Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle

Carl Gustaf Recoilless Rifle

A Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle of the Norwegian Army, on display in September 2010.
Type Multi-role (anti-armor, anti-fortification, anti-personnel, illumination)
Place of origin Sweden
Service history
In service 1948–present
Used by See Users
Wars Falklands War
Kargil War
War in Afghanistan
Iraq War
Eelam War IV
Libyan Civil War
Syrian civil war
2013 Lahad Datu standoff
Production history
Designer Hugo Abramson, Sigfrid Akselson and Harald Jentzen
  • M1: 1946
  • M2: 1964
  • M3: 1991
  • M4:[1] 2014[2]
Manufacturer Saab Bofors Dynamics (formerly Bofors Anti-Armour AB), Howa (license)[3][4]
Weight Rifle: 8.5 kg (19 lb)
Mount: 0.8 kg (1.8 lb)
Length Overall: 1.1 m (3 ft 7 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
  • 150 m against tanks
  • 700 m against stationary targets
  • 1000 m against stationary targets w/rocket-boosted ammunition
Feed system Hinged breech
Sights Open (iron) sights; optical 3×; laser rangefinder; image intensification system

The Carl Gustaf (Swedish pronunciation: [ˈkʰɑːɭ ˈɡɵ̞stɑːv]; also known as, Gustaf Bazooka and M2CG) is an 84 mm man-portable reusable anti-tank recoilless rifle produced by Saab Bofors Dynamics (formerly Bofors Anti-Armour AB) in Sweden. Although most rounds fired by the Carl Gustaf work on the classic recoilless principle, modern rounds sometimes add a post-firing booster that technically make it a rocket launcher.

The first prototype of the Carl Gustaf was produced in 1946 as a lightweight anti-armor weapon, one of many similar designs of that era. While similar weapons have generally disappeared from service, the Carl Gustaf remains in widespread use today. A combination of light weight, low cost and widely varied ammunition types, makes the Carl Gustaf extremely flexible and able to be used in a wide variety of roles where single-purpose weapons like the M72 LAW passed out of service as newer tank designs rendered them ineffective.

In its country of origin it is officially named Grg m/48 (Granatgevär - "grenade rifle", model 48). British troops refer to it as the "Charlie G", while Canadian troops often refer to it as the "84" or "Carl G". In U.S. military service it is known as the "M3 Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System" (MAAWS) or "Ranger Anti-tank Weapons System" (RAWS), but is often called the Gustaf or "the Goose" or simply the "Carl Johnson" by American servicemembers. In Australia it is irreverently known as "Charlie Gusto" or "Charlie Gutsache" (guts ache, slang for stomach pain).[5]


The Carl Gustaf was developed by Hugo Abramson and Harald Jentzen at the Kungliga Arméförvaltningens Tygavdelning ("Royal Swedish Arms Administration") and produced at Carl Gustaf Stads Gevärsfaktori from where it derives its name. The 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 Carl Gustaf used a rifled barrel for spin-stabilizing its rounds, as opposed to fins used by the other systems.

The use of the recoilless firing system allowed the Carl 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 Carl 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 Carl 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 version (M2) was introduced in 1964 and quickly replaced the original version. The current M3 version was introduced in 1991, using a thin steel liner containing the rifling, strengthened by a carbon fiber outer sleeve. External steel parts were replaced with aluminium alloys or plastics, reducing the empty weapon weight considerably—from 16.35 kg (36.0 lb) to 10 kg (22 lb).

In recent years, the weapon 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-armor weapon, especially against 1950s- and 1960s-era tanks and other armored vehicles still in use worldwide.

In an incident during the Falklands War, Royal Marines defending Grytviken drove off an Argentinian corvette (the ARA Guerrico) with small arms fire, 66mm anti-tank rockets and their Carl Gustaf.[6]

The Carl Gustaf was used against Taliban defensive fortifications by soldiers of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry in operations in Afghanistan. They developed a new system for firing at night in which a spotter with a night-scope fires tracer ammunition to mark the target for the Carl Gustaf gunner.

Carl Gustaf launchers were used by Free Libyan Army during the Libyan Civil War in 2011; the weapons being used were either captured or provided by defecting members of the Libyan Army.

In November 2011, the U.S. Army began ordering the M3 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 Carl 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.[7]

At AUSA 2014, Saab Dynamics 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 fiber 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, picatinny rails for grips and sight mounts, and a remote round management function so intelligent sights can "talk" to programmable rounds.[8][9] The Defense Department agreed to evaluate the shorter and lighter M4 version over the next two years;[10] testing and qualifications are planned to be completed in spring 2017, and the weapon type classified as the M3A1 in fall 2017, making the system available for procurement to all Department of Defense services.[11]


In May 2009, U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers train with the Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle in Basra, Iraq, during the Iraq War. Note the firing position and recoilless backblast.
M3 variant with a variety of ammunition
M4 variant

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 mrad) field of view. The most modern variants fielded to 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 Carl 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, one carrying and firing the weapon, the other carrying ammunition and reloading.



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 USSOCOM special operations forces (SOFs), such as the Army Rangers, Army Special Forces, Marine Raiders, Navy SEALs, JSOC operators, and other forces. 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 2 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).[13]

Army Rangers found the M3 Carl Gustaf 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 AT-4 is lighter and can be carried by one person, a Gustaf team with the heavier recoilless rifle can reload and fire more rounds.[14]

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 like the M141 Bunker Defeat Munition, M72 LAW, M136 AT-4 and MK153 SMAW had effective ranges of only 500 meters. The AT-4 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.[13] 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 platoon.[15]


Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle round ammunition on display in 2007.

