By Joel Kolander [via rockislandauction.blogspot.com]

Rock Island Auction Company has been extremely privileged during our last few Premiere auctions to host the Gene Smith Military Collection. Mr. Smith’s massive, encyclopedic grouping of German military arms has been featured in our sales since mid-2014, bringing high condition, rare, historic, and significant German firearms to the collecting community who can’t snatch them up quickly enough . . .

Mr. Shattuck’s passion for firearms has resulted in a “dream collection” that many aspire to match and very few ever do. His assemblage of Lugers, Mausers, and Borchardts is unparalleled, and a multitude of other nations are represented as well. Here, for the first time, is a glimpse at the host of rare and attractive firearms that comprise this lifetime of dedication.

Before we begin, many of the firearms pictured here by Rock Island Auction Company can already be found with descriptions in the book Lugers at Random by Charles Kenyon, Jr. Long considered to be an important reference since its release in 1969, the book contains numerous photos and descriptions of important Lugers from Mr. Shattuck’s collection.

Also, Mr. Shattuck, acknowledged as the “Dean of Lugers,” has a book published on his collection aptly titled “Lugers of Ralph Shattuck,” which can be easily found on Amazon for those who would like a more in-depth view of his collection. There was even an a CD made of high-resolution photos of the guns in his collection.  People just couldn’t get enough of these rare, unusual, beautiful, and high condition Lugers.

Ralph Shattuck and his wife Nancy.

Ralph Shattuck was born in Cleveland, Ohio on July 28, 1929 mere months preceding the Great Depression, but would go on to become one of the pioneers and giants of the Luger collecting community. Even as a child Shattuck would ride around on his bicycle and purchase whatever pistols he could with the intention of selling them to make some money.

His home, both his first residence in Michigan and his later one in Arizona, was open to many collectors throughout the years and was nearly considered a pilgrimage site for Luger enthusiasts – containing hundreds of Lugers in his personal collection and even more in “inventory.” Ralph and his bright red suit jacket were a staple of many gun shows for decades, resulting in endless stories of his generosity, character, and genuine love of the hobby.

Ralph passed away on his birthday at the age of 81, but not before helping build one of the most zealous and educated genres in gun collecting. Rock Island Auction Company is honored to offer such a prestigious collection from such a collecting icon and trailblazer.

Outstanding Ultra Rare DWM Model 1902 U.S. Army “Cartridge Counter” American Eagle Test Luger

This completely original and totally unaltered version of the “Cartridge Counter” Luger is one of the most desirable Lugers for both German and military collectors. Made at the behest of the U.S. Ordnance Board in 1902, exactly 50 of these pistols with the “Powell Indicating Device” (and grip safety) were manufactured for testing the following year. The device was simple and accurate, but ultimately deemed to fragile by the Ordnance Board, and rightly so. The left grip would first have a slot cut into it, and then have a delicate metal strip and feeble 3 1/4″ celluloid strip covering the newly created slot.

The concept itself was quite simple. To work, the gun required a special magazine, which involved a pin poking out the left side of the magazine. This pin was attached to the magazine follower, so that every time a cartridge was fired and the follower rose, the pin would also. That pin also moved an indicator corresponding to the numerals visible to the user.  In a bit of a perhaps unintended redundancy, when loaded, the bullets of the cartridges were also visible through the celluloid window.

Extremely Rare Original DWM Model 1900 “GL” Marked Prototype Luger Pistol with Unique Reversed Toggle Mechanism

The photos are worth a million words in the case of this gun. With its numerous unique and potentially one-of-a-kind design variations, not only is the gun a bit difficult to describe through text alone, but the purpose of the prototype changes is not fully known.

Note the reversed toggle “hinge” on this pistol as compared to the photo of the top of the previous Luger.  The rear portion extends into the front, instead of the other way around.

 

There’s also this unusual undercut front sight and muzzle with dimples on each side. Were they for an attached suppressor or muzzle break? Do these tie in with the reversed toggle?

 

“GL” Georg Luger marked prototype.

