The M60 was the first modern American military machine gun, developed from the operating system of the German FG-42 and the feed system of the German MG-42 in the years after World War Two. It has a rather schizophrenic reputation, being loved by many who used it in Vietnam and hated by many who used it later in its service life. The design had some fundamental flaws, but did offer a far more mobile base of fire than the M1919A6 that it replaced. Today, I am going to do a bit of shooting with an original Vietnam pattens M60, which will act as a baseline for future videos covering the various improvements and modernizations of the platform.
Thanks to the Institute of Military Technology for giving me the opportunity to bring this M60 on camera for you!
The balance of the ‘Pig’ is one of its best features, which makes it a very nicely handling MG. By comparison, the MAG is very front-heavy, which makes it more awkward to manage. Granted, both guns do their best work on tripods, or the bipod at least, but ease of handling makes life less difficult for the gunner
I remember an M60 discussion on another forum that got rather heated, as users from the ’70s and ’80s cussed their worn guns, while a VN combat veteran was highly complementary of the gun.
Ian firing a later-model M60: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNVegwmZiQM
I’ve got rather a lot of rounds through an issue M60. Lifetime, cumulatively, probably close to 100,000 rounds fired personally, that I would attest to, and probably even more that I can’t–And God alone knows how many I’ve supervised being fired in training and qualification.
So, I’ve got a bit more time running those things than the average commentator.
It only “handles well” so long as you leave out the crappy belt carrying “system”, which consists of cloth and cardboard that doesn’t like to stay on the gun’s crappy little feed tray, and if you leave out every other aspect besides firing it. Even that’s questionable, given the care you have to take with trigger control in order to keep wear down to the point where you don’t need to spend a day or so patiently stoning away the burrs and peening.
The weapon is horrible, once you start trying to actually use one in realistic combat conditions. On a range? It’s nice, but that’s about it, and the root flaw in all of it is that it is supposed to be a combat weapon, not a range toy. There are too many flaws inherent to the design and implementation of that gun to call it even an acceptable combat weapon, when considered against the full range of characteristics that such a thing requires.
That sort of experience is to be respected. Not to be argumentative, but could you comment on the extensive use in other than infantry roles. They were very widely used as well in fixed aircraft mounts, as well as the side flex mounts. Might the adaptations for such uses have resulted in better performance?
I can’t comment with direct knowledge of the gun, in those roles. Wasn’t aviation; didn’t fly them.
However, there’s not much you can do to overcome the inherent design/manufacture flaws in them, no matter what. The aviation guys had better access to maintenance support than we lowly ground types did, so they did have that going for them.
What used to really get me going was that I’d have maybe one gun up and functional, due to parts and/or the things not being in spec, and the readiness reports would remain oblivious to the fact that we effectively didn’t have crew-served MG capability. The guns went down an aviation asset? Now, that’s an issue, and because that got reported as something of significance, they did something about it.
Irritating, in the extreme. I actually had parts cannibalized off my guns to get other people’s junk up and running, while mine were in maintenance.
In 65 we got our belted ammo in relabled 30 caliber ammo cans that had corrugated cardboard fillers placed at the projectile side of the can. Never saw cardboard boxes thank god.
I entirely agree with you, Kirk. Worn out or not, they were
i) difficult to carry with a full belt, the canvas & cardboard belt containers did not last long IME.
ii) No barrel handle & the asbestos glove with steel staples for twisting the barrel off, would get lost almost as quickly as you stopped carrying / keeping the point zipper bag.
Who’s going to carry the spare barrel?!!! Another item for your number 2 to deal with along with ammo.
To keep it nice and short the M60 was a very good weapon when you were firing it at an enemy and a complete PITA the rest of the time, including barrel-changing during an engagement.
I never experienced one failing in action with a good crew, until many thousand rounds.
When they were ALL worn out, Australian soldiers were utterly delighted by the issue of Aussie rebuilt (Lithgow SAFactory) L4 7.62 Nato versions! I was briskly taught the Bren in an hour by very happy Royal Australian Regiment Corporals. This was when I was back as a part-timer (weekend warrior) Infantry Sgt, and a student on the Marksmanship and Coaching Course at our Infantry Centre.
I enjoyed the course and did well, averaging a 95% result on the SLR L1A1 (aka FN-FAL).
It is a powerful point that Kirk has identified other issues like wear on the sear and trigger. Yes I have had a few M60s run away on me. Where breaking the belt is all you can do, and tear you palm as well, often!
I’d like to mention, in passing that I already hated M60 GPMG’s anyway. Even NEW ones!!!
I forgot to add that you could turn any m60 into a dead weapon needing a visit to an Armourer by putting that gas piston in the wrong way around.
Quite easy to do in a night action if you’ve gone through a few 250 rd belts and HAVE to clean the gun.
Well, it would fire single shot with the piston backwards. It’s been more than fifty years, but I seem to remember that the gas piston would get carboned up too and cause stoppage. The carbon had to be scraped off. You could check for this by one-arm swinging the muzzle up and down and listening for the clicking… if the piston was moving freely. I never carried a 60, but this is what I remember.
We didn’t call it ‘the PIG’ for no reason.
IME putting the piston in backwards – and firing it – jammed the gun and it became a job for an armourer.
It was badly balanced and there was no handle – for either barrel.
I entirely agree. They were not easy to carry. They fell apart fairly quickly, due to the violent action of the bolt, (in a gas operated weapon, yet) and the crappy construction. You wouldn’t want to try changing the barrel without the asbestos glove (ASBESTOS!!!!!) which easily got lost. The belt holder was as you say a complete piece of crap.
In 1976 I was a Sergeant student at our School of Infantry in Singleton, NSW, Australia.
I had of course managed by that time to ‘live with’ the M60, and train soldiers to do so.
Guess what were waiting for us on the course? L4 7.62 conversions of NoStock Bren Mk2s. I and all the RAReg’t Corporals who were most of the students were delighted that the M60 was going.
The Small Arms Trials and instructional team who ran the course were coming to the end of testing the MAG58, and told us that it was going to be adopted. The L4s were the interim solution.
The SAFactory at Lithgow had decided not to de-accurise the .303 Brens they were converting large numbers of.
But we did get to fire both versions the Lithgow built Mk2 and L4s.
The team did NOT bother us with a single M60.
Undoubtedly FN MAG is just noticeable heavier than M60, however serious problem is well shown by 2nd photo from top here: https://modernfirearms.net/en/machineguns/u-s-a-machineguns/m60-eng/ namely that gas cylinder is safe-wired to protect it from self-disassemblying. Well, I do not know actual chance of self-disassemblying without that wire, however even it is very low, problem is more important from… hm… morale standpoint of view, rather than technical – keep in mind that it is important for soldier to trust in their weapons and risk of self-disassembly when you want it to spread lead do not inspire confidence to put in mildly.
Trust me, on this: Leave that gas “system” unwired, it will come the f**k apart, and usually before you’ve finished firing your first belt.
It is not a “once in a while” sort of thing, either. It is an inevitable outcome, and once the op rod comes back forward and hits that unfixed piston, it will eject that piston far enough that the odds of you finding it on anything other than pavement just about nil. Ask me how I spent a particularly memorable night with a mine detector, playing “metal detectorist”, as the Brits term that hobby…
I see now I left out some details on this. The M60 gas piston has four major parts to it: From the front, there’s a cute little expansion chamber that threads onto the front of the gas block, a nut that allows access to the gas port, and another threaded piece on the back that retains the piston inside the assemblage, with the piston making part # 4 on the original guns. When the very first guns came out, they thought “Oh, they’ll stay together, because threads…”. Turns out, no, they would not, so they added lock washers and those didn’t work either, so then they came up with these cute little spring clips which were supposed to lock everything down. They did not. Final iteration was “Let’s issue every armorer aircraft safety wire pliers, and they can lace the parts together so that they cannot separate themselves and go out on their own little adventures in life…”.
Here’s a thought, folks: If you have to safety-wire your guns parts onto the gun, in order that they may not be lost during routine operations…? You may have a fundamental design problem. And, if you send that thing out for field-testing like that, you’re an idiot. If you persist, and send that weapon out into combat, you need to be taken out back of the office, and have a bullet put through the back of your empty, useless f**king skull.
I honestly can’t assess how many US soldiers would have died throughout the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s due to them not having functional 7.62mm MG systems in their units, but I can authoritatively assert that had we actually had to go to war with those pieces of shit in the units in the condition they were in when I saw them, a lot of good men would have died. There were years during the Clinton administration where we had maybe a 30% readiness rate on the guns in the unit, which would have meant that two squads of each line platoon didn’t have a working gun–And, fixing that issue wasn’t something that was gonna happen with a phone call to 3rd Shop, either. The parts simply weren’t there, to fix things, because the stuff that was needing to be fixed would have meant basically replacing the gun entirely.
I forget when they made it so that a deadlined 7.62mm MG wasn’t reportable as a readiness issue, but that was a huge deal. One day, everyone was panicked if I walked into the orderly room and said “Hey, 3rd squad of 1st Platoon’s sixty is jacked… I dunno when it’s gonna be fixed, either…”. The next? “Ho, hum, BFD… We can fire everyone for qual with the three guns that are up… Range only has three positions, anyway…”.
Sounds like the issue is more a lack of maintenance investment than anything, which Ian mentioned. Perhaps other designs like the MAG or even MG3 would last longer…but by the 90s, it sure sounds like any platform subjected to the sort of neglect and penny-wise/pound-foolish maintenance management of the Clinton years, would be similarly broken down. Mere design improvements wouldn’t have saved them. Even flimsy, delicate weapons can do decently provided they are sufficiently supplied with spare parts & armorers; it’s not the most efficient way to do things, but it can & has been done (*cough* M16/M4 especially magazines *cough*). The same thing was seen with the FAMAS and CETME L if I’m not mistaken (spending neglect was so bad, the part companies went out of business, at which point soldiers were *really* screwed and had to cannibalize guns to get by)
The neglect started immediately after the Vietnam War, in the drawdown. Per my informants who’d been around the Ordnance community in that time frame, the M60 maintenance program went from “Heroic Effort” to “Who Gives a F**k” in about nothing flat. Once that happened, well… Yeah. It was all about the expenses and the maintenance was a huge expense.
