The Carl Gustav Recoilless Rifle - 60 years and still going strong
April 24, 2009 In the world of military technology, new weapon capabilities quickly supersede the old. With the United States expenditure for the 2009 fiscal year at US$515.4 billion, it's rare to find a very old weapon still cutting it with the best on the battlefield, but the Carl Gustav recoilless rifle (CG) has proved the exception to this rule. First produced in 1946, the Carl Gustav remains in widespread use today.
History of the CG
Officially known as the 84 mm man-portable multi-role recoilless rifle the Carl Gustav was developed by Hugo Abramson and Harald Jentzen at the Royal Swedish Arms Administration (KAFT) and produced at Carl Gustafs Stads Gevärsfaktori. Saab, the same company that makes the cars and airplanes, own Saab Bofors Dynamics (formerly Bofors Anti-Armour AB) in Sweden where the CG and its ammunition are now produced. Widely used by elite special ops forces, the CG has picked up several different tags around the world - Charlie G in Britain, the 84 or Carl G in Canada, RAWS (Ranger Antitank Weapons System) in the US and Grg m/48 (Granatgevär or grenade rifle, model 48) in Sweden, where it also gets the label Stuprör (drainpipe) due to its shape.
The new Carl Gustav
The GC has been updated and is much lighter than the original due in part to its carbon fiber construction, but it's essentially the same gun designed two thirds of a century ago. The secret to the success of the CG is that its recoilless design enabled much larger charges, and hence higher mussel velocities than its contemporaries, which gave it greater accuracy over longer distances. That has kept the gun useful and in service, but its recently acquired very special capabilities are almost all entirely due to the development of new ammunition which makes it a widely useful battlefield machine for a dozen different jobs.
The Carl Gustav is normally fired by a two-man crew. One fires the weapon while the other carries and loads the ammunition. The weapon is fitted with iron sights but is normally fired using the 3x telescopic sight. The CG can be fired from the standing, kneeling or prone position. When fired in the prone position a small bipod is normally used to assist in stabilizing the weapon.
The ammunition that sets the CG apart
The variety of ammunition available for this system and recent improvements in ammunition performance ensure that the CG will have a place on the battlefield for many more years. Most armies use several types of ammunition for the weapon. The FFV 551 High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) round for example, has an effective range of 700m, while the FFV 502 High Explosive Dual Purpose (HEDP) round, with a range of 500m, was specifically designed to destroy bunkers and fortified positions.
The bunker busting and anti-tank capabilities are by no means the extent of its usefulness – the Australian army uses illumination rounds which will deliver 650,000 candle power lighting for about 40 seconds. Another round delivers a thick smoke screen to facilitate own-force withdrawal or to hinder an enemy.
There's also an airburst round which can be pre-set to explode at any distance. The round disperses 800 steel pellets, so in effect it's much like a flying claymore mine, and it can be set to go off just past a wall that the enemy is hiding behind. In effect, semi-intelligent ammunition allows it to shoot around corners - a remarkable feat for a 60 year old gun.
For urban warfare there's a round that can be switched just before firing – from punch a hole in the wall so troops can enter, to punch through the wall and then explode once inside.
Yet another round is designed for close in firing at around 100 meters – rather than a single round, it fires 1100 steel darts which cover an area of 100 square meters with around 10 darts per square meter – fair to say that should slow down everybody in its range, probably permanently.