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Old December 22, 2005, 03:57 PM   #1
Jbar4Ranch
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Shooting the Liberator Pistol

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 and hooked to a D cell battery, 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)


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.


Uh oh... well, Herr Rolf, as long as I missed all five times, can't we still be friends?

The distance was twenty feet, and had I taken a couple of practice shots in the basement of our resistance fighter's ghetto apartment before I went out on the street to meet up with Herr Rolf, I could easily have placed one right in his ear from my hiding spot behind the garbage can. 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. (Maybe 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.


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.



If this specimen is any indication of Liberators as a whole, it would have been a very effective pistol for its intended purpose.
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Old December 22, 2005, 04:42 PM   #2
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Thanks for sharing the report. It's interesting to know those Liberators shoot a foot high at 20 feet. I wonder how many resistance fighters missed a close head shot? With the 230-grain ball, it would group even higher wouldn't it?
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Old December 22, 2005, 05:06 PM   #3
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Thanks Jbar, great report.

Man, I wished I lived closer to you, would love to just get to hold that piece of History (and would beg of course to fire it at least one time ).

Wayne
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Old December 22, 2005, 05:34 PM   #4
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Nice report, Jbar!

What is the history behind this gun? Where and when was it manufactured? I would like to learn a little bit about this interesting gun.

And it looks like a hoot to shoot! What was the recoil like?
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Old December 22, 2005, 05:39 PM   #5
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Nice, These WWII guns were cheaply mass produced then air-dropped over occupied areas for use by resistance fighters. They were mean to be used at contact distances to kill an enemy so you could get his gun. Be carefull with that though, I have heard they can be fired just by pressing on the slide!
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Old December 22, 2005, 05:46 PM   #6
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...uh.... slide?

I think you're thinking of the later Nambus, can't recall the number.
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Old December 22, 2005, 06:16 PM   #7
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Customize

Well now all you gotta do is send it out to one of the custom 45 shops, have them put on the lastest black teflon coating, a beavertail to prevent that pinch, a set of rare diamond checked cocobolo grips, tritium adjustable sights, useless serrations, and a trigger job. Then it will be on the cover of the trendy gun mags as the ultimate pocket size .45 combat pistol! You can overlook the inconvenience of the ammo capacity, accuracy, and cocking system, cause it will look so cool!
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Old December 22, 2005, 06:34 PM   #8
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They were made by a division of General Motors, Inland Guide Lamp, in 1942, and were intended to be air dropped to resistance groups in occupied territories. Ten rounds were supplied in the box and the idea 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 have definitely 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. Mine is the most common variation, and there is evidence that it's been shot before, which is why I wasn't worried about depreciating it any by firing it five times. 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 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. Although several original opened boxes exist in various collections and museums, there is only one known example of a Liberator pistol still in its original sealed box.

Fascinating stuff, history is.
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Old December 22, 2005, 06:38 PM   #9
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Great report! I am sure there are not too many people (not from ww2) that can say they have shot one!
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Old December 22, 2005, 06:56 PM   #10
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When was the last time anyone saw one on the open market? And what did it bring ???
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Old December 22, 2005, 07:04 PM   #11
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Quote:
..uh.... slide?
well, the frame anyway
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Old December 22, 2005, 07:11 PM   #12
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So how was the recoil? What does it weigh?

Will it be the prototype for the Kel-Tec P4ty-Five?
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Old December 22, 2005, 07:22 PM   #13
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Thank you for that report and the photographs of the target. I guess it's a point-blank shove in the gut and fire type weapon.
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Old December 22, 2005, 11:10 PM   #14
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Very interesting. Thanks.

I saw one of these Liberators at a gun show in S. Florida a few years ago. I don't remember what the asking price was, but I bet it was significantly steep for what the gun really is.


Any info on the legality/practicality of actually making these NOWadays? Would they be legal to manufacture and sell, domestically? (I'm pretty sure they could not earn enough BATF "points" to earn import...)

I think it would be pretty cool to "pre-arm" a "resistance" for the U.S. by making a whole load of these and distributing them just in case we ever become "occupied" like Europe did.


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Old December 22, 2005, 11:36 PM   #15
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Nowdays, it would undoubtably be cheaper to buy a trainload of $99 Hi-Point 9mm's.
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Old December 22, 2005, 11:59 PM   #16
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When was the last time anyone saw one on the open market? And what did it bring ???
I've seen at least six that I can think of offhand that I've seen listed for sale over the past six months to a year. The prices ranged from around $1700 to $2250 on five of them, and almost four thousand on the sixth because it had all its original accoutrements; Gun, outer box, inner box, ten rounds of '42 FA factory ammo, cardboard ammo box, instructions, ejector dowel, and spacer block. The spacer block was just a small block of wood that kept things in place inside the box.

Quote:
So how was the recoil? What does it weigh?
I haven't weighed mine, but the specs say 16 oz. Recoil is somewhat unpleasant with standard 230 grain FMJ, but I was using mild, low-pressure reloads with Trail Boss and a 200 grain cast lead bullet and it wasn't bad at all. 5.5 grains is IMR's recommended load with a 200 grain lead bullet, and I was using 3.5 grains.