One thing you’ll note: You can find examples of the PK that have been in service for twenty-thirty years, having the s**t beat out of them by some Third-World guerrilla movement, and those things still work. Despite the abuse, despite the lack of maintenance, despite everything. You will find no equivalent M60s serving in similar roles and conditions. Hell, you’ll find that countries the US supports, like El Salvador, have incredible issues keeping their M60 fleets going, absent massive support from the US. Which they mostly don’t get.
From the standpoint of “Well, we’re gonna take this prima donna of a weapon and issue it out to our allies, so that if they ever turn on us, they’ll be out of the machinegun business in nothing flat, once we turn off the taps…”, the M60 might be a decent idea. The reality is? The whole thing represents a betrayal of the soldiers it’s issued to, and an incredible money sink.
You buy an M60 for three thousand dollars, say: What you’ve committed to is a weapons system that’s going to cost you another three thousand dollars after it fires its first 10-15 thousand rounds. And, again, forever…
Buy an M240 for (I think…) six thousand, and that thing is going to be good for at least a few hundred thousand rounds before you have to code it out. Not to mention the aggravation, the angst, and all the crap the soldiers won’t experience trying to keep a fleet of M60s up and running… I swear to God, the wasted training hours alone–“No, PVT Timmay, you cannot put the firing pin into the bolt like that… I know, I know… It fits, but it doesn’t work like that…”.
First time I took apart my first M60, I found three places the previous gunner had fumble-fingered reassembly, along with a couple of broken/unserviceable parts. I had a “deadlined” gun back up and operational inside of a half-hour, in the field. I’m mechanically “ept”, and have a knack for things that go “bang”–I could handle the ‘sixty. Most people? LOL… If you can’t get the time on a VCR off of a flashing “12:00”, you probably aren’t going to do much better with a POS like the M60. The amount of time in any military organization is finite; you can’t take the “flashy VCR” types and bring them up to speed on an excessively finicky and fragile system like the M60 in any really time-economical manner, and that’s a huge part of my angst with the weapon. I mean, seriously–Three-quarters of my training time with new gunners was devoted to “Why you can’t put that there in that direction…”. From that standpoint alone? I’d like to have a time machine to go back and beat every one of the people associated with designing and fielding that weapon with a friggin’ clue bat, at least one blow for every single wasted hour and day I had to devote to keeping their little toy operational with the troops I was given to train on it.
The fact that they’d all be reduced to a bloody pulp by the end of the exercise should not be lost on any of the M60 apologists.
“You can find examples of the PK that have been in service for twenty-thirty years, having the s**t beat out of them by some Third-World guerrilla movement, and those things still work.”
you can see galley of old machine guns in hot points, 21th century and it looks that while M60 is not used in such circumstances, older patterns of machine gun are, namely:
– Maxim 1910
– Goryunov (on photo sitting on earlier mount – cart rather than tripod)
– various Degtyarev machine guns (DP, RP-46, RPD – this one encountered in virtually whole Africa)
– Browning 1919 – both with stock and spade grips
– Bren (7,62×51 NATO version)
Also it seems that even chance of encountering working funky Type 73 is bigger than for M60:
I’m really pleased to see a video about the original M60, and hope we can see it broken down. It seems to have been a design which came close to being great, but had too many faults in practice. The ergonomics have always struck me as being good at least.
Ergonomics were good only in some narrow respects. Barrels were amazing–Only production Stellite barrels successfully mass-produced by anyone for a GPMG in the post-WWII era.
Ergonomics were only good if you ignored what it was supposed to be–A GPMG. As an example, consider the sheer idiocy of the barrel-change and bipod systems. No handle on the barrel itself…? Separate bipod on each and every barrel…? Have to carry a heat mitten to change the barrel safely…? Yeah, sure… Wonderfully ergonomic, that was…
Let’s not get into having the adjustments all on the rear sight, requiring the gun to be re-zeroed with every barrel change. Although most 60 gunners I’ve known didn’t bother, they just set the rear sight for dead-center at 250 and left it that way, adjusting fire as needed by Kentucky windage, usually assisted by tracer.
To be fair, Ord and Maremont Corp did fix this and a couple of other problems on the A1 version, moving the bipod to the front end of the gas tube assembly, installing an adjustable front sight, and putting the carry handle on the barrel to act as a changing handle.
They never did squat about the searage, the firing pin, or the gas cylinder, however. All of which can be reassembled incorrectly, resulting in either the gun firing one shot and then stopping, or not working at all.
The M1919A6 may have been heavier and an awkward thing to carry, but at least like all other Browning designs it could only be reassembled after stripping just one way, the correct way.
And when you pulled the trigger, it went “bang” every time until you stopped feeding it live rounds. Or let up on the trigger.
Neither one was guaranteed with the 60. Even when it was brand new.
“Separate bipod on each and every barrel…?”
I am not defending this solution, but note that this also true for AAT Mod. 52:
Which if you’ll pardon my saying so, is another less-than-great design, noted among other things for case-head separations due to too-rapid opening of the breech as a consequence of its (barely) retarded-blowback action.
Matters were not improved when in the 1980s the ’52s were rebarreled from 7.5 x 54 to 7.62 x 51 NATO. Higher pressure resulted in even more case-separation problems.
As Ian Hogg and John Weeks said, the AAT-52 works- but only just.
The AAT-52 is bad enough it even makes the FN Minini that replaced it in French service look good by comparison.
Daweo, have you ever been in action with an already used M60. Ever been on a range with one, even!!
The US Army tried to copy the MG42 but failed because they tried to modify it!
The ting fired a few shots and stopped, jammed.
And you try to hid that the FN MG58 you’ve been forced to MFr under license as the MG240.
Y’all are very lucky you finally got the right powder in your .223 Nato ammo. A bit late in the Vietnam war though, eh. USDForces are problem-rich as a tradition. Does make life difficult for your allies.
I’ve heard about the barrel change problem and the “mitten” before, but was it not possible to use the bipod as a sort of handle for that purpose? Or did that pick up enough conducted heat from the barrel to rule that out?
Well… Yeah, you could. However, comma…
The issue is that the bipod legs are damn close to the barrel when folded; all too easy to burn the crap out of your hands inadvertently. This is critical when the gun is mounted on a vehicle, aircraft, or tripod–And, if you deploy the bipod legs in order to make that easier, then it’s hard as hell to use on the mount.
If the legs are deployed, well… Now you have another problem, in that the weight is really horribly distributed, and it’s difficult to manage. Try doing it under fire, sometime, for real fun. As an additional issue, the gun itself is now unsupported, and likely to wind up well-filthed from contact with the ground, which like as not, is going to be calf-deep in mud or dust.
The “ergonomics” of dealing with this issue, in terms of “How do I, the gunner, make this happen…?” are horrible. You need a well-trained assistant gunner to change that barrel for you, while you hold the gun up out of the dirt, and to put it bluntly, you’re not gonna be able to manage the gun at all effectively by yourself. Any other modern gun, like the PK, the MG42/3, or FN MAG-58? There’s one bipod, it’s mounted on the gun’s receiver, and you don’t have to worry about keeping the receiver up and out of the filth whilst you change out the probably white-hot barrel–Which probably ain’t white-hot, either, because the ease of the barrel change encourages you to change the damn things. Unlike the M60, say…
Frankly, the Stellite barrels were a friggin’ necessity, because the barrel change system was so lousy. Without them, the guns became essentially useless past a certain point, and I can’t imagine what running an M60 crew would have looked like in combat without being able to abuse the ever-loving shit out of the barrels by overheating them. You’d have needed twice as many guns and crews, I think, thanks to that “minor” issue.
So, yeah… You can use the bipod as a grip to change the barrels out, but it’s a technique that creates other issues. Somewhere out there is an AG of mine who’s got this really interesting burn scar on his forearm, complete with “SACO-Maremont” lettering that could be made out for a long time, which resulted from the bipod leg he used to take that barrel out of the weapon flopping loose and letting the barrel come back and literally brand his ass. Pro tip: You’re an M60 crewman? Rolling your sleeves or t-shirts are contraindicated.
That brings to mind another issue related to the barrel/bipod design: Because they had a bipod on every barrel, the things had to be built lightly enough to make that work, and that militated towards a certain, ah… Flimsiness. M60 bipods are not what I would term “robust”. They’re flimsy, prone to loosening, and if you don’t keep on top of the staking of the screws holding them together, you’re gonna be hating life when they loosen. They’re also a bitch to clean; the cheap, flimsy stampings that the legs consist of just loooooove to rust up and hold dirt–If you’re an inspector, and want to gig someone’s M60, all you need to do is extend a bipod leg, and you’re gonna find filth galore. Not a damn thing you can do about it, either. Same-same with the receiver, of course–I swear, on a couple of my guns, when I finally managed to get them completely cleaned up, what I found was that the only thing really holding the damn thing together was the rust, ‘cos once the rust was gone, the whole assemblage of parts that was the receiver just loosened up past all redemption. If you had a really decrepit weapon, and stuck that bitch into a solvent tank, that was usually the last straw, and it would be coded out the next time it went to 3rd Shop. Get the rust out, lose a gun…
When you approach the M60 from the direction of the M1919A6 and the BAR, the M60 looks magnificent. On its own merits? Compared to any other modern MG? Compared to the MG42? It is a complete and utter POS.
The only reason that gun did not fail miserably in the Vietnam War was the prodigious and heroic support given it by the Ordnance types. It was truly the LAW of machineguns–Essentially disposable, especially once that execrable flimsy receiver started falling apart. Post-war soldiers did not receive that kind of support at all, so our memories of that gun are somewhat more realistic about what it really was, which was a total POS. Any weapon that can be mis-assembled in so many different ways, some of which turn it into a straight-pull belt-fed rifle…?
