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The First German Assault Weapon: The Lange Pistole 08

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The Lange Pistole 08 (long pistol), or Artillery Luger as it is commonly known today, has an interesting history. It was originally developed as a personal defense weapon for German field artillery and air crews. While the foot artillery had been issued carbines, the field artillery were mounted and highly mobile, and needed something smaller than a carbine. The LP08 was to replace remarkably old black powder 1879 and 1883 Reichsrevolvers for them. With its detachable shoulder stock, it could serve as a handgun or a faux carbine.

The LP08 was adopted in 1913, but significant production wasn’t pushed until World War One began, and deliveries took some time to really get moving. About the time substantial numbers were able to be issued to new artillery units, troops in the trenches were recognizing just how well-suited the weapon was to the patrols and trench raids of the static warfare of northern France. In 1916 a drum magazine with a 32 round capacity was designed for the LP08, using Freidrich Blum’s patent originally intended for an aviator’s drum magazine for the Mondragon rifle. With a stock and drum, the LP08 was arguably the single best existing weapon for close-quarters fighting.

Incidentally, a fully automatic version of the Luger was tested (mostly for air crews) but rejected because its rate of fire was simply too high to be practical.

In February 1918, a German High Command order first used the word “sturm” in an assault context, describing elite “sturmkompagnies” that were to be issued artillery Lugers and drums for close combat. These would be replaced late that year by new submachine guns (the MP-18,I) as they became available, but the LP08 was the original specialty weapon of the Sturmtruppen.

What I find doubly interesting is that this sort of story would repeat itself many times over the following century. A light and handy weapon was developed for rear echelon or support troops, and became embraced by elite special forces, often to the exclusion of its original intended users. Notable examples that come to mind are the MP7, P90, and M1 Carbine.

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