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Small Arms of WWI Primer 012: German F.Langenhan Selbstlader Pistol


Last time we covered the story of the
Becker & Hollander Beholla, a compact military pistol born from a sporting
concern during the First World War. Now let’s explore another solution to the
exact same problem. This time coming from a family of arms makers. [music] Hi, I’m Othais, and this is the F.L. Selbstlader, Selbs – I’m bad at German – stepladder pistol. Alright let’s take it over to the lightbox. At 6.6 inches, and 1.4 lbs, this pistol is larger but still the same weight as that previous Beholla.
Should tell you how compact that thing was. It has a magazine capacity of 8 rounds and
chambers .32 ACP cartridge. If you don’t have a passing familiarity with this cartridge yet I can’t help you. We’ll get into detail when we get to the FN 1900 though.
The Langenhan’s were a family concern in Zella-Mehlis back until at least
1842, probably before. We’ve heard of that region before and we know a lot of
talented people have come out of it. Well, in the era of Friedrich Langenhan, the
company solidified as “FL Gewehr und Fahrradfabrik, and I’m sorry again about my
German pronunciation. Now, Friedrich had designed a revolver which was honestly a Smith & Wesson clone, and sold it to the Saxon army is the Model 1873. This
is sort of the first foray into military design, and the second-to-last for this
family. With Friedrich’s death in 1885, the company turned over to his son of
Hermann. Now, Hermann expand the Langenhan business pretty significantly, into more
sporting & target arms and also he started producing bicycles. It seems like everybody there was manufacturing
guns also manufactured bicycles. Anyway, Hermann’s son Fritz would actually design
a handy little pistol. Now, the history is that this was supposed to be a commercial design prewar,
but it’s kind of interesting that this has the sort of larger frame and larger
barrel that we’d expect from a military and police design. Now, it could just be
that Fritz had designed a smaller pistol to begin with and it’s sort of been lost,
or it could be that he was actually looking for military and police market. We’re really unsure at the moment.
There’s not a whole lot written about these guys. Anyway, if we take a closer
look at it, we’re going to see what is sort of the worst feature of this gun that
people tend to think of first. Alright, as we’re looking, by the way,
this is, you know, a lot like an FN 1900. It’s obviously been copied from one.
Here, let’s just get a comparison. There’s a lot in common, especially in
the way that the slide is set up to the frame and things like that. Alright, also similar to the 1900, this
has a separate breech block that’s been attached to the sort of slide
assembly with the screw. On the 1900, if we look at it again, we’ll see that it’s set
with two screws and most people don’t tend to worry about it. You don’t hear a lot
about people being afraid of the breech block in the 1900, probably because it’s got a
little redundancy right there. What you do hear all the time is that people are
actually terrified of this gun because it’s one large screw in the back. Now, I’ve pre-loosened
this. I don’t want you to think that it’s this loose when you take it out to shoot,
but if we unscrew it and, and look how many turns it takes… and some more… There we go. We’re finally out. I mean
that’s fairly deeply threaded. Alright, get that out of our way. Now, the only
thing holding our breech block in is this sort of yoke. If I release it we’re gonna
see the slide come forward, but equally if we were firing there would be a
chance of seeing that breach come straight back out the back of the action.
So that’s the big fear, is that your screw will come loose, you won’t notice and
you’ll pull the trigger and when you pull the trigger this guy’s gonna go
right into your eye. A valid concern. However, as terrifying as that is to hear,
I just don’t think it’s all that likely. The screw is very large and deep set. It is
set up in a way that it is not necessarily in line with the action, so it’s
gonna snag or rotate, and if we bring up a photo of the POV, you can see that
it’s very easy to sort of read the screw. You would notice if it started to loosen if
you were even vaguely aware of the problem. However, we can’t say that it’s
the height of arms design. The frame and slide are not what retains the breech block;