It never should have been issued, and the assholes who foisted that crapfest of a GPMG on the American soldier should have had their entire bloodlines sterilized as a measure to improve the species. The sheer venality and incompetence represented by the M60 and its adoption are hard to comprehend, given the promise of the design features stolen from its antecedents. It should have (and, could have…) been an amazing weapon but the implementation of its actual design and fielding resulted in a crapfest that I am hard-pressed to come up with an equivalent for, although the SA80 and INSAS come close.
Okay, so given a choice, would you rather have taken a stolen RPD instead? At least the RPD didn’t require you to have asbestos mittens to handle it when shooting on the sprint, and it wouldn’t shatter into a thousand pieces if you used it to block some Victor-Charlie’s attempt to club you to death with his AK’s butt-stock!
PK, every day and in every way. MG42? MG3? Absolutely.
M60? Oh, hell no. If WWIII had ever lit off, and I was still surviving as a machinegunner after the initial wave of nukes went off? Oh, yeah… Some poor German or Soviet was in trouble; I had plans for either capturing a PK, or getting some German drunk and stealing their shit.
RPD I don’t know about; I’ve heard good things about it, but it wasn’t a gun of my era. Some of the Vietnam-era guys said great things about the ones they’d captured, but I have no personal experience of that weapon; only ever seen it in glass-enclosed displays or the pages of books.
Well, I’m also sure the M60 wouldn’t survive an “all gone to hell” endurance test, which involves SMASHING AN AKM into the thing for 5 minutes on end.
The M60 couldn’t survive an endurance test consisting of it simply doing the job it was supposed to.
Frankly, to anthropomorphize it all, the M60 was just embarrassed to exist as a machinegun, and persisted in trying to deal with that embarrassment by committing mechanical suicide at every opportunity. It literally wanted to beat itself to death under routine operating conditions…
Only human equivalent I ever ran into was a guy in my unit in Germany whose wife got sent back to the States, ‘cos she was boinking every other guy in the apartment complex. He didn’t know, until the day of, when the MPs served arrived and took her and the kids to the airport to be shipped off. That night, he’s moved back into the barracks, and you kept hearing this noise like a bowling ball being dropped. Nobody could figure out what it was, until one of his new roommates came back in and found him laying on his back in a dark room, behind the wall lockers, periodically banging his head on the floor. We got him up, took him downstairs to the duty desk, and called the medics. You had to stay on him, because he’d just sort of… Drift… Off to the nearest wall, and start banging his head against it. I have no idea how the hell he didn’t incur brain damage from that, but the meaty “THUMP” still comes back to me, remembering it.
Of course, brain damage might possibly have occurred, because when I ran into him again, years later, he was still married to the same chick, and she was still screwing anything that moved besides him…
Looking back on it, that guy and that incident were perfect metaphors for the M60, a weapon that really doesn’t want to be a machinegun.
“had plans for either capturing a PK”
Well, Soviet Union naturally was using technical espionage and examined all military weapons it could borrow/buy/stole/found/acquire (choose proper word yourself), working M60 was acquired during Second Indochina War, its small weight was noticed.
Soviet fire-arms were tasked with designing lighter [than then-current PK] general purpose machine gun. G.I.Nikitin co-designed ТКБ-015 with mass of only 6,1 kg. It accepted SGM belt, but during testing was found prone to malfunction in harsh environment (especially low temperature) and so it lost to PKM.
Interestingly ТКБ-015 used “direct” locking (into barrel, rather than receiver).
Keep in mind that it was co-designed by Nikitin and Sokolov, they were not newcomers, as they designed earlier ТКБ-521, which was serious to contender in competition which finally resulted in adoption of PK. Also, they are N and S respectively in NSV-12,7 (Utyous) machine gun, so they ability to design lighter is beyond question [NSV mass is just 25 kg against 34 kg of DShK (body only) with improved performance /smaller spread/ and being easier to produce].
This is long overdue and quite appropriate mention of significant weapon in U.S. Army inventory, not to mention all slew of other armies who received it as part of aid.
I had at one point chance to examine M60E4 (as I believe it was) from engineering manufacturing point of view and was quite impressed with it. Since I do not have enough background in it, I do not intent to make even partial evaluation, but have a lead to suspicion why it was not liked.
This is based on typical views and attitudes (as I see it, based on my experience) of people in advanced consumer societies; they are not content with nearly anything they get their hands onto. Nothing stands as ‘good enough’ to them; just listen what they say about allegedly superior M240B – another “pig”?. At the same time I recognise, it is incumbent on makers/ builders of a weapon system to deliver the utmost of their capability.
Interestingly, in literature which I read well ahead of my relocation, the M60 was described in rather positive terms as a “truly modern and versatile GPMG”. And yes, this was voice of opposition.
“This is based on typical views and attitudes (as I see it, based on my experience) of people in advanced consumer societies; they are not content with nearly anything they get their hands onto. Nothing stands as ‘good enough’ to them; just listen what they say about allegedly superior M240B – another “pig”?. At the same time I recognise, it is incumbent on makers/ builders of a weapon system to deliver the utmost of their capability.”
No. Just… No.
The M60 is only vaguely a decent weapon if you look at it as a belt-fed Automatic Rifle for squad-level fire support during maneuver. As a GPMG, which is what I have to remind it was supposed to be, it was a complete and utter failure of a weapon. Manufacture of everything but that barrel was a joke; the flimsy nature of the receiver, built up as it was from a collection of light-gauge stampings and then riveted together with blind rivets that were incredibly and predictably going to wear out long before the other components did…? No, it was piss-poor design–The PK series of weapons were stamped out, but stamping that was done correctly, out of heavy-gauge single pieces, not six bits flying in vague association, held together by half-ass rivets.
The M60 had so many design and conceptual flaws that you can only look at it and go “What…? What were they thinking…? This is supposed to be a tool for providing sustained fire? And, be able to serve as an Automatic Rifle or LMG…? How…?”.
Seriously–That barrel retention system and handle? The permanently mounted bipod, on every barrel? The myriad of ways in which the gun could be mis-assembled? Dear God…
Don’t even get me started on the maintenance. I was an armorer for a good chunk of my career as a private soldier, and supervised the Arms Rooms of most of the units in which I was an NCO–Those God-forsaken M60s ate up the majority of my maintenance time, and only consisted, generally, of about 10% of the fleet. 120-odd M16s, 18 M203s, 9 M60s, the odd M1911A1 and M2HB, and you’d think I’d be able to concentrate on something else besides those damn MG systems. But, nooooooo… Thanks to the benighted decision to go to Break-Free CLP ™, I got to spend at least a week after every time those M60s were fired, stoning away all the peening and damage from, y’know, them doing what they were supposed to do, which was fire on full-auto. Literally the most used part of my Armorer’s Tool Kit was that set of stones that came with it, because those guns basically didn’t want to be machine guns–They wanted to beat themselves to death instead. To be quite honest, there was scope there for a Dremel tool just about every time they went out and came back after firing more than a few rounds. Put a belt through it, and you had a good day’s worth of stoning ahead of you.
Hell, I unpackaged a brand-new Vietnam-era production gun, personally. We took it to a range, and thanks to the incompetence of the armorers in the other companies in battalion, we wound up putting every gunner in our battalion through our company’s guns, in order to qualify them. My M60 had less than 10,000 rounds put through it over the course of a week, and that was it for that receiver–We went back to garrison, and it went straight to maintenance because the rear receiver bridge rivets had loosened sufficiently to allow it to flex 1/4″ in either direction when you applied even light pressure. As an example of “impressive” design and manufacture, that gun was emphatically not either one of those things.
As an automatic rifle, the M60 was perhaps vaguely acceptable. As a sustained-fire tool? Which, I remind the reader, it was supposed to be…? Don’t make me laugh.
To be honest, the M60 reminds me of what you might get were you to ask a collection of neophyte design and production types to design you something, and all they had to go off of for prior art were vague recollections of other guns. So many features on the M60 were cribbed off of other designs half-assedly and with total inattention to the experiences of the original weapons designers and maintenance authorities.
The bolt cam track, for example–You look at the M60, and the op rod tower that rides in that track is designed so as to slam into the front of the track every time the gun fires. On the original Lewis guns, and the FG42, that track is milled out so that such impact is impossible–And, that location is where your armorers wind up spending most of their time, stoning away the peening.
The sear? Copied off the MG42, only without the nice little spring-loaded feature that reduces wear on the sear notch–With the MG42, that prevents the gunner from causing wear attributable to failing to cleanly release the trigger at the end of a burst. Again, a location that requires considerable attention by the armorer. Let’s just ignore the fact that the friggin’ trigger group can be mis-assembled about three different ways, too, shall we?
Then, there’s the feed system: The geniuses behind the M60 kinda-sorta copied the MG42 here, but they didn’t include the double-pawl system that made the MG42 such a monster at hauling belts across the feed tray; they economized, and put in one pawl, which all too often either tore through the cases or just didn’t pick them up, resulting in rather nasty mis-feeds. The M60 should, in theory, be just as good as the MG42 at pulling in belts, but… It just isn’t.
That whole gun is an embarrassment. Except, the barrels–Those were triumphs of design and manufacture. It’s just too bad they were on a complete piece of shit, otherwise.
Looks I got you going, and there is good use of it for benefit of all who did not get benefit of personal touch. Btw. I was for short period of compulsory service your counter-part. Since we did not get the “privilege” to taste the real war, I had not much to do – our weapons used merely in training did nor fail.
Oh yeah, I was a fan of U.S. made small arms already then… and almost ended up court-marshalled if it was not for one older professional tech-officer. When I told him how great was (that time new in Vietnam) M16 he laughed and could not stop laughing. It could have been taken as glorifying enemy’s weapon, definitely bad news for me. He told me: “what you want to shoot with it, rabbits?” Now of course, I have slightly different views too 🙂
The M16, I can live with. I’d rather not, and in an ideal world, I’d have carried something that actually doesn’t exist, something that looked vaguely like a SIG StG90 or a Valmet Rk95. The M60? No. Just NO. The only reason that thing isn’t up there on the wall as the worst MG ever fielded by anyone, anywhere, is that things like the Italian guns of WWII exist.
