British snipers to get new longer range rifles


running up that hill
Jan 3, 2007
in Wonderland, with my Alice
Snipers in the Army, Royal Marines and RAF Regiment are to get a new rifle that will give them lethal precision at even greater distances under a £4 million contract announced today, Wednesday 14 November 2007.

The British firm Accuracy International Ltd will supply 580 rifles with day telescopic sights for snipers across the Services, which will fire a larger calibre bullet than the existing weapon.
The new rifle is being supplied as part of a broader Sniper System Improvement programme to give UK snipers more power, precision and stealth than ever before. All-weather new advanced day and night sights will mean snipers can operate around the clock in difficult conditions, and laser technology will allow distant targets to be accurately located.
Baroness Taylor, Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, said:

"We are committed to providing our troops on the front line with the equipment they need. Military snipers provide vital capability on operations, defeating the enemy and protecting our troops on the ground.

"In response to feedback from operations we are investing in new sniper equipment. The first contract is for the new longer range rifle and day sight, and we expect to start taking deliveries of this kit early next year."

Training units will familiarise themselves with the weapon and how it works with other parts of the sniper system. The rifle is due to be ready for operational use next spring.

Other elements of the Sniper System Improvement programme include night sights, spotting scopes, laser range finders and tripods, and will be sourced from a variety of suppliers taking the total procurement value to over £11 million.

Sniper Rifle

Designed to achieve first-round hit at 600m and harassing fire out to 1100m, the superb Accuracy International L96 sniper rifle has been upgraded with a new x3-x12 x 50 sight and spotting scope. Selected units also field the L115A1 Long range Rifle (LRR), which fires an 8.59mm bullet, heavier than the 7.62mm round of the L96 and less likely to be deflected over extremely long ranges.

Sniper Rifle L96

Calibre: 7.62mm
Weight: 6.5kg
Length: (adjustable) 1124-1194mm
Muzzle velocity: 838m/s
Feed: 10-round box
Effective range: 900m, harassing fire 1100m

Long Range Rifle L115A1

Calibre: 8.59mm
Weight: 6.8kg
Length: 1300mm
Muzzle velocity: 936m/s
Feed: 5-round box
Effective range: 1100m plus


SAS makes deadly debut with new sniper rifle
By Sean Rayment
Last Updated: 2:31am GMT 02/12/2001

IT can stop a car in its tracks, penetrate armour and kill at three-quarters of a mile, and has emerged as one of the SAS's most versatile and deadly weapons in the Afghan war.

The new British-made L115A .338 calibre sniper rifle is believed to have been used by special forces to make several "kills" during operations against the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces.

Although 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment took the gun to Macedonia during the mission to collect weapons from ethnic Albanian rebels in the summer, the Afghan campaign is the first time the weapon has been fired - and has killed - in anger.

The L115A is a highly prized piece of equipment within the British Army - there are relatively few in use.

SAS patrols have devised simple but effective hit-and-run ambush tactics against Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters moving through mountain passes in lorries and pick-up trucks, and one Ministry of Defence official said, that in such circumstances, "The effect on the enemy would be devastating.

"The first round takes care of the pick-up truck or lorry by shattering the engine block (:rolleyes: bullshit! ) and, as the Taliban fighters try to find out what's going on, they're taken out by the sniper. At 1,200 metres, with the shot echoing around a valley, they won't have a clue what's going on.

"This is a fantastic piece of kit. It can stop any car in its tracks by splitting the engine block in two, and it can also pierce the armour of light tanks or armoured personnel carriers. With a decent sniper, anyone within its range is a dead man - even if they are wearing body armour."

The SAS has access to a vast array of sophisticated weapons, but what its armoury lacked was a sniper rifle that was relatively light but could pack a powerful punch.

The weapon was chosen after extensive and rigorous tests carried out by the Infantry Trials Development Unit. Marksmen gauged the weapon's accuracy and reliability under the most extreme conditions in the Brunei jungle, the Omani desert and during the Alaskan winter.

