America's First Squad Automatic Weapon
The M-60 was the U.S. forces first General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) for the Vietnam War. As well, it was also the first U.S. machine gun to feature a quick change barrel; however this feature was not used much in Vietnam because of the complexity to field strip the gun under fire. It was first introduced in the 1950s. The M-60 is a fully automatic, gas operated machine gun firing from an open bolt and feeding from a disintegrating metallic link belt. Its feed system was based on the German MG-42( their own GPMG) while its bolt assembly was based on the FG-42 (their paratrooper automatic rifle). It fires the 7.62 NATO cartride but also had armored-piercing rounds as well. The weapon is intended to be used with a crew of three men: the gunner, assistant gunner, and ammunition bearer. It has an effective range of 1,200 yards as well as 500-600 rounds per minute.
The M-60 saw extensive use in Vietnam, which was its first true testing grounds. One main complaint of the weapon was the issue with the barrel being supposedly quick-changing. In order to take the barrel off, you had to dissasemble the entire bottom portion of the gas block/weapon which was almost impossible in a firefight. As well, the barrel turned bright red and glowed in the dark when overheated. That being said, the M-60 was extremely reliable and favored by most American troops. It was colloquially dubbed "The Pig" Newer versions of the weapon saw action in Vietnam as well which included a better carry handle. The gun was also favored by the Australians who also adopted it as their own GPMG in Vietnam as well as a different way to carry ammunition for it. The M-60 saw service well into the 1990s, even seeing action in Operation Desert Storm/Shield. It was finally replaced by the MAG for U.S. forces in the 2000s.