Erika 4.25mm Pistol at RIA

Today we’re looking an another early European micro-pistol. This is the Erika, developed by Franz Pfannl and chambered for the 4.25mm Liliput cartridge (which develops approximately 1/4 the energy of the .25 ACP).

These pistols were actually carried for personal protection, under the theory that any gun was better than no gun, and that the presentation and threat of a gunshot would be sufficient to dissuade an attacker (or with the idea of using them on stray dogs, for example).

Practicality aside, the mechanical internals of tiny pistols like this Erika are quite interesting to see, simple because of their minute size. Pfannl really was part gunsmith and part watchmaker…

35 Comments

  1. Getting beaned with a bullet from this gun would definitely hurt unless you were wearing steel plate under your jacket. Most muggers didn’t have body armor, and since there was a lack of good sanitation during those times, any gunshot wound in the dark alley would inevitably result in either death from infection or nasty teetering from said infection right into a policeman’s handcuffs… Or am I wrong?

    In any case, would one take a full-sized Langenhan over the Erika in the dark alley scuffle?

  2. Barnes lists the 4.25mm Liliput round (the more common name for the Erika cartridge) as follows; 12-15 gr. bullet, MV 800 f/sec, ME 17 foot-pounds.

    That’s right, seventeen foot-pounds. There are pump-up air pistols today with more oomph.

    Th only bright spot with the Liliput/Erika round is that it was still more “powerful” than the 2.7mm and 3mm Kolibri rounds, firing a 3 to 4 grain bullet at around 650-700 for a whopping three foot-pounds. I think my old Daisy .177 BB pistol with the 200-shot magazine around the barrel hit harder than that.

    The Kolibri, Erika, and Liliput pistols aren’t enough smaller than a .25 ACP to be any more “concealable”. And they are perfect examples of what Jeff Cooper said about the .25 to women agents for one of our esoteric agencies he once helped train;

    “Carry it if it comforts you, but do not load it. If you load it, you may be tempted to shoot someone with it. If you shoot someone, you may hit them. And if you hit them, they may become very angry with you and do you violence”.

    You can “stop” someone with a .25 ACP if, as with the .22, you shoot precisely for a nerve center.

    My uncle who carried a Baby Browning in his breast pocket right behind his pack of Camels clear across Europe from D-Day to V-E Day, and after that as a truck driver, always maintained that you had to shoot them in the eye.

    I’m not sure that even a cranio-ocular shot with a 4.25mm, let alone a 2.7 or 3, would even penetrate the bone at the back of the eye socket.

    As for the “sniper’s triangle”, I’m pretty sure that heavy clothing would rob it of enough velocity that it wouldn’t get through the strap muscle of the pectoralis major, even if it missed the breastbone and ribs. So forget a heart shot, too, except maybe in high summer, on Miami Beach.

    If you’re going to carry a gun, get a real one. Period.

    cheers

    eon

    • “That’s right, seventeen foot-pounds. There are pump-up air pistols today with more oomph.”
      In fact even .22 CB (parent of .22 Short) which don’t contain powder (bullet is throw by priming mass) has more energy.
      You can see 4.25mm Liliput photos there: http://www.municion.org/4_25/4_25.htm
      Anyway notice that “build as small working fire-arm” has long history and still example of fire-arms build recently under this objective may be found:
      Remington Rider firing .17 ball only with cap
      Kolibri pistol firing 2.7mm Kolibri cartridge
      SwissMiniGun revolver firing own 2.34mm rim-fire cartridge
      Xythos revolver firing 2mm pin-fire cartridge
      aswell other 2mm pinfire miniature fire-arms

    • If you doubt ability of 4.25mm to kill, there was a well documented case in Yugoslavia in ’70s. Man was shot by 4.25, bullet penetrated edge of rib and one artheria leading out of heart. Victim almost immediately lost consciousness and bled out in few minutes.
      Shot placement is everything.

