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Article created: Saturday, March 7, 2015
Article modified: Monday, April 6, 2015

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1899/1900 GL Test Luger #24

Mouse over image to see right side of 1899/1900 GL Presentation Luger 24.

Catalog and online Item Description:
1899/1900 GL Test Luger, #24, .30 Luger cal., 4-Ύ'' barrel, blue finish with straw small parts, factory checkered walnut grips with smooth somewhat stylized border, and two nickel-plated magazines with walnut bases and metal inserts. In modern-made Swiss style case with pin punch, Swiss cross marked combination tool, and brass Swiss screwdriver with interchangeable tip. Swiss cross in sunburst over chamber, unmarked toggle link, rear most toggle link with stylized ''GL'' monogram just behind rear sight ''V''; full serial number to bottom of barrel and rear of frame above lanyard loop; thumb safety with large checkered panel with both thumb safety positions blued and neither being polished bright. Pistol with no proof or acceptance markings. Condition is excellent retaining approx. 98% blue, with crisp front and backstrap. Beautifully checkered grips show only the slightest marks from handling. Action is crisp, bore is mirror bright. Modern casing is fine and presents very well. Est.: $12,000-$18,000. (C&R/PPT) (John Siroonian estate)

While at the pre-auction viewing 1899/1900 Borchardt-Luger 24 was partially disassembled and it was immediately apparent that it was modified from a Model 1900 production Swiss Luger as the frame, Swiss roll die crested chamber/receiver, trigger, barrel and toggle link assembly are all old model 1900 production components.  In the catalog and online description the aftermarket cased “1899/1900 GL Test Luger #24” was offered with an estimate of $12,000-$18,000 which sold for $6,000, barely half the minimum.

The Claim

Interestingly, this aftermarket cased pistol was next observed at the March 2015 Reno Gun Show shortly after the auction at the table of one of the auction consigners who, when asked, described the pistol as a “1900 Swiss production GL presentation Luger serial number 24”, assembled with an 1899 "SPARE", square link interface toggle link assembly, with an asking price of $20,000, amazingly more than three times the auction hammer price. When questioning the new current owner about his description of the gun, who, coincidently, is a well-known, recognized long time Luger dealer and expert who regularly attends the Reno Gun Show, with the knowledge that this pistol was previously described in the auction catalog as an “1899/1900 GL Test Luger #24”, was extremely adamant in maintaining his description.

As a matter of note the auction designation as an “1899/1900 GL Test Luger #24” is a misnomer and is incorrect, being the accepted collector designation of the Berlin tool room early 1900 modified, Swiss test trials 1899 Borchardt-Lugers with changed-out rounded interface toggle knob assemblies, consisting of a new transitional trigger and a modified rear and middle link, while keeping the original 1899 51.25 m/m length breechblock with dual firing pin springs. Most of these, about six of ten modified “1899 to 1899/00” Borchardt-Lugers were destined for the late 1900, early 1901 British test trials of the Borchardt-Luger. In other words, there are no 1900 old model production parts in an 1899/00 designation Borchardt-Luger, only preproduction transitional parts. Pictured is a classic example of an original authentic 1899/1900, a.k.a. 1899/00 Borchardt-Luger.

If one accepts this new hybrid preproduction/production description of “#24” as a valid variation, it, by default, eliminates any questioning of the production parts, including the well-executed, aftermarket, plain bordered wooden grips and shifts the authenticity of the gun to the claim of the use of a “spare 1899” preproduction square link interface toggle link assembly, which requires a further detailed examination and review of the purported serial number 24 1899 preproduction square link interface toggle link assembly.

An original 1899 square link interface toggle link assembly consists of three components:

  1. the middle link,
  2. the rear link and,
  3. a 51.25 m/m long breechblock with dual or two firing pin springs.

The first questionable feature is in the serial number 24 placement location on the subject toggle link assembly.  All the identified 1899 original toggle link two-digit serial number stamp placements, including the Berlin tool room replacement rounded interface toggle link assemblies are numbered in the same, identical locations:

  1. the breechblock on the left side,
  2. the middle link, also on the left side and,
  3. on top of the rear link behind the toggle knobs and in front of the straight wall rear “V” notch sight.