The American Barratt Light .50 semi-automatic, a favourite weapon of the IRA, and the French PGM Hecate .50 calibre bolt-action sniper rifle were also tested, but the L115A emerged as the preferred option.

It is a bolt-action rather than a semi-automatic weapon. It has a magazine holding five rounds and is fitted with a telescopic sight. The gun fires a .338 lapua magnum bullet which can either be armour-piercing or incendiary, depending on the type of target.

The rifle came into service only this year and will be issued to 16 Air Assault Brigade, 3 Commando Brigade and elements of the Joint Rapid Reaction Force.

The L115A is manufactured by Accuracy International, based in Portsmouth. A spokesman for the company said: "We are under contract for the Ministry of Defence and, as this is a weapon used by the special forces, we are not prepared to comment further."

A team working with Malcolm Cooper, the twice Olympic and eight-time world champion rifle shot, is understood to have helped in the design.
Canadian snipers have a similar system.

C14 – a Prairie ’Wolf in .338" Lapua
The new C14 Timberwolf snipers rifle – properly, the “Medium Range Snipers Weapon System” – is the replacement for the venerable CF 7.62mm C3A1. The C14, by Winnipeg’s Prairie Gun Works, is chambered for a 8.6mm round (better known as .338" Lapua). This dedicated sniper round has about twice the range of the .308"/7.62mm round, allowing the C14 to take over the longer-range anti-personnel tasks which had fallen to the .50-cal Big Mac.

Source: Canadian Small Arms – Snipers Rifles – A Visual Guide
Being a "Nube" when it comes to long distance, I find it interesting that most of the new calibers are going to smaller rounds than the venerable 50cal. If my conversion is correct, this "8.59" translates to something like something slightly smaller than a 34 caliber (33.818) which must be the round the Canadians are already running with, while Cheytac has their 408 and Barrett recently came out with their 416 cal.

All of which leads me to wonder if at distances extending beyond 400 meters, the research has found that the big 50cal is just pushing too much air?
Being a "Nube" when it comes to long distance, I find it interesting that most of the new calibers are going to smaller rounds than the venerable 50cal. If my conversion is correct, this "8.59" translates to something like something slightly smaller than a 34 caliber (33.818) which must be the round the Canadians are already running with, while Cheytac has their 408 and Barrett recently came out with their 416 cal.

All of which leads me to wonder if at distances extending beyond 400 meters, the research has found that the big 50cal is just pushing too much air?

It's actually the exact same caliber, 338 Lapua Magnum.
8.58x71mm (.338 Lapua)

I have seen reloading data that indicates that a 250 grain bullet can be driven at a MV of 3000 fps with ME of 4995 ft. lbs. from the .338 Lapua. Lapua factory loads drive a 250 grain Lock Base soft point bullet at a MV of 2974 fps or a 275 grain A-Frame bullet at a MV of 2581 fps. The 8.58x71mm military load uses a 250 grain spitzer-boat tail FMJ bullet at a MV of 2950 fps with muzzle energy (ME) of 4830 ft. lbs. This round is considered effective for sniping at 1500 meters!
Story of Lapua Magnum
From an American dream to a Finnish success story.

Original Finnish text: Janne Pohjoispää

The purpose of this article is to enlighten the .338 Lapua Magnum history from a Finnish point of view. The purpose is not to chronologically list events or present the current .338 Lapua Magnum cartridge.

The birth of the .338 Lapua Magnum dates back to 1982, when an American company Research Armament Industries, RAI (Rogers, Arkansas) was asked by the United States Marine forces to develop a long-range rifle for sniper applications. RAI was a relatively small company, owned by late Jerry Haskins, operating mainly in the field of defense technology projects. Officially the project was to develop a target rifle for 1000 yards, but in reality the purpose was more likely to develop a 1500 m sniper rifle.

Haskins developed a prototype for an extremely simplified target rifle, which still today is known in some connections as the Haskins rifle. Frame shaped stock, barrel and short cylindrical front stock were connected into steel action frame. The bolt was fitted into the sleeve with three lugs located at the rear of the bolt and action frame, to which the caliber was easy to switch. Haskins patented the constructional solutions (US pat. 3 494 216).

