Development of the Luger Automatic Pistol (Video)

Lugers! there are approximately a gazillion different recognized varieties, because the pistol became so popular and iconic. And yet…they all kinda look the same, don’t they? (If you are a Luger collector, don’t answer that!) A great many ( I daresay the significant majority) of the Luger variations are minor changes in production details. So, what was involved in the mechanical evolution of the Luger?

Not much, really – which is a testament to the talents of Georg Luger. He got the gun almost totally right on his first try. There are, however, two major variants of the Luger mechanically – the 1900 model and the 1906 model. In this video I will walk through the differences between these two, as well as the initial Borchardt pistol that Luger used as his starting point and a couple other relevant milestones (a Swiss trials gun and a transitional French trials gun). And since they are the most common of the military models, we will also take a quick look at the German Army, Navy, and Artillery models.



    • Barrel lengths varied on the 1902 OM, as well, notably the carbine variants. About the only real index of whether it’s an OM or an NM is the mainspring (flat on OM, coil on NM) and the toggle knobs (dished with spring downlatch on OM, flat/knurled and no latch on NM).



  1. If I’m not mistaken the Luger pistols were better suited for target shooting than field service. The lock work was expensive to construct and needed more maintenance than the Mauser C96 series. However, the Luger had a better reload time than the C96 and a much better reload time than most revolvers (if we do not count those with speed loader compatibility)…

    Did I mess up?

    • But anyway this design has influenced Swiss weapons or more exactly Adolf Furrer (director of Eidgenössischen Waffenfabrik) which extensively used Kniegelenkverschluss
      W+F 1919 submachine gun:
      action rotated 90° along bore axis, weapon never put into production

      FM-K.38 autocannon, existing in aeroplane and AA version

      Flab Kan 38 AA automatic gun firing 34mm cartridge (unique to this weapon)

      W+F Lmg.-Pist 41/44 submachine gun

      Leichtes Maschinengewehr 1925

      24 mm Tankbüchse 41üchse_41

    • See “The 3 Deadliest Gunfighting Pistols Of All Time” by Jim Dickson in the 2015 Gun Digest (pp. 248-252).

      The Parabellum (Luger) P.08 in 9 x 19mm is the all time greatest fighting handgun in world history, simply on the grounds of having killed more men on more battlefields than any other, period.

      It proved itself in the trench fighting of WW1, when it would keep on working in conditions that jammed Mauser rifles and other lesser autopistols, and in WW2 added to its score of enemy dead while consistently outperforming all but the best of other automatic pistols of that generation in reliability in combat in adverse conditions.

      It has been argued that the Luger’s record of reliability was what “inspired” other designers to come up with automatic pistols that matched or exceeded its track record, like the M1911A1, P-35, P.38, etc.

      In spite of arguments about “stopping power”, the 9 x 19mm round has proven over the last century to be just as effective a man-killer as any .44 or .45 that launches its pinky-finger-sized slugs at blackpowder velocities (under 1000 f/s). Simply put, 350 to 400 foot-pounds of energy will kill a man if it hits him in the vitals or the head, and how it’s applied doesn’t seem to matter much.

      As for the Luger’s fabled UN-reliability,it should be used with ammunition which duplicates the standard German service load it was designed around. A 124 grain bullet at 1150 FPS will cycle the action every time, feeding, firing, and ejecting, and deliver about 365 foot-pounds of wallop to the target.

      Weaker loads (like a lot of American commercial ammunition) will not always cycle the action; hotter ones (like 9mm +P) will cause bolt velocity to increase to the point that the magazine follower and spring will not be able to raise the top round upward fast enough to be picked up by the bolt instead of being overriden by it.

      If the Luger has a single major fault, it is that its action is superbly balanced for that one load and that one level of power, and anything above or below it causes problems.

      BTW, the No. 2 pistol of the 3 is the Colt M1911 .45, which has taken down about two-thirds as many men as the Luger in the last 105 years. And few would argue against its efficiency, reliability, or lethality.

