GUIDE TO BUYING AND UNDERSTANDING LUGERS

This is a useful summary of luger FAQs.

1) Who has manufactured Lugers?

1. Royal German Arsenal at Erfurt
2. Simson and Co, Suhl, GE
3. Heinrich Krieghoff, Suhl, GE
4. Waffenfabrik Bern (complete pistols), Switzerland
5. Schweizerische Industrie Gesellschaft (S.I.G.) Switzerland (parts)
6. DWM and then in 1930, Mauser absorbed DWM
7. Mauser

NOTE: Taken from The Luger Story, by John Walter, in it he states Manufacture of the Luger was so complicated that only four sets of machinery were ever made.

The oldest was owned by Deutsche Waffen- und Munitionsfabriken; originally installed in the Charlottenburg factory, it was moved to new facilities in the Wittenau district of Berlin in 1916 and eventually went to the Mauser-Werke factory in Oberndorf in 1930. The second set was installed in the Prussian rifle factory in Erfurt in 1909-10; sold to Simson and Company in 1920, it was acquired by Krieghoff in the mid 1930s to guide retooling. The only other production line was installed in the Swiss federal arms factory in Bern in 1917 after delivers of DWM-made Lugers had been stopped by the war.

2) Did the French make Lugers?

April the 20th 1945, the first French soldier occupied the Oberndorf city. The Mauser firm started to produce Parabellum under French control.
According to August Weiss, responsible for Mauser gun and pistol production up to 1945, in this period the following guns were produced:

  • 47696 K98 carbines
  • 6375 .22 long rifle carbines
  • 3500 P38
  • 20000 HSC pistols
  • 2560 Parabellum
  • A small number of LP08 was made and given as a gift to important army officers


Numbers of 1900 AE, 1902 AE, & 1906 AE made

In IMPERIAL LUGERS (1991) page 11, the production of DWM LUGERS in the commercial sn. range. 1900-1918 is estimated. The A.E. estimates are:

  • Model - No. Rep. - Est. Prod.
  • 1900 A.E. - 335 - 11,600
  • 1900 A.E. test - 161 - 1,000
  • 1902 A.E. - 84 - 860
  • 1902 A.E. CC 9mm -30 - 50
  • 1906 A.E. 7.65mm -261 - 13,900
  • 1906 A.E. 9mm -191 - 9,400


What are British Import Markings?

British law at the time required each gun imported be subject to British proofing laws, hence the markings. If you examine the piece carefully, you may also find “Not British Make” stamped somewhere on the piece, normally on right side of the receiver.

The proofs are British commercial proofs. They indicate that the pistol was sold commercially at some time in England. It could have been sold in country, or could have been bought by a British arms dealer and sold in some other country through England. Either way, it was required to be proofed before it could be sold. The letters and numbers in the crossed scepter indicate the year of proof and the inspector. The OB on your pistol dates the proofing to 1963.
The NOT ENGLISH MAKE requirement was dropped with the Proof Act of 1955.

I can add that the British proof laws were ever changing in regards to details on exactly what markings were and were not stamped. These changes, when known, can also be used to time bracket the date of proofing.

The BV in a circle under a crown was the view mark of Birmingham of the Proof Act of 1925-1955. The view mark of the Proof Act of 1904-1925 was the BV under a crown with no circle. The NOT ENGLISH MAKE indicates that it was proofed under the Proof Act of 1925-1955. From your description it appears that your pistol was proofed prior to 1955, had the barrel changed after 1955, and was proofed again.

The measurement used was in proofing was long tons or 2240 lbs. per square inch.

Proof laws of certain countries were recognized in England, but the United States did not have official proof regulations. All commercial pistols exported from the US to England were subject to British proof. Military weapons sent to England under the Lend Lease Act were exempt from commercial proof until they were released by the British government for commercial sale. This is the reason we find M1 Rifles and 1911/1911A1 pistol with British commercial proofs here in the US.

What are machine markings?

The usual circular machining marks on the right rear frame section and other areas left over from the normal machine grinding and then smoothing of metal. In a few areas, this was not as smooth as normal.

Artillery Notching

In November, 1916, an amendment was added to the P-08 Dimensional Tables that allowed the receiver to be cut for the Artillery rear sight. Many Erfurt pistols dated 1916, 1917 and 1918 will be found with the receiver so cut. (”Imperial Lugers”, Still, Pg. 61)

The discussion of the Erfurt proofed DWM LP08 barrels came up on the old forum and the consensus of opinion was that all LP08 barrels were made by Erfurt.

How to tell cold bluing:

Guns that have cold blue applied to them have a distinctive odor to them from the copper sulphate... gun oil is all you should smell. If you smell anything else, be wary of cold blue touchup.

Cold blue solution doesn’t cost very much and can be helpful for touching up non-historical firearms. I recommend you buy a bottle and put in on some non-important gun steel just to know what the odor smells like...