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 Canadian designations (other countries use similar terminology, replacing the "FFV")


Australian soldiers fire a Carl Gustaf M3, 2014
JGSDF soldiers operating the Howa 84RR in February 2014. The Howa 84RR is a Japanese-made version of the Carl Gustaf.
Home Guards Used Granatgevär m/48
82nd Airborne Division soldiers during familiarization training of M3 recoilless rifle at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in December 2011.

Former users

See also


  1. Carl Gustaf M4, Saab, 2014
  2. Saab’s latest Carl Gustaf M4 system impresses customers in live fire demonstration (press release), Saab, 2014-09-26, The official Carl Gustaf M4 product launch will take place at the AUSA exhibition in Washington, DC, on 13–15 Oct 2014
  3. "84mm無反動砲「カール・グスタフ」", Right-Wing (in Japanese), JP: Sakura, retrieved 2009-11-04
  4. 1 2 Exhibition of Equipments, JP: Plala, retrieved July 29, 2008.
  5. "The Encyclopedia of Middle East Wars", p. 259
  6. "The Falklands Conflict – The Defence of Grytviken", Navy News, UK, 2002, archived from the original on 2003-05-07.
  7. "SOCOM Seeks Lighter Carl Gustaf". Defense media network. 22 April 2013..
  8. New Carl-Gustaf weapon system design unveiled –, 8 October 2014
  9. Saab Adds Capabilities In New Recoilless Rifle Aviation Week, 13 October 2014
  10. Army, Special Operations Forces Eye Lighter, Cheaper Shoulder-Fired Weapons National Defense Magazine, 10 November 2014
  11. Army Evaluates New Shoulder-Fired Rocket Tech -, 20 October 2016
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 6 OPFOR Worldwide Equipment Guide, U.S.: Army TRADOC DCSINT Threat Support Directorate, January 1999.
  13. 1 2 "Saab to Supply Carl-Gustaf 84mm Recoilless Rifle System to the U.S. Army", SA defense journal, 19 June 2013.
  14. Carl Gustaf Rules In America, Strategy page, 10 September 2014.
  15. US Army Adds 84mm Recoilless Rifle to Platoon Arsenal -, 20 May 2016
  16. "Saab reveals confined spaces capability for Carl Gustaf", Infantry Weapons, Jane's.
  17. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 Jones, Richard D. Infantry Weapons 2009/2010. Jane's; 35 ed. (January 27, 2009). ISBN 978-0-7106-2869-5.
  18. "Direct fire support weapons land 40 phase 2". Defence Material Organisation. October 2010. Archived from the original on 10 April 2011. Retrieved 24 April 2011.
  19. 1 2 "Grenade", World, RU: Guns.
  20. "Svenska vapen hos Burmas arme" [Sweden sells to Burma’s army], SvD (in Swedish), SE.
  21. Karl Gustaf protitanková zbraň (in Czech), CZ: Army.
  22. "Dysekanon M/79", Panser værns våben (in Danish), DK: Dansk panser.
  23. "Dysekanon M/85", Panser værns våben (in Danish), DK: Dansk panser.
  24. |contribution-url= missing title (help), Tehnika [Technical] (in Ewe), EE: Military.
  25. "Armored vehicle weapons in formation", Greek Army ground forces military equipment, Army Recognition.
  26. "DRDO Develops New 84mm Lightweight Anti-Tank System". India.
  27. "Kopassus & Kopaska – Specijalne Postrojbe Republike Indonezije" (in Croatian). HR: Hrvatski Vojnik Magazine. Archived from the original on 2010-08-22. Retrieved 2010-06-12.
  28. Kuwait – Army Equipment, Global security.
  29. Prieštankinis granatsvaidis AT-4 (in Lithuanian), LT: KAM.
  30. Prieštankinis granatsvaidis "Carl Gustaf" M2, M3 (in Lithuanian), LT: KAM.
  31. "Pakistan Army". PK: Defence. Archived from the original on 2013-10-12.
  32. Altair, PL.
  33. Exercício Capolo no distrito de Santarém [Capolo exercise in the Santarém district] (in Portuguese), PT: Operacional.
  34. "Armas", Meios dos fuzileiros [Marines’ equipment] (in Portuguese), PT: Marinha.
  35. Launch customer for Carl-Gustaf M4 -, 16 September 2015
  36. Army, LK, archived from the original on 2011-12-17.
  37. Owen, William F. (2007). "Light Anti-Armour Weapons: Anti-Everything?" (PDF). Asian Military Review. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-07. Retrieved 2010-05-12.
  38. AE84-RCL recoilless rifle, AEI Systems, retrieved September 16, 2014.
  39. The World defense almanac 1996–97, p. 32.
  40. Robinson, Spc Nigel (2011-10-27). "Carl Gustaf Recoilless Rifle". 7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System. Retrieved 15 November 2011.
  41. "U.S. Army Orders Additional Carl-Gustaf Weapon System", Defense talk, 27 September 2012.
  42. "Carl Gustaf Selected as Standard Equipment for U.S. Army Light Infantry Units", Deagel, 20 February 2014.
  43. "US Army approves Carl Gustaf M3 MAAWS for general use", IHS Janes, 16 May 2016.
  44. "Army News - Issue No. 235" (PDF). Ministry of Defence, Singapore. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-06-23. Retrieved 2015-06-23.

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