Quote:
Any info on the legality/practicality of actually making these NOWadays? Would they be legal to manufacture and sell, domestically?
No. Well, yes, conditionally, but the price and licensing would be prohibitive, and there would be little or no market for it as it's a smooth bore and that would make it AOW. ATF has exempted the originals and added them to the C&R list.
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Old December 23, 2005, 01:01 AM   #17
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Very very cool report! You answered a lot of questions I've always wondered about this one. Thank you!
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Old December 23, 2005, 01:46 AM   #18
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Thanks for sharing the report. It's interesting to know those Liberators shoot a foot high at 20 feet. I wonder how many resistance fighters missed a close head shot? With the 230-grain ball, it would group even higher wouldn't it?
I think it's highly unlikely that these things were assembled uniformly enough that they all displayed similar sighting and point of impact characteristics. The one six seconds ahead of this one might have printed a foot low and two feet right and the one six seconds behind it might have been dead on. Who knows. All things being equal, the heavier boolit is going to hit higher, but I was loaded to a greatly reduced velocity, so... I'd say it's likely that the rule of thumb would be reversed in this case, and the lighter boolit would hit higher due to the considerably lower velocity. IMR's recommended load with Trail Boss in the .45acp with a 200 grain lead bullet is 5.5 grains, and I used 3.5. Protocol was for the resistance fighter to practice with maybe half of the ten rounds the pistol was packaged with to learn its sighting and point of impact characteristics, so when it came down to the one that counted, he had a good idea of where to hold if he couldn't get close enough to make a contact shot.
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Old February 10, 2009, 11:00 PM   #19
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liberator

hello everyone a frien of mine in prince george has a liberator in as new condition and by the way it is for sale if you are interested check out his web site armco machine and plating
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Old February 10, 2009, 11:12 PM   #20
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Excellent, thank you... Milspec
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Old February 10, 2009, 11:28 PM   #21
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A very FUN and interesting range report -----many Thanks -- GF123
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Old February 11, 2009, 12:15 AM   #22
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In actual use, it would have definitely 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.
The Liberator program was initiated by the Army and later became an OSS project that was supposed to be coordinated with the French underground. The goal was to drop the pistols into France no more than 3 days before D-Day. The guns would allow partisans to obtain rifles and ammo from German troops to aid in disrupting Germany's effort to repel the invasion. But by late '43, it was evident from reports that the resistance fighters were having little trouble obtaining arms - from the Germans themselves.

FP-45 "Flare Projector" Liberator Pistol with instruction sheet

Liberators were never dropped en masse over Europe. Instead, after D-Day, they were transported to the Pacific Theatre (PTO) to support MacArthur's upcoming return to the Philippines (Oct '44). Oddly enough, secrecy was the downfall of the Liberator program. The invasion was planned and US commanders knew it; the Japanese knew an invasion was just a month to six weeks away; even the Philippinos knew it was coming. But planners worried that by air-dropping Liberators into the densely forrested islands 48 hours before the invasion, the enemy would not be taken by surprise.

After the Liberation of the Philippines, the Liberator pistols had no real further value. They were deemed unnecessary and ships were ordered to dump them off shore of the islands. Most likely the few surviving specimens were those that were (ironically) "Liberated" from cargo ships inventories by individual sailors. There are reports that some Liberators made their way to China, but that documentation is sketchy.

Re: Manufacturing
I've heard that the GM guide lamp division assembled one pistol every 6.6 seconds. the 23 parts were fabricated out of stampings, barrels cut and the parts organized for assembly, then one gun was produced about every 6.6 seconds, mostly by women employed at the plant. The workers in the plant were told the name of the weapon..."Flare Projector" Caliber .45 (FP-45) as a security measure.

Planned Use:
According to reports compiled by the OSS, French citizens often had personal encounters with German occupiers. Frequently these were Identity Checks, French "servants" of occupiers and others. With the relatively small, flat size of the Liberator, the general idea was to get as close to a soldier as possible and shoot him to get his rifle or pistol and ammo. Once suitable arms were taken, the pistol could be passed on to another person if needed to repeat the process (or to be the surprise gun, backed up by others using captured Wehrmacht guns).

Re: Variants
In the 1960's, another "Liberator" type pistol was made for the CIA. It was not made in the same mass production but one thousand were made with a 16-page instruction book written in Vietnamese.

AMF "Deer Gun" - 1960's Liberator Replacement Pistol

According to an article by David Truby, the Deer Gun was designed by Russell J. Moure, Chief Engineer for American Machine & Foundry's Special Firearms Division, at the request of the CIA. His mission was to design a replacement for the Liberator Pistol. The cost of the pistol was to be under $4.00. After examining Moure's prototype the CIA ordered 1,000 pistols and gave AMF a development contract for $300,000.00. The article says only 1000 pistols were made in the 1962-1963 time frame. This puts the cost at $300.00 each. Moure said that if they had received additional contracts the cost could have been $3.95 each. There are two possible reasons in the article for the name Deer Gun. One does not check out and the other is an opinion, made by an individual. It has been estimated by Keith Melton that about 15 to 20 of these pistols have survived.
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Old February 11, 2009, 09:01 AM   #23
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A gov't zip gun basically. I would think you could make one in your own garage if you could find the proper sized tubing for a barrel. Or perhaps use that old shot out barrel in your junk box. (If you would want to for some reason. I guess if you wanted to you already thought of it.) I say it is just a museum piece. I would not pay a huge sum for something like that, myself. Just happy enough to see one online or in a museum, and the test fire report is good enough for me, I don't need to try it myself. Might compare it to something like a 19th century smoothbore pocket derringer. Those were used as last ditch defense or such and seemed effective for the job, even though much less powerful and harder to load.
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Old February 11, 2009, 09:16 AM   #24
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Great post!
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Old February 11, 2009, 09:21 AM   #25
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Thanks for a great post, never has any success finding one ( without giving my 1st born LOL). Love to see these forgotten by many, pieces of history. Maybe I'll get lucky one day and run up on a deal.
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