SAS Weapons - L96A1 Sniper Rifle
The British-made Accuracy International (AI) family of rifles are regarded by many as the best sniper rifles in the world. Several variants have been employed by UK forces:
The 'Precision Marksman' (PM) was the first variant in use with the British Military. A small number of PMs were first adopted by the Special Boat Service (SBS) in 1985, then in larger numbers by the SAS.  The PM was chambered in 308 Winchester, a commerical cartridge from which 7.62mmx51 NATO was derived. The PM was fitted with a Schmidt & Bender 6 x 42 telescopic sight.
When the Ministry Of Defence (MoD) began looking for a replacement for their ageing fleet of Lee-Enfield L42A1 rifles - a model that had not performed optimally during the Falklands Conflict - they approached Accuracy International to make a military version of their 7.62x51mm NATO target rifle and enter into a procurement competition they planned to run. The resulting design was heavily-based on the PM, with new elements such as a a folding bipod at the forward end and lightweight polymer stock featuring an adjustable cheekpad, monopod stabiliser. The rifle was fed from a 10-round box magazine.
The L96A1 bested designs from renowned rifle manufactures that included Parker Hale, SIG Sauer, Remington and Heckler and Koch to win the MoD contract. The L96A1 was subsequently brought into widespread UK military service.
The L96A1 design was later improved in the Arctic Warfare (AW) version, which features a 10x42 hensoldt telescopic sight and is hardened against arctic conditions. The L118A1 was fitted with a Schmidt & Bender MK II 3-12×50mm scope.
UK forces eventually adopted the AW variant, technically known as the L118A1, although many official sources still refer to it as the L96, probably to avoid confusion with the L118 light artillery gun.
The Arctic Warfare Magnum (AWM), known in the UK military as the L115A1, was chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum. 22 SAS reportedly used the L115A1 to neutralize insurgents during Operation Marlborough, Baghdad, 2005. Scopes for the L115A1 included the Schmidt & Bender MK II 5-25×50mm.
L115A3 Long Range Rifle
An updated L115A1, chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum, the L115A3 entered service with U.K. forces in 2008. The A3 features a detachable sound supressor, all-weather day sights with improved magnification, as well as the provision for mounting night sights. The L115A3 has been fielded by Parachute Regiment and Royal Marines snipers in Afghanistan since 2008.
more info : L115A3 Long Range Rifle
AW Covert (AWC)
A version with integrated suppressor and folding stock, the AWC, is available for use in covert scenarios. The AWC breaks down into components for carry in a special suitcase and is reportedly in use by the US Special Operations Unit, 'Delta Force', as well as the British SAS. The AWC is designed for use with sub-sonic ammunition.
more info: AW Covert
An anti-material rifle, the AW50F (L121A1), chambered in .50BGM is also in the SAS armory.
more info: AW50F
The AI sniper rifles featured here are bolt action i.e. - rounds are loaded into the breech manually via a bolt lever - important as the operator can control the ejection of empty cases, a technique that helps conceal his location. The bolt-action on the rifles are designed so that an operator can reload and still keep his fix on the target through the scope.
The Special Air Service use the L118A1 / L115A1/A3 in the counter-terrorist role and on the battlefield. Other UK military units, including the Royal Marines and Parachute Regiment, use both the L118A1 AW and the AWM (L115A1/A3).
|L118A1 AW 7.62mm
(note spike protruding from stock)
Related Book :
"You can taste the dust and cordite. One of the best first-hand accounts of combat that I've ever read."
- 1. Accuracy International History
(Official Accuracy International US Website