American Eagle Lugers at RIA

Many people are aware of the .45 caliber Lugers made for US military field trials – but far fewer people realize that Lugers were both tested by the US military and sold commercially several years prior to the .45 tests.

In 1900, the US military put several hundred 7.65mm Luger pistols into field trials with both infantry and cavalry units. These pistols were marked with a large and elaborate American eagle crest, in an attempt by DWM to enhance the gun’s appeal to Americans. A similar tactic was used in production of Lugers for Swiss sale, with a large Swiss cross (and it worked well). After complaints about the small caliber of the early 1900 Lugers, DWM developed the 9mm Parabellum cartridge, and attempted to sell them commercially in the US (and elsewhere). A small batch were also purchased for further military testing. Rock Island has a bunch of Lugers in their upcoming auction, including the two in this video – a fat barrel 9mm American Eagle commercial gun and a 7.65mm American Eagle test trials gun, complete with holster.

19 Comments

  1. This is two fine examples of Luger historia. My first was a military 9mm with an original holster/detachable stock and a drum (snail) clip plus the two standard clips. Everything had matching serial numbers. I was 14 years old and gave $15.00 for the whole set. I later found out that you could not buy 9mm Luger rounds anywhere in East Texas so was introduced to the art of handloading by an ex-Army veteran. I later gave the whole set to my father and he to my older brother if memory serves. It was stolen in a break-in in about 1964 in Arlington, Tx. and never recovered. The American Eagles were prized in the early 1900s by ranchers and other outdoor types, especially in the Rockies for some reason, and several that I am aware of are still in possession of the descendants of the original owners out there. I personally preferred the .45 cal. version over the 9mm or the anemic 7.65mm/.30 cal versions because they used the same rounds as the Thompson SMG so you only had to keep up with one type of ammo. If you had rounds for one you had ammo for the other as well. This was sort of a latter-day Colt-Winchester scenario on steroids.

  2. When I first got into collecting, I had an Army trials Luger in 7.65 with its holster, similar to the one shown in the video, but it was at a time when I would often have to trade up/sell off items to add something new to my collection. It wound up getting traded off, and I regret not having it now. I have seen an old Sears Roebuck catalog from around 1905 that had American Eagle Lugers for sale in the handgun section for around $22.00, when some pistols sold for as little as $3.00. Oh, and Bill, if you ever had a .45 caliber Luger, you had one of the rarest, if not THE rarest Luger of all, since there is only one example known to exist, and likely no more than five ever made, although the two pistols (one destroyed)that were entered in the Army trials and a single carbine from Georg Luger’s personal collection are all that are known to have been built for certain.

  3. “Back in the days” it was widely reported that there were possibly as many as twenty .45 cal. American Eagle Lugers produced. The NRA Museum website states that in paragraph #9, “…A very few M06 pistols were produced in .45 ACP caliber for testing and evaluation by the U.S. Army in 1907. This design was not adopted, and only three of these rare guns are known to exist today.” Note that it reports the number produced as “A very few” and that there are three remaining and known to them. Just because they do not know the exact number actually produced or the location of any possible remaining additional examples does not mean they do not exist. I know that if I had one stashed under my pillow no one would know about it but me and Wife. I would take NRA’s word over just about anyone’s concerning various arms and their history. It was reputed back in the 1950s that the remaining.45s were later stamped with “Germany” as shown in the sixth picture from the top at http://www.collectorsfirearms.com/dwm-1906-american-eagle-30-luger-pistol-pr18436/. Please note that this stamp appears to have been added after the serial number was stamped begging the question if these imports were production units pulled from inventory and stamped to meet exporting regulations. For a look at a model like the first I owned, go down to the picture of the one with a snail clip and wooden holster/detachable shoulder stock. The difference is that mine had, if memory serves, a 6″ barrel. The article is quite informative as well. I also owned a Swiss police 7.65 mm like the one shown in this article and have shot several examples of the “carbine” or “Artillery” models also shown.

    • Not to argue, but with values in between $500,000 to $1,000,000, if any more were around, I’m sure at least one would have turned up by now. As to the Luger’s popularity in the latter days of the “old west,” it is interesting to note that the legendary Tom Horn was arrested by a Luger-toting sheriff. Seems that Lugers and Broomhandles were quite popular with some turn-of-the century lawmen. It is a shame that your Artillery model was stolen. I was given one many years ago by a friend’s father who got it “back in the day” as well, and didn’t have much invested in it at the time. I helped him change the roof on his fishing camp, and I got it as payment. It is a fine shooting pistol that I plan on keeping. I have a few other Lugers as well, including an “S 42” that my great uncle “liberated” from a camp guard at Buchenwald. I never bothered to ask if the guard was still breathing or not when he acquired it.

  4. If interetsed, the NRA website is at http://www.nramuseum.org/guns/the-galleries/wwii,-korea,-vietnam-and-beyond-1940-to-present/case-37-wwii-the-axis,-germany-italy/mauser-p08-luger-black-widow-semi-automatic-pistol.aspx Scroll down to paragraph 9 and the quote is from tha latter part of that paragraph. Also, possibly as or even more rare that the .45 cal American Eagle is the Baby Luger on .32 cal. or the Pocket Pistol/Luger version, They are just not as “sexy” as the .45 AE version.

