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Blog: The AW Covert


While browsing Youtube, we came across a video featuring an interesting rifle that is in service with the British Special Air Service (SAS) and other special operations units around the world, including America's Delta Force:

video from Vickers Tactical Youtube channel. Larry Vickers is a former U.S. Army Special Forces and Delta Force operator. His channel is well worth a look.

The Arctic Warfare Covert (AWC) is a suppressed sniper rifle made by British defence company, Accuracy International (AI). This specialised weapon is based on the AI Arctic Warfare (AW) sniper rifle that was designated as the L96A1 in UK military service. The main difference between the AWC and the AW is the barrel. While the AW is fitted with a 660mm barrel, the AWC sports a much shorter 305 mm barrel that is augmented by a detachable suppressor that fits over the barrel. Firing subsonic 7.62x51mm ammunition through the AWC generates a noise level similar to 22 LR match ammunition i.e. pretty quiet. Other design features include a folding-stock and quick detachable folding bipod.

aw covert sniper rifle
AW Covert rifle

The assassin assembling a sniper rifle from parts taken out of a case is a staple of many a spy thriller. The AW covert certainly evokes such scenes as it is supplied with a polymer suitcase lined with foam that features cutouts for the rifle and its components: suppressor, bolt and 10-round box magazine. Note: unlike in most spy stories, the scope and barrel are already fitted onto the rifle in the case. Attaching the rifle and scope just before firing would result in it losing its zero i.e. its aim would be altered from when last assembled.

One of the rare appearances of the AW Covert in the media is in the final episode of series 2 of the BBC drama, Sherlock. In the aforementioned scene, an assassin hired by Holmes' nemesis, Moriarty, is seen assembling an AW Covert.

Such a weapon system may be used to quietly dispatch sentries or eliminate specific personnel without giving away the shooter's position. The low-powered ammo used and short barrel do mean, however, that the AWC is limited in effective range to targets out to 300 meters. Optics with a wide field of view and close range focus would typically be used when shooting at such relatively short distances. The AW Covert was originally fitted with a Schmidt and Bender 3-12x50 scope.

As with many other weapons employed by the Special Forces, the AW Covert is a specific weapon used for a specific job - another tool in the toolbox

Video showing the difference in sound levels when firing normal ammunition through a AW Covert without the suppressor and the suppressed AWC with subsonic ammo.
From Suppressed Armament Systems Youtube channel

More Info / Further Reading

  • AWS 'Covert'
    (website featuring info on the AW series of rifles)

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