The details of why the M60 was so bad could go on for pages and pages. And, what is sad is that the designers cribbed so many design details off of superior weapons that you look at the M60 on paper and think “Oh, there’s no way you could possibly screw this up…”. Then, you meet the gun in the flesh, so to speak, and you’re going “Ohmigawd… How the hell did those other guns even work…? This is horrible…”.
Thing that flatly blows my mind is that the Danes adopted the damn thing just recently. Although, they are using solely in the squad support role, basically as an AR, so the major flaws it has as a GPMG aren’t gonna be so brutally apparent. But, wait until the bean-counters start toting up what it costs in terms of time, money, and effort to keep working–I think some minds will change about the wisdom of the enterprise.
Post-WW2 was not a good time for US small arms design. Maybe the hubris that comes with victory – Ian has bagged on the M14 plenty of times, and the tank-mounted contemporaries of the M60 – the M73 and M85 are by description somehow even worse than the pig.
Kirk — Let me point out that the variant (M60E6) the Danes adopted has had just about every issue with the Pigs you & I used addressed – in testing, it actually outperforms the M240 in reliability compared to tthe 1990s tests that caused us to adopt the M240 as a GPMG instead of just a vehicular gun.
The M60E6 really is the gun the M60 should have (and could have) been, and it’s 7 pounds lighter than the M240, which, since they are using it as a squad level base of fire gun, matters…
Was it the *best* choice the Danes could have made? Maybe, maybe not – like you, I am awfully fond of the SS-77, and there are some nice 7.62x51mm NATO PK variants to choose from. Is it good enough that the Danes made a *good* choice? Oh Hell yes.
Rick, the E6 leaves unaddressed a host of issues. Bolt cam track is unchanged, the receiver is still a built-up conglomeration of parts held together with blind rivets, and the essential nature of the gun has only been changed cosmetically. The root nature of its problems would need to be addressed by changing things entirely, like making the receivers one solid stamping vice the half-dozen flimsies and rivets.
Which would pretty much put paid to those things that everyone likes, like the light weight. Here’s a news flash for all of you who want what isn’t possible in terms of physics: You want light weight, you’re going to sacrifice somewhere else, namely in longevity, durability, and a host of other issues. The M60 started from flawed premises and ended in a mass of piss-poor design, and no amount of re-engineering is going to save it except by engineering it into something else entirely.
The amount of peening seen at the forward end of that bolt track tells us something, namely that this weapon is fundamentally flawed in its basic engineering. You have here a system that batters itself to death under ideal conditions, and we somehow expect that addressing a few of the peripheral flaws will result in a better system…? At the core, the M60 is a poorly designed POS, and that’s all it ever will be, no matter what the apologists want to say about it.
I’m hard-pressed to think of another weapon put on general issue in the last half of the 20th Century that required such heroic measures to keep operating. The necessity of providing a set of stones in the armorer’s tool kit, with which to erase the literal impact of the weapon beating itself to death…? That’s literally something out of the dawn era of automatic weapons, like the Chauchat or one of the other early lightweights. The fact that they had to wire together the gas system…? And, had the testicular fortitude to issue that thing to soldiers headed off to war?
At the end of the day, no matter how hard you polish a turd, it’s still a ball of shit.
“it’s still a ball of shit.”
Now I am confused. What is Mk43Mod1 relation to M60? According to:
It’s a goddamn good gun! For the first time there’s a Sixty you can bet your life on.
So it seems that eventually, it was made to at least cycle properly.
At same point it says that
Sixties broke down way too often while FN’s 240s didn’t.
which I assume would agree with.
Anyway, few-ten-years needed to solve problems associated with machine gun, is nothing to be proud about.
If you were manning Vz.59, then I want to inform that comparison between M60 and vz.59 (only 2 years of difference between) is kind of finishing blow for that first, regarding lightness with Czechoslovak weapon being lighter even with heavier barrel installed and without inclination to going wild (firing even if you already want to stop) or self-disassembly:
“I’m hard-pressed to think of another weapon put on general issue in the last half of the 20th Century that required such heroic measures to keep operating.”
As you’ve mentioned previously, the SA80. I think the FW episode on the HK fix did come down to a essentially building a new gun around a few remaining original parts.
India seems to be trying very hard to take the turd crown with the INSAS, but it it’s been so much of a failure, I don’t know if it counts as ‘general issue’
When you get down to it, the real issue with all these failed programs, from the M60 down to INSAS, stems from the fact that the people who are running them are entirely uninterested in actually doing their jobs; the weapons and the soldiers are simply tertiary interests, at best. First and second interests are keeping the bureaucracy going, and personal aggrandizement. It’s all about the careers of the bureaucrats, not the mission.
More than likely, similar things were going on at Boeing with the 737 Max. It’s not the weapons, per se–It’s bureaucratic and organizational dysfunction, pure and simple.
I agree with that and want to add that while M60 designers were cursed by M60 users, testers – responsible for detecting any problems of said weapon – also either were unable to do so or their findings were largely ignored.
Or even worse – procedures used back then would not result in detected said defects.
It’s not fair to compare to the VZ59; it’s the holy union of BREN and PKM, nothing can compete. Well, maybe the earlier version in 7.62×45 that I think would be a more practical gun for infantry MG roles.
“VZ59; it’s the holy union of BREN and PKM”
It can not be. It did not exist back then (PKM was adopted in 1969, vz. 59 as you might guess 1959).
“Now of course, I have slightly different views too ”
In such case I can only said that Our neighbour’s crop is always more fruitful and his cattle produce more milk than our own. (Latin Proverb)
“M60 is only vaguely a decent weapon if you look at it as a belt-fed Automatic Rifle for squad-level fire support during maneuver”
That sounds like task, which could be done with HK 21, without burden of M60 faults and fails. It is worth noting that HK 21 was developed in 1961, when M60 in 1957 i.e. only 4 years later. Also HK 21 allows easy conversion to magazine if such need arise.
When the Portuguese began building the HK 21 at the Fabrica Braço de Prata on the same German-engineered and German-supplied HK G3 m/961 machinery there were many, many problems. The bugs were not worked out until much later, after the ’74 Revolução dos Cravos in the mid-1970s even.
“many, many problems”
Namely? Does these appear also in HK made examples?
The problems had a lot to do, I am told, with the reject rate on the parts in the factory–Same thing that did in the CETME Modelo “L”.
Other than HK, nobody has really managed to build high-pressure roller-delay systems economically at a decent quality level. Why this should be so, I don’t know, but it’s an observable fact–Try it without the requisite HK factory support gnomes showing up and living in your plant, and you’d better have seriously low wages for your workers to compensate for it.
Roller-delay works with cartridges like the 7.92X33, which were low-pressure and did not have the pressure curves that things like the 7.62X51 and 5.56X45 do. There’s a reason that HK quit pushing the roller-delay systems–Most of their skilled workforce retired, and replacing them proved to be uneconomical.
Guy I know is an industrial engineer, and we’ve had this conversation. From what he can surmise, the root reason is that if you’re going to do roller-delay on modern high-pressure cartridges, the precision of manufacture you have to attain is difficult to achieve in an economical fashion. This is what killed the Modelo “L”–The guys at Santa Barbara dialed back quality control because the rejection rate was too high, and the resultant product was basically just unacceptable. Roller-delay looks elegant and cheap, but it really only works with lower-pressure cartridges like the original 7.92X33. Put anything more powerful into it, with steeper pressure curves, and you’re looking at nothing but trouble.
I’m of the opinion that there’s a reason that rotary bolt and gas operation have dominated the individual weapon platform for so long–It’s just at that sweet spot of economy and reliability. Alternative operating systems and principles are just not competitive with current technology. If we ever go back to big slow projectiles, possibly with guidance built into them, well… Things may change.
“support gnomes showing up and living in your plant”
So it looks problem is of much different nature here – apparently required knowledge to produce it is not formally documented (not delivered in license package).
I’m not certain that it’s as simple as just being “undocumented”. I think a lot of it boils down to that aspect of manufacture that’s not easily defined, where craftsmanship, art, and engineering have their Venn diagram. The “gnomes of Oberndorf” I’m referring to are the guys who made HK successful; many of them learned their trade from Mauser, and they made HK what it was during its rise. Problem was, whatever “magic” that happened to create those guys…? It evaporated during the interregnum where HK was not focusing on the roller-delay weapons. From what I’ve learned, the guys at Oberndorf were the only ones who ever managed to bottle that particular brand of lightning consistently, and once they all retired…? HK had a hell of a time trying to reconstitute it.
It’s probably worth a case study or two, in terms of examining the evanescence of manufacturing technology. What enabled it, and why wasn’t it easily picked up and reproduced by the folks at Santa Barbara? Who knows?
I can’t speak to experience with the HK21, of my own, but… Good friend of mine was an SF weapons sergeant, and he had a bunch of time with the HK21. He did not like it, one little bit. Had nothing good to say about them, whatsoever.
The two guns I’d like some trigger time on would be the Israeli Negev and the South African SS-77. I don’t know if they’re better than the PK, but I’d love to find out.
The thing about an MG is that you really have to evaluate them as components in a system, including everything that goes into the mission of providing supporting fires. Ammo hauling, tripod, range finding, all of it–And, if the system is better as a holistic solution, the gun could probably get away with being less than perfect. Conversely, the best gun ever, with lousy supporting accoutrements? So much junk.
“I can’t speak to experience with the HK21, of my own, but… Good friend of mine was an SF weapons sergeant, and he had a bunch of time with the HK21. He did not like it, one little bit. Had nothing good to say about them, whatsoever.”
I heard the same from a Spanish Army Para veteran, who back in the late 80s/early 90s tried the HK21 during some exercice with Portuguese comrades, both FBP (Portuguese) and German-made. He hated both…
I agree CLP is worthless. No one mentioned trashing the track in the top cover by closing the cover while the bolt is in the forward position on the M60gpmg.
That issue with the feed tray not working unless the bolt was back was another place the so-called “designers” missed the boat, copying off the MG42. I don’t mind copying between things, but for the love of God, when you do it…? Do it right, and pay some attention to the things that the original users of the design worked out the hard way. The cam track in the bolt is another prime example of the M60 sooooper-genious designers copying and then managing to make it even worse than the original iteration they cribbed off of.
