Sunday, June 10, 2012

The FP45 Liberator pistol, firing a piece of history

"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.................


Old NFO said...

Based on the 'design' it was to be used to kill a German or other, and get a better pistol. Glad you got to shoot it, and yes a TRUE piece of history!!!

Carteach said...

Not a post I mind repeating. Had one of 'those' days at the range, and I was happy to look back on a shooting the FP45 as a 'good moment'.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, thanks for running this.

Me, Not You