The Prototype .280 FAL from 1950s NATO Trials

After World War Two, the new NATO defense alliance held a series of trials to adopt a standard cartridge and infantry rifle. This would eventually devolve and the goal of a standardized rifle would be abandoned, but during the early trials there were three main contenders: the British EM-2, the American T-25, and the Belgian FAL. The Fusil Automatique Leger was designed by Dieudonne Saive and originally presented to the British government in 8mm Kurz, before being scaled up to accommodate the British request to use the .280 cartridge. A small number of these prototype FAL rifles in .280 were delivered by FN, and used in the 1950 NATO rifle trials.

Many thanks to the Royal Armouries for allowing me to film and disassemble this very scarce trials rifle! The NFC collection there – perhaps the best military small arms collection in Western Europe – is available by appointment to researchers, and you can browse the various Armouries collections online.


  1. Your discussion of cartridges and design was very informative. Could you do a video showing the cartridges and their differences?

  2. I suspect that if not for Studler and his coterie of delusionals, we’d have adopted something much like this version of the FAL, and it would probably still be on general issue, along with an accompanying GPMG in .30-06.

    Ah, well… We have what we have. One does wonder, though, how the .280 British series of cartridges would have stacked up, over the years. Would it have been successful enough to fend off the SCHV idea, or would we still have that as a “neat idea” nobody ever really adopted? How would the .280 FAL have performed, in Vietnam and onwards? Would it have done better in Afghanistan, or would we have the same set of range issues we have now, and have been pulling M1 rifles back into service with “full-size” cartridges?

    I honestly doubt that the whole “one cartridge to rule them all” idea had real merit, back then, or that it has much more today. The requirements for a successful individual weapon cartridge are simply too different than the ones for a support weapon, and I see no way of reconciling the necessities. No matter what, you’re going to wind up having to supply your infantry squads and platoons with at least four different types of ammo–Pistol/PDW, individual weapon, support weapon, and grenade launcher. Also, AT weapons, but those are an entirely different order of things. Although, in some scenarios, you might be giving them mortars.

    Part of the problem I think we have with all of this is a failure to think of these things in a systematic and holistic manner–All your weapons work together, on the battlefield, integrated in with your tactics. If you develop a set of tactics that your weapons can’t support, you’ve got problems. Develop some that the capabilities of your weapons exceed, and you’re wasting money/resources. Ideally, you have everything working together, and you are able to effectively counter what the enemy is doing.

    Where the problems come in is when your enemy has different ideas of how to fight, the weapons to match them, and you discover that they are not playing the same game you are. This is essentially what happened to the US in Vietnam–The US thought “Long range, individual rifleman, semi-auto fire”, and ran that idea up against “Short range, mass fire, full-auto fires”, and we discovered that the rifle designed to make our concept of war didn’t work against that concept, in that environment. Not so sure how all that would have worked out, had the Vietnam War taken place in an environment like Afghanistan, but here we are: History has brought us to the point we’re at.

    The whole 7.62mm NATO/M14 fiasco has to be recognized for what it is: A failure of the system to grasp the nature of combat in the mid-20th Century, and the necessities for fighting it. The system did not learn or preserve the lessons of WWI, WWII, or even Korea; instead, it persisted in its fantasy beliefs about the glories of the individual rifleman and his primacy on the battlefield, forgetting that war is a team effort, and what you need to do is examine how it all interacts and works together. Maybe the highest and best purpose of the individual rifleman isn’t to be the primary effort and focus of it all–Maybe their highest and best purpose on the battlefield is to provide local security and distraction so that the support weapons can do the killing. This is something that a lot of people, particularly in the US military, simply cannot abide. I think it has something to do with that whole “closing with the enemy” mentality–If you’re going to be “that guy” with the bayonet and the blood on your hands, you have to believe you’re the most important dude on the battlefield. Anything that detracts from that fantasy is simply not to be tolerated, and perhaps there is something to that.

    The way we fight is a cultural thing; everyone does it differently. I was astounded to find that the British Army doctrine for fighting positions is based on a “no parapet” and every man for himself on the defense–The US has been doing the interlocking fields of fire thing since forever, and you don’t even build your positions to where you can fire to your front–You have to rely on your left and right flanking positions to even hit that. You run that past a British unit you’re trying to work with, and that’s simply not going to fly–They don’t even have a concept for it. “Wot, mate…? We won’t be able to defend ourselves if we do that!”.

    There’s rather more of that going on than the average person considers–Culture influences war as surely as color vision influences painting and other art forms.

    • “(…)How would the .280 FAL have performed, in Vietnam and onwards?(…)”
      According to
      In fact even before final decision was undertaken, development of 280 British diverged into two ways, producing “sedate” version (softer recoil) and “turbocharged” version (better reach). Interestingly British delegates did not commit fully to the .280, instead suggesting the Organization adopt both.. Would they wish materialize then 7,62×51 NATO might assume role of “machine gun” cartridge and 7×43 as “individual” one.
      Latter in any loading had greater energy and lesser drop than 7,62×39 which lead to question how would WarPact react after acquiring example of 7×43 cartridge.

      • That “turbocharged” .280 is in demand by U.S.Army, as we speak. They call it “OVER-match”. To complete whole circle took merely 70 years. That’s success, considering ‘slow wheels’ in military.

        • I think the current set of competing cartridges are on the side of “too much”, in terms of power/recoil. From what little I have seen, I suspect they’re more in the realm of a .270 Winchester or one of the short magnums–If they prove to be controllable on full-auto, I’m going to be very surprised.

          Full-auto capability is one of those things that often gets denigrated by the modern sensibilities, and we sure as hell did not train very much with it, if at all, during the course of my career… But… I am convinced that there is a time and a place for it, and that when you’re in that time and place, you’d better be able to utilize it. Building an individual weapon cartridge that precludes this use is just plain stupid, in my opinion. There’s a reason that assault rifles dominate the field today, and that reason is that they allow for full-auto fire–If you’re going to design that capability away through unreasonable cartridge requirements, you may as well just go back to issuing a semi-auto rifle down at the individual level.

          I don’t think this NGSW thing is going to survive Miley’s retirement, TBH. The whole thing is going to founder on the rocks and shoals of “Not enough of an improvement…”, and all that money spent will be wasted. The small arms paradigm needs a lot of rethinking here in the US, and I’d be a lot happier if we went towards an iterative evolutionary design approach that was better integrated in with the tactics and operational intents of our military. The way it is now, instead of tactics flowing into small arms design, informing that design, and then flowing back into what gets issued, it’s more like “Buy something cool, field it, and then we’ll figure out how to use it…”.

          Which is idiocy on ice.

          • As I gather, they try to (at least SIG does) to pack it into 51mm long case. This necessitates extra-hot load (up to 80kSI at top), which will be detrimental to rifle’s life, not to mention controllability. It is likely, they will have to come to their senses, or will end up behind Chinese and Russians. Actually, it should read: “even behind Chinese”.

            But, that’s how it goes in U.S.Army since after M1 Garand.

          • “(…)it should read: “even behind Chinese”.(…)But, that’s how it goes in U.S.Army since after M1 Garand.”
            Wait. Is that pun intended against M1 Carbine and Carbine Williams? And Hyde and M3A1 Grease Gun? Can you show evidence that these weapons are retrograde when compared against Chinese weapons introduced in 1941 and 1943 respectively?

        • There may or may not be quite a bit of info on the Malayan trials in a certain forthcoming Headstamp Publishing book… 😉

        • Interesting. However the EM2 never entered production. Only about fifty were made, most in “280/30””, some in 7.62. So, while they may have been trialed in Malaya, I strongly doubt they were issued and used in action. I think we’d know if that had happened.

    • I think you have some bad info. I can tell you for certain that Brits absolutely use interlocking fields of fire/arcs. The parapet issue is likely one of terminology or trench design, not principles. Also, if you look back at the development and use of the M14, the expectation was not lone riflemen firing individually. Go onto youtube and loom at films from “The Big Picture” from the early days of the M14. The plan was absolutely to have close in automatic fire for every soldier- they just picked the wrong cartridge and a worse rifle with which to do it.

      • Nope. Straight out of the mouths of the Royal Engineers. The whole thing was mind-blowing for all concerned–They were incredulous that we built our positions so as not to be able to engage targets to our direct front, and we were equally incredulous that they built theirs without parapets that would block fire from the frontal arc.

        This was something we ran into working together during the early ’90s, and I can assure you it was no misunderstanding. I was a Combat Engineer comparing notes with a senior NCO of the Corps of Royal Engineers, and we both had the pertinent manuals in front of us the whole time.

        The reason for it? Inexplicable to me–The US Army ran into those oblique-defense positions in the Pacific, and that was how we did defense ever after. The Brits were aghast at the whole idea–“The lads would never accept that, not being able to defend themselves…”.

        • Ah, now I understand what you are saying. However I agree with the Royal Eng. Your arcs of fire should be oblique, but a blind spot right to my front makes little sense to me. It only works if you assume an exact and guaranteed 90degree angle of attack (such as on a tiny island assault) Not going to argue the doctrinal minutiae though.

          • It’s what the Japanese were doing, and it made clearing their positions such a pain in the ass that we copied it.

            Like I said–It’s down to culture. I do not know why the whole thing was such a huge sticking-point for the Brits, but there it was. I’ve seen similar things with regards to weapons-handling, working with them. Where I flatly refuse to train CQB with a rifle such that the shooter takes his eyes off the target and loses situational awareness while performing reload drills and immediate action drills on their weapons, the Brits were perfectly OK with it all, on the theory that “someone else” would be covering them while they did it… I’m watching them do their thing, and all I can think is “Man, this is a blue-on-blue waiting to happen…”. I saw that issue back in the early ’90s, and you can still see it going on in official training films they produce and which have made it out onto YouTube. It’s mind-boggling, in terms of my skill-at-arms sensibilities, but the Brits I’ve discussed it with were totally sanguine about it all. I call it a blind spot, they say it’s no big deal.

          • Very true about drills. It was literally within the last two years that Canada changed it’s weapons drills formally. We used to be trained from the “standing load” which was a parade ground type of position. Combat Arms units adapted and trained their own way within the scope of what was allowed- but we just recently formalized some common sense.

          • There’s an aspect of the whole marksmanship issue that rarely gets addressed, and that is the actual “How do I fight with this thing?” vs. what a lot of folks seem to think is simply a pure “align sights, hit target” issue.

