10.5cm leFH 16

The 10.5cm leFH 16 (light field howitzer) was a Rheinmetall design that became the main German field howitzer during the second half of the First World War, and remained in service until 1945.

Cooling the barrel of 10.5cm leFH 16
Cooling the barrel of 10.5cm leFH 16

The 10.5cm leFH 16 replaced Krupp's 10.5cm leFH 98/09, which had been the main field howitzer at the start of the First World War. The leFH 98/09 was an improved version of the obsolete leFH 98, introducing barrel recoil and a more modern gun carriage, but it had a short barrel, low muzzle velocity and limited maximum range of only 6,300m.

Rheinmetall's design had to use as many components from the older gun as possible. This included the gun carriage, which was almost identical (with a box tail, gun shield and axle seats for the 1st and 2nd gunners, mounted in front of the shield, so they sat facing backwards when the gun was being towed), and the projectiles, cartridges and propellant charges.

The biggest improvements were in the gun barrel. This was made significantly longer, going from 1m 62.5cm to 2m 31cm (L/22). Muzzle velocity with the C-shell rose to 427m/ sec and maximum range with that shell to 9,700m. The rifling in the barrel was increased, increasing the spin imparted to the projectiles. The standard leFH 16 had a sliding wedge type breech block. There were three double spring recuperators mounted below the barrel, which recoiled 1.2m. There was a recoil guard to prevent the gun layer from being hit by the breech as it moved backwards. 

The resulting weapon had some of the best ballistic characteristics of any howitzer of the period, and remained one of the best designs until the late 1920s.

A slightly improved version of the gun was introduced as the leFH 16 nA (new art). This had a pusher-handle sliding wedge breech block, which allowed the gun to be loaded faster, and coped better with dirt. Other differences were more minor and were general improvements in quality.

The leFH 16 fired four types of ammunition - a long FH shell with 2kg of high explosives, a Howitzer Shrapnel shell with a range of 6,000m, the Howitzer  Shell 15 with a 1.4kg payload and the C-projectile of 1917, which could reach the full range of 9,700m, although only by adding extra propellant, thus putting more pressure on the gun.

10.5cm leFH 16 battery in the open, March 1918
10.5cm leFH 16 battery in the open, March 1918

The leFH 16 was introduced in the summer of 1916 in a test battery, and in September all production switched from the leFH 98/09 to the le FH 16. It became the standard weapon of the howitzer battalions for the rest of the First World War, and was the standard weapons of the division artillery in the post-war Germany army. In 1933 there were 28 in use with 24 artillery batteries. As the army re-armed after the Nazi's came to power that increased to 496 in 1934, 568 in 1936, 728 in 1936 and 980 in 1937. It was eventually replaced by the 10.5cm leFH 18, which was designed in the early 1930s but not introduced into service until 1937. Even so, the leFH 16 remained in use throughout the Second World War, and saw service on just about every front. On the eastern front it could be mounted on a sleigh to allow for easier movement. It was also used in fixed defensive positions around the edges of the Nazi empire.


10.5cm leichte Feldhaubitze 16
(10.5cm light field howitzer 16)
10.5cm leFH 16



Barrel Length

2m 31cm (L/22)

Weight for transport


Weight in action



-10 to +40 degrees


4 degrees

Shell Weight

15.7kg HS shell
15.89kg shrapnel shell
15.7kg C-shell

Muzzle Velocity

400 m/sec HE
427 m/sec C-shell

Maximum Range

8,400m shell with impact fuze
6,000m shell with time fuze
9,700m C-shell

Rate of Fire

6 rounds/ min

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (17 October 2017), 10.5cm leFH 16 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_105_leFH_16.html

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