Army sends Carl Gustav to the weight control program

The Army just invoked Army Regulation 600-9 on one of its crew-served weapon systems. As a result, the M3 Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System, also known as Carl Gustav, will be lighter and a little shorter.

According to a presentation at the 2017 Armament Systems Forum hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association, the new M3E1 will be like the current generation of Carl. According to, the M3 recoilless rifle fires anti-armor, illumination, smoke, anti-building, and anti-personnel rounds. But the Army figured Carl could do better.

A Soldier tests the M3E1 Multi-role Anti-armor Anti-personnel Weapon System, also known as Carl Gustav. (US Army photo)

So, after the Army said to the M3, “Lose some of that weight, Carl!” here’s what happened after a lot of R&D work, some of it from Sweden, according to an October 2016 US Army release.

The M3E1 comes in about 28 percent lighter. It is also 2.5-inches shorter. But Carl Gustav isn’t quite being the proverbial Carl this time — the M3 went and added something else from its visit to the fat farm: a new fire-control system.

The new system combines a laser-range finder with an optic for close-range shooting. The original versions of the M3, first introduced in 1991, used a 9mm spotting round that is a ballistic match with the 84mm round for the purposes of range-finding. As you might imagine, this wasn’t exactly the most practical method in a battlefield.

A paratrooper shoulders a Carl Gustav M3 84mm recoilless rifle while his partner optically measures the distance to a target during a certification course on Fort Bragg, N.C. (US Army photo)

Now, why is this so important? After all, Army infantry units already have the FGM-148 Javelin for anti-tank purposes, and it is a very deadly anti-tank missile. Furthermore, the M134 shoulder-fired rocket is similar.

Well, the Army added the M3 for units headed to Afghanistan a few years back, and made it a permanent part of the platoon’s arsenal last year, according to The M3 actually offered the best of both worlds. It was cheaper than the Javelin, but it also was re-usable, as opposed to the M134.

Not bad, considering the first Carl Gustavs were built in 1948. It just goes to show that a good system can be updated and provide decades of service.