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BLACK AND BROWN PLASTIC GRIPS ON 1940 DATED LUGERS
There is some controversy concerning the issue of 1940-42 code and 1940 Army Banner Lugers with black and brown plastic grips. Some of the controversy has become heated with Luger books by reliable authors being mis-quoted and positions being overstated (much like a political debate). To help fellow collectors interested in these Lugers; I will try to replace the hype “just a wild *** guess, pure speculation, assumptions, or hear-say with no actual facts” with some facts, history, and common sense.

(Note: Prior to publication Third Reich Lugers (1988) underwent intensive review by leading collectors from Britain, Canada, Germany, and the Unites States, who helped write some sections of the book. Since publication it has continued to undergo review. The information contained within this book is very reliable with the exception of the updates that I have made on this site and in presentations to the National Automatic Pistol Collector Associations Conventions.)

(Note: observations of known examples (particularly 15-20 + years ago) reported or shown in Luger books by reliable authors is hard information. The 1940-42 with black plastic grips (page 71), the 41-42 with black plastic grips (page 77-78, and the 1940 dated Army Banner Luger with brown plastic grips(page 142) (all shown in Third Reich Lugers) are hard factual information. These early observations are very informative and are certainly not “just a wild *** guess, pure speculation, assumptions, or hear-say with no actual facts”. If correct-factual data is the goal such early published information cannot be ignored).



Previous Studies of Luger Black Plastic Grips
Randall Gibsom in his book “The Krieghoff Parabellum”, published in 1980, conducted the most in depth study of Luger grips to date. On page 43 he reports "This coarse checkered black grip is encountered on a very few 1939 dated Mauser Lugers, both banners and the Coded Militaries. They are found intermittently in those pistols manufactured by Mauser in 1940." Gibson also reports that the plastic grips found on 1940 Mauser Lugers are identical to those on 1940 Krieghoff Lugers. Gibsons book is unrivaled as to the details on Krieghoff Lugers and plastic/bakelite Luger grips.

I have been collecting Lugers for over 30 years and have never observed original black or brown plastic grips on reworked Imperial Lugers, Weimar Era Lugers or on a K, G. 1936,1937, 1938, or 1939 S/42 code Luger. Nor have collectors reported such.

When the research for Third Reich Lugers was accomplished prior to 1988, I had observed a few 1940 42, with proper black plastic grips (Third Reich Lugers page 65, 71, 77) and a few 1940 42 and 1940 Army Banners with proper Krieghoff style brown plastic grips (Third Reich Lugers page 140 and 142)). Also a few late 1939 dated Lugers were reported with black plastic grips (Gibsom 1980, page 43). Advanced collectors reported similar findings. The observations of Still and Gibson in the 1970's and 1980's of 1940 dated Lugers with brown or black plastic grips are documented in their publications Third Reich Lugers and The Krieghoff Parabellum. 1940-42 code or 1940 Army Banner Lugers with black or brown plastic grips documented by research prior to 1986 and 1980 (and published) is hard evidence that such Lugers exist.


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Figure 1. The Army Banner (sn1220x) shown on page 142 of Third Reich Lugers has brown plastic grips and has been owned by me for almost 20 years. A similar brown gripped Army Banner Luger was reported in Canada and a brown gripped 1940 42 was examined in Seattle in 1973. Advanced collectors reported similar findings. These 1940 42 and 1940 Army Banner Lugers with brown plastic grips are rare but credible variations. Because replica/fake black or brown plastic grips are currently on the market, great care, diligence and common sense must be used in the purchase of such Lugers.


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Figure 2. 1940 Army Banner, sn 1220x. Grip details..


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Figure 3. 1940 Army Banner, sn 1220x. Inside of grips. These are identical to Krieghoff grips issued on 1936-1938 Luftwaffe contract Lugers.

Were Black or Brown Plastic Grips Used as replacement Grips?
If the black/brown plastic grips were in fact used as replacements on older guns near the end of WW-II, one would expect to find them on K, G, 1936, 1937, 1938, or 1939 S/42 code Lugers and also on the various Weimar Lugers and Imperial reworks. However, that just is not the case. To the best of my knowledge, the black/brown plastic grips are all or almost all confined to a very few late 1939 dated Lugers, and on 1940, 41 and 42 dates.