      • Well, that’s impressive but it was a lucky shot. I remember a police case in the 90s in which a woman was shot at point blank in the head (from the left or right, at the temple, if my memory serves me well) with a .25 ACP pistol; well, she survived: the bullet wasn’t able to penetrate the temporal or parietal bone.

    • A 13 grain 4.25 caliber bullet at 800 FPS would most certainly be able to kill someone with proper shot placement. Brassfetcher has a section of their website where they posted ballistics gel tests with a variety of .177 pellets for pellet guns at 50 FPS intervals and showed that a 13 grain pellet at 800 FPS will penetrate 8.5″ into ballistics gelatin (or 9″ at 850 FPS), and keep in mind that due to the shape of pellets they will have more drag than a regular bullet. 8.5″ of penetration isn’t ideal and I wouldn’t personally carry something that penetrated that little unless I had no other option, but considering there have been people killed with .22 LR and .22 short mini revolvers that also fail to reach 12″ of penetration into ballistics gel (with many giving 8.5″ or less in testing done by ShootingTheBull on youtube) I wouldn’t doubt that the 4.25 Liliput would give one enough penetration to do so if the shooter did their part with good shot placement.

      • Although I’ve never put much stock in “stopping power” theories, I do tend to subscribe to Niotan’s statement that the delivered energy of the projectile has to take effect immediately, otherwise it fails in its mission, that being making the target cease dong whatever it was that caused you to conclude it needed to be shot at in the first place.

        Or as Cooper put it, killing is a generally undesirable side-effect of “stopping”. The latter being what counts.

        Yes, the 4.25mm (or a .177in pellet fired at over 800 F/S) will penetrate the chest wall and may reach the heart. So will a knitting needle or long hatpin.

        The latter is more likely to do enough damage “in the instant” to stop the target from continuing to act against you. (It can be “waved” inside a bit, to cut with its sharp tip. Anyone who finds this unlikely hasn’t seen too many real post mortems.)

        Yes, even a .22 Short will do fatal damage. The problem is what the target will be doing in the 10+ seconds it takes for it to notice it’s dead.

        With the 4.25, etc., it’s more like 30+ seconds generally. Not quite optimum.

        cheers

        eon

  3. Thanks Ian for the video of this very interesting pistol. Though very small the cartridge it uses, the pistol itself seems big enough to use more powerfull .25″ACP round. Really small, but some fatter example of this round should be “Menz/Lilliput” made about in the same era. The receiver seems made of Zinc and escaping type disconnector looks somewhat made with more parts than required, since there was other examples accomplishing the same task with an integral spur cut in front off ottom of the sear.

  4. I was enthralled by the tiny pistols since seeing an article in True Magazine in the early 1950s. I always wanted one just to have, but did and still consider them as useless as a defensive weapon. The absolute minimum I ever considered was a .25 ACP Baby Browning or Colt pocket pistol. For more serious occasions, I carry a .357 Mag. Derringer stack-barrel. It might only have two shots, but in my experience you can only reasonably expect that at most on close proximity confrontations. Also be reminded that such events usually average about 3-7 yards apart at most. Personally, the longest range event I was ever in was at a measured 63 yards in which I hit the target but only seriously wounded him. At that range I wished for first my carbine-length rifle or secondarily for my 870 with slugs. This one has a combat scope so would have been technically appropriate for the occasion and conditions. But the Lilliputian pistols are still “cute” and like many older weapon type examples, while in practicality all but useless, still historically relevant. I still lust after a Kolibri semi-auto or even a Walther Model 9. But what I REALLY want is a .17 rimfire mag like the one seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jaBpeTRL1QA. or anything made by David Kucer as seen at http://www.craftsmanshipmuseum.com/kucer.htm.