            There’s an interesting read over at that discusses a lot of why this sort of thing is important. What blew my mind, reading through this thread was how on God’s green earth this young Marine could have left training and been in the fleet Marine forces as long as he was, and nobody bothered to either train him properly on skill-at-arms or evaluate what he was doing. I think he’s absolutely correct to attribute his near-death experience in combat to inadequate training, and I blame the Marine Corps and Army both for failing to continue teaching the lessons I got from the Vietnam-era guys who trained me. I passed on what I was taught, but that apparently was not a universal thing… Anyway, read the whole thread, and you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about:


            There’s more to the art of the rifle than mere marksmanship.

      • Second point, which I forgot to address before hitting the “Post Comment” button, would be this: Never, ever listen to what anyone tells you. Especially with regards to anything coming out of the US military bureaucracy. Watch what they do. There was a lot of spouted bullshit about “close in automatic fire”, but did they actually procure something that could do that? Nope. And, that says everything about it. It’s not like the laws of physics changed on them midway through the design process, either. The bastards flat-out lied, in multiple ways, on multiple issues. Why? I have no idea, but they did it.

        I think they only got away with it because it came in that short early morning sunrise of the Atomic Era, when we were sure we wouldn’t ever have to fight a dirty, nasty conventional ground war, and because of that, they didn’t really have to worry very much about getting things right. I think, and I could be wrong about this, but I think that a large part of why the M14 was preferred to the FAL was because it would look better doing drill, and that the ungainly modern looks of the FAL offended the sensibilities for all concerned, who didn’t really take the chances of us going to war and actually needing an effective individual weapon as being all that damn high. National Match and parades, that was what I’m pretty sure they were more concerned with than actual down-and-dirty combat.

        By their actions, ye shall know them. They didn’t actually give a rip about “close in automatic fire for every soldier”, and that was why we wound up with the M14 and the 7.62mm NATO cartridge. Malfeasance or malpractice, either one. Maybe even both.

      • Simply, to have it accepted, they told the rifle was able to do anything and replace everything, from the M1919 to the Grease Gun (save ending up issuing rifles without even the selector installed, for how much useless it was IRL).They would have said it would have replaced hand grenades and artillery pieces too.

    • I am not sure where you read that but its not true. British defensive positions are no different to US ones. In depth defence, two man trenches with over head protection if you stop for more than 24 hours and support weapons from the machine gun platoon brought up and deployed as needed. We have been fighting in defence with interlocking arcs of fire since the Vickers gun came into service in WW1. Even in the advance to contact there is machine gun support with interlocking arcs of fire with a change of of arcs or “final fire” as the assault goes in, creating a beaten zone behind the objective to stop the enemy from retreating.

      • Read it? Dude, I was on the ground with Royal Engineers setting in a joint company-level defense with them when this issue came up. As well, you aren’t even talking about the point I am making, which is not about interlocking fires, but the reliance upon adjacent positions for covering fire to the direct frontal arc of any given position. In US practice, you do not defend your own position–You fire obliquely to take the enemy in the flank as he fires on or assaults your flanking position, relying on ghem to do the same for you. British Army practice is completely contrary to that, preferring exposure and the ability for each individual position to defend its own frontal arc.

    • “(…)Studler(…)”
      By looking for [Colonel René] Studler, I found interesting article about Lt. Col. Roy E. Rayle and his part in T44 rifle (would result in M14) and T161 machine gun (would result in M60) development:
      it seems that T44 rifle development was so messed up that staff at Springfield Armory were not able to respond who was finally responsible for T44 design. Examination of already existing examples, showed that that rounds fed poorly from new magazines and much better from ones that were worn in

      • Ian reviewed Rayle’s book, about 8 years ago

        It’s very interesting reading. It was only the difference in arctic testing that tipped the choice away from an inch FAL and in the direction of the M14

    • I have no idea what his issues were, but I do know what his effect has been on the American small arms programs, down the years.

      It’s a cultural issue–If it were me, I’d have taken one look at Studler’s background, and relegated his ass to a purely advisory role. The man was never, ever in combat. He had no idea about what was really needed, or what the nature of war even was, in the mid-20th Century. Yet, he had the colossal arrogance and self-certainty to put himself in charge and then warp the entirety of it all around his pre-conceived notions–Which he had precisely zero personal experience to base any of them on.

      You see this across an awful lot of things in America, these days–People brought in laterally with no real experience of anything in the arena, put in charge, and then everyone is incredulous when things fail to “work out” with the people we’ve put in charge running things. I call it the “MBA fallacy”, which is that there is such a thing as a generalized expertise that transcends actual personal experience and background at something. You can’t effectively run a steel mill without having worked there, and you can’t develop a small arms system for combat if you’ve got no idea what the hell goes on in combat yourself. Studler personifies this issue–He was a born Ordnance apparatchik, and like all such men, he thought he knew better than the end-user what that end-user actually needed.

      I’ve looked long and hard for what he based his ideas on, and there’s f**k and all actually available. It’s all stuff he apparently concluded thru wishful thinking and fantasy, and it’s not like he was really a firearms enthusiast that I can find evidence for. Studler is one of those people who very badly needs a biographer, if only so we can analyze what went wrong with his selection and placement in the jobs he had.

      You can find a lot of Studlers, across American history in the 20th Century. Most of them have MBAs, and have utterly ruined every enterprise they’ve been put in charge of.

        • It’s unfortunately not something that we’re alone at–I have found a lot of British companies have “issues” of a different nature. You’ve got dysfunction, everywhere–G36 fiasco, for the Bundeswehr, for example?

          Biggest problem is a failure to recognize and compensate for it all–The UK industrial entities I’ve worked around and studied before? Just as an example, you understand, typically have magnificent design and careful attention to manufacture (particularly when it’s hand-crafted), and then the whole f**king thing falls apart on the shipping docks.

          I’ve got no idea why the hell it happens, but I first ran into it with the Land Rover my step-dad fell into because British Leyland couldn’t ship the right parts to save their lives. I still have a collection of the crap they sent out, in lieu of what we ordered. Took close to a year-and-a-half to get the right part, and by the time we got it in, the owner of the Land Rover just took one look at the invoice for storage and said “D’you want the damn thing… I don’t.”. That was the early 1970s.

          Went to order a bunch of training aids from a British company in the 80s, during my time in the Army. The training aids were magnificent replications of the mines, but the logistics? Dear God in heaven, it was like they didn’t want to sell the damn things to us, and shipping was a friggin’ nightmare.

          2003 I’m in Kuwait, and got to deal with Perkins, who’d built the motors in our bridge boats, and the local Kuwaiti agent for them basically told us that our best bet was to do what the locals had done twenty years earlier, and convert to Nissan–He flat out told us that anything he ordered from Perkins in the UK would be late, the wrong part, and take forever to get there. Mabey-Johnson was another joy to work with–The Army had purchased a float bridge set from them, and while it wasn’t needed during the early stages of the war, terrorist action meant we had to pull it out of storage in Kuwait and ship it north. This was what I got stuck with, and I don’t even want to describe the essential nightmare of trying to run down every container that thing was packed into. I got what I thought was a complete list from Mabey-Johnson, and went out and gathered all those up from throughout Kuwait’s military container yard. All of them were painted clearly, saying “Mabey-Johnson” on the sides. The list was vetted by the Mabey-Johnson technician who was to be in charge of the erection, and after I got everything shipped out of Kuwait, I thought I was done. This was followed by frantic phone calls from up north, telling me that there were forty more containers we needed, because once they got into the build, it turned out that the list we’d been working off was incomplete… Only, these containers weren’t marked, and the f**king numbers weren’t all correct, either.

          It’s all cultural, when you get down to it. The Germans overcomplicate everything they touch, they rely on “just-so” lubricants and all the rest to make the mechanisms work, and they build to tight tolerance that often doesn’t do so well under real-world conditions. The UK has issues with the hand-to-mouth deal when it comes to getting stuff from the factory to the user, and we Americans persist in putting idiots in overall charge of things, on the idea that they “know better”. Studler personifies the American vice; we simply do not do “bottom-up” very well at all–Which, from observation, is something that the Brits do much better, at least in terms of their military doctrine.

          Culture. Study it, and you will learn a lot about why different nations screw things up in different ways, and how some, amazingly, manage to make it work. Occasionally.

  3. I find it fascinating that of the four basic rifle/LMG concepts post-1942, three (full power 7.62, short 7.62/7.92, SCHV) have all been fielded with mixed results, but no-one has ever tried the 7mm-ish intermediate cartridge, despite much that suggests, if you want the same cartridge across rifle and LMG/MMG (debatable), it may be the least bad choice.

    Ditto fascinating that current US Army interest is in the intermediate range, though with “interesting” designs of over-pressure cartridge and complicated rifles and ammo. A bit like ACR, but in 6.5-6.8mm? I’m not holding out hope that this is the answer.

    Studler was both wrong and a total dick in pushing T65 .30” (became 7.62×51). But he wasn’t an idiot. He had been responsible for the M1 carbine, M3 SMG, 57 and 75mm recoilless rifles. From the perspective of 1945-55 he was incredibly successful with a track record of real achievement. No wonder people deferred to him.

    I increasingly think that the future looks like the old HK roller family, or the AR10-15 variants – a base system with similar manual of arms and much parts commonality that can be issued in different configurations and calibres according to theatre and task, rather than a one-size fits all. PDW? Short SCHV version. Jungle? SCHV carbine and SCHV LMG. Desert? 6.5-7mm rifle, some as DMRs, and similar or more powerful LMG/GPMG.

    I’m also increasingly questioning the GPMG concept. I get it. It’s a good 1930s-50s concept. But it makes some big compromises, not least in the LMG role. If I want an LMG, I’ll take a Bren or 7.62 Minimi/MG5 any day over a MAG. If I can carry the bugger in or an a vehicle, I might was well use a modern equivalent of a Vickers or M1917/1919. Or an MG42, which is really a very good MMG rather poorly adapted to bipod-mounted shoulder fire in the infantry section.

    • My objection to Studler isn’t that he wasn’t a good technocrat, but that he decided he knew what was needed down on the line, for himself, without any actual experience to base that on.

      There were a lot of “good things” that he did; that doesn’t obviate the fact that he warped the small arms component of it all completely out of alignment with real combat needs. There never should have been a T65 cartridge; there was ample evidence that it did not meet the actual requirements for combat. Likewise, with the M14 and M60 programs, which were just outrageously sloppy. The M60, for example, is something that never should have made it out of the development phase in the form that it was fielded under–When you can put a weapon back together after field-stripping it, and do it in a half-dozen different ways that will prevent it functioning, you’ve made a massive set of design errors that are unforgivable. And, the M14/M60 fiasco happened on his watch, along with the M73, the M85, and God alone knows what other failures there were.