On page 65 Third Reich Lugers it is stated that: “These black plastic grips were also used as replacements and are sometimes found on Lugers produced prior to mid 1939"
On page 14 Axis Pistols it is stated that: “these bakelite grips and plastic bottom magazines were also used as armory replacements for damaged grips and magazines until the end of World War II and sometimes are found on Mauser P08's dated earlier than 1940.” Based on observations of many- many German World War II military Lugers, since these books were published (in 1986 and 1988) I have come to doubt the use of black or brown plastic grips as replacements, as they simply do not show up on earlier made Lugers that are in well used condition and do show up on excellent to mint condition 1940-42, 1940 Army Banner, and 41-42 dated militay Lugers. Apparently the brown and black plastic grips were installed at manufacture. The above statements in Third Reich Lugers and Axis Pistols should be modified to reflect that the plastic grips were most likely installed at manufacture.

1939 Directive On Black Plastic Grips.
Third Reich Lugers page 65 “According to an Army directive wood grips could be replaced by black plastic grips when wood grips were not available.” (This directive is dated in 1939 and was found in German military archives by Joachim Gortz who helped author parts of Third Reich Lugers, page 12.) Also stated in Third Reich Lugers: “Black plastic grips start appearing in late 1939 and are found on about 2% of military code Lugers dated 1940 and 20% of those produced in 1941 and 1942.”


Other Comments on Black or Brown Luger Grips
Don Hallock (a very knowledgeable long time Mauser Luger collector) in his 4/19/01 dated News Letter page 12 states:
“During 1940-42 production the Mauser sub-contractor making the grips for the Lugers apparently ran short of logs and was slow to supply Mauser with grips, To compensate for this shortage, Mauser purchased some brown plastic grips that were comparable to the grips used on the early 1940 Krieghoff Lugers. I would suggest that less than 2% of the total 1940-42 code Luger production had brown plastic grips. Like the black plastic grips, these brown plastic grips were not numbered. A pistol with these brown plastic grips would certainly enhance any Luger collection. Yes “bakelite” is a better word than plastic. The black plastic grips did not appear until approximately the- q- block of the 41 byf pistols.”
While Don agrees concerning the 1940 brown plastic/bakelite grips, he disagrees concerning the 1940 black plastic grips.

Problems Last 15 Years
Recently one collector reported that “There are probably at least a 100 times more brown plastic grips on Lugers today than there were in 1940". The probability of switching brown grips from expensive rare Krieghoff Lugers to the more common 1940 42 Lugers is unprofitable and not likely. If these hundreds of 1940 42 Lugers with brown plastic grips exist, their brown grips must be have been recently replicated/faked.

(This is similar to the common practice of adding two matching magazines to a Luger to greatly increase its price. The numbers of Lugers with two matching magazines has also increased greatly over the last 15 years.)

Near perfect replicas of Mauser and Kieghoff style black and brown grips are being manufactured. There is little question that the black plastic grips are being placed on originally wood gripped byf 41 and 42 dated Lugers to create black widows and a high price. I have not seen the claimed hundreds of brown gripped 1940 42 lugers on the market and doubt the above claim. However, I would be the first to admit the possible difficulties of determining if a Luger has original or fake grips or if they have been switched. This points out the importance of the early research that was mostly accomplished prior to the large scale replicating and switching of grips. It always pays for a collector to know the source of purchase and the correct details of the plastic grips.

If you are in the market for a Luger with original plastic grips, I would recommend reading the other posts covering plastic Luger grips. They show detailed photographs and some present a different view than I. Remember that 1939-42, 1940-42, 1940 Banner Army, 41-42, and early byf 41 lugers are rarely found with plastic grips.


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Figure 4. A 1940 42 code with black plastic grips reported from Canada by Peter Dunster (Lugercollector) is shown above. In my opinion, Canada has escaped Waffenfabrik USA, and the Lugers that are found there are likely to be original. If I were in the market for a 1940 42 code I would not hesitate to buy this Luger from Canada, once I had verified the grips.


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Figure 5. byf 42, sn135c, with black plastic “black widow” grips. In spite of the problem with replica/fake grips, such Lugers can be purchased with a reasonable amount of confidence. This Luger was purchased from a fellow collector. A detailed check of the grips was made prior to purchase.