a screw and a hinged yoke are. Other than that little problem, the gun handles a lot like the original 1900. I found it very pleasant to shoot. I obviously trusted it enough to shoot,
although I did watch the back of that screw. Alright, so now that we’ve gone over sort of
the worst feature, let’s just see how the rest of the gun works in general. We’re looking at a single action,
internal hammer fired blowback system. A pull of the trigger sends the trigger
bar back, tipping the sear and freeing the hammer to fall. The safety simply
turns into the hammer’s path locking it rearward. The rearward travel of the breech block
resets the hammer. On most models, the trigger bar stop remains exposed. Kinda neat to see in person. Alright, we’ll load up our 8 round magazine. Aim, and fire. The safety is a bit awkward but manageable one-handed. Let’s see how I did. Sweet! You know this gun is in tattered shape as you can tell. It still performed excellently while
we were at the range. I think the moment we tried to use it there was one little feed
problem that we face by reworking the lips and then after that she ran like a
tank. Great, great handgun and honestly I was drilling a hole the size of a
quarter with it just shooting two-handed, although we don’t tend to film me shooting.
Getting into the history of it though, for service life, much like the Beholla, it
really only served through WW1 and it would be mostly abandoned after
the war for other designs. However, with 70,000 produced, there are a number of
variants that we could cover just for you to be familiar with. We’re gonna see
four variations of this military pistol. The first has an exposed injection port, it’s
open whenever the breach is closed so that you can see the breach block through it. It’s on
the right side. It has a long safety, an external disconnect, see, you can see it poking
up above the grip there. Those grips are hard rubber, and roughly 8000 of
these were made. The second variation sealed up that ejection port when the
gun is in battery. So that breech block can no longer be seen on the right side.
We still have the long safety, the external disconnector and hard rubber grips,
although later some wood grips would start to show up. Roughly 45,000 of these
were produced. So that makes the second variation the most common. The third
variation introduces a new safety. It works the same as the old safety, it’s just a
shorter throw and slightly different arc. It’s a little easier to handle. Again, the enclosed breech block and ejection
port, external disconnect. This one is almost always found with wood grips.
Roughly 13,000 made. Now, variation 4 has an internal disconnector. We can no
longer see it sticking up above the grip. Still has the enclosed breech block. It has
the improved short safety and it has wood grips, or it seems to me
more commonly found with the redesigned hard rubber grips. Roughly 19,000 were
produced. Post-war there will be two commercial models. the first, the Model 2, will chamber the .25 ACP catridge and fit seven rounds in its magazine. This was meant to get into that sort of pocket / vest
market. Its overall length is 5.7 inches. The Model 3 is even smaller
and can only chamber five rounds of .25 ACP. It has an overall length of 4.75 inches.
This is really getting down to a vest pistol. Both sold well enough. However we
obviously know that they aren’t the most remembered pistols ever made. They are interesting and that they
dispensed with the Langenhan yoke, and instead used a cross screw like we’re
used to seeing on the 1900. Otherwise, fairly similar operation. They’re sort of
beyond the scope of this video anyway though. Now, like we said even with its
improvements the Langenhan is still sort of a poor man’s 1900. It’s not
particularly revolutionary and it doesn’t have any advantages over any
other design and there’s quite a few disadvantages. So after the war the
pistol sort of evaporated. It went on to the commercial market obviously for a
while and we still see them today in the collectors market, but that’s really about
it. Not a remarkable history-changing handgun. But, it was worth talking about just
because of that sort of rumor of it being a suicide pistol and just to look
at something truly unique from the battlefield. Alright let’s go ahead and
get May’s opinion on shooting this thing because I personally think it’s a bit of
a sleeper. Alright, we let Mae back indoors, so let’s
go ahead and get her opinion on the Langenhan. There you go. Would start us just with