      Here’s the actual flaw I find in Studler and his ilk; they don’t seek to actually know the conditions that their work is supposed to function under, nor do they seek to even effectively research them. There were people at the Infantry School who had the background, had the knowledge, and put it forward; they were studiously ignored.

      Worse yet was the inability to admit mistake; instead of going “Oh, yeah… We got that one wrong…” after the M14 program failed to produce enough rifles in a timely manner to arm the military, and after the entire concept failed under fire in Vietnam, the people around Studler completely failed to acknowledge that they’d been wrong about the .280 British, and then went to the entirely theoretical SCHV concept. Which essentially ignored the fact that the intermediate cartridge concepts personified by the .280 British, the 7.92X33k, and the Soviet M43 cartridges had already been more than validated by practical experience.

      No humility, not an iota of acknowledgement that they’d gotten anything wrong, at all. And, they kept us on that course for decades–How long did it take to replace the excresion that was the M60?

      You want my respect, you need to have a servant’s heart, and acknowledge that you got something wrong when you manifestly did. None of coterie around Studler did that, and I would submit that given the rate of failure we see with small arms programs ever since, the same lot of arrogant asses are running things. OICW? XM-25? Ring any bells, there?

      • “(…)Studler(…)”
        After reading
        I suspect he might work reasonably well as long as having access to foreign designs which solution could be ripped off. He traveled Europe 1935…1940 and filed 373 reports on everything from small arms to tanks to aircraft. If he gazed at 1930s European development in area of self-loading rifles, that might explain why M14 development gravitated towards direction it did.

      • I don’t disagree.

        Do bear in mind though that the M14 was the “back up” design. Studler etc all were betting on the Earle Harvey designed T25. Which was supposed to perform like an FG42, but three pounds lighter. But proved to be rubbish. Because the FG42 proved that you needed a 4.5-5 kilo weapon with a straight-line stock, aggressive recoil buffer and a very assertive muzzle brake to provide viable burst fire from a hand-held full-power weapon. Instead of realising that the 42 showed the limitations of the concept, the US appear to have seen it as a challenge to do better.

        Ironically, the nearest anyone got to meeting the original requirement was the AR10…

        The M14 was not helped by the US Army having second thoughts about a straight-line stock, which might (might) have offered a modicum of burst control, and defaulting to a conventional stock to allow the prone firer to get lower. Thereby making it, in utility terms, a Garand with a detachable mag.

    • With regards to the GPMG concept comment you make…

      I think that there is a certain truth to what you’re saying, but… I’ll also point out that the GPMG idea was designed for a much different tactical role than the one we’re currently using it for. In the original concept, the Germans had their tactics centered on the guns, not the riflemen. They also wanted to be able to use those guns as flexibly as possible, with minimum fuss and bother: LMG role? Sure; use the built-in bipod. Need heavier fire? Move up more barrels and ammo, and a Lafette–Same gun, more accessories, better effect and more fires delivered. Nobody is using their MG teams like that, today. I think even the Germans have forgotten–The MG5 would certainly argue that they have.

      If you’re going to use the MG purely as a support weapon, then I think many of your arguments make sense–No need to bother with a belt-fed, a modern BREN will do nicely. The increased presence of vehicles, and vehicle-mounted MG fire support certainly makes a different picture than what obtained in WWII, so maybe we can get the belt-feds out of the ground maneuver elements of the squads. Maybe. I’m conflicted, in that regard. I don’t want to have to rely on a vehicle for fire support, not when they can’t get everywhere my troops can, and when they’re so prone to breaking down. Try putting an IFV onto the third floor of some building the way you can do with a good MG team…

      Machinegunnery is a lost art, I fear. Too much neglect, too little emphasis, and too many other weapons to train on, these days. During WWII, the GPMG and a mortar or two was basically it for the German infantry. They raised it to a high art, and we still don’t understand what the hell they were doing, in a lot of our armed forces to this day. Every time I hear that canard about “…the rate of fire is too high…”, I want to reach out and slap someone. Those people never stop to think, and ask themselves “Why? Why did the Germans do that, given their situation? If a lower rate of fire would have made sense, why did they specify the high one, and why didn’t they correct the “error”, if that was what it was…?”. The Germans were neither stupid nor oblivious, so the question has to be asked and answered: “Why the MG42?”. Nobody in our defense establishment ever does, so we still don’t grasp the essentials of it all, nor has our MG doctrine ever come close to matching that of the Germans.

  4. PS before anyone points out the Venezuelan FALs in 7mm in response to my comment on “no-one” trying intermediate, (a) the later 7mm “Ideal” and “Compromise” and “Liviano” (sic?) weren’t proper intermediates, they were all 7.62×51 with a slightly smaller bullet, a la .260Rem or 7mm/08; (b) I don’t regard 1950s Venezuela as a serious top-tier military whose judgment has merit; (c) they never took them to war, so they could have issued anything from .177” air rifles to .460 Weatherby and we’d have no idea on the historic wisdom or not of their choice.

  5. I have seen one of those same rifles at the Canadian War Museum. I assume it was a leftover from the U.S. trials, or one sent over for A.B.C. committee purposes to C.A.L. Shamefully displayed without any real context, labelled an “Early Assault Rifle” and not much else.

    As for Studler, it was as much empire building and “not invented here”, as it was the NRA/Camp Perry cultists. I always thought that the “Lightweight Rifle” concept was a complete oxymoron from the start, and how it managed to become policy/doctrine is beyond me! During the war, the US developed the M1 Carbine, and the M3 SMG BECAUSE the M1 Rifle was too long/heavy/not full auto etc. How the M-14 (as heavy or heavier than an M1 when fully loaded), and a bit longer, and just as heavy recoiling, was supposed to replace the M1, BAR, carbine and SMG is just ridiculous. If that WERE possible, they could have modified the M1 to feed from BAR mags and put in a “fun switch” in ’41 and called it a day!

    I used to be in the camp of the single cartridge and the siren song of the simplified logistics and training, but I have come around to Kirk’s way of thinking, namely that the compromises were too many. But I can see the appeal, and the British logic in thinking it might be possible.

    If they reduced the ranges they expected to use, i.e., “aimed” fire against individuals to 300, “section fire” to 600, LMG or snipers to a max of 6-800 and MMG/GPMG to 1000 or maybe 1200 at the most, it MIGHT just be possible. Especially since there was no need for rifle caliber aircraft or AFV guns (replaced by .50 or 20/30mm cannon).

    The original British plan was EM-2 only at the section (squad) level, and the Bren based T.A.D.E.N as a GPMG/MMG for Company and Battalion level. I can still see this working with Kirk’s idea if the T.A.D.E.N were in 30-06, or 7.62, or even in .280/30 heavy. After all, the MG ammo would be packaged in belts/cans, so the logistics were already different. I have mentioned before the possibility of a gas system adjustment that might permit the use of “heavy ball” MG ammo in the rifle in an emergency, in much the same way as the Japanese Type 64 was designed for the reduced load Japanese round, but could shoot 7.62 NATO if required.

    This would also work if we take the GPMG away from the section/squad, and give them an automatic rifle/mag fed LMG instead of the GPMG, and keep the GPMG for flex mount/MMG roles.

    I am fully convinced that if the EM-2 an/or FAL had been adopted in one of the British intermediate rounds (particularly the lighter version), we would still be using it today, just with better optics, rails, and plastic furniture. Imagine a controllable two pounds lighter FAL and/or a five or more pound lighter FN MAG!

    As for the GPMG, I think the Germans got it right with the MG as primary weapon, and that using it in the LMG role off the bipod was the fatal compromise. If you are just providing support fire for the final assault/maneuver it is probably overkill. Particularly in the context of mechanized warfare where the IFV is delivering you to the last 100-200 meters, but for use off the tripod it is aces!

    Where I diverge from Kirk is his contention that the extreme rate of fire of the MG-42 was deliberate. The doctrine of German machine-gunnery was developed on the basis of the MG-34, which had a lower rate of fire. I believe that the MG-42 rate of fire was too high, but the other advantages outweighed the ammo consumption issue for its use in the light role, but helped in the MMG role, so they didn’t make any attempt to reduce it on that basis, but that it was still probably a bit too high.

    As for the M-60, the design from an engineering perspective was rubbish. As Kirk said, if it can be re-assembled incorrectly, then it is poorly designed, and a gas system that needs to be safety wired together to keep it from self disassembling is poor design to say the least. That you also can’t change the barrel without an asbestos mit, and that each spare barrel is burdened with the weight of a bipod is also sub-optimal. Plus the general lack of durability, and the copying of the FG-42 without understanding it properly (so the firing pin is powered by the main spring, a semi-auto enabling feature on the FG-42, but unnecessary on a full-auto-only GPMG), makes for a poor design.

    That said, it got rave reviews when new, but that was because there was no basis for comparison. If you were a US grunt in the early ’60s, the M-60 replaced either the BAR, or the M1919A6, and was clearly superior to either! So it is no wonder the grunts loved the pig! But would they have loved it as much if they could have tried out an FN MAG or an MG-3/74?

    • Paul, I agree with most of your points, but I’ll have to totally disagree with you about the rate of fire. The takeaway the Germans had from the MG34 was that they wanted more fire, not less.

      Page 125 in Folke Myrvang’s MG34-MG42 German Universal Machineguns quotes a draft MG42 manual as follows:

      …With the increase in the rate of fire (7 shots per second) for the MG08, 15 per second for the MG34, and 25 per second for the MG42 . . The essential characteristics of the MG42 are:
      a. The cone of fire is particularly dense and compact and this considerably heightens the possibility of observing the effects of the fire.
      b. The ease with which the cone of fire can be spread over any given area because of the increased rate of fir. Consequently, the operator need not fear retaliation from the objective under attack as much as he would have to if he were operating a slower machinegun . .

      This clearly lays out that the Germans thought that the MG34 had a 900rpm rate of fire, and knew/planned that the MG42 would have a 1500rpm rate of fire. The reasons outlined in those passages aren’t quite the same as the ones I’ve encountered elsewhere in resources I no longer have access to, but they are fully consonant with the same line of thinking–They thought that the higher rate of fire would make observation and fire control easier at long range.