The rifle had a special construction, and in a way it was very significant: it was the first target rifle designed for military target shooting. The previous military and police force rifles were either modified hunting rifles or regular military rifles equipped with optics. The .50 caliber version of the Haskins rifle is still being manufactured in the United States (Aurora Tactical). Haskins designed two versions of the rifle: the model 500 for the .50 BMG cartridge and the model 300 for the .300 Winchester Magnum cartridge. In the .300 Win. Mag. version the caliber could be changed for the .308 win cartridge by just switching the barrel and the bolt head.

However, the .300 Win.Mag. cartridge did not fulfill the army penetration requirements, so the search for a new RAI 300 caliber with better ballistic properties and heavier bullet started. The first option was to test a wildcat made from the .378 Weatherby Magnum case, necked down for the .338. It was soon found out to be an unsuitable solution because the low body tapering and belted case construction. Case got stuck into the chamber and the construction caused inappropriate feeding. The next parent case was a rimless .416 Rigby, which was used mainly as a big game hunting caliber. Cases were manufactured by an American Brass Extrusion Laboratories Ltd. (Bensenville, IL), better known as BELL, after the owner Jim Bell´s last name. The new cartridge was based on a BELL .416 Basic, which was used mainly as a parent case for wildcat cartridges. The .416 case was necked down to a .338 bullet. A new caliber was born, known as .338/416 and 8,58x71. Haskins would have liked Sierra, known by their accurate bullets, to manufacture these cartridges, but at the time Sierra was not interested in the project. Hornady came into the picture, and designed and manufactured a 250 grs HPBT target bullet for the cartridge. The bullet was not a standard bullet, and has not been on their product list.

The Finnish Choice

Neither the Hornady bullet, nor the BELL .416 Basic case fulfilled all the requirements set to them. According to hear-talk one problem was that the army was willing to accept only Sierra or Lapua bullets. When the deadline to deliver weapons and ammunition to the United States army tests was getting closer and closer, RAI started to seek for other manufacturers. A Finnish Lapua Cartridge Factory was found through their US representative, Kendall International, and in the summer of 1984 Lapua was linked to the fate of the .338/416 cartridge.

A development for both .338/416 case and .338 caliber full metal jacket bullet was started. An all new caliber was a challenge for both the product development department and to production, but things moved on forward rapidly, and the first bullets and cases were ready for shipment to the United States army testing in the beginning of 1985.

Lapua´s first .338 caliber bullet was the B408, which in 1985 looked more like a steroid-fed D46 than the current type. The base for the construction at the time was no doubt the constructions of the full metal jacket bullets of that time and age. The current Lock Base construction came into the picture later.

In 1986 the .338/416 cartridge, with a Lapua bullet and case, won the 1000 yard Navy Rifle competition in Quantanico, Virginia. In spite of that, the US army selection criteria went their own ways, and during 1986 the general situation started to be clear: The US army would choose only Haskins .50 BMG caliber rifles, and not the .338/416. The RAI 500 rifles had been tested in real action in Beirut and Grenada. Even though the .50 BMG caliber rifle offered in addition to its weight also exterior and target ballistic performance, the criteria for the decision more likely lies in the fact that the .50 BMG had been in production for decades, and matching supplies were manufactured by several manufacturers in the United States and elsewhere, and it was already part of the United States army supply selection. The .338/416 for its part was an unknown newcomer.

After the result of the United States army selection, RAI, with financial difficulties, became part of the Iver Johnson´s weapon company´s military sales company American Military Arms Corporation (AMAC). However, Iver Johnson got into financial problems and rearrangements in the 1980´s. The Haskins rifle floated elsewhere.

In addition to RAI, weapons for the .338/416 were manufactured (or subconstructed) by Lapua s distributor Kendall. Kendall´s rifles, called Keberst, were usually built around the MkV actions. Matching actions were sparse, and for example in the new continent very common Remington 700 action was too small for this cartridge. In Finland the first test rifles were built around Sako L61 actions, and at least one Weatherby MkV action based rifle found its way to Lapua, in the Finnish Ostrobothnia.

