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Shooting the Liberator Pistol

Discussion in 'Handguns: General Discussion' started by Jbar4Ranch, Dec 23, 2005.

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  1. Jbar4Ranch

    Jbar4Ranch Member

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    First, a brief history lesson.
    The Liberator pistol was a top secret program in 1942 designed to get a large number of cheap guns into the hands of resistance groups in Nazi occupied territories in a very short period of time. The guns were referred to as the model FP-45, which stood for Flare Pistol or Flare Projector, Model 45. Even drawings and blueprints had code terms for the various parts. The barrel was called the tube, the trigger was called the yoke, the trigger guard/barrel support/front sight assembly was called the spanner, etc. No numbers, or words were stamped on them anywhere, and the only letters anywhere with the unit was the word "INSTRUCTIONS" stamped on the back of the picture book instruction set. They were contracted to be made by a division of General Motors, Inland Guide Lamp, at a cost to the government of $2.10 per unit, which included ten rounds of .45acp, and were to be air dropped to resistance groups all over Europe. GM knew nothing about guns, but they knew how to make inexpensive metal stampings and rivet them together into a working machine. The idea was two-fold; One was simply the psychological effect on the Germans finding large numbers of complete weapons systems being air dropped into their midst to be used against them. The other of course was to take a few practice shots to learn the characteristics, then use it to shoot your favorite neighborhood Nazi at point blank range, and take his weapon(s). In actual use, it would definitely have been a one shot proposition, you either succeeded with your first shot, or you were dead. About a million were made over a period of eleven weeks, which comes out to something like one complete pistol every six seconds or so, twenty four hours a day, for eleven weeks. It's often said that it takes longer to reload a Liberator than it took to make one. Even for as short a time as they were made, there are at least five distinct variations known, including a prototype two shot version that had a sliding breech block which held two rounds. Very few, perhaps none, were ever dropped in Nazi occupied Europe, but a few were dropped in the Phillipines and China. Most were scrapped after the war, and I understand a great number of them ended up at the bottom of the English Channel and in the north Atlantic along with various other unwanted war surplus materials. I have yet to see an estimate of how many survived, but judging by how many I've seen in my life (3, including this one), I'd say *not very damn many*. I've seen more Ruger Hawkeyes, and there were only 3300 of those made. The original cardboard boxes are extremely rare today, and can easily bring as much as the gun does. Although several opened boxes exist in various collections and museums, there is only one known example of a Liberator pistol still in its original sealed box.

    Now, let's step out on my range.
    This specimen shows signs of having been fired before, so I wasn't worried about depreciating it by shooting it a few times. First off was a thorough examination of the old gal to make sure she'd hold together. There are two holes in the frame, one on each side, that must either be alignment holes for the stamping press, or jig holes for assembly. Using a jeweler's loupe and a "grain of rice" light bulb inserted through one of the holes, I could see the sear surfaces quite plainly and they looked to be in excellent condition, as did the main spring and control rod. The reprint blueprints I have spec the sear and trigger to be C.R.L. (Cold Rolled Steel), and case hardened. There didn't appear to be any defects in the bore, and although I didn't mic or slug the barrel, a 230 grain FMJ bullet could be pushed through with hand pressure only. It was a tight fit, and took some effort, but there was no need to pound it through with anything. A week ago I loaded up some rounds consisting of a standard garden variety 200 grain cast SWC sized to .452" over 3.5 grains of IMR Trail Boss and primed with a... ? Yep, a ? There's no reason that I would have used anything but a standard pistol primer, but what I wrote on the box was CCI-200, which is a large rifle primer. Hmmmm. They don't appear to be high, so I think I just made a typo in my notes, but maybe not, more on that later on.
    First I "sighted in". (OK, it's a staged shot, play along)
    122597659.jpg

    Next, I scouted out the hamlet and buddied up to one of the local Nazi occupiers, one Herr Rolf. A nice kid really, too bad he got caught up in this mess.
    122597674.jpg

    Uh oh... well, Herr Rolf, I seem to have missed all five times, can we still be friends?
    122597686.jpg
    The distance was twenty feet, and if I had I taken a couple of practice shots in the basement of our resistance group's ghetto apartment before I went out on the street to meet up with Herr Rolf, I could have placed one right in his ear from my hiding spot behind the garbage can, and would still be alive today to tell this story.
    The five shot group measures about 1¾", center to center, and is slightly to the left and about a foot high. The bullets showed no signs of tumbling at this range. Three of the five rounds didn't go bang the first time... CCI primers are notorious for being hard, and it's also possible that I mistakenly used rifle primers. (When yer hunting Nazis, you just load whatcha got!)

