System Luger 1892/6 Bolt Action

Georg Luger is known today for just one firearm: the Luger pistol. However, he actually spent significantly more time during his career working on rifles than he did on that iconic handgun. One project in particular that he tackled for the DWM concern was a series of improvements to the Gewehr 88 rifle.

The G88 had been designed rather haphazardly by committee, and was not a particularly successful rifle. This, of course, presented opportunities for improvement, and Luger showcased both his fundamental strength and weakness in his work to improve the design. He was quite talented at refining and existing design, and he was able to improve many details of the G88 ( being granted no fewer than 17 German patents for different improvements between 1893 and 1896). However, he was not so gifted in fundamental design creativity, and in this case his improvements were all for naught, as Mauser’s model 98 rifle did not have the weak elements of the G88 in the first place.

Most of Luger’s improvements involved safety, preventing rounds from firing out of battery and improving how the action handled vented gas in the case of a ruptured cartridge. However, he did also improve the magazine such that it would be loaded with either a 5-round Mannlicher-style clip or with loose rounds – and that a partially-expended clip could be “topped off” in the action with loose rounds. Also clearly visible below is a rotating magazine cover to prevent dirt from entering the mechanism through the clip ejection port.

During the 1890s, DWM manufactured several hundred of Luger’s improved Gewehr 88 rifles. A few were actually tested by the US Navy, where they lost out to James Paris Lee’s model 1895 straight pull, and they were also competitive in German trials, where they lost out to the Mauser 98.

Courtesy of of the James D Julia auction house, I have a selection of photos of a barreled action from an 1896-manufacture Luger rifle – note that Luger has added his personal “GL” monogram to each part covered by one of his patents. This particular rifle is not proofed, and was probably a presentation model (also note the stutzen-stlye double set triggers).