Familiar to most devotees of war films, the Luger pistol, with its curved grip and toggle action, remains a favored military collectors' item. The basic design of the Luger pistol owes much to an American engineer, Hugo Borchardt, who refined a toggle action previously used with rifles to function semi-automatically in a handgun model.
The initial Borchardt pistols were clumsy pieces that had reliability problems with the new smokeless ammunition that featured jacketed bullets. With the input of George Luger, an engineer associated with the Deutsche Waffen und Munitions (or DWM), there evolved a new pistol that featured a refined toggle breech mechanism.
Adoption by both the Swiss and German military led the way for many other contracts for the Luger pistol around the world. At one point, the Luger pistol was in service, or being considered for issue, on every continent that mustered a standing army.
Several Luger variants were manufactured for special purposes, including the "Artillery" model featuring a long barrel, sights regulated to hundreds of yards, drum magazine and even a shoulder stock/holster, although most examples were used by machinegun crews. During the World War I, some Lugers were fitted with grips carved with a large "9" to indicate they were chambered for the 9 mm Parabellum cartridge.
Reprinted from America's 1st Freedom, Nov. 2007.