And, too… The CLP thing. Why did the ordnance bozos decide to pure-fleet on that stuff, and do so without real testing on the MG systems? Once you went away from LSA, which left a nice thick layer of lubricant to cushion impact between moving parts, the evaporative nature of CLP left only a nice coating of PTFE, which is notorious for not providing mechanical cushioning effect. Back when they transitioned over, they literally came around to all the units and took away the old-school RBC and LSA we had, mandating replacement with CLP. Looking back on it, I have to wonder what the deal was–Did someone get kickbacks? I mean, we went from using two-three different products to clean and lube, and then… Holy shit, all that was available was CLP, to use on everything from the M16 up to the howitzers and tank guns. Why? I still don’t get that whole deal, even now. And, I am morally certain that the introduction of CLP was what led to an awful lot of the problems we had with the M60. I’ve spoken to guys who were armorers and small arms technicians back during the Vietnam period, and they were all universally puzzled by the amount of wear I was seeing in my guns, which were also seeing exponentially less use than the Vietnam-era guns were. I only twigged to the issue of the cushioning effect around the time we went over to the M240, and after we’d started getting LSA back for the Mk19. Couple of times, I lubed up our M60s with LSA, and I swear there was less wear when we did that–But, I can’t actually go past “Yeah, seemed like it was less…”.
Anyone out there who owns one? All I can say is, don’t use CLP as your sole lubricant. Oil the ever-lovin’ out of that thing with something that’s got some viscosity and “stickiness”…
I still have a bottle of 70’s era LSA medium oil that I use sparingly on my firearms. It’s white in color and there is no risk of it evaporating like CLP. My first car was a 79 Thunderbird and the hood hinges were sticky and I was risking creasing the hood opening and closing it. I gave the hinges some of that good medium grease and didn’t have to reoil them again even after 7 years of sitting outside in the time I owned the car. I seriously don’t understand why you would replace something great with mediocre CLP which is lousy at cleaning, lubing and protecting .
This was due instructions to not release the bolt by pulling the trigger on a empty chamber. What wasn’t said was to control the forward motion by holding back with the charging handle. I think most company arms room attendants were not trained, just some guy that was chosen because there was no job he fit.
Thanks for that!! I had almost forgotten that, see above for my comments about the Bren and its variants.
With more of history nicely summed up here, one can find some appreciation for long and at times arduous development of M60 GPMG
From my point of view and specifically comparing it with weapon I knew rather intimately, the UK vz.59, I tend to lean on belief that the M60 was indeed a modern weapon with decent prospect for long-term service. In absence of more detail knowledge of history behind it, I recall was need of co-axial MG which eventually swayed favor away from it in direction of MAG/M240.
That being said, as a light(er) squad support weapon, the M60 has lots of going for it. Its competitor, M240 never got, in spite of courageous lightening efforts (by Barrett Arms), far enough as a viable replacement in that regard. That is just my view, as faulty as it may be.
Denny, I respect a lot of what you have to say, but… Not this.
I’ve been a gunner on the M60; I’ve been the armorer for the system; I’ve fired tens of thousands of rounds through them, and I’ve trained God alone knows how many soldiers to work the things. They. Are. Shit.
The M240 is a machinegun; the M60 is a joke, a bad one. The people who designed it did not understand machineguns, or their roles. They had no understanding of soldiers, and disdained to ever even attempt to grasp the way their POS weapon was going to need to be used.
Frankly, I suspect that if someone had tried fielding the M60 inside the Warsaw Pact, they’d have wound up spending the rest of their lives somewhere in Siberia, cutting trees down with spoons. Stalin would have simply had them shot–But, not with an M60. Too much chance of the damn things failing to function, and letting them live.
Seriously–Anyone who looks at an M60 and thinks “Oh, that’s not a bad weapon… Looks cool…” needs to spend a year or two trying to keep the things up and running, and then spend 15 years of their life trying to train others to do the same.
Seriously–In 25 years of military service, the happiest day I spent was helping unpack brand-new M240s, and carting off the M60s for turn in. That ought to tell you something, something significant.
Well received Kirk, no problem. There is no substitute for hands on experience.
Agreed. I’ve had hands-on experience as why you shouldn’t buy up ludicrously cheap (as in sold for 5 dollars with free shipping) spring-powered airsoft guns over the internet, especially if they are marketed as “action toy guns.” The barrel bore was misaligned with its jacket and the internal magazine broke from getting filled to just under nominal capacity. NOT BUYING ANOTHER ONE LIKE THAT AGAIN!
The only reason I buy airsoft guns is as wall hangers when the real thing is too expensive. Like the LS 1/1 scale ABS plastic gun kits of my youth (that I still have today), I don’t much care if they work, I just like them to look nice.
Ironically, the M240 is an Americanized FN MAG 58, or L7 if you’re British.
And even FN admits that the MAG 58 is basically a Browning Automatic Rifle mechanism, that’s been beefed-up and converted to belt feed.
The U.S. could have just adopted it in 1958-59, admitted that it was a Browning design to avoid the “Not Invented Here” reaction, and saved everybody a lot of grief over the years.
Not to mention a few million dollars’ worth of R&D in 1950s money, probably equal to a couple of hundred billion in today’s currency.
In hindsight, this line of thought has no flaw to it.
The post-war era of MG design in the US is really hard to fathom, in terms of sheer hubristic incompetence. The M73/219 tank MG, the M85, the M60… Only thing those idjits got right was the minigun, and that was actually a private development that got the nod because the version that the military system was working on? They could never get it to work properly.
Couple that with the whole fiasco surrounding the attempt to adapt the MG42 to a US cartridge, and you really start to wonder.
Thing that still geeches me about all of that is when you look at the whole system, from top to bottom: Ammo for the M60? Cheap-ass cloth bandoliers and cardboard boxes that literally fell apart when wet. No bandoliers, no pouches, not even dedicated ammo boxes you could effectively carry around with the gun crew. Accessories? LOL… That #*&$(&&( tripod, which was a hold-over from the M1919 air-cooled Brownings, and which had about as much application on a modern battlefield as a trap-door Springfield. No dedicated range finder or binoculars, no real spare parts kit for the M60, a cleaning kit that was a sad joke, and on and on and on.
First time I saw the outfit the Germans had for the MG42, I about to wept with jealousy. Those guys had it all, and you could tell by how much damage they dealt out with it all–And, the gunners could keep the things going virtually forever with organic equipment. And, the barrels! All interchangeable, all the time, with any MG42 on issue–No worries about headspacing. And, they were just the barrels, no excess extraneous bits you had to carry for each one. Optical sights! Periscopic ones, at that…
I’m telling you, boys… The Germans MG teams had it made. The US Army and Marines were like back in the 18th Century, by comparison. I actually had to rig up a gunner’s quadrant one time with cardboard and a string, in order to figure out how to deliver indirect with my gun. Seriously atavistic primitivism, I’m telling you. Utter bullshit, TBH–The US never fielded a decent ammo pouch or carrying system for the M60, ever. Not until the M240 did anyone really do anything about that issue, and the Germans had a bunch of different ways to carry their ammo and keep it nice and clean. Us? LOL… Buncha damn cavemen, we were…
And if you criticized Army Ordnance for FAILING on delivering a practical machine gun package, they’d probably arrange for you to “conveniently disappear,” preferably with an artillery accident. Just kidding!
Actually, Chern… They’d just look at you all cow-like and stupid, and ask “Why would you want a different tripod…? Isn’t the M122 good enough?”.
Seriously–I’ve had these conversations with the morons in the system. You can’t even begin to make headway with them, trying to get the point across to them about whatever it is you’re talking about. This is the crew of abject jackasses that put an entirely unworkable procedure into the field manual for the M249, outlining the proper way to zero the night sights. They knew it didn’t work, they still published it–And, when I called them up to ask what the hell I was doing wrong on the range the night before, when none of my 32 gunners could zero the goddamn night vision scopes on their weapons, the miserable pricks had the balls to laugh at me and my naive stupidity in following the new manual they’d just published a few months earlier.
Frankly, between the assholes in procurement and the training establishment, I think we could likely get away with converting them all over into fertilizer for the ranges, and just not bothering with replacing them. I have dealt with a bunch of these people in person, and I’m frankly not at all impressed–There are one or two bright lights among the burned-out lightbulbs, but they can’t make up for the deadweight.
“post-war era of MG design in the US is really hard to fathom, in terms of sheer hubristic incompetence.”
Source of problems seems to fact decision were made by people blind to similar weapons used by allies or available on market.
This is stern contrast with British, which according to
before adopting MAG tested it against Bren belt-fed derivative, M60, French AA-52, Swiss MG51, Danish Madsen-Saetter and MG3.
Would U.S. staff responsible for fire-arms, examine thoroughly French machine gun then they might notice that attaching bipod to barrel is not good idea.
“M240 is an Americanized FN MAG 58, or L7 if you’re British.”
Ok, though I would prefer to refer it as Kulspruta 58 if you do not want to call it MAG.
“basically a Browning Automatic Rifle mechanism, that’s been beefed-up and converted to belt feed.”
Interestingly, Sweden also developed belt-fed derivative of derivative (Kg m/37) of derivative (Kg m/21) of BAR 1918, see chapter Belt fed Light Machine gun m/1937. there http://www.gotavapen.se/gota/artiklar/kg/swedish_kg2.htm
Sadly its overall mass is not specified and having its quirks (for example NEVER firing last cartridge in belt), however these seems less pissing off for end users than already pointed problems of M60.
Hope this won’t put you over the edgehttp://www.sturmgewehr.com/forums/index.php?/topic/12710-m60-maremont-like-new/
Meant for Kirk.
Yeah… Seventy grand for an M60? Yeesh. There were days where I would have paid you to take the ones in my arms room off my hands, and felt giddy joy at the transaction taking place.
The gun is just not worth that kind of money, even brand-new and factory-fresh.
“suspect that if someone had tried fielding the M60 inside the Warsaw Pact, they’d have wound up spending the rest of their lives somewhere in Siberia, cutting trees down”
Well, this happen before WarPact emerged but it is worth mentioning here. Story of DS-39:
DS-39 has serious reliability problems, including complicated barrel change method, however at least did not self disassembly itself (so far I know).
