Authored By Dan Alex (Updated: 5/5/2016):
Adoption of the AWSM as the L115
The British military adopted the Accuracy International AWSM (Arctic Warfare Super Magnum) and the applicable .338 Lapua Magnum cartridge for use as a standardized sniper rifle and applied the family designation of "L115" to the system. The L115 claims a first-round hit against targets out to 600 meters with engagement possible out to 1,100 meters. The optional optics can operate with deadly accuracy in both day and night environments and serve greatly to assist the sniper in ensuring a lethal delivery. Unlike the Accuracy International L96A1 sniper rifle still in use by the British Army (as of this writing), the newer L115 makes use of a heavier 8.59mm caliber cartridge of which five are fitted within the detachable box magazine. The heavier cartridge is said to retard the possibility of the round being "deflected" along its trajectory when fired over long ranges. The 5-round magazine is inserted just ahead of the trigger group through the bottom of the receiver and is deliberately designed as a short protrusion helping to abstain from interfering with the delicate sniper process. The optional Schmidt & bender Day Scope has the ability to magnify targets up to 25x and is fitted along an accessories rail atop the receiver. A bipod is fitted for hands-free forend support and adds stability in the firing process. The stock also contains a shoulder pad for improved user comfort. The receiver maintains the integrated pistol grip with associated thumb-hole and the trigger is protected within an oblong trigger ring. The barrel extends a way out from the gun body.
The L115 Sniper Rifle in Action
The first L115 models to reach the British military were designated as the L115A1. These were fielded with the Schmidt & Bender 3-12x50 PM II telescopic sights. The L115A1 found itself in the ranks of the British Army, Royal Air Force and the Royal Marines and went on to see extensive combat actions in both Afghanistan and Iraq beginning in 2001 and 2003 respectively.
By the end of 2007, the Sniper System Improvement Program (SSIP) was enacted by the British Ministry of Defense. Procurement included an improved form of the base L115 and this became the L115A3. Deliveries of the new system took place beginning in May of 2008 and went on to see combat activities in Afghanistan. The L115A3 made use of a S&B 5-25x56 PM II LP telescopic sight with built-in magnification, illumination, focus, parallax, elevation and windage controls. A suppressor was added to the barrel and helped in reducing both muzzle flash and noise while keeping the sniper concealed - even after having fired his first shot. The shoulder stock could now be folded along the receiver side to help improve the weapon's portability on marches and allowed for placement within a backpack for transport. The L115A3 featured an adjustable cheek piece along the top of the shoulder stock which lent itself well for the sniper charged with observing his target for hours on end. Unlike the L115A1, the bipod of the L115A3 was made adjustable and set to preference by the operator himself. Additionally, the L115A3 sported a monopod ("buttspike") along the underside of the stock for improved stability. Other portions of the SSIP as it related to the L115A3 include use of a heavy-duty tripod, spotting scopes and laser range finders - truly making the L115 a complete sniper package.
The L115 as a Record-Setter
It is noted that a British Army sniper, utilizing an L115, recorded the longest sniper kill in history during November of 2009 when he successfully engaged and defeated a pair of Taliban machine gunners at a range of 2,707 yards. The rifle used was of the L115A3 model variety.