How It Works, “The Pig” Edition – M60 Machine Gun

Still in use today with the US military, albeit at a reduced capacity, the M60 machine gun is a well-known force to be reckoned with. With its ability to controllably lay down suppressive fire, “The Pig” (as it was affectionately known), was the back-bone of the infantry squad through the Vietnam War. The weapon was often cited as the single reason a wave attack was repulsed.

The M60 is a fully-automatic, gas-operated, air-cooled, shoulder or mount-fired, open-bolt, medium machine gun. It first 7.62×51 NATO from linked belts of ammunition. The barrels are quick-change and come with an integral bi-pod for firing from the prone position. The weapon was typically loaded with ball ammunition in a ratio of 4 standard rounds to a single tracer, which helped machine gunners walk the weapon in to their intended target.

Provided, by Documentary Tube, HOW IT WORKS: The M60 Machine Gun is an old army instructional video complete with the mesmerizing male voice, keep-it-simple break-it-down-barney-style demonstrations, and the pre-computer cardboard style cut-away of the weapons systems.

To me, its amazing how effective these videos are. They are truly instructional and for some reason that I do not understand, wholly entertaining unlike the death by powerpoint training found in armories today.

Enjoy the video!


Nathan S

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


  • JT303

    I always find that short of showing people the actual parts of a gun and how they interact, a video is really helpful. I think they’ll always have a place in quality instruction for those willing to learn. The cutaway models are very good teaching tools as well, and are helpful in allowing people to get up close and see how it all works.

    • CountryBoy

      I’d sure like to have one of those larger models. I wonder what happened to them after a while, and if they’re still around? Anyone?

  • A bearded being from beyond ti

    That’s a very interesting way to reload the thing. Albeit it seems kinda unnecessary to, pull the trigger so the bolt goes out of battery just so he can pull the charging handle again afterwards. Is there any point in doing so?

    • CommonSense23

      Its just stuff feeding the gun like you can do a 50cal. And for safety reasons its frowned upon to open the feed tray with bolt back and then feed the gun.

      • Gary Kirk

        Cook off?? Much..

        • Tom Currie

          Since it fires from the open bolt, the pig will almost never cook off unless one or more parts are broken _and_ the gunner does something stupid.

    • Anonymoose

      That’s one of the things they changed on the M60E6, along with attaching the bipod to the forend instead of the barrel, so you don’t have to reposition it every time to change barrels.

    • Tom Currie

      I gave up on the video when I noticed it was over 19 minutes long, so I didn’t see whatever you were talking about as the way they reloaded it. The 60 is simple to load (like most open bolt machine guns), simply pull the bolt all the way to the rear, (the Army wants you to engage the safety now), open the cover, make sure the gun is clear (chamber, feed tray, and receiver), place the double link end of the belt on the feed tray with the round directly over the slot, hold the belt with your left hand while closing the cover with your right hand.

      Contrary to the manual, it IS possible to “half load” an M60 so that there is a belt in the gun and the bolt is forward, and will fully load when you pull the bolt to the rear, but doing this is a bit complicated and absolutely prohibited (gunners on machine gun jeeps often did it anyway — some of them probably got killed for having done it incorrectly)

      • Tom Currie

        Aha, I left the video running while I was typing that, and I just caught the idiocy they showed about 10 minutes in — I’m not sure what the idiot was trying to show with his clear plastic gun but that is NOT how you load the M60 — at least not how it was in the manual and how it was taught from 1967 on (I don’t know if there was some other way being taught earlier)

  • Dougscamo

    Loved your comment in the body….”death by powerpoint”….reminded me of a quote in Lost Boys….”death by stereo”…..good post….

  • gunsandrockets

    Makes me wonder how well the Danes are faring with their newish M60e6.

  • gunsandrockets

    Oh ho! Video at 4:55. Now that whole strange bipod attachment to the barrel doesn’t seem as nutty. The folded bipod is supposed to function as the barrel change handle. It looks like Army doctrine of that time only anticipated barrel changing when operating the M60 with the tripod mount.

    • Irideapalehorse

      There’s an asbestos mitt that was used to change the barrels not shown in the video. I carried the pig for 3 years in the 101st. Nothing more beautiful then when you get a pair talking to each other.