Outstanding Rare DWM Model 1908 Bulgarian Contract Luger Pistol

Authentic Cyrililic text appearing in place of the “GESICHERT” (“secured”) marking, is always a good sign for a Luger collector. Exactly 10,000 of these pistols were ordered by Bulgaria between 1908 and 1910, in two separate blocks of serial numbers. The gun shown here comes from the rarer “first” block of numbers and correctly lacks a letter prefix. That limited number of 10,000 was depleted even further after they saw heavy use prior to WWI and through WWII, with many samples being captured by Russians.

Another unusual feature of this Luger might not appear unusual at first glance. Note the placement of the “DWM” monogram and the Bulgarian crest. On many Lugers, this placement is standard, but on these guns one would much more commonly find the markings reversed, making this “normal” looking Luger even more rare and desirable.
So by now, you know our April Premiere Auction will have two colossal German collections contained within in it.  Did you also know that amazing single pieces have come in as well, creating a perfect storm for German and foreign military collectors?  Here are additional highlights for collectors sure to be wringing their hands with anticipation.

Rare, Documented DWM Prototype 1900 Luger Carbine, Serial Number 58

OK, we fibbed.  One more from the Shattuck Collection, and this one presents a mystery to collectors. This gun was featured in the aforementioned book Lugers At Random and since 1969 it has stymied Luger collectors. The source of conflict comes primarily in determining whether this 1900 Carbine  was manufactured for commercial sales or as a prototype.  Lugers At Random is quoted in describing the gun by stating,

The uniqueness of this variation makes it difficult to determine the proper designation for this weapon and there is support for both theories (commercial or prototype) among collectors.  The unique five position rear sight lends support to the Prototype theory, but the serial number range is of the 1900 era. VERY VERY RARE. Only one example is known to collectors.” (Emphasis theirs)

Extraordinary, Historic Pre-World War II Walther Factory Engraved Gold Plated Model PP Presentation Pistol For King Carol II of Romania

Obviously this gun has some extensive ornamentation going for it, making it a prize for any collector who appreciates such craftsmanship, but this gun also bears some special provenance. Just looking at it, one might be able to guess that it is a presentation gun, however, a presentation for whom is not as evident. This spectacular Walther PP was commissioned by the Nazis for King Carol II of Romania during his second reign. It was around 1937-38 when Nazi Germany was pulling out all the stops so that Romania and its “the playboy king” would ally itself with the Third Reich. The fact that the Romanians were sitting on the oil fields at Ploiesit didn’t hurt either. This pistol was part of the efforts to woo the King.

As if one could look past the impressive provenance, the gun alone is capable of generating high interest among collectors.  First off, this is the earliest known factory engraved Walther Mod. PP pistol.  With a serial number of 751249, that makes this the 1,249th Walther PP! The engraving itself is also masterfully done by the Zella-Mehlis Guild/Walther engravers and features a dense, floral scroll work mixed with an abundance of edelweiss blossoms. The gold plating speaks for itself and the grips have an inset on the left side that shows the Romanian crown over the initials “CC” (standing for Carol Caraiman, the full name of King Carol II).

Exceptionally Rare, Early Production Mauser Model 1896 20 Shot Flatside Cone Hammer Broomhandle Semi-Automatic Pistol Serial Number 91 with Matching Shoulder Stock

Everybody can recognize a “broomhandle” pistol.  The C96 has a look that people still find attractive today and a quite a following among military enthusiasts. This particular Mauser Model 1896 is one that should be paid special attention for a number of reasons. What is immediately most noticeable is that it is a desirable 20-shot version. Soldiers may have griped about the difficulty in reloading the gun with two 10-round clips, but today they stand out from a gun that was produced for over 60 years and imitated by many.

Looking closely, one will also notice that the pistol is without its standard milled frame panels. This is known as a “flat side” Broomhandle and is indicative of an early production, before the milled panels began to appear to reduce weight and save on materials. Being an early model, it also has many of the other features found on those guns such as a cone hammer, the long extractor on the breech bolt, and many others.Perhaps most impressive about this gun, which cannot be easily observed, is that it still has all its original parts. Even the grips and the rare wooden holster bear the “91” that ties this wonderful firearm together. The wooden shoulder stock/holster is an anomaly in itself. Their large size made them prone to breakage, leaving few surviving models.  Even the stock shows “91” on its lid, attaching iron, and on the flat edge of the stock itself.