      It’s one of the truly unfortunate things about firearms enthusiasts, but all too many of us tend to focus on the mechanics of the weapons and the pedantry of the parts; the real meat you need to get at is what could be termed the software end of things: How the damn things were meant to be used, how they were actually used, and what the enemy perceived of it all. As the German’s enemies, we’ve done a damn poor job of understanding what the hell they were doing with their MG systems, and that’s something I really find fundamentally disturbing, because I believe that when we find ourselves in similar situations to theirs, outnumbered and outmatched (Almost certainty, in the Cold War…) you need to study how they almost made it work, and how they managed to make us pay the price we did defeating them. There’s nothing honorable or dishonorable in studying the enemy, or learning from him. Indeed, I would say that it’s more dishonorable not to study or learn, because that means that every life you expended taking him down was wasted. You want to show respect for the Allied dead? Learn from what killed them, and apply it the next time round, so our casualties are lower.

      We’ve done a really lousy job on the learning thing, I’m afraid.

      • Pit an American platoon (blue team) equipped with M14’s and one M60 against a generic “communist conscript” enemy platoon (red team) armed with M91/41 Carcano rifles and two MG34’s, with the “communists” trained primarily as machine gunners with supporting riflemen. Put both teams in the woods, blue starting from the western edge of the forest and red holding a pillbox somewhere in the middle. Assume good communications (functioning radio) for both teams, but no capacity for air strikes or artillery. Blue team’s objective is to capture the red team’s position. Red team has to hold out until reinforcements arrive, or until blue team dies/quits.

        Any ideas about what will happen?

        • Winner is whoever has the most ammunition. Seriously.

          Casualties will be high on both sides unless one CO (especially blue) is exceptionally stupid.



        • “(…)Any ideas about what will happen?”
          This depend on how much time defenders will have to prepare position.
          “(…)no capacity for air strikes or artillery(…)”
          does not imply no landmines, which might work well to slow down enemy advance and thus get closer to time is out.
          As side not for me it sounds like question which should be directed at TWILIGHT2000 manual.

      • Yes, but that supports my contention that the MG42 was optimised for the MMG role.

        In the section/squad it is just too big, too heavy, and runs out of ammo too quickly. I get the point that 25 rounds per second is a lot of killing and maiming in a short space of time (assuming your enemy bunch up…) . But it’s also about 1KG of man-ported rounds per second.

        At company and above level as an MMG , or on a vehicle, you ought to be using something better than 7.62/7.92. And a bit of extra weight is not a real issue, while it is a big one in the infantry dismount role. GPMG should not be the default vehicle weapon. 50” or similar should be, with 7.62 as an exception when justified (mounting issues, limited space for ammo, etc).

        Contemporay GPMGs manage to be not great as LMGs, and not great as MMGs either. And, as you and I think others have said, most armies have forgotten the art of MMG use that we know from experience is actually quite important.

        A Bren (or similar) offers 95-99% of the killing effect of a light-role GPMG, with less burden on the soldier and no mucking about with link belts.

        My ideal infantry section is two or even three (USMC-style) four-person fire teams each based around a proper LMG. And MMGs at the company or higher level.

      • ….The takeaway the Germans had from the MG34 was that they wanted more fire, not less.

        Page 125 in Folke Myrvang’s MG34-MG42 German Universal Machineguns….

        Ah! A book on my wish list but that I have not yet bought/read, which explains my misapprehension. I was proceeding under the impression that the development of the MG-42 was driven by industrial-strategic (faster/cheaper production) factors and that the army was quite happy with the performance (beyond a bit of dust sensitivity) of the ’34

        I submit to your superior research and sources.

          • No worries… We’re all here to learn.

            What really yikes me about the whole “German Machine Gun” issue is just how little actual research and scholarship has been applied to the issue–By anyone, with the obvious exception of the inter-war German Army, starting under von Seeckt.

            I’ve mentioned it before, but I ran into an American who’d spent most of his professional life as a DA civilian in Germany during the Cold War, and he had a fascination with the German MG doctrine. When I ran into him, he had a display table at the Lake County Gun Show (Illinois Nazis!! Everywhere!!), and was basically showing off all the ephemera he’d gathered over the years over there–Everything from the German training films, manuals, civilian publications, technical documents that covered stuff I’d never heard of, and a whole raft of really fascinating detailed information. At the time, I had a casual interest in the issue, based on what I’d seen in Germany and picked up from a former Fallschirmjager Sturmpioneer I met, who’d had a hell of a lot of trigger time behind the MG34/42 all over the European theater. Unfortunately, while I was able to look over that guys stuff, and watch a few of his movies, my time as a recruiter ended, and I went to Korea. When I came back, I couldn’t find him any more, and as best I can tell he went into residential care or died from a stroke while I was in Korea–Never could quite get to ground truth on the matter, nor could I find out what happened to all those resources or the book he’d been working on.

            That’s one of the bigger regrets of my life, because I think there was a lot there that could have contributed to machinegunnery in general, stuff that few these days are even aware of. And, likely, all that material went into a landfill somewhere in Northern Illinois, because his kids didn’t appreciate a damn bit of what he’d obsessed over for years. I’ve kept my eye out for any signs that it went into the militaria market, but… Nothing.

            I’m telling you, if I ever win the lottery? I’m going to make a point of paying someone to go digging through the archives in Germany and here in the US, trying to find all that crap. It is really frustrating, because there was literally tons of research done by the Germans, and it informed a lot of what they did–They actually troop-trialled and researched it all, from the optimum crew size down to how much oil the guns would consume under specific conditions. It was all carefully researched and data-driven–The design decisions that they made for the MG34/42 were all validated and researched to an amazing degree, and all of that data is now unavailable. Absolutely nothing about those guns, the mounts, or anything else related happened by accident. They had reasons, they were based on hard data, and we’ve really studied very little of it.

            The interwar German Army did a lot of human factors research that we’ve lost, but which massively influenced everything they did from bomber design to the MG teams. Len Deighton found sources describing why the Germans insisted on certain things like their bomber crews all being able to touch each other, instead of being isolated throughout the aircraft. That same research drove a lot of armored vehicle design, as well–And, precisely none of that got looked at by the Allies after the war, with the possible exception of the Soviets. Fascinating stuff, really.

          • “(…)Soviets. Fascinating stuff, really.”
            Considering that I think you might find interesting this scan:
            i.e. OKH, General der Infanterie: Merkblätter für die Infanterie Nr. 5 – Die MG-Gruppe im Gefecht (Beispiele für Einsatz- und Feuerbefehle). Verdeckte Feuerstellung.. Just scroll to bottom and click at page which is of interest to you. But be WARNED that it show state of knowledge at 15.11.1943.

      • On the other hand, Soviets had plenty of experience in fighting the MG34-42 but, despite having a rifle-caliber MG, lighter than the MG-42, capable of 1800 RPM, since the mid ’30s, they never adapted it to infantry use, preferring to develop what seemed like a belt-fed slow-firing Breda 37 instead.
        Reason was that, while having a long-range shotgun can be useful, the combination of suppression fire to keep the enemy infantrymen stuck behind their shelters and mortar fire to eliminate them there, can be useful too.

  6. I knew a german mg 42 gunner who served on the russian front in 1943 and 1944. He loved the mg42 especially against russian massed attacks.He said they would wait till the russians were about 50 metres out then they would pop up and with the high rate of fire from the mg 42 just wipe them away.
    Unfortunatly for him he was captured in Hungry in late 1944 and didnt get out of Russia till 1952 when he emigrated to Canada and worked in Ellwood Epps gunshop in Cinton Ontario

  7. Interesting debate here. My amateur takeaway is this.

    For all the advances in small arms technology, we still have to deal with a basic fact. That being that barring some form of advanced sighting system (optics, etc.), a human being (the infantry rifleman) cannot effectively engage a target much beyond 150 to 200 meters. Because he can’t actually see it well enough to do so, even with 20/20 vision.

    That said, we also have to note that as a consequence, effective engagement ranges in World War Two and later conflicts (with various “advanced concept” small arms) are not really that much greater than they were at Waterloo in 1815. And no, the introduction of the “rifle-musket” in first the Crimea and then the American Civil War didn’t change that. The differences between Waterloo and Gettysburg are much less significant than most ACW buffs believe. Even at the latter, fire beyond 200 was massed volley fire, not aimed fire; an 1861 Springfield was really no more effective beyond 100 meters than a Brown Bess.

    For that matter, an M1 Garand isn’t either, except in the hands of a trained and properly-accessorized specialist. The guy called a “sniper”. “Taking back the infantry half-kilometer” is an Ordnance dream, and a fallacy; you can’t take back what you never had to begin with, as CONARC pointed out in the 1950s. Yes, Ordnance told them to STFD and STFU. Instead, Ordnance should have taken a hard look at Plevna, 30 July 1877.

    Terrain must be taken into account as well. The idea of an intermediate cartridge in a selective-fire assault rifle made perfect sense in the Europe of the 1940s, because in either rural or urban combat environments you’d be unlikely to be able to see a target much beyond 300 meters because of intervening things like trees and buildings. In fact, there, it still makes pretty good sense today, as long as you remember not to shoot the tourists.

    In Afghanistan, things were a little different, as every army that’s gone there since about 1800 AD has learned the hard way. For that matter, the Italians and Germans learned the same lesson in Greece from 1940 to 1945. A stand-up fight isn’t what a bunch of mountaineers are interested in; they don’t believe in “fighting fair”, just in hurting you as much as they can with minimal losses to themselves. Mountain terrain is their friend and they’re going to use it. There’s a reason nobody has tackled Switzerland for half a millennium.

    So any way you cut it, you should be planning to fight at ranges below 300 meters, period. Because that’s what you’re stuck with.

    The German MG42 was a reasonable solution to the support MG problem in this sort of environment. Yes, it could engage targets out to 1000 meters with a one-second burst that threw so many bullets into the target area that the targets had no chance to dive for cover before being hit, as Kirk pointed out a while back. But its main job was delivering a massive blast of destruction at the normal engagement ranges, making sure that any enemy soldier in its fire cone died or at least was too badly wounded to continue fighting. Which takes us right back to Waterloo, Gettysburg, and massed musketry.

    The single cartridge for all purposes (the “One Ring” of military procurement) is not a viable option for actual combat, whether full-powered, intermediate, or SCHV. (No, the last two are not the same thing in any respect; ask any Vietnam veteran about an M16 vs. AK gunfight before tactics were evolved to maximize the effect of the M16- in the 1980s.)

    The most likely effective solution, believe it or not, was probably that of the Russian Army from 1941 to 1945. That is, high-ROF individual weapons firing low-recoil impulse cartridges out to 150 meters, backed up by not just support MGs firing much more powerful rounds but the full panoply of direct-fire and indirect-fire support weapons from mortars and ATRLs on up to the Queen of Battle, the actual artillery. In short, the way the Russian Army smashed the Wehrmacht- with most of the infantry having a submachine gun and a s#!tload of ammunition.

