The M60 can be used in both offensive and defensive configurations. In the offense, it provides a higher rate of fire, greater effective range, and uses a larger-caliber bullet than the standard U.S. assault rifle, the M16. In defensive use, the long-range, close defensive, and final protective fires delivered by the M60 form an integral part of a unit's battle plan.
The M60 is effective to 1,100 meters when firing at an area target and mounted on a tripod, to 800 meters when firing at an area target using the integral bipod, to 600 meters when firing at a point target, and to 200 meters when firing at a moving point target. U.S. Marine Corps doctrine holds that the M60 and other weapons in its class are capable of suppressive fire on area targets out to 1,500 meters if the gunner is sufficiently skilled.
The M60 is considered to be a "crew-served weapon" which means that it is usually operated by more than one soldier, in this case two - the gunner and an assistant. The gunner carries the weapon while the assistant carries a spare barrel and extra ammunition in linked belts. The basic ammunition load carried by the crew is 600 to 900 rounds, which at the maximum rate of fire allows for approximately two minutes of continuous firing. In many U.S. units that used the M60 as a squad automatic weapon in Vietnam, every soldier in the rifle squad would carry at least 200 linked rounds of ammunition for the M60, a spare barrel, or both, in addition to his own weapon and equipment.