<XMP><BODY></xmp>Spartan Ultra-Simple Handgun

Added 3-10-03
Updated 30-3-12

Spartan Ultra-Simple Handgun

Many readers will be familiar with the “Liberator pistol”, which was manufactured under the cover name of “Flare Projector, .45 calibre”. Similar ruses were used for some of the components of the weapon. The trigger guard was publicly a “wrench”.


Most of these guns were sent to the Far East. Very few were sent to Europe, and the most interesting explanation I’ve encountered was that it was at the request of at least one government in exile. Most active French resistance groups were communists, and the Free French in Britain were not keen on giving such a concealable weapon to what would be their chief rivals for control after the war.

There are many puzzles about this weapon. Why was .45 calibre chosen? Given its role, why was there no provision for a suppressor? Why was it issued with ten rounds when most examples become unsafe to fire after about eight.

In some respects, .45 calibre does make sense if you only get to take one shot. The barrel was smooth bored so the bullet would tend to yaw a lot just a few yards from the muzzle. This doesn’t help long range accuracy, but does improve the terminal effects of a FMJ bullet.

Most guns became unsafe after just a few rounds, so there was little point in making it capable of using captured German 9mm ammo, especially since most of these weapons ended up being used against the Japanese, who used an 8mm round.

Something that does interest me is the design chosen. Nearly all of the gun was simple to produce, but I can’t help thinking that it could have been made even simpler. Why was the bolt action breech and striker chosen? In the 60’s the CIA had a go at creating a simple pistol that was known as the Deer Gun.


This used aluminum castings for the grip, but the barrel needed to be unscrewed to reload, so is probably not really much of an improvement over the Liberator.

So, how would I go about designing a really simple pistol? I’d combine a simple single action hammer with a barrel that swings to the side for loading –essentially a larger gripped version of the Colt No.1 and No.2 derringer pistols. The only “complicated part” of this would be an inertial firing pin for increased safety.

Colt Derringers

A half cock position on the hammer would act as an additional safety. A notch on the hammer could act as a rear sight, in the manner of the early Colt revolvers.

This gun would basically be in two parts –a barrel assembly and a grip with a hammer and trigger mechanism.

Like the Liberator there would be a compartment in the grip for spare rounds and a stick to help eject stubborn cases. This latter device would probably fit into a slot under the barrel.

To reflect the weapon’s simplicity we’ll call it “the Spartan”.

There was an experimental two-shot version of the Liberator, but this used a harmonica type action with sliding chambers.

The arrangement I propose easily lends itself to the form of a turnover cartridge weapon. A turnover weapon has two barrels in an over/under arrangement with a pivot pin between them. To fire the second shot the barrel assembly is rotated by hand 180° to align the second round with the firing pin. To load or unload the barrels are rotated so that they are “side by side”.

What calibre to have the Spartan is an interesting question. The construction that I’ve suggested would allow you to change calibre just by changing the barrel assembly. The range of barrel sizes might even extend up to 12g or 26.5mm Flaregun barrels. The same grip and hammer section could be used for all calibres, and designed correctly would fit both the single or double barreled models. Turnover construction also offers the possibility of each barrel being a different calibre, and the desired round being selected by rotating the barrels.

An interesting idea is to dimension the bore and chamber to create a universal 9mm weapon. The Astra Model 400 could safely fire a wide variety of 9mm rounds due to its long chamber.


Incorporating the forcing cones used in the Medusa revolver would improve on this idea. A simple way to hold automatic pistol rounds in position would be needed. Simplest thing I can think of is to add “C” circlips to the extractor grove.

If you only have one or two shots, you probably do want something with punch..45ACP is a good choice, and is ballistically superior to the .45 Colt. On the other hand the .45 Colt has the advantage that it is available in soft lead rounds and that some .45 Colt weapons can also chamber .410 shotshells. This latter capability is mainly advertised for Derringers. Thanks to Jeremy Pallant for informing me that Thompson do not recommend using shotshells in .45 barreled Contenders while shotshells are physically too long to fit in many revolvers. Check with the manufacturer first.

What we are evolving towards here is a very low cost modular weapons system that may even include spear guns and Less Lethal Weapons.

I’ve already mentioned the puzzling lack of a suppressor option on the Liberator. A device that does seem to have been experimented with was “Bigot”. Bigot was an apparatus designed to use a .25 cartridge to propelled a broadhead bolt or quarrel from a M1911A1 pistol. Idea was that Bigot would give a soundless, flashless shot that would be quieter/deadlier than a silenced pistol. I have seen a photo of a Liberator with a Bigot dart loaded. Some are of the opinion that this is a fake or a mockup and the Liberator could not have taken the stresses of firing the heavy dart. The latter may have been the case, but it is possible that the photo was the experimental setup that established this.

The idea of the Bigot does live on with devices such as the Airrow

To launch a Bigot type projectile from the weapon I propose it would not be necessary to construct an assembly that fits down a .45 barrel. The gun could simply be fitted with a specialized barrel incorporating a captive piston for launching. The chamber would be separated from the projectile by the piston head, containing the flash and noise. Simply push an arrow down the muzzle and insert a blank round into the chamber. The chamber would be constructed so that only blank rounds could be loaded. This arrow launching barrel might be part of a turnover assembly offering the shooter the option of firing either an arrow or a conventional round.

This arrow might incorporate a Razorring type head. There are other possibilities too. This system could be used to silently launch a tranquilizer dart. A rodded grenade is another possible round. If the barrel calibre was around 6.5-7mm then pencils or common biros could be used as projectiles (or Hawthorn stakes for vampires).

Liberator shotgun: A different period of history, and a different weapon, but interesting, nonethe less.

Starting Pistol.

I have never understood why starting pistols are made to look like real firearms.

A starting pistol should have an assembly on the muzzle that would probably look a little like a chimney pot. This would function as a blank firing attachment and a muzzle brake. Rather than the force of the cartridge being directed forwards/upwards it would be directed radially. The vents on the muzzle assembly might be designed to amplify the sound produced. A starting pistol does not need to be a repeating weapon. If there is a false start the device can be reloaded in just a few seconds. The proposed design for the Spartan single-shot pistol could be adapted to create a Starting pistol. The grip of such a starting pistol could include an electronic sensor to start timing apparatus.

By the Author of the Scrapboard :

Attack, Avoid, Survive: Essential Principles of Self Defence

Available in Handy A5 and US Trade Formats.

Crash Combat Second Edition with additional content.
Epub edition Second Edition with additional content.

Crash Combat Third Edition
Epub edition Third Edition.
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