Why the number “91”?  it is yet another interesting fact about the pistol that cannot be gathered solely by its appearance. As if all the other features mentioned here did not make this iconic little pistol rare enough, only an estimated 90-100 of this variant were ever produced with most of them being shipped to South America. Since few things that are shipped out ever seem to find their way back home, that makes this pistol a rare bird, and its late number of “91” means it was one of the very lastBroomhandles produced for those South American shipments.

Exceptional Rare Original Early Gabbet Fairfax MARS Semi-Automatic Pistol

This rare and monstrous handgun once had bragging rights as “the most powerful handgun in the world.” Considering it was only produced from 1898-1907 and would not lose that title until the 1970s, that’s quite an accomplishment. That small production time, of course, resulted in a very limited run of these guns. Approximately 80 were ever produced in all their proprietary configurations (8.5mm, .36 (9mm), .45 Long, and .45 Short). The example shown above is an extremely early version (c. 1898-1900) and stamped with the serial number 4. It also has the fine blued finish and wonderful checkered walnut grips.  It remains in its all-original and unaltered condition.

The pistols were very well-made with all hand-fitted parts, and extremely powerful, but ultimately they were not to be. Why? A few reasons existed and they all had to deal with the gun’s rather complex design. First of all, complex designs historically tend to not render themselves well to life in military service. Complex devices have more parts to foul and are difficult to repair/clean in the field.

Second, this complex device, utilizing a long-action recoil, had such horrendous recoil that it was prone to feeding problems. The recoil was partially due to the powerful cartridges, but also because of the long travel of the moving parts. It also suffered from a heavy trigger pull. All these gripes led to the MARS being passed over for military contracts, the sole hope of its designer, HughGabbert-Fairfax. There were never any issues with its “man-stopping” ability, but its recoil was its ultimate undoing. Fortunately, it left us with some rather entertaining quotes such as, “No one who fired once with the pistol wished to shoot it again,” and “singularly unpleasant and alarming.”Even without military contracts or commercial sales, this rare curio remains a supremely desirable collectible.

German collectors, do we have your attention yet? These two collections combine to form a spectacular selection, the contents of which have the potential to turn good collections into great ones, and great collections legendary. The guns mentioned here are a fine, yet small, sampling of a cornucopia of European arms. Not only are there German arms, but the Shattuck Collection also contains such gems as an uncommon Japanese Pedersen, a rare Czech ZH29, a Heinrich Himmler inscribed Jacquemart double barrel shotgun, a 1908 Mondragon semi-automatic rifle, and many more.

Not to mention the Dr. Joel Glovsky Collection, which holds the most complete and advanced array of 7.65mm pistols ever made available – the fruits of 60 years of dedicated labor. This collection includes most of the 7.65mm pistols from the estate of the late Sid Aberman. It is a smorgasbord of rarity, prototypes, experimental variations, and high condition, which will be covered in a blog of its own before our 2015 April Premiere Firearms Auction.

Who will be the lucky, dedicated collectors that will not rest until these firearms reside safely in their gun rooms? If that collector is reading this, we wish you best of luck on your bids for these incredible firearms.

26 Responses to A Lifetime of Luger-Mania

    • Kaiser Bill of ww1 germany had a crippled arm. He couldn’t properly handle a full sized rifle so he used a Luger carbine.

      Pistol caliber carbines have their place, then and now.

      • Being the only one known to exist it will probably have a large bid attached to it. I think I will be buying a mega millions ticket later, approximately $100 million cash option, think I could get somewhere with that? Who am I kidding I would probably go through a $100 million on land, a private shooting range and a private race track. I always said if I won the lottery I would build a private race track and buy some mini coopers to race like go-carts.

  1. You can see a lot of closeups on these guns from the Forgotten weapons channel. Ian looks at the 20 shot mauser and the Mars pistols.