    Although it's a smooth bore, hence no torque, all five shots resulted in the cocking block rebounding on recoil, which was expected, but it also turned to the right as shown. A common complaint among those that have shot these things is that the web of your hand gets pinched between the cocking block and the frame on recoil, which usually draws blood. Learning from other's mistakes, I held a little lower on the grip to avoid this.
    122597700.jpg

    When the rounds did go off, the firing pin left an impressive dent in the primer, even perforating one. This could just as well be due to the low pressure load not expanding and gripping the chamber and allowing the case to be forced back onto it too. The three that didn't go bang the first time around did not have much of a dent in them the first time. All five empties fell out easily with the push of a dowel.
    122597715.jpg
    122597728.jpg

    If this specimen is any indication of Liberators as a whole, it would have been a very effective weapon for its intended purpose. Fascinating stuff, history is.
     
  2. RON in PA

    RON in PA Member

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    Very interesting thread, often wondered how those Rube Goldberg contraptions worked. Of course the right way to use them is from a range of 6", into the bad guy,s neck. Are you a big guy, the reason I ask is because the Liberator looks almost tiny in your hands.

    Thanks.
     
  3. Jbar4Ranch

    Jbar4Ranch Member

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    I'm about 6' 4" and up to darn near 300 pounds from the 270 I was early in the summer. Damn holidays anyway.

    The striker mechanism in these is interesting. It took me a long time studying the reprint design drawings before I fully understood how it worked. When the pistol is cocked, it's really only half-cocked, much like the system Glock uses. As the trigger is squeezed, the striker is drawn back about an additional eighth of an inch before the trigger and striker sear slip over each other and disengage, dropping the striker on the primer. I've heard a lot of folks say that they can fire "just by squeezing the grip the wrong way". Well people, it just ain't gonna happen. If the sear surfaces are in good condition, it CANNOT fire without the trigger being squeezed and the striker being pushed back another eighth inch to disengage.
     
  4. Peter M. Eick

    Peter M. Eick Member

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    Amazing. This is the first time I have read about one being shot. I had read that millions (???) of them were dumped in the ocean at the end of WWII. To bad. They were a great deal of history!
     
  5. whm1974

    whm1974 member

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    Are these pistols NFA items?

    -Bill
     
  6. Jbar4Ranch

    Jbar4Ranch Member

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    They were, but ATF has exempted the FP-45 Liberator and made it a C&R.
     
  7. Onmilo

    Onmilo Member

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    Very cool post.
    I have always been under the impression the 'Liberator' was meant to be used by sneaking up on the target, screwing the 'Liberator' into his ear and blasting him up close and personal, then you could 'Liberate' whatever service weapon he might be carrying for your personal use.

    From what I understand, it was just as effective as the knife but easier to use for the squeamish.
    Since folks usually make a commotion when somebody is sticking or slicing the life out of them, the single blast of the Liberator wasn't any great detriment either.
     
  8. Jbar4Ranch

    Jbar4Ranch Member

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    Correct, it was a "pointing range" or contact weapon. Its optimal range would be close enough that the sights need not be used, maybe contact to three feet or so. As my extremely limited five shot test showed, it was capable of decent accuracy out to at least twenty feet though, but hopefully the shooter would take a few practice shots beforehand so he knew where to hold. Now that I know where to hold, I could put the sights on Rolf's shoulder and take a head shot at twenty feet.
     
  9. esheato

    esheato Member

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    Awesome thread. Thanks for sharing.