      • THANKS! And yes, the Russian artisans were among the very best at this art. I have saved the site web address so I can go back and study each one in detail. I am especially enthralled by the precision and detail of their work since I have owned a small-machine shop for my own personal use for several decades now with a specialty in machining Titanium parts for test rocket motors for several universities across the country. And, from time to time, an irreplaceable part for an old rifle, pistol or shotgun finds its way across my work bench as well. Again, thanks for the link and Happy Thanksgiving to all. Let’s remember those who have made it possible to continue to do so.

  5. The “stepped” grip required for proper purchase around the short magazine must have made it feel a bit odd in the shooter’s hand.

    For maximum compactness, the lower section could have been made of hollow stamped steel, to fold up around the magazine rather like the Novo .25 ACP pocket revolver grip did;

    http://www.horstheld.com/0-Oury.htm

    For real fun, have a plunger in the upper fixed backstrap like the magazine disconnector on a S&W M39, and delete he manual safety. As long as the grip is folded, the plunger is up, holding the sear out of engagement with the trigger bar. Unfold the grip, and the gun is “off safe” instantly, with no fumbling for a small and easily-missed thumb lever.

    Hm. In a useful caliber, say .25 or .32, this design has possibilities even today.

    cheers

    eon

    • Unfolding the grip would require that one generally not be the center of attention. Assuming that the intended target wasn’t aware of the weapon and that there was a round in the chamber, what would happen once the grip was extended and the trigger was pulled?

      • Rather like the Lignose Einhand with its trigger-guard to rack the slide, I would expect the Novo grip, or a similar one on an Erika-type auto, to be unfolded while still in the coat pocket.

        The difference of course being that the revolver could probably be successfully fired repeatedly through the pocket without being jammed. This is unlikely with the self-loader.

        Another point is that while a somewhat loose thumb safety can be “rubbed off” in a pocket, a folding grip safety system like this is less likely to “go Condition One” unless and until you deliberately unfold it before commencing the festivities.

        cheers

        eon

  6. I forgot to mention that I also do original case hardening of parts with the old Charcoal, Rawhide and Arsenic methods for period pieces as well as carbonation of Titanium parts for the motors … and ceramic nozzles.

  7. I’ve always been intrigued by those micro pistols. Although impractical for defense, the watch-like precision in their manufacture is something to admire. I’ve always wanted a Kolibri just for fun. When the wife isn’t home, I’ve been known to put a little spiral bullet trap in the fireplace, pull out the Stevens Favorite and some CB caps, and have a little “rainy day” practice. For practical purposes, though, the NAA mini-revolvers in .22 magnum or the Seecamp .32 autos are decent little pocket guns when it isn’t possible to pack a 1911.

    • Doc:
      The Stevens Favorite was my first gu instead of the requisite BB Red Rider BB gun. It had been my father’s first rifle and he passed it on to me. I bought a second 0ne with a half-round barrel when in college and still use both. They teach good marksmanship because you are only going to get one shot. With the CB Caps they make a terrific way of doing away with squirrels that are prone to take up residence in the attic and chew up our wiring.

      • Mine is a half-octagon as well, passed on from my grandfather. It is a great little pest-control gun, and in three generations has accounted for countless rabbits and squirrels. I hope to have a grandson to pass it on to someday as well. For now, it helps keep me in practice. Going to hit the rack, now. I’ll be heading out to the deer stand bright and early. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

        • One more thing: if you ever break a firing pin you can make another out of a very large nail; we call them “bridge spikes.” You can chuck it up in an electric drill and form the blank with a file while it is turning. Be sure to slightly “radius” the juncture of the pin and body. Then cut the slot for the retaining pin and be SURE to make the face of the pin FLAT so it will intersect the rim of the cartridge. You can temper it by heat/quench to harden and the re-heat to make it not brittle. Dad broke his in 1942 and there were no replacements being made due to WWII. It is still in use today. The oldest one was made in 1913 if memory serves and is still shooting. Both are “take-downs” as were the originals so they can be packed in a small suitcase, backpack of knapsack. They are fantastic survival or backpacking/trail guns.