    Of course, that requires two things;

    1. You have to be committed to a war of annihilation. This is something Western countries have seldom been willing to face up to or do since the end of the colonial era, for various cultural reasons. Omdurman (1898) is unlikely ever to be repeated by modern-day “enlightened” Western governments, never mind the “Highway of Death” (1991), which was air power at work.

    2. Pursuant to (1) you have to have a big enough army to do it with. Air power is a nice force multiplier, but the old saying about the soldier with the rifle still applies. Somebody has to get the Other Guy out of his foxhole, probably at bayonet point, and convince him to sign the Peace Treaty. (This may in fact be the most logical use of the bayonet that remains, other than as a wire-cutter or can-opener.)

    Both factors seem unlikely today, but that’s another story.

    An army composed of soldiers with the equivalent of PPSh-41 SMGs firing by the numbers at ranges under 150 meters is probably heretical enough to get me drawn and quartered by most experts, but from Kursk to Pork Chop Hill it proved to be the most effective way of getting the job done. At the latter, the only way to stop it was to hit the mass with even more close-range firepower coming from the other side.

    Since then, Western armies have tried to avoid such attacks. Eastern armies still believe in them, especially the Chinese one.

    Like it or not, war is still fought and won at sweat and bad breath range.

    And God (whatever you conceive him to be) is still on the side of the big battalions.



    • I agree with much of what you’re saying, but I’ll plunk this summary down: The problem is not necessarily the weapon or many of the other things we’re usually going to hear about; the real problem with infantry combat is this: Target acquisition and identification.

      In WWII, you had a much more “open” set of rules of engagement: Think the enemy is on that hillside? Blast it, on speculation, with everything you’ve got. This has two effects on the enemy, the first being that it kills them if they’re there, and the second being that they put a lot more effort into making sure you don’t think they’re on that hillside in the first damn place, which includes the (for you…) salutary side effect that they don’t fire at you in the first damn place.

      The old joke about how you identify the unidentified unit you meet on the battlefield contains a lot of truth to it: You see someone you can’t ID, the technique was to fire at it with something. If the return fire was a lot of precise rifle fire, you’d found the Brits; if it was a hell of a lot of effective MG fire, the Germans. Should you get nothing in return for about five minutes, and then find your entire surrounding grid square destroyed by artillery, aviation, and everything else available to your typical American unit, well… It was probably the Americans you were looking at.

      That’s the gist of modern war, when you get down to it. The infantry are basically sensors, and the security for other, more advanced sensors. Where we’ve run into trouble is that instead of allowing them to make war in the manner to which they’ve become accustomed, we’ve chosen to hobble them with a restrictive ROE that really cripples the modern military from effectively functioning.

      Of course, if we went “weapons free” on the Taliban and all the other assholes running around in Afghanistan, well… Yeah. The “collateral damage” would make the situation look really, really bad. From the outside. From the inside, I think it would serve as a salutary lesson to those idiots about the essential stupidity of engaging a modern military with primitive ideas and no real supporting infrastructure to fight with. As it is, we’re fighting with hands tied behind our backs, and with our politicians/higher military leadership basically being the idiots popping the quarters into the whack-a-mole machine that is the Pakistani/Afghan complex of primitive idiots. Because, trust me on this, you put an end to Pakistani support (much of which we pay for, like fools…) the Taliban is going to evaporate in very short order.

      Ah, well… Like I say, the real problem is target acquisition. You want to end the war in Afghanistan, you don’t go after the moles popping their heads up. You either quit putting quarters into the machine, or you break it. You don’t keep popping the quarters in, never leaving the game, and then have a right to wonder why it won’t end.

      • Agree with all that Kirk and eonhave said.

        The current obsession with “overmatching” the SVD and PKM derives from the open spaces of Afghanistan and the ROE of COIN operations.

        In “proper war”, rather than COIN, the answer to some bloke popping off with an SVD at 800M is a JDAM or GMLRS,, not pseudo-sniping with a DMR.

        Which is my problem with the whole NGWS thing. If it’s about defeating peer adversary armour, as advertised, tough. The armour will evolve quicker than the weapon. See NATO PDW vs CRISAT. By the time the PDWs were adopted, the armour had evolved to defeat them. And still will.

        On the other hand, if it’s about countering blokes in funny brown hats with SVDs and PKMs with minimal or no civilian casualties, then just issue a bunch of AR-10 variants (or similar) in 7.62 or 6.5 Creed, or .260” Rem. Or a non-conventional solution, like a really good accurate equivalent of the M72/66mm LAW, or some kind of sir burst man-portable long-range grenade launcher thingy.

        • This in spades!

          We (the west), have fought only limited COIN and “police action” wars pretty much since Korea. Both Gulf wars were more of a turkey shoot than a war. If we actually fought all-out WWII style, peer-to peer, weapons free, no ROE war, we would not even be talking about “overmatch” bullshit, or even about small-arms at all!

          Watch the Q&A Ian did with Nick Moran where he answers the question about the 25mm Bushmaster auto-cannon. Having watched his answer, go to youtube and do a search for “Bofors Demo”, and watch the video showing a demo of a 40mm Bofors L-70 mounted on a CV-90, using gated proximity or time fused modes. Imagine your Taliban MG team as the target……

      • That cute miniature Degtyarëv flap-locking SMG with a pan magazine of 7.62x38R m/m revolver cartridges! Awesome “work around” while awaiting a modern cartridge for pistol and SMG. If only I could read this fascinating information…

        • “(…)locking(…)”
          It is not that. It is actually flap-delayed, making it somewhat akin to much later MP5 (but with flaps, not rollers),

          “(…)pan magazine(…)”
          Two-level, capacity 42.

          “(…)7.62x38R m/m revolver cartridges(…)”
          It is for 7,63×25 mm Mauser (or 7,62-mm cartridge “type Mauser” if you prefer Soviet terminology of that era) cartridge. Should be not confused with PPT-27 which actually used altered 7,62x38R cartridge, see 2nd image from top:

          Degtyarëv was tested using Geco-made cartridge, only 300 were available was testing was limited. Nonetheless it was found that it has:
          following advantages:
          – good reliability (1,3% of shots ended in jam)
          – does not send hot gases and/or grease at shooter face
          – capacity 42
          – good accuracy, despite used sights
          following disadvantages:
          – heavy (3,768 kg loaded)
          – uncomfortable handling [most probably pun intended against magazine]
          – magazine could be easily damaged
          – loading magazine must be carried separately [I do not comprehend that]
          – tricky method of joining magazine to weapon, especially problematic in darkness or when not watching at it
          – lot time needed to make it ready to fire
          – unfortunate cocking handle vs magazine placement, might cause hand injury
          – safety can switch to SAFE itself when firing full-auto
          – heavy trigger – 2,4 kg [value as given in original]
          – magazine partially protrudes into sighting line
          – in case of jam it is must to detach magazine, especially problematic when shooter is on move
          – when fired prone, spent cases might bounce of ground, into hands or face
          – complicated assembly and disassembly of trigger mechanism
          – wide notch, not good for precise fire
          – furniture mounting is weak
          Final conclusion: Does not met out current requirements regarding this kind of weapon, which should: be light, rapid-firing, nice in handling and carrying.

  8. At the end of WW1, Germans quite reliably found that the rate of fire at about 6 rounds per second is the optimum speed for technical accuracy and controllability.
    In the laboratory…
    In the real world, in addition to geometric coordinates, there is also time.
    The time it takes for the target to leave the “cone of dispersion” before probability theory does its job.
    Therefore, the ideal is a shotgun when all the bullets come to the target at the same time.

    M60, technically, an excellent machine gun. The problem was not in mechanics but in people. And not in designers, manufacturers or users, but those who make decisions.
    This is more a philosophical problem than a technical one. And she completely accompanies all areas of life.
    The structure of the management system is such that it is impossible to appoint a competent specialist for each position.
    They are physically lacking.
    Therefore, as a temporary solution, it is necessary to appoint the first one, with a more or less suitable resume. In the hope that they will take a tutor and improve their level.
    But “there is nothing more permanent than temporary.”
    Therefore, over time, ALL positions are occupied by “conditionally suitable”.

    On the example of M60, this is expressed in the fact that decisions are made not on the basis of scientific (or at least logical) analysis, but on the basis of “available data” (in the form of all kinds of papers) and job instruction. M60 just was needed to be improved. Which finally performed after 50 years. And it turned out to be a really very good machine gun.
    In fact, he was not bad. Most of the gossip about Pig is spread by people either completely unfamiliar with it, on the basis of “evidence” from the publications of “authorities” familiar with it either from pictures, or after dating with junk that was twice written off to the scrap.

    A competition is announced, funds are allocated.
    The funds are minimal, and often frankly insufficient.
    Requirements are overstated, and often frankly impracticable or adapted to the capabilities of an existing applicant.
    Also, the execution deadlines are sucked from the finger, and are determined not from “when it is possible” but “when we want to”.
    As a result, as soon as the main part of the task (according to reports) is completed, you can joyfully rapt about success, put a note in the diary and think about where to spend the bonus for the time and money saved.
    And the fact that the product is still raw and needs to be finalized “These are the problems of Homer from the future”. Similarly, you can take frank garbage.
    Or you can just close the project “due to the exhaustion of the budget” (without looking at the real state of things) and still get a bonus.
    The most interesting thing is that there are no perpetrators, because everyone acted “according to instructions”.
    And for this you need neither sit in the trench nor even be able to shoot at all.
    The same story was with the M73, and with everything else.

    • “M60, technically, an excellent machine gun. The problem was not in mechanics but in people. And not in designers, manufacturers or users, but those who make decisions.”

      Errrh… No. Just… No.

      The M60 was one of the worst machine guns ever actually fielded by a major power. Period. It took up design elements that should have made for an outstanding weapon, but the actual execution of those design elements? Crap. Utter, unmitigated crap. The root was the way those features were implemented in the design, and the incredibly sloppy way the whole thing was “validated” in testing and then subsequently fielded. If you find yourself having to issue safety wire and aviation pliers with which to secure your gas system from falling off the weapon in normal use, you’ve essentially and very clearly munged up the essential “design” bit of it all.

      I won’t even give credit to the manufacturer, because someone should have issued a wake-up call to the Army and told them “Yeah, this… This… Thing… Is an abortion. We refuse to build it for you.”. The lengths you had to go to, in order to make the M60 work? Utterly ridiculous. Of course, the manufacturers were delighted with the repeat orders, I’m sure. We end-users? Not so much.

