Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Weapons of War: The Luger Parabellum P-08 Pistol

The Parabellum Pistol of 1908 (P-08) was the standard German sidearm in both World Wars. In 1908 the German Army adopted the Luger to replace the Reichsrevolver in frontline service. It was a single-action, recoil-operated, semi-automatic pistol with a capacity of eight 7.65mm rounds. The Luger was a prized war souvenir for both Doughboys and GIs.


  1. The German military use a bewildering array of pistols in WW2, the most prolific being the Walther P38 ( 480,000 being supplied by 1945 according to Ian Hogg).

    Others included the Belgian Browning Hi-power ( 319,000 being produced during the occupation ), Polish Radon, Austrian Steyr 1912 and various Spanish Star and Astra models, principally the Astra 300 0f which 85,390 were delivered between 1941 and 1944..

    The Luger was introduced in 1904 and saw service throughout both wars, mainly in 7.63mm calibre in WW1 and 9mm in WW2 although original 7.63mm versions were also still in use and some were made in .45 APC calibre. Manufacturers included Mauser (who took over production after WW1), and, oddly, the British firm of Vickers. It was actually never a very good military pistol, being fussy about ammunition, over complex and prone to jamming, although it's iconic design made it probably the best known of all pistols used in both wars.

    Arguably the "broom handle" Mauser C96 (Also produced in Spain as the Astra 900, 1050 of which were bought by Germany in 1941) was a better pistol.

    1. I don't think the 7.63 verso (.30 Luger) saw German use, fwiw. Only the 9mm Parabellum. I'm not sure that I'd agree about the C96 being a better pistol either, although otherwise I certainly agree with your comments.

      The Luger designs, as fussy as they were, did see some non German use. The Swiss actually adopted the pistol prior to the Germans. And the Portuguese used it, as amazing as it seems, all the way through the 1980s including in their war in Angola.

    2. Just following up a tad, the German Navy accepted the Luger in 1904, prior to the Army, which accepted it in 1908. Hence the Army version's designation "P08".

      The pistol wasn't single action, but rather it was a double action with an internal hammer. On the .45 ACP Lugers, the number was extraordinary small, perhaps as few as three, and were made in the hopes of securing a U.S. military contract. They did compete in the trials for that pistol, but compared poorly to the other sidearms in the competition, particularly the Colt that would become the M1911.