By Julian Nettlefold
Accuracy International (AI) is a specialist British firearms manufacturer based in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England, and best known for producing the Accuracy International Arctic Warfare series of precision sniper rifles. The company was established in 1978 by British Olympic shooting Gold medallist Malcolm Cooper, MBE, (1947-2001), Sarah Cooper, Martin Kay and the designers of the weapons, Dave Walls and Dave Caig. All were international or national target shooters. Accuracy Internationals high-accuracy sniper rifles are in use with many military units and police departments around the world. The Company went into liquidation in 2005, and was bought by a British consortium which has resulted in the original design team now being back in control of the company. The Company is currently (2010) managed by two directors, Dave Walls and Tom Irwin. Dave Caig remains in the business as a consultant.
The Accuracy International rifle system has gained success due, in part, to the design considerations put into the overall rifle. First, the rifle stock design is designed with ergonomics at the top of the design-list. The comfort in holding the rifle combined with the reduction in recoil has aided in the accuracy of those using the rifle. Second, the barrel is interchangeable with other calibres and this can be done in the field in about 15 minutes. With a clamping of the barrel in a barrel vice, the removal of the barrel from the action, the new barrel just screws into the action and a torque wrench tightens it in place; this interchangeability allows for a mission-specific deployment of calibres. Finally, the inherent accuracy of the rifle is due to the action being bolted with 4 screws and permanently bonded with epoxy material to an aluminium frame to which all major rifle components are attached. As it keeps the action from moving away from zero, the accuracy of the rifle is very high. Adding a folding stock, this sniper rifle can be used for both HALO insertions as well as walking deployments of sniper forces.
For the highly advanced, new generation AX series of bolt action rifles, there have been some inspired changes to address the needs of the modern sniper. The AX338 in .338 Lapua magnum, inherits the toughness, reliability, superb accuracy and ease of maintenance of it’s predecessor (the AWSM), and retains the options such as folding stock, adjustable cheekpiece, rear buttspike, buttplate and the same flat-bottom design; but the action is both longer (CIP/SAAMI spec) and wider allowing the use of a newly designed compact and reliable double stack ten round magazine. With a cut out on either the left or the right hand side it allows the user to locate, rotate and insert the magazine into the magazine well without lifting the rifle and moving position. The new larger modular steel close fitting bolt, bolt head and barrel tenon construction is significantly stronger and capable of withstanding higher temperatures and pressures. An improved leaf-spring style extractor facilitates straightforward removal and replacement.
One of the most obvious features in the new AX series is the option of a pistol grip instead of the traditional thumbhole stock which has been the famous silhouette of AI for years. The ergonomically advanced pistol grip can be fine tuned to fit virtually any user by fitting one of several replaceable backstraps. Together with the optional adjustable trigger shoe allows the AX to achieve a fit like a target rifle.
The other obvious new feature is the free floating forend tube with a slot system for quickly and securely attaching modular picatinny rail sections of any length and cant to fit a virtually unlimited variety of optical, ranging support and carrying accessories. This directly addresses the recent trend of forward mounted night vision capability.
The new external stock design greatly improves the users ability to carry and move with the rifle. A sho