George Luger’s Secret Rifle

A reader email in a scan, from an auction catalog (I think), of a rifle said to be made by George Luger. Apparently Mr. Luger was working in secret on a rifle version of his famous pistol. The description mentioned a German patent No. 4126 of 1906. Does anyone know how to locate this patent? Either I was unable to work the German patent website, or their online archive does not go back as far as 1906.

The magic of The Firearm Blog is that if you ask, you shall receive 🙂 JonMac located the patent on the German government patent website, but it appears the patent was filed in the UK. I downloaded the individual pages and uploaded it to scribd. You can download it form scribd, or read it below.

If the action worked (safely), it would have been a very compact full-powered semi-auto. With a forward mounted long-eye relief scope, the toggle action would not get in the way. I would love to try a rifle with this type of action.

[ Many thanks to Liam for emailing us the link. ]

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • higgs

    I read that as george lucas. Still really cool.

  • higgs

    Looks liike a cross of a 1917, 1903, and a KAR98

  • Raffaele

    Ciao from Italy
    try to contact, is the right website for Your George Luger Secret Rifle

    • Julio

      If you visit Forgotten Weapons as Raffaele suggests, you’ll find it’s probably the source of the images posted here, but that seems to be all there is: no video or other extra info.

      • JonMac

        See above for the patent though.

  • Burst

    Holy crap… 1906. Forget WW2, this could have won Germany WW1.

    Cut back the length a bit, and a reproduction would make for a very interesting hunting/target rifle.

    • Aurelien

      Well actually the 1920s were a big step back regarding rifles, as many battle-proof semi-autos were fielded on both sides during WWI.
      The French army fielded a massive number of semi-auto rifles to replace the 1896 Lebel bolt actions as the war went from entrenched to mobile. But in the 1920s everyone went back to bolt action and brought the semi-auto back in the mid 1930s.

      So not a war-turner, but quite a cool rifle.
      Would be cool to test, even if the Luger-style toggle-action tends to block your sight and can make you lose your target between shots (but then again, so were the bolt actions).

      • Flounder

        Uhm… I can’t think of a single semi auto rifle that was fielded in significant numbers during WWI. Now I DO NOT know everything. Or even close to that so please enlighten me! What rifles are you referring too.

      • animalmenace
    • W

      im not sure about that, though if germany would have mass fielded submachine guns, then that would be a entirely different matter.

  • JonMac

    Found it.

    It’s actually a British patent (GB000190604126):

    Click bottom right for the PDF. The rifle isn’t illustrated, and in fact the patent is for an improved mechanism, but the attached drawing is clearly of the rifle action in question.

    • Great job! I just posted it in the blog post.

      • JonMac

        No problem Steve, glad to be of help. Thanks for posting about the rifle – and to Ian for posting those scanned catalogue pages.

  • calool

    looks similar to a KAR98, could you imagine if they had actually made this thing en masse (and if it worked)? might not have won world war 2, but could have won the first world war (making the second one non existent, possibly)

  • We’ve been looking for more info since scanning and posting the photos a couple years ago. Haven’t come up with anything more than the patent yet, though.

    FWIW, this would likely not have been a successful military rifle. The problem with toggle actions like this in high pressure rifle rounds (see also the Pedersen) is that they have no primary extraction mechanism. They just yank the casing back at full speed while it’s still under pressure. In order to not rip off case rims, they generally need oiled cartridges, and that doesn’t suit military use. The Pedersen used the clever work-around of a hard wax coating on cartridges, but even that was considered iffy for field use.

