Dear Readers! With this material, I begin a series of publications devoted to weapons designed by the American designer Robert Hillberg.
Echoes of the Cold War: Winchester Liberator
The samples of weapons, which will be discussed in the first two publications, belong to the category of "Weapons for the underground". This concept first appeared during the Second World War: then it became necessary to supply the underground workers in Nazi-occupied territories with simple and inexpensive weapons that could be produced quickly, cheaply and in large quantities.
One of the most famous examples of the "Weapons of the Underground" is the Sten submachine gun. It was produced in huge quantities at first for the needs of the army, but after the British army received enough of it, they began to supply guerrillas and Resistance fighters throughout the territory of occupied Europe. Very soon, both sides became convinced that this primitive device, produced under extreme circumstances, was capable of killing just like any other weapon …
Zone of influence - the whole world
The Winchester Liberator is the product of Robert Hillberg's engineering. This "democratizer" was developed in the midst of the Cold War to arm rebel and guerrilla groups in enemy territory from the pro-American local population.
Perhaps the impetus for the creation of these products was the revolution in Cuba.
After the failure of the Bay of Pigs operation, the United States decided to move from open clashes with the enemy to guerrilla warfare and, naturally, the need arose to supply their agents with weapons. This is where Robert Hillberg came in with his Liberator shotgun.
Winchester Liberator: Four trunks and the whole sky in parrots …
The indigenous population participates in almost all guerrilla wars. As a rule, these people are completely unfamiliar with military affairs and do not have weapons skills. As a result, the ideal weapon for guerrillas must be simple and reliable. And more importantly, it should have a high probability of hitting the target at the first shot, even in the hands of an unskilled shooter. The shotgun meets all these requirements in the best possible way, and the projects proposed by Robert Hillberg have brought this class of weapons to a new level of development.
Hillberg's project for the creation of guerrilla weapons was based on several requirements: in addition to the requirements for a high probability of hitting a target and lethal outcome, it had to have adequate firepower, without being too complex in technical terms. These requirements repeated the TK of the Second World War, as a result of which the Liberator FP-45 single-shot pistol was developed and produced, namely: the creation of an easy-to-use, compact and as cheap weapon as possible.
Just like 20 years ago, the need arose again to throw weapons in the rear of the enemy in such an amount that the enemy would not have been able to remove in full.
In early 1962, Robert Hillberg proposed his first concept for a rebel gun. He took Ethan Allen's (pepperbox) scheme as a basis, reworked it, and he got a multi-shot multi-barreled shotgun that had the rate of fire of a semi-automatic rifle.
Unlike the traditional pepperbox scheme, the barrel block did not rotate, as, for example, the Gatling machine gun. The sequence of firing was ensured thanks to a patented percussion mechanism with a hidden trigger. It had a cylindrical shape and rotated around its axis thanks to a hole drilled in it. Briefly, the principle of operation of the trigger looked like this: when you pressed the trigger pedal (the hand did not rise to write "trigger"), the hammer was cocked and scrolled 90 degrees. Then he hit the cartridge primer - as a result of which there was a shot. After that, he stepped back (cocked), again scrolled 90 degrees, hit the primer again, and so on. In other words, the strike group performed reciprocating movements, turned around the barrels to the next cartridge and pricked its primer.
Due to the very high probability of hitting the enemy with a shot at a short distance, it promised to be a very effective weapon. The designer was sure that even an inexperienced shooter would be able to lay down his opponent with a series of multi-barreled shots.
Initially, Hillberg proposed a weapon with a monoblock of four barrels arranged in a diamond shape (vertical plus two additional barrels on the sides).
Sketch Liberator (Mark I). Dated 1962. In my opinion, it looks more like a sawn-off shotgun. Pay attention to the massive trigger guard and the equally large trigger. Apparently, this stapler was conceived so that untrained peasants could fire a shot even with an incorrect grip. Most likely, the tight descent also served as a kind of automatic safety device.