      No. 3, perhaps surprisingly (but not to me) is the Revolver, Colt, Single Action, Army Model of 1873, Cal. .45 plus its twin brother the Frontier Six-shooter in .44-40 Winchester Center Fire. The “Peacemaker” has been killing men and animals for 143 years and will likely continue to do so as long as we use firearms as opposed to gauss guns, grav pulsers, lasers, “phasers”, or dialectical deconstruction.

      The Colt Single Action Army’s main virtue is that it’s about the simplest, most mule-stupid revolver ever designed. It has fewer moving parts than just about any other repeating arm of any sort, rarely breaks, can be repaired by a halfway-decent blacksmith on the rare occasion that something does break, and if there’s no blacksmith around can still be fired with half its guts shattered or missing, as long as the hammer, cylinder, hand and mainspring are present and accounted for.

      In fact, you can rotate the cylinder by hand, and touch it off with a strip of rubber tied behind the hammer, or just a brisk smack of the hammer with a rock in your fist.

      As for killing power, the .45 and .44-40 rounds were mainly intended to kill animals. The .44-40 round was designed for hunting big game with the Winchester lever-action rifle, and the .45 was intended to take a cavalryman out of the fight by taking his horse out from under him.

      Cowboys packed .45s and .44s mainly in case their horses panicked and bucked them off; a man’s foot could easily get caught in a stirrup in that situation, and a horse in a blind run could all too easily drag him to his death unless said horse was stopped right NOW.

      It’s worth noting that both the Colt 1911 and the Luger were popular in the American West after their introduction, because they were just as effective and reliable as the old .45 “hogleg”, held two or three more rounds of ammunition than the revolver, and unlike the “newfangled” double-action revolver had the same short, fairly crisp trigger that Peacemaker fans were used to. The Colt even had a hammer like the old “thumb buster”, too; most Westerners didn’t bother with the safety they just carried the 1911 Condition Two, hammer down on a loaded chamber, and thumb-cocked it on the draw just like the Peacemaker. The Luger’s safety was about as easily flipped off by men (and women) used to reaching up and hauling back a hammer with the right thumb, too.

      The Luger’s trigger actually can be made over to a fairly crisp 4-pound letoff with a bit of work with an oilstone, and you don’t even have to field-strip the gun to do it; just pop off the sideplate and all the relevant bits are right there for attention.

      So no, the Luger isn’t just a target gun, although it’s certainly accurate enough for it. It’s one of the most effective fighting pistols ever used on a battlefield.

      Over the last century or so, it and the two Colts proved it while making history in the process.



      • “Parabellum (Luger) P.08 in 9 x 19mm is the all time greatest fighting handgun in world history, simply on the grounds of having killed more men on more battlefields than any other, period.”
        It mean that it was effective weapon produced in great number, but not necessarily best weapon when compared one-to-one.

        “.44-40 round was designed for hunting big game with the Winchester lever-action rifle”
        Can you define big game? I always though that in pre-smokeless-powder this was done with .45-70 and similar in size cartridges.

        “It’s worth noting that both the Colt 1911 and the Luger were popular(…)”
        If I would write:
        9×19 is popular cartridge for automatic pistols
        that would be discovery but I want to know
        Why 9×19 is popular cartridge for automatic pistols?
        After all main user – Germany – lost World War, twice.
        There was also ballistic-wise similar 9x23mm Largo, why it don’t become so popular?

        • The .44-40 was considered adequate for game up to elk, which takes in most four-footed ruminants in North America. Note that there was a “.44-100″ loading with a heavier powder charge in the 1870s-90s, but it was intended for the Winchester MM1873 Long Range Rifle with a 32” barrel, more for shooting at ranges up to 500 yards than extra power “up close”.

          The article bases its ratings on confirmed number of KIA with the pistol in combat. That’s how the Parabellum came out on top, and it’s pretty hard to argue with.

          If SMG kills with the 9 x 19mm round were factored in, the 9mm would probably outstrip the other two by a factor of three or even four.

          The popularity of the 9 x 19mm cartridge is mainly based on the fact that it was adopted as a standard submachine gun round across Europe after WW1.

