Semmerling LM4: The Smallest Repeating .45ACP

This is lot #3635 in the upcoming RIA Premier Auction. It was scheduled for April, but has been postponed – check their web site for upcoming Online Only auctions every month, though!

Patented by Philip Lichtman in 1979, the Semmerling LM-4 is a unique sort of pistol. It’s a manually operated .45 ACP carry gun, intended to be the smallest magazine-fed gun of its caliber and also the best made. Retailing for a hefty $645 in 1979, the LM-4 was a low-production, handmade item marketed to a high class clientele.


    • Actually locked breech

      The semi circular trigger pivot pin rotates into a cut out in the slide to lock the breech during firing

    • I have had one for several years. Absolutely well made with a fierce recoil even while being quite heavy. It came with holster, spare parts, thin grips and manual. It is an oddity and I have many weapons easier to carry. It’s manufacturing specs remind me of a Freedom Arms weapon.

  1. Recoil must be severe even with the grips. I can’t imagine what it would be like with the “slim” package!

  2. Wouldn’t there be a high risk of failure to feed the loose cartridge while flicking the gun one-handed?

    • I can’t comment on this particular example – the guns were not all identical.

      The Patent describes a thin sheet metal spring that retains the loaded cartridge in the gun as it is being fed, so, short of very rough handling, feed should be very positive and reliable.

  3. For some reason, I’m not impressed by this manual pistol at all. For that $ you should be able to find an automatic (maybe a Detonics) that works!

  4. When this pistol was introduced the US Federal minimum wage was $2.90/hour and by 1997 it had increased to $5.15/hour. I do not think any minimum wage workers were buying these 🙂

      • I think “thrives” is putting it a bit strongly. From what I read, firearms companies are leaving New England for more favourable jurisdictions. Who can blame them?

        • Savage, Kahr, Smith and Wesson are , as far as I know,
          manufacturing firearms in Massachusetts. Colt and Ruger, among others, are in nearby Connecticut. New England, despite its firearm ownership regulations, still produces large quantities of guns.

          • Are any made in Boston? And are firearms manufacturers moving to New England or moving out?

  5. Also note the ammunition choices in 1979 – 9x19mm hollowpoints were not the reliably expanding, deeply penetrating bullets we have today, and 1911s were not known for reliably feeding hollowpoints. .357 SIG, 10x25mm Norma, & .40 S&W were pipe dreams at the time. This would reliably feed the best known defensive repeating action cartridge, and if you handloaded, you could download it for practice.

    • A Chiefs Special Airweight was lighter, about as concealable, held more rounds, and was far faster to operate. Ammo? NYPD stakeout unit loaded wad-cutters backwards. All in all a far better solution to defense than Semmerlingscheiss even in 1976.

  6. Why “Semmerling” – there’s a pass by that name in Austria, but I can’t see the name firing the imagination of Americans. And what about the LM-1 through LM-3 and what does LM stand for anyway….In any case, as an example of the gun smith’s art – WOW! Look at that finish and polished wood…

  7. Given a choice of “compact” weapons, which would you grab up in the middle of a home invasion?

    1. Semmerling LM4
    2. Ruby pistol
    3. Commander’s Nagant
    4. Doubletap derringer (.45 ACP version)
    5. Nambu Type 94 (here we go again)
    6. Henry Lever Action Axe .410 shotgun (what am I thinking!?)
    7. .357 Magnum Mare’s Leg
    8. Tomahawk
    9. Kukri

  8. Notice how high the front sight than rear… With this point of aim, it seems the gun never hits where aimed at… Shoots all low. But in fact, the muzzle rises when fired through an arc around its centre of gravity and the shot goes where intended to hit… Same is also present for revolvers… lMHO.

    • Let’s don’t think about shooting bullseyes, it’s more practical to think of this pistol shooting within a “minute of man/large target” than within a “minute of arc.”

    • How… Well I don’t know… It would be something to do with that pin above the front of the trigger guard… Side mounted… Change the trigger guard… Anyway, I won’t go on he he.

      Nice to see a well made pistol anyway; suppose you got that for the price.

    • Isn’t it supposed to be a HANDgun… not a HANDSgun? Would still require two hands for operation. If you expect to have both hands available, best get a long gun and hit your target with the first shot.

      • Hmmm… Well the normal design requires the “off hand” to cock it as well doesn’t it… Hence the top (slide serrations) bar the fancy, lob forward one hand thing… Which may well work.

        Even well, in which case… I would leave off the lever.

          • Wee lug/1/2 loop on the lever for the index finger “off hand” BANG! Gun moves back in shooting hand, off hand stays put, catches… Cocks… Gun moves forward, clip lever shut with off hand type thing in conjunction with forward momentum of gun repositioning.

