The Vault

Lercker machine pistol

We don’t have very much information on today’s forgotten weapon, which is an Italian machine pistol designed by a gunsmith named Lercker. He worked for Beretta, but also had his own shop, where he designed this pistol.

Lercker machine pistol

Lercker machine pistol (click to enlarge)

What makes this design unusual is that it’s chambered for the .25ACP cartridge, and the gun fires from an open bolt. This is rather inconvenient for a handgun, as it means the bolt/slide must be locked open before a shot can be fired, and that’s definitely not a good way to carry a sidearm. There is no hammer or striker; the bolt has a fixed firing pin and the sear is clearly located up in front of the trigger:

Lercker machine pistol frame

Lercker machine pistol frame – note the sear up front, and the safe-semi-full selector lever on the left side of the frame above the trigger guard

Of course, the utility of a .25ACP machine pistol with a 20-round magazine and 1200rpm rate of fire is also pretty questionable. The Lercker doesn’t even make a nod at utility with a shoulder stock.

The date of manufacture of these pistols is unclear; Ian V. Hogg writes that they were made in the 1950s, while the Arms Museum in Terni (Italy) that has this one on display says it was made in the 1960s. The number made is also subject to some dispute, between 150 and 500 in total before they were all seized by the Italian police. Roberto Allara was able to examine one in Terni, and sent us the photos you see here. We have the rest of his excellent pictures in the gallery below, showing disassembly of the piece:

[nggallery id=173]

In addition, the Beretta Museum has two prototype Lerckers in their reserve collection, which Roberto also sent a couple photos of:

[nggallery id=174]

Thanks, Roberto! You can download a zip file of all of these photos here.

26 comments to Lercker machine pistol

  • nirvana

    That is some very high quality sheet metal work. That to me is equally unusual.

  • strongarm

    Though considered not a serious pistol caliber, .25″ was a usable cartridge at 1950
    era when over penetration was a limit for police pistols. Design philosopy of this
    piece should be, having similar stopping effect of a .380″ cartridge with an advantage of larger impact area within the same duration.

  • The number made is also subject to some dispute, between 150 and 500 in total before they were all seized by the Italian police.

    Wait, what? How/why did that happen? Tell us a story, Daddy!

  • John D. Dingell III

    The Northern Italians of this era had a reputation for quality, short run sheet metal work. Not far from Valle Triomphe, where this pistol was made, Chrysler had 50 turbine cars made for less than $ 100,000 each – in today’s USD!

    Beretta and FIAT have consolidated most of the small industrial shops in this area over the last two decades. I wonder whether the Northern Italians could still do this kind of work today. It would be a shame to lose this kind of skilled workmanship….

    • R. Aballe

      John: Do you mean Val Trompia, in the Brescia region, or Gardone Val Trompia (the town)? All the Brescia area is renowed for quality metalwork since roman times. Thanks for the Chrysler story – I find it fascinating.
      I also wonder whether the kind of highly skilled workmanship so evident in the pictures of the weird Lercker machine-pistol is still around in Northern Italy.
      I once handled another fine example of Brescia’s guns manufacturers’ work finesse, the Benelli B76, and was highly impressed. It is a very nicely made and accurate pistol, but somewhat of an oddball when it was marketed, right in the midst of the large-capacity ‘wondernines’ fashion. In a sense, it is a forgotten modern weapon.

      • There’s a .32ACP Benelli M78 (same as the M76, just in the smaller caliber) for sale in a shop near me, and I’ve come *this close* to buying it a couple times. They are extremely well made guns.

        • R. Aballe

          Ian, if the price is good, go for it. What’s the condition? Benelli made relatively few B76 and I remember reading in a Spanish magazine that most of the 78 model production was sold in Europe and South America, so the question is… what are you waiting for? Twenty years from now it will be a rare collectors’ piece…
          Another interesting variation is the B80, in 7.65×21/.30 Luger. I guess these must be quite rare in the US.

      • Leszek Erenfeicht

        What about other Northern Italian, Mr. Emilio Ghisoni, and his Mateba revolvers and pistols – yes, pistols too, or am I the only one here old enough to remember the M95 semi-automatic pistol in 9 mm with barrel’s breech end tipping UP for unlocking?
        His first revolver was the MTB8, an 8-shot 357 in times when nobody else offered a 357 eightgun, with cylinder tucked low in frame, distinctively Broomhandle-flavored, in front of the trigger guard – and still firing from top chamber at that time. Then came the Unica 6 semi-automatic recoil-operated revolver, firing from bottom chamber – and recently the Chiappa Rhino being a ‘regular’ non-automatic revolver, also firing from bottom chamber.
        All of these display outstanding quality – and them all being stuff defying logics and reason, I think the craftmanship was the only reason why they ever operated. I don’t know what was the stuff Mr. Ghisoni smoked at that time, but I’d rather refrain from sharing it.

