Q&A 54: Machine Gun Questions Msgt. (Ret) John Keene

Thanks to John Keene for joining me again for today’s Q&A! John is both a professional in the business and a passionate machine gun collector himself, and we’re here to answer questions specifically about collectible machine guns…

0:01:12 – What MGs are over/under valued because of their nationality or provenance?
0:15:31 – What MGs are over/under valued because of their mechanical characteristics?
0:21:37 – Machine guns that really shouldn’t be legally considered machine guns
0:23:17 – Paperwork associated with DEWATs (Deactivated War Trophies)
0:24:19 – Best and worst Cold War SMGs for the collector and shooter?
0:29:55 – When will demand for transferrable MGs start to slow?
0:32:39 – How do cannon/artillery owners obtain ammunition?
0:34:52 – Where should someone start when collecting machine guns?
0:39:06 – MAC family of guns and their accessories
0:41:50 – Are there more “enemy” MGs on the registry than “allied” ones?
0:44:38 – Chances of another machine gun amnesty?
0:49:30 – Have binary triggers impacted machine gun values?
0:51:30 – Most surprising machine gun John has encountered?
0:53:46 – How does parts/accessory availability impact MG values?
1:01:46 – What is John’s opinion of the M60?


  1. “Machine guns that really shouldn’t be legally considered machine guns” How about the Chauchat? The rate of fire is so slow that you can shoot a semiauto faster.

      • Did you think that I was serious? I was just making a little joke. Especially since Ian owns a Chauchat and has featured it shooting here. Boom………..boom………boom………

  2. Very enjoyable. Although at the end, I was half expecting someone named Kirk to dive into the room screaming fuck you and your M60.

    • Meh. If you listen carefully, he’s damning the thing with faint praise.

      Not to mention, I think that MSG (RET) Keene was maybe not in the sort of unit I was, which was seriously shortchanged in terms of funding and replacement parts for our weapons throughout most of my career. A guy whose experience of the M60 was solely in the better-funded parts of the Army, like Aviation, SOCOM, or any of the other ones that get more money than the line troops.

      Trust me on this one… You spend most of your military career trying to keep M60s running, as I did, without the right resources? Worrying, constantly, that you’re not going to have working 7.62mm MG weapons if the balloon goes up, to keep your guys alive with…? You, too, will loathe the POS M60 and all who took part in inflicting that thing on the American soldier.

      MSG (RET) Keene makes that point very clearly in his last segment, immediately after the bit about the M60.

      As well, note that he doesn’t mention much about the M249 having issues, which they manifestly did–And, due to many of the same reasons: No money to replace them or their major assemblies when they wore out. The M249 and the M60 are both weapons with finite lifetimes; they wear out, and then they need to be replaced. Which we haven’t budgeted for or actually done…

      A new M249 is exponentially better than one that’s been shot out and rebuilt three or four times. You can’t get around that fact, and even though I think the basic design is better than the M60, it’s still essentially what should be considered a disposable design.

      And, yes… You tell me you’re gonna saddle me with an M60? I am going to be diving into that staff meeting and telling all and sundry to fuck off and die, preferably with one of those things shoved up a key and critical part of their anatomy. I spent too many damn years keeping those things functional far past their “best by” dates…

      • I suppose you’d more likely kill off some enemy who’s manning a PKM and take the gun, belt box, tripod, cleaning kit, and whatever accessories came with it. Either that or punch out a German soldier at his own armory and steal an MG-3.

        • Oddly enough, that was my exact plan when I was an M60 gunner in Germany during the 1980s… By preference, I was gonna glom onto the very first unattended MG3 or L7 I wandered past. I might, maybe, have done something unethical to make that “unattended” happen, too. Further, I might have compounded my act of evil by leaving the poor bastard my M60…

          You have to remember… Back then, I was coming off my first tour stateside, where I’d spent the better part of a year and a half as unit armorer, and I’d just had the signal educational experience of being the guy who unpacked the brand-new, still in factory-issue vapor barrier M60 that my squad was issued the week I got to Germany, and then watching it self-destruct before my eyes when we had to use it and the other 8 guns in our company as range weapons to qualify every gunner, every assistant gunner, every ammo bearer, and their alternates across the entire battalion (and, change–Brigade sent us a few of their stragglers to qualify, as well…), and after running around 10-15,000 rounds through my gun at a supervised non-abusive rate over the course of roughly three days, the very carefully cared-for and entirely not mistreated bitch of a gun rewarded me by shitting the ballistic bed and having to go back up to Third Shop upon the week we returned from Hohenfels. Along with a bunch of our other guns, which took nearly a month-plus to get either fixed or replaced.