          The main holdouts were France (which preferred their 7.65 Long round), the U.S. (which preferred the .45 ACP in the Thompson and Reising), and Great Britain (which had no use for SMGs at all, considering them “gangster weapons”). (Thanks for nothing, Warner Bros.)

          There were other 9mms, such as 9 x 25 Mauser, but they soon fell by the wayside, mainly because the 9 x 19mm was accurate, powerful, and reliable enough in feeding, didn’t intimidate draftees with blast and flash, and didn’t beat the guns to death with excessive bolt velocity, etc.

          The 9 x 23mm Bergmann-Bayard Long was the standard service pistol caliber in Denmark and Spain mainly because both countries liked the Bergmann pistols, and later on the 9 x 23mm Largo version proved to be more adaptable to the feed geometry of the Spanish-made 1911 clones and etc. than the shorter, more tapered 9 x 19mm was. Colt-type autos like relatively straight-walled cases, and the 9 x 23mm is basically a rimless .38 Super Colt Auto round.

          When colt developed what laterbecame the commander ‘shorty” 1911A1 in the early 1950s, it was intended as a 9 x 19mm pistol to replace the 1911A1 .45 as the new standard u.s. service pistol. S&W developed what ecame the m39 in 9 x 19mm for the same Rfp, and High Standard fielded the T4 pistol prototype that has nearly been forgotten today. (It bore an odd resemblance to the Walther PP.)

          Colt’s design staff sweated bullets trying to get the 1911 feed system to work correctly with the 9 x 19mm round. The final magazine and feed ramp design was unlike any other Colt had ever come up with except the .22 caliber Woodsman. Later, the feed system would make the Gold Cup National Match in .38 Special Mid Range Wadcutter straight blowback work properly.

          Meanwhile, 65 other armies adopted the Browning HP in 9 x 19mm, which had pretty much been designed for that round from the beginning.

          Power-wise, the 9 x 23mm is about even with the .38 Super Auto in most loadings, but today most 9 x 19mm service ammunition is, as well.

          The present-day U.S. military service 9 x 19mm NATO load for use in the M9 pistol, etc., launches a 124 grain FMJ at 1300 F/S for 465 FPE, which puts it in the range of a hot 130-grain JHP handload in the .38 Super Auto or the 125-grain JHP standard police load of the .357 Magnum out of a 4″ service revolver barrel. And that’s pretty strong “medicine” in any language.

          In short, the 9 x 19mm is probably the best-balanced service self-loader round on Earth, and has proved it in nearly every war fought in the last century.

          Its track record, and that of the Parabellum automatic pistol, is hard to argue with. And I speak as someone who, for a lot of years, didn’t have much use for either the pistol or its cartridge. I’ve learned a bit more since that time.

          As the old saying goes, we truly grow too soon old and too late smart.

          Well, I did, anyway.



          • “In short, the 9 x 19mm is probably the best-balanced service self-loader round on Earth, and has proved it in nearly every war fought in the last century.”

            This seem to be confirmed by Russian military, who also embraced 9mm Para, albeit in their own interpretation with very hot loads and armour piercing bullets. No need for greater endorsement than that.

          • “This seem to be confirmed by Russian military, who also embraced 9mm Para, albeit in their own interpretation with very hot loads and armour piercing bullets.”
            In first place it was developed to be effective against body armour, when 9x18mm proved to be weak in this area (after all that cartridge was developed in 1940s, before anyone expected body armour to become popular).
            Also notice that 9x19mm is not sole pistol cartridge in current Russian service, as 9x21mm is used aswell with Serdyukov automatic pistol:

          • “popularity of the 9 x 19mm cartridge is mainly based on the fact that it was adopted as a standard submachine gun round across Europe after WW1.”
            Arguable, Bergmann sub-machine gun has influence on many sub-machine gun designed in inter-war period, cartridge choice was not obvious. Sub-machine guns produced for export have often various chambering options.
            Let’s see some examples of inter-war period sub-machine gun (data from Modern Firearms site)
            MP-28/II has several options: 9×19, 7,63×25 Mauser, 7,65×22 Luger, 9×23 Largo, 9×25 Mauser Export and .45 Auto
            Steyr – Solothurn S1-100 has options: 9×19, 9×23 Steyr, 9×25 Mauser Export
            Danuvia 39M (service weapon of Hungary): 9×25 Mauser Export
            Kulometná pistole vzor 38 (service weapon of Czechoslovakia): 9×17 Vz. 22 (Czechoslovak designation for 9×17 Browning cartridge)
            Star sub-machine guns (SI-35, RU-35, TN-35): 9×23 Largo
            Suomi sub-machine gun was initially developed for 7,65×22 Parabellum cartridge
            Husqvarna M37 (Swedish licensed version of Suomi sub-machine gun): 9×20 Browning Long (later changed to 9×19)
            STA M 1922 / MAS M 1924 (France): 9×19, interestingly judging from bipod it was rather viewed as squad weapon.
            MAS 38 (France): 7.65mm Longue, officially adopted in 1938 but it is effect of lengthy development
            Tallinn arsenal (Estonia): 9×20 Browning Long

          • “Colt’s design staff sweated bullets trying to get the 1911 feed system to work correctly with the 9 x 19mm round.”
            There is also Brazilian 9×19 derivative of M1911 design – IMBEL 9 M973
            Judging from its mass (1010g) it remain proportions and size of original, but as smaller cartridge was used more fits into magazine (pistol capacity: 9+1).
            I don’t know how feeding in this automatic pistol is solved.

          • Excellent commentary (as always, eon!). On the subject of “big game” in 1873 when the .44-40 came out, it might be worth noting that buffalo herds still ruled the West, although the American Bison was all but extinct in the USA by the start of the 20th century, it’s eradication supposedly being the cornerstone of a campaign to corral the nomadic Indian tribes onto reservations. While those early Winchesters would not be what we would consider today as being adequate for hunting an animal of that size, since they were not normally hunted for their meat, simply killing them, even if a slow death from infection, might have been good enough for the time.


            As for the “ideal” pistol caliber, I’ve always felt that it depends primarily on the physical qualities of the shooter — the size, weight, and upper body strength of the person behind the gun. I strongly suspect that a primary reason why the FBI went from 10mm to .40S&W to 9mm was to accommodate the needs of smaller shooters. For instance, many immigrants to the US today tend to be considerably smaller in stature than the traditional US population — people of either Northern European or West African descent. In addition, the growing number of women being recruited into the military and police forces also must be accomodated. The end result being that service pistol recoil being reduced proportionally to fit the changing demographics of the people using them, and in particular, accomodating the smallest people likely to be on the force. That would seem only common sense.

    • I would say the primary factor is expense rather than maintenance. And as much as I enjoy my C96, it is an awkward handful as a pistol. The Luger is a joy to handle by comparison.

      • “C96, it is an awkward handful as a pistol”
        I think that this weapon should be rather considered as light-carbine which can be used optionally as automatic pistol. Notice that C96 has sights scaled to 1000m.

        • True but I have not been able to justify the expense of purchasing a stock holster with the ladies in my life. One wants me to fix the house and the other wants Barbies and baby dolls.

      • Also notice that according to
        there was development of new 9x19mm automatic pistol started in 1900s by Josef Nickl, that mean that Mauser Werke was not contented with C96 as military weapon and want new one. These attempt finally failed, but it allow to design smaller automatic pistol – Mauser Model 1910 firing 6,35mm Browning (.25 Auto) cartridge and Mauser Model 1914 firing 7,65mm Browning (.32 Auto) cartridge, which enjoyed commercial success in civilian market.

  2. Nice to see all this variants in one place.
    Two things. I have missed the change of the caliber.
    Second, it was not a small thing what Borchardt had done. It was one of, if not, the first reliable pistol when very few automatik guns where around. He was the first to put the magazine in the grip and had the packing problem for the spring. That was realy solved with the invention of the slide. The obvious solution would be move the grip back and have something similar to the Mauser 98. I believe at the time Luger starting his work on that pistol Borchardt had moved to other fields of intrest.

