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Article created: Wednesday, August 13, 2003
Article modified: Thursday, April 7, 2011

1899 Borchardt-Luger Swiss Trials Holster

  In the 2010 publication entitled Pistole Parabellum by Görtz/Sturgess, the 1899 Borchardt-Trials holsters are again described and discussed by Geoff Sturgess. The original material, presented by Sturgess in 1996 on these 1899 trials holsters has been greatly expanded in the 2010 publication, Pistole Parabellum, in its history and details of construction and is presented herein for continuity. In this new material, the “second” identified 1899 Swiss holster is discussed but not pictured, except for a Volume III, Figure 1134 inset on page 1239. The “second” trials holster is discussed in Pistole Parabellum, in text only, first in Volume I, obliquely on page 149 stating: A second identical example of this holster with the same cleaning rod is known which originated in Switzerland, showing this holster with sn 30 which might be as expected, to have been the original trials pattern holster, returned with the pistol to DWM and then shipped to the UK. There is no reference as to the source of the pictured “second” holster with BL30. However, in Volume III on pages 1239, 1240 and 1241, where the 1899 trials holsters are discussed at length in three pages of text and pictures (this time with credits), the owner of the “second” 1899 Borchardt-trials holster is sort of identified.

In Pistole Parabellum, the statement Sturgess makes that both BL30 trials holsters are identical is not completely accurate with the exception of the obvious lack of a number on the BL30 trials holster example vs. the single digit 5 stamped on the “second” trials holster example, is the statement that the BL30 trials holster belt loop is; with a much small and higher single belt loop on the rear panel. Whereas the single, smaller length belt loop is located/positioned lower on the “second” trials holster, thus, the location/size being totally arbitrary, having no particular significance, except to emphasize the non-standard construction of these one-on-one 1899 Borchardt trials holsters.

Regarding the statement that Borchardt-Luger 30 is unique, in that it is the only 1899 trials Borchardt-Luger with its original trials holster, as received by the UK is significant, but one can’t be certain if it is the original holster issued with BL30, as delivered to the Swiss test commission in 1899, then after testing, back to the DWM tool room with several others to be reworked, as who is to say that DWM simply used the first available holster in 1901, two years later, which were apparently not marked, for BL30, being one of several reworked 1899 test trials “rigs” shipped to the UK. It is the “second” holster that has the distinction, at this point in time, albeit for reasons unknown, of being specially marked, possibly being associated with a specific 1899 trials Borchardt-Luger that may or may not be still in Switzerland.

When the LOB article was published in 2003, without an 1899 Borchardt-Luger in the collection, 1899 Borchardt-Luger 30 of the G. Sturgess collection was thought appropriate to picture with the “second” trials holster, of which Sturgess seems to agree …which might be as expected…, to show with the holster. The use of BL30, pictured with the “second” trials holster in the Land of Borchardt article featured below, written in 2003, is what Pistole Parabellum, without direct acknowledgement of the LOB site, obtusely avers to. Shortly after the LOB article was written in 2003, the Land of Borchardt collection acquired 1899 Borchardt-Luger 22.

As of the inclusion of the Pistole Parabellum addendum to the history of the 1899 trials-holsters to the LOB article, 1899 Borchardt-Luger 22 (V4) will be additionally pictured with the now, dubbed by Pistole Parabellum, the “second” 1899 trials-holster.

Several Luger authors through the years have written extensively on the Swiss testing of the 20 pre-production 1899 Borchardt-Lugers. They were provided by Georg Luger to the Swiss authorities in October/November 1899, prior to its ultimate adoption by the Swiss military in April 1901. There was no mention of holsters for these 20 Borchardt-Lugers by the various authors nor is there any information in the Bern Archives. The existence of these holsters surfaced in an excellent detailed article titled 'From Borchardt to Parabellum - An Anglo-Swiss Connection' by Dr. G.L. Sturgess, published in Volume 2, No. 9, 1996 issue of the Journal of the Historical Breechloading Smallarms Association. In the article, there was a photo of pre-production Borchardt-Luger serial number 30 with the following caption; 'British trials pistol sn 30, identical to and in similarly original M1899/1900 configuration as sn 26, with its original issue trials holster and (Borchardt) cleaning rod.' Except for the Borchardt-Luger serial number 30 trials holster no other Borchardt-Luger trials holster has been identified until now.