Similarly to M60 it was destined to offer lesser weight (no need to carry water) and superior performance than gun it was replacing (M1919A6 and Maxim 1910 respectively), especially in AA role, as it has two Rate-of-Fire setting: 600 rpm and 1200 rpm.
Despite several years of development, in real combat it proved to be disappointing.
It proved temperamental about ammunition/belt that was used, and dropped from production in 1941, only 2 years after official adoption. Instead production of antiquated, but at least working properly Maxim 1910 guns was increased.
To my knowledge Degtyarev was not punished for that, possibly due to being already liked by Stalin (for development of DP and its family), yet at some point it must be noted that designing of new belt-fed 7,62×54 R proved to be extremely tricky, Degtyarev tried to improve DS-39 reliability which resulted in DS-42, but it also proved unsatisfactory. Finally after long development, GVG design would evolve into machine gun which would provide required reliability and would be accepted into service as SG-43.
Does anyone have experience with FN Mk48?
As the story goes, this was the first Minimi from which the 5.56mm version was developed later but was marketed earlier. Granted the 5.56mm Minimi in U.S. service does have less than stellar reputation, it is prudent to expect the “papa-gun” will not be much better.
But, I can be wrong to use Cherndog’s favored line.
Well, at least the FN Mk 48 has better reliability (as in it won’t fall apart after shooting for over a day without constant fiddling and repairs).
“5.56mm Minimi in U.S. service does have less than stellar reputation”
Keep in mind that serious part of it has source in that 5,56 mm as 5,56 x 45 NATO is somewhat lacking reach for usage in SAW role. Which was admitted in 1970s by development of new 6×45 mm SAW cartridge and machine guns firing it:
But finally it was decided to no adopt, yet another cartridge.
Also you might read there: https://modernfirearms.net/en/machineguns/u-s-a-machineguns/mk-48-mod-0-eng/
Mk.48 mod.0 accepts solely belts, unlike Minimi dual-fed nature, which eliminates another source of disappointment.
308 is a little too much for that small a package. It works, but it is rather rough on everything (including the shooter). But, it can get very small compared to any other belt fed 308 (except maybe HK21k lol), and pack a wallop even with shorter barrels compared to 5.56. So it has its uses, mainly among the ninja-ops guys. But it really needs slightly more bolt reciprocation travel in that configuration so it doesn’t batter itself.
Actually South Korea also developed own 7,62×51 mm NATO derivative of FN Minimi, called K12: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%26T_Motiv_K12 to replace their M60 in service, but judging from its mass, it was not so great concern for K12 designers as it was for M60 designers.
Having spent my time in the US Army and then the SC National Guard and having been deployed to numerous 3rd world toilets, I can say I agree with Kirk 100%. Our M60’s NEVER ran well. NEVER. When we got mobilized to go to Iraq in 2003, the happiest moment of pre-deployment was the day we turned in those piles of shit and drew M240’s. Our gunners were thrilled that they would not have to rely on our old worn out pigs. I personally was not a gunner (I was a Section Sergent and carried an M16A2/M203 and an M9) but I know my gunner was happy.
From my experience the M60’s in the 1980’s and 1990’s were: worn, old, tired, and poorly maintained. Some of this was operator training and maintenance. Two specific problems that I encountered not discussed so far were:
– Worn and chewed up bolt faces and chambers from repeatedly slamming the bolt shut on an empty chamber. and
– FUBAR gas systems. Guys would detach the barrel group, and dunk the assembly in solvent with only the bipod legs staying clear. This ate up the gas mechanism.
Mr Pig saved my butt one night north west of Saigon, thank you very much. Kirk and others may be down on him, but I would not be ashamed to stand beside him any day of the week. Just a 1st I D remf 65-66.
West Germany attempted to outdo the Rambo GPMG by remaking the Mauser MG1942 with a heavy barrel that increases the replacement length to 1,800 rounds but the Rheinmetall MG1960 was never accepted
Firing from the hip? The gun of Rambo!
Firing from the shoulder? Apparently, the lightened E3 or whatever version was supplied to some Navy se.a.l. teams to the quantity of four per squad to allow the team to “punch above its weight.”
There are all sorts of SF and seal anecdotes from the Vietnam War, of course, about the RPD being used.
Ian, Great review and didn’t see much (any) functional failures But just a suggestion,
A) Fold the damn bipod up, THEN start the live-fire. You’ll do better without a pound or two of unsecured dead weight randomly swinging hither and yon.
B) Take every single bit of “personal” experience in review of the M-60 with large grain of salt. One can reliably ONLY review THIS M-60, and no other.
For God’s sake, these are mostly more than a half century of old and still in better functional shape than your average contemporary ‘64 1/ 2 Ford Mustang.
Or you or me, for that matter
I’ve handled and fired more than a “small sample” of this weapon, ranging from stuff that was still in the factory wrapping from 1967 when it left the plant, to variants manufactured in the 1980s. I’ve had them fresh from depot rebuilds, and ones that were still soldiering on after decades of use in units that only took them out for inventory and bi-annual qualifications.
I’ve also worked on hundreds of them, in the course of doing routine company-level maintenance and running qualifications ranges.
So, I’ve “reviewed” a huge swathe of the fleet that the US Army and a couple of other branches had, and I’m here to tell you: This was a shitty weapons design, period. Even brand-new and fully modified to the latest standard, the damn things still possessed all the inherent designed-in flaws. The only way you could really “fix” the M60? Take that barrel, and build a whole other gun around it.
It’s that bad, and I’ve seen, handled, and shot hundreds of the damn things, in all states of condition from brand-new to shot the f**k out. They’re shiite. All of them.
Case in contrast? The brand-new M240s I allude to above? I know for a fact that the ones I unpacked and put into service circa early 2001 were brand-new. I supervised the initial fielding training and qualification, and I know for a fact that a specific gun had well over 10,000 rounds put through it over the next two years. It went to Iraq, had the ever-loving shit abused out of it, came back, and sometime in 2006, I had reason to go over that specific gun again. Interestingly, by comparison to the M60s I knew and loathed, that thing was still essentially unworn in all important respects–Even the internal finish was still there and fully intact except at wear points. The exterior looked like crap, granted, but that’s what a year of desert combat will do to a weapon. Exterior finish was the sole reason the inspectors chose to send that gun in for rebuild, by the way…
Same time frame, same level of use on an M60? The POS would have been coded out and replaced twice. The M240 was barely broken in.
With the M240, you had to try hard to abuse it enough to make it break. The M60, by contrast? You had to take heroic measures to try to keep the damn things operational, and God help the poor bastard who didn’t know all the ins and outs of that gun, because you were doomed to failure doing that.
I handled a British Army L7 that had been in continuous service with the same unit that came over here for training during the late 1990s. This gun, per the armorer, had been on the unit books since it was issued during the early 1960s, and had been in service the entire time. IT WAS STILL SERVICEABLE. I think he told me they’d had it to Northern Ireland at least nine times that he could find the paperwork for.
I was in a unit in 1994, served there until ’98. I knew the guns we had, because I was the guy who kept them running. in that period, we replaced at least three of them, and should have replaced all, but the money wasn’t there, under Clinton. Came back to that same company in 2001, and in the intervening three years, another four guns were coded out and replaced, including some of the previous new ones.
And, do note: This was during the Clinton interregnum, when training ammo was just not available. Most of the use those guns got was doing the ROTC support, where the cadets did familiarization fire on the ranges, and firing blanks tactically. Nothing particularly abusive, at all. And, the guns could not take it, even with diligent maintenance support.
There’s absolutely no way to defend it: The M60 is crap, all the way around. God only knows how much money we poured down that rathole, and how much might have been saved had the incompetent boobs that saddled us with it chosen to go with a superior product. My guess is that the program costs would have been billions with a “B” lower.
Great insights into the M60. I remember reading articles by Peter G Kokalis in Soldier of Fortune back in the 80s and 90s about how he managed to keep them working down in Central America. That was where I first heard about the use of wire to stop the gas system falling apart.
I must say I am quite pleased that over the years Britain has never been too proud just to adopt foreign machine guns based on their merit. We have used Maxim guns, Lewis guns, Brens, FN GPMGs and latterly Minimis. We didn’t invent them, just took the best foreign designs and ran with them. When we did insist on designing our own weapon we came up with the SA80 family, so the least said about that the better.
Sadly, for reasons I do not understand, the Army has decided it will drop the Minimi, leaving us without a squad automatic weapon. The theory seems to be that the newly modified SA80s are just so damned good a SAW is not needed. I cannot help but detect an aroma of bullshit. Let’s hope that if we get into another shooting war, someone will have had the good sense to mothball the Minimis in a warehouse somewhere. If only.
To be honest, I’m kind of ambivalent about the Minimi/M249. I like the bullet-hose effect they provide, but the weight and general unwieldy nature of the beast are things I just don’t care for, at all. I understand the Marine desire for the M27, but at the same time, I also want that belt-fed goodness for supporting fires.
I think there’s a role for a belt-fed individual weapon-caliber support weapon down in the fire team. I’m just not entirely sure that it’s the Minimi/M249–I’d prefer something more like the Negev or the SS-77. It would be very nice if the thing were convertible between 5.56mm and 7.62mm, with relative ease, in order to tailor the weapon to the theater’s requirements. I am very curious about the Knight’s Armament weapon system that they’re coming out with, and look forward to Ian wringing that thing out.
All that said, however… The root of the issue is “How do you mean to fight…?”. If you are doing the light infantry rush, and dancing all over the terrain lightly equipped, well… A belt-fed at the fire-team level is contraindicated. If you’re playing things a bit heavier, and plodding from firing point to firing point in order to blast the enemy from their positions, well… Yeah, the belt-fed is an imperative.
I keep telling this to people, only to receive a blank stare in return. Most just don’t get it–They think the guns are all-important, and that the way they’re used is immaterial. Far from it–You could have the perfect weapon for fighting that light infantry dance with chaos, issue it to the guys who are plodding from point to point, and discover that your hypothesized perfection is actually utter crap in that use case. Likewise, the reverse could be just as true, dependent upon how you’re fighting.
