“U.S. Army Gets Big-Ass Old-School Gun”


"In early 2011, the Army responded to these demands and sent some Vietnam-era recoilless rifles to Afghanistan. The troops were thrilled with the variety of ammunition available for these weapons, including a shell that scatters thousands of little metal darts called flechettes. In December 2011, Special Operations Command diverted some of its Carl Gustaf rifles and ammunition to the regular Army. American commandos have used the Swedish guns since the 1990s. Troops in Afghanistan got 58 rifles and 1,500 rounds of ammunition to try out. This included air-bursting high explosive rounds that are designed to hit enemies behind cover."  medium.com


Having seen what the old 57 mm recoiless with flechette rounds did to infantry assaults I can only praise the wondrousness of this development.  With the muzzle just above the terrrain mask or berm the 57 blew a hole 10 yards wide in an advancing infantry platoon.  Flechettes are flexible steel darts.  They will actually pin arms to ribs in a man who is hit.

When I was a kid lieutenant I ran a rifle company's weapons platoon for a while.  This was in 2/2 Infantry Regiment.  I had two jeep mounted 106mm recoiless guns in the platoon.  these were anti-tank guns, but they, too, had a wealth of different types of ammunition that made them a source of great firepower against almost any kind of target.  the 106 had a coaxially mounted 50 caliber spotter rifle.  The 50 caliber fired tracer ammunition.  The trigger was a disk on the side of the gun.  If you pulled it toward you it fired the 50.  If you pushed it in, it fired the 106.  The whole thing was ridiculously easy.  You looked through the scope on the big gun, put the cross hairs on the target, fired the 50 and watched where the tracer went. When you got a hit with the 50 you pushed the disk in and the 106 round went where the 50 bullet had struck  This gun was very accurate at long ranges.

Important safety tip (Ghostbusters reference) Don't ever stand behind one.  pl  







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32 Responses to “U.S. Army Gets Big-Ass Old-School Gun”

  1. oofda says:

    Absolutely, DON’T stand behind a 106 recoilles rifle. As a Marine 2LT, I watched a demonstration firing of a 106- the demonstrators placed a couple of wooden ammo crates behind the weapon. When it went off, it smashed the crates to splinters. Quite an impression on the young LTs.
    The Marine Corps had a weapon call the M-50″ Ontos” (Greek for ‘thing’). It had six 106 recoilles rifles mounted on a light armored vehicle- three on each side. It was originally designed to be an anti-tank weapon, but in Vietnam, the Marines used them in the infantry support role- the NVA not having many tanks. The weapon had some drawbacks, such as not being able to carry much ammuniton and the crew had to get out of the vehicle to reload. Also there were stories of static electricity causing a premature firing when reloading. There weren’t many built and essentially they were used up in service in Vietnam, but it was an excellent weapon against infantry.

  2. Peter C says:

    Working in Public Works for many years in the High Sierras, recoiless rifles rounds were used to dislodge snow avalanches above the mountain passes by Caltrans and some ski areas. Many of the same areas now use a sonic cannon fueled by Propane of Natural Gas to produce a large shock to dislodge unsettle snow. If I recall the rounds were getting to be in short supply and the UXO laying around the hillsides were a liability.
    The usefulness of some reliable tools/weapons that are deemed old/not supported/unknown to current REMFs. The A10 Warthog is going to be scrapped to free up money for the Swiss Army Knife F35. If and when the magical F35 is built in sufficient numbers to be widely available, how many conflicts will occur where A10s would have been of great value and possibly the difference between success and failure?

  3. SAC Brat says:

    Maybe your relatives used this in the past:
    It looked impressive at the Smithsonian years ago, but not very sporting.

  4. turcopolier says:

    SAC Brat
    Are you saying that you think flechette rounds from a recoilless gun are not “sporting?’ War is not sport. It is cruelty and killing, not sport. pl

  5. Patrick Lang says:

    As I recall the 106 was electrically fired. there was some sort of little dynamo thingy in the trigger mechanism. Sooo -if the safety was off and the trigger in the “fire” position when you loaded it… pl

  6. John Minnerath says:

    LOL, you don’t get behind ANY RR, it’s like standing in the path of a rocket launcher.
    We had quite a few 57’s. A couple guys with some practice could lay down a withering fire of basically light artillery. As long as they didn’t have to pack a lot of ammo too far.

  7. SAC Brat says:

    The punt guns probably weren’t sporting for use on waterfowl. Flechettes are used in a different venue, along with lots of fire support if you plan ahead or get lucky. No confusing the two.

  8. shepherd says:

    I think you may misunderstand him. I’ve seen one of these before. It’s not a military weapon. It is a giant, boat-mounted shotgun used to harvest large amounts of wild fowl. Basically sprayed a wall of birdshot.

