L115A3: Is This British Sniper Rifle the Best In the World Today?

L115A3: Is This British Sniper Rifle the Best In the World Today?

Craftsmanship shows through with the best sniper rifles.

Here's What You Need to Know: The L115A3 bolt-action rifle was developed to have an effective range of 1,500 to 1,700 meters.

Military rifles have long had a more utilitarian appearance but for good reason. The rifles needed to be durable, rugged and even useable as a heavy club if all else failed. The exception to that rule has been sniper or marksmen weapons, which have been more refined. The craftsmanship shows through with the best sniper rifles, and this is certainly the case with Accuracy International’s L115A3 long range rifle.

Chambered in the .338 Lapua Magnum (8.59mm) round, it was developed as part of the Sniper System Improvement Programme (SSIP) to replace the L96 and L115A1 sniper rifles previously employed with the British Army, Royal Marines and RAF Regiment in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The new L115A3 was first fielded by the 16 Air Assault Brigade in Helmand in 2008.

It offered multiple improvements over the previous model included a folding stock that reduced the length of the rifle when it is carried in a backpack, an adjustable cheek rest that allows the shooter to align with the new S&B 5-25x56 Day scope, which allows snipers to identify targets more easily. The rifle featured an enhanced suppressor, which reduced the flash and noise signature and helped lessen the chances of detection and so helped the shooter survive. An adjustable bi-pod was developed to allow shooters to support the rifle in a set position while locating the target.

The L115A3 bolt-action rifle was developed to have an effective range of 1,500 to 1,700 meters—compared to that of the .50 BMG cartridge. The .338 Lapua Magnum had less significantly less kinetic energy, but in some cases could penetrate armored glass.

It was one of Accuracy International’s L115A3s that was used in 2009 in Afghanistan by British Army sniper Craig Harrison when he set a world record for the longest confirmed kill. In fact, Harrison made two consecutive confirmed kills at 2.47 km, followed by a third shot that disabled the enemy’s machine gun, which was an even smaller target than the two insurgents.

Five years later in 2014, another British sniper, an undisclosed Lance Corporal serving in the Coldstream Guards, reportedly killed six Taliban fighters during a gun battle in the Kakaran region in southern Afghanistan. However, it wasn’t a case of the round actually penetrating through six insurgents running single file.

Rather it was believed that the initial target was wearing an explosive “suicide vest,” and the .338 Lapua Magnum hit the vest, causing it to explode and kill five other Taliban members in the near vicinity. As another unexploded vest was found, it has been suggested that the shot may have saved more people than it killed! The same Lance Corporal also reportedly killed a Taliban machine-gunner at a distance of 1,340 meters with the first shot on his deployment.

Portsmouth-based Accuracy International was founded by the late two-time Olympic shooting Gold medalist Malcolm Cooper. At a reported £23,000 (US$38,250) each (2014 figures), the L115A3 was not an inexpensive weapon, but the ability to be so accurate remains in a word: priceless.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

This article first appeared in December 2020.

Image: Francis Flinch / Wikimedia Commons