The copper sulfate in cold blue has a very distinctive smell that an original finish pistol should not have. If you have any doubt, rub the area you suspect of being cold blued with your thumb to warm the bluing slightly. The odor will be much more apparent.

What are bring back papers?

Papers giving permission to the soldier, airman or marine to legally bring a weapon or other item into the United States. Usually signed by an officer in the unit or battalion, with the gun, a serial number and brief description.

Proper Grips on a BYF 41?

No doubt there were no wooden grips available at the time that the gun was assembled. It is my understanding that that the “bakelite” grips were authorized for use if wood grips were not available. They were not initially intended to replace wooden grips. Obviously, as the war progressed wood became scarcer and the use of the bakelite grips became more and more prevalent. It should be pointed out that the byf 41 series did not begin with the “a” suffix.

Black bakelite grips were approved for use in mid 1941. After that both bakelite and wood grips were used.

To tell if they are original: if the grips have a threaded hole on the inside of both grips and that threaded hole is sized for the grip screw, you have a good chance of having original grips. My concern is that some of the recent fakers may have figured this out and have made corrections in their molds. I have a pair of obvious fakes on one of my shooters and they do NOT have the threaded holes present.

Proper Grips on a BYF 42?

Either wood or black bakelite grips would be proper on your byf 42. If you remove the grips, be very careful when you remove the left grip as it is very easy to chip the upper rear corner behind the safety. The grips should, but not always, have an eagle/135 stamp on them and, perhaps, the last 2 digits of the serial #. Again, the grips were not always stamped. If there is an eagle acceptance stamp that is not 135 or numbers that do not match the last two digits of the serial # on your gun, the grips were not issued with your pistol and are replacements. If they are stamped with only a 42 then the are, no doubt, armourers (sp) replacements.

Almost all of the byf 42’s have the last two digits on the inside of the wood grips and almost all of them have the eagle 135 acceptance proof. In fact, it would be the exception to find an original issued byf 42 rig that did not have the last two digits and the eagle 135 proof on them, or at least one of them.

The byf 42’s were almost always numbered with the last two digits and had the E/135 proof. A few just had the E/135 proof only. The exception would be to find a completely blank pair at this time. It is possible, — yes — but not many. I had byf 42 1766 H at one time with wood grips, 66 inside and an E/135.

As mentioned earlier, each year and variation has different grip markings and has to be considered separately. For instance, the 1936 S/42’s are mostly blank with a very few numbered with the last two digits. The 1939 42’s are mostly blank or blank with a E/655, and again very few are numbered to the gun. The 1939 S/42 are almost all numbered to the gun. So each year and variation have there own characteristics and you can not just lump them all together with a general conclusion. Why is it that some are numbered and some are only proofed and still others are completely blank? — I have no answer and I doubt that anyone does, but the recorded facts are the facts. One explanation would be that the Lugers were assembled in certain batches of say 100 or so and that worker or inspector marked his and others did not. That is only a guess.

How to tell old bluing? The oxidation of the old finish is what makes the Mini-Maglite as indispensable as a gun show tool. Even an old Luger with 98% finish will have oxidation in the finish that is not visible in normal room light, and normally gun shows have terrible light. Also as a test, the Mini-Maglite can shine through the blue and expose the brown oxidation that has formed. A newly blued Luger will not show this oxidation. Shine the light from an angle so that you don’t get glare or a reflection, and the results are absolutely scary on what appears to be a near new condition Luger.


The Swiss started to nake their own lugers inn 1918. According to Fred Datig in “The Swiss Variation 1897-1947″ on page 49, the first delivery of wholly Swiss made Lugers to the Swiss army was in Nov 1918 beginning at serial 15216.

What tooling was used for luger production?

  • DWM used the same tooling until Mauser took it over
  • Erfurt to Simson and then the tooling went to Krieghoff in 1934. Most think Krieghoff only used the old Simson tooling as a tool template to make the Krieghoff machinery...
  • Swiss Bern had their own tooling
  • Krieghoff made their own tooling after using the Simson set as a guide

What parts must be numbered on a Luger?

Depends if its military of commercial.

The following parts should have serial numbers on them:
Frame, full serial number with suffix
Under barrel, full serial number with or without suffix
Left side of the receiver, full serial number without suffix.

All the following parts should have the last two numerals stamped on military guns:

  • Firing pin
  • Extractor
  • Sear bar
  • Breechblock
  • Front toggle link
  • Rear toggle link
  • Locking bolt (takedown lever)
  • Side plate (with a few exceptions through the years, see comments on side plate)
  • Trigger
  • Safety lever
  • Safety bar
  • Hold-open latch
  • Grips (inside)

Note, that the rear toggle pin was not serial-numbered until 1932.