1899 preproduction Borchardt-Luger 21 square link interface toggle link assembly is pictured as an authentic, unmodified example.

The number 24 square link interface link differs in the middle link, which is stamped 24 on the ribbed underside, making the middle link 1900 old model DWM logo production. Looking at the rear link in more detail reveals that the toggle knobs integral rear abutments are 4.8 m/m production vs. the shorter 3.5 m/m 1899 preproduction abutments, also making the rear link 1900 production. A further examination of the toggle link assembly reveals a subtle non-structural, but significant machining difference between an 1899 square link interface toggle link assembly and the 1899/00 transitional and 1900 model production rounded toggle link interface, which is the presence of a rear link underside notch or the lack thereof, ergo 1899 preproduction vs. 1900 production. The rear link toggle knob integral short 3.5 m/m abutments and underside notch are authenticated characteristics of all identified 1899 square link interface toggle link assemblies. Examples being 1899 Borchardt-Luger 21, 22, 35, 40.Also note that the straight wall “V” notch rear link integral sight of #24 has a noticeably thinner front to rear thickness than 1899 Borchardt-Lugers 21, 22, 35 and 40. An alternate view of 1899 Borchardt-Lugers 24.

Summary of number 24 Toggle Knob Assembly differences/issues.

  1. Original middle link serial number placement – incorrect for “1899/1900” BL24
  2. Original 1899 rear link square link interface underside notch – missing in 1899/1900 BL24
  3. Original, shorter 1899 toggle knob rear integral angled abutments – incorrect for 1899/1900 GL Test #24
  4. The number 24 breechblock is 50.25 m/m in length with a single firing pin spring, ergo old model 1900 production.

Another interesting observation is the actual (coincidental/convenient) selection of the serial number 24, which according to a Table 1 titled: Designation and Provenance of Prototype Parabellum Pistols first published in the 1996 Journal of the Historical Breechloading Smallarms Association, Vol 2 No 9 magazine in an article by Dr. G.L. Sturgess where he lists the original 1899 Borchardt Luger 24 as not yet identified. Based on the number 24 breechblock and middle link two-digit serial numbers, both the same size and numeric font style that the original serial number was, at a minimum, a three-digit production Swiss Ordnance Luger. It is doubtful that the “donor” gun was originally a two-digit Swiss Ordnance or a BUG proofed Swiss commercial gun as it would be too valuable in its own right.

Another oddity of the subject serial number 24 is found not in the gun, but in the configuration of the Swiss flat follower button magazines, one in the gun and the cased spare. One magazine is a correctly configured preproduction/production flat follower button magazine, while the other flat follower button magazine uses a production magazine body with a wider channel made for the larger diameter shaft of the production domed or stepped follower button.


Per a 1998 telephone conversation with John Siroonian the following information was discussed: He talked about seeing sn 20 originally at the 6-97 Cow Palace Gun Show in San Francisco. He described sn 20 as having a hand engraved Swiss cross in sunburst, plain bordered grips, unrelieved feedway and a SOLID forward gripstrap toe. He had also seen sn 24 with an unrelieved feedway and a roll die Swiss cross in sunburst of which, at the time was believed to be production. Apparently, Siroonian acquired #24 while at the Cow Palace Gun Show, most likely from a Bay Area Luger dealer, however, without being able to identify the seller as to his knowledge of #24, the documented provenance of #24 cannot be traced prior to 1997.

Since the gun sold barely at half of the minimum asking price at auction with the totally bogus 1899/1900 GL “Test” Luger #24 label it has been relabeled and offered as a “1900 Swiss production GL presentation Luger serial number 24” with a spare 1899 square link interface toggle link assembly, a one-of-a-kind variation. In other words this gun is as “modern” as its aftermarket case.

In summary, the differences noted clearly qualify “1899/1900 GL Test Luger #24, a.k.a. “1900 Swiss production GL presentation Luger serial number 24” to join the LOB Gallery of Questionable Borchardt Lugers.

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