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Figure 6. byf 42, sn135c, details of grips.


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Figure 7. byf 42, sn135c, inside of grips. Some deviations from this exact configuration have been noted.. Most are shown in the other posts covering black plastic grips.

(Note: Other collectors have more expertise and experience in the area of the plastic gripped Mauser Lugers than I. They are more able than I at determining fakes. Please update, correct, or criticize this article as you see fit.)
Jan
 

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Jan,
I acquired this BYF 42 with the Krieghoff grips 15-16 years ago. It has been suggested to me that the grips were replacements, which I seriously doubt because of the condition it is in. I bought this pistol from the Grandson of a WW2 vet, and it had been in a safe-deposit box since the end of the war.

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Sorry for the quality and size of the pics; haven't quite got it down yet.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Steve
If I had a byf 42 in excellent + original condition (as indicated by the photographs) and was confident of the Lugers provenance (history) from the end of World War II (as you are), I would be inclined to believe that it was new manufactured with the grips it had on at the end of the war. In this case, the brown Krieghoff style grips. It could be reasonable argued that (for whatever reason) a few of the brown grips available in 1940 remained available in 1942.

The problem today is that excellent reproduction grips are available. Switching original wood grips for black plastic grips on byf 41 or 42 Lugers to create the ever popular black widow is reported to be an increasingly common practice and clouds the issue for all Lugers with plastic grips.

To my knowledge, yours is the first byf 42 with brown grips to be reported. These do not have a long time history of documented by collectors as do the brown gripped1940 42 code. A recently reported byf 42 with brown grips, without the provenance of yours, would probably be viewed as an oddball and many collectors (including myself) would reasonable suspect that the grips may be recent replica/fakes or switched.
Jan
 

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Thanks for the information on grips. I just picked up my first Luger a 1940 with the 42code. To my untrained eye, with the help of a good glass the grips look just like the ones you say are the mis/named black widow. Nice to know that they may be original.
 

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Jan's example with brown plastic grips is serial no. 135c. I have one with serial no. 4324g.
For informational purposes could you give the serial number of yours? Would also like to see the serials on any other 1940-42 codes owned by other forum members.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Correction: Aaron said "Jan's example with brown plastic grips is serial no. 135c."

My byf 42, sn135c, has black plastic grips (see above).
My 1940 Army Banner, sn1220x, has brown plastic (Krieghoff style) grips (see above).

Another 1940 Army Banner, sn 1097x, also has brown plastic grips.
Jan
 

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Aaron,

In response to your request for additional serial numbers of 1940-42 code Lugers with plastic grips: I have serial number 4593d. It has black plastic grips. I bought it from Simpson Ltd., in 1999. I was advised at the time of purchase that Simpson Ltd., considered the grips to be original. When I received the piece and checked it out, they appear to be original to me also. Hope this helps.

Charles
 

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WaA66, looking at the interior of your brown plastic grips it seems like the holes are not threaded..Is this so?
It has always been my understanding that the holes must be threaded as an indicator of authenticity..Can anyone comment on this? I believe Gibson wrote that this was the method to remove them from the mold, insert a screw into the hole and pull it out.I understand that on late models they simply stuck a tool in the soft plastic and gouged it out. It was also seen as a place to insert the grip screw so it would not become lost. Jerry Burney
 

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Hi,

What I do know (and what is backed by documentation) is that the main supply of walnut for wooden grips was the southern part of France. Basically, this means that whenever a worldwar breaks out, the production of walnut grips becomes a bit of a problem. During the last years of WW1 the choice was made to revert to softer beech-would, which had a tendency to fracture.

Now the speculative part:

Since Parabellum production between the world-wars could rely on walnut deliveries from southern France again, there appeared to be no need to change materials. Then, enter WW2 and the southern part of France again escapes German access. Supplies are again a problem and alternatives are sought.

I believe that the military (armorours, etc..) still had a decent supply of spare parts, so replacement of damaged wooden grips would not have been a big problem. Mauser, however, using woold in much larger quantities would be the first to get difficulties with woodsupplies and would be pushed to develop replacement material for the grips. Krieghoffs operation was so small that it probably wasn't financially interesting to set up a woodworking shop and their use of plastic grips is sure to have inspired Mauser.

