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Accuracy International AW
Accuracy International Arctic Warfare - Psg 90.jpg
Type Sniper rifle
Place of origin  United Kingdom
Service history
In service 1982 (L96A1), 1988 (AW), 1990 (psg90) - Current
Used by See Users and civil users
Wars Afghanistan War, Iraq War
Production history
Designed 1982 (PM), 1983 (AW)
Manufacturer Accuracy International
Produced 1982 - Current
Number built Approx. 3000 L96A1 for the British Army
Weight 6.5 kg (14.3 lb)
Length 1,180 mm (46.5 in)
Barrel length 660 mm (26.0 in)

Cartridge 7.62x51 mm NATO
.300 Winchester Magnum
.338 Lapua Magnum
Action Bolt-action
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

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 [1] 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 [2] over Accuracy International's preference.



Original design

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). The Accuracy International rifle was selected over the Parker Hale M85. The British Army adopted the Accuracy International PM in 1982 into service as the L96A1 and outfitted the rifle with Schmidt & Bender 6x42 telescopic sights. In this configuration the rifle is capable of first shot hits with a cold, warm or fouled barrel. Tests with 10.89 g (168 gr) ammunition provided sub 0.5 MOA ten-shot groups at 91 m (100 yd) and the rifle was supplied with a telescopic sight, bipod, five magazines, sling, cleaning kit and tool roll, encased in a fitted transport case.[3]

Design evolution

Some 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 (−40.0 °F). 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 1991 as the Prickskyttegevär 90 (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 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

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 7.62x51 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 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 6x42 PM II scope is around 800 metres (870 yd).

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

G22 of the German Army with an AICS 2.0 stock.

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 dimensionwise.[4]


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 green, are in turn bolted to the chassis, creating a remarkably 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 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 mm) Ø combined with gas relief holes in a 0.785 in (19.9 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, an 11 mm (0.43 in) integral dovetail rail located above the receiver is designed to accommodate a number of 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 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. For the .243 Winchester chambering barrels the twist rate is 254 mm (1 in 10 in) and for .308 Winchester/7.62x51mm NATO chambering barrel variants the twist rate is 305 mm (1 in 12 in) excepted 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 expendable items.


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 two-stage trigger mechanism displays an adjustable trigger pull weight of 1 to 2 kg (2.2 to 4.4 lb). The trigger assembly can be easily removed for cleaning by undoing the two socket head cap screws.

Ammunition feeding

Cartridges are fed through the bottom of the receiver using a detachable, double-column, steel box magazine. Rifles chambered from .300 Winchester Magnum onwards use a single row magazine.

AICS (Accuracy International Chassis System)

US Navy Mk.13 MOD 5 SWS using a AICS 2.0 stock and a Remington 700 based receiver.

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 sports a fully adjustable cheekpiece. The AICS 2.0 is a folding stock that reduces the rifles overall length by 210 mm (8.3 in) when folded and adds 0.2 kg (0.44 lb) weight to the rifles total weight. The AICS 2.0 also has a adjustable cheekpiece that adjusts left/right as well as for height to obtain optimum cheek position when using night vision equipment or telescopic sights with large objective lenses. There is also a quick adjust cheekpiece option that has a spring loaded cheekpiece 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 be replaced by an adapter for a Harris bipod.


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[5] 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 silencers (sound suppressors), butt plates and spacers to adjust the rear end of the rifle to the shooter's height and angle for comfort and length of pull, buttspikes, bipod (adapters), handstops, mirage bands, soft and heavy-duty transit cases and various maintenance tools.[6]


Accuracy International rifles related

AI Arctic Warfare
AI AWP ('Police')
AI AWM ('Magnum')
AI AW50 ('.50 BMG')
Australian AW50F
Swedish Psg 90

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.[7]

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 7.62x51 mm NATO).

AW (Arctic Warfare)

The basic 'improved' version of the L96A1 (still chambered for 7.62x51 mm 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).

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 is a version for use by law enforcement as opposed to military, with AWP standing for Arctic Warfare Police. The most notable feature is that the distinctive frame is black coloured, not a light green colour. It also has a shorter 24 in (610 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 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/7.62x51mm 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.[8]

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. 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 7.62x67 mm).

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. It has been adopted by several armies:

AW50 (Arctic Warfare .50 calibre)

The AW50 was introduced in 2000 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.

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. It is not to be confused with 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 compared to the AW models. The action of the AE is also not permanently bonded with epoxy material to the aluminium chassis and hence can be removed. Unlike the AW models, the AE can not be ordered in a left-handed configuration. The AE is fitted in 7.62x51 mm NATO calibre and its barrel is 610 mm (24 in) long. In 2009 the AE was updated and is since marketed as the AW MkII.[9] The AE MkII rifle system uses AICS 5 and 10 round magazines has a removable trigger group, a screw adjustable cheekpiece. As options a 508 mm (20.0 in) barrel with muzzle brake or tactical suppressor mounting facilities and a folding chassis are available.

Users (7.62x51 mm NATO or smaller chamberings)

See also


External links

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