1945: The French Occupy Mauser and Make Lugers

In July 1945, just a few months after the first French troops entered Oberndorf, the Mauser factory began assembling guns under French oversight. In addition to HSc pistols, P38 pistols, K98k rifles, and Model 45 training rifles, Mauser also had sufficient stocks of Luger parts to assemble several thousand for French use (as well as occasional sale to Allied occupation soldiers). The highest recorded serial number is 3334, and there are five different variations of markings. Today, we have a 1st type and a 3rd type to look at.

In 1945 and 1946, the French Army was in need of really any functional arms, and the Luger was happily accepted as a front-line service handgun (in fact, the Spahis who made up French General Koenig’s personal bodyguard carried Lugers). These Lugers were used early in the fighting in Indochina, but they were phased out of service once the MAC-50 pistol was put into production. They were then used to replace even older guns like Rubies and Mle 1892 revolvers in second-line service, and eventually transferred to the Gendarmerie. They were used by the Gendarmes until the 1970s, when the last ones were surplussed. At some point, a batch of them was given to the Austrian Army, presumably in the early/mid 1950s after Austria was once again allowed to have armed forces.

For more information, I highly recommend “The Parabellum is Back!” By Gerben van Vlimmeren and Mauro Baudino:
https://amzn.to/3988Jui

24 Comments

  1. Til a few years ago there was a monthly add in the french gun mag Cibles. The person running the add was ready to buy any prototype weapons liberated by french soldiers at the Mauser factory in 1945. I never saw a name associated with the add but it ran for so many years it must have worked

    • I would love to know just how many weapons are out there, hidden away in barns, attics, and the odd hidden cave or crevice out in the woods across Europe.

      Judging from what I’ve heard from acquaintances who grew up in the former Yugoslavia and Austria, there’s probably enough ordnance out there in the wild to arm several full divisions… Condition, after all these years? Probably questionable, but there were a lot of suspicious and paranoid types who not only kept the weapons but who would periodically go out and ensure they were still functional.

  2. I suppose use by the French Gendarmerie makes the Luger one of the few semi-auto pistols ever replaced by a revolver in any major organization. That is, in addition to the other pistols they were using prior to the adoption of the MR73.

  3. Being dissatisfied with the condition of my M1911A1 (A LOT of the 9th Infantry Division’s equipment had been back hauled from Vietnam – “Okinawa Rebuild” was a practically a one word curse, like Damnyankee (my roomie was from Georgia)). The possibility was that it had served in WW2, been rebuilt at Tokyo Ordnance Depot and sent to Korea, rebuilt by Tokyo again and sent to Vietnam and then rebuilt by Okinawa. You can only rebuild something so many times and in my opinion, this pistol had been to the shops one to many times) I was looking to buy my own sidearm in 1975-76. One of the weapons I considered was a commercial P08, but I eventually bought a Browning Hi-Power. Deciding factors were double the magazine capacity and I distrusted the toggle action of the Luger. I had heard reports of it acting as a pump to get crap into the mechanism. Before somebody comments “I’ve had a Luger since the dawn of time and never had a problem”, consider the abuse an infantry platoon leader’s weapon would go through, ranging from jungle mud and crud to desert sand and dust. I had a few pangs of regret, it seemed very nice, but I also considered that the Germans replaced it with the P38, which seemed a better design of a service pistol

    • “(…)Germans replaced it with the P38, which seemed a better design of a service pistol”
      Yes, but I would say it was its’ time has come situation. Keep in mind that Parabellum Pistole is 19th century design (adopted by Switzerland in 1900) and it was good performed back then, but as it often happens in times of pioneers (in this case of service automatic pistols) superior design appeared soon.

      • The major issue wasn’t the age of the design, it was changes in ammunition.

        The Parabellum action was originally designed for the 7.65 x 21mm cartridge. When it was redesigned for the 9 x 19mm, it was found that the most consistent functioning was with a 124-grain bullet at a muzzle velocity of around 1,000 to 1,100 F/S. This was the standard Reichswehr load in WW1 and worked perfectly well, delivering about 350 FPE to the target (the same energy as the vaunted .45 ACP or for that matter the .38 ACP).

        During WW2, the Wehrmacht and others began “hotting up” their 9 x 19mms, the better to deal with lightly armored personnel carriers and other cover at close range. The same 124-grain bullet at 1,300 F/S became common.

        While this worked quite well in SMGS such as the MP38/40s, Beretta M1938s, and for that matter Sten guns, it proved to be a problem for the Parabellum. The toggle action was opening and closing faster, and as result it sometimes failed to pick up the top round from the magazine and feed it into the chamber.

        The Parabellum had always required a stronger magazine spring than most other designs (as anyone whose ever tried to load one will attest), but even that wasn’t enough to ensure reliable feeding with the newer generation of 9 x 19mm.

        By comparison, the P.38 and FN HP fed pretty much any level of 9 x 19mm load consistently. The major difference was that over time, the heavy loads tended to crack the locking recesses in the slide of the P.38, a phenomenon seen later in the Beretta designs such as the M9. (Hence the saying “You’re not a SEAL ’til you’ve eaten Italian steel.”)

        By comparison, pistols like the HP, with full-coverage slides and Browning or Browning/Petter type locking systems (Colt, Glock, SiG, etc.) seemed to handle the “hot stuff” without damage.

