Old Tech – The Luger Parabellum Part 2

Old Tech – The Luger Parabellum Part 2 Part 1

An airgun with a history older than almost any other

By Dennis Adler

Among blowback action CO2 models the Umarex Legends Luger P.08 Parabellum ranks as one of the most authentic in design and operation. The guns also duplicate actual Luger parts stampings and manufacturer’s marks, though not for any one particular Luger manufacturer. The weathered finish gives the gun a well worn but more authentic appearance. In the Blue Book of Gun Values Photo Percentage Grading Scale, a pistol in this condition would be rated at between 60 to 70 percent.

It is easy to forget just how old the Luger design is because most everyone, except Luger collectors and firearms historians, think of it as a WWII handgun. You can thank the movies for that, for the most part, but George Luger’s innovative semiautomatic pistol design was patented before the turn of the last century and already in the hands of Americans as early as the 1900s.

We sometimes forget how old some gun designs are. The Luger is a late 19th century design that lasted well into the 20th century as a viable military, law enforcement and civilian handgun. This c.1908 photograph of an Arizona Sheriff shows that the German pistol was already finding a home in the holsters of U.S. lawmen. The holster is a modified Mexican double drop loop design on a narrow belt.

Around 1908, an Arizona lawman was photographed carrying a Luger as his sidearm in a modified western holster. Imagine someone with a Colt Peacemaker coming up against a Sheriff packing a Luger! There were actually a lot of lawmen carrying semi-auto pistols both of European and American design in the very early 1900s including Colt’s Model 1903 Hammerless, the FN Model 1900, Broomhandle Mausers, and Lugers among others. It is not as strange as one might think, so looking at the P.08 in that context makes it a very old gun and an excellent choice for an air pistol.

Georg Luger’s 1904 patent shows the same fundamental design used for the P.08 but with the grip safety not used on P.08 models. Luger had invented and put into use a pistol grip safety before J.M. Browning.

The Luger design, with its toggle link action, demanded a cartridge with sufficient power to not only send its bullet downrange at an effective velocity but generate enough recoil energy to drive the toggle link back the full distance in order for the pistol to eject the spent shell case, re-cock the striker and chamber a new round. This was more demanding than the recoil needed to drive the slide back on one of John M. Browning’s early semi-autos and the Luger also distributed a good deal of energy back into the shooter’s hand. Muzzle flip was another minor issue one had to overcome. Lastly, if a cartridge was not of sufficient power, the toggle link could malfunction. None of these problems translates into firing the CO2 model, however, with the Umarex P.08 using the exact same toggle link design (and power being commensurate for a CO2 pistol), the air charge released upon firing must provide sufficient power to operate the blowback action toggle, as well as send the BB downrange. That is why the P.08 has a lower velocity than other blowback action models using more traditional Browning-type designs.

The blued finish on Lugers was exceptional, as was the gun’s manufacturing and assembly. This near 100 percent condition example is a commercial P.08 model. You can see how well the lines of the gun have been reproduced by Umarex for the CO2 model. (Photo courtesy Rock Island Auction Co.)

It is also a bit more complicated. There are 14 parts involved in the toggle link action, including the rear toggle link, forward toggle link, coupling link, and the breech block into which the toggle connects, plus various pins, springs and firing pin components, all of which attach to the receiver. What I did not mention is screws, because a Luger does not use them. Everything fits together with pins and grooves. In fact, the only screws are the ones used for the grips.

The toggle link on the Umarex P.08 is as complex as the 9mm models with five individual parts all connected by pins. The rear sight is integral with the back of the rear toggle link (the part stamped 42), which connects to the forward toggle link (the part stamped ac), which in turn is pinned to the breech block (bolt) and extractor (the long piece in the center of the bolt). This is exactly how the 9mm Luger is assembled. The weathered finish makes each individual part stand out.

The toggle is locked open on an empty magazine allowing the articulation of the forward and rear toggles to be shown. When firing this happens in a fraction of a second and the airgun works nearly as fast as a centerfire pistol.

Likewise, the Umarex P.08 has the same conspicuous absence of screws except for one small Phillips head inside the frame, which is not found on the centerfire models. And, of course, there are a few differences inside the frame to accommodate the CO2 firing mechanism, but overall, it is one of the most accurately built CO2 pistols. Just for the record, there are a total of 39 parts in an original Luger P.08 model including the grips and magazine.

Here you can see the pin that holds the forward and rear toggle links together (arrow) and the extractor pinned into the center of the forward toggle link. Since there is no spent shell case rim to pull from the chamber, the underside of the airgun’s extractor is smooth.

In this view with the safety lever set to SAFE (lower position) you can see the safety bar extended (just above the WWII). This prevents the toggle from moving. Also note the safety bar has the number 15 stamped on it. This matches the number 15 also stamped on the end of the take-down bolt. The ac stamped on the top of the forward toggle is the Walther maker’s mark. The top of the rear toggle is where manufacturers would stamp their emblem and there were 13 different manufacturers, none of who were Walther. The number 42 was used by Mauser, along with the Mauser banner, byf (guns made for the German military after 1940), S/42 and 42. Mauser also made Lugers in the 1970s.

When the safety is moved up into the FIRE position (red dot exposed) the safety bar is no longer visible, having dropped below the top edge of the frame. This view again allows the individual pieces of the toggle action to be seen.

