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November 2, 2023

The Luger Carbine Presented to Hugo Borchardt

By Kurt Allemeier

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Hugo Borchardt considered his C-93 pistol to be perfect. The Swiss military didn’t think so and suggested changes, but the inventor refused.

The manufacturer, Ludwig Loewe, stepped in and assigned Georg Luger to modify Borchardt’s gun. The changes and Luger’s patent that built on Borchardt’s work but didn’t include him, dampened the men’s professional relationship to the point they weren’t on speaking terms.

Hugo Borchardt refused to make changes to his revolutionary C93 pistol design, and so manufacturer DWM assigned coworker Georg Luger to the task. The resultant Luger pistol is one of the most recognizable and successful pistols of the 20th century. 

Still, with his namesake gun gaining in popularity, Georg Luger presented a Luger carbine to Borchardt. The gun, one of only a handful of presentation models, was given to Borchardt. The pistol has a rare gold inlaid stylized letter “B” over the chamber and “GL” at the rear toggle link and showing the gun’s inspection and presentation was overseen by Luger himself. This historic and rare Luger carbine is available in Rock Island Auction Company’s Dec. 8-10 Premier Auction, the first to be held at its new location in Bedford, Texas.

This Luger carbine has a rare gold inlaid gold “B” on top of the chamber that is believed to stand for Borchardt.

Hugo Borchardt and the Future of Handguns

Borchardt was a naturalized American citizen after he immigrated to the United States in 1860. A mechanical genius, he was working as a foreman for Singer Sewing Machines, and then as superintendent for Sharps Rifle Company where he designed the Sharps Borchardt Model 1878 rifle. He also worked for Winchester on creating a revolver to compete with Colt but when that project faltered he returned to Germany working for small arms companies.

Now in Europe, Borchardt learned about the toggle system that another American, Hiram Maxim, used in his machine gun and put it to use in a slightly different way in what was to become the Borchardt C-93. He also designed the box magazine for the pistol grip that is still in practical use today. During U.S. Naval trials of 1894, Ludwig Loewe tasked Luger with presenting the C-93.

A view of the right side of this presentation Luger carbine shows the detail of the checkering on the grip and the forend.

Luger Makes Changes

During military trials, the Swiss noted the C-93’s barrel was long, the grip ran perpendicular to the receiver, recoil was heavier than expected, and the recoil spring was exposed atop the pistol.

When Luger stepped in, he utilized a shorter, less powerful cartridge, angled the grip, and moved the recoil spring into the grip. He also shortened the barrel while keeping the narrow profile. The changes made the gun lighter and shorter. It was the birth of the Luger.

“Let it suffice by stating that Hugo Borchardt, a naturalized American citizen, was basically responsible for the invention of the Luger in an indirect and possibly even in a direct manner,” wrote Fred A. Datig.

Submitted to the Swiss trials again in 1898, it was the only gun to perform satisfactorily in the tests for endurance, dust, and water. After a few more changes, the Swiss adopted the Model 1900 Luger. It would take several years before the German military adopted the gun in 1908.

The Luger’s success created a rift between the two men because Borchardt believed he deserved more credit than he received. He saw similarities between his gun and Luger’s, but they weren’t reflected in the patents. Plus, Borchardt’s cartridge that he designed was released to other companies.

This Luger carbine has the rare "GL" (Georg Luger's initials) marking on the back of the rear toggle link. This "GL" marking only appears on Luger pistols and carbines personally inspected and/or presented by Georg Luger.

Luger Carbine

The Model 1902 Luger Carbine is too long to be a pistol, and with the buttstock attached is too short to serve as a rifle. The gun is actually a long-barreled Luger Model 1900 with an accelerator spring housed in the wooden fore-end to assist in restoring the barrel/receiver assembly to battery. The barrel measures 11 3/4 inches, more than double the 4 3/4 inch barrel on a standard Model 1900.

About 300 carbines were sent to the United States for sale where they were listed at the fairly high price of $50 with the included shoulder stock. Early sales appeared to be slow as the price was later reduced to $30. About 1,600 carbines were produced in total.

