Army Units Want More M3 Carl Gustafs in Afghanistan

The Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System is becoming quite popular with conventional ground forces in Afghanistan. Pentagon officials are getting more Operational Needs Statements from commanders asking for these 84mm recoilless rifles, also known as the M3 Carl Gustaf.

The Army fielded 58 M3s and 1,500 rounds of ammunition to units in Afghanistan late last year after commanders complained that their disposable AT4s were ineffective at engaging the enemy at long ranges. The breech-loading M3 can reach out and hit enemy targets up to 1,000 meters away.

The Pentagon continues to be stingy with details of the fielding, but Army officials did say they have received “several” new Operational Needs Statements, requesting more M3s for the Stan. The Army is also conducting an evaluation of the M3, which has been in use by U.S. Special Operations Command since 1991. The service would not say if it is considering formally adopting the M3 system for use as an alternative to the AT4 or the Javelin.

So far, units from the 25th Infantry, 10th Mountain and 82nd Airborne divisions have received M3s. The launcher weighs approximately 22 pounds with each round of ammunition weighing just under 10 pounds. There is an effort to lighten the load of the rifle by five to six pounds, Army officials say. By comparison, the AT4 weighs about 15 pounds and the Javelin’s launcher with missile and reusable command launch unit weigh roughly 50 pounds. Seems like all three weapons have their strong points.

I’ll be keeping an eye on this issue, but if anybody else out there hears anything, please let me know.


About the Author

Matthew Cox
Matthew Cox has been a defense reporter since 1998 and is an associate editor for He traveled to Afghanistan and Iraq numerous times from 2002 to 2008, covering infantry units in combat. Matthew was an infantryman in the 82nd Airborne Division.

32 Comments on "Army Units Want More M3 Carl Gustafs in Afghanistan"

  1. From what I have read about the M3 it appears it is the answer to a need al least at the platoon level. It is not a brand new weapons system, has been around and in use for quite a while. I cannot see why adoption would need a whole lot of study. So far as lightening weight infantrymen carry, maybe the weight or amount of body armor could be lightened. The average infantryman is carrying almost as much weight in armor as a middle ages knight, only he doesn't get to ride a horse while doing int,

  2. FormerSFMedic | February 28, 2012 at 3:23 pm |

    I have extensive experience with all three weapon systems. The M3 is by far the best choice for light infantry and is extremely versatile in the war in Afghanistan. The capability of having different types of ammo for specific needs makes the M3 adaptable for any need. In Afghanistan we're dealing with insurgents that are living in caves and mud compounds with tight quarters. An M3 armed with a thermoberic round will do unspeakable damage to anyone within a structure hit by one. In my mind, the M3 should be a required weapon at the squad level for light infantry in Afghanistan.

    The AT4 is a great weapon system as well, but until the Army enhances the technology of the AT4, it's capability is limited when used for light infantry missions. The Javelin is best employed for anti-armor and anti-vehicle operations. I was involved in a fight in Iraq during the early stages of the war where the Javelin was used extensively to take out enemy vehicles and armor as well as dug-in enemy positions. The Javelin was instrumental in winning that fight, however that weapon system is probably a bit bulky for light infantry and is best employed during vehicle operations.

  3. Good move by the army. The Gustaf can blow a T-72 apart with one shot or kill a bunker right after. Its more multipurpose than the AT-4 or the expansive Javelin are and dose the same damage to a target.

    I only like the M-72 LAW III used by USMC and SOCOM because its so small and light. Thought unlike the AT-4 or M3 it lacks a BIG warhead.

  4. bring on the flechette rounds :D

  5. Let loose the Goose! Pros: devastating on target. Cons: Sucks to carry around, and has a large backblast area, hopefully more rounds are fielded that have mitigated backblast.

  6. Squad level? A bit much for EVERY squad, every day, every mission (that's what you mean most of time with an "organic" asset). You just added in excess of 50lbs pounds to the squad's load with just three rounds. Even the Rangers employ it as a platoon level weapon. Don't see where a light infantry squaad should have even more firepower than a squad of Rangers. Maybe your enthusiasm for the system is running away with you a bit? :)

  7. I love decisions inline with the 5th principle of patrolling. Keep up the fire boys.

  8. junglecarbine | February 28, 2012 at 6:58 pm |

    Why there is a need to study the Gustaf when SOCOM had been using it since 1991?

  9. If you fill the M3 with salsa before you shoot it, it becomes a Carlos Gutierrez.

  10. Sounds like the M67 or the M20 need to be reintroduced. given what i have read, the M20 seems like the best solution. Lighter and low backblast.

    Be intresting for someone old enough to discuss the merits of each.

  11. So wait, is anyone else wondering why its only after 10 years of this war big army starts asking for the weapon that's been in use for 20 years?

    BTW it is one **** of a ****** weapon system, the sooner they get it, the better

  12. So once again we're adopting something, like the FN MAG/M240 GPMG, that the rest of the world has been using since the 1950's.

    At least no one can argue with it's record.

  13. The Swedes sure know how to make weapons and blonds.

  14. Guys

    carried a Charlie-G during the "Cold War" era as part of a Nato deployed section – I'm Britsh btw. It gave a lot of firepower at squad level against both fixed defences and tanks, though the backblast

    Its a heavy bit of kit but I got quizzed extensively one exercise by a Russian Army officer who respected the fact it could kill a T-64; he did inform me very politely that once I'd got off a shot, I would become the primary target in the area. I proudly showed him my escape route out of my OHP trench!