  3. What about the “Stepped Chamber”… An innovation from Georg Luger applied to the Lugers from 1910 to 1942 and still been going to be applied to some well known German 9mm automatics.

      • Stepped chamber is used to get healtier obturating time and effect for rather short barreled auto loading pistols using powerfull rounds. By means, more of the “To be wasted” powder charge would be used both to expell the bullet and to cycle the action. Some short barreled HK and Walther pistols of current production have been using this feature if I remember correctly. It can be recognised as if a reamering defect in front of the chamber if looked through the breech end of the barrel.

  4. Parabellum was the brand name used by DWM for the commercial models of the pistol in Germany. Even the NATO STANAG for the cartridge to this day calls the cartridge 9 mm Parabellum.

    Luger was used to sell it in English speaking countries. I think Stoeger company as the U.S. importer owned this brand name in the U.S. (There was a .22 rimfire Stoeger Luger around 1970.)

    It should be kept in mind that the German Navy adopted the 9 mm Parabellum pistol in 1904 already.

    Despite its odd design, in WW1 and WW2 the P08 was considered by the troops as an extremely reliable firearm with an effective cartridge. Only the FN High Power was similarly popular with German soldiers in WW2 (at least those who knew the FN High Power).

  5. I have a Mitchell Arms reproduction P08 from the early 1990’s with the USA crest over the breach. The papers with it say that was the Stoeger trade mark back in the day and the name Luger was trademarked in the USA.

  6. Per eon’s input, the only problem with the Luger is that it is engineered to fire exactly ONE type of powder charge for any given cartridge. Anything that doesn’t conform to army standards would cause the Luger to malfunction (and the main issue was expenses associated with manufacturing the toggle lock, right?). Funny thing: converting a Luger into a machine pistol causes it to run wild, with an insane rate-of-fire comparable to that of an Uzi.

    Weapon of choice scenario:

    This has got to be the worst Halloween ever. Why are we even hiding from creepy machete-swinging killer clowns in some abandoned munitions factory!? Given a choice of pistol caliber guns, which do you pick assuming your choice ammunition is among the several-hundred or so boxes stacked in the room?

    1. Gasser Montenegrin Revolver
    2. Winchester Model 1892 in .44-40
    3. Nagant Model 1895 with Bramit device or Stechkin OTs-38
    4. Colt M1911
    5. Makarov PB
    6. MK.22 Hush Puppy or HK MK.23 SOCOM with Sykes-Fairburn dagger
    7. Full-auto artillery Luger with 32-round drums of 9×19 Parabellum
    8. Schnellfeuer
    9. Hellriegel 1915
    10. Beretta M1918
    11. Or per the usual screw the budget and add your favorite toys to this list!!

    This activity is completely voluntary. You are not required to survive horror movies if you do not wish to do so. Please keep any and all criticism of this post humane and free of foul language.

    Thank you,


    • “only problem with the Luger is that it is engineered to fire exactly ONE type of powder charge for any given cartridge”
      But notice this also other automatic pistol might malfunction with energetically improper cartridge (as any weapon using energy from fired cartridge for propulsion)


      “11. Or per the usual screw the budget and add your favorite toys to this list!!”
      This should be sub-machine gun with detachable magazine, preferably with double-stack-feed for easiness of “topping” magazine with cartridges. Big magazine capacity would be useful but not necessarily needed.

    • I would mix and match a bit. The Winchester would be my long arm. .44-40 should excavate skulls effectively, and manual action encourages aiming. The MK22 with the SF dagger as quiet backups. The MK 23 is too big for my hand. A Sykes Fairbairn is an exquisite tool for nasty business.

    • ” converting a Luger into a machine pistol causes it to run wild, with an insane rate-of-fire”
      I think that is true for most automatic pistol converted for full-auto; in such weapons cyclic RoF is not issue.

  7. An evolutionary dead-end?

    It’s interesting how the Luger P08 started (or continued?) a fashion trend in “naked barrel” automatic pistol design (e.g., Lahti L-35) that lasted for about half a century, before finally being drowned out by Browning’s full-slide pistol designs. And it’s not that they were toggle-locked P08 clones, some just had a roughly similar outward appearance but were mechanically different. If Browning’s pistol designs were indeed superior, then it’s a wonder why it took so long for other gun designers to finally recognize this.