    • Oops! While some of those are very similar guns, they’re not the ones appearing in our auction. Ian will actually be out next week for filming and we’re glad to have him.

      P.S. He will be doing videos of OUR Mars pistol as well, which has some fascinating differences.

  2. Where does someone go to find all these in the first place? I assume he paid cheap prices for some of them since they were not collectible at the time but to have hundreds of Lugars boggles the mind.
    I like the line about being a child when he started collecting pistols. Clearly that’s impossible today.

    • I’ve probably shared this story here at least three times, but it’s worth repeating. At the age of 15, my grandfather biked across his hometown with a small sum of cash in his pocket. He arrived at an older man’s house that Saturday, a family friend who was well known as a local gun guy. Gramps handed the older guy his money, who then kindly spent an hour going over various shotgun models that were within his budget. When my grandpa settled on a J.C. Higgins 16 gauge, he slung it over his back, threw the boxes of shells in the handlebar basket, and biked home. No cops were called, in fact anyone who recognized my grandpa waved at him. Aside from that nobody batted an eyelash. This happened in the early 1950’s in suburban Connecticut. Almost seems like another planet now, doesn’t it?

  3. Thanks Joel, just when I thought I’d shaken the Luger bug…
    I’m not into “collectable” guns but Lugers are truly an engineering masterpiece.

  4. Reminds me of that show Tales of the Gun, that was a good show. I was young at the time and it actually taught me allot about how guns worked and the history behind them. Back when the history channel had somewhat intelligent programing…

  5. Does anyone own the patient for the Luger pistol? If not why isn’t anyone making me a 3/4 scale one in .380 for a carry gun?

    • Last I heard, Stoeger owned the name.
      Mitchess and/or a firm in Texas (whose name I can’t recall at the moment), manufactured P08’s in stainless steel.
      There was a legal squabble that Stoeger won I believe.
      If there is a patent, I imagine it is at about the status of the 1911…
      I owned a Mitchell American Eagle Luger for a while. Let it go when I picked up a DWM Century import at my LGS.

    • Such a critter was made in the 60’s. I believe it was marketed under the “Erma” name. If memory serves it had a 6 round mag and looked like a downsized Luger but with cheap plastic grips.

  6. As an amateur collector of Axis small arms and militaria, when I hear stories like this it makes me wish I were born two decades earlier. My grandpa and his friends regularly swapped war souvenirs, guns included, as if they were a form of currency when he was a kid. Heck, nearly all the stuff he had was given to him as payment for doing the neighbors’ chores, or just handed to him for no apparent reason. And of course, being a young entrepreneur, he sold it all in pursuit of buying a motorcycle. A handful of those items, seen as finely decorated scrap metal back then, have attained values that could now buy me a new car.

    • Rule #1: Never trade an appreciating asset (like a Luger) for a depreciating asset (like a car or bike).

      • Couldn’t agree more. My 1916 DWM, all matching numbers except for magazines, is a work of art. It shoots 115gr. FMJ’s without fail whenever it’s not a safe queen. Bought a couple extra Meggar mags to leave the old ones to rest. But I wish this pistol could talk. Sadly I think it ended up behind the heads of folks that didn’t deserve it. Great article. Thank you. I’d take a Broomhandle anyday!!!!

  7. I believe the Luger is the coolest handgun ever made and that the Nazis, as much as I hate them, had the coolest handguns of any military ever. It’s too bad the Luger was functionally not a great design to the point that toggle actions have not survived. But for just visual impact, the Luger has always been “it” for me. Close seconds include the Broomhandle, the PPK, the P38 and one I don’t see discussed much, the Mauser HSc.

  8. Edward Takacs. ..

    Mauser HSc…beautiful little pistol…7.65mm {32 A.C.P.}

    Have a 1941 third variation model…last of the high polish, high blue models before the pressures of the war caused more and more tooling marks to get the product out the door to the front…also have two beautiful Mauser Parabellum Lugers …also 1941 41/42 code {rare} and a 1939 Police Banner model, an Eagle /C … {also rare}

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