Prototypes: T44 (M60)
The M60 had a relatively long development phase with work beginning in the late 1940s and a finished article not being offered until 1957. The US army was seeking a light machine gun which could replace the Browning Automatic Rifle and the M1919A6, the BAR lacked feed capacity and the A6 was extremely heavy for a light machine gun (LMG). Designers looked to the excellent German weapons that US forces had encountered in Europe during World War Two.
The US Army had a history of drawing on German weapons for inspiration, first the Mauser action for the Springfield M1903 and later, in 1944, the experimental T24 machine gun which was a copy of the German MG42 chambered in .30-06, which proved to be a failure.
In 1946 work on the T44 began, designers were influenced by a combination of several German weapons: the much feared MG42 multi-purpose machine gun and the FG-42 - a rifle developed for the German paratroop corps. Like earlier US weapons the T44 was chambered in .30-06, like the side loading FG-42 the T44’s cover assembly swung out to the left side rather than top opening receiver seen on final models. The T44 also sports a forward grip and butt stock much like the FG-42’s.
In 1948 development of the T44 was halted as the army increasingly focused on the new T65 cartridge as a replacement for the overpowered .30-06 round. The new 7.62mm round would be adopted by NATO in 1954 and the development of another prototype the T52, chambered in the new cartridge, was begun. The T52 retained the recognisable butt stock but shifted the assembly cover to the more traditional top opening position. The T52 went through a number of incarnations until it was adopted as the M60 in 1957.
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