at the rear. It carries two coloured markings: white point – safety on, red point – safety off.

The free-floating, heavy, stainless steel barrels (stainless steel barrels resist 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 respective chambering and intended ammunition. If the consistent accuracy requirement of an operator is no longer met the barrel can fairly easy be renewed. This is normal practice for active high performance precision rifle operators, who regard barrels as expendable items.


There are two main types of AW 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. [ [ Accuracy International Precision Rifles for the 21st Century] ]

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 7.62x51mm NATO).

AW (Arctic Warfare)

The basic 'improved' version of the L96A1 (still chambered for 7.62x51mm NATO). The name stems from special features designed to enable operation in extreme 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 — version in Australian military and Police service (with a folding stock).

The AW is available in 7.62x51mm NATO and 5.56x45mm NATO chamberings.

AWF (Arctic Warfare Folding)

AW model with side-folding polymer stock.

AWP (Arctic Warfare Police)

The AWP is a version for use by law enforcement as opposed to military. Accuracy International AWP, with AWP standing for Arctic Warfare Police. The most notable feature is that the distinctive frame is black colored, not a light green colour. It also has a shorter 24 in (609 mm) barrel in comparison to other models. It normally uses 7.62 mm NATO ammunition, depending on what source, though there may be other types of ammunition (such as 7 mm Remington Magnum, .308 Winchester, or .338 Lapua) it could be chambered for. The AWP should not be confused with Accuracy International AW AE which also has a black finish, but is a much 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 m. Its noise levels are similar to those that are generated by .22 LR match ammunition. The weapon is fitted with a special barrel and an integral suppressor 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. 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 cutouts 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) and British 22 SAS.

AWM (Arctic Warfare Magnum)

The (AWM) (Magnum) is chambered for longer, more powerful cartridges specifically 7 mm Remington Magnum and .300 Winchester Magnum.It has been adopted 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 7.62x67mm).

AWSM (Arctic Warfare Super Magnum)

The Accuracy International AWSM is an AWM variant chambered for long, high-powered cartridges like the .338 Lapua Magnum round.It has been adopted by several armies:
*L115A1 and its 'improved' version L115A3; UK designations of AWSM chambered for .338 Lapua Magnum.

AW50 (Arctic Warfare .50 caliber)

The AW50 is an AW rifle re-engineered and chambered for .50 BMG (12.7x99mm NATO).

*G24 ("Gewehr 24" or "Scharfschützengewehr 24"): German Army designation of the AW50.

AW50F (Arctic Warfare .50 caliber 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.

AS50 (Arctic Semi-automatic .50 caliber)

The Accuracy International AS50 is a semi-automatic .50 BMG rifle jointly developed by AI and NSWC-Crane (Naval Surface Warfare Center) primarily for US Navy SEALs.

AE (Accuracy Enforcement)

The AI AE is a cheaper, less sturdy version of the L96/AW series intended for law enforcement. It is not to be confused with the more expensive AWP or AWS.The AE is fitted in 7.62x51mm NATO calibre and its barrel is 610 mm (24 in) long.

AICS (Accuracy International Chassis System)

The Accuracy International Chassis System (ACIS) can be configured for various actions (all Accuracy International and some Remington 700 receivers), triggers, and other items.The basic variant is the AICS 1.0 with a fixed cheekpiece. The AICS 1.5 variant sports a fully adjustable cheekpiece. The AICS 2.0 is a folding stock that reduces the rifles overall length by 210 mm (8 in) when folded and adds 0.2 kg (0.4 lb) weight to the rifles total weight. The AICS 2.0 also has a fully adjustable cheekpiece. The AICS side "panels" are made from a high-strength polymer and are available in the colours olive drab, tan, black or grey.

Users (7.62x51mm NATO or smaller chamberings)

*AUS - SR98 designation
*NED - Korps Commandotroepen (few 7.62x51mm NATO chambered arms available)
*SWE - L96A1 AW or Psg 90 designation
*GBR - L96A1, L118A1 & AWC (22SAS)
*USA - SFOD (Delta), US Navy Seals

ee also

*Sniper rifle
*Accuracy International AWM, the "Arctic Warfare Magnum", variant in larger caliber.
*Psg 90, AW variant as adopted by the Swedish Army


* [ Accuracy International AW Brochure 2005]

External links

* [ Information about Accuracy International and their product line]
* [ Accuracy International AW (Arctic Warfare) sniper rifle (British designation: L96A1)]
* [ Modern Firearms]
* [ About AWM]
* [ Accuracy International AW Youtube presentation]

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