The first 20mm shoulder fired rifle?

The Army has been testing 9mm and 20mm sub caliber training rounds for the AT-4 rocket launcher. At about a hundredth of the cost, the 20mm round provides similar recoil and blast. reports

Staff Sgt. Aleksandr Kulik said the 20mm round could be highly beneficial if used in basic training, where only a few Soldiers get picked to fire an 84 mm projectile from the AT4.

“After shooting a 20mm, I expected a bigger kick from the live one, but it was pretty accurate,” he said. “If privates get to shoot this, it will give them an idea of what it’s like to shoot a real 84 … The practice 20mm has the reality of the kick and back blast, and it’s just as loud as the live one.”

Project managers and training developers will use the experiment’s results to help decide which sub-caliber training round gets selected, but they said it would be at least two years before either is fielded.

Using rifle ammunition for training rocket launcher and even artillery operators is quite common overseas.

[ Many thanks to Lance for emailing me the link. ]

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Carl

    We used 9mm tracer rounds in the AT-4. That way you could see where you hit the target (a moving tank outline usually).
    The trajectory of the tracer was supposedly the same as the live HEAT rounds.

  • Lance

    it looks so fun Ill buy 2.

  • Ramsey

    I used the 9mm tracer, and from the barrel used there was no recoil and very little report. A heavier round would be a much better training aid.

  • Fredrik N

    I am a weapon instructor in the Swedish army and we have been using these for many years. The 9mm is useful for initial target practice since one can use the normal firing range and the risk zone is much smaller, the trajectory is identical with the 84mm but the felt recoil is non existing. The 20mm is more useful once the soldier understands the basics and once we start firing in more realistic scenarios. The 20mm consists of a 20mm round that can be used stand alone and a back blast simulator that is used to give realistic back blast, sound and felt recoil. The attachment looks like a hockey puck and is ignited by the back blast from the 20mm round. We also use similar rounds for our Carl-Gustav recoilless rifles.

    • Fredrik and Ramsey, thanks for the info.

  • Juergen

    We used 20mm training ammo in the Bundeswehr with the old (1960s-vintage) Panzerfaust – quite normal, much less expensive and dangerous than using real shaped-charge warheads.

    However… a) A training round has significantly less backblast, and b) What “Kick” do you expect from a recoilless weapon???

    OK, the media always get it wrong (with “CSI Miami” claiming that an RPG-7 has enough recoil to drive the optics against your skull hard enough to cause severe injuries… yeah, right), but a firearms blog should get facts right… the only kick you’ll experience firing such a weapon is from the shooter getting startled by the rather loud noise next to his ear (Especially if you’re shooting a Carl Gustaf….)

  • Bryan S

    Not the first shoulder fired 20mm.

    I guess you could fire one from your shoulder… once.

  • Dan Cave

    Wow I am just getting into this world of guns and this is one of the wierdest things I’ve seen.

    Who makes these things for the military (USA military I presume?).

  • For your information… Back 90’s when I was on duty in the Spanish Army (armored cavalry) we were using a practice system for the Instalaza C90 (a multipurpose disposable 90mm rocket propelled grenade launcher).

    The training system uses a hollow metal arrow (this one: http://pictures.) with a curious system, a single action spring loaded rifle, using a short 12gauge blank cartridge. The hohollw arrow fits outside the inner barrel and uses gases from the detonation of the cartridge to be propelled with almost the same trayectory of the C90 regular grenade.
    The curious thing is that gases are expelled forward (to propell the arrow) and backward to compensate the blowback… so the feeling is the same (suposed to be the same as I only used the training system) of the regular C90.

    You can find more information about it here:

    Btw… I really like your blog! 🙂

  • Josh

    I have to agree with Juergen about the recoil. I’ve fired live AT4 rounds, and although it’s been several years, I don’t remember there being any really noticeable recoil. I mean, you realize that all you have to hold on to is a fold out handle made from a piece of flexible plastic and wire that’s about the same gauge as used in a coat hanger, right? The handle stows up against the tube and is secured by a little snap. That’s what you’re holding with your left hand; your right hand actuates the trigger mechanism. There’s nothing to brace against recoil – if there were any noticeable recoil it would fly backwards right out of your hands!

  • Brer

    When I was going through AT4 training we also used the 9mm tracer system, and I’ll agree that the 20mm training round makes a lot more sense as a way to simulate backblast and so on. I wonder what the risk assessment for using the 20mm version during BCT will be like.

  • The 9mm round in the AT-4 is a walk-phase round, the 20mm round should provide cheaper run-phase training. IME the troops need more training.

  • Adde

    Actually the first shoulder fired 20mm rifle (that I know of) was the Swedish Carl Gustav M/42 2mm recoil-less rifle. It is quite amusing that the AT-4 is also made in Sweden.

    Here is some info about the old 20mm anti-tank gun

    and here is a video of loading and fireing