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 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 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 rifle components 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 dimension-wise.
Variants of the Sniper Rifle
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.
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 extreme cold climates.
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 in comparison to 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 should not be confused with 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 that are generated by .22 LR match ammunition. The weapon is fitted with a special .308 Winchester/7.62×51mm NATO special 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) and British 22 SAS.
AWM (Arctic Warfare Magnum)
The (AWM) (Magnum) is chambered for longer, more powerful magnum cartridges specifically .300 Winchester Magnum.
AWSM (Arctic Warfare Super Magnum)
Royal Marines snipers displaying their L115A1 rifles.
The Accuracy International AWSM is an AWM variant chambered for long, high-powered super magnum cartridges like the .338 Lapua Magnum round.
AW50 (Arctic Warfare .50 calibre)
The AW50 was introduced in 2000 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.
AS50 (Arctic Semi-automatic .50 calibre)
The Accuracy International AS50 was developed in 2007 and is a semi-automatic .50 BMG rifle jointly developed by AI and NSWC-Crane (Naval Surface Warfare Center) primarily for US Navy SEALs.
AE/AE MkII (Accuracy Enforcement)
The Accuracy International AE was introduced in 2001 as a cheaper, somewhat simplified less sturdy version of the L96/AW series intended for law enforcement.