German Small Arms of World War II
A pictorial essay
By: C. D. Norton
Part III: The Pistole 08 Luger
Few guns capture the essence of German engineering and elegance as the Luger pistol. It is, far and away, one of the most easily recognizable German small arms of the 20th Century. With its sleek appearance and graceful lines it is a masterful combination of form and function that saw service in two World Wars, and in nearly every corner of the globe.
The two examples we will be examining in this article represent a fairly small cross section of Luger history. One is a commercial Luger produced by Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken (DWM) in roughly 1925, the other is a “G-Date” military Luger produced by Mauser Werke, Oberndorf on the Neckar River in 1935. Though we will only be examining the latter in exacting detail, the discussion of both will help give some insight into the history of the Luger pistol family.
The P.08 Luger pistol is a semi-automatic, recoil-operated handgun chambered for the standard 9mm Parabellum round and fed by a detachable 8-round magazine. It features a very uncommon toggle-locking system with a series of hinges. While complicated in design and construction, it is very reliable when kept clean. In addition, it is extremely accurate and handles very nicely.
The Luger began development in the late 1800’s as a collaborative endeavor between Hugo Borchardt and Georg Luger, both of whom were employed by the DWM corporation at the time. Released in its first form in 1900, it was adopted by the Swiss Army and chambered for the 7.65mm Parabellum round (also referred to as .30 Luger). This early version featured a grip safety similar to those commonly found on American 1911 pistols. By the time of its adoption in 1908 by the German Army, this feature had been dropped and the chambering was changed to the more powerful 9mm Parabellum round. This resulted in the standard, most easily-recognizable Luger profile that most people are familiar with.