      If you go back to about every M60 post poor Ian has made on here since I started posting, you’ll find plenty of detail as to why the M60 was a pile of shiite. I will grant you that it should not have been one, given the provenance of the design features they borrow… er, stole, but the way they combined them and then executed them? Utter crap resulted. It was like handing perfect ingredients for a souffle to a first-time cook, one who’d never heard of a souffle in their lives, and then being surprised that they turned it all into a tasteless mess.

      • Read anything by Peter Kokalis on the subject……..

        And a re-iteration of my point that compared to an M1919A6 or a BAR the M-60 WAS an improvement, but pretty much any other GPMG except perhaps the French AA-52 was way better.

    • A weapon whose essential parts can (and routinely did) unscrew and fall while firing or marching is not a very good machine gun, not it seems to be designed by anyone having any knowledge of how a machinegun, or a firearm, was supposed to work on the field, since retaining pin/nuts were surely not a new idea by then. A bipod permanently attached to the quick exchange barrel and not the receiver makes you wonder what the designers were thinking about.

  9. It is very odd that the US military, flush from their success in WW2, managed to adopt a really bad rifle (M14), then adopt an excellent rifle (AR-15) but bugger it up totally as the early M16 (and still not get it right with the A2 in the 80s), take 40 years to replace the 1911 pistol with a pretty poor replacement, replace the Browning MMG in tanks with the awful M73, etc.

    And the M60. It is so obviously flawed. But the odd thing is that GIs liked it in VN. Despite its obvious issues, it only became regarded as a total POS in the late 70s and 80s. Why? Because it was essentially disposable, like a Sten, but it was kept in service well beyond its service life. That gave work to armourers, who then compared it to, eg, the M1919, but if the protocol had been to ditch the M60 beyond – say – 10,000 rounds, its reputation might be better.

    Don’t get me wrong. It’s genuinely crap. It’s an FG42 rifle action plus MG42 feed system repurposed as a GPMG with terrible barrel change and sight issues, to say nothing of durability. A PKM or MAG kicks its arse, big time. But it’s light, and before it wears out and breaks itself, it’s actually OK.

    • Like I said, the G.Is in Vietnam loved it because it was better than what it replaced, and they had no basis for comparison. I doubt a G.I given the choice of a ’60 or an FN MAG would have chosen the former.

      Same with the M-14. They loved it and knew it was the best rifle in the world because their D.I told them so, and he knew it because his D.I had told him.
      If I was told I was to be in a merc unit in Africa circa 1970, and the arms dealers would provide any 7.62 rifle, except an original Portuguese or Sudanese AR-10, I would pick the FAL first, G-3 second, Japanese type 64 (if for some bizarre reason I could get it) third. A CETME fourth, a BM-59 fifth, and the M-14 dead last.

      • I’ll put the BM-59 higher. Despite the similarities with the M-14, the philosophy of employ was completely different.
        In studies of combat units during World War II, S. L. A. Marshall found that nearly four fifths of US combat soldiers never fired their weapons during battle. One group of soldiers was an exception to this rule, BAR gunners. Within a combat group, firing would begin with the BAR man and spread out from him. The nearer a soldier with an M-1 stood to the BAR man, the more likely he was to fire.
        The explanation given was was that the infantryman carrying a semiauto rifle felt that his actions were ultimately futile. The perceived effects of single shots were not enough to risk exposing himself. The BAR man, by contrast, had the sense that he could dominate a certain area, and his fire served as a wake up call for the others.
        Despite those studies, the M-14 had still been developed on the premise that the slow, aimed fire of the marksman, was the base of the combat. The FAl, after it was adapted to the 7.62X51, was forced into that role too. The BM-59, with its selector, compensator and integral bipod, was developed on the premise than every rifleman was a potential LMG-gunner. Someone that could feel to dominate the situation.

        • The M14 was an attempt to create a fully automatic Garand. In addition, even less weight.
          If someone had given themselves the trouble to familiarize themselves with similar experiences of the USSR, where they made completely idiotic rifles ABC and ABT, then perhaps they would not have made mistakes.
          M14 was a temporary measure, because “just about a little bit more” were waiting for the new generation of smalllarms, an attempt to improve the M1 without fundamentally changing anything. For example, it was impossible to seriously change the external design, because this would entail a change in all the attachment points of the weapon on all equipment.
          And further in the same spirit.

          • In the Soviet concept, before World War II, automatic rifles were needed. But the “full automatic” mode should have been turned on at the decisive moment of the battle, at the command of the officer. Before the war, a series of tests was carried out. They clearly showed that an automatic rifle when shooting in bursts can hardly hit a target. Production of automatic rifles was discontinued. They began to make them again during the war. But now they were ersatz machine guns. No one hoped for well-aimed fire. The task of the AVT was to show the attacking German infantry that there were machine guns in this sector of the defense. Only a moral effect.

  10. Signing off now. Reason for the number of comments above is that I know a lot of people will look at these threads as an authoritative source of info and the next thing I know they’’ll be updating Wikipedia or whatever.

    And this debate or set of debates actually matters.

    The terrifying thing is that I know that some people involved in setting the specs for future infantry small arms watch these videos and read the comments, and may be influenced by the chat on here.

    So, hello, boys and girls. Good luck to you!

    • It’d be nice if someone was listening and paying attention, but… I’m afraid not. The vast majority of the decision-makers in the military have precisely zero interest in firearms, their history, or the usages thereof.

      Case in point–If you know anything about the MAG58, you know that everyone who’s used that thing in the light infantry role as an LMG has come to regret having fielded the damn thing for that purpose–The Israelis, the South Africans, the Brits… Everyone that’s actually done light infantry with it has eventually gone another route, and several have even designed entirely new guns based on the experience.

      Now, this is not exactly esoterica or secret knowledge–Yet, when I talked to a couple of the Ranger officers who were directly involved in the epic half-assery that was the selection and fielding process for the M240B and G, none of them were aware that anyone else was even really using the guns elsewhere in the world. One of them was under the impression that the British Army didn’t use the MAG58 at all, which is only kinda-sorta true in that the L7 is, I believe, an inch-pattern weapon.

      Hate to say it, but even them paying attention and getting sorta-wrong information from sites like this would be an improvement–It’d mean they were at least paying attention to outside sources.

      • Here we will again disagree. The largest scale “conventional” use of the Mag58/L7 by a light force was in the Falklands, and it got very high institutional and anecdotal praise. There was anger when they were removed, and just last year the Brits changed their TO&E to bring them back at section level. I had them carried at dismounted section level in Afghanistan (situation dependant), because they are far more reliable than the minimi/c9/249 and can punch out and actually suppress.

        • Funny, that… All the AARs I saw from the Falklands said “too heavy to carry”. Same as the Israelis, same as the South Africans.

          I’d also suggest to you that the Falklands were emphatically not the “largest scale “conventional” use of the MAG58/L7 by a light force”. That would actually be a bit of a joke, being as the Israelis used them extensively, as well as the South Africans and Rhodesians. All agreed “too heavy”, and it isn’t accidental that the Israelis and South Africans actually designed their own replacement weapons, the Negev and SS-77, rather than stick with the MAG58. I suspect that the Brits and Canadians probably kept with it more due to budget constraints than a real sense of happiness with the gun in that role, not to mention that they weren’t planning on fighting in the light infantry role the way the Israelis and South Africans were. Both of them prioritized replacing the damn thing as soon as possible.

          Frankly, had the US done the trials and fielding properly for the M60 replacement, I seriously doubt that the M240 would have been the choice. What happened with that whole decision is simply down to yet more dysfunction in the American small arms procurement puzzle palace than anything else–There wasn’t even an officially-sanctioned program in place when it happened; what it came down to were the end users in the Ranger Regiment and Marine Corps who were tired of dealing with the M60 cycle of endless maintenance being told that there was no prospective replacement in mind. Desperation then led to a “Yeah, lessee… What do we have in the inventory, already…?”. The Marines also saw a chance for some free guns from the Army war stocks, so they went to Congress and got the entire war reserve stock of coax and loader M240s transferred to them as “excess to needs”, basically for free, and then zeroed out the entire war reserve for M240 receivers. Which they then had the temerity to bitch about, when they needed to replace a bunch of their M1 tank machineguns…

          The whole thing was a half-ass tragicomedy. The Rangers and Marines just wanted a better machinegun, and grabbed what we had in inventory. Actual competitive field testing would have shown that the damn things were too heavy to haul around on foot in the Himilayas, but, noooooo… We didn’t do the due diligence.

          What they actually should have bought would have been either the Negev, the SS-77, or that Polish version of the PK in 7.62 NATO. Unfortunately, due to the nature of what happened, none of those were even considered, and all of the international experience about the unsuitability of the M240 was ignored.

          Don’t get me wrong–It’s a good gun. I just don’t think it was the thing to saddle the troops with, on foot, in the mountains of Afghanistan. Leave it on the trucks? It’s fine; ideal even. Afoot? That’s just cruelty.

          • It always amazed me that the SS-77 didn’t get more widely adopted. All the benefits of the MAG58, but with a PKM gas system, and a fair bit lighter!

            I think it is the best current GPPG out there. I have heard that the Polish NATO PKM has issues in that making it fire 7.62 NATO out of M13 link from a design optimized for pull out belts has made it heavier and less reliable.

          • A lot of things amazed me, over the years. We told them back around 1990 that there were going to be requirements to do extensive route clearance operations, and that, gee, maybe it would be smart if we at least took a look at some of the South African gear. Nope. No interest. I was literally told by the Engineer School that, with regards to humanitarian demining, that they were not interested in “developing that capability”, because if we had it, someone would be asking us to do it, and nobody had the money or the mandate to undertake the mission.

            See, I’d worked a deal with the Canadian Engineer School when it was still up at Kelowna for us to get some slots in their Humanitarian Demining Course, on the theory that since we were the last active-duty corps-level wheeled Engineer unit, someone would probably be looking at us for the mission. Got my ass chewed for “exceeding my authority”, the idea was shut down, and two weeks after my “meeting with Jesus”, I get three senior NCOs from 1st Special Forces Group walking into my office and asking “Hey, we’re told that you’re the only guy who’s ever borrowed the training mine set we inherited from 9th ID (which I’d known about ‘cos I’d been a part of the purchase…), and we were wondering if you knew anything about doing demining…”. See, just as I’d figured, the Clinton Administration chose to get us involved in Cambodia, sooo…

            Yeah, I was pissed-off. Beyond belief. The people running our country, our government, and the military are pack of mountebank fools who’d sooner get guys like me killed than have to actually try to anticipate real-world needs and prepare for them.

