In this instalment of our 12 part series on Military blueprints, we look at the German Luger P08.
The Luger P08 was designed in 1898 by Georg J Luger. It was one of the very first semi-automatic pistols. The Luger P08 uses the toggle lock action, which uses a jointed arm to lock as opposed to a slide as used by most other semi-automatic pistols. This mechanism works well for higher-pressure cartridges, but cartridges loaded to a lower pressure can cause the pistol to malfunction, because they do not generate enough recoil to work the action fully. This meant that the Luger was prone to malfunctions when not using high-quality German made ammunition. Also whilst this type of malfunction does happen with other pistols the Luger’s action meant it was particularly prone to it.
Manufactured from 1900 in Germany and Switzerland, using the finest materials to the highest standards, original Luger pistols are known for having a very long service life. However, the design required hand fitting of certain parts. This meant that using parts from another Luger could render the pistol inoperable.
The Luger’s distinctive angular grip made it a “natural pointer” and was noted as exceptionally accurate.
Many varieties of the Luger were produced for a plethora of functions. The standard Luger, as used by the German military through both World Wars had a barrel length of 100mm. A 150 mm barrel Luger was made for the German Imperial Navy, which came with 100 and 200 metre sights. An even longer 200 mm barrelled Luger was designed for use by artillery troops. This Artillery Luger came with a detachable wooden stock, which doubled as holster. Rather optimistically, this pistol came with sights adjustable to 800 metres. In the 1920’s, barrels up to 600mm were attached for export orders.
After the success of sub machine guns in WW1, several Luger were converted to full-auto. The Luger was found to have an excessive rate of fire when used in this function.
The Luger P08 was the service pistol of the German Army during WW1. Over 2 million were used by German forces from 1914 to 1918. The German Stoßtruppen, or Stromtroopers, made extensive use of the artillery Luger. With 32 round ‘Snail’ magazines to increase their effectiveness in trench raids.
Due to an embargo against the sale of rifles to China during the Chinese Civil War, there was an extensive market for pistol carbines in the inter war period. The long barrelled Lugers, alongside other similarly extended pistols, were in high demand. The Luger P08 was the favourite of Officers, bodyguards and Police during this period.
Although officially replaced by the P38 in 1938, the Luger P08 was still in wide use throughout WW2. The high demand for weapons meant that production did not cease until 1943. Luger’s were highly prized as trophies by Allied soldiers. Due to this, they were often used as bait to lure treasure hunters into traps.
In 1945 Luger production started again due to the military and police needs of the occupying French forces. Several thousand were assembled from spare parts and a short production run. The Soviets also had Luger’s made in their occupancy zone. These were later used by the East German secret police, the Stasi. The Swiss continued to issue the Luger until the early 1970s.
To this day the Luger continues to be a highly sought after pistol. It is synonymous with the German Military of the early 20th century and highly prized by collectors and enthusiasts.