The following is a description and discussion of an extremely rare 1899 pre-production black leather Borchardt-Luger original issue wiss test trials holster with C93 Borchardt style cleaning rod. As of this writing, this holster is 104 years old and has been in Switzerland since 1899. The condition of the holster is fair, showing extensive use with significant front surface holster body epidermis flaking or loss, however all the stitching is intact. The balance of the holster surface, including the flap epidermis is intact but cracking. A stylized number 5 is located in the top area holster body backing and can be seen with the holster flap raised and is probably an inventory number and not prototype Borchardt-Luger sn 5. BL5 has a 5.5-inch (142mm) barrel length, whereas the subject holster is for a 4-3/4-inch (120mm) barrel pre-production Borchardt-Luger. There are no other numbers, letters or marks. There is an impression of the flat checkered thumb safety hatching pattern on the inside holster body, evidence of extensive long-term storage of a Borchardt-Luger. The holster, even when new was not exceptionally sturdy and weighs a light 5.5 Oz (156g) vs. 6.62 Oz (178g) or 12% less weight of a similar style 1904 dated production typical Swiss Ordnance holster. The leather thickness of the holster body and flap is very thin, an example being the 1.50mm thick teardrop slit closure style pointed holster flap, which is secured to the holster body by a brass stud and slit. The holster body thickness is 2.4-2.8mm. The stitching pattern and thread used is similar to the C93 Borchardt board/stock leather sheath. There is no pouch sewn in the flap underside for a combination screwdriver tool, as the tool wasn't yet created. The holster backside has a rather fragile, small 30 mm wide x 45mm long x 1.5mm thick belt loop attached at a slight angle.

On the forward spine is an attached cleaning rod pouch and cover flap with brass stud and slit closure. Interestingly, the cleaning rod supplied is a shortened hybrid, three piece sectionalized C93 Borchardt, all brass cleaning rod. The shaft was shortened by leaving out the center section shaft for the 4-3/4-inch barrel Borchardt-Luger, of which the two connecting shaft sections of the cleaning rod have 2.5mm diameter holes placed radially in the two sections. Inserting a 2.5mm diameter x 55mm long steel shaft with rounded ends, stored in the center of the tubular first section shaft piece, into the transversely placed holes acts as a handle to tighten the sections together. The assembled cleaning rod is very difficult to insert in the pouch due to the restrictive construction of the cover flap, which has to be pulled up severely to allow a straight-line entrance for the 200mm length cleaning rod shaft. The undeniable resemblance of the cleaning rod to the C93 Borchardt cleaning rod and the similarity of manufacture of the Swiss test trials holsters and the C93 Borchardt board stock leather sheath strongly suggests that the test trials holsters were made in Berlin and were apparently hastily fabricated by DWM to be supplied with at least, some of the 20 Borchardt-Lugers submitted to the Swiss for the October-November 1899 Swiss troop trials. The appearance and use of this particular, longer than necessary cleaning rod is of an interim nature, hurriedly put together with in stock C93 Borchardt parts. It is unique to the 1899 Swiss test trials holsters. The production M1900 and later, more rugged leather constructed Swiss manufactured ordnance holsters have no provision for a cleaning rod. The Swiss preferred to use a Swiss design and manufactured crewdriver cleaning rod combination kit called a 'Putzzeug'.

The most notable contribution or significance of the subject 1899 Borchardt-Luger Swiss trials holster is that it is the direct precursor of the DWM Old Model holster, notable for not having the combination loading tool/screwdriver leather pouch under the cover flap.


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