The Carl-Gustaf recoilless rifle, (Swedish pronunciation: [kɑːɭ ˈɡɵ̂sːtav]) designated in Swedish service as the Granatgevär m/48, (Grg m/48 – "grenade rifle", model 1948) is an 84-mm man-portable reusable anti-tank weapon originally produced by Carl Gustafs Stads Gevärsfaktori (that later was merged into Saab Bofors Dynamics) in Sweden. Developed in 1946, it was one of the many recoilless rifle designs of that era. While similar weapons have generally disappeared from service, the Carl-Gustaf is still in production and remains in widespread use today. The Carl-Gustaf is a lightweight, low-cost weapon that uses a wide range of ammunition, which makes it extremely flexible and suitable for a wide variety of roles.
|Carl-Gustaf Recoilless Rifle|
|Place of origin||Sweden|
|Used by||See Users|
Lebanese Civil War
Nordic Biker War
War in Afghanistan
Mexican drug war
Eelam War IV
Libyan Civil War
2013 Lahad Datu standoff
Iraqi Civil War (2014–2017)
2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine
|Designer||Hugo Abramson, Sigfrid Akselson and Harald Jentzen|
|Manufacturer||Saab Bofors Dynamics (formerly Carl Gustafs Stads Gevärsfaktori), Howa (license)|
|Mass||(M2) 14.2 kg (31 lb) (M4/M3E1) 6.6 Kg|
|Length||(M2) 1,130 mm (44 in) (M4/M3E1) 950 mm (37 in)|
|Crew||Two (gunner and loader), but may be used by a single operator at a reduced rate of fire.|
|Cartridge||84×246 mm R|
|Caliber||84 mm (3.31 inches)|
|Rate of fire||6 rounds per minute|
|Muzzle velocity||230–255 m/s (750–840 ft/s)|
|Effective firing range|
|Feed system||Hinged breech|
|Sights||Open (iron) sights; optical 3× laser rangefinder; image intensification system|
The weapon's name is frequently shortened. In Sweden, it is simply called the grg (gé-er-gé). British troops refer to it as the "Charlie G", while Canadian troops often refer to it as "Carl G". In U.S. military service, it is officially known as the M3 Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System (MAAWS) or "Ranger Anti-tank Weapons System" (RAWS), but is often just called "Gustaf". In Australia, it is irreverently known as "Charlie Gutsache" (guts ache, slang for stomach pain), or "Charlie Swede".
The basic weapon consists of the main tube with the breech-mounted Venturi recoil damper, with two grips near the front and a shoulder mount. The weapon is fitted with iron sights, but is normally aimed with the attached 3× optical sight with a 17 degree (300 mil) field of view. The most modern variants fielded by Swedish rifle companies have been fitted with the Swedish Aimpoint sighting system. Luminous front and rear sight inserts are available for the iron sights when aiming at night, and an image intensification system may also be used.
The Gustaf can be fired from the standing, kneeling, sitting or prone positions, and a bipod may be attached in front of the shoulder piece. An operating handle called the "Venturi lock" is used to move the hinged breech to one side for reloading.
The weapon is normally operated by a two-man crew, a gunner who carries and fires the weapon and a loader, carrying two canisters for a total of four rounds of ammunition. One or two extra ammunition carriers can be assigned if heavy use is expected. In the firing procedure it is the loader's responsibility to check the area behind the weapon for people and for obstacles that can interfere with the back-blast; this is needed due to the inherent dangers of the back-blast. Any person within the back-blast cone can suffer severe burn injuries and solid objects closely behind can reflect the blast back onto the crew.
The overpressure or blast wave generated by the Gustaf, will cause blast- and burn-related injuries to those behind the weapon, and is dangerous to 30 meters and hazardous to about 50 to 75 meters. Repeatedly firing the Gustaf can also cause related shock wave injuries to gunners and those nearby. Other studies have shown that there is no evidence of brain injury after blast repeated explosions or firing heavy weapons, such as Carl-Gustaf.
During training, gunners are only allowed to fire six rounds a day. The assistant gunners would also often move away from the overpressure zone, so that they too can fire six rounds a day. Sweden, the first user of Carl-Gustaf, has the regulation that both gunner and assistant gunner are allowed to have 20 full caliber rounds each day.
The Carl Gustaf M1 was developed around 1946 by Hugo Abramson and Harald Jentzen at the Kungliga Arméförvaltningens Tygavdelning ("Royal Swedish Arms Administration") and produced at Carl Gustafs Stads Gevärsfaktori from where it derives its name. Development of the weapons system was preceded by the 20mm Pansarvärnsgevär m/42 developed between 1940 and 1942. Despite advances in recoilless rifle technology introduced by the device; it was quickly discovered that a relatively small-bore solid steel penetrator was obsolete for a shoulder-fired antitank weapon. The 84mm weapon was first introduced into Swedish service in 1948 as the 8,4 cm Granatgevär m/48 (Grg m/48), filling the same anti-tank role as the U.S. Army's bazooka, British PIAT and German Panzerschreck. Unlike these weapons, however, the Gustaf used a rifled barrel for spin-stabilising its rounds, as opposed to fins used by the other systems.
