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Saab Global
Gunner with  his Carl-Gustaf M4

How to design a weapon with soldiers in mind

3 min read

With modern warfare placing increasing demands on soldiers, Saab’s Carl-Gustaf M4 shoulder-launched weapon has been designed for optimal handling and comfort in all conditions.

Good ergonomic design is important in any setting, but on the battlefield it could mean the difference between a successful mission and a failed one. Saab understands this and has made its Carl-Gustaf M4 a new benchmark for comfort and usability.

To provide effective defence, armed forces need a multi-role weapon system that is easy to handle and transport
Peter Hellekant, Customer Support Manager

“To provide effective defence, armed forces need a multi-role weapon system that is easy to handle and transport,” says Peter Hellekant, Customer Support Manager at Saabs business area Dynamics. “That’s why as well as being designed to work in high-tech, modern conflict environments, the Carl-Gustaf M4 is as user-friendly as possible. It comfortably fits soldiers of all sizes wearing various types of combat gear and working in different climates.”

Three major improvements

Saab looked at the working conditions of typical soldiers to identify potential ways of improving the Carl-Gustaf M4’s handling and reducing the risk of muscle strain and tension. Three of the major changes to the design include: making the foldable front grip and shoulder support adjustable; relocating the optical sight; and fitting the M4 with a quick-release harness.

“These changes in combination with a range of other improvements have helped us take a huge leap forward in terms of user friendliness, and the feedback is very positive,” says Hellekant. “There is always tension, adrenaline and pressure in combat situations, and it can be very reassuring to know that the weapon that you are using is comfortable to operate and doesn’t place extra strain on your body.”


Prototypes tested on user panels

The process of finding the optimal design for the Carl-Gustaf M4 involved creating several different grip, shoulder-support, and carrying-handle prototypes and testing these on user panels consisting of soldiers of both genders and with different body types. As well as identifying the optimal position for the optical sight and adjustable front grip and shoulder support, the tests prompted several other improvements. A longer carrying handle now makes it easier to hand the Carl-Gustaf M4 over to a fellow soldier and to carry the weapon with two hands. A sliding safety catch makes it easier to switch between armed and safe modes while wearing any type of glove. Meanwhile, sharp edges have been removed from the cocking lever to provide a better balance of grip and comfort.

“The result is a weapon that is easy to handle and to lift into a comfortable and personally adjusted position without putting unnecessary strain on the body,” says Hellekant.