  • Anonymous synonomous

    It wasn’t adopted for a couple reasons.
    1. The luger pistol and toggle locked guns are already difficult enough to make, requiring extensive hand fitting and precision tools. For a full powered cartridge, this problem would only be greater because a single misstep can result in catastrophe, resulting in high cost and slow production
    2. Recoil operation is always a little messy with smaller rifles, simply because a large reciprocating mass lowers accuracy. This rifle may not have had that problem because the barrel looks stationary, but the recoil would still be greater than a gas operated rifle.
    3. Ammunition. WWI had terrible constant shortages, and most officers cared about keeping the machine guns fed, not infantry rifles. Even then, ammunition produced varied a lot in power loads for obvious reasons, and only rugged manual actions could easily extract low powered rounds and not have a case rupture with an overpowered round.
    4. It would most likely be horrid to clean (Then again, this design doesn’t seem to have that much exposed internals)
    5. Contemporary rifles already existed and were being fielded that did the job better. The German Airforce used Mondragon rifles, and the RAF used Faquar Hill rifles before adopting machine guns. The French extensively fielded their MLE 1917 and 1918, a comparatively cheap design, and I’m pretty sure Remington Model 8, and Winchester 1907 and 1910 rifles were purchased by all allied nations.

    • mikerock

      While I agree with most of your points and with your overall argument, I have to disagree with #4.

      The Luger toggle action is actually quite simple to do regular maintenance on – at least with the pistols I have owned. The rifle appears to employ a similar design with a pin at the rear of action that is drifted out to allow the whole toggle mechanism to be removed from the action. Compared to contemporary semi-auto designs this appears to be exceptionally simple. I have to admit that I have not handled one of the rifles and do not know exactly how it comes apart.

      The real downfall of the rifle was that compared to the Gew. 98 design which had only recently gone into mass production (at the outset of WW 1 they were still replacing the Gew. 88 in front line units) this would have been an extremely labour intensive rifle to produce for a limited gain in unit firepower.

      Like almost all early auto-loading designs, rifle and pistol, it is extremely interesting but in hindsight overly complex and is what amounts to an evolutionary dead end.

  • bbmg

    “I would love to try a rifle with this type of action.”

    Fictional but worth mentioning, the “Standard Issue Big Gun” from Ghost in the Shell:

    You can’t really see it in this clip, I guess the frame rate has been reduced, but it’s a “lugeresque” toggle action:

  • Liam Haslam

    I would like to thank everyone for their input on this rifle, i would also like to thank BigJon for achieving what i could not. A true testament to the Firearms Blogs readers, thank you.

    On a techical note the extraction issue could be solved by a fluted chamber similiar to the G3. The patent is likely to have expired by now, if someone made a copy of this i would most certainly buy it (i imagine it would be hell of a lot cheaper than the real thing).

  • Lance

    Another great German invention that probably was halted by bad politics thankfully for our men.

    • Leonard

      If it had been introduced before WWI, Germany might have won that war and thus the World would have been spared from fighting WWII at all. The German Empire of the early 1900s already had a lot of social unrest and would probably have transformed into a proper constitutional monarchy like the UK if WWI hadn’t gotten in the way. It already had a parliament and universal suffrage, but the parliaments influence on the government was too limited.
      I definately think that there would have been none of the aggressive expansionism of Nazi Germany if imperial Germany had won the Great War.

      • JamesD

        While I think having semi-auto rifles would have helped Germany in WWI, I don’t think the difference would have been significant.

        Opposing forces trying to capture German trenches had almost no success as it was do to German machine guns. Most of the major victories for Allied forces came from some use of tanks, creative use of horses and artillery (shoot just ahead of your own forces as they advance), etc…

        WWI was a war of attrition. Once the US and other countries joined, it was clear that such a war was unwinnable for Germany do to dwindling manpower, and resources. That and the growing unrest in Germany, left them with no choice but to negotiate a surrender.

        Would semi-autos have reduced German casualties? That is likely but the end result would probably be the same.

        If Germany had some sort of game changing weapon coming out in a year or so as in WWII, then dragging out the war might have made a difference, but that was not the case. Germany could have continued anyway for some time but they didn’t really have any way to win the war.

  • W

    I dont think this would have been as ground breaking as people think, with the submachine gun being a far more practical weapon in trench warfare and the G43 more of a practical weapon for WWII. Still, it is a incredible design and certainly interesting. I would like to see one.

  • Baker

    Anybody else struck by a superficial resemblance to the Garand?

