The Richardson Guerilla Shotgun,
Illif D. Richardson was certainly an interesting figure during World War II. A radio expert and PT Boat crewman with the rank of ensign, Richardson was stationed in the Philippines when the Japanese attacked and invaded the islands. When the Japanese took over the country, he fled into the jungles and became a guerilla fighter, joining the Philippine Resistance. With his radio skills, Richardson was able to set up a secret communication network between all of the various Filipino resistance groups, and for three years he was responsible for coordinating the operations of the Philippine Resistance. In 1944 Gen. Douglas MacArthur awarded him for his exploits by assigning him to US Army Intelligence and awarding him the rank of Major. Interestingly, Richardson was the only US serviceman to hold officers commissions in both the US Army and US Navy simultaneously.
While working with the Filipino Resistance, Richardson took special interest in the homemade firearms produced and used by many Filipino people. Often simple people with access to few resources, they were able to cobble together crude but working firearms built from scrap metal and cast away parts. Such home gunsmithing had been a tradition in the Philippines dating back to when they revolted against the Spanish in the late 19th century, and continued during the Spanish American War and Philippine American War. Home gunsmithing is still common today. One of the most common firearm designs was the slamfire shotgun. A single shot shotgun, it had a very curious action. The barrel consisted of two tubes, an inner tube shrouded by a larger out tube. To load the user would remove the outer tube and insert a shotgun shell into it. The inner tube was mounted with a fixed firing pin, and the user would then replace the outer tube. Finally, the user would slam the outer barrel back, banging the cartridge primer against the firing pin which discharged the shell. It was a very crude system, and not a very effective combat weapon, but the Filipinos were able to successfully ambush enemy soldiers with them, thus acquiring rifles, machine guns, and grenades.
When Richardson returned to the United States, he instantly became famous, writing his memoirs and touring the country. To cash in on his fame, Richardson attempted to go into the firearms business by making replicas of the slamfire shotguns that were used by Filipino fighters. The Richardson Guerilla gun was also a slamfire shotgun, chambered in 12 gauge. While it appears that it had a trigger, its actually a safety mechanism so that any bump or jolt does not cause the primer to make contact with the firing pin, causing an accidental discharge. The trigger connected to a lever which held the barrel in place, so the use would have to hold the trigger, unlocking the barrel so that it could be “slam fired”. The Richardson shotgun was cheap to produce, and was meant to simulate the crudeness of the Filipino design. Even the stock was crudely cut and poorly finished. The Richardson Guerilla gun was a commercial flop, and few wear produced. While it was an interesting novelty, in the end it was a piece of junk, based on the designs of desperate people who threw away their slamfire guns when they acquired something better.