German Naval P04 Luger at RIA

Most everyone is familiar with the Luger pistol – it is one of the most iconic handgun designs ever made. Folks who have a passing interest in the guns will probably know about both the standard Army model (the P08) and the long-barreled Artillery model (the lP08, with its shoulder stock and snail drum magazine accessories).

What a lot fewer people know about is the third major German military version of the Luger; the P04 Naval version. The Germany Navy was looking to replace its long-obsolete Reichsrevolvers at the same time the Army was, but while the Army was also dealing with the expense of adopting the new Mauser 98 rifles, the Navy needed far fewer pistols and had a budget on hand to buy them. They took the German Army and Swiss Army trials reports at face value and adopted the 1904 pattern Luger in 1904.

These pistols had 6 inch long barrels (compared to the 4 inches on Army models), rear sights adjustable for 100 or 200 meters, and they came with shoulder stocks for making the guns into convenient carbines. They were purchased in batches starting in 1904 (although the first deliveries took almost 2 years) and running through the end of World War I.


  1. One of the rarer Parabellum models, collector-wise, is the 1904/05 Naval Commercial, produced at DWM at the same time as the P04 Naval Model. Identical to the Naval except for markings, less than 200 are known to have been made altogether, in their own serial number range.

    At least some were imported to the U.S. with the “Ideal” holster stock grips, etc. This is odd, as the Ideal stock was made primarily for the 1900 “Old Model” Parabellum, and the Naval uses the improved mainspring and safety later used on the P.08.

    Needless to say, collectors have to watch out for fakes, after market rebarreling jobs, etc.

    One story John Walter related was that a police officer once approached a Luger collector friend of his, asking if he had a “short” (3.9″) barrel to replace the long tube on the Parabellum he had acquired for carry as an “off-duty” gun. The “long-nosed” Luger turned out to be a near-mint Naval Commercial.

    A deal was concluded, and thereafter the officer happily carried a brand-new S&W Chief’s Special 5-shot stainless .38 off-duty.



  2. Thank you Ian for another superlative firearms report!
    Just a small note to add to the history of the Navy Luger.
    There are not too many Naval Lugers available due to them going down to the deep sea when their ships were sunk.
    What a loss. 🙁
    See you on Friday.

        • The disguise coincidence hit both crews in the face. Both ships steamed away from the coast and then broadsided each other at point blank range with main guns, rifle caliber machine guns, and side arms. This was probably one of the only instances where armed civilian ships serving as auxiliary naval vessels fought each other.

          “Wait a minute! She’s carrying our name and colors! And it appears we’ve got hers!”

        • Most astonishing and to this time unknown to me part of WWI history. It is testimony to vicious face of the war; I presume there were not usual defensive measures on either ship, such as armour plating.

  3. Okay, I think it’s about time I tried again at creative content.

    At the target shooting range I’ve set up, emphasis has been placed on marksmanship with the floor rocking around like the deck of a ship at sea. This arrangement is to simulate the event where one must repel boarders, and the shooting targets move accordingly, bobbing up and down from behind a “do not shoot here” plate. Please choose a weapon from the tables to your left or bring your own. And no, pirates and/or monsters will not pop out of the background to get you, so don’t worry about it.

    1. P04 Naval Luger
    2. Colt M1911 or GP-35
    3. Baikal MCM (Margolin pistol)
    4. Smith & Wesson M1917 with half-moon clips
    5. MP-40
    6. Kar98K
    7. Krag-Petersson
    8. Stevens Model 520 trench gun
    9. Browning Citori
    10. Remington Model 8
    11. M1 Carbine or STG-44
    12. Breda 30
    13. MG08 or .50 caliber Vickers
    14. Or per the usual, screw the budget and add your favorite toys to this list.

    If you are going to try the actual challenge of repelling boarders at sea, just say so. But in any case, the activity is voluntary. You aren’t required to respond if you don’t want to do it. Please keep any and all criticism of this post humane and free of foul language.

    Thank you,


    • There’s a reason the United States Coast Guard’s weapon of choice for at-sea Stop and Search is the pump-action or semiautomatic shotgun.

      That being that in the conditions of intermittent swell or, worse yet, confused sea (Sea State Two/Three), there really isn’t any way to achieve a stable enough firing stance for a decent chance of a hit with a single projectile. Short of going prone on the deck, which presents its own problems in either a companionway or (eep) on the open deck. (Going over the side is a distinct possibility.)

      Fun fact; when you see an antique blunderbuss with a brass barrel, odds are you’re looking at a Naval issue arm. While brass barrels were somewhat popular for “coaching” blunderbusses, the naval issues had them for corrosion resistance at sea.

      They were used by British Royal Marines, among others, in both boarding and “repel boarders” actions, because their charge of a dozen or so “swan shot” (we’d call it No. 0 buck) could blanket a companionway, ladderway, etc., without much effort in the aiming department. Which at times wasn’t really that practical due to ship’s motion.

      So, your best bet would be the modern-day equivalent; the short-barreled defensive shotgun, preferably loaded with buckshot.

