The Mystery of the Stamped Steel 1911

It appears that The Internet does not know everything after all! I have been trying to find solid information on this hideously ugly .45acp pistol prototype, but without much success. Apparently less than 20 prototypes were produced by the Guide Lamp Division of General Motors, but when and why? Conflicting stories emerge….

Stamped 1911

Internet Story Version 1: During World War Two, Guide Lamp developed the pistol alongside the FP-45 “Liberator” to drop behind enemy lines en masse. The idea was for freedom fighters to shoot German sentries (probably while they were doubled over in laughter after glimpsing the pistol) and thus grab some Nazi long guns and ammo. The project was canceled when it became clear that mass-produced Sten submachine guns would be the air-dropped weapon of choice. Using the Stens would reduce casualties for the French Resistance, and laughter for their German occupiers.

Internet Story Version 2: Guide Lamp started development post World War Two, in 1947. It seems the US Army, impressed with the simplicity of stamped 9mms recovered in Germany, wanted to explore stamped steel technology to produce a lighter weight sidearm. Guide Lamp’s M3 “grease gun” was already a great success in terms of weight and simplicity compared to the Thompson of the same caliber, and it was hoped that similar gains could be realized with a pistol. The project was deemed a failure when the stamped 1911 tipped the scales at 51 ounces (a standard G.I. 1911 coming in at only 39 ounces).

Sheet Metal 1911

The example in these photographs resides in the Springfield Armory Museum in Springfield, Massachusetts. All parts are stamped steel except for the barrel link, the barrel itself, the pins holding everything together, and a single piece of bar stock welded inside the back of the slide to act as a breech face. The rear sight doubles as a firing pin safety, rotating on a large rivet holding it into place on the rear of the slide. The pistol holds a standard military issue 7-round 1911 magazine.

Does anyone know an official designation for this pistol, or its true story? Tell us! Post in the comments below or email us with your arcane knowledge!


  • mikee

    What stamped 9 mm firearms recovered by US forces in Germany? Submachine guns – MP1008? Pistols……??

    • Bubba Fudd

      Check out the concept of “Volkspistole” guns.
      They were only prototypes and never reached the men fighting.
      But it was concept with the potential to seriously reduce the cost of sidearms.

      Here is one produced by Mauser.

      • 6677

        sadly that example has been plugged up 🙁
        Stupid british firearms laws.

      • 6677

        or not, I assumed that the screws in the gas vents on the barrel/chamber would have been part of the deactivation process and would have an accompanying plug in the rear of the chamber. It may well still be plugged as handguns in the UK are not normally legal but then it is a historical piece being kept at a firearms centre so an exception may have been granted.

      • Ian McCollum

        6677 – I can confirm that Mauser Volkspistole is still live, because I’m the guy holding it in that video. 🙂 It’s in the NFC Pattern Room collection, and most of the guns there are live.

  • bbmg

    The Internet told me this:

    “In The Book of Pistols and Revolvers by W.H.B. Smith, Part II addendum by Joseph E. Smith, right after the description of the Liberator, is a picture of that same gun, right down to the pattern of peeling on the museum label. The text says:

    A .45 automatic pistol was made principally of stampings with the exception of the link, a few pins, the barrel, and a piece of bar stock at the back of the slide to hold the firing pin and serve as the breech face. The rear sight, when rotated on its retaining rivet, acted as a safety by preventing the hammer from striking the firing pin. The barrel was a piece of seamless tubing around which was wrapped and welded a sleeve which served to reinforce the chamber and act as a barrel-locking shoulder mating with a pierced groove in the top of the slide. The lower part of this sleeve was elongated at the rear and drilled to form a mounting piece for the link and link pin.

    The standard Colt Model 1911 magazine was used with this pistol. Barrel length is 5 inches, overall length 8.6 inches, and weight 2.3 pounds. Only a few of these pistols were made, possibly because of the large British and Canadian production of 9mm Sten submachine guns which became the most common weapon in air drops to resistance movements in occupied Europe.”

  • Radioshack

    It’s both Ugly an Beutiful….

    …I want one.

  • BUG

    Similar to bbm’s comments, I was about to say a WW2 proto for Resistance use…………

  • Walther and Mauser also manufactured some experimental “Volkspistolen” or “Blechpistolen” from stampings.

    (The German WWI Jager-pistole was a similar concept)

  • Evan Jay

    Judging by the 1960’s CIA Deer Gun in the photo, I’d have to say your first theory is correct. The deer gun has designed for covert airdrops during the cold war, and it’s intended purpose was only to use the tiny gun to steal an enemy long gun. Interesting pistol, although the ergos look pretty awful and I cant imagine that folding rear sight/safety holding a zero worth a shit. Cool none the less though.

    • David / Sharpie

      That isn’t a deer gun, it’s an FP-45 Liberator.

      And neither were meant for long range shots.

  • Reg

    FYI The astonishingly new looking pistol in the lower left is a Liberator. It looks suspiciously as if it had been replated.

