05 September 2023
The Tank Museum has acquired a Carl Gustaf infantry anti-tank weapon, which has been used by the British Army from the 1960s.
Charlie G’s, as they became known, were supplied two to each Light Infantry Platoon HQ and one to each infantry section in mechanised battalions. A firing mount for the FV432 APC was also introduced in the 1960s. Still in use today, the Carl Gustaf is employed by 11 NATO members and has been used in conflicts around the world, including the Falklands, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Ukraine. Its only contemporary rival in terms of longevity and versatility is the Soviet-designed RPG-2 and 7 series.
Britain has recently ordered the latest version, the M4, which is considered a lot more ergonomic, being under a metre long and weighs only 7kg using titanium sleeves and venturi.
The origins of Carl Gustaf’s development started in the early 1940s with the Swedish Carl Gustaf m/42 anti-tank rifle, which was based on a 20mm Bofors barrel.
While it was initially effective, it became clear that shoulder-fired 20mm steel penetrators could not offer the armour punch to defeat the new generation of tanks – the T-34s, Tigers and Panthers – that were arriving on the WWII battlefield. Consequently, Abramson and Jentzen continued to develop their design, upping the calibre to 37mm and then 47mm before settling on the much larger late 19th century Swedish artillery calibre of 84mm in 1946.
What this larger calibre also meant was that it was possible to adopt a shaped charge warhead, falling into line with the Bazooka, Panzerschreck, and PIAT. This was a game changer in terms of light anti-armour weapons.
This export model was accepted for service with the British Army in 1962 and given the British designation L14A1. There are six main components: barrel, venturi, venturi fastening strap, firing mechanism, grips, and sights. It’s 1.13m long and weighs 14.2kg.
To open the breech, the loader pulls back on the locking lever and rotates the breech mechanism lever anti-clockwise. The venturi fastening strap and levers lock the venturi back in position so that it can be safely fired. A rubber band was also fitted to the venturi to reduce any metallic sounds made whilst opening the venturi or carrying it.
Missing from this weapon is the front left handgrip, which would have allowed the operator to use both hands to steady and accurately lay the weapon.
It has a basic iron sight, graduated out to 1,000yd, with a bracket to fit the Mk 1. No.78 Sighting Telescope. This has 2x magnification, but there was also an option to fit the more capable Optic Individual Weapon Sight. This gave twice the range of the No.78 and three times that of the iron sights.
Only one type of ammunition was available for British troops: 84mm HEAT. The practical range of the weapon using HEAT ammunition is 400m for moving targets and 500m for stationary targets. The HE round has a range of 1,000m, the Smoke 1,300m, and the flare shell 2,300 m.
The L40 HEAT round was intended primarily for use against armour but could also be used against concrete and similar structures, as well as having a lethal fragmentation effect on troops who were near the target.
As well as the standard HEAT rounds, the Carl Gustaf can now fire rocket-assisted, laser-guided, anti-armour HEAT rounds as well as tandem warheads for combating Explosive Reactive Armour. The evolution of multi-function ammunition has kept the weapon relevant for 75 years and counting.
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