After the American revolver, there is simply no other handgun in the world that is as easily recognizable as the Luger pistol. The Pistole Parabellum is it’s official name, but to virtually anyone, the weapon is simply the “Luger.” Georg Luger designed this iconic weapon, as well as the ammunition with which the Luger is loaded – the 9x19mm Parabellum cartridge.
While the weapon is largely associated with Germany, Luger was, in fact, born in the Austrian Empire in 1849, in a city just over the border from modern-day Italy. His father, a surgeon, moved the family to Italy not long after Luger’s birth where the elder Luger taught at the local university. Luger, however, completed his education in Austria, and then went onto Vienna, where he studied at what is today the prestigious Vienna Business School.
In October 1867, he volunteered for military service as a reserve cadet. His superior officers immediately noticed his excellent marksmanship. They sent him to the Austro-Hungarian Military Firearms School at Camp Bruckneudorf, where he was quickly charged with training marksmanship to other cadets. It was here that he first became interested in automatic loading systems.
Still, the interest went nowhere. Georg left the academy and became an accountant. Indeed, his story might have ended here without anything further if not for a chance encounter many years later. In 1875, Luger met Ferdinand Ritter von Mannlicher and began collaborating with him on rifle magazine designs, which reignited his previous interest in armament. By the beginning of the 1890s, he was working in armament development.
This new pistol caught on rather quickly. Switzerland was the first to pick up the gun in 1900. The United States took a look at it during the same trials that produced the Browning M1911. Georg even visited the famed Springfield Armory on May 21, 1903, and brought a prototype of the Model 1902 with his own cartridge design, the 9x19mm.
The Model 1904 was eventually adopted by the Imperial German Navy and later the Germany Army. In fact, this weapon still enjoys the P08 designation to this day. The weapon was used extensively during the Second World War, however, production sharply declined after the end of each of the world wars – owing first to the Treaty of Versailles and second to the dramatic reduction in the German military after the end of the Second World War.