There were two “styles” of serial number marking, Commercial style and Military style. In commercial style some of the numbers, notably the side-plate and locking bolt, were stamped underneath in a way which did not affect the surface look of the gun–military serial numbers were stamped on the visible surfaces. If your mismatched parts are stamped highly visibly they likely come from military guns.

What is a witness mark?

Those little barrel/Frame alignment marks, are properly termed “witness” marks, as they provide witness to the fact that the barrel and frame are intact and no movement has occurred.

Pistols with barrels that screw into a barrel extension typically have the barrel installed in the barrel extension and then the chamber is finish reamed to correct headspace. A witness mark is then made to indicate how far into the barrel extension the barrel must be re-installed if it is ever removed for some purpose. Position of the front sight and threading of the barrel or barrel extension are non-issues.

A “witness mark” is usually a line that is either scribed or stamped across the adjoining surfaces of two parts that are mated. They provide a means of ensuring proper alignment of the two parts and would normally be applied after the parts have been properly put together.

The Luger will usually have witness marks on the underside of the barrel/receiver joint and the standard 100mm barrel models will have them on the front sight and front sight base on the top. Some Artillery Lugers - those with fine tune front sights - will have a center mark on the very front of the sight and three marks on the front of the sight base for reference.

Side plate Numbering & Information:

As an example, the inside side plate number is one digit higher on 1940 Mauser’s from the serial number. K-dates, G-dates, and 1936 did not do this and the 1937 almost always had the same first two digits of the serial. Then late 1937 they started going one digit higher. I do not know why and have never heard an explanation.

Further information on 1937 Mauser Side plates:

I have looked over a 1937 Mauser s/42 I recently purchased and I believe the side plate is not correct to the gun. I need some help determining this. The Luger is SN# 2277u, making it a 2nd variation 1937 s/42. The side plate is stamped outside with 77, correctly. The side plate is stamped inside with a 22 near the center and a 3 in the upper right hand corner. Because the 3 is in the upper right hand corner, I can’t believe this is the original side plate for this Luger. Also, I have read a post, where it was stated that the early 1937s were stamped inside with the first 2 digits of the SN. But this 1937 Luger is a 2nd variation well past transition, which to me suggests it should be stamped with 23 not 22.

Usually 1937 S/42’s have the inside side plate number (isp#) the same as the first two digits of a 4 digit serial number — example 4428, would have 44.

If a three digit number it is usually the first digit — example 118, would be 1.
Some are completely blank and some are even one digit lower, or one digit higher, but the usual is as mentioned above.

The 1938 S/42’s are found usually found with either the first two digits or one digit higher. — Example 4428 could be found with either 44 or 45 and be correct. Same with example 118, could be either 1 or 2, and be correct. Then there are the few totally blank examples mixed in also.

As you can see, in the 1937 and 1938 variations there are no set rules. They are a mixed up bunch. It is nice to have one that follows certain guidelines, but that is not always the case here.

After 1938 almost always the inside plate number is one digit higher. Your side plate sounds correct to me.


What is a MAUSER BUMP?


The early Mausers had mixed humps and no humps, but for instance, the Gs seem NOT to be humped, but they all have a thickened back where the hump is to better contain the rear axle pin during the rearward most movement of the receiver forks. The humped Mauser simply had some of the thickened rear frame REMOVED to form the hump.

The Hump but it is formed at the very rear back of the frame above the lanyard loop. The back of the frame on DWM’s is straight up vertical. Some K-dates, G-dates and 1936-S/42 Mausers are also straight up or vertical. The Hump causes the rear of the frame to not be vertical, it has a curved appearance to it. You can easily see it from the side. The Mauser Military Lugers are the only ones that have the HUMP, I think! It is interesting Mauser elected to remove that section of metal to return the frame length to the same as a DWM Luger!

I have seen some Mauser S/42 coded Lugers without this “bump”.
Should this “bump” occur on all Mauser Lugers, i.e. K-dates, G-dates, byf’s, Banners, etc. ?
Some K dates had them on them and some Ks had a thickened back edge so if they wanted the HUMP, they could machine metal off the bottom edge of the thickened wall, it was an attempt to keep the rear axle pin from slipping sideways under full recoil. MOST Mausers will have it, but they would leave it out for a while then put it back in. Some Navy Lugers approached this problem from a different angle, they made the head of the pin LARGER.

Hope these notes are helpful.


So... what do you think? Please leave me a comment.

5 Comments:

  • Vale: What would the value be for an authentic luger with the original Black widow grips and original finish as compared to one with fake grips or fake finish if they were all in the same condition otherwise?
  • discover: 700 vs 2400
  • Vale: that’s a pretty significant difference! Thanks!
  • jade: Wow, Reading it is like reading some family story. I must say this is much more interesting then some family stories I’ve heard ;-)
  • luger: very good information i would like see more examples of marks and serial numbers
    also do you have any books you recommend

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