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USAF M72 LAW.jpg
The M72 LAW in extended position
Type Anti-tank
Place of origin  United States
Production history
Designer FA Spinale, CB Weeks and PV Choate
Designed Patent filed 1963
Manufacturer Talley Industries and under license by Raufoss Ammunisjonsfabrikker A/S, Norway, MKEK
Unit cost 670 € or $1,045US (Converted)
Weight 2.5 kg
Length less than 1 m

Caliber 66 mm
Muzzle velocity 145 m/s
Effective range 200m
External images
1960s Weapons Similar to M72
SARPAC top, M72 LAW middle, MINIMAN bottom

The M72 LAW (Light Anti-Tank Weapon, also referred to as the Light Anti-Armor Weapon or LAW as well as LAWS Light Anti-Armor Weapons System) is a portable one-shot 66 mm unguided anti-tank weapon, designed in the United States by Paul V. Choate, Charles B. Weeks, and Frank A. Spinale et al. while with the Hesse-Eastern Division of Norris Thermadore, currently produced by Nammo Raufoss AS in Norway.

In early 1963 the LAW was adopted by the United States Army and the United States Marines as their primary individual infantry anti-tank weapon, replacing the M31 HEAT rifle grenade and the M20A1 "Super Bazooka" in the US Army.[1][2]

It had been intended that in the early 1980s that the M72 would be replaced by the FGR-17 Viper, but this program was canceled by Congress and the M136 AT4 was introduced in its place. In that time period its' nearest comparison was the Swedish Pskott m/68 (Miniman) and the French SARPAC.[3]



1961 LAW prototype, showing the rejected front sight that also served as the front cover

The weapon consists of a rocket packed inside of a launcher made up of two tubes, one inside the other. While closed, the outer assembly acts as a watertight for the rocket and the percussion cap-type firing mechanism that activates the rocket. The outer tube contains the trigger, the arming handle, front and rear sights, and the rear cover. The inner tube contains the channel assembly which houses the firing pin assembly, including the detent lever. When extended, the inner tube telescopes outward toward the rear, guided by the channel assembly which rides in an alignment slot in the outer tube's trigger housing assembly. This causes the detent lever to move under the trigger assembly in the outer tube, both locking the inner tube in the extended position and cocking the weapon. Once armed, the weapon is no longer watertight even if the launcher is collapsed into its original configuration.

When fired, the striker in the rear tube impacts a primer which ignites a small amount of powder that "flashes" down a tube to the rear of the rocket igniting the propellant in the rocket motor, The rocket motor burns complete before leaving the mouth of the launcher, producing gases around 1,400 °F (760 °C). The rocket propels the 66 mm warhead forward without significant recoil. As the warhead emerges from the launcher, six fins spring out from the base of the rocket tube, stabilizing the warhead's flight.[4] The LAW warhead uses a simple, but extremely safe and reliable Piezoelectricity fuze system, which on impact with the target a certain type of crystal in the front nose section is crushed causing a mico-second electric current to be generated which detonates the warhead. The fuse then detonates a booster charge located in the base of the warhead which sets off the main warhead charge. The force of the main charge forces the copper liner into a directional particle jet that in relation to the size of the warhead is capable of massive amount of penetration.


M72 LAW's rocket

The M72 LAW was issued as a prepackaged round of ammunition. Improvements to the launcher and differences in the ammunition were differentiated by a single designation. The most common M72 LAWs came prepacked with a rocket containing a 66 mm HEAT warhead which is attached to the inside of the launcher by the igniter. The standard M72 antiarmor HEAT warhead can penetrate up to 305mm (1 foot) of steel plate, 600mm (2 feet) of reinforced concrete, or 1.8 meters (6 feet) of soil.

A training variant of the M72 LAW, designated the M190, also exists. This weapon is reloadable and uses the 35 mm M73 training rocket. A subcaliber training device that uses a special tracer cartridge also exists for the M72. A training variant used by the Finnish armed forces fire 7.62mm tracer rounds.

The US Army tested other 66 mm rockets based on the M54 rocket motor used for the M72. The M74 TPA (Thickened Pyrophoric Agent) had an Incendiary warhead filled with TEA (Tri-Ethyl Aluminum); this was used in the M202A1 FLASH (FLame Assault SHoulder weapon) 4-tube launcher. The XM96 RCR (Riot Control Rocket) had a CS gas-filled warhead for crowd control and was used with the XM191 quadruple-tube launcher.