    • I’d love to see updated versions of those .25 ACP DA revolvers like the Decker, etc, introduced again, except in .22LR or .22 Magnum Rimfire.

      More power even from the short (OK, nearly non-existent) barrel than the .25 ACP, and unlike “micro” .22 automatics you never have to worry about whether or not the little bugger’s going to feed.

      The SA micro-revolvers are nice, but in a high-stress situation fine motor control goes south in a hurry. It’s entirely possible to forget to recock the hammer when your brain is running on 110-octane adrenalin.

      The DA just requires you to keep pulling that little trigger.

      cheers

      eon

      • “More power”
        Have you ballistic for .22 LR and .25 ACP which:
        -were measured from same length barrel
        -were developed in same year

        “I’d love to see updated versions of those .25 ACP DA revolvers like the Decker, etc, introduced again, except in .22LR or .22 Magnum Rimfire.”
        I’m not expert in field of modern revolvers, however I can point some older .22 rim-fire double action revolver:
        Röhm Gesellschaft produced few models RG-10 for example, however Röhm revolver were low-quality products so they become known as RG for Rotten Gun
        Harrington & Richardson produced various revolvers, .22 rim-fire examples: H&R Young America Double Action, H&R Model 642 for .22 Magnum rim-fire

        • Yes but none of them was as small as the pre-WW1 .25 ACP revolvers;

          http://www.gunauction.com/buy/8112956

          The Decker, for instance, was slightly shorter front-to back than the average .25 ACP self-loader.

          I actually have a couple of the old American-made solid-frame DA .22s from that era, the kind that require the cylinder to be removed from the frame and the base pin used to eject the empties. They might be H&R, or Iver Johnson; who knows?

          Frankly, they aren’t much better than the RG, QC-wise. Neither one will take a modern .22 in its chambers, not even a .22 Short; the chambers are too small ID.

          They might make good fishing sinkers, but as defensive pistols they really don’t make it.

          cheers

          eon

  8. If you doubt ability of 4.25mm to kill, there was a well documented case in Yugoslavia in ’70s. Man was shot by 4.25, bullet penetrated edge of rib and one artheria leading out of heart. Victim almost immediately lost consciousness and bled out in few minutes.
    Shot placement is everything.

  9. Regards smallest firearms: I have a book on the history and weapons made by Purdey and Sons; priemier sporting rifles makers in the UK. One item mentioned is the rifles made for the “Gun Room” of Queen Mary’s Dollhouse. This Dollhouse was made with thousands of items made by craftsmen all over Britian as a homage to British Industry and a gift to the Royal House. Purdey made perfect miniture fowling pieces for the “gun room” compelte with functional ammunition. I would venture these to be the smallest true firearms ever made and, per the pictures in the book I have, Absolutely drool worthy gorgeous.
    Here is a link about the Doll House: https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/visit/windsorcastle/what-to-see-and-do/queen-marys-dolls-house

  10. Servus from Vienna,
    It’s wrong that the Pistol chambered for the 4.25 mm Liliput Cartridge. Franz Pfannl has developed and made this Cartridge, and the pistol too after 1918. August Menz bought tausends of Cartridges from Pfannl 1925. 4,25 mm Erika/Pfannl Cartridge is the correct name of it.
    Greetings from Vienna
    Heinz Placz

  11. It was a rainy day and I was bored. I primed a .223 case and seated a .22 lead air rifle pellet. I put a fist sized potato in front of a box of magazines and fired away. The pellet went through the spud and blew pieces of potato all over the living room. I had been expecting a neat .22 hole on the front of the potato and not finding an exit wound. In fact it did some damage to the first magazines in the box!
    There is a lot of energy in a small rifle primer. There would probably be more power in one of these little cartridges than you might expect. I am sure that anyone who used one of these little guns for self defense would fire as many shots as possible. Even I might be able to outrun a bad guy who had a half dozen 4.25mm bullet wounds in his forehead an a lot of blood running into his eyes.

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