Imagine handing a Gurkha something like a BAR, and telling him that’s his assault rifle to use nipping in and out of buildings in a built-up area. Think he’ll be as effective as if you’d have handed him a Sterling? Conversely, if you passed off that Sterling to some giant of a Norseman, and told him he was going to be defending mountain fastnesses north of the Arctic Circle, he’d likely be just a bit less than effective.
Horses for courses. Know your course before you pick yours from the stable, and be aware of what you really, truly need.
“I understand the Marine desire for the M27, but at the same time, I also want that belt-fed goodness for supporting fires.”
Now I start wondering: did U.S. forces pay anyone for developing 5,56×45 NATO high-capacity magazine? Soviet Union, yet back in 1961 decided that their squad automatic weapon, i.e. RPK:
would be magazine fed. This mean down-grade from RPK with its belt-100, however on the other hand, AKM magazines could be used in RPK without any hassle (reverse is also true). With introduction of 5,45×39 mm cartridge dual-fed machine gun was developed as well “add-on” belt-feeding unit was developed:
however these were found not fit for introduction and thus Soviets stayed with RPK reworked to 5,45×39 cartridge (RPK-74). Only production feed system are long banana magazines. Recently Kalashnikov concern presented RPK-16:
The Minimi was adopted to replace the LSW variant of SA80 in the SAW role, with the LSW shifted to the DMR role due to its heavier barrel, which incidentally is not quick-change, a very odd omission for a modern SAW.
Then the RA adopted the L129A1, an SR-25 variant in 7.62mm, as the DMR because the LSW wasn’t much good at that job, either.
As for dumping the Minimi as the SAW, the USMC were the first to do that, and they had a variety of very sound reasons for doing so.
As to the “improved” SA80s, I have serious doubts about their being any better than the original. SA80, like the M60, was and is simply a bad design to begin with. Check out the Osprey book on the SA80 by Neil Grant for the horrid details.
When soldiers in combat consider the M16 to be better than their issue rifle, that right there tells you they’ve been issued a PoS masquerading as a rifle.
I only know the SA80 from technical reports, but I’ve had more experience with the M16 from original through A1 and up to A3 than I like to remember. When I think of a rifle defined as worse than the Armalite, I need Alka-Seltzer.
“SA80, like the M60, was and is simply a bad design to begin with.”
It looks that this is one of consequences of dropping .280 British in favor of 7,62×51 NATO. Wouldn’t that happen, then Rifle, Automatic, caliber .280, Number 9 Mark 1: https://modernfirearms.net/en/assault-rifles/great-britain-assault-rifles/enfield-em-2-eng/ (which was formally adopted) would probably go sooner or later into real combat in this or another part of world.
Hopefully it would cycle properly, yet that experience might show that bull-pup layout… is not as wonderful, as it might looks at first glance.
Wait. If I understand correctly SA80 is derived from AR-18 and M60 is depending on who you ask is derived from: MG42 or FG42 or Lewis machine gun. Independently from who is correct about that, all of these (and AR-18) worked correctly.
Which lead to sad observation that SA80 and M60 designers were enacting something which could be dubbed cargo cult gun-designing something like:
i.e. assuming that copying something from working design would result in properly functioning solution. While usage of already developed solution might result in good design (see for example AK vs Remington Model 8 safety) then it is never guaranteed.
The M60 is fundamentally a Lewis mechanism. The use of a coil recoil spring rather than a clockwork type rather disguises this.
This system can be made to work quite well; see the Mexican Mendoza RM-1 and RM-2 LMGs, both of which are fundamentally Lewis types. With most of their components machined from steel blocks, notably the receivers. (You’ll see why this is important in a moment.)
Also the JGSDF Type 62 GPMG, which looks like an MAG 58 outside but is pure Lewis inside. The Japanese used a Lewis gun copy, in 0.303in aka 7.7 x 56Rmm no less, all through WW2, and I can only assume they were satisfied with the system. Again, mostly machined from steel stock.
The FG42 elements are mostly the recoil spring system. And the FG42 itself copied most of the rest of its mechanism from- yes, the Lewis gun. (That system got around.)
The feed cover and pawl assembly were copied from the MG42. Unfortunately, they used only one feed pawl instead of the MG42’s two, and subtracted the return spring that ensures that the pawl returns to the correct starting position every time the cover is closed on a belt in the feedway.
Hence the need to “slam” the cover shut to force the pawl into the correct position over a live round, usually bending it and the pawl assembly. (This from one of my best friends, a 1980s vintage M60 gunner on the DMZ in South Korea.)
Finally, to meet the RfP requirement for weight (no more than 11 kg empty- the first time the metric weight was used in an Ord RfP, BTW), a lot of either light alloys or thin sheet metal were used instead of heavier stamped or machined steel components, notably in the multi-piece, riveted-together receiver. If the receiver had to be so light, it should have been either machined from aircraft-grade aluminum billet as on the AR-15 series, or else stamped, folded and welded as on the AKM.
Also, this is why the feed cover is a stamping as well. The MG42 feed cover was also stamped, but of steel rather than alloy, and was considerably thicker.
Combine a seriously flawed design with unsuitable materials and at best indifferent QC, and you have the M60.
The striking thing about both the SA80 and M60 debacles is that both weapons were filled with examples of rote copying from other weapons that didn’t take into account any of the experience encountered by the original designers/users.
I think the story with the SA80 was that they looked at the Sterling AR-18, and chose to cheap out on bringing over the actual Sterling engineers/designers, out of a sense of entitled arrogance. Someone in the British Army told me that the antipathy between Royal Ordnance and Sterling went back to the days of Patchett, and there’d been some seriously “inside-baseball” background to why the SA80 program left out Sterling and it’s experience, mostly down to personalities and residual angst over the way Sterling did something that gored an ox with the establishment at RO. In any event, precisely none of what Sterling knew about building the AR-18 informed the SA80 program.
Similarly, the US designers of the M60 copied blindly, not understanding why the designers of the FG42 and MG42 had done what they did–And, it’s not like the information was some “lost secret”, either. Most of the pertinent design information was right there in the weapons they were copying, they just had to observe and understand. And, I have it on reliable authority, there’s literally tons of captured German documentation on both weapons in the US Archives… None of which has been looked at, let alone translated and understood.
The missing “extra” pawl on the feed system, the lack of a return spring for the track, the missing spring-loaded sear, the absent machining at the end of the bolt cam track… All that stuff was there, in the original weapons. It was just that the designers of the M60 didn’t understand why they were there, and blindly copied things they essentially didn’t grasp; this is why the weapon sucks so badly.
Similarly, when you start looking at the interface where weapon meets user and crew, neither the SA80 program or the M60 program had an essential understanding of how the weapons would necessarily be used in combat. Watch recent training films of UK soldiers doing CQB training with the SA80; observe how they have to take the weapon from their shoulder, and abandon situational awareness to perform such basic functions as loading it! I can think of no better way to get blue-on-blue, when the soldier finishes putting his weapon back into service, and then tries to regain situational awareness of what is going on in the firefight around him. In terms of sheer uncaring stupidity, the interface of the SA80 series is hard to match. For whatever other flaws the M16 has, I can run that gun by muscle memory and tactile feel, never having to take my eyes off of what’s going on around me. Whether by accident or design, Eugene Stoner got that interface almost perfect–The only thing I find that I’d like to change about the M16 would be the addition of a Robinson Arms-esque ambidextrous bolt release and provision for ambidextrous mag releases/selectors…
With the M60, the things they got utterly wrong were the barrel change system, the bipods, and the ammo carry. If you’re doing the Automatic Rifle/LMG thing with the gun, it’s virtually impossible to change that barrel by yourself–The receiver, by necessity because of that barrel-attached bipod, has to be laid down in the filth and dirt, with God knows what likely complications coming from that. I once had my team leader come screaming up to me while I was trying to clear a misfire that meant changing the barrel (torn off cartridge base…), and when he came running up to me, he kicked a load of gravel into my carefully-placed receiver. Which pretty much put paid to fire support for our squad for the next half-hour…
Let’s not even get into the sights, which were mostly useless due to all the adjustments being on the gun, not the barrel. God help you if your front sight was bent, or something else was off–You basically didn’t have the ability to use those damn things with any real precision, because you had to kind of adjust to the mean, and then extrapolate by adjusting fire.
No, the SA80 and M60 were both designed by the same sort of obtuse idiot, ones with no real understanding of the mechanics of firearms design, and of how the weapons would need to be used.
To be honest, I think the two programs are examples of what’s wrong with an awful lot of modern life, in that the sort of people who get into power and decision-making positions are actually entirely arrogant and unaware of what it is they’re supposed to be doing, which is designing weapons to allow soldiers to fight effectively in combat. In both cases, it seems that the focus was not on the weapon or soldier, but in building bureaucratic empire and maintaining power over same.
You are right about the antipathy between Royal Ordnance and Sterling Armaments.
This began when RO literally copied the design of the Sterling SMG and started producing it without paying Sterling a royalty. When Sterling found out, they sued RO and eventually won, but they then earned the hatred of RO, and the desire to destroy their company, which they eventually did.
The SA80 is an AR18 in bullpup form. Sterling knew how to make AR18s, but RO were never, ever going to ask for their advice. They would rather produce a piece of shit weapon than ask for the advice of people who actually knew how to make it.
As an aside, the former owner of Sterling has written that when his engineers looked at the AR18 design, they saw a few areas they thought they could “improve”. Gene Stoner himself told them not to change a thing; the AR18 worked as he had designed it. He knew that if you change one little thing, you will probably change another, and then another, and pretty soon the whole thing is a mess. Taking the AR18 and turning it into a bullpup is just about as big a change as could be imagined, but the geniuses as RO obviously felt they were up to the task; no need to ask the man who designed it or the people who built it what they thought. No need to pay them a penny in royalties either.
Sterling is now long gone, destroyed by government malice. They always get you in the end. But Royal Ordnance is gone too. The SA80 was so awful that even a government owned armoury could not survive the shame of having made it. I like to think there is a lesson there, but I doubt that any government bureaucrat will ever bother to learn it.
