Afterwar: Year 0
M250 and M60 Platoon Machine Guns
US Navy SEAL teams liked the light weight of the M-249; they also liked the firepower of the MAG (M-240) and its 7.62mm NATO round. What they don’t like is the relatively low hitting power of the 5.56mm NATO round of the SAW, nor do they like the huge size and heavy weight of the M-240. They wanted a blend of the two. They also weren’t satisfied with the M-60E3s they were currently using in that role, feeling that the M-60E3 was essentially a compromise what didn’t work out.
FN therefore designed the Mk48 Mod 0 specifically for them. It is basically an M-249 scaled up to fire the 7.62mm NATO round. (FN had sort of a head-start on this; it’s a little-known fact that the Minimi was originally designed in 7.62mm NATO.) The SEALs were also given a few other things they asked for in a light machinegun: Teflon coating for resistance to weather and salt water, a little extra weight to keep barrel climb down, a quick-change barrel, and a stronger build. The entire machinegun is, in fact, only a little longer than the M-16 assault rifle.
The Mk 49 Mod 0 is built largely of steel, with some light alloy components, and a polymer pistol grip, stock, and fore-end. It’s rumored that the stock can be replaced with a collapsing one, but I have not been able to confirm this. The standard stock has a shape similar to newer M-249s with fixed stocks, making it somewhat lighter. It uses standard NATO disintegrating-link belts, feeding from the left and ejecting spent rounds through the bottom of the receiver. The Mk 48 Mod 0 can be equipped with a total of five MIL-STD-1913 rails: one atop the receiver/feed cover, three on the fore-end on the bottom and sides, and one over the barrel where it rests on the fore-end. The folding bipod is adjustable for height and cant. The 16.5-inch barrel is tipped with a compact flash suppressor and the bore is hard-chromed, as is the chamber. The standard sights consist of a protected front post and a rear sight similar to that of the MAG, an adjustable aperture rear which may be flipped up to reveal an adjustable leaf. A version of the Mk 48, designated the Mod 1 with a shortened and suppressed barrel was debuted in Iraq and Afghanistan, the suppressor design is similar to that mounted to some versions of the Mk 46 Mod 0 automatic rifle, but larger and beefier.
The US Army’s M-250 Lightweight Platoon Machine Gun (LPMG, little-piggy to the troops) is essentially the Navy and SOCOM’s Mk 48 MOD 0 (with the rate of fire reduced), which in turn is simply FN’s original MINIMI design in 7.62mm NATO, before the Army adopted that design but in 5.56mm NATO as their M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon. Having come full-circle, the M-250 is a popular, if rare, weapon with the troops, who like heavy firepower in small packages very much. Full rate adoption of the machine gun was cut short by the outbreak of hostilities in 2013, and only frontline troops in light infantry units saw theirs before the war. Later, reinforcements sent to Europe were equipped with eclectic mixes of gear including these, mostly because the pre-positioned REFORGER equipment they were supposed draw in Belgium and Germany was contaminated by Eurasian Pact chemical agents. Most of these weapons were used by units stationed in the Middle Eastern theatre of the war, where their use by Rangers and Mountain infantry first popularized them. Though an FN design, the M-250/Mk 48 is actually manufactured in FN’s US facilities in South Carolina.
|Mk 48 Mod 0||7.62mm NATO||8.39 kg||50 Belt, 100 Belt, 200 Belt||$2216|
|Mk 48 Mod 1 (Suppressed)||7.62mm NATO||10.56 kg||50 Belt, 100 Belt, 200 Belt||$2862|
|M-250||7.62mm NATO||8.55 kg||50 Belt, 100 Belt, 200 Belt||$2112|
|Mk 48 Mod 0||10||4||2-3-Nil||7||3||13||47|
|Mk 48 Mod 1 (Suppressed)||10||3||1-Nil||10||1||7||28|
The M-60 (originally designed and manufactured by Saco Defense, but later built by the Maremont division of General Dynamics, and now built under license by US Ordnance) began as an attempt to “Americanize” the Nazi MG-42 for use by US troops. The MG-42 and FG-42 assault rifle was then blended, and the feed system of the MG-42 was simplified, by essentially combining the two-piece feed pawl of the MG-42 into a single unit. In addition, the much of the action was moved into the stock, making the M-60 into a compact, “semi-bullpup” design which is only 43.5 inches long in its basic form.