      At least that’s the USCG’s opinion, and they know a lot more about this stuff than I do. 😉



      • “modern-day equivalent; the short-barreled defensive shotgun, preferably loaded with buckshot.”
        Or sub-machine gun which also allow “spraying”, it give some bigger range and most notably has detachable magazine allowing faster reloading (this is advantage over tubular magazine shotgun, however box-magazine shotgun also exist)

        • The problem with the SMG is that its recoil tends to push the muzzle up; that can have dire consequences for your own side in a boarding action.

          (You open up on a pirate belowdecks, the ship’s motion plus recoil throws your muzzle up, and 9mm hardball punches through the overhead and weather deck, right into your buddy’s a$$. Assuming he survives it, he’s not going to be happy with you.)

          This doesn’t happen with the shotgun. You pull the trigger once, nine to twelve buckshot core the target like an apple, done. Recoil is a one-instant, over-and-done-with item. Controllability is much superior, especially in a “one hand for the ship (or weapon), one hand for yourself” situation.

          The shotgun, firing multiple relatively low-penetration projectiles with a single discharge, has always been superior for delivering controlled “curtain fire” in confined spaces. The SMG is really only better in situations where penetration is at a premium, in which case you probably should be using a rifle-caliber weapon to begin with.



      • Speaking of nautical corrosion-resistant brass – a fun bit of Naval lore. The expression “cold enough to freeze the balls off of a brass monkey” has nothing to do with simian testicles. In the days of sail, cannon balls were stacked in pyramids next to the guns on what was basically a large muffin tin, which for some reason was called a “monkey.” Because the salt air would cause the bottom rack of cannon balls to rust into place, the monkeys were made of brass, which tends to shrink a tiny amount when cold. Hence, in the North Atlantic in February (not a place to be, speaking from experience) the monkeys would shrink enough to send the cannon balls rolling around the deck.

        The Naval Luger has always been right behind the 8″ Artillery model on my “if I was rich” list of things I don’t need but would love to have. There were a few 6″ versions of the American-made stainless-steel Luger a few years back, as I recall. Someone here should know – it’s my understanding that the 6″ Luger was surface issue, but the U-boat crews in WW2 were issued 4″ versions. I’ve handled what was allegedly and pretty well-documented to be the Luger captured from the CO of the U-505, and it had a 4″ barrel.

  4. I’ll play,

    From Experience too!

    I’ll take the Model 500 Mossberg that served with me on the USS Dewey in the early 80’s or the Stevens on the list.

    Passageways on most ships are short, bulkheads and decks are always metal covered by cheap tile and make “bank shots ” easy. Extra credit to the shotgun as it can be aimed down a passageway and emptied from cover with a good likelihood of fatal damage.

    SHOTGUN for me Sir!

    Shotgun for me Sir!

  5. With regards to marines versus armed seamen as mentioned early in the video, the Royal Navy (UK) had marines (the Royal Marines), but they also armed regular seamen. These were known as “naval landing parties”. They were also used to board ships, subdue minor rebellions, raiding parties, etc. So, what the Germans were doing wasn’t really different from what the RN was doing, except the RN had marines as well.

    In the larger ships in the RN by the way, the marines also manned the larger guns, so they weren’t just naval infantry.

    • The same applied to the USMC. A WWII Marine whose duty station onboard an Essex Class Carrier was in a twin 5″ gun mount stated in an interview that knowing they were sitting directly above the 5″ magazine and that if it took a hit they’d be dead before they knew it may have helped in the evolution of his sense of humor.
      His name was Jonathan Winters.

  6. Hey, guys! Post title says P04, and that’s refers to 1904 model
    But linked auction item is clearly listed as “a late production post-war refurbished DWM Model 1914 Navy Luger dated 1917. These later Model 1914 Navy Luger are very distinctive in that they lack the grip safety, are fitted with a stock lug and have the flat checkered toggles.”
    who’s right and who’s wrong here?

    • Wait a minute, retracting previous interjection! Ian’s title is technically incorrect based on production dates. The item on auction is the 1914 variant, but as a categorical rule, it follows the original P04 layout including the barrel length.

    • According to the sources in the net, pistol resembles Military Contract Lugers made in 1916-1918, approximately 40000 made with no grip safety and 1917 printed at top of chamber, but the left side stamped marks over the dismount lever follows of the models of made in 1908-1914 with same safety configurations but no date stamp over the chamber section of barrel extention. Navy models with higher prices, are more likely to imitating however.

  7. Ian, it’s always a pleasure to not only watch your videos, but listen to them. You choose words carefully, and speak with very pleasant emphasis and tone. The absence of, “Hey guys, Crimeny Buckswalter here, today we’re gonna, because yous’e guys have axed… try to talk about some, and what we’re also gonna…” at Forgotten Weapons. All the close ups are excellent, no wobbling and so on. Nice shootin’ pardner.

    • I agree. As I’ve noted before, I also like the moderate tone of your videos as opposed to others who prefer to hype things up. What’s more, your cinematography and audiography have come a long way from the early days.

      Keep up the good work!

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