The Carl Gustav recoilless rifle is a long-serving recoilless rifle with a reputation for dependability, effectiveness, and utility. As a recoilless rifle, the Carl Gustav fires what are essentially large unguided "bullets" out of a rifled tube. Although the standard 84mm HEAT rounds are no longer effective against modern front-line Main Battle Tanks, the weapon remains very effective against bunkers, light-skinned vehicles, and infantry.
The design dates to 1946, and the first-generation of Carl Gustavs entered service in 1948. The weapon has two features which distinguish it from most familiar antitank weapons such as the Bazooka, Panzerschreck , and RPG-7:
- Unlike most similar weapons which use finned projectiles, the Carl Gustav uses rifling to stabilize its rounds. Just as in a standard rifled handgun or rifle, lands and groves inside the barrel tube impart spin on the round as it travels down the barrel. Like a well-thrown football the spin keeps the round from tumbling.
- Unlike most similar weapons which have minimal recoil-mitigation, the Carl Gustav uses a large Venturi recoil dampener. This allows the projectiles to pack more propellant and thus increases the muzzle velocity of the rounds. Higher muzzle velocity gives the round a flatter trajectory, which is less likely to be effected by windage.
These features combine to give the Carl Gustav much higher effective range than weapons such as the ubiquitous RPG-7, and much higher accuracy at long range.
M3 and M3 MAAWS
The present Carl Gustav is the M3 variant, called the M3 Medium Anti-Armor Weapon System (MAAWS) in the United States Military
, which dates to 1991. The focus of the M3 design program was to reduce the Carl Gustav's weight without adversely effecting its' lethality, via use of new materials. The heavy steel tube of the original was replaced with a much thinner rifled steel tube wrapped in a carbon fiber sleeve. The steel takes the wear of the round and propellants, while the carbon fiber provides the strength at a much lighter weight. Aluminum and plastics replaced most of the other steel components, resulting in a 6-kilogram weight reduction overall.
Although large multi-warhead and rocket-assisted projectiles exist for the weapon which can be effective against modern armor, the unguided nature of the weapon means it is generally more useful against fixed targets. This has led to guided weapons, such as the FGM-148 Javelin
, taking precedence for the tank-busting role. Lighter, one-shot disposable weapons like the AT-4
have also taken "customers" from the Carl Gustav. However, its rugged, simple, and effective nature still give it widespread appeal. Paratroopers and Special Forces operators in particular prefer to keep "Charlie G" close at hand to provide direct fire support.
Although the weapon is utilized almost exclusively by 2-man teams (loader and gunner) in Western militaries, it is possible for a single soldier to operate and that is how the weapon is most often portrayed in games.
Carl Gustav has numerous popular nicknames, including:
- The Goose
- Carlie g
- The 84
- The Gustav
- Carl Johnson
- Carlie Gusto
- Charlie Gutsache
- RAWS (Ranger Antitank Weapon System)