A&K M60 VN
jesus christ this thing is heavy
When I decided I'd like to be a support gunner, I knew I wanted something a little bigger and more imposing than the M249. I decided to go with an M60, but go with the original Vietnam-style rather than the shortened and lightened Mk43. Part of this was aesthetics, part was hope that a longer barrel would increase accuracy. Now that I have my hands on the gun, I'm impressed with what I'm seeing. It's big, and damned heavy (easily 20lbs empty), and more than a little awkward to shoulder fire, but has lots of neat things that seem to make up for it.
So I'll start with the externals of the gun. It's full metal, except for the foregrip, feed tray cover, and buttplate, which are a durable rubberized plastic, just like on the real thing. This means that the gun is very heavy. Seriously, it's really heavy, and a lot of it is concentrated towards the front, not to mention the box mag placement will force you to bend your left arm, so if you're not reasonably strong and at least six feet tall don't even consider this gun, go for the Mk43 or a SAW instead. The gun is held together with a ton of screws, and is very solid, with no noticeable wobble. It also comes with a steel flash hider (the one pictured) to replace the orange plastic M4-style flash hider it comes with. It was very easy to remove the old hider and screw the new one on, and because the authentic one is black not having to paint it was a nice perk. The rear sight flips up and is adjustable for both windage and elevation. The only thing I'd be concerned with is the pot metal bipod yoke, which could break if it takes too much stress, and replacements aren't cheap. Lastly, the faux charging handle is not spring loaded. It locks in place at the front of the gun, but will simply slide around if pulled back partway.
This gun has so many moving parts and things relating to its operation that they deserve a separate section. It has sling mounts, but honestly I don't see the point as I cannot for the life of me find a comfortable way to carry this gun with a sling (yes, I have one in the pics, it's an original USGI M60 sling). The best way I've seen to hump this gun around is across the shoulders, it's too heavy to put on just one shoulder. One thing I've noticed is that the gun's very hard to shoulder fire, since the bipod at the front adds a bunch of weight. This bipod is easily removed, though, making the gun behave much more like a rifle.
Also of note is that the barrel is very easy to remove- just push in a button and pull a lever, and the entire barrel assembly, plus bipod and 'MOSFET' (I'll get to that) assembly comes out. This makes it very easy to get at the hop-up. It could also be handy for transport, since the gun is nearly four feet long when fully assembled. One small issue I've noticed is that the barrel likes to ram itself down the hop-up chamber, to the point where the bucking is partially blocking the feed hole. This is bad, and so care must be taken in reassembling the gun.
Now, a few more minor details. There's a flip-up metal plate on the buttplate intended as a shoulder rest. This is more or less useless from a standing position, but when prone it transfers the weight of the gun from the pistol grip to the shoulder, making it a lot more comfortable to shoot. Another thing that I must mention is the 'carry handle'- it is NOT a carry handle. Just like on this replica, the original M60 had the barrel, bipod, and gas tube as one whole piece, so removing the barrel removed the bipod. That handle is there so a gunner can still hold the front end up while the loader gets a new barrel in position during a barrel change. It is not meant to take the weight of the entire gun, it is balanced poorly for actually carrying, and it will break and drop the MG if used as such.
Alright, the 'MOSFET'. It is referred to as such in most reviews I've seen, and on most sites selling the gun, but it is NOT a MOSFET. A real MOSFET can reduce wear on your gun by acting as a relay to regulate power use, and a computerized MOSFET can dynamically alter your rate of fire. However, despite appearance, this gun does not use a MOSFET at all- the variable rate of fire is provided by a simple potentiometer that variably increases resistance in the circuit. The battery does all the same work, and drains just as fast (if you double the resistance, you halve the ROF, but also double the power used per shot), so the thing is useless. Upon realizing this, I immediately pulled it out of the gas tube and replaced it with the included bypass plug. It's a nice idea, but the rate of fire isn't high enough that such variability is useful, and the implementation is just bad.
The gearbox on this gun is built like a tank. It's very, very big, and very solid, with thick gears in a solid body. The shimming is decent, nothing special. One weird thing to note is that the gun does not seem to fully compress the spring because of the length of its stroke. This means that if you want to change out the spring, you're going to need one stronger than what you actually want- IIRC the number was about 13%, so if you want 400 FPS, get a spring rated for 450 FPS. This is made easier by the spring quick change feature on the back of the gearbox. Flip a lever, and the spring guide and spring pop out the back. However, this isn't as simple as on A&K's M249s, because the gearbox has to be removed from the body first. The gearbox is easy to get to, though, and can be removed simply by pulling it back and then up once the screws are out. In the picture here, you can see the space in the back that facilitates this, as well as the lever for the quick change spring. Also note how one of the dummy rounds has the bullet resting on top of the receiver- this is necessary, otherwise the belt will come right out if pulled.
