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The year 1900 marked the beginning of the official production life of the Luger pistol. The Swiss finally had an acceptable model to purchase, and the DWM factory began to sell them on the commercial market as well. Though the Swiss (and other contract and test explorations) are pretty thoroughly documented, the literature and historical interest gives commercial production pretty short shrift.

Commercial interest in the Luger pistol was considerable. There was a market in Germany, somewhat less in France and,pehaps, Great Britain; but the greatest interest was in North America, which by 1907 was receiving more than half of DWM's commercial output (Walter, 1995). These North American deliveries were embossed over the chamber with the eagle from the Great Seal of the United States, the American Eagle, as a sales motivator, and it is these well-recognized model 1900 American Eagle Lugers which are the subject of this presentation.

Model 1900AE production occurred either coincident with or immediately after the 2,000 gun Swiss contract, and their serial number range begins with 2001. By autumn of 1901 at least 7,000 1900AE had been delivered (ibid.) Still and Kenyon are in substantial agreement that 11,000-12,000 pieces were made, and that the serial number range is 2001 to approximately 20000; Walter reports the highest 1900AE serial # as 23362. (Jones's and Reese's statistics on these guns are suspect: Jones claims that 2001 must be considered the beginning fo the Test Eagle series, and Reese begins the American Eagle serial# range with 01.)

The 1900 American Eagle presented here is serial# 2104, the 104th pistol manufactured in the series. It is typical of the 1900 Old Model: 4 3/4" .30 barrel, dished toggles, flat breechblock, long frame, grip safety.

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1900 American Eagles are found with two kinds of grip safeties. Early guns are found with narrow palm levers, which extend across only half of the rear grip strap, as pictured here. Later safeties extend the full width of the grip strap. Kenyon claims that the narrow grip is present up to about serial# 6000, and that the wide safeties appear on guns serial# 5000 onward. Walter (1991) asserts that the grip safety style changed about serial# 10001, but the older components were used until the parts supply was exhausted.

I can report that gun #6761 (a Test Eagle) has the narrow grip safety, and #13499 has the wide safety. I have seen no database to support either Walter's or Kenyon's numbers, and the subject remains in my mind inconclusive.

Three different thumb safety styles appear on model 1900 Lugers: Type 1, a flat version with crosshatch checkering on the top half; Type 2 (pictured here), a raised end with crosshatching; and Type 3, a raised end with grooves as appears on all other Luger types. According to Kenyon the first type is found up to serial# 6000, the second type from #400 to #7000, and the third type from year 1901 onward (but without serial# specification).

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There is no Safe or Gesichert stamping on 1900 American Eagle Lugers. Rather, a polished area of the frame is visible when the thumb lever is in the up, or safe, position.

Initial production of the Model 1900 Luger had the takedown lever serial# located on the right end of the lever axle. This becomes a determining characteristic of the Test Eagle only by sheerest coincidence, as this practice was changed during production of guns around the end of the Test Eagle series sale.

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Walter (1997) notes that the right-side lever numbering stopped around 7000 (in 1991 he specifies #7075), noting it missing on Test Eagle #7078 and Commercial #7255. Actually, the number migrated from the right end to the left lever face, before finding a home on the lever's bottom edge. I have not found a published serial# range for these variations, although I observed Test Eagle #7559 wigh the number stamped on the left face.

As noted upscreen, 1900AE were produced either coincident with or just after the Swiss Contrract Lugers. Barrels on early American Eagles are found with the Geneva Cross mark which can be found as part of the marking panoply on Swiss Lugers. A database (Ron Martin, Auto Mag) sampling shows them to be present on many 1900AE from 2001 to 2461, with additional high numbered pistols #8937, 8950, and 8951.

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The meaning of this mark as it appears on a 1900AE (or Commercial) is unclear. Costanzo notes that, as it appears on Swiss Lugers, the Geneva Cross is originally a "definitive proof" (whatever that means), and later became a parts proof. I have heard the opinion that the barrel cross is part of the power-proof marking set for the Swiss pistols.

Since the early Model 1900 production was carried out either coincident with or right after the Swiss contract, it makes sense to me, WAG-ALERT, that the Geneva Crosses which appear on the barrel are Swiss inspector stamps, that they inspected and accepted many more barrels than were ultimately used for the Swiss contract, and that these barrels simply sat in a parts bin and were assembled into commercial pistols until they were used up WAG-OFF.

This example 1900AE displays another controversial mark, the so-called "flaming-bomb" inspector's mark. As this is commonly the only mark found on Test Eagle Lugers, many collectors have associated it with the U.S. Flaming Bomb armory mark. As it is found on early guns--shown here on the bottom of the receiver--and much later guns (it is in the lug well of 1900AE #13499) it cannot have any connection with the U.S. Army.

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The same mark appears in the lug well of this pistol (not pictured). It can also be found in a very unusual position, stamped on the back face of the side plate extension. It is highlighted in this photograph to make it easier to see.

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As can be noted on the receiver bottom, the witness mark is a perfect, one-instrument one-strike mark. I believe I am beginning to see detail differences in the witness marks of early Lugers and later production, but have no new conclusions at this time.

The grips on this Luger are serial-numbered to the gun.

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The magazine tubes on early commercial Lugers are distinctive. Instead of being simply nickeled steel, their surface is brushed (Don Rousseau, conversation). This gives them a distinctly different look. This is hard to photograph, but easy to see particularly if one has a sample of each to compare. In the photo below the top magazine is the common finish, the bottom mag has the brushed surface.

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The brushed surface shows up a bit in this detail photo of the mag base side, also showing the end of the blued magazine pin. The grip depression of the magazine base does not appear to be its original configuration, but has been either worn or worked to this appearance.

I have not seen this brushed-surface characteristic documented anywhere. This points up the fact that, no matter how good the published material on Lugers is (and some of it is very, very good) there is no substitute for actual contact and conversation with collectors of many years experience and hands-on examination and comparison of many different Lugers.

This magazine is unmarked on its base, proper for early commercial Lugers. The GERMANY export stamp was placed on magazine bases of Lugers sold out of the country between the two World Wars (ibid.).

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At first glance this front sight of this Luger seemed to be a Marbles or a Shears sight. However, magnification shows it to be the standard steel 1900 sight, filed to an approximation of one of these target sights.

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I've done a number of these Luger profiles now, and it should be noted that, as a relative beginner at this hobby, I could not write them without the original research, survey participation, and publication of more collectors than can possibly be named; they have my appreciation and my thanks. In regards 1900 American Eagle #2104, I must thank specifically Russ Withem who put me onto this gun in the first place, Don Rousseau from whom I learned some things about serious collecting and early Lugers, and Ron Wood who graciously forwarded me American Eagle database material.

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