  11. Well yes.
    And 1911 a shitty gun, because it rusts and bites a hand with a hammer. 😉
    MAG is a heavy machine gun, with the possibility of use as a manual. And “heavy” is literally.
    About half of the MAG operators I know, after a year of service, began to notice noticeable problems with the knee joints.
    After two years of service, almost everyone has a “mild” disability.
    In this regard Pig, although not much easier, knees kill much less. Just because it has better ergonomics and it doesn’t make you fall to your knees for shooting while lying down.
    And the MAG, as I see it, has no serious advantages over the 1919A1-A6, possibly besides a quick-change barrel. Which, in fact, is not such a significant advantage, since almost no one, using the MAG as a light machine gun, carries a spare barrel.
    This is the question of the bipod on the tbarrel of the M60. The solution, of course (at first look) is stupid, but it is not a serious drawback.
    The “small” service life of the M60 is actually not so small.
    For You, 100K shots is not enough?
    Then nothing will help you. 😉
    The machine gun of the expeditionary force should not be “eternal”. Just so that all sorts of partisans could not use trophies for a long time.
    All other “problems” are a problem of insufficient training of operators. And this is also good, since the partisans will not be able to have the proper level of training. In addition, all sorts of issues of “improper assembly” and “spontaneous unfixation” on the A6 version are practically resolved. For operator training, see above.

    And who is Peter Kokalis?
    Is he a certified machine gunner? Then he has his unconditional right of direct user. Exactly the same as any other user.
    Or is he a certified gunsmith?
    Or a weapon designer?
    If I am not mistaken, he…is a writer…
    And he (with all due respect) is not the only one who scribbled a bunch of waste paper.
    And although, unlike many current scribes, he has a rather serious level, this does not make his works A BOOK. This is only his personal opinion.

    The problem of the M60 was not technical but managerial.
    Adopt for service was in a hurry, so they took it “as is”.
    And ruined the reputation.
    Perhaps they didn’t even spoil it, but just someone took the moment to make money.
    I am absolutely not a supporter of all conspiracy theories, but the history of accepting some samples in the USA to the service, from the outside looks rather strange…

    • Sure, the M60 performs great on paper. Try having a grunt attempt to change the barrel out in the dark and in rainy jungle conditions with ten foes already within pistol range! Oh, and the previous gunner appears to have broken the receiver by accidentally dropping the whole thing off a ten foot altitude difference on a huge rock!!

    • The MAG/240 was considered an improvement over the M60 mostly because it didn’t have the M60’s faults. For instance, like every other John M. Browning design, you can only assemble it one way- the correct way.

      Yes, JMB. The MAG 58 is basically a BAR action that’s been beefed=up and converted to belt feed. Much as the British attempted after WW2 with the BSA GPMG and Enfield X11A2 prototypes, both based on the ZB26/Bren, except that FN Liège went ahead and produced it.

      And yes, you end up with basically a gas-operated M1919A6 with a quick-change barrel. Which is not an LMG by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just a better MG that the M60 on all accounts in terms of operability.

      Probably the best solution all-around circa 1959-60 would have been to just adopt the MG42/59 (Italy) or MG1/2/3 (West Germany) “as is”. The parent countries had already done the necessary design work to change the MG42 over to 7.62 x 51, various buffers were available for whatever ROF you liked, they used standard NATO belts, and you’d have full parts interchangeability with two major NATO armies.

      It probably wasn’t done because that would have made too much sense to suit Ordnance.



      • In my opinion, adopting one of the MG42 successors would have made little difference, because they’d have failed to adopt any of the tactical underpinnings that made the gun so damn effective. You have to have the doctrine to go with the damn things, in order to make them work. No doctrine to use them effectively, and it’s just a waste of time and ammo. I also can’t see the US military going for the higher rates of fire, either–That idea simply does not comport with the mindset that the Army or Marine Corps has on these matters.

        Honestly, I think the best thing that the US could have done would have been a wholesale ripoff of the PK, which is a decent enough compromise doctrinally between US and German doctrinal ideas. I can’t think of anything else that would really fit, and manage to come in under the weight of the MAG58, from that era.

        One of the things we have to acknowledge about the MG42 and its derivatives is that they’re not generic machineguns–They’re designed to a particular mindset and tactical paradigm that needs to be in place around them, or they’re just a waste of potential. If you’re going to stick with standard American MG doctrine, don’t bother buying the Mercedes of machine guns, buy the damn Chevy pickup truck and stay within your budget. There’s no damn sense in putting the money into something you’re not going to wring the full potential out of.

        And, given that the US doctrine simply did not, and does not entertain the use of the machine gun for which the MG42 was designed, it would have been a waste of resources and money.

    • You don’t know anything about what you’re talking about.

      For one thing, Kokalis was a hell of a lot more than just some “writer”. He spent considerable time in El Salvador doing technical assistance work with the El Salvadoran Army, who’d been saddled with the M60 as military “aid”. The man knew his weapons backwards and forwards. I know SF weapons sergeants who described what he did for the El Salvadorans as “invaluable”, because he was getting in and doing work that they simply could not do, and which the US couldn’t provide due to the asinine restrictions placed on military aid to El Salvador by the Communist sympathizers in our Congress.

      Your characterization of the M60 as having mere managerial problems instead of real technical ones is sheer delusion. That gun was a piece of shit with a lifespan, if you were lucky, of around 10,000 rounds. Not 100,000, but ten thousand. Without copious support, which we no longer provided in the post-Vietnam era, that gun was a f**king nightmare to keep running, and was the perennial problem child in every unit I served in. It represented maybe 10% of the small arms fleet down at the company level, and took up 90% of the maintenance time. If you ever had all of your assigned weapons working, that was a halcyon moment to be cherished, and they gave you medals for it if it lasted more than a few weeks–Which it mostly did not, at least if the maintenance was properly performed and the things were actually being used. One of the armorers I supervised kept all nine of our guns up for a period exceeding nine months, and that was unusual enough that they cited the fact in his NCOER as an example of “excellent and unique performance”.

      The gun was crap, period. I speak from an entire career as a gunner on one, an armorer maintaining them, and the poor schmuck tasked with supervising and training both. The day we turned ours in and got our first M240s was one that I’ll remember with a thrill of joy forever, because it meant I could finally start doing more with our MGs than trying to patch the side of the Titanic with masking tape. It’s no lie–After the advent of the M240, readiness on the MGs went to a constant and consistent 100%, and we could quit worrying about whether or not we’d have enough of the damn things operable for training events like running a qual range. With the M60, it wasn’t that unusual that you’d have to tell your boss that no, we’re not going to have enough guns running to qualify everyone in the time allotted, and that there was no way in hell we were going to qualify people on their own organic weapons. M240 came in, and that all came to an end–And, it wasn’t just because the M240s were new, either. I had a company arms room once where I managed to get all the old M60s coded out at one time, and replaced. Next range came up, and five of them weren’t operational for it, leaving me to qualify everyone with four systems. The reasons they weren’t operational? They’d all gone out of gauging spec in the six months since they’d been issued to us. Two of them were so bad that you could take the front trunnion, hold it stationary with one hand, and then twist the rear of the receiver a quarter-inch left or right, without really applying much pressure. All they’d fired were blanks on training exercises, and a couple of ranges.

      So, no… It wasn’t a “managerial” problem with the M60. The things were shiite, period. Anyone telling you anything any different is either ignorant, or full of shit.

      • Kirk:

        I learned a lot about the M60 from reading Peter Kokalis’s pieces in Soldier of Fortune back in the day, so I am aware of its PoS characteristics.


        I accept that having the bipod and gas cylinder attached to the barrel makes for a heavy and awkward load for the assistant gunner to lug around and try to change. But given it has a stellite barrel liner, as an LMG, is the barrel really changed that often?

        I can see that, used as a MMG on a tripod, it might be useful to get a clean gas cylinder with a new barrel, and an asbestos glove might also be easier to find in the fixed role. Just a thought.

        But one thing which bugs me is this: given the gas cylinder comes off with the barrel, what happens to the piston? Is it retained in the cylinder? It’s not a problem for any other machine gun, where only the barrel is changed, not the gas tube. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

        • Pistons were integral to the design, and stayed with the barrels.

          They also had the wonderful ability to be installed backwards, which would produce a single-shot belt-fed rifle.

          It was one of the many design features of that weapon you would look at and go “WTF? What the actual F**K were they thinking?!!??!!!???”. There were so many… The lack of the extra machining on the bolt that would have prevented the majority of the peening you had to stone away, found on both the FG42 and the Lewis gun (at least, the example I got to take apart…), the additional spring on the firing pin which was there to add power for the non-existent semi-auto feature they didn’t implement from the FG42, all the myriad failures to comprehend in the feed tray cover and sear/trigger assembly… The gun wasn’t even an abortion; it was a deformed fetus that should have spontaneously miscarried. That a major superpower which was a manufacturing powerhouse of the mid-20th Century produced that thing? Simply embarrassing.

          I will say, however, that the Stellite barrels themselves were magnificent examples of serial manufacture. It’s just too damn bad they were on such a shitty gun.

          • Thanks Kirk.

            I take it the piston was retained in the gas cylinder by a spring? I assume it delivered its impulse into the body of the gun, and then was returned back into the cylinder?

            As I said, having the cylinder attached to the barrel was very bad for an LMG, but quite useful for an MMG. Was it doctrine for the A-gunner to carry the spare barrel for the M60 in the LMG role? I honestly cannot see that barrel being changed often for the LMG, certainly not during a contact.

            I find your comments on the crapness of the M60 most enlightening, and as you say, it is a great scandal that it should have been adopted by the USA at that stage in its history. If it had been invented in time for WWI you would cut it more slack.

            Similarly, the M14 is a fine rifle if you want a semi-auto, 30 calibre marksman piece. How anyone managed to convince themselves that it could replace the M1 rifle, M1 carbine, M3 submachine gun and BAR is another matter. I know the CIA were experimenting on soldiers with LSD at the time, maybe the Ordnance Board were dosed en masse. Nothing else makes much sense.

          • JohnK, the piston is retained by a forward expansion chamber that threads into the front of the gas cylinder and another externally threaded nut that goes onto the rear of the gas cylinder. There is also a bolt-like affair that goes in the cylinder assembly to allow access to the gas port in the barrel.

            As I understand the development, the first iteration relied on just the threads and good intentions to hold it all together. Intial field tests showed that wasn’t enough, so they came up with these precious little spring clips that went onto gas expansion chamber end and the rear nut, which were meant to stop both bits from unthreading themselves due to the vibration of firing. They locked into ridges milled onto both exterior ends of the gas cylinder. This allowed enough improvement in things that they then observed the gas port access bolt doing the same thing as the other threaded parts, and that while the cute little clips slowed down the expansion chamber’s fulfillment of its apparent desire not to be a part of it all, it did not actually stop it.

