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X-Source: The Tankers' Forum
Subject: "The M60 Machinegun" or "How the US Small Arms Designers Failed 
From: Tony Evans
Date: 12/18/98 11:07:28 AM

The M60's positive features: 

It fires - sometimes 

Parts are readily interchangeable (this helps when canibalization becomes
necessary to keep at least *some* of the guns up) 

Decent rear sight, easily adjustable for windage and elevation 

The M60's negative features: 

Weak feed system 

Gas system components which work loose, resulting in sluggish or runaway

Feed system design requiring careful training to cope with (the old
"don't drop that feed cover unless the bolt is to the rear, Private")

Bolt connected to operating rod using the firing pin as a bearing surface
and held together with spring tension - I don't have enough fingers and
toes to count the number of broken firing pins I've had to deal with

Operating rods and sears made out of substandard metal - runaway guns

Traversing and elevation mechanisms with 5-10 mils worth of play when
they are *new*

Mixed blessings (The vast majority of these are things which were good -
or at least acceptable - on the E1 version, but which had been eliminated
or totally dicked up with the introduction of the E3.):

Hinged shoulder rest; absolutely necessary for accurate bipod fire -
great on the E1, gone on the E3

Heavy barrels w/ integral bipods and gas systems - say what you want
about the extra weight, the heavy barrel on the E1 could handle sustained
fire rates that would have slagged the E3 barrel. (more barrel mass
acting as a heat sink and a greater heat radiation area on the outside
diameter) The bipod legs on the front of the E1 barrels did add weight to
the total package but their forward placement aided stability in firing,
the cooling fins helped barrel life, and the actual mechanism was simpler
and more robust than the E3 bipod. Finally, the gas system on the E1
barrel also added weight but it provided a level of redundancy. You could
have a gas system failure on one barrel, change it out, and have the ammo
humper fix the malfunction while the gun crew continued the engagement.

Adjustable front sight post - not present on the E1 and terrible as
implemented on the E3 (they kept vibrating off during firing; no set
screw made could hold them on against the whipping of the E3's flimsy

Carrying handles - OK on the E1 receiver; moving them to the barrels was
the one positive design decision made on the E3

Forearm - The rubber shrouded sheetmetal forearm of the E1 was
functional, if not flashy; the plastic piece of crap on the E3 was a
totally Ramboized abortion

Sling swivels - never used on the E1, since it was perfectly balanced for
over the shoulder carry with one bipod leg extended for the balancing
hand; I won't even describe the nightmare that ensues when trying to
carry an E3 tactically, either on the shoulder or with a sling.

The M60E1 was adequate, but needed some serious work to become a first
class weapon. The supposed improvements incorporated in the E3 made the
system a total non-starter as far as those of us who had to work with the
gun are concerned. If you read the Marine Corps' official blurb on the
M240G, you will see that one of the big reasons for the relatively quick
demise of the M60E3 is poor troop acceptance. What goes unsaid is that
for decades Marines have worked alongside Brits and others who had Brens
and MAGs and with Norwegians and Germans who had MG42 derivatives. They
knew that something better existed, and felt betrayed when, instead of
getting perfectly good designs as a replacement for the M60 they got a
crippled "upgrade" package. I can't speak for the US Army, but I'm
willing to bet that plenty of soldiers felt the same way.

BTW, one person here mentioned the fact that troops in the field actually
using a weapon don't care where the spare parts or replacement weapons
come from, or even worry about ammo supply. What a crock of shit! Maybe
the person who made that statement didn't give any thought to those
things, but he shouldn't insult the professionalism of the many fine NCOs
and former NCOs who frequent this site.

X-Source: The Tankers' Forum
Subject: The POV of long experience
From: Tony Evans
Date: 03/12/2000 8:38:37 PM

Just to establish my bonafides, I was a USMC M60 gunner, team leader,
and squad leader, during a cumulative five years of assignment to
rifle company weapons platoons. My MOS was 0331, meaning that I was
trained specifically to do this job. I worked with both the E1 (heavy
barrel, integral gas system and bipod) and E3 (light barrel, receiver
mounted gas tube and bipod) versions. When I wasn't in the grunts, I
was usually the duty M60 expert at whatever command I was serving.