The dates provided by Jan seem to back this wood-suppy logistical problem, as plastic grips appear as the war starts and the southern part of France is out of the question as a source for walnut wood.
 

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Vlim, very interesting point about the french walnut being inaccessable to the Germans. I am sure that the supply was cut off in September of 1939 but it would have opened up once again to the Germans as the french had a change of policy and decided to ally themselves with Germany the next spring.
 

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George,

The Germans didn't capture the whole of France until late 1942. 2/3 of France, the Southern part of France, therefore escaped German occupation well until the 1942 P08 production stop. The cooperative nature of the Vichy regime was not shared by most of the country and resistance was quite active. This part of France was also seen as a possible allied stepping stone for an invasion. Not a good source for the German arms industry and not surprising for German companies relying on French suppliers to look for alternatives.

Also note that it would take some time to work through available stock first. Probably about a year.
 

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quote:Originally posted by aaron

Jan's example with brown plastic grips is serial no. 135c. I have one with serial no. 4324g.
For informational purposes could you give the serial number of yours? Would also like to see the serials on any other 1940-42 codes owned by other forum members.
I just picked up a 1940 code 42 with black grips. I have no idea if the grips are original because it seems to be a Russian capture piece. All # match serial#7769C. I have pics now but no idea how to get them off the CD and posted.I guess I could e-mail them to you if I cam figure that out. I am a computer dummy-I can barely get the dang thing turned on!
 

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Goertz quotes the commonly known fact that P o8 walnut grips were manufactured from the scrap wood cuttings left over from the manufacture of K 98 rifle stocks.

Mauser had its own a large stock of well matured walnut timber. Previously, walnut had come from France and Eastern Europe. New supplies were available but the wood had to mature for a number of years in order to ensure against warping.

At the outset of WWII, increased production depleted their stock of matured walnut and necessitated the use of laminated wood for the rifles.

It is conceivable that the introduction of plastic grips would very likely coincide with that of laminated K 98 rifle stocks.

Patrick

(... off tomorrow to Normandy)
 

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Villiers,

Sounds very logical. What usually happens with wood supplies is a sort of rotation scheme where the oldest supplies (thoroughly matured) were taken first, the empty place restocked with a new supply, thus keeping wood in stock for at least a year before using it. Any disturbance in the supply of fresh wood is bound to create problems later. Also, when speeding up wartime production, the supplies run out before they can be replenished.

Logistically speaking, wood is a nightmare to work with :)

Creating small wood parts from leftovers is actually quite common. Similar methods can be found in leathermaking, for example in the tool pouches of luger holsters.


But back to plastic: I have always been a fan of the VoPo (bullseye) grips, as they both look good, are of a decent quality and can easily be modified to fit grip-safety pistols because of their hollow nature. This makes them my first choice for shooting purposes, preserving the original grips.

What I cannot explain is the change in design as opposed to the Krieghoff and Mauser plastic grips, especially as part of the Krieghoff outfit was used for the VoPo rework scheme. I would have thought that they would simply revert to the design on hand.

A possible explanation is that the original supplier of Krieghoff grips was no longer available? This would indicate that Krieghoff used subcontractors for grip manufacture? Any ideas?
 

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A couple of years ago a friend bought this Luger in a Charlotte NC gunshop for under a grand. I asked several Third Reich type guys at the time and they indicated a go.

I think that a number of Lugers hit the street in 1940 with these beautiful grips. But then again, I don't know anything about WWII Lugers.

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Here is one I picked up last October and am planning to sell. It is a Banner 41 with black bakelite grips and a proof that I take to be an eagle/N. Is this a commercial model or perhaps a contract Luger?


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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Re: 41 Banner, sn 831y.
Ron
Lack of a sear safety or a rivet hole and lack of an E/L police stamp indicate that it is not a police Luger.

George
Its a commercial Luger, see page 243 Third Reich Lugers for an almost identical 41 Banner Commercial with black plastic grips, serial number 813y.
Jan
 

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Jan, Sorry did'nt mean to presume. Just did'nt see the other section on 41 commercials. All I saw was the police Luger reference.Another lesson learned.
Ron
 

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Thanks, Ron and Jan. Am I to understand that eagle/N Banners are all commercial?
 
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