Once fired in combat the launcher is required to be destroyed by the U.S. Military to prevent its use by the enemy. Due to the single use nature of the weapon, it was issued as what is called a "wooden-round" of ammunition by the Canadian Army and the United States Army, requiring no checks or maintenance, just as small arms ammunition can be stored in the same manner for years with out any problems.

Service history

M72 demonstration at Fort Benning, Georgia in the 1960s. Note the M1 rifle slung over the soldier's back.

Although generally thought of as a Vietnam War era weapon which has been superseded by more powerful AT4, the M72 LAW has found a new lease of life in the ongoing (2006) operations in Iraq by the US Army and Afghanistan by the Canadian Army. The lower cost and lighter weight of the LAW, combined with a lack of modern heavy armored targets and the need for an individual assault vs an individual antiarmor weapon, make it ideal for the type of urban combat seen in Iraq and mountain warfare seen Afghanistan today. In addition a soldier can only carry one AT4 a mission, but with the LAW he can carry two. [5]

During the Vietnam and post-Vietnam periods, all issued LAWs were recalled due to instances of the warhead exploding in flight, sometimes injuring the operator. After safety improvements, part of the training and firing drills included the requirement to ensure the words "w/coupler" were included in the text description stenciled on the launcher, which indicated the launcher had the required safety modification(s).[citation needed][6]

With the failure of the M72 replacement the Viper, Congress in late 1982 ordered the US Army to test off-the-shelf light antitank weapons and report back by the end of 1983. In partnership with Raufoss AS, Talley Defense offered the M72E5, which offered increased range, penetration and better sights, which was tested along with five other light anti-armour weapons in 1983. For all the improvements the M72E5 offered the AT4 was chosen to replace the M72.[7][8]

The M72 LAW is also extensively used in the Finnish Army (some 70,000 pieces), where it is known under the designations 66 KES 75 (M72A2, no longer in service) and 66 KES 88 (M72A5). In accordance with the weapon's known limitations, a pair of "tank buster" troops crawl to a firing position some 50 to 150 yards away from the target, bringing with them four to six LAWs which are then used in rapid succession until the target is destroyed or incapacitated.

The British Army used the Norwegian-built version of the M72 under the designation "Rocket 66mm HEAT L1A1" which was replaced by LAW 80. [9] [10]

The Turkish Army uses a Turkish-built version by Makina ve Kimya Endustrisi Kurumu, called HAR-66, which has the performance and characteristics of a mix of M72A2 and A3. Turkey also indigenously developed an anti-personnel warhead version of HAR-66 and called it "Eşek Arısı"(HORNET)[citation needed]

The Australian Army uses the M72A6 as an anti-building and secondary anti-armour weapon. It is carried by regular riflemen (including on operations in Iraq), while the heavier 84 mm Carl Gustaf and Javelin are generally equipped by dedicated anti-armour troops.[citation needed]

The Republic of China Army (Taiwan) uses the M72 as a secondary anti-armor weapon. It is used primarily as a backup to the Javelin and the M136 (AT4) anti-tank weapons.[citation needed]

BACK BLAST DEMONSTRATION packing crates are used to demonstrate the danger of the M72 back blast

The Light Anti-Structures Missile (LASM) is the name of the L72A9 in UK service.[11] The main difference is the warhead: the LASM contains about 1 kg of an enhanced blast explosive, whereas the LAW contains about a third of a kilogram.[12][13] The United States armed forces may refer to the LASM as a M72A9 LAW (Light Assault Weapon). The M72A10 has the FFE (Fire From Enclosure) capability. Recently the US Marine Corps Systems Command at Quantico, Virginia placed a 15.5 million dollar fixed contract order with Talley Defense for 7,750 M72A7s, with delivery to be completed April 2011 [14][15]


  • A fairly accessible demonstration of the use of this rocket (including a good reason for not standing behind one when it goes off) is featured in the Clint Eastwood film The Enforcer.

Surplus demand and replicas

A deactivated M72A2 LAW tube in a private collection.

The LAW has been replicated for airsoft games, with metal and plastic launchers available. All fire 40mm shower grenades, and most official ones are made by Deepfire.

