The Luger Pistole Parabellum 1908 is a semi-automatic
pistol that was the German army’s official sidearm for several decades during the first half of the 20th century.
Sometimes known as the German Luger, the Luger Parabellum, or simply the Luger, the Pistole Parabellum 1908 was designed in 1898 by Georg Luger. The gun was his take on the earlier Borchardt C-93 and was one of the first semi-automatic pistols ever produced. It is also the gun for which the 9mm Luger cartridge was developed, although the first of these guns were chambered for the 7.65mm Luger. Two years after it was designed, German arms company, DWM, began manufacturing the gun.
During its first year of production, the pistol was adopted as the Swiss Army’s official sidearm and would remain in service there for more than 70 years. The Swiss used the 7.65 mm incarnation of the gun and dubbed it the OP00. In 1904, the German Navy also adopted the weapon, followed by the German Army in 1908. The German Army used the 9mm version, called the P08. The Germans famously used the gun during both World War I and World War II.
The United States also evaluated the Luger pistol but ultimately chose the Model 1911 as its official sidearm.
Of the Luger P08s in the United States today, most of them were brought home from the war by American soldiers.
The Luger was originally designed to use the 7.65 mm Luger cartridge. Later versions of the gun were designed to hold 9mm. A handful (most people believe only two) of Lugers were also produced to hold the .45 ACP. No matter which cartridge it uses, the P08s hold eight rounds.
The Luger is a fairly collectible gun for a variety of reasons. Many collectors value it for its military significance as a prominent firearm during the World Wars. Others appreciate its distinctive design and high quality craftsmanship. Still others seek it for its significance in weaponry history.
A Pistole Parabellum that has a magazine with matching serial numbers is extremely collectible and is worth considerably more than one with mismatched serial numbers.
The Luger is pretty widely available, particularly on gun auction websites or gun classified ads. They can also be found at gun shows but be sure to do your homework before buying one as they tend to be overpriced at gun shows.
The military-issue P08s are the easiest to find but they will rarely having matching magazines. The 7.65 mm Lugers are harder to find and the .45 ACP Lugers are almost non-existent.
Depending upon its age and condition, you can typically find military-issue P08s in the $400 range. Rarer Lugers—such as those chambered for the 7.65mm round or those with matching serial numbers on the magazines—can often go for more than $1,200.
Many Luger P08 owners find that these pistols are finicky about the type of ammo they shoot. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, the Lugers were designed with higher pressure European ammunition in mind. As a result, they tend to jam when loaded with lower pressure American ammo.
In response to this dilemma, some Luger owners had their recoil springs altered to better handle the American ammunition. If the gun was sold, though, a return to the European ammo by a new owner caused issues yet again.
If that isn’t enough, some of the original Luger magazines have a tendency to jam on their own. Some Luger owners find that this is easily remedied by replacing the magazine. Obviously, if you purchase a German Luger as a showpiece instead of a shooter, this is not an issue of concern.