      • John D. Dingell III

        Mr. Abale -

        My Italian spelling is getting rusty. I worked north of VT in the 1980′s, but haven’t been back since 1990. Was referring to the entire region, which is integrated industrially.

        The Chrysler turbine cars were made in 1962 – 1963, about the time this neat little machine pistol was made. The Italians of this era were the master of Kirksite die stamping, the method probably used to make the Lercker. Kirksite is a low melting point alloy which is easy to cast and machine. Kirksite dies can make 50 – 200 steel stampings, but require great care in their usage.

        The Benelli handguns are favorites of mine. I have the B76 (9mm), B78 (7.65x21mm), B80 (9mm Ultra), B82 (7.65x17mm), M3S (.32 S&W L), M7S (7.65x21mm), and M9S (9mm). The last three are long barreled match versions which are quite accurate due to the fixed barrel design in all calibers. Buy them any time you find them for less than 500 USD. You won’t be disappointed.

        • R. Aballe

          Mr. Dingell:
          Thank you so much for the concise but very informative insight on the Chrysler turbine cars and the Kirksite die stamping method. So, I presume Chrysler went ahead with outsourcing in that particular case not to save on production costs, but because the Italians were very good at that, possibly the best in Europe, as you implied. Very interesting story, on which I knew nothing.
          The Benelli pistols are indeed great guns. I heard that some new old stock specimens (mostly B76 from what I have been told) can still be found, if one searches hard enough.

  • Dean Cascio

    “20-round magazine and 1200rpm rate of fire”

    At 1200 RPM the impulse from a .25 APC is not going to be much as long as you don’t dump the whole magazine.
    Dean

  • Keith

    I vaguely remember reading about some double barreled machine pistols / SMGs chambered in .25, effectively siamese twin machine pistols, with the double barrel drilled from one piece of steel.

    It’s about 3 decades since I was clued up on the arguments for such small calibre full autos;

    apart from the perennial “which is better; .25ACP or .22LR RF” debate

    The multiple impacts (20 rounds a second – assuming you could hit) delivered a payload roughly equivalent to 2 or 3 shots of OO Buck loads from a 12 guage, with less disturbance and from a much smaller, easier concealed and easier suppressed gun.

    There are suggestions that if a tight group can be achieved, the multiple small hits in sequence are more effective than a larger round at shredding body armour, although that assumes that the target will stand still long enough for it to happen.

    The Casull 290/ American 180 was a carbine length example of a .22rf full auto http://openboltguns.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/casull-290.html

  • mark

    very funny,

    I find a us patent no 2718818 maybe it

    http://www.freepatentsonline.com/2718818.pdf

  • R. Aballe

    I just remembered a similar concept, though it was designed to work as a semiauto only. The resulting gun was unusual and interesting in a kind of bizarre way, as it also fires from an open bolt and lacks a hammer or striker… Maybe Ian can dig additional details to produce a small article on it: the oddity is the Argentinean Ballester-Molina HA, produced by Hafdasa and its subsequent clone ‘Zonda’ built by Armotor SA after Hafdasa folded in 1953 (Armotor SA was created by former employees from Hafdasa), both in .22 LR.
    Here is a video showing both pistols, although most of the footage covers the later ‘Zonda’ from Armotor SA:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzWY0s4E2HI

    • Keith

      The open bolt guns blog has pretty good coverage of the Argentine clones of the Gevarm open bolt .22 semi auto rifles csrbines, but I’d never heard of a pistol using that system. Many thanks for sharing.

      http://openboltguns.blogspot.co.uk/2009/11/argentina-rubi-extra-venturini.html

      • R. Aballe

        You are welcome! I have a more detailed article on the HA and Zonda pistols somewhere (it a xerox copy from an Argentinean magazine). If you’re interested, I can send dig it out.

    • Keith

      Love the mag drop safety in the vid,

      There’s much more to that little pistol than the gevarm I was likening it to, it has an extractor for a start.

      I don’t understand Spanish, but youtube suggested another vid with a slightly different version of the pistol, and some different views of it. The boy who made the video isn’t the safest, the most knowledgeable, or the most succinct… but the gun is cool.
      http://youtu.be/G0PpvOlyEaI

      There was also a suggestion for a vid by Mark Serbu, showing an experimental full auto .22 he’s playing with. there was no trigger mechanism, he was just pulling the bolt back with his fingers and releasing it for the gun to empty its mag in around 1/3 of a second. fixed firing pin/ridge and no extractor.

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