        The Parabellum wasn’t retired due to being a “19th Century design”. It and the next generation of 9 x 19mm pistols were out-evolved by their ammunition.

        Today, with 9 x 19mm ammunition of the “+P” or “+P+” persuasion exhibiting performance and pressure levels in the low .357 Magnum range as a matter of course, Browning/Petter type actions are probably the second-best choice- right behind medium to large-frame revolvers in 9 x 19mm, such as the Manhurin MR73, or the Ruger Speed-Six or Blackhawk Convertible.

        Being designed around the .357 Magnum cartridge,the revolvers have the requisite strength to handle the pressures of almost any 9 x 19mm factory load, no matter how exuberant it is.

        cheers

        eon

        • “During WW2, the Wehrmacht and others began “hotting up” their 9 x 19mms, the better to deal with lightly armored personnel carriers and other cover at close range.”(C)

          How interesting…
          And against the bombers, probably there were special bullets with remote detonation? Why not? The 8,8cm Flak worked well for both air and armored targets. 😉

          The development of bullets with an iron core was carried out, first of all, to save lead. As well as using other ersatz materials. Steel, bimetal, aluminum, sintered iron powder.
          And for the same purpose, during the Great War, the weight of the bullet would be reduced from 8 to 7.45 g. They tried to keep the weight of new bullets 8 g, but this required the introduction of new gunpowder, so they “had to put up” with the increased ranges of a direct shot and penetration of helmets.
          Bullets made of sintered iron powder were originally intended for use only in SMGs, but apparently (as it happens in war) they were fired with available ones. Probably it was not very good for the barrel’s survivability…

          And P38 cracks and breaks NOT from hot cartridges. This is from old age. A feature of the steels used in the war, prone to natural aging.

          • Very funny with the remote detonation bullets and whatnot… Yes, of course, no 9mm Parabellum bullet had the energy to punch through even minimal vehicle armor, hot loaded or not. While the Germans just wanted save on strategic materials (lead) as you wrote, some other countries did develop SMG loads for tactical reasons. At least the Finnish and Italian SMG loads were quite “hot” and the primary reasons for that was to increase effective range, and at least in the case of Finland, better penetration of lighter materials (not armor steel!) such as trees.

          • Do you have a reference for steel deterioration with age

            Especially with reference to compositional ranges, heat treatments, stress states, and phase changes occurring?

        • “(…)The Parabellum wasn’t retired due to being a “19th Century design”. (…)”
          Parabellum Pistole was not more expensive to make that P38 due to how it was manufactured?

          • “…some other countries did develop SMG loads for tactical reasons…”(C)

            For example?
            Can you give examples of equipment options?
            Not in the sense of “this hot, but this green”?
            Indicating the mass of the charge and projectile, or at least the maximum pressure?

            Most of these cartridges were not intended for high power and had roughly standard component weights.
            For example, the Swedish SMG cartridge simply had a stiffer steel shell (instead of cupronickel), which gave a slight increase in pressure, along with muzzle velocity and penetration.
            Or Finnish military cartridges that were collected from all kinds of garbage. Therefore, SOMETIMES they gave such a range of pressures between shots that they broke pistols.
            Actually, therefore, on such cartridges they wrote “for SMG”.
            Likewise with many other “cartridges for SMG”. When cartridges from one manufacturer in some batches fired from pistols normally, while the other broke them.
            This also includes changes in the characteristics of cartridges with age. Some, with prolonged storage, become angrier, others weaken.

            Of course, there are also special cartridges for SMG, for example, Israeli.
            But you can definitely tell which of the cartridges is for what, you can only look at the factory specification or at the results of live shooting.

          • “Do you have a reference for steel deterioration with age?..”(C)

            Take any material science engineering handbook.
            Any steel ages from time to time.
            It’s just that for some brands it is more pronounced or the structure changes without the acquisition of fragility.
            All Swedish steel weapons are prone to this kind of damage.
            P38, L-53, Suomi, etc.
            The only question is whether the part from the risk group was made of such steel and whether the weapon underwent refurbishment. If the blackening was restored by the “hot method”, then the steel has passed tempering and MOST OF ALL the brittleness has been eliminated.

      • Did you forget your name? Is it not “dawai”; dawai chasee! (“give me your watch” for English speakers):-)

  4. There are a 1911 pistols out there with that same Austrian Army (Bundesheer) mark, some have been sold by the CMP on the US civilian market. I personally know of a U.S. ARMY 1911 A1 with a 1943 frame (Ithaca Gun Co.) that has that mark, on the left side of the frame immediately forward of the slide stop.

  5. It’s a treat to see a luger with so little wear and such fantastic original finish.

    There’s a contrast between the very fine cylindrical grinding finish on the barrel and the much coarser grinding of the action parts
    Almost like a deliberate pattern (like for example “Geneva stripes” on the internals of a very high end watch).

  6. The French seem to have made the most out of the Mauser factory,

    I’ve not got very far yet on their use of the technical departments to design a new .22rf bolt action training rifle, based on the Mauser KKW

    Which the French government then had manufactured back home in Saint Etienne, as the MAS 45.

    Before eventually shipping out all the machine tools and blowing up the factory buildings.

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