    • supergun

      I shot the M-60 in training on a bipod. The shells ejected out on my arm and tattooed about 5 shell impressions on my arm.

      • CountryBoy

        Are you a lefty? It looks like the shells eject from the right in the video.

        I’m ambidextrous, but when shooting lefty I often have that problem with semi-autos.

        • supergun

          I was looking at the picture also when I made that comment. I distinctly remember the shells popping out on my left arm from the belt fed machine gun. Could I be mistakenly thinking this was a BAR instead of a M60? But looking at the picture it does seem to show the shells going to the right..

          • CountryBoy

            Okay; I was watching the video of the “torture test”, which showed the belt feeding in from the left and ejecting from the right. I thought perhaps you were a lefty, which would put more of your body in the way of the ejection port.

            The still picture is blurry enough that I think it’s just showing the shiny bolt rather than the ejection port, as I don’t think the M60 can be switched around, at least in the field.

            I’m not sure about the BAR, as my experience with it is limited to episodes of “Combat!” when I was a kid!

          • supergun

            That was my favorite show on TV. Still is. Shame that is not shown on TV. I remember the shells burn the fire into my arm and left me with several tattoos of big ass shells. Boy, that was a fun gun to shoot. It was in basic training. Watched a Sargent shoot the M16 on automatic fire. The M16,,,,,,,would love to own one.

          • CountryBoy

            Yes, one of my favorites too.

            As a young lad visiting relatives in Upland, CA, my uncle took us by an outdoor set where they filmed the series. It was odd to see a “bombed-out” couple of blocks’ worth of building shells among the relatively modern homes and businesses around it. The set wasn’t in use at that time, but was still closed off so we couldn’t see much of it.

            I’ve had a few cartridge burns over the years, with varying calibers and unpredictable trajectories, mostly from a SKS. My ARs will pretty much stack the empties in a neat pile, with the AKs tossing them in the same direction but less neatly, but the SKS is like a random number generator, with many of the cases going straight up and into the rafters of the roof over the outdoor range at the club I was in. It was pretty clear that the Chinese never cared about reloading brass!

          • supergun

            Thats funny. The Chinese do things different. I have a Five~Seven that I gave to my wife, that slings the shells at least 30 feet to the right. Don’t stand next to the shooter. D shells hit you across the head and almost knock you out. About “Combat”, Vic Morrel made that show. Shame he got killed in a helicopter making a movie.

          • CountryBoy

            I have a FiveSeven pistol I’ve never fired, and now you’ve got me wondering how it’ll do. I also have an AR15 with an AR57 upper (shooting the 5.7×28 round), again unfired, so I’ll want to check that too. How’s the noise compared to an AR’s .223? They’re both small-diameter, relatively short rounds, and I know the AR has more of a sharp slap than a boom sound.

            Yes, Vic Morrow was one of my favorites from the show, well-cast in the role. I never saw the movie he was making that he died doing (don’t know if it was released), but it’s hard to think of anyone else playing his part in “Combat!”.

          • supergun

            The FIVE~SEVEN. Indescribable. Of all my pistols, the two I would grab if I had to leave in a zombie riot would be my SIG SAUER P-226 Navy Seals Desert 9mm and the AWESOME FIVE SEVEN. It is worth every penny you paid for it. The pistol is deadly accurate, fun to shoot, and sounds like any 9mm. The recoil is mild, but the bullet is wicked. I was suprise at the energy or strength of the weapon. I love it. But the Sig. Navy 9mm is the BEST shooting pistol I have ever shot.

          • CountryBoy

            I do like the ergo of the FiveSeven, and recoil is minimal from what I’ve read, though I’m a big guy and I’m not bothered by recoil much. I’d probably opt for either the CZ Evo Scorpion I picked up a few months ago, or the Zenith/MKE HK SP89 clone, either of which will give plenty of rounds in the mag. But for a rifle it’s tough to be the standard AR, as ammo can be found pretty much anywhere.

            I have a couple of P226s including a DAK (whose trigger is quite pleasant), and they’re top-notch IMO, so it’d be a tough choice.

          • Dan Moore

            The M60 ejects to the right. ~ a former gunner

          • supergun

            I believe it was the M60 that I shot. Somehow, those shells got over to the left arm and tattooed me. It has been so long ago. They could have bounce off something. I was shooting one of my pistols the other day, and the shells normally eject to the right of the gun. But one particular casing came straight back and hit me in the forehead. Go figure.

