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.
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 7.62×67 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 (12.7×99 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.
|Weight||6.5 kg (14.3 lb)|
|Length||1,180 mm (46.5 in)|
|Barrel length||660 mm (26.0 in)|
7.62x51mm NATO (.308 Winchester)
.300 Winchester Magnum
.338 Lapua Magnum
|Muzzle velocity||850 m/s (2,790 ft/s)|
|Effective range||800 m (870 yd)|
|Feed system||10-round detachable box magazine|
|Sights||detachable aperture type iron sights
day or night optics
- Australian Army – Folding stock designated as the SR-98
- Azerbaijan – Azerbaijani Special Forces and State Border Service (DSX)
- Czech Republic – Purchased a number of AWF rifles, mainly for the use of Special Forces.
- Greece – Special Anti-Terrorist Unit (EKAM). and Special forces O.Y.K Z’MAK
- Hong Kong – Special Duties Unit
- Irish Army
- Italian Army – 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
- Netherlands – Korps Commandotroepen, Korps Mariniers, 11th Airmobile Brigade (Netherlands) (few AW and AWC 7.62×51mm NATO chambered arms available).
- New Zealand
- Pakistan Army
- Portuguese Army
- Romania – AWP entered in the Brigada Antiteroristă in 1999
- Singapore Army
- South Africa – South African Police Service Special Task Force and South African Special Forces
- South Korea – Used by Special Forces
- Spanish Ground Army Forces
- Sri Lanka
- Sweden – Adopted the AW rifle in 1988, designated as the Psg 90.
- UK Army – Entered service in 1985, has an effective range of around 800 metres and is designed to perform in both desert and arctic conditions. The L118A1 has largely been replaced in front-line service by the L129A1 for section marksmen and the larger-calibre L115A3/A4 for snipers. The integrally-suppressed L118A1 AWC variant is used exclusively by the SAS.
- United States Marine Corps