The Liberator Pistol

By Robert Dunn
AGI/GCA Video Producer,
AGI Pro Course Graduate, GCA Charter Member

Image07-p03I love firearms that have a rich history or a good story behind them. The Liberator pistol sure meets those qualifications! These one-shot pistols were produced during WWII and were dropped in mass quantities into occupied/enemy territory. The idea was that resistance fighters and civilians (who were disarmed) could use them to put one well placed shot into the dome of an enemy soldier. The soldier’s weapons could then be “liberated.”

This type of concealable insurgent weapon was used to good effect against the Axis forces both tactically and psychologically. With this concept in mind, it is no wonder that the pistol’s conception came by way of the US Army Joint Psychological Committee.


The Liberator was designed by the Inland Guide Lamp Manufacturing division of General Motors in 1942, and was designated the FP-45 (Flare Projector Caliber .45). The reason for calling it a Flare Projector was to mask the true intention of this ominous little firearm while it was being manufactured.

With such cunning part names as the yoke (the trigger), the control rod (the firing pin), and the tube (the barrel) special agents and spies were baffled when these guns didn’t fire a flare but packed the punch of the .45 ACP cartridge. Just three hundred workers from a manufacturing plant in Anderson, Indiana cranked out over a million of these pistols in a mere six months!

Though some of these guns were used in France, most of the pistols were used by the Chinese and sent to the Philippines. The original Liberators can still be found online and the prices are between $2,000 and $5,000 depending on the condition and what other accessories still accompany the gun. For instance, a top dollar Liberator can be purchased with its original paraffin coated box, the wooden dowel for unloading and an instruction sheet (the originals are watermarked).

Image09-p03It is not recommended that you fire one of these olds guns. For one thing it is a historical relic and there simply aren’t that many of these veterans around. Another reason is that the chamber is of a conical design, which is not well suited for the pressures of the .45 ACP round.

Many of the original guns have excessive headspace as well. You never know how many rounds have been fired out of one of these guns. There were an unknown number of test shots fired at the factory as well as the shots fired by previous owners. If you add up all of the above factors, it’s best to let these old guys rest and be appreciated for the time they have already served. If you really want to fire an FP-45, buy a replica from Vintage Ordnance Company.

I have always wanted to see one of these guns, and in my fevered dreams, actually fire one! Well, one of the benefits of going to the gun range with Bob Dunlap is getting to shoot some really interesting guns! Bob had just received his FP-45 from Vintage Ordnance and he had not fired it yet. My eyes were popping out of my head when Bob pulled out a Liberator and asked me if I wanted to fire it! Bob actually let me fire it first!

The recoil was not as stout as I thought it would be, although I wouldn’t want to shoot very many rounds successively. Of course this pistol was designed for a specific purpose. It was made to be shot a few times to procure some better firearms and it could be cheaply and rapidly manufactured.

The Liberator was originally sent out with 10 rounds of ammo that could be stored in the grip area of the pistol. However, if stealth is your goal, those rounds rattling around in the steel grip is like a belled cat trying catch a mouse. If you have less than ten rounds in the grip, technically, a primer could be touched off under the recoil of this light pistol.

Image10-p04The Vintage Ordnance FP-45 differs from the original guns in some good ways! The replica has a rifled barrel and the orig-inals were smooth bore. Chamber tolerances are tighter and headspace issues have been resolved in the barrel. The greater strength of the new pistol is achieved by using 1050 medium carbon cold rolled steel for the barrel, tube strap (breech ring), cover slide (breech block), and a denser Zinc alloy for the cocking piece.

The Liberator pistol has such an interesting history.  It was a “purpose built” weapon that could be made quickly and easily, an almost  disposable weapon. Maybe that is why so few of the  originals still exist.  What a shame!

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