Forgotten Weapons Shoots The Liberator, And It Looks Painful

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One of the more interesting plans to provide weapons to the irregulars and resistance fighters during World War II involved airdropping around a million crudely made single shot pistols over occupied territory. Most shooters and history buffs are rather familiar with the FP-45 Liberator but have never shot one. Our friends Ian and Karl at Forgotten Weapons take a reproduction out to the range for some first shots that look painful as all get out.

They are shooting a reproduction Liberator with a rifled barrel made by Vintage Ordnance, not one of the original production guns that featured a smooth bore for cost savings. After shooting with Ian when he was in town a while back, I found him to be reasonably good with a firearm. Watching him take shot after shot with the Liberator and miss was enough for my to wrap my head around how crude and near useless the Liberator design was. Karl even had a hell of a time trying to hit their steel German, rather unusual seeing as Karl typically proves to be the better shooter of the two.

The surprising part and something I hadn’t thought about before was the recoil generated by the little gun. During the slow motion shots, you can see exactly how flippy the small steel pistol is. Both Ian and Karl’s painful howls make me want to shoot a Liberator once, and only once.

Check out Vintage Ordnance for more info on their reproduction Liberators and check Ian and Karl’s video out below.



Patrick R

Patrick is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and works in the shooting sports industry. He is an avid recreational shooter and a verified gun nerd. With a lifelong passion for shooting, he has a love for all types of firearms, especially handguns and the AR-15 platform. Patrick may be contacted at tfbpatrick@gmail.com.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


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  • MrFN

    I always forgot, and now I won’t ever again. That little steel devil is chambered in .45 ACP.

    Why. That just sucks. It probably doesn’t even weigh 25 oz. Thanks to these guys for showing what firing one is like.

  • Black Dots

    Not to worry. If anything goes really wrong, Gun Jesus can respawn. It just take 3 days, is all.

  • A.WChuck

    1. Shoot Liberator
    2. Collect German gun
    3. …
    4. Profit

    These were meant as contact or near contact weapons. Once the enemy was down, you collected their very much better weapon.

    • GUNxSPECTRE

      He states as such during his Forgotten Weapons videos on the Liberator.

      This video seems to be more to show how utterly awful the Liberator is as a “ranged” weapon. Seeing how German troops virtually never go anywhere alone, you’d probably have to get two or more Resistance Buddies to go with you to do simultaneous kills. Too bad it isn’t suppressed either.

      And the last point… they probably don’t want to shoot at steel at point-blank range. I think these guys like to get off the range with their hands and faces without much metal imbedded.

    • Avery

      Considering the recoil and horrible accuracy, if you’re getting that close, you’re maybe better off with a knife, garrote, machete, or a hatchet.

      • A.WChuck

        I think we can see why they were never used operationally. So many better options.

    • Wetcoaster

      At the ranges for which they were expected to use the Liberator, they probably would be better off with a good knife or small sword. At least it would be quieter!

      • Bismark

        If you were trained in their use and willing to use them, then maybe.

        Point and click weapons are a lot faster, more lethal, and more simple than a scared, untrained civilian randomly slashing and stabbing, who probably doesn’t know much about where to stab, or about edge alignment.

        • Wetcoaster

          As long as they had the balls to get knife-close with the Liberator and managed to hit a vital organ. Were any reports published about the prevalence of their use?

          I imagine that even if the user landed a mortal wound, odds would have been against them surviving the encounter since even a rapidly fatal wound would have given their victim precious seconds with which to retaliate with their own much more lethal weapons

          • Bismark

            It’ll still serve the purpose of keeping the occupying military forces aware that they’re still in hostile territory. The resistance itself can provide a value other than just getting a high kill count. The much higher potential for any random oppressed civilian to become a viable threat to any random soldier will have an effect on the soldier’s peace of mind, feelings of safety, and morale.

  • tiger

    Not bad for the slide rule & spot weld era of 1944 tech….. Good idea, limited materials. Low skills to make. Low funding budget deal. Today we would drop hi points…

    • Jake

      pretty sure we drop TOWs to FSA ‘freedom fighters’ today 🙁

  • TechnoTriticale

    There are probably a great many notable historical guns that don’t really need to be reproduced as fully functional firearms. The Nock volley gun, and almost any punt gun, come to mind.

    The market for FP-45 replicas might be as large (or larger) for inert repro versions. Then they could skip the paperwork, serial numbers, rifling and hand trauma.

    • Swarf

      I take issue with the idea that we don’t need to make a fully functional modern punt gun, and my argument is posted wherever the hell Disqus puts images in a comment. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4cf501a4515b4f959250e97e20a8e3cc800e4417504053b9fa75b39524e814eb.jpg

      • Tassiebush

        Damn right!

    • BryanS

      When the NRA show was in Pittsburgh last, I talked with a firm that was making these. For insurance purposes, they didnt drill the hole where the firing pin went through.

      So, for the cost of a 1/16″ drill bit, you would convert it to a functional piece.

  • tiger

    hows does it compare to a double derringer to shoot?

  • iksnilol

    Feel it woulda been more useful in 20 gauge.

    • Paul White

      good lord iksnilol, my wrist is crying and begging for mercy (or vodka) just thinking of that

      • Tassiebush

        Apparently that’s a common experience among teenagers…

    • Avery

      Like Robert Hillberg’s insurgency weapons? I remember he named his four-barrel 20ga. shotgun the Liberator after his idea on the same concept.