  9. turcopolier says:

    I understood him exactly. the question concerning my ancestors’ possible use of this instrument of commercial harvesting of wild ducks implies a notion that I am in favor of things that kill indiscriminately. I am not, but, as I said, weapons of war are not anything like sporting weapons and there is no comparison. pl

  10. Fred says:

    Meanwhile it appears the big guns of the Senate are outraged at the unconstitutional conduct of the Executive Branch. Now will Ms. Feinstein demand impeachment of the responsible parties and their prosecution or just issue a strongly worded press release?

  11. turcopolier says:

    SAC Brat
    Recoilless rifles often ARE the fire support. You will notice that in the article, it is written that artillery and air are good to have but they often are not there when you need them. pl

  12. turcopolier says:

    John Minnerath
    It’s nice to have a bunker full of ammunition right behind the gun as I had one long ago lonely night. We shot up the assaults with machine guns and rifles, fired illumination from an 81 mm mortar we had and then walked the 57 up to the berm and shot over it when they got close. They quit after a while. Maybe they felt like ducks. Brave little bastards.I didn’t have any claymores or I would have put them in the mix. pl

  13. turcopolier says:

    You are a bit OT. I notice from the TV that Brennan walks with a cane now. I should do that. My balance is shot. I remember that John Brennan once upon a time was accustomed to participate in his wife’s aerobic dance classes in Jeddah at the embassy there. He was a pretty spry young fellow. pl

  14. Hank Foresman says:

    When I was at the Infantry Advance Course many years ago, it was during the period that the then CSA was pushing Light Infantry, I wrote a paper arguing that the 57MM Rec Rifle and the 106MM would be great additions to a Light Infantry Battalion because unlike the Dragon or TOW there are few limitations on their use such as not firing a TOW or Dragon in the woods or over water! Like many Captain Good Ideas it found its way to File 13 AKA the circular filing cabinet as the Army had too much invested in their GWhiz weapons.

  15. shepherd says:

    The misunderstanding was mine then.

  16. SAC Brat says:

    It was my failure to write clearly. The punt guns were popular in New England because they worked very well. I’m aware of your feelings on hunting and know many veterans that feel the same. No slight was intended.

  17. walrus says:

    Ah yes, the Carl Gustav. I remember the first and only time I wheedled a chance to fire one. I was told smoke came out of my mouth. The thing overturned the target as well as perforated it. You want to make sure your right leg is at a good angle to the weapon if you wish to keep it. There was no “barrel droop” is there was with the old bazooka.
    If I ever had to arm my yacht, the Car Gustav is what I would carry with a few HE rounds and perhaps illumination.

  18. Fred says:

    No offense meant to any party. I should take a break from politics for awhile.

  19. turcopolier says:

    Ranges can be dangerous. I was at Ft. Benning in the Infantry Officer Basic Course and out on a range to shoot the M-79 40 mm grenade launcher, one of my favorite weapons. Down the firing line another Lt’s gun blew up and split the barrel. One piece bent around and went into his brain right through his helmet. the HE grenade had armed and burst in the barrel. pl

  20. turcopolier says:

    Hank Foresman
    2/2 Infantry when I was in it was a light infantry battalion. The 106 recoilless was a perfect fit. You could either shoot it from atop the jeep or the crew could take it off the vehicle and shoot it from its tripod mount. pl

  21. walrus says:

    Col. Lang, you are reducing my faith in good ammunition.
    By the way, do you remember the film “Zulu” with Michael Caine about the British Zulu wars? We showed it to recruits the night before we were on the range with M79’s. It was judged suitable for recruits because of its example of iron discipline, etc., etc..
    When we finished the practices we still had plenty left so we recreated the Zulu attack scene with Three ranks of Eight with M79’s and did the whole “Front rank stand!” “Fire”, “front rank kneel”, “Middle rank stand” thing. The effect of multiple volleys of M79 was pretty awesome we thought.
    For those that don’t know the film, from 3.30 mark on the youtube video of this Zulu clip is what impressed us..
    But that was a long time ago when I was young and stupid…

  22. Old Gun Pilot says:

    The flechettes we shot were loaded into 2.75 ffars. we called it “shooting nails”. I’ve had “grunts’ report they’ve seen the enemy literally nailed to a tree with flechettes.

  23. b says:

    The German Panzerfaust 3 and follow up developments developments will not kill you much when you stand behind them. They eject plastic pellets in the back as a counter mass and can be fired in confined space.

  24. turcopolier says:

    Panzerfaust 3 – A good close in anti-tank weapon but not much else. pl

  25. Allen Thomson says:

    To oofda et al.
    > Absolutely, DON’T stand behind a 106 recoilles rifle.
    That’s why they’re recoilless. Conservation of momentum. The recoil momentum that would have gone into the gun goes into the stuff blown out the back.
    Physics aside, I’ve long wondered why los terroristas haven’t picked up a few recoilless rifles. Put one in the back of a pickup and drive it down a main street at noon.

