1917 DWM P-08 Luger           



When I decided several months ago that I wanted to acquire a Luger for my collection, I thought long and hard and decided I wanted to find a specimen from the First World War. My thinking was that the Pistole Parabellum P-08 was a better representative of Imperial Germany than of Nazi Germany. I figured I'd get a Walther P-38 as representative of the Third Reich and the Second World War. That purchase will have to come next, but I'm having serious problems rationalizing the current prices of WW2 P-38's. I've owned three of them previously, and actually find them...well, kind of...boring.


However, I figured a collection is a collection, and I needed a P-38 to round things out. I started shopping various internet firearms auction sites, as well as the local gunshow, but every where I looked I just kept seeing overpriced, boring  P-38's...and more and more interesting Lugers.

This is kind of funny, because while I was shopping for a Luger, there were none to be found...for months. Then I buy one and they start popping out of the woodwork like so many overly satiated termites.

Eventually, I started bidding on "good deals" in a low-ball sort of way. I figured I'd never win, but hey, if I did, I'd end up with a good deal. Then, one day I realized I had 30 minutes left on a nice, original "1918 DWM Artillery LP-08 with holster" auction, and that if I won, I'd have to cough up a LOT of money I didn't really have. That close call woke me up to the addictive dangers of on-line auctions...again.


Dealer picture #3

I stopped bidding on "nice" Lugers, and started doing "budget" searches...Searches with an upper limit of well under $1000. That's when I saw this pistol. I had bid on it once, and not met the reserve price and the auction had ended without it being sold. Now it was re-listed, with a "Buy It Now" price of, coincidentally, exactly the price I had previously bid. I took that as an omen. Somebody somewhere wanted me to buy this pistol (most likely the seller). So I hemmed and hawed, did a little research and some balance checking, and...clicked the "Buy It Now" button.

Twenty minutes later my wife called and said she had found what she wanted for Christmas...and it cost almost exactly what I had just spent on this "new" 1917 DWM 9mm P-08 .


I hope she likes her Luger...

The Luger turned out to be a bit rough. It is non-matching, having a replacement Trigger Plate, and Locking Bolt. It also has the obligatory un-matched magazine, and a pretty nice 1925(?) Police holster. Though the rest of the pistol is nicely matched, that hardly counts. If anything is miss-matched, the whole thing is miss-matched. The barrel is very poor, with excessive pitting, though it still has decent rifling. The grips are original and correctly numbered, but the dreaded safety lever chip bit this set once upon a time, and it's missing that frequently broken portion. The finish isn't. Though the overall condition of the pistol has a very nice patina to it reminiscent of some of my Winchesters. My original plan was to have it re-blued, but after ten minutes of playing with it, I am thinking about keeping it this way. Character. It has plenty of character.


All the pictures of my 1917 DWM above were the pictures sent to me by the dealer. The pictures following below are those I have taken of this aged warrior. As I have previously stated, it has very little original finish remaining. Though it possesses a rough character. It is 90 years old this year. If I were to refinish it, it wouldn't look 90 years old. That much is certain. Though whether that is a good thing, or bad thing, I haven't yet decided...

1917 DWM P-08 left side. Note the off-purple color of the take-down lever and the side plate. These are un-numbered reproduction parts.

Also note the badly pitted trigger. I will be replacing this, and upon examination, found it is miss-matched to the rest of the pistol, so replacing it won't be a heart-breaker.

Close up of the Imperial proofs stamped on the right side. Also note the slight pitting. This is the worst of it. It'll never look brand new again.

Right side of the 1917 DWM P-08 Luger. For as little finish as remains, the pitting over the whole piece isn't that bad. If I decide to do so, I think it'd be a great candidate for re-bluing.

DWM marked toggle. I really wanted a DWM rather than an Erfurt, just because of this really cool logo.

Slide open.

Top showing the 1917 date.


This is going to be a fun pistol if it shoots well. If I don't go whole hog on a nice restoration, I think I may replace the grips, and re-straw those pieces supposed to be strawed. That might look nice as an accent to this retired instrument of war. Though maybe I can get by with a thorough cleaning of these grips, which really feel nice. They're just worn enough to really feel good. Too bad about that chip...

Well, I cleaned the grips...They are not original, as I couldn't find any stamps. Doesn't matter, somebody along the way repaired the insides with a popsicle stick. I took the finish off as much as I could, and polished the naked parts before re-strawing them in my oven. Wow, who would have ever guessed how easy that was?

I fired some rounds through it and found it had a problem with the disconnect bar and the sideplate lever. It would fire the first round fine, and then not cock for subsequent firings. It would extract, eject and chamber just fine. It just wouldn't be cocked after all that.

I analyzed the situation and concluded that there were two problems. First the trigger return spring was too weak. Ordered a new one. Second, the sideplate lever, which was a replacement part, had an insufficient bevel to it. Three seconds with the Dremel and that was fixed. Back to the range and *POW*POW*POW*!!! Works like a champ.

The next thing I had to due was refinish it. I chose Norrell's Moly-Resin, as I have lots of experience with it, and am very satisfied with how it holds up. I ordered a bottle of their new Glossy Black, and set about waiting. Two weeks later I couldn't wait any longer and sprayed it with the Flat Black I had all along.

You spray Norrell's on with an airbrush, and then bake it in an oven for an hour at 300 degrees. After that you have a durable finish that resists chiping and scratching, and is only about a ten sixty billionth thick. Pretty cool!

As you can see, the thin Moly-Resin worked great for preserving the original stampings.

Three of these parts were re-strawed in my kitchen oven. I am very happy with the result...and the money I saved doing it myself. You can also see how the trigger turned out. I puttied it up with JB Weld and then Moly-Resined it too. I have a replacement coming, but this one will suffice until it gets here. It's a surplus part, and I don't know if it will be blued, or strawed, nor how long it will take to get here. Regardless of how it comes, I am going to strip it and straw it to match these other parts. Hopefully I can catch the right shade.

I tried painting it with the Glossy Black moly-resin, but thought it looked like a bad coat of Krylon, so I ended up scrubbing it all off with acetone before putting it in the oven. A little work, but very forgiving in the end.

It's a pretty nifty old pistol, and I am happy to have it. Do I wish it had arrived in better shape? For a shooter? Sure, but like I said before, its got character, and that is much cooler than somebody else's earlier restoration, even if it were pristine (as long as we're talking about a miss-matched shooter). Sure, I'd have loved to get an all original, totally matching DWM pistol for what I bought this one for, but those days are as gone as 1917 itself.

As it is now, with repro grips, and finally having gotten a decent trigger.

Didn't turn out so bad, did it?



<<< Back to Pistols <<<