some handling? Sure. So right off the bat I noticed: very thin, flat gun. Doesn’t
weigh a lot. Four finger grip. I got all my hand on there so in terms of comfort
right off the bat I thought it was great. However, I did notice along the way a couple of
features in terms of functioning weren’t my favorite. It’s got this heel drop mag, so
as everyone knows it’s not my favorite. This one was easier to actually pull
the mag out, but I could notice over time how this little push-button… it wouldn’t
really be my favorite. It’d probably wear on my thumb a little bit. The safety, it’s
very difficult to one hand. You could even see on camera, I’m having a hard time
so I would prefer to two hand that one. Overall I thought it was a very
comfortable gun. Those one or two little features aren’t really gonna kill a gun for
me, you know? Yeah, I wanna say, when you pick this gun up, probably the first thing you’re
gonna notice is that it is *narrow*. Very flat. At the time, it’s supposed to be sort of a
police pistol carried on your hip kind of thing. But in terms of concealment it
would be great too. I mean it really is flat. Now, there were some commercial versions of
this gun that came later. We’re not gonna talk about ’em here, but they probably took
advantage of this feature pretty well. In terms of that safety, don’t forget, they
actually switched over to a shorter and shorter stroke safety because it was
such a problem. Now why you talk a little bit about just shooting it. The
feel for the recoil, the sights, that sort of thing. Okay. Like I mentioned before, in
terms of the action, it was pretty smooth. The recoil, there really wasn’t much to it. It’s .32. It was actually very manageable. For
the trigger, I noticed it was a little bit squishy in there, but I think that
might just be because of the trigger bar setup. Correct me if I’m wrong on that
one, but over all, I actually drilled a hole with this one. My accuracy on this
one was very high. Out of the .32s we’ve shot so far, this is the
one I have been the most accurate with. Not my favorite over all, but most accurate
definitely. Okay, but what about the sights? As for the sights, they’re very narrow, so
for modern I can see how this is not anyone’s favorite shooter, but
historically they’re very tall and they’re actually pretty good for that time. Alright, so I guess we gotta ask sort of
an obvious question here though. Were you afraid for your life? I was not afraid for my life,
but I did I eyeball this screw the entire time. There’s nothing like knowing that you know you’re one screw away from having that thing catch you in the eye To make you watch that screw like a hawk. Okay, I guess final question that we have always
been asking, as tacky as it might be. Would you be comfortable on the
battlefield with the Langenhan? Yes, I would be comfortable taking this into
battle. Over all, like I said, there were tiny things about this gun that I did
not care for. The magazine and the safety, but those won’t damage the gun for me, and
to be fair, like I said before, I drilled a hole with this gun. So I would take
it in battle any day of the week. I think it’s kind of telling for this pistol that, like I said earlier, this is not the cleanest copy we’ve seen. I mean it’s not terribly rough, but it’s
not perfect either and it did great and it performed well. Both of us thought
that it was very accurate shooter. For all of the, sort of, bad-mouthing that goes
on about this pistol. I think after toying with it. It’s earned itself a little
more respect. Again, not revolutionary, not a world changer, but certainly better
than its given history as it stands. Alright, well I hope you enjoyed this
pistol and thank you every time for all the support you guys have given us. Yeah thank you so much everyone! [music] Hey everybody! I’m going to be wrapping up this episode this time around. Couple quick things. Thank you to our executive producer, who has lent us the Langenhan for that episode. We could
not have produced it without him. A big thank you to Taofledermaus. He sent us many new viewers so, hey, welcome everybody! Our Patreon levels are up to $828
so, woohoo, thank you everyone for your continued support and as for a new
project we’ve got going. Check out in the links the link to the
IndieGoGo site. We are trying to fund a trip to go shoot some machine guns so
please everyone try to help support us with that! Alright, thanks everybody!