  • A Fascist Corgi

    My father carried one in Vietnam. He said that they never called it “The Pig”.

    • Tom Currie

      That term was used by REMFs and grunts too stupid to care for the gun.

  • Bullphrog855

    The M60 just has so much character, would love to see it have a come back.

  • Bill Dalzell

    I’ve got probably half a million rounds fired through the M60, most from the doorway of a Huey. We all loaded from an open feed tray and most used a C ration can to guide the belt so it wouldn’t have to make a sharp 90° angle entering the tray – the supplied belt carriers were too apt to jam when turning the gun too far to the left or right. Ours had the spade grip or D handles rather than the pistol grip, were mounted on a pintle mount and we would fire with the right hand while guiding the belt with the left. As a gunner, on the left side of the chopper we had to use a brass catcher to keep the brass out of the tail rotor and keep the wind from blowing the brass back in and jamming the gun, but as a crew chief on the right side we would just let the brass fall away to the rear.
    In 3.5 years in Nam I never heard the 60 called a pig.

    • supergun

      Interesting story. Thanks for sharing it. I was in the Army during the Viet Nam War, but did not go there. I consider anyone that did,,,,,”AMERICAN HEROES”.

    • Dan Moore

      I never heard it called a pig either.

  • I’ve seen this before but always worth a rewatch.

  • Major Tom

    “The weapon was often cited as the single reason a wave attack was repulsed.”

    And that’s the reason why the machine gun role requires a belt-fed weapon like the M60 instead of a wannabe IAR.

    It’s always better to have and not need than need and not have. A belt-fed gives you that “Oh sh*t! OPEN FIRE! OPEN FIRE!” continuous ability. A mag-fed never can do that. Anything a mag-fed LMG can do, a belt-fed does just as well or better. Plus it has that SHTF capability just in case.

    • Gary Kirk

      It’s not really “open fire open fire”.. More cover fire/ suppression fire!!

    • gunsandrockets

      Every man a quad-fifty gunner! yee-haw!

    • Blake

      Normally I’d agree with you, but with 100 round drum mags I think I’d rather have that. You can operate the weapon by yourself, reload much quicker, and have just as many available rounds as standard belts.

      • Major Tom

        Not necessarily. 100 round drums often have feeding troubles that belts rarely to never suffer from. Take the Beta C-Mag, 100 round capacity, less reliable than 100 rounds of 7.62 NATO on M13 disintegrating links. Drums also have the problem of storage and carrying. 600 rounds of 5.56mm for the 249 is three boxes of 200 each that are easy to handle. 600 rounds of 5.56mm in Beta C-Mags is bulky, clunky and uncomfortable. Not to mention heavier.

        Plus with belts there’s nothing truly stopping Private Snuffy from linking all 600 rounds for his 249 into a single continuous feed. Same thing can happen for any belt-fed. The limit of your belt is only as much as you’re willing and/or able to carry. (And assault backpacks for that are a thing.)

        • marathag

          Burning out the barrel is one limit from a really long belt

          • Bookoodinkydow

            Sometimes It’s hard to take you finger off the trigger. One night I got the barrel so hot a round got stuck. We replaced the hotter-than-hell barrel with another one…our LAST one. I never heard of it being called a pig during my tour in Nam. We may have called it God.

      • supergun

        Good comment. It is nice to have both in the company.

    • iksnilol

      Um, you know you’re going to screw over an MG if you belt-dump?

      There’s a reason MGs coordinate by “talking” to eachother.

    • supergun

      Every gun has it’s place and purpose. Just like every bullet does.

  • Ranger Rick

    Solid weapon, very dependable if cared for.

  • Hancock63

    My late father was an infantryman in Vietnam and was trained to use this weapon. I’m left handed like him and I was wondering if it is possible to feed the gun on the right and eject the spent cartridges on the left? From the video it looks like he would have had hot brass hitting his ear shooting lefty.

    • Tom Currie

      Sorry, the 60 is left hand feed only.

    • CommonSense23

      You can still shoot it lefty. I spent a lot of time shooting MK43/46/48s standing as a lefty. You learn how to deal with the brass.

  • Uniform223

    This isn’t your daddy’s M60…