If I translated the text correctly, the trunks were supposed to be cast in a single piece. The design provided for a 4-cartridge clip for fast loading of the speedloader type and a mechanism for simultaneously ejecting a plate with fired cartridges. The ejection mechanism was activated by pressing the lever with a finger.
Preliminary analysis has shown that a shotgun designed by Robert Hillberg has a number of advantages. It was designed for 20-caliber cartridges, and the length of each of the barrels was 16.1 (40, 89 cm). The total height of the weapon was only 8 cm, which made it relatively compact and easy to carry and transport, and also made it easy to maneuver with it in a confined space. It weighed only 4 pounds (1.8 kg), but the design was strong enough to handle high shock loads over a wide range of temperatures and climates.
Sketch Liberator (Mark I). Dated 1963.
Added a tactical grip and changed the muzzle shape.
When Hillberg finished his design drawings, he turned to the Winchester company and offered them his creation. They agreed that the weapon deserves attention, but asked for a little time in order to study his proposal.
Winchester engineers found that with the latest casting technology and minor design changes, the unit cost would hover around $ 20 (based on 1960s prices).
Armed with the results of their research, the Winchester campaign proposed the Hillberg concept to the Department of Defense. Soon, their proposal was supported by DARPA (the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency): they decided that these weapons have huge potential, especially in Southeast Asia, where the United States was drawn into another conflict.
Having received the support of DARPA, the guys from Winchester decided to develop the project and gave it the working name Liberator (Liberator) in honor of the pistol of the same name, which was produced at General Motors in the mid-40s (see above). Continuing traditions, so to speak.
At the very beginning of the production of the Liberator (Mark I) rifles, problems with the speedloader clip were found, since it did not fulfill its function: cartridges with a clip did not want to be inserted into the barrels the first time, and the shape of the clip was quite difficult to manufacture …
Liberator (Mark I) manufactured in 1964. Exhibited at the Cody Firearms Museum
Liberator Mark II
In a later version of the Liberator (Mark II), the quick-loading clip was abandoned in favor of the traditional method: manually, one cartridge at a time. This simplified the manufacturing process. In addition, for more convenient breaking of the trunks, it was decided to change their location to a more rational one. As a result, in the Liberator II version, the barrels were already arranged horizontally and in pairs, and the axis and hinge of the barrel block were made more massive and easier to manufacture. This scheme made it possible to distribute the load from the shots over the maximum possible area. Thanks to this, a high operational strength of the gun was achieved, which guaranteed the absence of the appearance of the stem block of the barrels. To fix 2 halves of the weapon in a closed state, a primitive T-shaped cap was used. It was said that it resembles a good old castle borrowed from revolvers with a breaking frame of the late 19th and early 20th century.
Liberator Mark II in closed position: The T-bar is draped over the rear half of the shotgun and secures the barrel.
To break the barrel of the Liberator Mark II, pull up on the T-bar and the barrel block will “break” in half.
For the main components and mechanisms for the Liberator Mark II gun, Robert Hillberg received a patent under the number US 3260009 A. The patent was issued on December 23, 1964 for “Multi-barrel firearm with rotatable and reciprocable hammer”. Photocopies of the drawings from the patent are posted below.
The result is an eminently simple and reliable design that makes the Liberator a weapon with decent firepower.
In order to increase the effective fire range and lethality, the caliber of the weapon was increased to 16, which made it possible to use the Winchester Mark 5 shot collars cartridges developed for the army in the Liberator. The difference was only in the weight of the shot projectile: 28 g for the 16 caliber and 24 g for the 20 caliber with the same 16 mm base.
Collar cartridge Winchester Mark 5.
The use of standard 16-caliber ammunition, loaded with buckshot, allowed the Liberator to easily hit chest figures at a distance of up to 30 yards (27, 43 meters). On average, the probability of hitting a target was at least three hits with five shots.
