German luger


David Peterson
July 7, 2011, 12:49 PM
Another one of the pieces I have now from my father - a 9mm German luger. Family lore has it that a friend of my grandfather brought it back from the war but I don't know much else about it. Lots of markings that seem to match up. It was a shooter on the range when I was a kid along with a 30-06 rifle that I just posted. The real McCoy?

There is also a holster with this gun. It has a P38 stamped on the rear. I know of the WWII U.S. fighter with that designation but nothing about the pistol.
Like the 30-06 I'm wondering if I should be wary of trying to fire this again. It's been idle 30 years but well cared for.

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David Peterson
July 7, 2011, 12:52 PM
Some additional markings and the holster

July 7, 2011, 01:22 PM
The P38 was the German pistol that replaced the Luger in German military service during WW2. IIRC it was one of the first DA/SA autos used in military service. A lot of them were reissued to the West German police after the war and are now being imported for sale. Here's ( an example. (The P1 is basically a slightly updated P38 with an Alloy frame)

Unfortunately I'm not very well versed on Lugers. There are so many different variations on those things that I can never seem to keep up. It does look like a very nice gun though!

July 7, 2011, 01:22 PM
Well I'm jealous that your dad actually let you touch his:scrutiny:, my dad has one that was brought back by his uncle and I got the pleasure of seeing it one time. We were moving all of his prized guns to a new safety deposit box and I reached for the gorgeous pistol and he snatched it before I put my hand on it:cuss:. He still refuses to let me see it:banghead:.

July 7, 2011, 03:01 PM
It's a very nice condition Mauser-built (the "s/42" was the early code for Mauser) built in 1938, but assembled with a couple of mismatched parts; the true serial number for this pistol is "9212y", meaning it was the 159,197th Luger that Mauser built in 1938 (they started at 1, went to 9999, then started over again at 1a, going to 9999a, then started over again at 1b, etc.). All of the numbered parts for this pistol would have originally been numbered with "12", but parts were commonly changed during cleaning and repairs, and this is how the lockwork cover and safety block got changed out for non-matching parts.

David Peterson
July 7, 2011, 04:46 PM
Good information. Thanks for all that.

I have another shot - this one of the base of the clip. Now if the 9212'y' represents the sequence of manufacture of the pistol I'm going to guess that the same 9212 here was stamped over a recycled part - a clip from a different production run (it sure looks over-stamped to me). This kind of detailing gets pretty picky but I find the history of these pieces to be as interesting as the object itself.

July 7, 2011, 08:07 PM
Unless someone got their hands on a set of serif letter stamps after the war, it's much more likely that that was simply an original magazine for pistol "9212o"; because the German serial numbering system reset to "1" each year, there would probably have been a "9212o" and "9212y" for most manufacturers each year (assuming that they had sufficient production to reach that number).

July 7, 2011, 08:11 PM
"...has a P38..." You sure the '3' is a '3' and not a '0'? A Luger is also known as a P08.

David Peterson
July 7, 2011, 08:46 PM
SDC - You are the one educating me and I'm probably talking out of my hat. I was guessing that the "over-stamping" was done during the original manufacturing, not after. Wasn't sure if they would take the time to match serial numbers from different production runs. It just looks like there's something underneath the number. Small matter.

Sunray - The embossing is light but I believe that is a '3' on the holster.

July 7, 2011, 09:11 PM
Sorry, I should have explained that the serif letter (the little script letter after the serial number) was also added to the original magazine that accompanied the pistol from the factory), but magazines were even MORE likely to get swapped around in use than the other parts were.

Jim Watson
July 7, 2011, 09:26 PM
The holster is very clearly marked P38. So the GI who souvenired it out got the rig mixed up. Matters only to a big time collector.

The magazine is clearly restamped ("force numbered.") The Soviets did a lot of that but I do not know all the details to say whether this is a Russian capture or not.

July 7, 2011, 09:56 PM
Congrats. You have an S/42 code Luger made by Mauser in 1938, with a re-numbered magazine. However the sideplate doesn't match, and while the holster is marked P38 that certainly looks like a hardshell Luger holster. Stuff like this would be pretty common if the pistol was damaged and re-issued at some time during the war.

I'd venture you're sitting on a pistol and leather worth $1500 or so, but take a look at for comparable pistols and leather.

David Peterson
July 7, 2011, 11:09 PM
Thanks, guys! I sure appreciate your time and expertise.

Jim K
July 7, 2011, 11:55 PM
The magazine has been renumbered and not during German service. All in all, I wonder if the "family lore" is correct or the pistol was purchased after the war.

Most P.08 (Luger) holsters were not marked, as there was no need to do so until the P.38 came along. Since the holsters were similar, the army ordered them marked with the pistol model. The holster appears to be a P.38 holster (just as marked); the P.08 will fit after a fashion but is not right. Even with the mismatched parts, the freckling on the toggles and the wrong holster, the gun and holster should go for about what Dr. Rob says.


David Peterson
July 8, 2011, 06:38 AM
Jim, the only person to answer for sure is not around anymore. And even if he was the information might not be absolutely correct. My grandfather enjoyed telling tall tales. A couple of other photos. Definitely a hard shell case. On the back, I can't quite make out the marks on the upper left - first letter 'c' ? - but the '42' is prominent.

Jim K
July 8, 2011, 03:03 PM
That is definitely a P.38 holster; the P.08 holsters have a different strap arrangement.


July 8, 2011, 10:15 PM
Now that I see the front side I agree, that is a P-38 holster.

Thing is, in good shape the holsters often sell for hundreds of dollars.

July 15, 2011, 05:18 AM
I don't believe the German serial numbering system reset to "0" at the beginning of each year.

