One of the most successful and famous pistols of all time, the legendary P08 Parabellum, designed by Georg Luger was manufactured by the DWM (Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken) and saw service in World War I in the German and Swiss military, usually as an officers’ sidearm. They were in service in the Swiss military starting in 1900, and Germany in 1904. Both the Imperial German Army and Navy used the P08. It found it’s way to various parts of the world, and even saw use in the Chinese Civil War. The American military also bought 1,000 of the P08 pistols for field testing, although they ended up going with the now legendary M1911 .45 semiautomatic pistol.
In the early 1900’s there was a lot of devlopment and modification to the P08 which ranged from 7.65mm to 9mm, and even included a version which had a 32-round drum-type magazine affixed to the butt, along with a removable wooden stock, that fit cleverly into a holster.
While modern firearms load and eject by pulling the breech straight backward and letting it spring forward, the P08 has a hinged arm that is pulled upward, forming an “A”shape by using a textured knob, which then springs back into place, loading the firing chamber. An 8-round spring-loaded magazine inserted into butt of the grip supplies the ammunition. This design is instantly recognizable and makes the P08 one of the most famous pistols of all time. It is also the first 9mm semiautomatic pistol, a format still manufactured today by many firearms producers.
In addition the the innovative locking mechanism, the P08 was also noted for it’s accuracy, ease of use, and is easy to take down and reassemble for maintenance.
In 1930 production was assumed by the Mauser company, who made the P08 until 1943, when the war started to go downhill for Germany. The famous “Parabellum” was a favorite sidearm of German officers, and was still in wide use in World War II, even after the introduction of the more modern P38, made by Walther. There was also a commercial version of the gun with an extended barrel, made in the 1920’s.
Many of the P08 pistols were captured by allied troops and taken home to end up in various private collections, and are still in circulation today, and often turn up in auctions. They are available in various states of repair, and most still are able to fire rounds, which are still available, mostly in the successful 9mm format. They are now very expensive to acquire. They can range anywhere from $1,000 to upwards of $8,500, or even more.
The popularity of the P08 has waned little owing to it’s sleek, compact design, the mystique of their connection to NAZI Germany, not the mention the incredibly unique locking mechanism that loads and ejects cartridges like no other gun ever made.
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