The M-60 has a mostly conventional, gas-operated firing system. Feed is from the left, like most Western machineguns (though some versions of the M-60 have been made at the request of certain customers to feed from the left, mostly to fit in specific internal vehicle mounts). The standard belt is a 100-round disintegrating link NATO-standard belt, but I have personally seen M-60s in demonstrations which could pull in a 400-round hanging belt. The 100-round belt is usually contained in metal, plastic, or cardboard-lined canvas containers for carrying by soldiers, or it can be fed from boxes set beside the gun. The M-60 has always had a quick-change barrel, but initial versions had no carrying handle, and asbestos mitts were issued along with replacement barrels and cleaning kits in order to allow the gunner or assistant gunner to change the barrel. Later, a carrying handle attached to the barrel was added, but hot barrels on the M-60 can be a bit balky, often requiring two hands to unlock them, so the asbestos mitts continued to be issued. Unfortunately, the front sight is a non-adjustable blade mounted on a triangular mount that is attached directly to the barrel; this means that when you change a barrel, the gunner loses the M-60’s zero. The barrel itself is 22 inches long, tipped by a long flash suppressor, and chrome-lined. The M-60 does not have any sort of gas adjustment device; the system adjusts itself to fouling. Though there is no semiautomatic setting, the cyclic rate is so slow (about 550 rpm) that it only takes a minimum of practice to squeeze off single shots. Though it is officially frowned upon (at least by the US Army), one can actually load a belt into the M-60 without raising the feed cover, though you have to insert and hold the belt in place, brace the stock against your shoulder, stomach, or hip, and cycle the charging handle twice instead of only once. The folding bipod is also attached directly to barrel; it is a simple affair, built mostly of stamped steel (it looks like aluminum to me, but I was assured in the Army that it is made of steel). The bipod is adjustable to a very limited extend for height and cant. It can be mounted on a standard NATO Light Tripod, or on compatible pintle mounts.
Reviews of the basic M-60 by the troops have been mixed – they range from those who think it is crap (some even call it “the Pig”, or ‘big-piggy’) two those who like it so much they wish the M-240 hadn’t replaced it in the US military. It is still used around the world by a lot of military forces.
Variants of the basic M-60 include the M-60C, which is electrically fired and was designed specifically for use on external helicopter mounts (especially early UH-1 Huey helicopters converted for use as gunships in Vietnam before the advent of the AH-1 Cobra). It is no longer in production. The M-60D is an M-60 with the conventional trigger group and stock replaced with spade grips and a thumb trigger; this version is designed for use as a helicopter door gun and from certain fixed positions and vehicle pintle mounts. The M-60E2 is another electrically-fired model, for use in internal vehicle mounts. It is no longer in production in the US, though some other countries (most notably Taiwan) still make it.
The M-60E3 was designed in the early 1980s by Saco at the request of US special operations units (especially the SEALs), to provide them with a lighter, more versatile version of the M-60. Saco also took the opportunity to fix some of the M-60s problems. The standard barrel is the same length as the standard M-60 (22 inches) and is thicker than the M-60’s barrel, but it is also built from lighter and stronger steel, so it is actually lighter than the standard M-60 barrel. The M-60E3 can also use two other barrels: a 17.36-inch short barrel, and a 16.65-inch assault barrel. All three use a more compact flash suppressor than the standard M-60. All three have an extended lower handguard made from polymer, with a forward grip for control when firing from the hip; the upper part of the barrel jacket has been deleted. The carrying handle remains a part of the barrel, but the locking mechanism for the barrel has been improved so one-handed barrel changing without mitts is assured. The bipod has been moved to the front of the lower handguard, which provides better balance. The bipod is also made from lighter but stronger metal; it is physically smaller than a standard M-60 bipod, but is not adjustable. The M-60E3 retains the ability to be tripod or pintle-mounted. The M-60E3 is “officially” able to be loaded without raising the feed cover, and the charging handle requires only one cycling to do this. Standard M-60s must be loaded with the charging handle locked to the rear; the M-60E3 can be loaded with the bolt open or closed. The M-60 feeds from the same belts as the standard M-60, though US special ops troops are known to often use 50-round belts during close assaults, and containers are made for these shorter belts. The trigger guard is enlarged to allow the M-60E3 to be fired by a gunner wearing heavy gloves. The front sight is adjustable for elevation and windage on the M-60E3. A kit is also made, allowing standard M-60s to be converted to the M-60E3 configuration. In addition to use by special ops units of the US military, the M-60E3 is listed as being in use by “several foreign countries.”
