Does anyone remember - "The Liberator" ?

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Liberator Pistol FP-45

Peter Cronhelm

Sarcastically referred to as the "Woolworth Gun", the Liberator Pistol's actual name was the "Flare Projector" Caliber .45 (FP-45). A single-shot pistol, the Liberator was designed to be scattered about occupied Europe to be used by Resistance groups as disposable assassination weapons or to enable resisters to kill a German soldier and then take his weapon.

The Liberator even had a role in psychological warfare as it was known that German soldiers would find the guns all over the countryside and immediately recognize that they would become the targets of determined resisters.

There is little agreement between Historians as to the origins and use of the Liberator Pistol. While it appears in the classified OSS weapons catalog, there is little proof that the pistols were ever dropped into occupied Europe in large quantities although they were certainly in use in occupied France. There is more evidence that the Liberator played a significant role in the hands of Philippine guerillas against the Japanese.

The Liberator is believed to have been created and produced by the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS), later to become the CIA. Even the name of the gun is subject to argument. One source claims that the name Liberator was coined after the gun was no longer confidential but the June 1944 OSS Weapons Catalog, which is marked "Confidential" lists this gun under the name "Liberator."

The Liberator was produced by the Guide Lamp Division of General Motors over a six-month period of 1942. Guide Lamp didn't know anything about making pistols, but they knew a lot about making things out of sheet metal, and that's exactly how the Liberator was made. The production cost was $2.10 each.

Approximately one million pistols were produced in only eleven weeks, meaning that 300 workers produced a pistol with 23 parts every 6.6 seconds, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 11 weeks. This is the only pistol that could be made faster than it could be loaded, which takes about 10 seconds.

The pistol was packed in a paraffin-coated cardboard box with ten rounds of .45 ACP ammunition, a wooden stick for poking out empties and a set of graphic instructions. For collectors the "comic-strip" instruction sheet and the paperboard shipping box are actually many times more valuable than the guns themselves. As a result fakes are more often found in the marketplace than the genuine item.

The pistol looks like something out of a low-budget spy movie. It is manually operated with a sliding breech and a hand-cocked striker. After a shot is fired and the breech opened, the empty case was ejected by poking the supplied wooden stick (or anything suitable) down the barrel. The butt is hollow, with a sliding base-plate, to store the extra ammunition.

Stupidly, most Liberators were destroyed after the war. As a result, when the CIA wanted something similar for use in Vietnam, they had to design and build a replacement, known as the "Deer Gun." (right) Apparently little to no learning goes on at the CIA because most Deer Guns were also destroyed after the war. As a result Deer Guns are much less common than Liberators.

Blue Book lists the Liberator's value in the US at $450 to $1000 depending upon condition. The author has seen Liberators selling from $600-$750 in Canada.

Liberator Pistol Courtesy of Mr. Rob Harrison.

OSS Special Weapons & Equipment, H Keith Melton, 1991.
The CIA Deer Gun in Vietnam, Small Arms Review, Jan 2003.
Blue Book Publications,
The Liberator Pistol, Ralph Hagan, 1996.







Copyright 2003 National Firearms Association