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Saco M60E3 Light Machine Gun (LMG) / General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG)

The M60E3 light machine gun was designed to lighten the overall weight and simplify the barrel changing process of the base M60 GPMG.

 Updated: 7/31/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©

The 1950s-era M60 General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) proved a relatively effective infantry support weapon throughout the Vietnam War (1955-1975) though it was not without its inherent drawbacks. It was a cumbersome system to transport on patrol while lacking a carrying handle, was heavy by its very construction and featured a complex gas operation. The M60E3 of 1986 was, therefore, intended as a remedy variant and brought about a lighter overall weight, an integral carrying handle for transport and to facilitate barrel changing and a revised, simplified gas cylinder. Two barrel types - a light short assault and a heavy sustained fire version - were also introduced to suit varying mission roles. One key design addition of the M60E3 was its use of a forward vertical hand grip which allowed for more stable firing from the shoulder and further eased transport of the weapon (particularly when used in conjunction with a shoulder strap via sling loops). The bipod was now affixed to the receiver and a tripod mounting could still be utilized. Saco Defense of Maine was charged with the system's manufacture. Other changes included a new feed cover protecting the bolt regardless of its internal position and the trigger ring could be replaced by one with a larger opening to allow use of a gloved hand.

The M60E3 retained the original's chambering of 7.62x51mm NATO and also utilized the same gas-operated action feeding through a 100-round disintegrating belt. Overall weight was 8.8kg with a running length of 1,077mm and a standard barrel measuring 558mm. Rate-of-fire was 600 rounds per minute with a muzzle velocity of 2,800 feet per second. Cooling of the barrel was by air and sighting was through a front and rear iron arrangement.

Despite the changes, the M60E3 was hardly a perfected solution. The use of lighter components seemed to lessen the weapon's overall reliability as components were known to fracture through prolonged use. This necessitated another M60 form to appear as the M60E4. The M60 family line as a whole was eventually superseded by the heavier, though more reliable, M240 GPMG based on the excellent Belgian FN MAG series.

The M60E3 saw limited export sales to US-friendly forces worldwide.

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Saco M60E3 Technical Specifications

Service Year: 1986
Type: Light Machine Gun (LMG) / General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG)
National Origin: United States
Manufacturer(s): Saco Defense, Incorporated - USA

Design (Internal, Dimensions and Weights)

Firing Action: Air-Cooled; Gas-Operated; Disintegrating Metallic Link-Belt
Available Caliber(s): 7.62x51mm NATO
Ammunition Count / Feed: 100-round disintegrating link belt
Overall Length: 1,077 mm (42.40 inches)
Barrel Length: 558 mm (21.97 inches)
Weight (Empty): 19.40 lb (8.80 kg)
Sighting Assist: Iron Front and Rear


Muzzle Velocity: 2,800 feet/sec (853 m/sec)
Rate-of-Fire (RoF): 600 rounds-per-minute (rpm)
Typical Range: 3,600 feet (1,097 meters; 1,200 yards)

Global Operators / Customers

Egypt; India; Malaysia; Portugal; South Korea; United States

Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

M60 GPMG - Base Series Designation; adopted by US forces in 1957.
M60E3 - Improved lightened form of 1986.