More product development

After the American manufacturers got off the picture Lapua was left basically alone with the new caliber cartridge, with basically no weapon manufacturers. The management decided still to continue the development of the product. This resulted in specifying the measurements, and the cartridge was named the .338 Lapua Magnum. The biggest difference to the 8,58x71mm cartridge was that the new .338 Lapua Magnum was now almost 2mm shorter than RAI´s draft case, and also the powder space volume in the .338 Lapua Magnum was 1mm shorter. The 8,58x71 did not fit to the 8,6x70 (= .338 Lapua Magnum) chamber anymore without a steady snap of a hammer.

Also the interior structure of the case was redesigned to withstand higher chamber pressures than the original, designed for rarely low pressures, modification of the .416 Rigby could have withstood. So, the .338 Lapua Magnum was in fact a new Finnish cartridge, even though the idea was born at the new continent.

The reason for .416 Rigby case being a good prototype and parent case, but not the actual choice for the new caliber case was quite clear. For the .338/416 cartridge the velocity of a 16,2 g bullet was 915m/s. A completely different case designed for a higher pressure level was clearly needed. The original Rigby .416 case had a rough 3000 Bar pressure case. The new cartridge was designed for over 4000 Bar pressures. The original pressure definition based on the deformation of the copper pellet method - the crusher method - was specified in the beginning into 56000 CUPs (about 3900 bar). When CIP moved to the piezo transducer period, a mistake was made somewhere resulting in the pressure medium for .338 Lapua Magnum to stay in the 4700 Bar level, even thought the correct level is in the 4200 Bars.

The .338 Lapua Magnum was clearly not a hunting caliber, even though it fit the purpose in long ranges. It was a cartridge developed for long range competition and military target shooting with trajectory and bullet penetration qualities superior compared to the usual .30 caliber cartridges. The .338 Lapua Magnum profiled as a target cartridge, even though some manufacturers made also hunting rifles for it.

The loading techniques were also developed at Lapua. The original DuPont IMR4350 powder had a too high burn rate for optimal performance. After thorough testing the final powder choice for the B408 bullet was the Swedish Bofors RP15 powder, which is still superior for the bullet type in question. The Federal 215 primer has been used with the .338 Lapua Magnum since the beginning, and is considered as the most powerful commercial primer for rifles. A powder load of almost 6 grams of slow burning powder needs a powerful and unfailing ignition. Trying to ignite this with a regular rifle primer would be looking for trouble. The first lot of the .338 Lapua Magnum for testing was produced in 1988. A motion had however been made for CIP in 1987, and in 1989 the .338 Lapua Magnum was CIP approved with its measurements.

In addition to the loading techniques also new bullets were developed for the new cartridge and its requirements. In the 1980´s Lapua also developed a full metal jacket bullet which was different from the traditional constructions. The lead in the tail of the bullet was protected with the jacket with the exception of a small center. This construction, later known as the Lock Base, was patented in 1990. The starting point for the development was tests, that clearly demonstrated that covering the lead in the bullet tail clearly makes the bullet more accurate. The original tail design B408 from 1984, was modified to Lock Base type, and the B408 got its current shape. The weight of the bullet remained in 16,2 grams. The first soft point bullet was Mira, streamlined from the Mega bullet. The 16,2 gram EB431 bullet was introduced commercially with the new cartridge in 1990.

The HPBT type Scenar bullet was introduced later, in 1996. The 16,2 g GB488 was not the first member of the Lapua Scenar family, it was introduced already in 1987. Hollow Point target bullets had been designed at Lapua already earlier, the first one, a 6,5 mm HPBT bullet, had been designed already in the 1960´s.

Different kinds of special purpose equipment were also tested: armour piercing, armour piercing indendiary, solids and a sub-caliber projectile were examples of the tested solutions.

