At the turn of the 20th century, pistols were becoming more compact, easier to use, and more lethal. At the bleeding edge of this arms-race was the Luger. Developed by the famed Austrian firearm designer, Georg Johann Luger. Along with the design of the pistol, he worked to create a compact rimless pistol cartridge. This cartridge became known as the 9x19mm Parabellum, now the world’s most extensively used pistol round.
Georg, while employed by Ludwig Loewe & Company as a consultant designer, was sent to show off a weapon designed by Hugo Borchardt to the U.S. Army. Consequently, the army rejected the design, but from its criticism, Georg was able to develop the original Parabellum Pistol. Patenting this pistol in 1898, Georg began offering it up for use to various armies around the world.
Pistole Modell 1908, P.08 Design & Depiction
Designed as a toggle-locked recoil-operated semi-automatic pistol, the Luger was produced in several models and manufactured by several nations from 1898 to 1948. Often, you’ll see it depicted in the hands of Nazis or evil movie villains.
Modified to use the more powerful and modern 9x19mm cartridge, the Pistole Modell 1908, or P.08, is the most famous version. Renowned for being compact, easy to use, and highly accurate. It uses a jointed arm to lock, as opposed to the slide action of most other semi-automatic pistols. However, this unique action limited the gun to only using brass-cased rounds with high chamber pressure.
1907 U.S. Pistol Trials & The Unique .45 Caliber Luger
In 1906 and 1907, the U.S. Army held trials to replace their aging Smith & Wesson Model 10 Revolvers. Subsequently, they invited several designers from around the world to show off their inventions. These weapons included the Colt M1900, Steyr Mannlicher M1894, and Georg’s 1904 version of the Luger. However, these guns were rejected because they lacked the stopping power necessary for modern close-quarter combat. Interestingly, it turned out that the Philippine Insurrection was found to be a perfect testing ground for these weapons. The jungle terrain made for short-distance engagements and pistol usage was at an all-time high with cheaper and easier to use designs. The insurrection plus the published findings of the U.S. Army’s testing in 1904 found that only the .45 (11.25mm) round was sufficient.
Prior to Georg’s arrival in the United States, he was provided with 5,000 rounds of .45 ammunition to design and experiment with. He created two or possibly three Lugers chambered in .45 ACP for testing by the U.S. Army. Issues with the experimental .45 ammunition prompted Luger to pull the bullets and replace the slower burning powder with his own. The snappier recoil generated by this re-manufactured ammunition was sufficient to cycle the action but was “unattainable” in the United States. Consequently, the number of malfunctions placed the Luger below the competing Colt and Savage handguns. Georg was asked to submit 200 of the .45 ACP Lugers for further testing, but he rejected the invitation and formally withdrew himself from the competition.
The original #1 prototype .45 Luger was never recovered and is assumed destroyed. While the #2 prototype is known to be in private ownership. It was estimated to be worth ~$1,000,000 in a 1998 History Channel episode of “Tales of the Gun”.
Rare Lugers For Sale!
Here at Old Arms, we comb through the country for unique and rare weapons and currently have ten very rare Lugers in stock and ready for purchase… check them out!