The use of the recoilless firing system allowed the Gustaf to use ammunition containing considerably more propellant, firing its rounds at 290 m/s (950 ft/s), as opposed to about 105 m/s (340 ft/s) for the Panzerschreck and Bazooka and about 75 m/s (250 ft/s) for the PIAT. The result was superior accuracy at longer ranges. The Gustaf can be used to attack larger stationary targets at up to 700 m (2,300 ft), but the relatively low speed of the projectile restricts attacks on moving targets to a range of 400 m (1,300 ft) or less.
The Gustaf was soon sold around the world and became one of the primary squad-level anti-tank weapons for many West European armies.
An improved, lighter and slightly shorter version, the Carl-Gustaf M2, was introduced in 1964 and quickly replaced the original version.
The current Carl-Gustaf M3 version was introduced in 1991. It reduced the weight even further by replacing the forged steel tube with a thin steel liner containing the rifling, strengthened by a carbon fibre outer sleeve. The external steel parts were also replaced with plastics and aluminium alloys.
In recent years, the M3 has found new life in a variety of roles. The British Special Air Service, United States Army Special Forces and United States Army Rangers use M3s in bunker-busting and anti-vehicle roles, while the German Bundeswehr maintains a small number of M2s for battlefield illumination. Many armies continue to use it as a viable anti-armour weapon, especially against 1950s- and 1960s-era tanks and other armoured vehicles still in use worldwide.
In November 2011, the U.S. Army began ordering the M3 Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System (MAAWS) for regular units deployed in Afghanistan. Soldiers were being engaged with RPGs at 900 meters, while their light weapons had effective ranges of 500–600 meters. The Gustaf allows airburst capability of troops in defilade out to 1,250 meters, and high explosive use out to 1,300 meters. While the weapon provides enhanced effectiveness, its 9.5 kg (21 lb) weight burdens troops. On 28 March 2013, USSOCOM announced a call for sources to develop a kit to lighten the M3 MAAWS and reduce overall length without affecting handling or ruggedness. By that time, Saab was developing a weight-reduced version prior to the SOCOM release that demonstrated no decrease in performance, no increase in recoil, and nearly equivalent barrel life that could be ready for government testing in 2014. Saab has also developed a new high explosive round that has a direct fire range of 1,500 meters when using a fire control system.
The M3 Multi-role Anti-armor Anti-tank Weapon System (MAAWS) is the U.S. military designation for the Carl-Gustaf M3 recoilless rifle. It is primarily used by United States Special Operations Command such as the Army Rangers, Army Special Forces, Marine Raiders, Navy SEALs, and JSOC operators. When used by the U.S. Army's 75th Ranger Regiment, the M3 is known as the Ranger Anti-tank Weapons System (RAWS).
In the late 1980s, the Special Operations Forces Modernization Action Plan indicated need for a Ranger Anti-Armor/Anti-Personnel Weapon System (RAAWS) to replace the M67 recoilless rifle in use by the 75th Ranger Regiment. A market survey in 1987 indicated that the Carl Gustaf M3 was the best candidate for satisfying RAAWS requirements. On 29 September 1988, the M3 was selected as the RAAWS from candidate proposals submitted in response to the market survey compiled by ARDEC. A subsequent review of the contractor-supplied fatigue test data determined that the data did not meet U.S. Army requirements. Benét Laboratories conducted fatigue test of two tubes to establish an interim safe service life for the weapon. Tests were conducted in 1993. The manufacturer's recommended life for the weapon was 500 rounds, but bore surfaces showed no indications of erosion until 2,360 rounds. The U.S. Navy SEALs became interested in the program and moved it to a Joint Integrated Product Team. The program name subsequently changed from the RAAWS to the Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System (MAAWS).
Army Rangers found the M3 was best employed using a two-man team. One person would carry the launcher and be armed with a pistol for personal protection, and the other would carry 5–6 rounds of ammunition and act as a spotter for the gunner. Although the single-shot AT4 is lighter and can be carried by one person, a Gustaf team with the heavier recoilless rifle can reload and fire more rounds.
The M3 MAAWS fires the following ammunition:
In late 2012, the Army fielded 58 M3s and 1,500 rounds of ammunition to units deployed to Afghanistan to destroy enemy targets out to 1,000 meters. This was because RPG and machine gun teams could attack 900 meters away, while existing weaponry such as the M141 Bunker Defeat Munition, M72 LAW, M136 AT4, and MK153 SMAW have effective ranges of only 500 meters. The AT4 is lighter and cheaper but is made of reinforced fiberglass, while the M3's rifled metal/carbon fiber launch tube allows for reloading. Employing the 22 lb M3 is easier than the 50 lb FGM-148 Javelin with its launcher with missile and reusable command launch unit, is faster than waiting on mortars, and is cheaper than the Javelin and artillery shells for engaging targets in hard cover. Although Special Operations forces had been using the M3 since the early 1990s, light infantry unit commanders in Afghanistan had to submit operational needs statements to get the weapon. The M3 became an official program of record in the conventional Army in 2014, and a conditional materiel release was authorized in late 2015 to equip all brigade combat teams with one M3 launcher per infantry platoon.