July 15, 2011, 08:13 PM
It didn't, it reset when they got to 10k, then they'd switch letters. No one is really quite sure how many Lugers were produced because of this odd numbering system, but its a BUNCH.

Jim K
July 16, 2011, 11:18 PM
Hi, Gyvel and guys,

The standard practice was to reset to 1 at the start of each year, then go to 9999, then to 1a to 9999a, 1b to 9999b and so on. They didn't use 0, with or without a suffix letter. So a proper and complete identification of Lugers, as well as Walther and Mauser P.38's would be "German P.08/P.38 made by xxxx, dated 19xx, serial number 1234a". (Spreewerke did not reset their serials on P.38 and did not date them. There are a few cyq P.38's with dates, but they are questionable.)


Ohio Gun Guy
July 16, 2011, 11:47 PM
Who is to say that the German Soldier wasnt issued a p-38 holster with a reworked P08. I've done some research into things when I drag something home that is interesting, and the one thing that is constant is that there are no absolutes. The Germans had a habit of issuing the new equipment to new units, reworked, re-arsenaled equipment went back to the existing units. They policed up quantities of everything from helmets to rifles and uniforms. I dont see any reason why at some point, esp. late in the war, your couldnt find a German Unit with everykind of odd ball remanufactured equipment that there was to be had.....

rocky branch
July 17, 2011, 09:20 AM
You could find the pistol in the condition you mention.

You will still have a mismatched pistol in the wrong holster with a humped mag.
I do not believe the mag was renumbered by Germans.
It is still a nice piece, though the sideplate is a collector's sore thumb.
I can recall when an original correct rig was $25.

Jim K
July 17, 2011, 05:15 PM
Reasons a German soldier would not have been issued a P.38 holster for his Luger is that the magazine pockets are different, and the gun just doesn't fit right. If the holsters were interchangeable, they would not have had two holsters and marked them for the guns that went in them.

Of course, I suppose at war's end anything could have been issued, but it seems more likely that such a mixup occurred after the items were no longer under Wehrmacht control.


David Peterson
July 17, 2011, 05:41 PM
There is some wiggle room with this gun in this holster although the fit is pretty good. The clip, however, doesn't fit at all in the magazine pocket. I've always been curious about that since I thought both gun and holster were a match. Now I understand.

That leaves me still wondering about the re-numbered clip. If not done by the Germans, who would have done it and why? It wouldn't have been a dealer trying to fool anyone; no point doing that and ignoring the sideplate. Jim W., you mentioned the Russians "force-numbered" weapons but for what purpose?

July 18, 2011, 07:57 AM
Actually, the magazine (not the rest of the gun) looks like a typical East German renumber. The DDR rebuilt a lot of Lugers in the early 50s and part of that was renumbering some mags to force match them to the gun.

4v50 Gary
July 18, 2011, 01:01 PM
The 9212 on the magazine base plate indicates that the magazine has been matched and issued with that P-08. It has nothing to do with the year of manufacture. Congratulations.

Jim K
July 18, 2011, 09:43 PM
Well it was matched to that pistol, but not from the factory. I agree with those who say it is a postwar marking, but that conflicts with the "brought it back from the war" family legend. FWIW, the German armorers did cannibalize pistols and also replaced/mixed both magazines and other parts but rarely bothered to renumber them.


July 21, 2011, 09:57 PM
The luger may have been rebarreled. Usually the original barrels show a "halo" on the serial number. They were blued first and then the serial stamped. This caused the metal to "stretch" and the bluing is often lighter around the numbers. I don't see any halo in your picture of the barrel serial. Also, the numbers on the barrel look sharper than the ones on the frame. Might have been an East German rework.

David Peterson
July 22, 2011, 12:40 PM
Paradox - interesting observation. I'll take a closer look.

Whether the family history of this gun is correct or not, my father did remember that my grandfather gave it to him as a curiosity in '46 (it was a different age when a 15 year old was given a 9mm as something to play with. He didn't get any bullets with it, he told me). Whether or not it came from a returning G.I., I don't know.

Was there a brisk market for all things German immediately after the war? One can only imagine the millions of items that would have been there to take as artifacts or souvenirs - or to sell as such. And were the E. Germans reworking weapons for their own use or as artifacts to sell?

Jim K
July 22, 2011, 09:22 PM
In 1946, Lugers were selling for all of $10; P.38's were $5. Even allowing for inflation that was not a lot of money, so giving a kid one as a toy is not as screwy as it seems today.

At that time, all of Germany was smashed flat; there were no guns being made except a few for the occupying armies (mainly Americans - the British even then had rigid anti-gun laws).


July 26, 2011, 08:57 PM
I have an old 7.65mm Luger that has been in my family since the 1920s. The first time I fired it was back in about 2005. Before that, the pistol hadn't been fired since the 1950s, and had been tucked away in my dad's bedroom closet for years and years. When we took it out and shot it, I had no problems with it, except that I was limpwristing and we found out that this was what was causing the pistol to jam. Other than that, there was nothing wrong with it at all.

You should not have any problems if you decide to fire yours again.

Jim K
July 26, 2011, 09:34 PM
To the question of "why" on renumbering parts and magazines, the answer is simple. It was done by or at the request of importers, so that the guns could be sold to suck... , er, I mean aspiring collectors, as having "all matching numbers".


December 10, 2011, 09:15 PM
I'm really an old timer who started collecting in he 50's. You could pick up Lugers for often $10-25 but for a 12-15yr old that was a lot. As yrs passed,I've seen many & owned many with orig. holsters. The Luger holster always had the crecent cut in the mag. pouch to fit the finger shaped plug on the Lugar mags. P-38 holsters did not. I'm going by memory but that's a firm memory. Hey, senility has it's advantages, - I just can't remember what they are.

Pessimist: Optomist with experience.

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