Slow Motion: Luger Snail Drum

The 32-round snail drum (or as it was properly known, the trommelmagazin 08) was developed in 1916 to give increased firepower to units armed with the LangePistole 08, or artillery Luger. These pistols were also used by stormtroopers prior to the introduction of the first submachine guns (which, incidentally, were also developed to use these drum magazines).

The drums were generally discarded after the war, as submachinegun development with more typical stick magazines made them obsolete. Today they are fairly rare and valuable, and quite interesting to use. The mechanism inside the snail drum actually uses two discreet mainsprings – one a typical coil spring in the stick portion and the other a flat clock spring in the drum. The lever on the back is used to tension and un-tension the clock spring, and as a result it moves as the drum is fired, until the cartridges stored in the drum portion itself are used up. At that point the coil spring takes over, feeding the remaining rounds in the box portion of the magazine.


    • Its offset because it is offset. It probably makes the second spring run easier, since it avoids the kink below the magazine neck, but the main reason is the designer had chosen to go this way. Note some modern drums are done in such style as well, chinese type 95 machinegun imedially comes to mind, and some aftermarket AR mag whichs name did i forgot.

  1. Nice artillery Luger.
    Is it a 1916 production and
    did it come with the snail drum?
    Does anyone make and market new snail drums that are as good as the ones made in German during WWI?

  2. That sucks you guys won’t get to go full on WWI in the Tiger Valley 2-man team match, but hey If Your a LEADER AND NOT A FOLLOWER you can always go to Pecos 😉 (God that guy is a douche) But in all seriousness, more coverage of WWI would be awesome.

    • Tiger Valley was the same weekend as the 2-Gun match, so it looks like Karl may be designed an awesome WWI-themed match for that weekend to substitute for Tiger Valley. 🙂

  3. I recall loading a trommelmag with the full 32 rounds with the aid of lollypop stick or pencil. The correct loading tool being scarcer than the mag itself. (Even rarer was the dust cover). Not having one in front of me the details escape me but the trick I remember was to ‘wind it up’ and lock the lever then jiggle the ‘straight’ spring and several rounds down and around the corner with the pencil or whatever and carefully feed the remaining rounds in taking care not to accidentally trip the lever and get a painful rap on the knuckle. There was a knack to it but great fun. More so than actually shooting the thing, which, to be honest, was a very unwieldy assemblage.

  4. Maybe I exaggerate now, but this looks like most awkward magazine ever made. So much more is admirable it works. Thanks for showing it and explanation!

  5. Hmm… There was a C96 assault carbine variant with a 40 round detachable box magazine. As I remember from a different history tumblr site titled “Lock, stock, and history,” this trench carbine with a was pretty dang effective at doing a submachinegun’s job in a raid even though it was not fully automatic. A simpler magazine would make for a better package in terms of maintenance.

    Weapon of choice scenario:

    Given a choice somewhere in the trenches, assuming you’ve survived ludicrous amounts of heavy artillery, which would you and your friends grab up if you had just escaped being taken prisoner by the other team? By the way, this scenario implies that your original equipment was taken away by your would-be captors just before a mortar shell turned them into mincemeat.

    1. Artillery Luger with trommelmagazin 08
    2. Steyr-Hahn pistol
    3. Oh goody, a Winchester M1897 Trench Gun with bayonet and a Smith and Wesson M1917!!
    4. Ross Rifle Mk 3 [sigh]
    5. Mauser C96 M1917 Trench Carbine (and no, you will not get hammer-bite!!)
    6. Hotchkiss M1914
    7. 7.7mm Scotti machine gun
    8. Scavenged Lebel spike bayonet (yikes!!)
    9. Japanese Officer’s Kyu Gunto (basically a katana with western styled saber hilt and scabbard)
    10. Lancia 1ZM (Grand Theft Auto, Trench edition!!!)
    11. Screw this! Commandeer the 7.7 FK.16 NA and kill the enemy tank chasing you!
    12. Add your favorite toys to this list!!

    This activity is a voluntary mission. You are not required to respond 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,


    • For an actual trench raid, the hands-down winner is the Model ’97 trench gun with a model 17 Enfield bayonet on the business end, plus the M17 S&W with lots of half-moon clips of .45 ACP for reloading. I would add a M1918 trench knife to the kit, as having to punch somebody out in such a situation happened more often than you might think.

      Suppressed weapons might be useful in a night sneak raid, but most of those around then and now tend to be incompatible with “General Mud”.

      If I’m having problems with a WW1 tank, my favorite solution is a 13-pounder or better field gun with APHE shell, or even “plain” high-capacity HE if the “naval pattern” isn’t available. Rhomboidals and the A7V didn’t react well to that sort of attention, generally ending up as burned-out hulks.

