The Heizer Defense DoubleTap got me thinking about the FP-45 Liberator, a gun that I’ve always been fascinated by. The FP-45 Liberator was a cheap single-shot pistol made during World War II. It was intended to be distributed in mass quantities to arm resistance forces in occupied countries, and as a psychological weapon against enemy morale.
The FP-45 was a crude, single-shot pistol designed to be cheaply and quickly mass produced. The Liberator had just 23 largely stamped and turned steel parts that were cheap and easy to manufacture. It fired a .45 caliber pistol cartridge from an unrifled barrel. Due to the unrifled barrel, it was intended for very close ambush (1-4 m). Its maximum effective range was only about 25 feet (less than 8 m). At longer range, the bullet would begin to tumble and stray off course. Because of the low quality, it was nicknamed the “Woolworth gun.”
The Inland Guide Lamp Manufacturing Division of the General Motors Corporation designed the gun in Dayton, Ohio. One million units were produced in 6 months in Anderson, Indiana. It’s as American as apple pie.
The Liberator was shipped in a cardboard box with 10 rounds of .45 ACP ammunition, a wooden dowel to remove the empty cartridge case, and an instruction sheet in comic strip form showing how to load and fire the weapon. Extra rounds of ammunition could be stored in the pistol grip.
After production, the Army turned the Liberators over to the OSS. A crude and clumsy weapon, the Liberator was never intended for front line service. It was originally intended as an insurgency weapon to be mass dropped behind enemy lines to resistance fighters in occupied territory. A resistance fighter was to recover the weapon, sneak up on an Axis occupier, kill or incapacitate him, and retrieve his weapons.
The weapon was valued as much for its psychological warfare effect as its actual field performance. It was believed that if vast quantities of these weapons could be delivered into Axis occupied territory, it would have a devastating effect on the morale of occupying troops. The plan was to drop the weapon in such great quantities that occupying forces could never capture or recover all the weapons. It was hoped that the thought of thousands of these unrecovered weapons potentially in the hands of the citizens of occupied countries would have a deleterious effect on enemy morale.
The Liberator (like all firearms) is a literal symbol of freedom from tyranny and oppression. It represents individual liberty and armed resistance. It embodies the same American spirit as the Statue of Liberty. Unfortunately, originals are rare and quite pricy, but they are being reproduced.
The Vintage Ordnance reproduction Liberator is very true to the original, with the largest deviation being the addition of a rifled barrel. The original delivered cost for the FP-45 was $2.40/unit (in 1942). The Vintage Ordnance Company reproduction FP-45 Liberator will cost you $500 alone, or $600 with authentic reproduction box, dowel, and instruction sheet. The blueprints are available online if you’d like to try to build one yourself.
The successor to the Liberator was the Deer Gun, a Vietnam-era single-shot pistol that fired a 9mm cartridge.