The M5 and M6 tank mounted variants were used in several models of armored vehicles most notably in the Stuart Light Tank M3/M5, the Lee Medium Tank M3, and Greyhound Light Armored Car M8. In addition, the M3 in its original version was mated to a number of other self-propelled carriages.
The inability of the 37mm round to penetrate the armor of mid-war tanks severely restricted the offensive capabilities of units armed with them.
In the mid-1930s, the United States Army had yet to field a dedicated anti-tank artillery piece; anti-tank companies of infantry regiments were armed with .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns. Although some consideration had been given to replacing the machine guns with a more powerful anti-tank gun, the situation began to change only after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Combat experience from Spain suggested that a light anti-tank gun, such as the German 37 mm PaK 35/36, was capable of neutralizing the growing threat posed by tanks.
In January 1937, the Ordnance Committee recommended development of such a weapon; two PaK 36 guns were acquired for study. As the projected main user of the weapon, the Infantry Branch was chosen to oversee the work. They wanted a lightweight gun that could be moved around by the crew, so any ideas of using a larger caliber than that of the German gun were discarded. The 37 mm was a popular caliber of anti-tank guns in the 1930s; other anti-tank guns of the same caliber included Swedish Bofors gun, Czechoslovakian vz. 34 and vz. 37, Japanese Type 94 and Type 1.