The only thing we can say for sure is that when the British Army finally gets a rifle to replace the SA80 family, which probably won’t be before 2030, it will not be built in Britain, because our domestic small arms manufacturing capability is no more than a memory. Good job wars are a thing of the past!
“JGSDF Type 62 GPMG(…)mostly machined from steel stock”
Well, after 1945 it was decided that for Japan arms export would be illegal. That combined with switch to defensive frame-of-mind, mean that Japanese needs of machine guns for land service would be limited – being islands, naval and aerial branches were priority. Thus it turn means low production, which in turn might mean that more cost-effective method (e.g. stamping) might actually be more expensive due to need of investing into special machines, tools e.t.c.
Very good point about the Type 62. The SCK Type 60 SMG, basically a copy of the Carl Gustaf M45B, used a machined steel tube receiver and etc. rather than stampings, precisely because Japanese heavy industry based on automobile production was very good at machining things from steel stock.
Going back over a century, Japan’s first metallic cartridge rifle, the 11 x 60Rmm Murata Type Meiji 13 of 1880, was a single-shot based on the Dutch Beaumont M1871, not the French Gras as is often assumed.
The main reason was the firing pin spring, a flat V-spring housed in a two-part hollow bolt handle, rather than the more familiar coil spring.
The reason Col. Murata chose the Beaumont action for the new rifle was, again, Japan’s industrial base of the time. Japanese metalworking was based on blacksmithing and sword-making traditions going back over 400 years.
The artisans knew nothing of how to make or properly temper coil springs. By comparison, they had been making bronze V-springs for centuries, notably used as latches to secure sections of samurai armor. There was very little they didn’t know about making durable, reliable flat V-springs, so the Beaumont action made perfect sense based on Japan’s “technology base” of that era.
By the time I went into the Australian military in 1969, problems with the M60 were well known. When I arrived in Viet Nam, I remember a New Zealand officer giving me a lecture on how much better the MAG was – NZ never adopted the M60 but used it in VN due to cooperation with Australia.
In a book about some Australian battles in VN, there is a photo of General Westmoreland visiting Australian units in about 1968. The photo shows a skinny Australian private, wearing only his trousers and boots, giving Westmoreland a stern lecture on problems he had with his M60 during the battles, ie dozens of stoppages. After that, apparently every armourer in the Australian army visited the unit and serviced its M60s.
A good friend, who was an infantry forward scout at the time I was there, told me that they were to be issued Bren guns, but I am not sure that ever happened although I once saw a photo showing a 7.62mm Bren being used.
Aussie I knew once remarked that if the US had forced the M60 on Australia, then that should have been justification for war–But, since the Aussies had adopted that damn thing of their own free will, about all that he could say was “Got us…”.
The Aussies, notably, did issue better accessory items for the M60. There was a sharp little affair that clipped onto the feed tray or replaced it, that served as a belt box for the teaser strip, and you could wander freely with your belt in that, and when you went to the prone to fire, your gunner could just clip onto the teaser strip. Very well thought out, and I’ll be damned if I know why the hell the US military couldn’t have either copied that or come up with something on their own.
Other than the fact that the idiots had very little in the way of clue when it came to machinegunnery…
Many thanks for all of the experience that is being shared.
I’m reading this thread with fascination.
I’d like to cocur with *every*-bloody-thing Kirk has said, and point out that (much like the M14, but not *nearly* as well), the M60 functions *despite* it’s use of the allegedly (it’s not) “self-tuning” White gas system.
Damned thing is well known to just be weak on the oomph of operating power.
whats with the weird “pschew” sound?
In the video? I think that’s an artifact of where the microphone is, or the recording equipment–Because I can’t recall every hearing that weird sound around *any* of the M60s I’ve fired, with either live rounds or blanks. Could be that it’s picking up the venturi noise off the front of the gas system, and blocking the rest of the noise, too.
I didn’t notice it on the first viewing, but there is something odd there.
Could you help me out on something which is bugging me about the M60?
I am wondering how the barrel is removed, given that it is attached to the gas piston. The FN MAG’s barrel twists off, but it is not fixed to the piston. I guess that the M60’s barrel must pull off to the front, taking the piston with it, but that would mean it does not screw into the receiver. How is it retained? Your advice would be appreciated.
There is basically nothing threaded; the forward receiver casting has that little “flip-bar” thing that you press in and lift; once it’s rotated 90 degrees, that turns the crossbar so that the retention pin’s machined half-moon is turned down, and the barrel is freed. All that’s holding that barrel in is the bolt, when closed, and that rotating bar in the receiver trunnion forging. The back of the gas assembly is a machined nut whose rear end fits into the front of the tube that the op rod runs in, and those milled-in cutters on the op rod are there to scrape any fouling residue blown back into that tube off.
Decent picture of the bits is here: That “flappy bit” next to the bolt and under the sight is the piece that holds the barrel in. If you look at the barrel on the left, you can see where the cut for it is in the barrel, and what the nut at the back of the gas system looks like.
I have to say that their parts kits look better than just about every gun I ever serviced…
Thanks for that, you are the official M60 guru from now on!
John, you have no idea how much [delicate shudder] is created by someone calling me a “guru” on the M60. There is a literal frisson of combined horror/disgust that creeps up and down my spine whenever I think about that weapon, and the fact that I almost took the damn thing to war. Not to mention the visceral reaction I have to the idea that I had to guide quite a few innocents down the primrose path as a leader, who would be trying to keep that friggin’ testament to small arms incompetence running under austere conditions in a major war. Or, for that matter, even during routine peacetime training conditions…
A lot of you simply don’t get the fact that for much of my career, we were essentially without functioning machineguns out in the line units; deadline rates during the late 1980s probably approached a real-world 60-80%, simply because a lot of folks did not even realize their guns were not going to work when the crunch came. When I ran ranges for other units, I occasionally was forced to deadline 100% of what they brought to me, for various reasons. On training exercises, with blanks, the damn things rarely functioned properly, and a lot of the senior leadership ascribed that to “Well, they don’t like blanks…”, which was bullshit–If the guns wouldn’t run firing blanks, then they weren’t going to do any better with live ammo.
Seriously–If we’d have gone to a full-scale, “come-as-you-are” war during the time I was in the Army, there were a bunch of guns that simply were not going to function. Desert Storm had a lot of issues which were concealed due to the desert nature of the conflict, and because most of the action was armor-based; there was little visibility on the M60’s issues. I can assure you, however, that if there had been scope for much in the way of 7.62mm dismount action, the issues with the guns would have gotten a lot of people killed.
The Army got away with it for decades, simply because there wasn’t a screaming need for a dismounted 7.62mm-class weapon. We dodged a bullet, and the “rest of the story” about how we got the M240 in the ground role is another shit-show in and of itself; there was no formal fielding, no “program” so beloved of the morons running the procurement system. Everyone knew the M60 was on its last legs, and that we would need to recapitalize the fleet in the near term. Nobody in the “system” that should have been doing the necessary work did a damn thing–That issue was a train coming down the tracks that they just ignored with calculated obliviousness. The plan was, not to bother, and just buy a bunch more M60s–And, not even the upgrades: The Army was literally going to buy more of the same shit.
Rangers and the Marines did an end run around the bureaucracy, and glommed onto the war stock for the coax M240, which FN-USA had thoughtfully been offering “dismount kits” for from the beginning. That was why the Marine initial fielding was entitled the “M240G”, for “Ground”–All those were were the coax versions with the FN-provided dismount kit plastered onto it. The Army, being the Army, insisted on creating the “B” version, with all the cute little handguards and heatshields on them.
Had we done the rational thing, a replacement for the M60 would have been waiting in the wings when the fleet became uneconomical to keep in the field, and we’d have gone on to a fully-tested and validated weapon. One that wouldn’t have been too damn heavy to haul around the Hindu Kush on foot…
It’s fascinating to me that when I talked to a lot of the Ranger guys who’d been involved in all that shadowy crap around the fielding of the M240B, the majority of them were utterly clueless that anyone else in the world had already been using the guns in the dismount role, and had experienced any issues with them whatsoever. The look of dismay on the face of one young Captain when I referred him to Kokalis’s writings about the M240, which went over the Israeli and South African field experience with the thing in the dismount role was educational. In a lot of ways, the US Army officer and NCO corps are provincial and parochial to the extreme; nothing is to be learned from the past or other people. Everything has to be discovered for ourselves, and promptly forgotten or ignored. Re-invention of the wheel is a daily occurrence, and costs us dearly.
Although, on the flip side, that means that every occurrence of the same problem is going to be approached differently and with fresh eyes. Is that a virtue, in a back-handed way…?
“(…)One that wouldn’t have been too damn heavy to haul around the Hindu Kush on foot(…)”
It is interested to note that Soviet answer, after considering experience from intervention in Afghanistan was much different (lighter) in area of machine guns, namely: https://modernfirearms.net/en/machineguns/russia-machineguns/unificirovannyj-6mm-eng/ obviously it used smaller cartridge (see 2nd photo from top) but it also used simpler feed method (which could be done as new cartridge was rimless).
Overall mass was 6,5 kg even though this machine gun has built-in optical sight.
It should be noted that Soviet 6×49 cartridge, was designed specifically to replace 7,62×54 R cartridge.
thank you very much for your service.–
i had an old international scout. my older brother and i made it work. i spent many happy hours bouncing around the hills and mountains with it. it beat nothing at all.
if i had a model 60, i would wire the gas system, with stout wire. and, i would clean and oil the bastard. (and, if i were a marine, i’d steal the necessary parts, and the gun oil.)
in 25 years you couldn’t figure out a way to haul the ammo?
Impressed with the M60 hate in the comments. I thought it was a great gun. We had no issues with the M60, but our pertinent parts were wire tied and we had trained crews of guys involved in running them. We could emplace the gun from a sling carry to the M2 tripod on a T&E with the ammo supplied clean off a barrel bag in 8 seconds flat. The gun seemed like the perfect dismounted infantry role belt fed. That’s probably why the Navy Seals use it today.