The Beauty of Early DWM American Eagle Commercial Lugers
A little-known footnote in American gun culture is the short run of pre-WWII DWM-made commercial Lugers imported to the U.S., complete with a distinctive eagle.
Austrian-born Georg Luger spent the formative years of his life as an Austrian infantryman and reserve officer, where his interest in firearms led him to work alongside Ferdinand Mannlicher and Hugo Borchardt before patenting his first design at the age of 40, a rapid-fire rifle, in 1889. Soon, Herr Luger was working with Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken, or DWM, in Germany and, some 20 patents later, was fielding a prototype semi-automatic pistol that used a toggle action which the Swiss Army began testing in 1898.
The Swiss ordered 3,000 new Lugers in 1899, turning heads in military circles around the globe and the next year the British Army was testing the pistol. By 1901, the U.S. Army ordered 1,000 of the guns for field trials, primarily with cavalry units, to see if it could replace the country's unsatisfactory Colt M1894 .38-caliber revolvers, which at the time were getting a bad rap in combat against insurgents in the Philippines.
While the War Department in the end did not like the pistol and withdrew it from service in 1905, it didn't stop Luger himself from trekking to the States to demonstrate an unsuccessful .45-caliber variant for the Army in 1907.
Where the Luger pistol did see success was on the American commercial market. Borrowing a tactic that saw success in Switzerland, which had a Swiss Cross on the top of the receiver, guns intended for sale in the U.S. were given a large volant American eagle crest, earning these DWM-produced handguns the easy moniker of being "American Eagle Lugers."
About 20,000 of these guns were made by DWM for export to the U.S. prior to 1914 in both the standard Model of 1900 and M1902 "fat barrel" variants-- with 50 of the latter even sold with the unique "Powell Indicating Device," a real time cartridge counter fitted to the magazine well.
Chambered in 7.65mm (.30 Luger) these 8+1 shot pistols were advanced for the 1900s, but outclassed by guns like the M1911, which was introduced within a decade. Nonetheless, the Luger was often seen in the hands of 1900s American lawmen and cowboys.
After the Great War, of course, 9mm surplus German Army M08 Lugers were prized trophies for American Doughboys returning from "Over There," as the Kaiser's soldiers no longer needed them.
However, those war guns just don't have the same panache of a vintage commercial American Eagle Luger.
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