    • Doom

      Not really… and the garand was made like 3 decades after this gun was made. but they really aren’t very similar looking at all to me.

    • omologato

      Not really. I looks like a Mauser with a Luger-style toggle action… which is exactly what it is.

  • Whether this was a practical design or not I really don’t think the mental openness to support any such design – good or bad – would have been there either during the Great War or later between the wars.

    The open hostility to rifles like this among the conservative high commands was apparent on either side during this period and is notably illustrated by Hitlers attitude to semi automatic rifles.

    The British high staff were just as reticent about such designs.

    That all said, it’s very hard not to be very excited about this Luger! If you love guns how can you not be?

  • JamesD

    It’s just my opinion, but the Luger semi-auto rifle had the potential to have a major impact on WWII if been introduced in the early 1900s.

    Apparently, Adolf Hitler had something against drilling a hole in the barrel to have a gas operated semi-auto, so the majority of the German infantry fought with the K98 bolt action for most of WWII.

    Some semi-auto rifles suitable for the infantry (having appropriate range and accuracy) and meeting Hitler’s restrictions were produced as early as 1941, but they were unreliable and the G43 wasn’t introduced until 1943.

    1943 was too late to impact the invasion of the Soviet Union (1941). If Germany had succeeded there, they would have had plenty of fuel and oil for the war and they wouldn’t have been fighting on 2 fronts at the end of the war.

    If semi-autos had been in the hands of the entire German infantry on D-Day, allied losses probably would have been much higher, and for all we know could have strung out the war in Europe much longer… which would have strung out the war in the Pacific longer.

    Given the weapons that Germany and Japan had in the works, extending the war could have been very bad for the allies. Jets, stealthy aircraft, atom bombs, bombers possibly capable of reaching the US…

    • I think WWI would have been affected more than WWII. The difference in firepower would have been far more significant. Trench warfare would be much easer with a semi-automatic 5-round magazine, rather than having one or two shots before going all medieval with a bayo.

      • JamesD

        The only way I see Germany winning WWI is if they had advanced across Europe so fast and with so much force that the allies couldn’t mount a significant defense. Then resources aren’t an issue and the US doesn’t have time to get involved. That is exactly what Germany did in WWII, correcting their previous mistake. But at the start of WWI, there were no tanks, no bombers, and no air support. I believe they had some armored vehicles but a lot of heavy lifting was still provided by horses.
        The countries Germany was invading had plenty of time to dig in. Germany would still be stuck with trench warfare.

        Some key reasons semi-autos would not change the outcome of the war:

        Germany would still loose the sea war and would not have access to supplies shipped in by sea, while not being able to significantly limit incoming shipments to the allies. Germany suffered supply shortages late in the war as a result while allies continued to receive supplies from the US.

        Infantry attacking trenches were already completely mowed down by machine gun fire according to first hand accounts during the war. It was nearly impossible to successfully attack trenches with infantry.

        The most significant battles were won mostly due to artillery and tanks. One third of all deaths in WWI were due to poison gas which was usually delivered by artillery. While tanks were awkward and slow, they provided protection for following troops and provided a means of attacking machine guns. Even if defending troops are using semi-autos, they are still facing a tank before the attacking infantry.

  • Reverend Clint

    looks like a garand mated with a kar 98

  • Andrew Racek

    If only someone would make reproductions of this rifle.

  • Mu

    As the toggle bolt design worked just fine in the thousands of Maxim MG built, it’s hard to think a guy like Luger couldn’t make it work in a rifle. I think it was just a product ahead of it’s time, or, more likely, of little military value. Defensive fire power during WWI was provided by watercooled heavy MG. Having 5 rounds semi-auto doesn’t seriously aid in fire power in a full-power cartridge, and was seriously against military doctrine. It was designed in 1906 when guns still came with a magazine block to allow single shot operation without “wasting” the rounds in the magazine. The true firepower break through in WWI was the German submachine gun, ideal for trench warfare; which was why Germany was explicitly forbidden from having those afterwards, no one cared about semi-auto rifles.