M72-series LAW

The M72-series Light Antitank Weapon (LAW) is a lightweight, self-contained, antiarmor weapon first fielded in the early 1960's. Although the M72-series LAW was mainly used as an anti-armor weapon, it has also been used against other targets such as buildings and light vehicles, effective to about 200 meters for stationary targets, and 165 meters for moving targets. It can penetrate up to 14 inches (350 mm) of armor.

Early photo of M72 LAW, first proposed for Army use in 1956
Early photo of M72 LAW, first proposed for Army use in 1956.

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M72-series Light Antitank Weapon (LAW)

The M72-series Light Antitank Weapon (LAW) consists of a rocket packed in a launcher that fires with open chamber and almost no recoil. It is man-portable, may be fired from either shoulder, and is issued as a round of ammunition. It requires little from the user, only a visual inspection and some operator maintenance. The launcher, which consists of two tubes, one inside the other, serves as a watertight packing container for the rocket and houses a percussion-type firing mechanism that activates the rocket, a fin-stabilized, fixed shaped charge round.

M72 LAW with munition and carrier sling
M72 LAW with munition and carrier sling.

The M72-series LAW contains a nonadjustable propelling charge and a rocket. Every M72-series LAW has an integral high-explosive antitank (HEAT) warhead. The warhead is in the rocket's head (or body) section. The fuze and booster are in the rocket's closure section. The propellant, its igniter, and the fin assembly are in the rocket's motor. No inert versions are available.

The original production M72 was followed by the M72A1 with HEAT warhead and the M72A2 and M72A3 with further advanced warheads. The performance against both armor and buildings improved with the later models.

Due to effect of cold temperatures on its ammunition, the M72-series is particularly susceptible to hang fires in the cold. Back blast danger area is also doubled for the LAW under cold conditons.

The M72 LAW was replaced by the M136 AT4 Anti-Tank Weapon.

M72 LAW Specifications

The following data apply to the M72A2 and M72A3 LAW:

Caliber 66 mm
Length (Extended) 34.67 inches (< 1 m)
Length (Closed) 24.8 inches (0.67 meter)
Launcher Weight (A2/A3) 5.1/5.5 lbs. (2.3/2.5 kg)
Rocket Weight 2.2 lbs. (1.8 kg)
Rocket Length 20 inches (50.8 cm)
Firing Mechanism Percussion
Front Sight Reticle graduated in 25-meter range increments
Rear Sight Peep sight adjusts automatically to temperature change
Range 33-3300 feet (10-1000 m)
Manual FM 3-23.25 (FM 23-25) "LIGHT ANTIARMOR WEAPONS"

The effective range (beyond which there is a less than 50% chance of hitting the target) is 541 feet (165 m) for a moving target and 660 feet (200 m) for a stationary target.

Note: Front sights of M72, M72A1, and M72A2 LAW are to be broken off and turned in after the LAW is fired to isolate the Promethium-147 used in the luminous paint on the range markers.

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