Other variants

US variants

Designation Description
M72 66 mm Talley single shot disposable rocket launcher; pre-loaded w/ HEAT rocket
M72A1 M72 variant; improved rocket motor
M72A2 M72 variant; improved rocket motor
M72A3 M72A1/A2 variant; safety upgrades
M72A4 M72 variant; rocket optimised for high-penetration; uses improved launcher assembly
M72A5 M72A3; uses improved launcher assembly
M72A6 M72 variant; rocket w/ low penetration, improved blast effect; uses improved launcher assembly
M72A7 M72A6 variant; US Army M72A6 variant for US Navy
M72E8 M72A7 variant; Fire-From-Enclosure (FFE) capable rocket motor; uses improved launcher assembly
M72E9 M72 variant; rocket w/ improved anti-armour capability; uses improved launcher assembly
M72E10 M72 variant; HE-Frag rocket; uses improved launcher assembly
External images
M72 Enhancements Early 1980s
M72E4, M72E5, M72E6 - Talley brochure
Pop-up "Rifle Sights" adopted from canceled Viper - Talley brochure

International variants and designations

Designation Nation Description
66 KES 75 Finland Designation for the M72A2
66 KES 88 Finland Designation for the M72A5
HAR-66 Turkey Turkish variant incorporating M72A2 rocket improvements and M72A3 safety improvements
Rocket 66mm HEAT L1A1 United Kingdom Designation for the M72
Light Anti-Structures Missile (LASM) United Kingdom Designation for the M72A9

Specifications (M72A2 and M72A3)

Firing the M72 LAW.


  • Length:
    • Extended: less than 1 m (35 in).
    • Closed: 0.67 m (24.8 in).
  • Weight:
    • Complete M72A2: 2.3 kg (5.1 lb).
    • Complete M72A3: 2.5 kg (5.5 lb).
  • Firing mechanism: Percussion.
  • Front sight: reticle graduated in 25 m range increments.
  • Rear sight: peep sight adjusts automatically to temperature change.


  • Caliber: 66 mm (2.6 in)
  • Length': 508 mm (20 in)
  • Weight: 1.8 kg (4 lb)
  • Muzzle velocity: 145 m/s (475 ft/s)
  • Minimum range (combat): 10 m (33 ft)
  • Minimum arming range: 10 m (33 ft)
  • Maximum range: 1,000 m (3,300 ft)

Maximum effective ranges

  • Stationary target: 200 m (220 yd)
  • Moving target:165 m (180 yd)
  • Beyond these ranges there is less than a 50 % chance of hitting the target.


See also

Similar weapons


  1. ^ Mary T. Cagle "History of the TOW Missile System" page 10, US Army 1977 Redstone Arsenal Pdf file of official TOW history that discussed the new family of antitank weapons, the M72 LAW, the Dragon and the TOW
  2. ^ The US Army partially replaced the Super Bazooka not only with the M72 LAW, but also M67 recoilless rifle and US Marines kept the Super Bazooka in service till the late 1960s
  3. ^ SARPAC was never adopted by the French Army - export only
  4. ^ no matter what you see in the movies, there is no "Whoosh!" on launch -- ie more of a loud "BANG!!" or a "BLOOP!" for the training versions -- and there is no smoke trail behind the rocket as it heads towards the target
  5. ^ Marines Fought the LAW, and the LAW Won
  6. ^ some reports state it was over water in the flash tube causing dangerous misfires and unproven rumors of possible sabotage at the manufacturing plant during the Vietnam War
  7. ^ D. Kyle, Armed Forces Journal International/November 1983 "Viper Dead, Army Picks AT-4 Antitank Missile" page 21
  8. ^ Various reports in 1983 stated that during the Congressional mandated tests the first M72E5 tested had an accuracy problem, because of its' larger diameter rocket motor, interfered with the the deployment of all the stabilizing fins after leaving the launcher. The manufactures have since made modifications that have worked that problem out.
  9. ^ "Jane's Infantry Weapons 1995-1996" page 686
  10. ^ various news reports show British soldiers in Afghanistan with M72 LAWs - probably purchased after 9/11
  11. ^ "LASM". "The Light Anti-Structures Missile (LASM) is an Urgent Operational Requirement order which has been fielded to fill a capability gap until ASM comes into service." 
  12. ^ Oh, the Horror, the Horror at the Internet Archive
  13. ^ "M72 Light Anti-tank (sic) Weapon System (LAW)". Gary's U.S. Infantry Weapons Reference Guide. 
  14. ^ John Antal "Packing a Punch: America's Man-Portable Antitank Weapons" page 88 Military Technology 3/2010 ISSN 0722-3226
  15. ^ "Light Assault Weapon (LAW)". 
  16. ^ "El Salvador". Military Technology World Defence Almanac (Bonn : Wehr & Wissen): 60. 2005. ISSN 0722-3226. 
  17. ^ Portuguese soldier firing M72

External links


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