Steel and air downrange

As noted in Part 1, the Legends WWII model being tested has an average trigger pull of 4 pounds, 8.4 ounces. With Umarex .177 caliber steel BBs and a fresh Umarex 12 gr. CO2 cartridge, average velocity for 10 shots was an even 300 fps with a high of 307 fps duplicated three times, followed by 301 fps, 298 fps duplicated twice, and a low of 297 fps four times. Standard deviation was just 4 fps. An impressive result for the P.08 which averaged the factory spec high velocity. My sighting target with roughly aimed shots showed 10 hits within 1.43 inches. Chronograph tests are shot 15 feet from the target. Before moving on to the 21 foot accuracy test I decided to answer the first question that is apt to come up. “Will the P.08 work with Dust Devils?”

The Umarex P.08 magazine is the same size as an actual Luger magazine and holds 21 steel BBs plus the CO2. The CO2 seating screw is recessed inside the magazine base to keep the lines of the magazine true to the original. The follower (top arrow) on the left side is knurled and easy to lower and hold while the follower spring is compressed for loading. The BB loading port is just slightly larger than a .177 caliber BB, which allows quick and easy loading. Dust Devils load just as easily and do not cause any feeding issues.

Considering the Luger needs all the velocity it can get and Dust Devils average 4.35 grains, compared to Umarex Precision steel BBs, which average 5.1 grains, how much can 0.75 grains add to velocity? The answer is a lot, with average velocity increased to 315 fps, a high of 322 fps and nothing under 310 fps for 10 consecutive rounds. This gives the blowback action just the added increase in velocity needed to put the P.08 up against the 300 fps average class CO2 pistols. The lighter weight frangible Dust Devils also make the P.08 capable of shooting reactive metal targets, and there is a slight up tick in felt recoil and dB with the composite BBs. There were zero issues with function using the Dust Devils, either with the gun or magazine.

Using one of my own sighting targets during the chronograph velocity tests, 10 Dust Devils hit within 1.43 inches of the red bullseye from 15 feet.

The frangible composite Dust Devils functioned perfectly in the P.08, delivering higher velocities than heavier steel BBs and respectable accuracy from 21 feet with a spread for 10 rounds of 1.55 inches, and best 5-rounds at 0.75 inches.

With Dust Devils already loaded I stepped back to the 21 foot mark and fired another 10 rounds at a Shoot-N-C target. Using a two-handed hold and Weaver stance, very un-cinematic for a Luger, I put three rounds in the bullseye, and another seven around it for a 10-shot spread of 1.55 inches with a best 5-rounds at 0.75 inches.  Switching to Umarex Precision steel BBs my best 10 shots landed at 1.25 inches slightly left of center with a best 5-rounds grouped at 0.81 inches. My earlier sighting target with the Umarex Precision steel BBs had 10 shots at 1.52 inches with a best 5-rounds grouped into 0.75 inches. That makes it a split decision between steel BBs and Dust Devils with the P.08, but the frangible rounds certainly have the clear advantage for velocity and the Umarex Legends Luger P.08 Parabellum knows how to use it.

The Umarex steel BBs also grouped tightly from 21 feet with a 10-shot spread of 1.52 inches and best 5-rounds at 0.75 inches. Overall, the P.08 is a great handling, reasonably accurate, and very authentic CO2 version of the legendary Luger Pistole Parabellum 1908.

Next Week in the Airgun Experience, the Mosin-Nagant M1944 rifle is back!

13 thoughts on “Old Tech – The Luger Parabellum Part 2

  1. Nice shooting . My experience has been similar the P08 is a very accurate pistol. I find the toggle action brings the pistol back on target rapidly and doesn’t disturb aim like a slide moving back and forth. The added velocity from the Dust Devils puts the P08 into the 300 plus club.


  2. Will be interesting to see what you get with the Nagant rifle, this one like the sometime this year Umarex 1894, seems to have been detuned for lower velocity. Both should be capable of 500-550 fps. The SMLE apparently is a single co2 at 600 fps plus



  3. My order for the Mosin Nagant M1944 rifle is on its way. I should have it next Tuesday. I’m very glad to see this one come back. I’ve got a growing collection of these WWII era airgun replicas. A worn finish P38 would indeed be a welcome addition as would the Lee Enfield SMLE.

    Since Pyramyd Air has said they will not be getting the SMLE air rifle, do you know of any other way to get them imported to the U.S.? Would it do any good to start a letter writing campaign to the manufacturer asking them to export the SMLE air rifle to the U.S.?


    • Pyramyd Air and Air Venturi are among the largest importers in the country, so I doubt a letter writing campaign would make a difference. Sometimes these things just take a lot of time (and patience) but they eventually happen, like the rifled barrel pellet version of the Webley MK VI, and a last minute supply of Mosin-Nagant rifles and Nagant revolvers. I have learned to expect the unexpected and not rush the expected. Works the same in the rest of the firearms industry, too.




  4. Imagine what a 6 inch barreled P08, Maybe with a shoulder stock would do. Pyramid still offers the WW2 P08. Seems like it is not a 500 run limited edition. Umarex should think about other WW2 additional runs like the 1911, and yes a P 38


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