Osprey author Leigh Neville this week examines the use of the American M60 medium machine gun amongst Australian forces in Vietnam as featured in King & Country’s Vietnam ANZACs range.
The 7.62x51mm M60 is another iconic small arm forever associated with the Vietnam War, largely thanks to Hollywood depictions of its use in such films as Full Metal Jacket and Platoon. It was widely employed by both US and Australian forces in both vehicle mounted (including by doorgunners in the equally iconic Huey helicopter) and infantry roles.
The M60 is a belt-fed, gas-operated open bolt design capable of a cyclic rate of 550 rounds per minute (the cyclic rate calculated by the number of rounds the weapon could conceivably fire if fed a continuous belt of ammunition).
Whilst heavy at over 10 kilograms (not including its bulky bipod), the weapon was generally well-liked due to its casualty producing capability.
The big 7.62x51mm rounds increased the chance of suppressing an enemy and any hit generally resulted in the target becoming hors de combat. It also offered ammunition compatibility with the standard infantry rifle, the L1A1 SLR.
Australian infantry, who were issued one M60 per section, typically innovated in finding ways to reduce the challenges of using the weapon in the dense jungle environment.
The key cause of potential stoppages was the ammunition belt becoming fouled with dirt so the Diggers manufactured ad-hoc belt covers, reportedly from rubber tires, to keep the belts protected from the environment.
They also adopted a practice, now commonly employed by most armies, of only loading the weapon with a short belt of 25 rounds which reduced the chance of the belt snagging or becoming fouled whilst patrolling.
As soon as a contact with the enemy was initiated, the gunner would fire off the 25 rounds in the initial attempt to gain fire superiority before his assistant gunner would load a regular 50 or 100 round belt of disintegrating link.
The M60 served with the Australian Army right up until the 1980s when it was replaced by the superior Belgian Fabrique Nationale design, the MAG58, again chambered for 7.62x51mm.
The MAG58 was moved from the infantry section into direct fire support weapons platoons held at company level whilst the section machine gun role was met by another Belgian design, the 5.56x45mm Minimi, known as the F89 in Australian service.
The M60 is featured in a number of King & Country releases available from Peter Nathan Toy Soldiers;
KCVN030 Australian Patrol
KCVN071 The Battle of Long Tan Set #1
KCVN007 USMC Machine Gunner