    I’m thinking of the demise of the rear-engined car, a platform that was generally superior performance-wise, but inferior safety-wise, and co-existed with front-engined cars for nearly a century until it was ultimately killed off by pollution-control issues (the one exception, Porsche, originally planned to kill off its rear-engined offerings back in the 1970s, but customers steadfastly refused to accept that plan).

    • “started (or continued?)”
      I will say that continued because “free-barrel” was carry-over from revolver era.

      “If Browning’s pistol designs were indeed superior, then it’s a wonder why it took so long for other gun designers to finally recognize this.”
      Notice that Beretta remain using “open-top” slides.

      • If you use model 92 as evidence of unified slide method limitation for larger pistols, I tend to agree.

        Beretta’s open top, part of being reflection of earlier tradition, may be testimony to other extreme of large slide mass, which apparently was not necessary for reliable function and would create burden to user.

        • “model 92”
          I rather though about Beretta Model 1951 (or its license-built version Helwan Brigadier), but indeed model 92 also use open-top slide.

    • Browning’s slide design resembles the telescoping bolt of open bolt blowback SMGs. These allowed SMGs to be more compact. It is probably a balance between slide weight and how long it takes the locked breech mechanism to open, among other factors.

    • Good point of comparison of very different approaches to same solution – managing recoil and facilitating pistol’s function cycle.

      I see Luger’s approach as more sophisticated and therefor phenomenally attractive to aficionados. Browning’s approach is simpler and cheaper to produce, therefor it prevailed. I’d say it created more ‘wrapped-up’ package or less-“naked” as you say. The end result(effect) is about the same.

        • There was also automatic pistol by Sudayev:

          which was his thesis/dissertation (received diploma in 1941).
          Sudayev’s self-loading pistol fire 7,62mm TT cartridge. It has self-cocking mechanism. There is spring that is at one time hammer’s spring and barrel-return-spring (I’m not sure proper name in American parlance). 2 different magazine were presented: for 8 rounds (normal) and 12 rounds (lengthened). Principle: short recoil. Pistol remain open after firing last cartridge.

      • According to the article I referenced, that is a myth. (One I believed until I read that article.)

        In fact, the “open barrel” setup on the Parabellum, like that on the Mauser c/96, was preferred by the Reichswehr because they had found that in enclosed-slide types, dirt, mud, and etc. could build up inside the slide and jam the action. The Parabellum’s exposed barrel negated this by it not having anywhere around the barrel for such crud to accumulate to begin with.

        The P.38 had an exposed barrel for the exact same reason. You may notice that the P.38 also has a lot of “open space” when the slide is open. This was intended to encourage environmental “input” to leave, or at least make it easy for the soldier to get it out, if nothing else by dumping the water in his canteen on the action to wash it out, and then shaking it a few times to get the water out as well.

        The point is that unlike the French or British army, but like the U.S. army, the German army did not view a handgun as just a badge of office for officers. That was what pocket pistols in 7.65mm or 9mm Browning were for.

        They saw a handgun firing a full-power cartridge as a weapon for use in situations where a rifle wasn’t applicable, regardless of the rank of the man using it. Which exactly duplicates American military thinking on the subject.

        This also explains why the Reichswehr suggested the 9 x 19mm round to DWM in the first place. (Which they did.)

        The German police used the 1900 model or Old Model in 7.65 x 21mm from the outset, and liked its accuracy and reliability but weren’t too impressed with its effects on the target. With the factory load launching a 93 grain FMJ at 1110 for 255 FPE, it was about as powerful as the .38 S&W Special introduced in the U.S. in 1902, that also didn’t impress the Reichswehr or the U.S. Army either one very much.

        Both forces decided they needed something with more oomph. The U.S. went for a bigger slug launched at blackpowder velocities because up to that time it had worked well for them (.45 Colt revolver).