The M-60E4 is essentially a further-modified M-60E3, adding many features requested by US and other countries’ special operations units. The forward handguard is different; it has been replaced with one that wraps around three sides of the barrel and gas tube, and has three wide MIL-STD-1913 rails and two narrow ones on each side of the barrel itself. The flash suppressor has been further modified so that it also acts as muzzle brake. The bipod has been strengthened, and also has a limited amount of adjustability for height and cant. The front sight remains the same as the M-60E3, but the rear iron sight has been moved to a position in front of the feed cover, to allow room for a MIL-STD-1913 rail atop the feed cover. Belt pull strength is 35% greater, and in general, the M-60E4 is a much more robust weapon than the M-60E3 (user feedback brought complaints of the relative fragility of the M-60E3). The M-60E4 can use the same barrels as the M-60E3; in a pinch, it can also use a standard M-60 barrel. The pistol grip is more ergonomic, and the attachment of the pistol grip and trigger assembly has been modified, since some troops did complain that the pistol grip/trigger mechanism would fall off during sustained fire. The M-60E4 can also be modified for use with a spade grip/thumb trigger or an electrical trigger for internal vehicle use. US Ordinance also makes a kit to convert the M-60 or M-60E3 to the M-60E4 specification. The primary users of the M-60E4 were the US Navy SEALs (who call it the Mk 43 Mod 0), though it has been largely replaced by the FN Mk 48 Mod 0 (see Belgian Machineguns) in SEAL use. The M-60E4 is also listed by several sources as being used by “several unnamed parties.”
Despite having officially been replaced by the M-240/1 and the M-250, the M-60 is still a common US PMG, as the M-240/1 (US version of the MAG) still has yet to be received in large numbers by Reserve and National Guard units, and after the outbreak of hostilities, newly created units were armed with whatever was at hand . The M-60E3 is still fairly-common special ops weapon, especially in the US military, ROK Army, Taiwanese Army and Marines, and the Thai Army and Marines. The M-60E4, a relative latecomer, is a much rarer weapon, and most of them are used by US special ops units; however, limited quantities are also used by the British and Australian SAS.
|M-60||7.62mm NATO||11.07 kg||100 Belt||$2330|
|M-60E3 (Long Barrel)||7.62mm NATO||8.8 kg||50 Belt, 100 Belt||$2333|
|M-60E3 (Short Barrel)||7.62mm NATO||8.53 kg||50 Belt, 100 Belt||$2189|
|M-60E3 (Assault Barrel)||7.62mm NATO||8.21 kg||50 Belt, 100 Belt||$2167|
|M-60E4 (Long Barrel)||7.62mm NATO||10.48 kg||50 Belt, 100 Belt||$2371|
|M-60E4 (Short Barrel)||7.62mm NATO||10.21 kg||50 Belt, 100 Belt||$2228|
|M-60E4 (Assault Barrel)||7.62mm NATO||9.89 kg||50 Belt, 100 Belt||$2206|
|Barrel Set (3 Lengths)||NA||4.27 kg||NA||$1709|
|M-60E3 (Long Barrel)||5||4||2-3-Nil||7||3||7||64|
|M-60E3 (Short Barrel)||5||4||2-3-Nil||6||3||7||45|
|M-60E3 (Assault Barrel)||5||4||2-3-Nil||6||3||7||42|
|M-60E4 (Long Barrel)||5||4||2-3-Nil||7||2||5||64|
|M-60E4 (Short Barrel)||5||4||2-3-Nil||6||2||5||45|
|M-60E4 (Assault Barrel)||5||4||2-3-Nil||6||2||5||42|