          Don’t suppose I mentioned that in that period-without-M60, we got alerted multiple times, and I spent those minor periods of terror filling in a position for my squad not with a weapon of real authority, but a rather shot-out example of an M16 that was assigned to M60 gunners as backup? There’s nothing quite like sitting there with a range card that is predicated on there being an M60 at that position, looking out, and realizing that instead of actually being able to do your damn job with a 7.62mm belt-fed, you and your buddies are probably going to die if the balloon goes up, ‘cos there ain’t no way you’re going to even slow down an attack on your unit by a pack of Cub Scouts coming across that rather large open area you’re assigned to…?

          Trust me, I have my reasons for loathing that utter POS shiite-box of a weapon, and the assholes who foisted it off on us and then failed to support it properly. If there’d been the lavish support they’d provided for the guns during Vietnam, I’d have been a little OK with it all–The M60 does have some good points, mostly that it’s light and handy for its class. The Stellite-lined barrels were rather nice, too…

          I could live with short lifespan and fussy maintenance, so long as I could get the damn thing replaced when it inevitably wore the fsck out, but… Without that? Frankly, I’d have been a very happy camper to pile them all in a huge bonfire at the feet of the responsible parties, and then set the lot off with a few tons of Thermite.

  3. Reference to an MG Amnesty. An ATF Agent told me around 2005 that probably some 2000 or more fully author weapons were smuggled in after Desert Storm by U.S. Servicemen. Having worked with U.S. Customs I know some Fort Bliss soldiers were caught smuggling guns hidden in their vehicles shipped back from Iraq. How many since then? Good question.

  4. The “You never pay too much for a gun if you really want it” statement assumes perfect rationality and knowledge (i.e. a highly experienced collector). MSG Keene himself described some situations that could create buyer’s remorse for a less-prepared collector – someone who THINKS he really wants something until he learns the details.

    MG collecting downturn prediction: If current ammo availability and price trends hold much longer, I think we could see it soon (if it hasn’t happened already). I remember younger me thinking “Who can afford to shoot .50BMG? Even surplus is a dollar a round!” Basic rifle ammo costs more than that now. After a while where stores had lower-demand cartridges but not 9mm or 5.56, the oddballs have sold out as many companies have started focusing exclusively on the popular rounds.

    In a similar vein to the artillery ammo question, I was thinking the past few days about how, even though DD manufacture isn’t restricted like MGs, they don’t seem very popular – probably because of the futility of registering each “fun” projectile as a DD. OTOH, projos with less than 1/4oz of explosive aren’t DDs. Probably not that combat-effective, either, but 109gr (especially of HE!) could certainly provide a fun factor without the red tape.

  5. At the end regarding the inherent desire to cling to legacy systems well beyond their optimal lifespan due to sunk costs and vested industrial interests, I recall reading back in the 1980s that at one point post-WW2 we had a 500 year supply of deuce and a half engines at normal peacetime consumption rates. It blew my mind but is certainly a real world consideration, sadly.

    • I’d love a cite on that, if you can remember. I could buy maybe 50 years, but 500…?

      That said, there are a lot of little pieces of the supply system that would flatly blow most people’s minds. You don’t really grasp the scale of the thing until you’re lost in one of the bigger warehouses or depots, looking for something. It’s also freakin’ scary as hell, to be working with a civilian employee who casually breaks off a WWII-era lock on some bunker in Germany and then looks inside and goes “Nope… Not going in this one; EOD gets this one…”.

      You work in most civilian companies, you get used to the idea of things falling through the cracks; you work for the government, you have to get used to an exponentially larger scale of things falling out of accountability and then being rediscovered. I’ve heard stories about Tooele and Umatilla Army Depots from guys who worked out there, wherein someone in the offices lost paper accountability on entire areas of bunkers and warehouses, which were then untouched for decades–With predictable results. One of my EOD acquaintances casually mentioned a task he got while working for one of the depots where they were like “Yeah, hey… We just re-discovered an entire set of storage igloos going back to Vietnam, filled with Daisy Cutters. The explosives have gone out of date for stability; you guys need to haul these out to the range and destroy them…”. Which led to a months-long carefully-coordinated operation to get those unstable items out of their igloos, onto trucks, and then off into the hills for destruction. A guy casually tells you he’s detonated a couple of hundred thousand pounds of explosives over the course of a few weeks…? That’s impressive. Also, hard to top…

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