Cooperation partners

The new cartridge started raising interest also at the old continent. The chambering of the .338 Lapua Magnum into any action was not without problems since the case was thicker than the usual Magnum cartridge cases and needed a wider action frame and a thicker bolt. Matching actions were not common in the 1980´s. One of the first manufacturers to take action was the German Mauser, which manufactured a .338 Magnum caliber version of their SR93 rifle. During 1988 Lapua started cooperation also with Sako. The TRG rifle did not yet exist, but the largest Sako action at the time, the L61, was used for the tests. Sako manufactured test barrels, and after the tests internal ballistic facts were available. Based on those tests the .338 Lapua Magnum caliber barrels are designed even today. It is not necessary to use a short barrel with the .338 Lapua Magnum or other calibers using a relatively large loading of slow burning powder. The barrel needs to be long enough to reach optimized performance: optimal velocity and best possible accuracy.

The primary rifle manufacturer ended up to be Accuracy International, owned by Malcolm Cooper in Great Britain. Malcolm Cooper was a successful rifle shooter, who had several championships and medals in high quality competitions, two Olympic gold medals to mention a some. A unique feature with Cooper´s success was that for part of his career he shot with rifles he had designed and manufactured himself. In the 1980´s Accuracy International started to develop a military use target rifle for the needs of the British army. In addition to the British army, also the Swedish defence forces were looking for a new sniper rifle, and chose the Accuracy International rifle before the British did. The Swedish touch stayed in the construction of the rifle, since it was designed with winter conditions in mind. For both armies the caliber was not .338 Lapua Magnum, but 7,62 mm NATO. The 7,62 mm NATO was given also a commercial name, "Arctic Warfare".

The "Arctic Warfare" cooperation with Accuracy International and Lapua did not start with the .338 Lapua Magnum, but Malcolm Cooper had been Lapua s representative in Britain already earlier and even won some of his competitions with the Lapua cartridges. Accuracy International designed an all new version for the new cartridge (and also 7 mm Rem. Mag. and .300 Win. Mag.) called Super Magnum. This was an enlarged version of the AW.

The Accuracy International rifle became the first mass production .338 Lapua Magnum rifle. Some time passed and the Sako TRG-41 followed. Also two other Finnish manufacturers, Pirkan Ase and Gunsmith Jyri Jalonen also introduced their .338 Lapua Magnum caliber target rifles, both of which are manufactured around their own actions.

In the 1990´s the selection started to complete with Heym, Erma, McMillan, H-S Precision, AMP and Dakota

rifles. In fact, every long range target shooting weapon manufacture tried to offer also a .338 Lapua Magnum caliber rifle.

During the years the .338 Lapua Magnum has received a steady footstep in many western hemisphere armies and similar organizations.

.338 Lapua Magnum History - Part 2 handles some special versions and .338 Lapua Magnum based new calibers in more detail.


Nammo Lapua Oy archives

Interviews: Juha Eväsoja, Horst Zimmerbauer, Ilkka Heikkilä

Lapua Cartridge Factory brochures: Sniping and .338 Lapua Magnum, 1996

Techinal Data Package Caliber .338 Lapua Magnum

Jim Shults: Big Brass Busters, Gung-Ho Special No. 3 1985

Larry Sterett: A New Sniper Round, Gun Digest 1986

Ilkka Heikkilä: A powerful Sniper cartridge from Lapua. Ase -magazine 4/88

Heikki Syrjälä: Powerful Finnish innovation: .338 Lapua Magnum, Ase & Erä -magazine 6/1988

Vesa Toivonen: Finnish .338 Lapua Magnums, Ase & Erä -magazine5/1991

John D. Taylor: The .338 Lapua Magnum Cartridge Part 1: Orgin, Development and Future Tactical Shooter January 1999

John D. Taylor: The .338 Lapua Magnum Cartridge Part 2: The Men Behind the Cartridge, Tactical Shooter February 1999

Here you go Ben. ;) The story behind it.
You have to remember that the original idea behind the tac .50 was an anti material weapon.
Taking out enemy satellites, fuel depots, vehicles, etc...
The .338 is more of an anti pers rifle. Has less spin drift, better velocity, etc...
There is still room for both, but we only employed the .338 on my last tour to A-Stan.
Here's a video of the AI rifle you guys are discussing.