    It was easy to fire – accurate I found up to 500m – and very easy to keep clean!

    btw we shared the ammo round the squad, reducing the load on me – the gunner. I carried one round, my loader 2 and the squad one each where poss.

  15. "though the backblast"

    mean to add – was a bit of a give-away. Also much better than the LAW-66

  16. Twidget at large | February 29, 2012 at 7:28 am |

    Lol, just relized that adding an m3 would double the fire power of any USCG cutter. ;)

  17. I'm with you. Damn solid capability. Spreading it around is Goodness. I think majorod is right though, maybe not quite squad level as it is a heavy piece, but spread the Gustaf love around to more units for sure.

  18. The M3 Ranger-Anti-tank-Weapon (Gustav) replaced the M67 90MM recoilless rifle in the Ranger Regiment in 1991. It is smaller, ligher and much easier to jump. We kept the 90MM around until we shot all the ammo. I do not recall any gunners complaining about the switch.

  19. The goose can and should replace the Javelin in the infantry weapons squad. In most cases, the goose would be more versatile and powerful enough for the job. It also has a wider variety of ammo and of course the anti-personnel fletchette round. The goose can also be employed much quicker than a Javelin and requires very little up keep and only needs batteries for the optics. The Javelin is a very expensive tool that is not always the most suited for the job but when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Also, the reality is a dismounted infantry squad will very likely have an attached gun team or AT team and more than likely the ammo for the attached weapon will be divided amongst the squad so given all the other crap a squad carries around, this is not much of a burden.

  20. Kristian – The Gustav is awesome! The Army took too long to get it in the hands of the Infantry. We won't be fighting insurgents forever and when it comes to tanks the javelin is king. Let's not set up our Infantry for a disaster down the road?

    Check out a book called "Roughneck Nine-One"

  21. AzazelsOwn | March 1, 2012 at 10:07 am |

    It would be great if every reg. Army pltn had 1, divide the ammo up, and that platoon can fire this more than once. Why do those pesky Rangers get all the good toys? Thats a LOL! But damn this weapon is bad ***. Sweden has "Skyttergrups"that carry this weapon and this is their job. One and done just is not good enough anymore.

  22. AzazelsOwn | March 1, 2012 at 10:12 am |

    Nice to have if ur COP is getting stormed. Why the wait? Better late than never. XD

  23. I don't know why you're getting flak for proposing this. Egyptian Army infantry famously employ at least one upgraded RPG-7 at the squad level and kicked major *** at the outbreak of the '73 war as a direct result of that policy.

    The goose is way more accurate and takes far less time to reach its target than the RPG-7 round, not to mention it handles better. Along with the variety rounds it can use, it's basically tailored for US troops in Afghanistan. The M3 gives them immediate, long-range and highly destructive firepower.

  24. Mike Adams | March 3, 2012 at 6:12 pm |

    So far, sounds good to go with the M3 for light infantry and like units.

    Any suggestions on how to make it better? Who else uses it, so its easier to acquire rounds? or best to stick with your own supply chain?

    What are its pluses, negatives or how could be be better?

    Is it made in the US or over seas? Political selling point!?

    Former Alaskan Scout

  25. Lance is right. The CIA and the Israelis thought it was really funny how egyption soldiers were carrying their belongings to war in a suitcase. Intel failed again. After the Israelis suffered massive losses the figured out that when a blast signature was take fast evasive action and if possible spy machinegun rounds to the right and left of the backblast. Just like with TOW and Dragon rounds they had a small number of steering corrections and saggers quickly became useless. The Hawke Missile had such a deadly rep that when the eqyption pilots warning systems told them they had just been targets by a hawke battery they immediately ejected. To this day no one knows how many plains the hawke crews shot down with just radar.

  26. Years ago the isrealis developed time delay flachett rounds so they could be used in extended range against infantry.

  27. The bean counters are all about standardization and uniformity of weapon systems.
    Grunts are all about versatility, capability, low maintenance, ease of use, lethality and dependability under all kinds of weather and terrain against a multitude of possible
    threats from bunkers, to caves, to buildings and yes, even armored vehicles.
    This then is the dilemma. The appropriations people back at the Puzzle Palace who are usually clueless about infantry tactics, weaponry and survivability versus the tip of the spear.

  28. Matt Woodbury | May 26, 2012 at 6:44 am |

    the line has needed this capability for the entire war, a reusable recoilless rifle to fire back at the soviet ones the taliban have been using to devastate our ground forces.

    we got them late last year in fighting season, wish we could have had them in the may-september time frame in the Arghandab valley last year

  29. Like a previous poster (another Brit) the 84mm MAW was issued down to section level (8 men) in BAOR (British Army of the Rhine) during the early 1980's – previously one per platoon was carried. Great piece of kit and ten times more versatile than the 97mm LAW that replaced it. Tank action! Load!

  30. My old 90MM from the VietNam days.

  31. cold warrior | December 11, 2013 at 8:42 am |

    As an old partial grunt trained on the LAW and well schooled on dragging a Dragon through the bushes I ask one thing. Even then I questioned the "disposable " mentality. The humble RPG though I never even handled one seemed so much more versatile. So here we are decades later and it took all that time to adapt a modern RPG. that can be reused. So why so long Pentagon geniuses ? Is it because it's too Soviet looking like the faring at the base of submarine's conning tower that no one would ever misidentify or even see in combat conditions? That was basic 1930's efficiency technology the navy couldn't seem to grasp until the late 1990's, why? It torques my bones how backwards these guys can be in their planning on the Beltway and a lot of folks get killed by their myopic mentality.

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