Scant evidence remains of an innovative weapon
by MATTHEW MOSS
Aside from a few U.S. Army Ordnance Corps photographs and several patents, there’s very little documentation for the 1930s-vintage T12 light machine gun. It’s an innovative, historical oddity … that, sadly, is largely lost to history.
The Ordnance Corps snapped a few photographs of the experimental T12 in late August 1934. The photos reveal a weapon with a locking action very similar to the locking action evident in Wiley Moore’s patent drawings for a machine gun. In other words, they’re probably the same gun.
Moore had filed his machine gun patent in April 1934. The U.S. finally granted the patent in December 1937.
The ’34 patent lists Moore’s residence as Wright Field, Ohio, which at the time was the Army Air Corps’ primary research-and-development center and training facility for armorers.
“The invention described herein may be manufactured and used by or for the government for governmental purposes, without the payment to me of any royalty thereon,” Moore’s patent offers, rather generously.
In 1941, a Col. Wiley Moore — probably the same Wiley Moore — was chief of the engineering group of the Army’s Small Arms Division. It’s likely that, at the time, he was still stationed at Wright Field. Later patents suggest he worked at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma.
Moore filed a number of other patents between 1933 and 1942, including one for a disintegrating cartridge belt that the T12 appears to have used. His other patents included improvements to the Browning Automatic Rifle that turned it into a belt-fed light machine gun.
Moore also filed two patents for a rifle grenade launcher, which appears to have influenced the M7 Grenade Launcher that the Army adopted in 1943. In the 1940s, Moore apparently concentrated his efforts on developing fuses, projectiles and high-explosive rounds, ultimately filing no fewer than a dozen patents.
An immediately noticeable difference between Moore’s light machine gun patent drawings and the Ordnance Corps’ photographs of the T12 is the grip configuration. The T12 in the photos features a pistol grip rather than the pivoting spade grip in the patent. The pivoting grip system must have proved impractical.
The T12 light machine gun was a conventional, gas-operated weapon with a gas piston below the barrel. The T12's action locked with a flapper system that Moore’s patent described as “a pair of locking levers adapted to swing outwardly into pockets or recesses in the side walls of the receiver when the bolt is in battery.”
Moore designed the T12’s feed mechanism to be quickly reversible, thus allowing its ammo belt to feed from the left or right. In theory, that made the weapon more flexible. The patent design also featured a non-reciprocating charging handle and an “automatic head-space adjustment.”
And that’s it. That’s all we know. The Army never adopted the T12, and knowledge and evidence of the weapon faded over time.