On a visit to Germany, Theodore Roosevelt was presented a model 1902 Luger Carbine by Kaiser Wilhelm II that today is on display at the Roosevelts’ New York home. The Kaiser also used a Luger Carbine because full-size hunting rifles were difficult to handle because of a hand deformity. A hypoxic birth resulting in Erb’s Palsy left the Kaiser's left hand significantly shorter than his right.

Author and Luger scholar Charles Kenyon Jr., writing in 1969, was aware of only three examples of presentation Luger Carbines but doesn’t identify who received them. In his book, “Lugers at Random,” Kenyon states that he has examined all three and two have initials above the chamber and one doesn’t. A photo in the book shows the inlaid initials “HSM,” and is noted the presentation date was in English, so this is the Model 1902 Luger carbine presented to Hiram S. Maxim.

A view of the left side of this Luger carbine shows its amazing condition nearly as it was when presented in the early 20th century.

Presentation Luger Carbine

Kenyon mentions Borchardt’s Luger Carbine in two of his articles written for "The Gun Report." First in a November 1998 issue and then in April 2002 where he illustrated and discussed serial number 9109C presentation carbine that is “GL” marked at the rear toggle, with "H.S.M. March 15, 1903" in gold inlay over the chamber that is thought to have been presented to Maxim. That serial number is only three digits away from the Borchardt presentation Luger’s serial number of 9106C.

Luger worked for gun maker DWM, a successor of Ludwig Loewe, at the time of the presentation of this carbine. Ludwig Loewe had employed Borchardt during the production of his pistol. DWM or Luger himself presented these special carbines to both Borchardt and Maxim. The presentations acknowledge that the Luger had been modified from Borchardt's design, and that Borchardt's toggle design had been borrowed from Maxim's design for his famous machine gun which preceded the Borchardt pistol.

The cased carbine from Luger to Borchardt.

This presentation Model 1902 Luger carbine from Georg Luger to Hugo Borchardt  is complete in its original apple green velvet lined burgundy leather covered presentation case with gold plated latches, reinforcing corners and handle hardware. The top of the case has a large very decorative gold plated plaque engraved with a large "B" and multiple decorative border lines.

The front of the case has a mortised gold plated 2-pronged lock. The lining is French fitted for the carbine, as well as its matching numbered stock, three spare correct wood base magazines plus a fourth magazine in the pistol, an original tin of vaseline, an original small flat sided tin oiler, both encased in burgundy leather sleeves, a rare brass and steel carbine length cleaning rod/oiler, a pin punch and takedown tool.

The rear edge of the lower compartment has a hinged lid with ivory pull which conceals a compartment containing five period nickel-plated dummy cartridges with "D.M./K" head stamp and a 5-pointed star on each side. There is also the original gold-washed functioning key for the lock and the extremely rare original burgundy leather sling with leather-cover buckle making this an absolutely complete and original cased presentation Luger carbine, one of the few known in private hands in the world today.

Luger Carbine Origins

This presentation Luger Carbine was an important piece from the Press Collection where it was represented as having come from the Borchardt family, and research confirms that. A well-known East Coast dealer at the time stated that he bought the gun at a Rochester, New York gun show directly from a World War 2 veteran who had been stationed in Berlin at the end of the war. A check of 1941 phone directories for Berlin proved that members of the Borchardt family lived in and around the Charlottenburg area, a wealthy enclave of the city. The G.I. could have taken the carbine from a Borchardt family home, or since all German citizens were required to turn in their arms it is very likely that the gun was confiscated with other weapons and subsequently liberated.

A view of the presentation Luger carbine atop its case shows the fine burgundy leather of the case as well as the exception condition and beauty of the detachable buttstock.

A Luger Carbine for Hugo Borchardt

Hugo Borchardt is often considered the father of the self-loading handgun and this presentation Luger Carbine recognizes the foundation for which the Luger pistol, one of the most recognizable guns ever, was built on. Collectors of European modern arms should pounce on this opportunity to obtain this historic and high-conditioned presentation piece available in Rock Island Auction Company’s first Premier Auction in Bedford, Texas on Dec. 8-10.


“The Luger Pistol, Its History and Development from 1894-1945,” by Fred A. Datig

“Lugers at Random,” by Charles Kenyon Jr.

Obscure Object of Desire: Borchardt C-93, The first `Modern’ Semi-Automatic Pistol,” Truth about Guns

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