Luger replicas

DWM-1900-Swiss-Commercial-Contract-Luger-Pistol-with-Holster-gun

The Luger is probably one of the best known handguns ever made. Instantly recognisable even to people who know nothing about firearms, no wonder it has been the subject of a number of replicas over the years. Sadly, most of the available replicas up to now have had some drawbacks. But with the release of the KWC CO2 powered blowback Luger, it looks as if we may finally have a replica worthy of this incredibly iconic handgun. To celebrate the release of the KWC Luger, I thought I’d take a brief look back at some of the Luger replicas produced since World War Two and consider how they stack up as shooters and visual and functional replicas.

Real Steel background

First thing to mention is that what we’re looking at here isn’t officially called a Luger at all. It’s actually called the Pistole Parabellum 1908, or P.08. It’s known as the Luger because it was designed and patented by German engineer Georg Luger in 1898. I’ll refer to it as the Luger in this article for the sake of simplicity. Manufacture began in 1900 with German firearms company DWM (Deutsche Waffen- und Munitionsfabriken). The Luger was later manufactured under license in a number of other locations in Germany, and even at one time by Vickers in the UK.

Parabellum_1586

German Navy P.08

The Luger was an early attempt to produce a self-loading pistol, a handgun which could be fired and reloaded more quickly than a revolver. Most later designs used some form of moving slide to extract the spent shell casing and load a new cartridge, but the Luger employed a unique toggle mechanism. Venting gases cause the barrel and toggle to move backward until hitting a cam, which hinges the toggle knee-joint, unlocking the breech and extracting the spent cartridge. A spring then forces the toggle closed, pushing the next round into place. It’s a neat technical solution which causes relatively little recoil, though it does have disadvantages. The toggle operates to very tight tolerances which made manufacturing costly and expensive and the mechanism is also prone to jamming if dirt, dust or debris are present. The Luger wasn’t a completely new design, being partly based on the existing Borchardt C/93 self-loading pistol, though it was a neater and much more compact design than the earlier pistol. The Luger was available in 4″, 6″ and 8″ (Artillery) form. The artillery version featured adjustable sights, a wooden holster which doubled as a stock and an optional 50 round, drum magazine.

Artillery_Luger_1875

Well used Artillery version

The Luger used a seven round, drop-out magazine in the grip, which was more steeply angled than most pistols (145° between the barrel and grip, compared to 120° on the Colt 1911, for example). The base of the magazine on most early Lugers is made of wood, something no replica has yet attempted to recreate. Early versions were chambered for a new cartridge, the 7.65mm Parabellum (also called the .30 Luger in the US) and the Luger was adapted by Swiss armed forces in 1900. Concerns that the Luger lacked stopping power led to the design of another new cartridge, the 9 x 19mm, which became known as the 9mm Luger and has been used in a range of handguns since. The Luger was updated in 1904 to take the 9mm cartridge, and at this time a safety on the right side of the frame was added. The Luger was adopted initially by the German Navy and then by the German Army in 1908 (at which time it gained the P.08 designation). Thereafter, sales to German military forces accounted for the vast majority of Lugers produced.

Replicas

Below is a list of the Luger replicas I’m aware of, in approximate chronological order according to when they were released. I haven’t included any of the spring powered Luger replicas because they are, without exception, crap.

Schimel GP-22

luger1

The Schimel GP-22 is a pretty good CO2 powered replica of the Luger, produced In California by brothers Orville and Clifford Schimel. Both were machinists and Orville was also a die maker. The brothers were fascinated by the Luger, and soon after the end of World War Two they set out to make an air pistol replica. Early work was done in Orville’s garage before a plant was set up in North Hollywood and manufacturing begin in 1946. The Schimel uses an 8g CO2 cartridge (commonly available in the 1940s as soda siphon bulbs) to shoot a single .22 pellet. Up to 580 fps was claimed when the pistol was first sold.

When it first appeared, the L.A. Police department tried unsuccessfully to have the Schimel banned, claiming it looked too much like the real firearm. However, despite its visual appeal, power and claims of extreme accuracy, the Schimel didn’t sell particularly well. There were a number of good reasons for this. The materials used in the Schimel weren’t always sensibly utilised – die cast, pot metal parts were used in stressed areas and were prone to cracking, a steel barrel was press-fitted into a die-cast outer shell, and electrolysis quickly welded the barrel in place. The O rings were made of gas-permeable material, and were prone to expand up to 50% in use, causing the pistol to leak catastrophically. The grips were made of an early form of plastic which shrank on exposure to UV light – some owners claim shrinkage of up to ½”, which makes the grips impossible to remove. The cocking and charging procedure is complicated and parts break if the pistol is roughly handled. Finally, the paint tended to quickly flake off the die-cast body. No surprise then that within ten years, manufacture of the Schimel ceased and the company went bust. Despite this, a good Schimel is still a powerful, accurate and loud replica. The problem is finding a good one. Schimels regularly turn up on gun auction sites, though they tend to be rather expensive and are now even more fragile than they were sixty years ago.

American Luger

luger2

The manufacturing plant from the bankrupt Schimel company was bought up by Californian engineering works A.C. Swanson in 1956. Swanson developed the Schimel design and produced the American Luger from 1956 – 1958. This is generally similar to the Schimel, but it’s an eight shot repeater which shoots .22 lead balls. Sadly, the American Luger was just as fragile as the Schimel, and sales were never particularly strong. Production ended when Stoeger, the US firearms company which became the owner of the “Luger” trademark, threatened legal action. Relatively small numbers of American Lugers were produced, and these command even higher prices than Schimels when they do appear for sale.

Wham-O Kruger

luger3

In the late 1950s yet another Californian company, this time toymaker Wham-O, produced the Kruger 98, a replica of the Luger which used a similar sounding name, presumably to avoid the possibility of a lawsuit from Stoeger. The Kruger 98 wasn’t really an air pistol at all – it used the explosive power of a standard “cap” to propel a .12 birdshot. As can be imagined, there isn’t actually much power in a cap intended for toy guns, and despite advertising claims for extreme accuracy, the .12 lead shot barely achieved enough power to leave the end of the barrel. A later version which fired standard .177 BBs was even less powerful, though Wham-O advertising gleefully claimed that the Kruger could also shoot “peas, beans and even tapioca!“. The Kruger was produced in large numbers and these regularly turn up for sale, but unless you have a particular desire to use tapioca as ammo, there really doesn’t seem much reason to own one.

Tanaka Luger

tanakap

Japanese manufacturer Tanaka Works were the first to produce a fully functional Luger replica. Their green gas powered, 6mm, blowback Luger features an operational toggle, full size drop-out magazine, working safety catch and is available in 4″, 6″ and 8″ versions. Tanaka also produced a wooden stock/holster, wood grips and a drum magazine for this replica. This is a very nice, well made replica which field strips accurately and is marred only by the fact that it’s entirely made of plastic (even the “heavyweight” version is rather light). Like many Tanaka pistols, it’s also not especially powerful (250 – 300 fps) or accurate and the firing pin is a little fragile – pushing the magazine in with the firing pin extended or even repeated dry firing can cause the pin to snap. This apart, the Tanaka Luger is a nice replica and well engineered, but like all Tanaka products it’s very expensive. However, for me, the main problem is that it’s plastic – I don’t feel that a plastic replica can ever provide convincing weight and heft.

WE Luger

Products4554-1024x683-99915

WE Luger, 6″

Taiwanese manufacturer WE were next to produce a 6mm , green-gas powered blowback Luger, and functionally this is almost identical to the Tanaka version. However, the WE Luger is all metal, and does feel much more convincing. The WE version is available in black or polished metal finish and in 4″, 6″ and 8″ form, and WE also offer a 50 round drum magazine. Overall, the WE Luger is a very nice replica, though it doesn’t have a great reputation for longevity. On many older WE Lugers, the trigger sear wears until pulling the trigger causes the pistol to fire on full auto until all the gas in the magazine is exhausted. Which is sort of exciting if you’re not expecting it. Accuracy and power are similar to the Tanaka Luger. Overall, the WE Luger is a pretty reasonable replica and like most WE pistols, it’s fairly low cost. Just don’t expect it to last forever.

Umarex “Legends” Luger

po02

In 2013 Umarex announced the addition of a P.08 Luger to the growing “Legends” collection. This is a .177 BB shooting, CO2 powered, non-blowback replica and appears to be identical to the KWC non-blowback Luger (KMB-41DHN) and the ASG P.08. It’s all metal and has good weight, but is only available in 4″ form and the lack of blowback is an issue – the trigger operates only in double action and the pull is long and heavy. The drop-out magazine is reduced size and although the pistol has good power (at around 400fps), the heavy trigger pull affects accuracy. A nice looking, well made, low cost metal replica with good weight and a fair shooter, but without the toggle mechanism that is the defining characteristic of the Luger. You can find a link to a review of the Umarex P.08 at the end of this article.

Gletcher P.08

84_opt

Gletcher is the trademark of the New York based Sport Manufacturing Group, Inc. The Gletcher P.08 is a CO2 powered, 4″, .177 BB shooting, blowback Luger replica. CO2 is stored inside the grip and the drop-out magazine is reduced size. The appearance of this replica is somewhat spoiled by prominent white “Gletcher” markings and trademarks, though otherwise it’s a good visual replica of the Luger. Despite having blowback, early reports suggest that it has a very heavy trigger action and an appetite for CO2 (some owners report no more than 35-40 shots per CO2). Accuracy and power are also reported as no more than average. This is getting closer, but the lack of a full sized magazine and the reportedly heavy trigger mean that this still isn’t the perfect Luger replica. It’s also expensive in comparison to other Luger replicas.

KWC Luger

lestlug

At last! A CO2 powered, blowback Luger with a full sized drop-out magazine. Taiwanese manufacturer KWC have recently released a full metal, blowback Luger and even better, they have somehow managed to shoehorn a CO2 cartridge into the slim magazine. KWC make some pretty good replicas (they are the OEM manufacturer for, amongst others, the Cybergun Tanfoglio Witness and some Umarex replicas) so I’m very hopeful about this one. It’s available only as a 4″ version but in both 4.5mm (KMB-41DHN) and 6mm (KCB-41DHN) form and KWC claim “incredible accuracy“. Don’t know about that, but if it’s as good as some of the KWC 1911s, this could finally be a decent Luger replica.

Related pages

Umarex Legends P08 review

Best replica Part 2

Which is the best replica pistol? Part 2

KWC

KWC is a Taiwanese manufacturer of airsoft and air replicas which has been in operation since the early 1980s. KWC were the first manufacturer to produce blowback replicas. The company produce a range of blowback semi-auto replicas in 6mm and 4.5mm formats and a number of revolver, rifle and SMG replicas. KWC also act as OEM to a number of well-known distributors including Cybergun and Umarex. Recently KWC have introduced replicas of several weapons to their range and the 2014 catalogue includes blowback replicas of the P.08 Luger, Mauser M712 Broomhandle and Makarov pistol.

KWC produce replicas which have very good functional and visual accuracy – their Colt 1911 range for example, are amongst the best replicas of this pistol (KWC also manufacture the Tanfoglio Witness on behalf of Cybergun). They can be decent shooters too, though I have found some variability between examples of the same model – some are very good indeed, some less so. Finish varies, with some models having good and hard wearing finish and some being very prone to wear and scratching. Reliability also seems to be an issue with some owners reporting no problems after extended use and others noting a range of problems. However, KWC replicas tend to be relatively low cost and all have good weight and feel.

Best things about KWC replicas: Good visual and functional accuracy, good weight and feel, can be good shooters, reasonable cost.

Worst things about KWC replicas: Finish isn’t always durable, some variability in power and accuracy between examples, long-term reliability not always the best.

lestlug

My favourite KWC replica: Is the new P.08 Luger. Full blowback, a working toggle, drop-out magazine, CO2 powered and available in both 4.5 and 6mm versions, this ticks all the Luger boxes. Early reports suggest that this is a pretty good shooter too – this is definitely one I’ll be looking to add to the collection.

Related pages:

Tanfoglio Witness review

Website: http://www.kwcgun.com/

Tanaka

Tanaka Works is a Japanese manufacturer of 6mm replica rifles and pistols, though they’re best known for their revolver replicas. Tanaka tend to make replicas in small batches featuring different finishes so that numbers of each model are fairly small. Most Tanaka revolvers feature a milled aluminium frame, ABS outer barrel and brass inner barrel.

All current and recent Tanaka models use the patented Pegaseus system which utilises a fixed gas reservoir within the revolving cylinder. This system allows replicas to be very functionally accurate and grips and other parts intended for real weapons can often be fitted to Tanaka revolvers. Previously, Tanaka used the Cassiopeia system, where individual shells were charged with gas. This gave extreme functional accuracy, but was discontinued when the Japanese Government claimed that these replicas could be too easily converted to fire live rounds. Tanaka replicas using the Cassiopeia system are now rare and sought by collectors.

Despite the use of ABS on outer barrels, Tanaka replicas handle and feel just like real firearms. A range of finishes are used including Midnight Gold, which is an extremely close match for the blued finish on some revolvers. Visually, these are as close as it gets – every pin, screw and contour of the original is perfectly modelled. However, in my experience (I have owned three Tanaka revolvers), they aren’t great shooters. My Tanaka replicas shot at just 250fps, and grouped at around 3-4″ at six yards. Worst of all, they fired with a weedy “phut”, very disappointing for something that looks so real.

So, a Tanaka is a great replica, though you may have to sell a kidney or a child to fund the purchase of one. But you shouldn’t expect an equally great shooting experience. And if you can find a good Cassiopea SAA, buy it immediately and keep it as a legacy for your unsold children – in a few years, it’ll probably be worth more than your pension.

Best things about Tanaka replicas: The best looking finish in the business, very high quality, extreme visual accuracy.

Worst things about Tanaka replicas: Very high cost, not the most durable finish, average shooters.

bestt

My favourite Tanaka replica: Is any of the range of Colt SAAs.They’re all things of great beauty, but the heavyweight, removable cylinder model in Midnight Gold finish is one of the most impressive replicas I have ever seen or handled. Just don’t expect it to shoot with much authority and be very careful not to scratch the finish.

Website: http://www.tanaka-works.com/

Tokyo Marui

Tokyo Marui is a Japanese manufacturer of gas, electric and spring powered airsoft rifles, pistols and SMGs. I have always been dubious about TM pistols, mainly because other than for brass inner barrels and metal magazines, they’re made entirely of plastic and feel very light indeed (for example, the TM Smith & Wesson M19, 6″ weighs just 580 grams, compared to 1250 grams for the Umarex S&W 586, 6″). Racking the slide on a Tokyo Marui semi-auto replica gives a toylike “click-clack” sound rather than the satisfying “ker-chunk” that you get on metal slide guns. Finish is also variable – some are very good but some less so, with prominent moulding seams and heavily engraved markings.

Given all that, you’re probably wondering why I’m talking about TM at all in an article about the best replica? Well, here’s the thing – TM pistols are great shooters. They throw BBs a long distance on a very flat trajectory, they’re accurate, consistent and supremely reliable. For these reasons TM pistols are one of the most popular choices for skirmishers, but they also make great target shooting pistols. If your priority is shooting accuracy and reliability rather than finish and heft, a TM may be a good choice.

Best things about Tokyo Marui replicas: Great shooters, good reliability, reasonable cost.

Worst things about Tokyo Marui replicas: Very light weight, all plastic construction, not the best finish.

besttm

My favourite Tokyo Marui replica: Is the Glock 17. It’s a licensed replica with accurate markings and captures the look of the chunky original very well. At 720 grams, it has a more convincing weight that some other TM replicas and it’s just a great shooter. These can group at 1″ at six yards and will send a BB more than 70ft to reliably hit a person sized target.

Related pages:

Tokyo Marui Colt 1911A1 review

Website: http://www.tokyo-marui.co.jp/

Umarex

Umarex Sportwaffen GmbH & Co is a German manufacturer and distributor of replica pistols, rifles and SMGs. In 1993 Umarex merged with firearm manufacturer Carl Walther Sportwaffen to become part of the PW group of companies (which now also includes Hammerli and Rohm). Umarex own license agreements with Heckler and Koch, Colt, Smith & Wesson and many others. Umarex produced their first replica air pistol (the Walther CP88) in 1996 and now offer a huge range of replicas in .177 pellet and 4.5mm and 6mm BB versions. Some replicas are designed and manufactured in Germany, others come from Taiwanese OEM companies such as KWC.

The Umarex range of pellet shooting replicas include the Walther CP88 and CP99, the Colt 1911 and the Smith & Wesson 586/586. All are characterised by high quality construction and finish and good power and accuracy, but none are especially good functional replicas. Some Umarex 4.5mm revolver replicas are very good indeed (the Smith & Wesson TRR8, for example), as are some of the 4.5mm, blowback semi-auto replicas (the Walther CP99 Compact, for example). In general (and there are notable exceptions), Umarex produce good quality, well finished and designed replicas. Some are also powerful and accurate shooters.

Best things about Umarex replicas: Good power and accuracy (mainly for pellet shooters),high quality of construction and durable finish, reliability, longevity.

Worst things about Umarex replicas: High cost (mainly for pellet shooters), not the most functionally accurate replicas.

bestu

My favourite Umarex replica: Is the Smith & Wesson 586/686 range. I don’t especially care for the nickel finish on the 686, and I wish the whole cylinder revolved, but overall this is a beautifully made and finished replica which shoots extremely well. Best one for me is the 6″, but I don’t think you’d be disappointed with a 4″ or 8″ version.

Related pages:

Walther CP88 Review

Walther CP99 Review

Walther CP99 Compact Review

Walther PPK/S Review

Smith and Wesson 586/686 Review

Smith and Wesson TRR8 review

Website: http://www.umarex.de/

 

And if I was forced to choose a best replica, it would be… The Tanaka SAA. No, wait a minute, I really enjoy shooting my Umarex S&W 586. Hold on though, the chunky, blowback ASG CZ75D is pretty good. And the Cybergun Mini Uzi is just so much fun… Nah, it’s no good. I can’t choose just one.   The answer is that there probably isn’t a single best replica pistol. What’s best for you depends on what you’re looking for – do you want an accurate and powerful shooter, a good visual and functional replica or something that offers a compromise between the two? What we really want of course, is a replica that has the finish and functional accuracy of a Tanaka, the power and accuracy of an Umarex and the cost of a Cybergun. I’d buy one of those. But until then, the best replica pistol will be the one that ticks most boxes for you.

Happy shooting.