This is easily the weakest part of the gun. The stock bucking is this weird flat-nosed shape rather than the conical shape of standard bucking, and the hop-up chamber is inexplicably designed to hold the nub vertically rather than horizontally, which leads to poor contact. Stock accuracy was poor despite the long barrel, so I changed out the bucking and nub to a Prometheus soft type. This improved accuracy, but the hop-up was poor, even when set to full, simply because the nub was on its end and that made it too easily compressed. I replaced the nub with a piece of tubing from a ballpoint pen, and suddenly the hop-up became much more effective. This will wear down the bucking over time, however, so the bucking seems to be the part most likely to fail and the part that will need to be replaced most often.
In contrast, this is the best part of the gun. The box itself uses an interesting flywheel and counterweight system to advance BBs up the feed tube (a tightly coiled spring), and winds to provide tension when the motor isn't on. Basically, it works like a hi-cap that winds itself. It holds a maximum of some 3500 rounds in a big reservoir with a spring-loaded lid to prevent spillage. You can see in the next picture that it has a three-pin connector to connect to the gun, and on the side of the box is a three-position switch, marked Continuum, Off, and Auto. Auto constantly winds the box and shouldn't be used as it will quickly fill the tube and probably burn out the motor, so Continuum is the setting to use. It sets it so when the trigger is pulled, it winds. This setting, plus the use of the gun's battery, makes the battery work in tandem with the gun. It only makes noise when you want to make noise, it's only out of power when the gun's out of power, and if a stronger battery makes the gun shoot faster, it makes the box feed faster too. I noticed two problems, though. First was that the switch likes to get bumped by the battery (turning off the box), which is easily rectified by trimming it down. Second was that on continuum, the box winds enough to feed two or three BBs if you pull the trigger just long enough for a single shot. This winds up the box, and causes double feeding when the tension is high enough. I see this as the gun's way of reminding you that it's a support weapon, not a sniper rifle. Otherwise, though, the box feeds with an admirable consistency. I've yet to have any jams, which coupled with the durability of the gearbox means very long sustained bursts are viable.
One thing to note is that the battery is supposed to go in the satchel, wedged in next to the ammo box. This doesn't leave a lot of room. You can see my 9.6V 3600mAh battery, covered in ACU duct tape, at the right side of the box in the above picture. It's a very, very tight fit. The gun could use a 9.6V with a lower capacity and therefore smaller cells, but for a support gun this is clearly a less than optimal solution, and it would require several backups as well as constant checking. You can, however, put the battery underneath the ammo box, or even on top, but that does compromise the look and may make the wiring more difficult or the battery less secure in the satchel.
With a 9.6V battery fully charged, the ROF was measured at an even 15RPS (900RPM). FPS seems to be about 350 with .2s using a soda can for testing, and although I'll be getting a more accurate chronograph reading as soon as possible this performance seems to stack up pretty well to other reviews online. Accuracy was poor with the stock bucking, but with new bucking in place and the hop-up properly calibrated, it is dead accurate out to 75ft, to the point where as far as I could tell any inaccuracy was due to my inability to hold it steady while shoulder firing and not due to the gun. Something odd I noticed was that it shoots flat but high relative to the aim point, so I'm going to be taking some measurements to see if my sights are misaligned or wrongly set up. As mentioned earlier, it was able to fire off long bursts with no feeding trouble, and put a lot of rounds on target.
This gun is definitely capable as a support weapon. This is not due to a phenomenal muzzle velocity (although this can be altered thanks to its spring quick change), nor a high rate of fire, but rather through the capacity for sustained fire and the accuracy. When the M60 can put 15 rounds per second downrange continuously for ten seconds or more without pause, with enough accuracy to get them on target, and without risk of damaging your gearbox, the target has no choice but to get down. It doesn't need to stop to wind a hi-cap or swap out a midcap, nor will it jam during long periods of fire. However, if you want to tinker and improve, your options are somewhat limited. A faster motor or stronger batteries run the risk of compromising the durability of the internals, a stronger spring will lower the rate of fire, and the hop-up seems proprietary and therefore difficult to replace. The other major problem with this model is the size and bulk- it's definitely not a gun for smaller players, and is a serious commitment to role. Nonetheless, once the craptacular hop-up bucking is replaced, the performance is solid, with a good rate of fire and accuracy at longer range. The internals are built to last, I know a guy who has one who went through 80,000 rounds before needing internal overhaul. If you simply want to be a support gunner, then from a practicality standpoint, the Mk43 is a better option, as despite having a shorter barrel, it's much lighter, cheaper, and more ergonomic. But if you want to be screaming 'GET SOME' in your best Adam Baldwin impression or just be the guy lugging around a huge scary gun, this is definitely a solid choice.
In summary, the A&K M60 VN's two main attractions are its looks and reliability, which are both excellent. Accuracy and range are also good once the hop-up is fixed, and FPS and ROF are both decent. The primary drawbacks are the overall weight and bulk of the weapon. If you're serious about being a support gunner, and can handle the weight, this is a very good gun for the price.