The Luger pistol, known more formally as the Pistole Parabellum, frequently appears in movies that are set in World War I and World War II. But more than just setting the theme for a period film, the Luger pistol has earned its place in history for the real-life role that it played during those tumultuous times and the years of relative peace that followed after. Now sought-after by collectors, the famed semiautomatic pistol is deemed as one of the most collected pieces of historical military objects, with some models fetching prices from $34,500 to $1,000,000. What makes this model so special? Here are some interesting facts that make the Luger pistol a worthy addition to an enthusiast’s collection of guns:
It Was Developed More Than a Century Ago
The Luger pistol was initially developed more than a hundred years ago in what was then the German Empire. It was designed by Georg Luger in 1898 with the aim to address and improve the design of the Borchardt Automatic Pistol, another toggle-lock action pistol that’s noted for its unwieldy design and demanding production requirements. The German gun manufacturer, Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken (DWM), produced the Luger pistol as Parabellum Automatic Pistol, Borchardt-Luger System. The term parabellum was taken from DWM’s Latin motto, si vis pacem, para bellum, or if you seek peace, prepare for war.
It Was the First Pistol to Use the 9×19mm Parabellum.
The 9×19mm Parabellum, a predecessor of the 9mm hollow point ammo that’s preferred by many modern-day gun enthusiasts, was also designed by Georg Luger. Introduced to the market in 1902, the cartridge was specifically produced to be used with the Luger pistol. It is for this reason that the cartridge is called the 9mm Luger by the Commission Internationale Permanente pour l’Epreuve des Armes à Feu Portatives (CIP) and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI).
The 9×19mm Parabellum cartridge is highly celebrated on its own. In 2007, Newsweek claimed that 9mms made up over 60% of all the firearms used by the police and that the Parabellum contributed to the popularity of semiautomatic pistols over revolvers. The cartridge is also recognized as “the world’s most popular and widely used military handgun and submachine gun cartridge” in the 2014 edition of the Cartridges of the World.
It Was Designed for Durability, Reliability, and Accuracy
DWM didn’t hold back when it came to production. Luger pistols were manufactured in Germany and Switzerland using the best materials that were available in those days. The manufacturing process was also fine-tuned to adhere to exacting standards. In addition, some sections of the pistol were fitted by hand to ensure that it can perform reliably well. This process can be credited for the Luger pistol’s long lifecycle.
The gun is also quite accurate, a quality that notable firearms manufacturers attributed to the design of the gun’s barrel, which carried the sight and was rigidly set to the extension of the barrel. Later on, the semiautomatic pistol gained notoriety for poor performance and unreliability, but it should be noted that during this specific time, many pistols were being made from salvaged Luger pistol parts.
It Remained in High Demand Between WWI and WWII
The Pistole Modell 1908 (P08) Parabellum was used by the German Army in 1908 as a replacement for the Reichsrevolver. This particular Luger pistol model featured a few changes, such as the omission of the grip safety and the addition of a lug to the pistol frame’s heel, at the request of military authorities. Between 1914 and 1918, it’s estimated that the German military forces used almost 2 million Luger pistols. Aside from Germany, the Bolivian Army also issued Luger pistols to their officers.
A few other Luger pistol models were used before the end of WWI. After that, DWM started manufacturing P08 frames for export and civilian use, and the sales from these products saved the company from insolvency. The pistols were sold in Europe and the US. They also made their way into China and were reportedly the weapon of choice among Chinese officers by 1924.
By 1930, Mauser had taken over the production of the P08. The model remained in use throughout WWII and gained a reputation as a prized war trophy among fighters from Allied forces.
It’s Common to See Reassembled Luger Models after WWII
P08 production continued in different countries as a response to the increasing demand for handguns among military and police forces. During this time, assembling Luger pistols from salvaged, secondhand, or rejected parts became a common practice, and it’s not unusual to see complete pistols with parts that have different serial numbers. This process lacked quality control, and the negative experience imparted by these models contributed to the Luger pistol’s poor reputation. Later on, gun experts came to the model’s defense, citing the reliability and accuracy of well-constructed and maintained Luger pistols. The last commemorative Luger pistol model was manufactured by Mauser Werke in 1986.
A Luger pistol brings with it a storied past as well as a sleek design that’s primed for high accuracy. It’s no wonder, then, why it keeps appearing in movies and many collectors are more than willing to pay a high price to get their hands on an original model.