            That was when they resorted to the safety wire. All in all, a very inelegant solution.

            I think I was about three months in, as an armorer, when I first came gradually to the conclusion that the M60 was not actually a machine gun. It was, in fact, a loose assemblage of parts literally held together with baling wire that did not really want to be a functioning machine gun, and which would constantly work against gunners and armorers alike to achieve what those parts really, truly wanted out of life–Sweet, sweet oblivion. The M60 is a machine gun with a built-in death wish that you have to constantly work against. If it were a human being, you would find it gravitating towards the edge of cliffs, razor blades, and bottles of Tylenol every time your attention wandered or you let it out of the arms room…

          • Kirk:

            Thanks for that information. I have to agree that a machine gun which has to be held together with wire was a major failure for the USA. I the 1950s I think doctrine was that any war would go atomic very quickly, so perhaps the fact that an M60 kills itself after firing 40 belts was not seen as such a problem. Or maybe the Ordnance Board were all on massive kickbacks, who knows?

          • @JohnK:
            Regarding M14, for me it looks that whoever was finally responsible for its development blatantly overestimated capability of designer or was unaware of/ignoring weight of given task – arming U.S. forces with weapon, which will be widely used and possibly in service for many years to come.

            I think article analyzing M50 development from project management point-of-view might be interesting. It seems that it become what Edward Yourdon’s book titled Death March, but also be affected by other issues, like cargo cult (FG42 cool? use its solution and our weapon will be cool too!) &c

          • Daweo:

            I think the M14 is a great 30 calibre semi-auto rifle. It handles very well and works in that role.

            However, it is not a carbine, or a submachine gun, or an automatic rifle. It cannot function in those roles, yet was supposed to do just that.

            The requirement to give engineers and artillerymen a short, light, personal defence weapon was surely just as valid in 1957 as it had been in 1941, yet somehow the M14 was meant to replace the M1 carbine. In the same way, the M14 just could not do the job of an M3 or a BAR. I am baffled as to how this idea was ever sold, as on the face of it (as well as in practice) it makes no sense, and cannot work.

            But for the Vietnam War I am sure the M14 would have been the main US battle rifle for several decades. The M60 would have soldiered on too. It was unfortunate for them, and the Ordnance Board, that the reality of war showed up the errors of their design and adoption within just a few years. It is still a mystery as to how US small arms design got everything so badly wrong in the 1950s.

    • As surely everyone posting knows, the mad scientists (thanks Cherndog!)at DARPA are developing exoskeletons for those knee joints, and for that matter, robotic portage “mules” and the high-tech robotic equivalent of the WWI-era Belgian machine-gun dog carts…

      • “(…)mad scientists (thanks Cherndog!)at DARPA are developing exoskeletons for those knee joints, and for that matter, robotic portage “mules” and the high-tech robotic equivalent of the WWI-era Belgian machine-gun dog carts(…)”
        Wait. Why not just use… wheels? Like in Soviet SG-43 and Maxim 1910? Too simple?

        • Breed mutant dogs, mount the guns on their backs. Problems solved. And, you get friendly pets for the infantry to play with in their off-duty hours.

          Non-sarcastically, I think the way forward for the US is going to be having the MG mounted on something like one of those Boston Robotics Big Dog robots, and having the gunner tied to it with a tablet or something to control it from behind cover. I seriously doubt they’ll ever procure a decent tripod, so if you want to get the full capability out of the guns, it’s gonna be what amounts to a CROWS for the foot soldier…

        • Use a carriage to carry the machine gun? You are now making the gunner and his crew unable to deal with non ideal ground (nobody lugs a wheel mount through a swamp or up a mountain). Plus, carriage mounts require serious towing power, whether by soldiers, pack animals, or by motor vehicles if the gun is going on a hike! Even sticking a little kid’s bicycle training wheels to a modified bipod will not compensate much for dead weight, to say nothing of the embarrassment once someone else snaps a picture and uploads it to social media. Just kidding!

    • He was an Army technical intelligence officer specializing in small arms…..

      And he spent a lot of time in El Salvador in the field with their army trying to mitigate the problems they were having with the M-60.

      Much of his critique of the M-60 WAS technical, if you read the various articles he wrote on the subject. Technical issues both I and Kirk mentioned, like the need to use aircraft safety wire to keep the gas system from self-dissassembling….

  12. Yes of course. All other machine guns, falling on the stones from 10 meters begin to shoot only better.
    I very vividly imagine such a situation.
    The machine gunner, in complete darkness, peers at random into the darkness. And then, quite suddenly, like moths in the glow of a red-hot trunk, ninjas fly out of the darkness.
    And the second number went to the store for cigarettes… LOL

      • (Get an FN MAG barrel red hot and change it, then do the same with an M-60 and get back to us….)C

        That is all true.
        It would be, but the M60 (unlike the M240) does not need to be replaced by the barrel due to its design.
        If the situation forces, the M60 working…
        …and working…
        …and working…
        …until something breaks down completely or the cartridges run out.
        One of the emphasis was made on this during development, since from the experience of WW2 and Korean in the Army, if they understood something correctly, it is that operators are usually not predisposed to replace the barrel in battle.
        In general, they don’t like to carry “extra” weight on themselves, but prefer to take more cartridges instead of a spare barrel.
        This attitude certainly does not add to the trunk of health …
        But who counts there? The main thing in the machine gun = HE MUST throw bullets.

        Try this with the M240, and then tell me. 😉

      • The weapons that were shipped to El Salvador were the storage remains of old (from Nam) iron. Which was written off from the army after exhausting the technical resource, repaired, and sold at the price of scrap metal as part of military assistance to the allies. Therefore, it is not surprising for me that the machine guns with which he dealt were in a condition slightly better than garbage.
        Such machine guns were patched up for example, for Israel. But they quickly realized that it would be cheaper to make their own machine gun.

        • The M240 ended up in the US Army “by accident” as a temporary measure until the M60 was finalized.
          They were purchased as coaxial machine guns for tanks after the Ordnance Office successfully failed the M73 program. And “suddenly” it turned out that it was time to go to war, and in the presence of only stones…
          I am not familiar with the details, but the general essence is roughly as follows
          First, the GPMG came to the tankers who tried them and were quite satisfied.
          Then, if I’m not mistaken, the production of spare parts in the USA was arranged.
          Then, again, “suddenly” it turned out that the M60 refinement was delayed and the army also lacked good machine guns. Therefore, reserve tanks at the M240 warehouse were borrowed from tankers and adapted for infantry use.
          The infantry also liked it.
          So the GPMG remained…

  13. Thinking a lot about this over the last little while, I think a lot of the problem is the concept of the GPMG itself. I think Kirk has it absolutely right about doctrine and the German way of doing it, but it seems to me that the “universal” thing contains too many compromises, in particular, that in the light role, it is too heavy for light infantry.

    In the same way, as we can’t get a single cartridge to do both the infantry assault rifle and support MG jobs, and the logistics seems to work just fine, perhaps we need a separate LMG for the squad/section.

    If we need a more powerful LMG than the M249/MINIMI, which seems to be the case, since everyone is pushing the 7.62mm GPMG down to section level regardless of the actual regulations or doctrine, then we should get a gun specifically for that role. Something like the 7.52mm version of the MINIMI that the SEALs use, or the new Knights Armament gun that Ian liked so much.

    • Just think of all the operations needed to replace the 50 rounds “drum” magazine of the MG42, that the mg did eat in a blink of an eye. It was MUCH faster to replace a pair of 25 rounds box magazines.
      For a belt-fed LMG, to mantain the unity of caliber with the infantry rifle has little utility. None is going to disassemble belts to fill AR magazines, or vice-versa. Different story if the LMG is magazine-fed (so it’s an heavy barreled, version of the AR with a bipod) then it has sense to use ammos and magazines compatible with the AR.

    • The 7.62 Minimi (NSW Mk48) is a lovely bit of kit. Having range-tested it a few times, my summary is that it’s like a belt-fed BREN, only a bit nicer. It shoots really soft and straight. It’s sweet.

      The criticism is that it’s built a bit light for general LMG-role use. Not an issue if the support package is there to keep it going. Big issue if (regular green army?) it isn’t.

      It’s designed for the “assault MG” role (think SMG in 7.62, or M60E3)- you need to extract from a raid or from a compromised covert recce and just want to hose out hand-held deadliness at short range for a short but bloody violent period of time – not the general-use infantry LMG/GPMG optimised for 600-800 off bipod.

      Wonderful weapon, But is it a general-service weapon, or a niche one?

      And I still think general service LMG is better with box mags, not link.

      • “…Wonderful weapon, But is it a general-service weapon, or a niche one?…”

        Good question, not sure about the answer.

        I would submit that a general purpose weapon is what is needed. Look at the British SA-80 program and the 4.85mm round. It was built around the idea of WWIII combat in the Fulda gap by mechanized infantry. A great deal of stuff was developed around that concept. The trouble is that WWIII never happened and all the combat everyone did after Korea was pretty much COIN or “operations other than war”. where light infantry with restrictive ROE was the norm, and a much wider variety of operations was required than being dismounted from your IFV 100m from the objective..

        Up here in Canada we issued a system of webbing (execrable!) as the pattern ’64 designed around the idea that all combat would be mechanized and the APC would carry everything, so it initially it did not even include a rucksack!

        It seems to me that despite all the wishful thinking and short range expectations, a 5.56mm LMG seems to be not quite the thing (See Anthony Williams’ various articles), and something bigger is required, so a 7.62 mm gun seems to be required. Interestingly the British seemed to agree in the late ’70’s since their whole 6-6.5 mm LMG cartridge and concept seemed to be about the minimum size for an LMG cartridge……

      • “…And I still think general service LMG is better with box mags, not link.”

        With the development of Surefire double capacity magazines, this could really be a thing, since the gunner could carry those, reducing the frequency of his re-loading, and could still use rifle mags and vice-versa.

        In fact, this would be the logical extension of the BREN gun concept, every rifleman carrying ammo for the LMG, but unlike in WWII, he could actually use them himself in his rifle if he needed to.

        • The trouble with that is that Ord interprets it as “The LMG is a beefed-up AR”. Colt tried it in the 1970s (the Colt CMG-1/2 from 1965-67), which didn’t work because it didn’t have the range and killing power needed, being tied to the 5.56 x 45mm cartridge.

          Two decades later, the mistake was repeated, in service this