Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Liberator FP45.. up close and personal




"Close that door a moment, will you?" He said.

Seeing him unwrapping a vapor barrier bag, it was pretty clear he was about to show us a pistol of some kind. But... what slid from the bag and onto the padding of the blanket was something I never expected to see without thick glass between myself and history.

A FP-45 Liberator pistol.


Before that, I had seen exactly two of these in my whole life. One, decades ago, in a display case at the Army's Aberdeen proving grounds, and the other in a tiny gun shop in Indiana. The second one had been crushed in what I consider a clear example of all-to-common misguided and small minded government bureaucracy.


The 'Liberator' pistol is not fancy. In fact, it's hard to imagine a firearm less fancy than the FP-45, unless it's made from water pipe in a Prison workshop. The Liberator pistols, over a million of them, were made from crude sheet metal stampings, a blob of zinc casting, and a smoothbore barrel.

It's a single shot .45acp pistol with crude sights, a terrible trigger, no accuracy at all past a few yards, and a form not even mother could love.

Made by the Guidelamp Division of General Motors at the behest of the US Army over a few months in the Summer of 1942, the Liberator was never intended for use by our armed forces. Turned over to The Office of Strategic Services (OSS... the forerunner to the CIA) the Liberator had a more interesting future planned.

The idea was simple really, even if diabolical. The pistols would be air dropped by the hundreds of thousands into enemy occupied territory, where it was expected the Germans would never be able to recover all of them. Useless as a battlefield weapon, the issue of providing useful weapons to the enemy was moot. On the other hand... as a weapon of terror in the hands of the resistance, the Liberator might have had extraordinary value. A common civilian, alone with a conquering German soldier, suddenly produces the single shot .45 and drops the man in a surprise attack, afterwards making off with the soldiers weapons. Now the German Army is down one soldier, the resistance has one more battle rifle, and every other German soldier has to wonder.... will he be next?

I say might have had, as the OSS never carried out the plan to any degree. Aside from a few FP-45's finding their way to the Philippine resistance and perhaps China, the Liberators were not deployed as expected. They languished in warehouses, and after the war... almost all were destroyed.

The history of this ugly little $2.50 pistol, and it's extreme rarity, leads us to where we stand today. A lonely little Liberator will usually fetch $1200 to $1400 at auction. In its original cardboard box with a short wooden dowel for ejecting spent cartridges and the original 10 rounds of .45acp the pistol was supplied with, it will bring upwards of $2000. Add in the original cartoon instruction sheet printed in 1942, and the auction may reach $2500; 100 times what the pistol cost to produce in scarce wartime dollars. This places the Liberator on a collectable plateau normally occupied by rare Winchester rifles and early Colt 1911 pistols.

How it ended up in my friends hands is his story to tell. His allowing 'Ol Carteach to handle the unique and rare find... that's my story to share, and I do so in the images below.

There is one thing more. Looking at the small piece of history as it lay on the table where we shared breakfast, he wondered aloud if I might have any mild .45acp hand loads on hand. At the question, my jaw dropped just as it had when the pistol first fell into my view. He meant to fire the FP-45!

Yes, I had some mild cast lead hand loads running about 650fps. A few of them run through my Commander by my friend and I were deemed as mild enough to chance shooting in the Liberator. Somehow... I was elected to take the first shot.

Folks.... I was faced with an opportunity to do something most shooters could never even dream.... Hold in my hand and fire an actual piece of history. On the flip side of that coin... the Liberator pistol was intended for use in desperate times by desperate people. There was a very real chance it would simply explode in my hand on firing.

I didn't see that as much of a choice.

I apologize for the quality of the video. It was just two old guys facing a stunning personal moment in history. Here is what happened:




To my friend, all I can say is thank you. Thank you for an opportunity of a life time.

And now, some images of the Fp-45 Liberator to share.................




















25 comments:

That Guy said...

I am so jealous. There are no words to tell you how much I want to handle and fire one of those guns.

Guffaw in AZ said...

Thanks for sharing that.
gfa

drjim said...

Incredible!
You'll probably get 100k page views, and a call from the BATFE!

Sad to say, we may need something like this in the future.....

Rev. Paul said...

The history alone is nearly enough to produce tears. To actually hold & fire it ... wow.

DaddyBear said...

Wow, just wow.

davidc said...

Saw one displayed in a plexiglass case at a gunshow a few months ago !

Old NFO said...

Wow is right, congrats and thanks for posting the video and photos!!!

Carteach0 said...