        • The “push the slide forward” is a totally unnatural movement when shooting. Everybody is used to the slide moving BACK then forward. Even on a pump shotgun. I suppose the movement could be learned: I had a friend who lost the feeling in his trigger finger and learned to shoot a release trigger (another unnatural movement) in trap and skeet, but it took a lot of practice. Most people will not bother to practice that much with a self-defense handgun.

  9. Still wee lever, add relability maybe… Smaller than a Detonics clearly.

    I’ve had worse ideas. Anyway have a nice day.

  10. I’m sort of surprised to see all the detractors for this pistol speaking up here, none of whom I would say have seen one in action.

    I have. And, I’m here to tell you that this is not a “normal” pistol for normal uses. It was, and probably still is, a specialized deep-concealment little gun that was well thought-out for ending fights at arms-length distance. Literally “arms-length”.

    Time was, I spent some time outside of Chicago, exposed to a bunch of Chicago PD guys. One of them was a former undercover detective, and he carried one of these things, even swore by it. The owner of one of the indoor ranges I shot at got to talking with him about derringers for police use, and made the mistake of lumping the LM-4 in with the infamous COP.357, saying they were both gimmicky wastes of money that would be better spent on cheap burial insurance for the police officer using either one of them. The former undercover guy disagreed, and offered up a demonstration. The day of, I made sure I was there, and they let me watch being “one of the good guys”, the local Army recruiter.

    I still don’t know where the hell he had that thing hidden. All I know is that we set up the range for the demonstration, had him on his knees with his hands on his head as though he were about to be executed gangland-style, and about an instance behind hearing the “beep” of the timer, both of the silhouette targets had .45 caliber bullets through them, the range ceiling was penetrated (which the landlord was not happy about…), and our former undercover guy was on his feet and behind the two targets with a third shot ready to go at the low ready.

    He made the comment that he was kinda slow, being out of practice…

    Whatever the Semmerling LM-4 was, it was not an expensive range toy. I suspect that the men who selected and carried that pistol for serious use in serious situations probably knew what the hell they were doing.

    • Kirk:

      Thanks for the interesting anecdote.

      I remember seeing ads for this gun in magazines back in the 80s, but as far as I can remember never read a review of it.

      What impresses me now is just how well made it was. I had no idea it was that good. It’s a real thing of beauty.

      As you say, I imagine that a serious person who took the trouble to practice with it a lot would get very proficient with this piece. Sadly, most people are not that serious and don’t practice a lot.

      • The LM-4 is one of the reasons I’m so cautious about pontificating about things that are firearms-related. Sometimes your first impression of a thing or a technique is entirely wrong, and it is on you because you’re too arrogant to think past that initial impression–Which is why I try to keep an open mind.

        As I remember the things I heard about the LM-4, the impetus was that the designer wanted a workable modern derringer-scale weapon, and he could not fit a semi-auto mechanism into that envelope. The “weird” manual system is what you get after the .45 ACP gets shoehorned into that space, and if you compare this pistol to its actual competition, which would have been any of the derringer-style pistols of the era, and not a Detonics, its virtues start to come clear. You put in the time practicing, and it is a deadly little thing. I’m serious about how fast that guy was with it–I literally missed most of what he did, because I was looking away at the time I heard the PACT timer go off, and by the time I got back on focus to him, it was all over. The two shots he made were almost close enough together that you could be forgiven for thinking he’d only fired once, and while one was slightly off-center, I guarantee you that if you’d just had a .45 ACP bullet enter slightly to the left of your right eye, you would be a little distracted and likely not much of a threat to anyone in the room… The first target (both were those “bad guy” picture-type sorts of things, not abstract silhouettes) had the hit right between the eyes.

        From what I picked up, this guy’s partner got “made” at some point, and was executed by whoever he’d been infiltrating. Which was why he’d had a bit of a monomania about not going the same way.

        Still don’t know where the hell he was carrying that LM-4. Part of the setup was us trying to figure out where it was hidden on him, and I’ll be damned if I could.

    • It’s a niche product for special purposes. Any amateur who tossed the manual would probably put a slug through his own hand while attempting to speed-cycle the barrel and then curse the LM-4 on the grounds that “all good pistols MUST function the same way, therefore this is @%^@#$%!” The LM-4 is NOT a target pistol, and it is not a rich-man’s toy (any rich guy looking to impress his friends will clearly not buy a gun that is intended to be smuggled within the interior of his pants). It’s intended to put someone down at bad breath distance. And the intended user is someone who KNOWS he is going to get up close and personal with any sudden intended-victim. That about sum it up?

      • Pretty much. It’s a gun with a specific niche role, and that’s as far as it goes–Which is literally about arm’s length.

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