Having said that, I believe that the M60 was theoretically adequate to
its job, but had problems in practice that rendered it less than
satisfactory in service. The big problem, which nobody has mentioned
so far, was the frailty of many of the parts in the operating
group. Key among these, and inherent in the design, was the firing
pin, which seemed almost guaranteed to break right behind the forward
shoulder. This was because the operating rod was directly connected to
it by a yoke, chanelling all of the torquing force of locking and
unlocking of the bolt through a pin only a few milimeters in
diameter. Also common was the disintegration and eventual
unservicability of the shoulders of the operating rod yoke, thanks to
this narrowly focussed mechanical force. The third failing of the
operating group were the bolt lugs, which tended to chip off as
well. Finally, the sear in the trigger group and the sear notch on the
operating rod would wear to the point that they would not engage,
causing a runaway gun. All of the common complaints - the gas system
nut working it's way loose, the one-way gas piston, the receiver
locking pin vibrating out, were minor problems, that could be dealt
with through propper training.

How did the above work out in practice? In a squad of two guns, with
800 rounds of ammunition per gun (the standard unit of fire), four
times out of five you could count on being left with only one gun -
running on canibalized parts from the other - to be still in action at
the end of the day.

So far I've been talking about problems common to both the E1 and E3
versions. The issue of the E3 actually added to our problems, largely
through the introduction of the light barrel. This barrel was only
good for 200 rounds of sustained and maybe 150 rounds of rapid fire,
where the old heavy barrel was good for almost unlimited sustained and
at at 200 rounds of rapid fire. The problem was simple - the heavier
barrel had a larger heat sink and greater radiation area than the
light one. Simple physics; I often wonder why the engineers at SACO
didn't see what any grunt could have told them. The movement of the
carrying handle to the barrels and the two-way gas piston hardly made
up for this basic failing. Also a problem was the removal of the full
forearm in favor of the Rambo pistol grip. This caused an increase in
barrel burns. The transfer of the bipod to the receiver may have
improved engagement of wide targets, but destroyed bipod mode
stability. Finally, the hinged shoulder rest was deleted from the
stock. The last two changes are the most heinous in my point of view,
since the M249 SAW, as adopted, had a forward bipod and shoulder rest,
making it a superior bipod weapon in all respects except for ammo.

BTW, the E3 did not solve the operating group failures. If anything it
accelerated them, probably due to increased vibration of the lighter
weapon. I even officially suggested the issue of a complete spare bolt
group with each gun, to avoid canibalization of other guns to clear
the most common malfunctions. (Letters to the Editor, Marine Corps
Gazette, November, 1989)

In case you haven't figured it out, I actually preferred the E1 to the
E3, but given my choice, I would always choose the M240. I just
couldn't get over working with allies who used to take one look at our
problems with the M60 and quip, "Our gun's better than that, Mate."
Speaking of course about whatever version of the MAG 58 they were
using at the time.

X-Source: The Tankers' Forum
Subject: Re: M-60, different times
From: Tony Evans
Date: 03/18/2000 5:15:59 PM

Ya know, up until 1985, given my experience with some truly decrepit
M60E1's, I would have agreed with you. But the M60E3's that were
coming into service at that time - presumably entirely new
manufacture, or at least incorporating previously unused parts - had
just as many firing pin, yoke shoulder, sear and sear shoulder, and
bolt lug failures. Either OEM quality control went way downhill, or
somebody's memory is way off...

LT Ducky said:

>As I said earlier, I never used the M-60 in combat, only in a training
>scenario, but I'm with Dave Decker all the way. Early to mid-1960's
>I'd run firing ranges with 25-50 guns on line; while firing only
>several hundred rounds per gun, malfunctions were few and far between.
>The only sense I can make of this whole discussion is the the guys
>having problems are experiencing them in the 80's and 90's. These
>malfunctioning guns have GOT to be old, poorly maintained and just
>plain worn-out.
>Anybody know when the last purchases of M-60's was made by DoD?

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