      Fun movie tank fact; The tank in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” was a mockup built by ILM. What it was a mockup of was an American “Liberty” MKVII, vintage 1919, but with a WW2-era Valentine MK2 turret, complete with 2-pounder gun. (!)

      Such oddball combinations were actually rather common in the MidEast after WW2. I suspect the production company wasn’t as careful about their photo research as they should have been.(Next time, check the date, guys.)



      • Hollywood sucks at history most of the time. Do you have a backup plan if the trench gun and revolver aren’t available? Or supposing you had a chance to raid the enemy’s gun rack in the confusion of the artillery barrage, would you grab a Bergmann 1918 SMG, a G.98, a Mauser C96 carbine, or something else?

        At least you didn’t get strafed by some low-flying Fokker D.VII… Or did you think about stealing one?

        • My backup plan is a field telephone. And pre-registered artillery fire.

          As for strafing, that’s what dugouts are for. Mice do not argue with shrikes. Barring a couple of Vickers .303 water-cooled heavies being handy, that is.



          • So let me get this straight…

            You dodged incoming artillery after a failed trench raid upon enemy lines in which your original stuff got confiscated, stole a telephone and your stuff back, and had someone run a phone line back to friendly units while dodging bullets. Then whenever somebody on the other team tried to get the phone back, you shot him with plated buckshot or 45 ACP (or just let him have cold steel to the liver) or if you got strafed let the annoying bird have incendiary .303 British in the face. This definitely outdoes Rambo!

            Did I get it right?

    • Okay Cherndog make it 1903 Springfield with Pedersen device that somehow got issued. The 40 round magazines and relatively mild noise levels in that noisy environment would be a happy combination for going unnoticed. Add to that whole bunch of various grenades fielded by both sides and a nasty trench club with a long top spike and a nice number of sharp knife like ones radiating around it’s sides. Probably want one person with the trenchgun revolver combo too and a Bergman MP18 or two.

      • In other words, you win by stealthily sneaking around capping the other team in the middle of the usual cacophony. If you can’t double tap someone with the Pedersen device, bop him over the head with the club or backstab him. If a mob comes, have the Bergmann MP18 and the trench gun at the ready. I wonder if the SMG-mounted flamethrower should have been used here.

  6. Seeing the toggle knobs hitting the side ramps and delocking the action is possible only in slow motion videos. At the end of this footage it, as if, seems. Trying the same action with an empty gun through pressing in the muzzle against to a pad and watching where the toggle knobs begin to rise, will not give the same result since the recoil spring connection would carry out the job before they contact to the receiver side ramps.

  7. Question;

    Exactly how is the coil spring fitted in the magazine?

    It looks to me like it would have to be attached to the follower driven by the clock spring, and be driven “round and round” by the rotor assembly along with the ammunition. There would be a second “false” follower atop it, that bore on the bottom round in the loadup, to drive the last 15 to 16 rounds up and into the stick and so to the bolt.

    For most of its travel, the coil spring would be fully compressed between the “true” and “false” followers, only beginning to go into extension when the clock spring had fully unwound and the true follower had stopped advancing. At which point the magazine would function more-or-less like a standard P.08 magazine, except with a longer magazine spring.

    The coils spring would still have to flex “sideways” a bit, going “around the curve” just below the “stick” section as it pushed the first couple of rounds of the remaining 15 or 16 up to the breech. After that, it would be operating entirely in the “straight” portion of the feed path, and behave more-or-less normally.

    Or am I totally wrong?



    • Pretty much correct. Remember that the drum only holds 32 rounds, and half of them are in the stick portion. So the ammo only makes a partial circumference of the drum.

  8. Another question;

    Why did the word “reloading” in my 0543 post link to Brownell’s, and the words “coil spring” in my 0552 post link to Buyer’s Club?

    Software glitch?



    • I’m experimenting with some monetized links. They have been running for a month or two now, and you are the first person to mention them…annoying or tolerable?

      • I’ve pretty much learned to let my mouse hover over the link and see where it goes now. That being said, it’s slightly annoying to see something that I think is going to be an interesting historical link and it ends up being nothing. Overall, though, tolerable.

  9. Hi, I am a writer doing some research and I know very little about firearms. I read somewhere that the Thompson sub-machine gun drum magazine was not preferred by soldiers as it rattled, so does the luger snail-drum magazine rattle also?

  10. I have a first model that appears to be overwound. The lever is very tight in its present position. No way would it go around and fit in intended slot. Any suggestions

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. Bang the Drum Magazine Slowly - The Mag Life

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.