        The Reichswehr thought a combination of higher velocity and a slightly larger bullet would work within the existing dimensions of the Parabellum pistol.

        DWM according took the bottlenecked 7.65 x 21mm case, “blew it out” to a straight-tapered one holding a 9mm bullet (losing 2mm of case length in the process), upping bullet weight by 31 grains and velocity by about 40 f/s, thereby increasing muzzle energy by about 40%, matching the bigger American .45 – and as they say, the rest is history.



    • “Browning’s pistol designs were indeed superior”
      Is Petter slide (as found in SIG P210) different from Browning’s slide or it is subset of Browning’s slide. Petter solution was used on some automatic pistols, but, so far I know, where never as popular as “classic” solution. Examples of automatic pistol using this solution are:
      Modèle 1935 (French service automatic pistol)
      SIG P210
      Star Model 28
      Star Model 30

      • Charles Gabriel Petter began as a designer at FN working under John Moses Browning and Dieudonne Saive. His designs for first the French Army and then SiG (before and after WW2) were essentially “simplified” Browning types intended to make rapid production faster and easier.

        Petter designed the now-standard ejection-port/barrel shoulder locking system not just because it made it easier to mass-produce the guns, but because he had doubts that all of the multiple locking lugs seen in a typical Browning design were actually engaging the slide recesses. He concluded that one REALLY BIG “locking lug” was both simpler to make and inherently stronger than two or three “little” ones.

        And there was the thicker-walled chamber, just sitting there, not really actually doing anything.

        It’s worth noting that after the war, when Petter was gone to Switzerland and the French Army wanted a new service pistol in a serous caliber to match their new SMGs, Manufacture d’Armes St. Etienne (MAS) just took Petter’s M1935S in 7.65 x 20, scaled it up slightly to handle 9 x 19mm, and called it the MAS M1950.

        The troops loved it, their only quibble being the goofy safety inherited from the M1935A by way of the S. Their solution was typically pragmatic; they ignored the safety and carried the M50 in Condition Two, hammer down on an empty chamber, and thumb-cocked it on the draw.

        The book said Condition Three, empty chamber, but that was basically just for inspection and parades. You saw very few M50s in Condition Three in holsters in Indochina or Algeria.

        Some movies even get it right; see The Battle of Algiers (1966):



        • Sorry Eon but, neither the kidney shaped camming hole nor the single locking shoulder propped against to the ejection port take place in Gabriel Petter’s 1935 pistol. It does not even contained the ” outside slide rails to fit into the receiver’s inside”. It has Browning type locking lugs fitting into the slide ceiling inside and twin Browning type locking links for more balanced work. Kidney shaped locking cam patent should be belonged to The SIG and single locking shoulder against to the ejection port first appeared in French MAS 1935S. Its inventor should need some research. AWAIK.

        • Re: development of barrel locking into the ejection port. Was it really Petter’s idea? My only reference book (Ezell’s) states that “French engineers” developed the simplification as a way of economizing the manufacture of the M1935S. (Incidentally, that pistol still retained the less-simple Browning swinging link that gave way to a solid lug and cam system.) Any reference to a publication crediting Petter would be very welcome to see.

          • “barrel locking into the ejection port. Was it really Petter’s idea?”
            According to
            [In Webley self-loading pistol] barrel locked up into the ejection port
            which was designed much earlier (in early 20th century), so Petter was not first person to use this solution in automatic pistol.

          • See Pistols, Revolvers, and Ammunition by Michel H. Josserand and Jan Stevenson (1971). (It’s available free online in PDF format these days.)

            They devote an entire section in the chapter on “History’s Greatest Handguns” to Petter, and Josserand notes that St. Etienne’s design staff credited Petter with the chamber lockup setup when he talked to them about it in 1968 while writing the original French version of the book published in 1969.



  8. The Browning design is superior in terms of expense and tolerance issues. In terms of ergonomics, accuracy and reliability I am not sure that is the case.

    • At least with the Luger-type designs, the question of “to beaver-tail or not to beaver-tail” doesn’t become an issue in preventing the scourge of “slide bite.” A definite plus in the ergonomics department.