Magnesium has been widely used to reduce weight when casting parts for the Liberator (Mark II). All surfaces of the gun were coated with epoxy paint. To increase the stability of the weapon when aiming, a detachable wire shoulder rest has been developed.
In order to reduce the dispersion of the shot when fired, the barrels of the modified Mark II had muzzle constrictions, which, according to international designations, were classified as Full choke (full choke). Due to this, the accuracy of the battle with medium and small fraction numbers should have reached 60-70%. The indicators of the battle with large shot and buckshot were unstable, but shooting was also possible with special cartridges with a round bullet.
The length of each of the barrels was 13.5 inches (34, 29 cm), the total length of the weapon was 18 inches (45, 72 cm), and together with the butt, it weighed 3.44 kg.
In mid-1963, the Winchester campaign began offering the Liberator Mark II to various law enforcement agencies. Both the army and the police were impressed by the Liberator's simplicity of design and firepower. After such a reaction from the security forces, Hillberg and representatives of the Winchester campaign predicted a bright future for the Liberator: after all, thanks to his merits, he had a chance to find himself a wider application in addition to the "partisan cannon".
However, during the army trials, the Liberator's shortcomings began to appear. Although the shoulder rest gave stability to the weapon, accuracy suffered from the long and tight travel of the trigger pedal, as well as its shape, which was designed to be compressed by 4 fingers at the same time.
Given the fact that the Liberator was self-cocking, there was no question of any accuracy when shooting at medium distances. It turned out that the decision that was considered good for the rebel peasant was not good for the trained soldier.
Liberator Mark III
Not wishing to lose large customers in the person of the army and the police, it was decided to bring the Liberator to acceptable levels. Thus the Liberator Mark III was born.
The third generation of the Liberator received a different trigger mechanism: with an open revolving hammer and a traditional trigger with a shorter, smoother and softer trigger. The sequence of firing was ensured thanks to the cam mechanism, which changed the position of the striker and ensured firing from each barrel in turn.
The engineers of the Winchester company, which by that time was solely responsible for the project, decided to make changes to the design of the barrel block and the technology for their manufacture, as there were difficulties in their manufacture in the form of a single piece.
To simplify production, it was decided to replace the complex simultaneous casting of the barrel block with 4 separate steel tubes that would be attached to the breech, and a rectangular metal plate would connect the barrels in the muzzle region. The lock was changed to fix the 2 halves of the weapon in the closed position, and to open it (break), flag-type levers were installed on both sides.
Liberator Mark III: general view.
For greater attractiveness, the Mark III was redesigned for a standard 12-gauge cartridge (shot weight 32 g, at 28 g for a 16-gauge). The overall length of the Mark III increased 1/2 inch (16 mm) and weighed 7 pounds (3.17 kg).
Liberator Mark III closed.
To break the barrel of the Liberator Mark III, push the flag “away from you” with your thumb and the barrel will “swing back”.
The revolver-type trigger lived up to expectations: the mechanism turned out to be durable and reliable, and, in addition, it was double-acting. As a result, combat accuracy has improved. During the shooting, it was determined that a canister shell (36 pieces) fired from the 3rd generation Liberator hit targets at a distance of up to 60 meters.
Ammunition types for the Liberator Mark III
It's compact … It's lightweight … It's easy to use … It's deadly!
TTX Liberator Mark III
Unfortunately, orders from the military, which were so hoped for in the Winchester campaign, did not follow. And it was not possible to "push" him into the police market either.
Winchester Liberator is not the only attempt to create a four-barreled shotgun. Here's another sample:
There were also attempts to create something multi-barrel stunning specifically for the cinema. Non-existent weapon (props), specially created for the next film adaptation of comics on the theme of "The Avenger".
A scene from the movie The Spirit 2008
Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson) with a pair of “Quad shotguns”.
There were also curiosities associated with multi-barrel shotguns.
Another interpretation on the theme of a plumber's dream, this time from a Czechoslovakian. Author unknown.
To be continued. Preparing for publication material about Colt Defender (Defender)