    Ed
     
  10. Jbar4Ranch

    Jbar4Ranch Member

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    I also hereby lay claim to the title of "The Last Person on the Planet to Shoot a Liberator Pistol". :D
     
  11. Dave Markowitz

    Dave Markowitz Member

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    Wow! Great thread, thanks for sharing.
     
  12. KriegHund

    KriegHund Member

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    That was entertaining and informative :D Interesting weapons...
     
  13. Dienekes

    Dienekes Member

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    Very interesting. I have known about them for many years; seen one; and that's about it. Thanks for the post.

    The .22 caliber Sheridan "Nockabout" single shot pistol of the late 1950s is sort of a civilian descendant. Almost makes you wonder if there would be a market for this sort of thing today. Not all guns need to cost $500 plus...
     
  14. PlayTheAces

    PlayTheAces Member

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    An excellent post! I've only seen one Liberator, years back. Think I'd have been a bit nervous lighting one off.

    Thanks for sharing.
     
  15. 7.62x54r

    7.62x54r Member

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    I have heard of them and saw pictures of them,I have never seen any one shoot one.Thanks for the pictures.:evil:
     
  16. trickyasafox

    trickyasafox Member

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    really interesting read
     
  17. MCgunner

    MCgunner Member

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    Interesting. I think if I ws French resistance, I'd rather have a knife. Since the Liberator is apparently a contact weapon, the knife makes less noise. :rolleyes: But, then, I wouldn't even give the French a friggin' knife! Just something to hurt themselves with as they're retreating. ;)
     
  18. whm1974

    whm1974 member

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    That was awful nice of them. What happen a few congresscritters got caught with them.

    -Bill
     
  19. Sactown

    Sactown Member

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    Great and interesting report. I too, always thought that the Liberator was meant to used up close, really close, like sneak up and put the barrel up to the back of some Krautboy's nogin and BAMO!!! Then you grab whatever Krautboy is carrying.
     
  20. rick_reno

    rick_reno member

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    Very interesting report - thanks for posting it. I've read of these, never seen one in use (even in pictures). Thanks again.
     
  21. 444

    444 Member

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    Thank you. That was very interesting.
    If you had been shooting for COM, I think you would have been OK.
    How was the trigger ? Keep in mind that the person using one of those for real wouldn't have been shooting off a bench: the odds are, they didn't have much experience with firearms either. I would think that the foot high elevation would have made up for a healthy trigger mash, and that's only if they were using the sights to begin with.
    I used to see those all the time, years ago, at gun shows. In fact, I mentioned to someone within the last year that I never see them anymore. I had thought about buying one, but again, haven't seen one for a long time now. I certainly never read the results of firing one on paper before.
     
  22. justsurvivingincalifornia

    justsurvivingincalifornia Member

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    The Liberator was built to be the ultimate junk-gun. A single shot 45acp that would be absolutely useless if captured by the Germans. It was to be used by a French civilian to shoot one German solider with hope of capture his gun. Knives, well sure the French had knives but the single shot would them a slight edge.

    Who here would take a knife to a gunfight?

    This is a point that should be repeated
    "ANY GUN IS BETTER THAN NO GUN".
     
  23. MCgunner

    MCgunner Member

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    I wouldn't take a Liberator to a gun fight, either. :neener:
     
  24. cxm

    cxm Member

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    War Reserve Stocks of Liberators

    A good friend who was stationed with me in Germany in the mid-1970s now lives in the area.

    The other night we were talking about odd .45 pistols. He recalled seeing pallets of Liberator pistols in war reserve storage near Giessen. He was not sure how many were in the bunkers, but a lot of them...apparently for issue to the Germans in the event the Russians had come over the border.

    Happily we never had to do that... I doubt there would have been time to pass them out to any resistance groups.

    I suppose they have all been destroyed by now.

    FWIW

    Chuck
     
  25. Maddock

    Maddock Member

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    Thanks

    Thanks for the review. I saw one in a display years ago and have seen a number of pictures, but never heard from anyone who had even handled one, let alone fired one.
     
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