During World War I, manufacturers on both sides, including sporting arms manufacturers, lent their material support for the war effort. One of the more mysterious instances of this has come to be known simply as the “Beholla”, after its primary producer, the German sporting arms firm Becker & Hollander.
The exact origins of the Beholla pistol are a bit of a mystery; even the origin of the name is unclear. It’s obviously a portmanteau of “Becker & Hollander”, but beyond that, it’s unknown why that name became popular. The Beholla was most likely based on an Austrian pocket pistol designed by Alois Tomiska, from Pardubice, in what is now the Czech Republic. Called the “Little Tom” after its inventor, it was a .25 and .32 caliber hammer-fired weapon that incorporated a double-action trigger and a unique loading system, whereby the gun was refreshed via a detachable magazine inserted into the action from top.
Unlike the Little Tom, however, the Beholla was a striker-fired, single action gun. Like its most likely progenitor, the Beholla does have the barrel attached to the frame via a dovetail and groove, as well as some minor design features, in addition to the general similarity of appearance. The Beholla was only chambered for .32 ACP.
What is known about the Beholla is who produced them. Becker & Hollander made the vast majority of the guns at 40,000 units, and this is the most likely reason for it bearing their name. The German government offered the B&H guns to troops for 41 marks, and they came with either wood or rubber grips.
Waffenfabrik August Menz also produced the pattern during the war under the name “Menta”, which sold through the German government for 35 marks. As little as only a few hundred were actually made by that factory during wartime, however. Menz is perhaps the most likely origin of the pistol pattern itself, as previous pistols like the 4.25mm Liliput also incorporated Little Tom-like features. Post-war, the Menta would continue to be produced until 1927.
HM Gering & Co of Gelnhausen also made the pistol, branding it the “Leonhardt”. Oddly, the Leonhardt was the only pistol produced by the company, suggesting it was a temporary effort in support of the war, however there is no evidence of any Leonhardt pistols bearing German acceptance marks. It’s possible that the pistol was produced only at the very end of the war, or that production had been set up at the end of the war but not started, and with the cessation of hostilities, Leonhardt was left with a new pocket pistol and no customers. The Leonhardt is probably the rarest variant of the pattern, which would be explained by this hypothesis.
After the war, Becker & Hollander was bought out by Stenda, who continued to produce the Beholla as the Stenda from 1918 to 1925, but with the addition of a takedown lever to ease disassembly.
Othais has furnished us with a very helpful animation of the Beholla pistol’s operation. It is a very simple, unremarkable pistol in most respects.
There isn’t much else available on the Beholla pistol, otherwise. It’s a small, compact .32 caliber handgun fairly typical of the period. More of a second-line weapon than a combat handgun, it filled its role well and met some portion of the demand for arms in the First World War, continuing to a modest civilian career after the war.