  5. Another little known fact regarding Lugers is that a batch of these pistols were manufactured by Vickers at Crayford in Kent in the 1930s! The contract was for the Dutch government for their colonial police force and was kept very quiet!

    • According to authors Martens and de Vries, the Vickers’ Lugers were actually assembled from new parts sourced in Germany as part of a cooperative venture between the British company and DWM to meet Dutch military demand for P.08 pistols after the Great War (the pistols were intended to be issued to the East Indies army; still acording to the excellent book on the Dutch Luger by the two historians mentioned above, the order was placed in December 1919 and fulfilled in the early 1920s, not in the 1930s.
      Like most of the post-war GDR re-works, these weren’t newly manufactured pistols (though the East Germans attempted to produce their “own” P.08 at the VEB Fahrzeug-und Jagdwaffenwerk “Ernst Thälmann” factory in Suhl, around the mid-1950s, but stopped after just a few hundred: these are very rare guns, marked with a a capital “N” for “Neufertigung” – “new production”).

        • DDR “VOPOs” or Volkspolizei Lugers were reworked wartime pistols in 9mm Parabellum. They were imported in some quantity during the 90s and can still be found occasionally with their distinctive red plastic grips.

          • Thanks Doc,
            that makes sense. Long and mighty 7.62 Tok. would surely mess Luger up – big time. I just wanted confirmation o that. It’s conceivable that DDR would not implement ‘capitalist’ cartridge in full production weapon.

  6. Bryden: This I did NOT know. Thanks for the additional information. The convolutions of the German government in avoiding compliance with the treaty ending WWI are intriguing to say the least. I do find it interesting that prior to WWII Lugers were made by a company in Germany that was owned by a Jewish family. When Hitler came to power they were divested of their company and it was taken over by a “more acceptable” company. And by the way, a friend has a Mauser that is heavily engraved, has Cape Buffalo fittings and part of the engraving is a dedication to Heir Krupp of the arms manufacturing firm. My friend’s father brought it back after the war.

  7. Gorgeous weapons! I noticed these have grip safety, some others do not. As for me, the 7.65 would be plenty of gun although 9mm is the classic.

    Still, cannot imagine American officers carrying German pistols. How would that work in (1st)war time? Luckily for both did not happen.

    • Well, Americans carried German rifles, sort of. The M1903 was such a close knock off of the Mauser that Mauser sued and was awarded royalties, which were paid on every rifle until the declaration of war.

      Had the US adopted a foreign designed pistol in the days of US arsenals, the US arsenals at Springfield and perhaps Rock Island would have tooled up for them. as they did when they adopted a foreign designed rifle (Krag-Jorgensen) in 1892.

      • Really (about M1903), that’s amazing. Yes, Karabiner was still fresh out-of-oven at that time.

        In greater sense, it is also known that Germans used Soviet weapons and vice-versa Soviet partisans used MP’s. Still, the American pride aspect, or lack of it if it took place, would be hard to swallow.

  8. American troops did in fact carry Lugers into combat at one point in time. See:
    http://www.phoenixinvestmentarms.com/1593AETest1900.htm
    “One thousand test Lugers (7.65 cal) were delivered to the U. S. Springfield Armory in late 1901. Most were distributed to U.S. Cavalry troops involved in police actions in the Philippines and Cuba. As the American Cavalry troops had used revolvers (Colt .45 and .38) for over 30 years, the small caliber, complex Luger, was viewed with some suspicion and not readily accepted.”
    And later in this same document:

    “In 1905-1907 the Springfield Armory called in most of the M1900 Test Lugers; 770 were sold to Francis Bannerman and Co. at public auction around 1910. Reportedly, some of the Lugers did not survive the tests and were destroyed by the Army. The reported serial range for these 770 Lugers purchased by Bannerman are 6167-96, 6282, 6361-7108, and 7147. Kenyon, Costanzo, and Reese report a serial range of 6100 to 7100. In 1910 the Springfield Armory reported 321 Lugers in 7.65 mm repaired. In 1911 the Rock Island Arsenal reported 306 Lugers in 7.65 mm repaired (Scott Meadows, U.S. Military Automatic Pistols, 1993, page 386).”
    I have seen old photographs of some of these troops showing them with Lugers. The problem was stopping power, or the lack threof, which is reportedly the reason the .45 cal 1911 was developed and later adopted. The same complaint was heard against the .38 cal. revolvers in use back then.

  9. What are the wee flat spring things on the “filled” toggles finger/thumb grip thing, I have only seen hollow circle types previously – Minus said, spring or such.

  10. Hi Bill

    I have an AE 30 caliber DWM Luger serial no 626.
    It has [Genuine Luger- Registered U.S.Patent Office] on the right side of the frame, and the AE crest above the breach….. On the left side of the barrel is [Kal 7,65]
    Can you tell me anything about this gun?

    Regards Ron Franchitti

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