    The CIA Deer gun has a cast aluminum receiver w/ a screw in barrel. The Liberator made sense if you wanted a million. The Deer gun made sense if you wanted thousands or less.

  • RickH

    I want one too! Not sure if I really want to shoot it though! That trigger just cracks me up.

  • nirvana

    It was developed towards the end of WW2. It doesn’t have an official designation that I am aware of, and I had thought that only one was actually made, this being it.

    It was an effort by ordnance to produce a cheap pistol, or at least one that could be more easily mass produced, as the 1911 series is very labor and tool intensive to manufacture.

    An earlier attempt was the bronze 1911a1

  • Martin M

    One thing you need to understand about the ‘Liberator’ and it’s like are that these were dropped behind enemy lines in the hope that they would end up in the hands of resistance members. Being air dropped, they could just as easily be picked up by the enemy. A cheap and clunky weapon is of use to someone who has nothing, but is worthless to a standing army. Germans used captured Stens, and copied the design as the mp3008. Captured Liberators just made them laugh.

    • bbmg

      Well said.

      One has to wonder though, what can one do with a single shot “point blank only” pistol that you couldn’t do with more quietly with a knife or garotte, when it comes to suprising an enemy in order to obtain his superior weapon?

      • David/Sharpie

        A garrotte takes time, time you may not have.

        A knife requires arms distance, with an FP-45 you can be a few meters away.

      • JMD

        The same advantages provided by using any firearm instead of some other weapon. “God made man, but Sam Colt made us all equal” or somesuch.

        Using a pistol effectively doesn’t require the training and strength required to kill an enemy with a knife, etc., Even if a gun only gives a couple extra feet of distance, that’s still better than going hands-on.

      • Geodkyt


        Pretty girl walks up to lonely Soldat on guard duty. Leans in for a kiss, shoves Liberator into chest, pulls trigger. Now she has a 98K & 60 rounds of ammo.

        Multiple variations exist. . .

  • Can anyone else picture this in the next Fallout game?

  • Mike Knox

    Reminds me of that odd pistol in Blade Runner..

    • lumau

      it is the same of russian Steckin.

  • Nick Mew

    Can’t blame them for trying.

  • tincankilla

    Does anyone know if this concept has been applied recently? That is, reliable design, cheap and easy production, use of standard ammunition, etc. And I’m not talking about Hi Points and other cheap pistols, either, but true drop ’em, toss ’em type guns that’d cost less than $50 to make.

    It would certainly be interesting to design a 3D printable gun that wasn’t just a plastic copy of a standard steel firearm, but was a direct-to-printer design intended to mate with common metal parts (barrel, springs, etc) to form a gun not available anywhere for sale.

    Given the times we live in, it would be a true civic exercise.

    • nirvana

      The MAC 10 and MAC 11 series guns fall in to this category. The very early MAC prototypes actually had sheetmetal bolts that were filled with melted let to give them weight, making the barrel that only part that required specialized machinery to make.

    • Ian McCollum

      The problem with this plan is that there is really no such thing as a $50 gun in small quantities. The reason the Liberator cost next to nothing is because they made literally a million of them. That lets you reduce the per-unit cost of the R&D and tooling to virtually nothing. Make a few hundred of the same gun, and it gets really expensive (today a reproduction Liberator costs $600, and there’s not much profit in it at the price point). There just isn’t a market for that many disposable pistols below the Hi-Point cost level.

      • tincankilla

        You’re that economies of scale apply, which is why 3D printing is so interesting, as it drastically reduces capital investment. You don’t need to sent up an entire production line and train laborers, only get data files, plastics, and a printer (which you can prob rent). Mate the design with a cheaper steel components (whatever they are at the time) and you’re in business. Imagine a gun store where people simply come in, pick a design, buy some components, rent the 3D printers, and walk out with a gun they “made” on their own.

    • Crunkleross

      Sig for one has used the sheet metal slide with solid steel insert for the breach face and block.

    • Mastro63

      Either mass produce a nylon gun or 3D print something. Either would be cheaper than stamping.

  • NickB

    I bet high-point is going to make a pistol that’s an exact copy, and Glock is going to sue GM for design copy

  • Hut

    It’s story #1
    The full details are in John Minnery/Joe Ramo’s book “American Tools of Intrigue”

  • Jimbo

    Looks good. Trigger looks somewhat awkward.

  • CuriousG

    “Apparently less than 20 prototypes were produced …”

    You meant “FEWER than 20 prototypes”.

    I know this is a blog but we should still try with the language.

    • Nazi

    • Criticalthinkingiscritical

      “Try with the language.”


      Take your own advice buddy.

  • disqus_XVZsCBC2bq

    I don’t think it’s ugly

  • ChuckFinley

    I remember seeing one of those or some similar .45 pistol made of stampings at the West Point museum. The exhibit said that it was made late in WW II as a possible way to produce a service pistol with fewer resources than were required to make a 1911.