Despite 1,000’s being made and attempting effective employment, Liberator handguns from the Second World War tend to be looked down upon. The diminutive .45 gun was simply difficult to use and near impossible to employ accurately (as demonstrated by Forgotten Weapons), requiring point-blank employment. However, the concept of the “liberator” firearm as an inexpensive effective firearm to arm resistance fighters was and still is a valid concept.
In the early 1960’s, weapon’s designer Robert Hillberg conceived of a weapon employing the latest manufacturing techniques, that was “cheap-but-effective.” Recognizing this, DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) encouraged Hillberg and Winchester firearms to continue the design.
At first, the design was quite ambitious. The new Liberator was to use all magnesium castings and steel only for the liners of four 12 gauge barrels, which in-turn used 4 pre-packaged shells. Unfortunately, the pre-packaged shells were a bit too ambitious, so the design was modified into the Mark II, which used COTS ammunition and a break-action for loading and unloading.
Unfortunately, the casting technologies of the day were not quite capable by today’s standards and casting the frames over the steel inserts proved to be too difficult, prompting the Mark III, which used traditional stampings. At this point, the procurement and development winds changed direction and with military interest waning, Winchster had few options to sell the design.
For the full history and details, enjoy Forgotten Weapons’ video below: