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Discussion Starter · #1 ·

One thousand test Lugers (7.65 cal) were delivered to the U. S. Springfield Armory in late 1901. Most were distributed to U.S. Cavalry troops involved in police actions in the Philippines and Cuba. As the American Cavalry troops had used revolvers (Colt .45 and .38) for over 30 years, the small caliber, complex Luger, was viewed with some suspicion and not readily accepted. There were complaints as to small caliber, safety while riding from horseback, and unreliable action. As a result of these reports 50 Lugers in caliber 9mm were briefly tested by the Army in 1904-1906 and three Lugers in .45 caliber were tested in 1907. The Luger was rejected by the U.S. Army in favor of the Colt M1911 in 45 caliber.

The characteristics that separate these U.S.-American Eagle-Test Lugers from other Model 1900 Lugers are: the lack of proofs, the lack of a “GERMANY” stamp, and the last two digits of the Lugers serial numbers on the right end of the takedown lever (instead of the left lower side) .

In 1905-1907 the Springfield Armory called in most of the M1900 Test Lugers; 770 were sold to Francis Bannerman and Co. at public auction(in about 1910). Reportedly, some of the Lugers did not survive the tests and were destroyed by the Army. The reported serial range for these 770 Lugers purchased by Bannerman are 6167-96, 6282, 6361-7108, and 7147. Kenyon, Costanzo, and Reese report a serial range of 6100 to 7100. In 1910 the Springfield Armory reported 321 Lugers in 7.65 mm repaired. In 1911 the Rock Island Arsenal reported 306 Lugers in 7.65 mm repaired (Scott Meadows, U.S. Military Automatic Pistols, 1993, page 386).

The above reports are somewhat conflicting and the serial range has been extended by some (by sellers and collectors). Meadows lists the serial range from “6000 to 7500 (Approximate)”. This extends the serial range to now include serial numbers 6000-6100 and 7100-7500 (Meadows page 364). Only some of the Lugers in the extended range bear all of the AE test characteristics. Between serial number 7100 and 7200 the last two digits of the serial number shift from the right end of the take down lever to the left lower side. Meadows (page387) lists 144 1900 American Eagle Test Lugers in the 6009 -7403 serial range. A word of advice to collectors: if you purchase a test Luger in the long established 6100 to 7100 serial range or better yet in the Bannerman serial range there will be no uncertainty that it is a test Luger. If you buy outside that range there may be some doubt.

For a more detailed discussion of the 1900 AE test Luger see Scott Meadows, U.S. Military Automatic Pistols, 1993, page 394 -389; Reese, 1900 Luger U.S. test trials, 1973; and Imperial Lugers page 209-214.

(Note: when I published Imperial Lugers (1991) I had accumulated 161 1900 test Lugers in the 6100 to 7097 serial range. When the hard drive broke on my computer this data was lost. Any serial numbers or compilations of 1900 AE Test Luger data would be most appreciated. Send the information to this Forum. Thanks Jan)

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Figure 1. Left side and top, 1900 American Eagle, serial number 6671, United States test. These Lugers have a 4 3/4 inch barrel, are in 7.65 caliber, have dished toggle with toggle lock, long frame, wide grip safety with safety area polished bright, contour checkered safety lever, and commercial style serial number placement. What distinguishes the American Eagle Test Lugers from others is the lack of any proofs, lack of “GERMANY” stamp and the last two digits of the serial number on the right end of the take down lever.

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Figure 2. Top, 1900 American Eagle, serial number 6671, test.

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Figure 3. American Eagle details, 1900 American Eagle, serial number 6671, test.

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Figure 4. Right side, 1900 American Eagle, serial number 6671, test. The last two digits of the lugers serial number “71" are on the right end of the take down lever.

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Figure 5. Serial number on frame and barrel, 1900 American Eagle, serial number 6671, test. Note: the edges of the serial number digits are not smooth, but the halo is not evident.

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Figure 6. Safety area, 1900 American Eagle, serial number 6671, test. The area under the lever is polished bright. The safety lever is contour checkered (Costanzo, page 275). According to Kenyon (page 26) the safety lever changed to the 7 grove type at about serial number 7000.

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Figure 7. The inside of the grips, 1900 American Eagle, serial number 6671, test.

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Figure 8. Details of the matching serial number “71"on the grips. 1900 American Eagle, serial number 6671, test.

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
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Figure 9. Right side, 1900 American Eagle, serial number 6671, test. Shown with holster.

The Rock Island Arsenal manufactured 1000 holsters for the U.S. test Luger in 1902. These all bore the hallmark “ROCK ISLAND / ARSENAL / E.H.S” and were made to be worn with the butt to the front when being worn on the right side. The holster shown above is opposite to the Rock Island holster and is intended to be worn on the right hand side with the butt to the rear.

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Figure 10. 1900 American Eagle Test Luger in its holster. The fit is perfect for the A.E. test Luger.

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Figure 11. Front of Luger holster . The only marks are the U.S. in an oval on the front of the flap. Its flap is about 3/4 of an inch shorter across the top than the Rock Island holster. The holster shown above is very similar to the Luger holster shown on page 241, Meadows (U.S. Military Holsters and Pistol Cartridge Boxes, 1987). Like the holster above, the holster shown on page 241 was designed to be worn with the butt to the rear when worn on the right side. It was submitted to the Army by Colonel H. H. Whitney. The Army rejected it.

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Figure 12. Back of Luger holster. While not exactly the same, it is very similar to the Rock Island Arsenal manufactured A.E. test holster.

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Figure 13. End plug of the Luger holster. Unlike the Rock Island Test Luger holster that has a drain hole, this holster has a built in brass loop to attach a hold down strap.

I have a few questions for the early Luger holster experts. Is the U.S. stamp restricted to holsters produced for the U.S. Army. I would suggest that this is a commercial holster produced for the various commercial Lugers and the surplus Army Lugers sold by Bannerman. However, I searched through Bender’s holster book did not find a commercial holster that resembles the one shown above. It is always possible that the holster is a modern replica, however it does appear to be aged and came with the test Luger shown.

· Gold Bullet Member 2012
6,171 Posts
Jan.......#6788 showed up at a local show this past summer. It had a Swiss extractor and the grips were numbered 27. I was able to take it down and look at it in the sunlight... In my opinion, it had been reblued some time in the past (blue in the pits and scrapes) and was currently in about 90 to 95 % condition. The lady who had it thought it was worth about a zillion dollars and didn't really want to hear what I was trying to tell her. I understand a dealer did buy it about a month after I saw it for quite a bit less than the zillion and he turned it rather quickly. Not sure where it went.

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I trust you have seen the fine work of Ron Wood. He has, thankfully, kept a listing of "in range" & "above range" Test Eagle S/N's reported over the years. His current list is in the Members Gallery of the Luger Forum.

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For those of you that do not frequent the Luger Forum (I would encourage you to do so) I will post the list of US Test Trial Luger serial numbers here that I have compiled over more than 20 years. The list consist of serial numbers that I have personally observed, been reported to me, or have appeared in other publications/sales lists. The criteria for being included in the list are the distinguishing features of the Test Lugers that Jan has delineated, i.e. American Eagle crest, lack of proofs, last two digits of the serial number on the right end of the takedown lever, no "GERMANY" export stamp, and serial number proximate to the "accepted" 6100-7100 range. The list consists of two parts, a "core" list in the 6100-7100 range, and an "Above/Below Range" list of Lugers that possess the features stated but have serial numbers that fall outside of the "accepted" range.

The asterisks (*) in the core list indicate those US Test Lugers from the list that was originally published in Michael Reese's US Test Trial Luger book. It was this book that started my hunt for serial numbers.

Core 1-1-04.jpg

List updated 1 Jan 04

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This list is the "Under/Over Range" list. A point of interest is that although these examples have most of the Test Luger characteristics stated above, at around serial number 7108 the last two digits of the serial number starts to appear on the left side of the takedown lever on the exposed flat surface. I think this is the only time this method of marking the takedown lever was used until it resurfaces again in 1911 with the "military style" serial numbering.

Under-Over 1-1-04.jpg

List updated 1 Jan 04

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If you add up the number of Lugers included in the Bannerman purchase you will come up with 772 (not 770 as it appears in most literature). The documented Bannerman purchase includes serial numbers 6176-6195, 6282, 6361-7108, and 7147. The range 6176-6196 includes both the beginning serial number and the ending serial number, so that accounts for 21 weapons (and not 20 which is the difference between the two numbers). The same applies for 6361-7108, which is 749 (not 748) weapons. Adding in the two single examples, 6282 and 7147, you get 772. I think that failure to take both the beginning and ending numbers of a sequence into account resulted in the 770 figure.

Of the 21 weapons in the 6176-6195 sequence, only 3 have surfaced to date, although an additional 17 weapons in the 6100 range have been recorded.

Of the 749 weapons in the 6361-7108 sequence, only 193 have surfaced to date. An additional 21 weapons in the 6200 range and 18 in the beginning of the 6300 range not included in the Bannerman purchase have been recorded.

Serial numbers above the range of 6100-7100 in the Bannerman purchase include 7101-7108 (8 weapons) and 7147 for a total of 9. Only serial numbers 7108 and 7147 have been reported as surviving.

So of the 772 weapons originally purchased by Bannerman, 197 have been recorded as surviving to this day, while an additional 56 within the range of 6100-7100 not listed in the Bannerman purchase have been recorded.

There are an additional 61 “out of range� weapons that have been recorded with Test Trial Luger characteristics. Of these, there are 8 “below range� and 53 “above range� (excluding 7108 and 7147).

If you subtract the 772 Bannerman purchase from the presumed 1000 US Army purchase, you arrive at 228 pieces “missing� from the Bannerman purchase. Of this missing 228, we have accounted for 56 survivors in the 6100-7100 range as recorded to date. That leaves 172 weapons of the original 1000 unaccounted for. Do we assume that these 172 weapons all fall within the 6100-7100 range, or do “out of range� examples constitute part of this missing number?

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Thanks Ron for posting this, a test luger is at the top of my list to aquire!

It is so nice to see sharing such as this, it helps the collecting community very much,


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4,387 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks for a detailed serial number analysis of the A.E. test Lugers that greatly surpasses anything attempted previously. Your serial number date will be of great use to all Luger collectors.

Jan, How much for your fine condition 1900 US Test Luger ;) ? Something which I am missing in my collection. You should stick to your WWI Military guns and get rid of that US Test Luger!!

Just out of curiosity, does the pistol contain a 'flaming bomb' proof which often appears on these Lugers?

In regards to the holster, this could be a 'grey area', but I would imagine that most collectors would prefer the true US Test holster with the respective markings. Your holster could have been supplied by Bannerman or another retailer to resemble the Army issued holster. The large 'US' stamp could have been some kind of marketing strategy to sell the holsters which were used my the Army. On the other hand, it could have been one of those holsters supplied by Col H. H. Whitney which the Army rejected.

I have enjoyed the contents of this post.


I would like to add my test piece to the list; serial # 7083 - no import marking, no proofs other than in the well of the frame, and last two digits on right end of take-down lever.

Pictures and/or more information available if requested.

GREAT Forum!

Thanks Ron, here are some pics...not so good. Let me know if there's something you'd like a closeup of; I could not get a good shot of the well proof. I might put the pistol on a flatbed scanner to get better "looks".

#7083 has the common chip under the safety and its blue is thinning on the straps but otherwise is a beautiful gun.

Richard Latham

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