  26. different clue says:

    I recently read an article by a former analyst for the air force making his case for why the A-10 remains a provenly valuable system and should be retained. I have no background enabling me to judge the value of this article but it seemed interesting so I offer it to those who have that background. If it is indeed valuable and correct, maybe the A-10 will be retained if enough all-the-right people read or hear analyses like this one and can force the political system to act on them.

  27. Lee says:

    There’s a decent presentation of those and duck decoys at the St. Michaels Maritime Museum on the Eastern Shore.

  28. Mike C says:

    A little esoteric bit of aviation history: The OV-10 Bronco was initially conceived as a CAS aircraft that lived with the infantry. To ease logistics, the designers preferred to use infantry-type weapons, 7.62mm machine guns primarily. But their very favorite was the 106mm recoilless rifle, if they could get one with an auto-loader. A single shot RR wouldn’t be worth its weight. The cargo bay aft of the cockpit was to house the magazine and loading mechanism.
    The 106 RR was tested on a flying aircraft in 1974. A Cavalier Mustang at China Lake had a pair of the weapons fixed to the wingtips. The back blast wrinkled the fabric covered rudder, and according to one anecdote may have overstressed the airframe. There was also a feasibility test done from a static OV-10 slinging an unmodified 106, and with a similar result of slight damage to empennage. To the bureaucrats, that was enough reason to cancel the project.
    The OV-10 as produced only slightly resembles the original concept. It was a much larger, more conventional aircraft and always operated from a runway or carrier deck. Oddly, they retained four sponson mounted M-60s.
    Image of the recoilless Mustang here:

  29. confusedponderer says:

    The Bundeswehr thinks so too, and, while adding a ‘Bunkerfaust’ warhead to the Panzerfaust 3, they have added some lighter, smaller calibre expendable variants (along the lines of the Armbrust) of the Panzerfaust 3 to their inventory for use urban fighting (no backblast with those).
    Last I looked the Bundeswehr still retained the Carl Gustav for battlefild illumination.
    I don’t know whether the KSK and similar units are using more modern Carl Gustav variants, or at least the more modern ammunition, just like the US.
    I think it likely, given that they have the weapon lying around in depots, are familiar with it, and considering the ‘mingling’ of Western special forces.

  30. Exactly now what is the mission of the United States Air Force? Their mission as the airborne arm of our nuclear Triad strategy has been passed by advances in antiaircraft artillery. The use of high-altitude B-52s and B1 bombers in support of ground troops is somewhat efective. I have never heard of the use of the B2 spirit bomber in the conflicts in the Middle East flying all the way from Whitehead in Missouri to the Middle East is a really really long haul and the amount of maintenance required after each mission kind of makes using these on a frequent basis difficult if not impossible.
    The new darling of the Air Force the F 35 is the first aircraft since the early mustangs and P47 that was designed in such a way that it absolutely prohibits the pilot from being able to “check his six”.
    Modern Soviet fighter aircraft carry nearly 2 1/2 times as many beyond visual range missiles as does any aircraft in our arsenal. These missiles rely on radar and infrared and can be launched in at least two volleys beyond visual range at our incoming aircraft. Perhaps a better idea to counter the Soviet threat would be upgraded F-16s and F-15s that can carry three times as many missiles for beyond visual range attacks against probable Soviet and Chinese adversaries.
    The agreement between the army and the Air Force dividing responsibilities such that the Air Force got the airplanes in the army was stuck with helicopters seriously needs to be revisited. All of the A10s in inventory should immediately be transferred to the Army just as the Marine Corps has their own integrated air force the army should also such that they will now be able to provide their own ground support without asking the permission of some Airdale way back in the Pentagon.
    The F35 & F22 will never be allowed to perform ground support because the cost of replacing one aircraft and pilot dwarfs the cost of replacing a company of boots on the ground,

  31. Joe100 says:

    Infantry ownership of 106s is key – real fire support not under someone else’s control. At Phu Loc 6, a modest and vulnerable “bump in the road” to An Hoa, a battery of 105s (which could use flechette rounds in direct fire) faced out one side of the small fire base and the supporting infantry platoon had 106’s in place facing out of then other side – in both cases across wide cleared areas. Not sure that this site could have been held without the 106s.
    I later taught the 106 at Marine Officer’s Basic School (TBS). The best student company commander during my TBS tenure made quite a splash on his company’s “106 shoot” as he offered up his relic of a car as target – which was well received by his second lieutenants and the selected gunner blew the car into very small pieces with a spalling round.

  32. shepherd says:

    For what it’s worth, my father spent most of his life developing military weapons. I grew up around weapons designers. They were very smart and very creative people, physicists, engineers, and chemists mostly. Many had PhD’s. As you say, any comparison with what they made to hunting equipment is absurd.

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