Dr Jim, It will get less hits than either of of us might think it deserves. The Liberator is a fantastic piece of history, but not many in the shooting community are aware of it.

Yes folks... I agree. Just... wow!

Having a day to think about it, I look at the Liberator as perhaps a lowest common denominator. It's a very simple piece of American ingenuity. When tribal Pakistanis in the Kyber region can build decently working copies of main battle rifles using hand tools and coal forges, imagine what I can build in my garage using the tools just laying around?

drjim said...

I suppose you're right, but Google shows you as the 5th hit for "Liberator FP45" right now. I'm sure you'll get some traffic.

And I agree....Yankee Ingenuity at it's best.

ASM826 said...

Great video. Better write-up. What an opportunity. What an incredible opportunity. How many of those pistols were ever fired? Anywhere? How many have been fired in the last 50 years?

Instead of pictures in a magazine or locked behind glass in a museum, here's one in a citizen's hands, doing what it was designed to do.

Dick said...

Great video. Might be time to bring back these little guns. Drop about a million all over Iran and more over N. Korea.

David said...

I'm thinking we drop a few hundred of these near the Christian churches in Nigeria.

Graybeard said...

Here thanks to the link on ASM826's blog.

I have seen one of these once, at a gun show. Never touched it. If I recall, the owner wanted about $12 or $1400 for it. I could just admire it and let the history soak in a bit. It was not too long after I came across Mike Vanderboegh's article on them.

Brad_in_MA said...

There's a WW2 museum, a private collection really, just outside of Boston. It's open to the public, two days a week, by appt. In the clandestine section are two interesting arms . . . . a complete Liberator kit, box, stick, cartoon instruction, cartridges, etc., and a De Lisle Carbine also in .45acp.

If you have a half a day to burn, are travelling to Boston, look up WW2 Museum in Natick. It's worth every penny of the $25 donation for upkeep, as well as every second you spend in the place.

- Brad

Mortarnpistol said...

A very well written and interesting article! I would love to get a chance to shoot one of those!

Anonymous said...

You, sir, are in some rarefied company. I've never even SEEN one.

Accurate to 1 Minute of Nazi...

Antibubba

Long Island Mike said...

Sorry to post late on this, but I just got back from a gun show in Conn. One of the tables has 2 originals and a reproduction. I didn't know that anyone would build a repro so I started a conversation with seller. Turns out there is a guy in Kentucky that builds 5 or 6 a month. Here is his website...

http://www.vintageordnance.com/

Blooze said...

Wow, you sir are a lucky man. To be able to handle a piece of history like that must be quite the feeling. I do believe I'm a bit jealous. When I first saw the title of the article I thought it said FNP 45 at first glance. I sort of got excited as I just purchased an FNP 45 in matte stainless and I absolutely love the pistol. Aside from carrying 15+1 rounds of .45 ACP it's great shooter. After realizing what the article was actually about I really got excited. My grandfather was in WWII and had an old picture of himself holding one of these. I used to love listening to his war stories and this really brought back some memories. Thank you for sharing this sir.

Mark H. said...

I grew up in Anderson, Indiana, home of Guide Lamp Division of General Motors, where the Liberator was made. My favorite uncle lost a finger on a stamping machine, making the Liberator. Once I was old enough, and employed, I embarked on a quest to buy one for him - I felt like he earned one. I couldn't swing the price.

The "Grease Gun" was also made at Guide Lamp. 30 years ago, a neighbor who worked maintenance at Guide lamp was up in the superstructure, and came upon a bundle of nasty, dirty oily rags - with an M3 Grease Gun inside. Someone must have stashed it when it was made, and for whatever reason, never returned to pick it up. So it sat for decades. Some people have all the luck!

Guide started making M3's in 1942, some 650,000 of them.

Anonymous said...

The Tank Museum in Anderson, IN has info on the production of both the '
Grease Gun and the Liberator.
It was called a "Flare Projector" for secrecy, if I remember correctly.

Good place to visit if you like tanks and military history. When we were there the owner also had a tigress on the premises.

Anonymous said...

Mispoke in the post above.
The feline was a lioness.

Anonymous said...

"It was called a "Flare Projector" for secrecy, if I remember correctly."

It was. Even the engineering diagrams contained misleading parts callouts such as "tube" for "barrel" and "yoke" for "trigger".

Anonymous said...

Stanley H Mills, My dad made all of the dies to stamp out this gun.

mike said...

Wow, what an incredible opportunity. Glad you had some handloads!

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