Slide background


U.S. Marines with 1st Marine Division fire the M3E1 multipurpose anti-armor anti-personnel weapon system on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, March 9, 2023. The MAAWS, also known as the Carl Gustaf, is a man portable, reusable, breech-loading, 84 mm recoilless weapon system capable of destroying armored targets. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Juan Torres)

Camp Pendleton, California. (March 22, 2023): In this photo by Lance Corporal Juan Torres, Marines fire the M3E1 Multipurpose Anti-Armor/Personnel Weapon System (MAAWS) while training to locate and destroy tanks and other armored vehicles in combat. The MAAWS is best described as a two-person artillery piece with enough firepower to destroy enemy tanks at long distances.

The MAAWS is a portable and reusable breech loading recoilless rifle that can fire an 84mm round capable of destroying enemy vehicles at over 500 yards. The M3E1 rifle weighs just 14.8 pounds and features an electronic control system that automatically provides ballistic solutions for static and moving targets at the touch of a button.

Today’s M3E1 is named after Carl Gustaf, a Swedish scientist that developed a man-portable, shoulder-fired recoilless rifle for the Royal Swedish Army during the second half of World War II. Since then, there have been many different version of this light weight, close range anti-tank weapon on battlefields across the world.

Currently, U.S. Special Operations Command troops such as the Army Rangers, Army Special Forces, Marine Raiders, Navy SEALS, and JSOC operators use the M3 in combat.

Army Rangers found the M3 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 AT4 is lighter and can be carried by one person, a Gustaf team with the heavier recoilless rifle can reload and fire more rounds.

The current export Carl-Gustaf M3 version was introduced in 1991 and is in use for bunker-busting and anti-vehicle roles. 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.