      • iksnilol

        I always liked that concept. Shorten the barrels down to 8 inches or so and you’d basically have a higher capacity pump-free Super Shorty.

    • UCSPanther

      I have heard of insurgents building and using crude shotguns, most notably the slamfire shotguns still seen to this day in the Phillipines.

  • Travis

    I thought about purchasing one until I checked out the website… over $600!?!?!? I understand that there is not a huge market for this gun, but what do they cost to produce??? $10? Make some in a round that is easier to manage, and get the price down there to around $200 and people would buy them just for the significance of the arm and as a fun range piece.

    • QuadGMoto

      Their original cost in 2010 dollars was $32. They’re using better quality materials in the reproduction, more expensive procedures (like a rifled barrel), and less volume. Even so, those differences don’t seem to account for a price roughly 20 times the original cost. I would have thought more like $150 – $200 for a modern production of a gun that was designed to be dirt cheap to make.

      • Travis

        This ^^^^

      • BryanS

        You forget about a few changes that drive up price. The modern legal ramification of firearms production (FFL, insurance, testing, etc) and the fact that it cost GM, who had a stamping plant, $32 to make. But that was probably what GM was told it needed to cost by the Army.

  • Bob

    I wonder if the whole shooting high thing was just this particular pistol, typical of the rifled reproduction, or common to all Liberators. Of course, if it had been a full sized man, they probably would have hit it a lot more.

  • JoshCalle

    I wonder why they didn’t chamber these in 9mm, plenty of German ammo behind enemy lines and it wouldn’t be such a wrist sprainer.

    • Tom

      With a design like the Liberator and I am not sure there would have been any real difference in felt recoil. Also these were not designed for repeated use but more as disposable guns, the idea being to shoot an enemy soldier [at contact range] then take his weapon. The British basically put the kibosh on the project as the STEN was hardly expensive itself and much more effective. If your going to risk aircraft by having them fly over the enemy to drop weapons you want to make sure those weapons will actually prove effective.

    • dshield55

      They came with the ammo and you were only meant to fire it once, so it didn’t really matter what ammo was available. If you only have 1 shot, .45 was the way to go.

    • gunsandrockets

      Heck, why not a .25 ACP pen gun?

    • Al

      They actually did, about 20 years later. Google the CIA 9mm Deer pistol – made for South Vietnam guerillas.

  • dshield55

    What was causing pain? Is there sharp edges in the construction? I’ve never seen somebody reel in pain from derringers or single shot .45s before.

    • GUNxSPECTRE

      I think it’s that the Liberator are two mirror frame pieces held together. More than a few shots in these cause the two pieces to come loose and pinch between them. Not great if you’re doing it without gloves.

    • Dave

      It was just the recoil of it, there is no dampening via mechanical action like in a slide or bolt, its just recoiling straight into your hand out of a tiny fixed barrel.

    • BryanS

      Did you watch the slow motion and see the recoil impulse travel through their fleshy bits? derringers and other tiny guns are usually very solid, and at least take up some of the recoil. Which is still there, and doing damage, weather the ego will allow it to be admitted or not.

  • Sasquatch

    Would like one in my collection.

  • PeterK

    Wow, they sell repros? That’s… kind of amazing.

  • Jeff Smith

    If I remember correctly, Claymore mentioned shooting one at some point. I’m curious as to whether or not his experience was similar.

  • UCSPanther

    This was a crude weapon, meant to allow a resistance fighter to put a .45 into the head of a German soldier and make off with his Kar98k…

  • These seem like they would have been most effective as booby traps; nail them to a doorframe or fence post and set a tripwire to pull the trigger, that sort of thing. Otherwise I’m pretty sure they would have made a better melee weapon than firearm, by looping your belt through the trigger guard and swinging it around your head as a flail.

  • gunsandrockets

    Their pain makes me smile;-)

  • demophilus

    You could prolly hit that plate if you stood right next to it. You could prolly hit a fascist officer with one in a bar, or cathouse.

    Might be interesting to redo this as a rarefaction wave gun.

  • Rooftop Voter

    Was this the unit made by GM’s Guide Division during WWII? I think I read somewhere that in order to make them as cheap as possible, al lot was trimmed off to get the contract price down to about 2.67 a copy, or something like that. Around 1942 maybe? One round in the chamber and two more in the handle?

  • derfelcadarn

    I have fired an original, the experience was both exciting and unpleasant.

  • CS

    Why hasn’t anyone featured this gun in a WW2 video game yet?

    • Scott P

      Cause of its limited use (kill German at point blank and take his gun). A very limited and niche weapon that would not be very entertaining in a video game especially if it was the only way you could farm weapons rather than keep the ones you already get/take.

  • Z

    It seems for very little extra cost and time you could have made blow back machine pistols in 9mm. Which would be actually have been effective in urban combat.

    • lol

      Which is pretty much what a STEN is, which is what the british dropped to the resistance fighters instead of this junk.

  • AirborneSoldier

    These were meant more for Pacific theatre guerrillas, rather than ETO.

  • mbrd

    that is the funniest video i have seen in a while – i forgot these were .45s – it’s like the same sort of masochistic nonsense my buddies and i would engage in.