At AUSA 2014, Saab displayed its new Carl-Gustaf M4 variant. Compared to the M3 MAAWS, the M4 is 3.4 kg (7.5 lb) lighter, weighing 6.6 kg (15 lb), and shorter with a 950 mm (37 in) overall length. The shorter length was in response to the need to wield the weapon in urban terrain, and weight savings were achieved through using lighter components whenever possible including a carbon fibre tube with titanium liner, as well as a new venturi design. Other new features include a red-dot sight, a travel safety catch to allow the M4 to be carried while loaded, an adjustable shoulder rest and forward grip for improved ergonomics, a shot counter to keep track of how many rounds have been fired to manage the weapon's 1,000-round barrel life, double that of the M3, picatinny rails for grips and sight mounts, and a remote round management function so intelligent sights can communicate with programmable rounds.
The US Defence Department agreed to evaluate the shorter and lighter M4 version over the next two years; testing and qualifications were planned to be completed in spring 2017, and the weapon type classified as the M3E1 Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System (MAAWS) in fall 2017, making the system available for procurement to all Department of Defence services. The first unit was planned to be equipped with the M3E1 in 2018.
In April 2019, a contract of SEK 168 million (US$18.1 million) was approved to supply the Australian Army with ammunition for the Carl-Gustaf M4 84 mm multipurpose weapon systems ordered by the service in September 2018.
M3 was the name used for decades worldwide for the basic weapon. For the new, improved, lighter, titanium-employing weapon first displayed in 2014, most used the name M4, except for the US. In the US, the Army designation for the US version of the improved M4 mentioned above is M3E1.
In 2017, the U.S. Army approved a requirement for 1,111 M3E1 units to be fielded to soldiers as part of an Urgent Material Release. The M3E1 is part of the Product Manager Crew Served Weapon portfolio. A key benefit of the M3E1 is that it can fire multiple types of rounds, giving soldiers increased capability on the battlefield. By using titanium, the updated M3E1, based on the M3A1 introduced in 2014, is more than six pounds lighter. The M3E1 is also 2.5 inches shorter and has an improved carrying handle, shoulder padding and an improved sighting system that can be adjusted for better comfort without sacrificing performance. The wiring harness was included in the M3E1 configuration that provides a foregrip controller and programmable fuze setter for an interchangeable fire control system. For added safety and cost savings, an automatic round counter enables soldiers and logisticians to accurately track the service life of each weapon. The M3E1 uses the same family of ammunition as the M3, which has been successfully tested.
In November 2017, the U.S. Marine Corps announced they planned to procure the M3E1 MAAWS. 1,200 M3E1s would be acquired with one fielded to every infantry squad. In addition to infantry use, the Marines are considering it to replace the Mk 153 SMAW in combat engineer squads. The weapons perform similar functions and the improvements incorporated into the new M3E1 place it in the same size and approximate weight class as the SMAW. While the SMAW weighs 2.5 lb (1.1 kg) less when loaded, the MAAWS has a greater variety of ammunition available and a maximum effective range of 1,000 meters, twice that of the SMAW. The Marines plan to test both weapons' effectiveness against bunkers to inform their decision.
The orders are placed within a framework agreement signed by the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) in June 2019, which allows Sweden, Latvia and Estonia to place orders for Carl-Gustaf M4 weapon systems during a ten-year period.
Improvements to the ammunition have been continual. While the older HEAT rounds are not particularly effective against modern tank armor, the weapon has found new life as a bunker-buster with an HEDP round. In addition, improved HEAT, high explosive (HE), smoke and illumination (star shell or flare) ammunition is also available. For full effectiveness, illumination rounds have to be fired at a very high angle, creating a danger for the gunner as the backblast from firing can burn him. For this reason, several armies have retired the illumination rounds, while the U.S. Army requires that they be fired from a standing position.
Note that the following are the Swedish manufacturer designations (other countries use similar terminology, replacing the "FFV - Försvarets Fabriksverk")
|Weapon||Diameter||Muzzle velocity||Warhead||Armor penetration (est.)||Effective range||Sight|
|M3-E1 Carl Gustaf||84 mm||310 m/s||1.70 kg HEAT||400 mm||450 m||2×|
|M67 recoilless rifle||90 mm||213 m/s||3.06 kg HEAT||350 mm||400 m||3×|
|LRAC F1||89 mm||300 m/s||2.20 kg HEAT||400 mm||600 m||N/A|
|RPG-7||93 mm||120 m/s||2.60 kg HEAT||500 mm||500 m||2.5×|
|B-300||82 mm||280 m/s||3.00 kg HEAT||400 mm||400 m||N/A|
|PF-98||120 mm||310 m/s||7.91 kg HEAT||800 mm||800 m||4×|
The official Carl Gustaf M4 product launch will take place at the AUSA exhibition in Washington, DC, on 13–15 Oct 2014
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