79 thoughts on “Small Arms of WWI Primer 012: German F.Langenhan Selbstlader Pistol

  1. Hi excellent video as always!
    A question about the sights,i am a European so except from shotguns ,airguns and historical weapons from museums i don't have much experience with guns,so why does everyone say that in the past weapons have bad and tiny sights i hear that mostly about German guns and European guns in general.
    Most weapons i have seen/shot have the type of sight that kar98 has,and i think it is a rather accurate sight.So Why all the rage against them,are other types of sight better/more accurate and why?
    Thanks for your time!

  2. Cool video on a cool gun! Are you guys making a video on the Ross Rifle? If so, are you looking at the Ross Cadet too? I love your content, keep it up!

  3. Remember to check out their new Machine gun project. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/poster-anatomy-rifles-of-wwii/x/3187323#/
    help and info here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMnLPOGEQnA

  4. Great video, one of my favorites so far. I've always been fascinated by the Langenhan, wish I could get my hands on one. I remember once reading a thread (I think on gunboards or Jan C Still's forum) where someone marked the breechblock screw position with whiteout and fired a few boxes of ammo through it, only to find it hadn't moved at all. Did you see any notice any loosening when you were shooting it?

  5. It is pretty funny how you pronounce those German words. Especially the word Gewehr sounds funny. Must be hard for Americans. I'm not German either by the way but Dutch which resembles German somewhat. German and Dutch both come from the same origin.

  6. I'm genuinely surprised how many German pistols were in that war, I've not even heard of the majority of these. Well, aside from the Mauser C96, and such.

  7. I had no idea there were auto loading pistols produced with the barrel underneath the recoil spring. Why did this feature disappear from the handgun design when it would mitigate so much recoil?

  8. Why are pistols historically more expensive than rifles? Is it due to mechanical complexity, or is it just the reputation of being a gentleman's weapon that drives the prices up? Extendes to modern times too

  9. This series is making me want to start collecting the obscure .32 autos of interwar Europe. Which wouldn't be a horrible thing to do, actually; they're pretty cool, still vaaaaguely practical, and often not fiendishly expensive. If nothing else, the ammunition is easier to get than 8mm Steyr. 🙂

    (As an aside, I'm sure the C&Rsenal gang know this already, but since I don't remember it coming up in the video, "Selbstlader" is just German for "self-loader".)

  10. Good video as always. Just so you know, I'm buyin' a poster to help you guys get that machine gun field trip. (I might have to trademark that phrase.) But I have one question: what is your logo? A binder? A book?

  11. We can not walk the streets with guns, we are not allowed to carry weapons in the streets and in cars, only domicile, the access to guns in Brazil is restricted only collector may have the oldest weapons and rifle and some new ones. thank you

  12. if you are really worried about the screw in the back of the breach you can put lock tight on it and it will give you a little less of a worry about it !!!!!

  13. Are these expensive guns? If would be cool to see you shoot the gun w/o the screw (in a vise) to see just how dangerous the flying breech actually could be.

  14. Would you be able to do a video on the 1888 Commission Rifle? I just find that rifle extremely odd, but at the same time extremely desirable

  15. I just bought a couple of your new posters. Love, love, love your videos, I used to live in Ladson and Goose Creek and survived Hurricane Hugo in Goose Creek with ya'll.

  16. Thank you for your excellent videos. The light box, drawings and functioning diagrams are first rate, and really help to understand how particular firearm designs work. The field shooting portions show the strengths and weaknesses of designs, and their potential accuracy in actual use, and are invaluable. That is only the second Langenhan I've seen. Safer than a Warner Infallible.

  17. I would love to hear you guys explain the logic of that barrel arrangement when you get around to the Browning 1900, because I have been wondering ever since I first saw it.

  18. Selbstlader is Self Loading in Mittelhochdeutsch I believe. Selbsgelader is Niederdeutsch for sure as it is a Prussian designation, hence Low German dialect word. Middle-high German is typically spoken in Hesse, Baden, and Upper Saxony.

  19. A full size, yet narrow pistol in a light, but adequately lethal caliber: this is what manufacturers should be marketing to women, instead of pink, glittery garbage.

  20. Great video. I know "selbst" in german means "self" so i'm guessing it means self loader. Like the gun a lot especially the low bore axis. This helps mitigate recoil which might help explain the accuracy although as you know, so many things affect accuracy. Are you going to get into American guns as well? I'd love to see your take on the Browning 1911 even though it's been analyzed to death. Shout out to Carolina Rod and gun. Shopped there several times in the past. Nice store. I'm guessing you are based in South Carolina. I moved from the Charleston area to California. I miss it.

  21. Ok so the bug fear of the gun us that after disassembly you forget to screw that back in properly or more like at all. Well then you kinda deserve what you get. Lol seems as if that screw shouldn't come out easily in any circumstances

  22. It looks nicer than the 1900 and No offence but yes we're glad Mae does the shooting and not Othias lol… Just kidding you guys are great I'm so glad I found your channel thru The Great War which I found thru Forgotten Weapons. So many fascinating channels run by wonderful people.

