World War II “Liberator” Pistol

by
posted on April 23, 2014
OG_Liberator.jpg

World War II “Liberator” Pistol

Gun: “Liberator,” .45 ACP, single-shot pistol

Condition: NRA Modern Fair (20 to 60 percent)

Approximate Value: $2,250 to $2,750

Perhaps no other handgun in U.S. history has been burdened with as many misconceptions about its post-production history as the “Liberator.” Conceived by the U.S. Joint Psychological Warfare Committee in early 1942 without any input from the armed services, production of 1 million Liberators was approved by Gen. Eisenhower and others. This new .45 ACP single-shot pistol would be code-named the “flare projector” (Model FP-45) or “flare signal pistol” to protect its real identity.

After representatives of U.S. Army Ordnance met with both the Inland and Guide Lamp Divisions of General Motors in Washington, D.C., on May 12, 1942, it was decided that Guide Lamp would be the better choice, since Inland was already deeply engaged in U.S. M1 Carbine production.

The FP-45 Liberator was designed to be made quickly and simply, with a useful range of less than 50 ft. It took longer to load one than to make it. All 23 unserialized parts were stamped from corrosion-resistant metal with the exception of the cocking knob, 4" non-rifled barrel and several other small parts. The complete pistol kit included a waxed cardboard box, 10 cartridges (headstamped FA-42 for Frankford Arsenal, 1942), an instruction diagram (no words) and a wooden shell-extractor dowel. It was completed at a cost of $2.10 each, while the Liberator itself was produced for only $1.73 per unit.

Although Liberator production went well, the distribution process was a disaster. Very few of these ever made it into Europe and certainly were never air-dropped in quantity or at all. Gen. MacArthur committed to 50,000 pistols, most of which were shipped to Australia in 1943 for redistribution to occupied islands. This left approximately 450,000 handguns remaining, which the Army no longer wanted, and they ended up in the custody of the newly formed OSS (Office of Strategic Services), which nicknamed this pistol the Liberator or “Woolworth” gun.

It is thought that more than a half-million Liberators were either melted or dumped into various oceans or seas after the war. Very few G.I.s or Allies in any World War II theater ever saw a Liberator, and if they did, many thought it was a cheap Japanese “suicide special,” since it was unmarked and not part of standard U.S. ordnance. As a result, remaining specimens are very hard to come by, and condition doesn’t seem to be much of a factor in pricing, as long as it’s original. Not that long ago, Liberators were selling for $750 to $1,000, but now prices typically start at $1,750 and can top $4,000 for a nice original pistol kit.

-S.P. Fjestad, Author & Publisher, Blue Book of Gun Values

Originally published March 2007.

Latest

Norinco 84S right-side view rifle semi-automatic gun wood stock white background
Norinco 84S right-side view rifle semi-automatic gun wood stock white background

I Have This Old Gun: Norinco 84S

The Norinco 84S presents the same general appearance as the Chinese-made 56S because it has the same overall length, is built around a stamped sheet-steel receiver and uses the same hooded front sight base, the same 45-degree gas block, the same fire-control components, the same wood furniture and the same high-polish blued finish.

Rifleman Q&A: Boattail Bullets And Barrel Erosion

In the recent spate of “long-range” boattail bullets presented to the market, I’ve observed the boattail’s degree of departure from the bullet’s cylindrical axis varies substantially from one design to another.

Quick Hits On 10 6.5 mm Cartridges

With so many 6.5 mm cartridges from which to choose, deciding on the one that’s right for you can be a challenge—so here’s a quick guide to help sort them out.

The Armed Citizen® Feb. 19, 2024

Read today's "The Armed Citizen" entry for real stories of law-abiding citizens, past and present, who used their firearms to save lives.

FBI Reportedly Harvesting Publicly Available "Weapon" Info

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is initiating Project Tyr, an effort to employ Amazon’s artificial intelligence-driven Rekognition cloud service to identify firearms—among other things—and the people associated with them.

Preview: Browning Backcountry Rifle Cover

Weighing in at a mere 5.29 ozs., the Backcountry Rifle Cover from Browning is a versatile must-have for any hunter hoping to protect a long gun from the elements.

Interests



Get the best of American Rifleman delivered to your inbox.