  9. As there are visible small differences, it is obvious that DWM tried to satisfy particular customer’s needs. This is astounding given the time period; something what we call market flexibility these days.

    One perhaps funny question: why is this gun called P.08 if development ended by 1906 model?
    Fantastic presentation and review by Ian, btw.; something we are used to see at FW.

    • The same reason the Colt Model of 1873 is called that; it was the year it was officially adopted by the German army, the navy having adopted the pistol two years earlier.

      Odd fact; Charles Edward Chapel notes in Guns of the Old West that the Colt Model P was originally known to the U.S. Army as the Model of 1872, having been officially adopted in June of that year, with limited troop issue beginning in late August.

      The U.S. Navy officially adopted it in February of 1873, and referred to it accordingly as the “Model of 1873” revolver.

      Then somebody in Army Ordnance noted that the Colt “Open Top” metallic-cartridge conversion of the Model 1860 Army percussion revolver to .44 rimfire or centerfire (both of which were in the Army inventory) was also catalogued as the “Model of 1872”.

      Needless to say, this could be a problem if parts, etc., for one “Model 1872” were requisitioned when parts, etc., for the other one were actually needed.

      The official designation “Model of 1873” was adopted for the new Model P Colt revolver in April of 1873, to conform to the Navy terminology already in use. Thus saving some confusion and embarrassment down the road, so to speak.

      BTW, Model P revolvers were only available commercially around the middle of 1874, due to the Army contracts being filled first.

      And a large chunk of the early production lots were in .44 Henry Flat rimfire, due to ammunition-availability factors with units stationed in the Southwest.

      Furthermore, .44 rimfire Peacemakers were produce in intermittent lots up to the late 1890s, for sale in Mexico and South America, where Winchester Model 1866 rifles and even copies of same made domestically remained popular and in use right up through the 1940s.

      In fact, production of .44 Henry Rimfire ammunition by CDM in Mexico only ended in the mid-1950s.



      • “Needless to say, this could be a problem if parts, etc., for one “Model 1872” were requisitioned when parts, etc., for the other one were actually needed.”
        Similarly there is BAR M1918 even if it actually was adopted in 1917 (to avoid confusion with medium machine gun designated M1917)

  10. It was adopted by the Imperial German Army in 1908 which was by far the largest contract at that time. Plus you have all the captures from both world wars marked P08.

    I have a modern 1911A1 (Springfield Armory Military Model), a Browning Hi Power Mk III, a Beretta 92FS and the Luger I mentioned previously. I bought all of them because they are militarily significant and historical firearms. I enjoy shooting all of them. And I carry the 92FS on the job. However the most comfortable to hold and the most natural to point has got to be the Luger. I saw it in the display case at a local gun store and held it and it just screamed “Buy me now!”

    I agree with the ammo load issues mentioned above. I’ve found with US commercial 124 gr loads I start having failure to go back into battery issue’s after 50-75 rounds. It usual comes from powder deposits in the tracks the bolt slides in.

    Ian and Karl in there Mud Test series on In Range did the Luger and I was surprised at how well it did. Go check it out.

  11. I do believe Borchardt derived the toggle-bolt from Maxim (who in turn adapted it from Winchester). Both Maxim and Browning developed their machine guns after adapting Winchester rifles to fire automatically (each in their own fashion — Maxim from recoil, Browning from gas). Undoubtedly Borchardt derived his box magazine from his time at Sharp’s in the company of James Parris Lee. I strongly suspect the “naked barrel” design is a holdover from both rifles and revolvers (barrel out front; mechanisms at the user end). Browning developed the slide, I guess, from his usual habit of making single parts do multiple jobs: the slide works as breechblock holder, recoil spring abutment, cocking device, sight base, and protection of internal mechanism from the elements.

  12. Yes, the Clair brothers has be befor with that tube magazine. But Borchard put the magazine in the grip in the way we have it today in almost every automatic pistol. He get it manunactured and sold in some numbers. I still believe he was the one that make the idea stick. In this way he was more influenceial than the Clair brothers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.