  23. That breach block screw begs for Loctite or something like it. This for functional use, I know it may ruin the gun as a collectors item. It seems llike a nice shooter, though I have no idea of its market value. I hope this may put some guns into use, safely.

  24. A little teflon tape or blue loctite on that screw and you could still remove it, but feel like it is going to stay in there. You could then remove it after firing for storage back into the collection.

  25. Greetings, I love your videos, very happy I found that channel. As far as evolution goes, I find the "musak" during the animation and shooting annoying. My 2 cents. The animations are superb, and clearly show the function of all parts. I can imagine the amount of work that takes, and they are appreciated. It is my favorite part.

  26. Are there others motivations to have the recoil-spring and guide on top of the operating action and barrel/breach assembly a part for reducing recoil?

  27. new to the channel, but your oberveiws are excellent and the grafics cutaways and such are incredibly detailed, asides of the research done of course. but many thanks for the videos I can't imagine that being an easy task, adding personal experience is another great compliment to the information

  28. You can take the screw out and shoot the pistol; it just keeps the yoke from rotating up; the yoke is what connects the breechblock; not the screw. Mae got the right answer; only three things count; accuracy, accuracy, and accuracy. I think somebody should put back in production today; I would if I was rich.

  29. "Gewehr- und Fahrrad-Fabrik", really? Surprises me time and time again how many gun manufacturers back then also made kitchen appliances, bikes and cookware and what have you. 😀

  30. 10:18 "so we let May back indoors" am i the only one that thought that was funny like hes talking about his dog? watch her reaction.

  31. OK, I'm going to ask you guys (anyone) – why was it that this style of 'spring above the barrel' design went out of fashion? Is there a good technical reason? Particularly these days when some many people go on about the height of bore access. Thanks…And thanks for another terrific video C&R. (I've kinda binge watched them all now.) 🙂

  32. I wonder if this pistol shot better because the bullet is lower, closer to being in line with your hand. Group looked better than others. Thanks for your work.

  33. Mine just sent it's breech block flying back on me today. I'm unhurt, but the pistol looks bad – and i'm sad….

    What I can say is that It wasn't the screw on its own but the yoke and the screw connection that seemed to have failed. The screw might be threaded long enough but it's front end doesn't stick into the yoke very far (just about 2.5 mm or 0.1 inch. I noticed a little wiggle on the yoke and the screw had a tendency to loosen itself just a little bit (about 5 degree's of a 360 degree turn) and it usually would stay there. I didn't think it would be much of an issue so I just remembered Othais advise and watched the screw when I was shooting. It didn't warn me from what was going to happen though. So when I shot my fourth shot today, the end of the screw bent and broke off the lower part of the yoke around the hole where the front end of the screw is holding to so that the breech block came loose from the yoke and went flying backward while the slide flew forward. The one positive thing I can say though is that it came with quite mild energy. It hit me on the shoulder just above the collar bone. It was so mild that I don't have any bruises or pain or anything. So even if it happens, it's not a "suicide gun" from my experience at least as it still needs considerable energy to throw the yoke out of way so the breech block won't come towards you "like a bullet" – but rather drop on to you.

    The breech block, the yoke and the srew are damaged – I'll look for spare parts in the future, but I'm afraid this gun will retire from active shooting for the time beeing.

  34. Great video.  For some time I've been trying to find more info on an old pistol in the family.  It was brought back during WWII.  It looks just like the Model II diagram in your video.  It has "Sangenkarr 635" stamped on it and wood grips.  The story is a French soldier got it off a Czech soldier, then traded it to my relative.  233 is on the barrel top, and a Z and R in a circle.  The slide has a V followed by an arrow.  Is it still a Langenhan?

  35. Isn't it ironic that the screw holding the breach block that could take your eye out is the thing you keep an eye on the most. . .

  36. So i have a version of this gun this takes 7.65 cal and is missing a bunch of parts but im looking at it as a project gun. Think you could help a guy out on finding my missing parts ?

  37. The best line I've ever heard about .32 ACP "If you don't have a passing familiarity with this cartridge yet; I can't help you…"

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