[Lone Sentry: Luger Pistol; WWII German Infantry Weapons]
[Lone Sentry: Photos, Articles, and Research on the European Theater in World War II]


German Infantry Weapons
Military Intelligence Service, Special Series No. 14, May 25, 1943
[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from a WWII U.S. War Department Special Series publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]



a. General

Since 1908 the Luger pistol has been an official German military side arm. Georg Luger of the DWM Arms Company2 in Germany developed this weapon, known officially as Pistole 08, from the American Borchart pistol invented in 1893.

The Luger is a well-balanced, accurate pistol. It imparts a high muzzle velocity to a small-caliber bullet, but develops only a relatively small amount of stopping power. Unlike the comparatively slow U.S. 45-caliber bullet, the Luger small-caliber bullet does not often lodge itself in the target and thereby impart its shocking power to that which it hits. With its high speed and small caliber it tends to pierce, inflicting a small, clean wound.

When the Luger is kept clean, it functions well. However, the mechanism is rather exposed to dust and dirt.

b. How to Identify

The Luger may be identified readily by its exposed barrel, curved butt, and generally smooth lines. (See fig. 2.)

c. Characteristics

(1) General.—The Luger is the most common side arm in use in the German Army. It is a semiautomatic, recoil-operated, 8-shot pistol with a caliber of 9 mm (.354 inch).3 It has a toggle-joint action very similar to that of the Maxim machine gun. It is fed by an 8-round magazine that fits into the butt and is held by a magazine catch similar to that on the U.S. service automatic pistol (M1911 or M1911 A1 Colt .45), and located in approximately the same relative position.

[Figure 2. Luger pistol and magazine.]
Figure 2.—Luger pistol and magazine.

(2) Table of characteristics.

Principle of operation    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    Recoil-operated.
Caliber    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    9 mm (.354 inch).
Ammunition    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    9-mm Parabellum (German, British, Italian, or U.S. manufacture).
Capacity of magazine    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    8 rounds.
    Front    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    Inverted V blade.
    Rear    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    Open V notch, nonadjustable.
Length of barrel    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    4.25 inches.
Weight (empty)    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    1 pound 14 ounces.
    Effective    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    25 yards.
    Maximum    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    1,150 yards.
Muzzle velocity    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    1,040 feet per second.

d. How to Operate

(1) Safety.—The safety is on the left side of the receiver as you hold the pistol in firing. It is a lever pivoted at the lower end. When the safety lock is turned down and to the rear, the safety catch is on and the pistol will not fire. With the lock in this position, the German word gesichert ("made safe") is exposed. To release the safety, it is necessary to push the lever forward and up; the word gesichert will then be covered by the safety lever arm, and the pistol is ready to fire.

(2) To load and fire.—A loaded magazine is inserted into the butt and shoved home until the magazine catch clicks. This is similar to the operation used in loading the U.S. Colt .45.

In order to move one of the cartridges forward into the chamber for firing, it is necessary to pull the toggle joint to the rear and then let it snap forward, in much the same fashion as is done with the U.S. Colt .45. With the thumb and forefinger of the left hand, grasp the knurled knobs on both sides of the toggle joint and draw the joint to the rear as far as it will go (see fig. 3). Then release the knobs, and let the breechblock snap forward. This operation will carry forward a cartridge from the lips of the magazine into the chamber. The pistol should then be locked by moving the safety so as to expose the word gesichert.

[Figure 3. Cross section of Luger pistol, showing action of toggle joint.]
Figure 3.—Cross section of Luger pistol, showing action of toggle joint.

It is always possible to determine whether there is a cartridge in the chamber by feeling or noting the position of the extractor (see fig. 4). When there is a cartridge in the chamber, the front end of the extractor projects above the level of the top surface of the breechblock, exposing the word geladen ("loaded") on the left side of the extractor. If there is no cartridge in the chamber, the extractor is level with the top surface of the breechblock.

[Figure 4. Close-up of Luger pistol to show operation of extractor.]
Figure 4.—Close-up of Luger pistol to show operation of extractor.

(3) To unload.—First, press the magazine catch, allowing the magazine to drop out of the butt. Then, to extract any cartridge that may be in the chamber, grasp the knurled knobs of the toggle joint in the same manner as in loading. Pull the joint to the rear as far as it will come. This operation will eject any cartridge in the chamber.

(4) Sights.—This pistol has an open V notch rear sight and an inverted V front sight. The sights should be aligned as in figure 5(1).

[Figure 5. Method of using German sights. ((1) illustrates correct sight picture; (2), firing high; (3), low and right; (4), low and right; (5), lower left; (6), low shot.)]
Figure 5.—Method of using German sights. ((1) illustrates correct sight picture; (2), firing high; (3), low and right; (4), low and right; (5), lower left; (6), low shot.)

e. Ammunition

Rimless, straight-case ammunition is used. German ammunition boxes will read Pistolenpatronen 08 ("pistol cartridges 08"). These should be distinguished from Exerzierpatronen 08 ("drill cartridges 08"). The bullets in these cartridges have coated steel jackets and lead cores. The edge of the primer of the ball cartridge is painted black. British- and U.S.-made 9-mm Parabellum ammunition will function well in this pistol; the German ammunition will of course give the best results. (See sec. V, p. 161, below.)

f. Maintenance

(1) Oiling and cleaning.—This pistol requires the same type of care as the U.S. M1911 Colt .45 automatic. The cleaning and oiling is done in a similar manner. However, in desert countries, or in other places where dust is prevalent, oil should be used sparingly or not at all.

(2) Stripping.—In order to disassemble the weapon, it is necessary to remove the magazine and empty the chamber as indicated in d(3), page 7, above. Press the muzzle against a clean, hard surface until the barrel has moved to the rear about a half inch. Then push the knurled section of the cover-plate latch downward and remove the cover plate. Turn the pistol upside down and slide the barrel and receiver forward and separate them. Punch out the rear pivot pin and remove the breechblock from the receiver. This amount of disassembly is sufficient for purposes of cleaning and oiling the pistol.

(3) Assembly.—To reassemble the parts of the weapon, first put the breechblock and receiver together and replace the pivot pin. Slide the barrel and receiver back onto the frame, making sure that the hook-shaped link engages in the claws of the recoil-spring head. Push the barrel backward, using a piece of wood against the muzzle, and replace the cover plate. Turn the cover-plate latch until it catches in its locked position.

g. Accessories

There is a leather holster which carries extra ammunition in a separate magazine. This holster also contains a tool which can be used for disassembling the pistol and for loading the magazine.

1 The weapons discussed in this section may be operated by one man.
2 Deutsche Waffen- und Munitionsfabriken, Aktiengesellschaft.
3 A scale of inches and millimeters is printed on the inside of the back cover to aid readers to know the exact length of these units.

[Back to German Infantry Weapons contents] Back to Table of Contents