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Unread 10-10-2006, 01:36 AM   #1
Dwight Gruber
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Default Book Review: "Standard Catalog of Luger" (long)

I wrote this review for the Book Review section of Jan Still's forum, figured it probably would be worthwhile to post here as well.

Standard Catalog of Luger Aaron Davis ©2006
Gun Digest Books
256 pages paperbound, 8 x 11
$29.99 US

As Davis notes in his Forward, this book is the expanded, updated follow-up to his Luger Handbook, 1997. By its content and organization, it is intended to be the compendium of Luger knowledge, based on model and variation identification determined by Davis’s systematic logic-tree identification system.

A listing of the chapters serves to indicate the scope and scale of the endeavor:
1. Luger History
2. Luger Mechanics
3. Luger Markings
4. Lugers by Era and User
5. Lugers by Manufacturer
6. Lugers by Features
7. Lugers in Detail
8. Luger Accessories
9. Luger Collecting Advice
10. Summary of Values

The book is illustrated with line-drawings of markings and photos of particular gun details.

It has neither index nor bibliography or list of references.

I was frankly excited at the appearance of a major new Luger book, even one by Aaron Davis whose last oevre was so disappointing. By description, it seemed like it might be the modern encyclopedic resource book so badly needed in the 21st century Kenyon’s Lugers At Random is fully 37 years old by now, and Walter’s The Luger Book is a mature 20.

Once the book was in hand I began to reduce my expectations. The paper stock is fairly thin, and not coated. The soft cover is also relatively insubstantial as well. This is one reference book which is going to get dog-eared pretty quickly.

The introductory chapters are readable and concise reviews of the Lugers history and circumstances. In his information and presentation Davis is fairly revealing of his own predilections, a collector and author of personally expressed conservative and traditional views.

Davis’ identification system is very thorough; perhaps overly so. He identifies 201 separate Luger Variations, including 3 different presentation categories (not including presentation carbines), 21 Weimar 1920 property marked rework; categories, and 17 Mauser army sub-variants based on acceptance marks. Although the system does seem to identify and describe every known accepted variant, no matter how obscure, it omits Spandau and Lithuanian variations.

Although the cover blurb advertises 1,000 photos and illustrations, there are only 104 actual photos in the book, ranging from small to tiny, and almost all of them too dark to make out the detail they purport to illustrate. This is partly the fault of the paper stock the book is printed on and partly the inadequacies of the photos themselves; their overall exposure, and their size. 35 of these pictures are in the Accessories chapter and not illustrative of any text.

The proof and inspector mark examples are diagrammatic rather than diagnostic. It looks like they draw mostly from the examples pictured in Jones Luger Variations and Kenyon. It almost appears that whoever drew the diagrams never actually -looked- at the markings on the guns. It is very difficult in many cases to relate the diagram to the mark in steel, and will only serve to confuse the inexperienced collector. It also does not serve to permit the differentiation of a good mark from a fake.

It seems rather picky and negative to be overly concerned with errors, but since this book purports to be a factual compendium it seemed appropriate so I jumped right in with my red pencil. I soon found myself awash in a sea of sticky notes. Here is a collection not at all comprehensive of examples.

Table of Manufacturer Toggle Markings fails to include Waffenfabrik Bern and Simson toggles

c/BUG proof diagrams are consistently transposed, illustrating all three proofs present upright on receivers and only c/B,U on the barrel.

The commercial c/N receiver proof is pictured diagrammatically as being upright in all cases (no differentiation is made with lazy c/N, unusual because of the lazy c/B,U which appears in the same examples).

The DWM Imperial proof eagle is consistently described on the receivers of both DWM and Erfurt army Lugers. The Erfurt style eagle is assigned to all DWM barrels and breechblocks, and the DWM eagle is assigned to all Erfurt barrels and breechblocks.

The section on Imperial unit markings is a complete mess. It is incomplete and inaccurate (including assigning the italic R to Reiter-Regiment and Militar-Reitschul, with no mention of it as the Reserve marking), and it includes many Police designations in a Landwehr¯ category. It does include Navy and Reichswehr unit marks, but mentions Police unit marks only in two dismissive paragraphs in passing.

The commercial c/N proof is stated to have been instituted in 1906 (actually adopted until 1910 and not used until 1911).

In the Lugers by Manufacturer section, it is erroneously stated that Vickers production was 10,100 units (oddly, he gets it right with 6,000 guns in the Vickers detail section).

1900 Swiss and Swiss Commercial serial number range reporting is hopelessly confused. There is no recognition of a separate military and commercial number series, and the number cutoffs seem arbitrary.

The diagrammatic method to differentiate between Swiss Commercial and Swiss Military is wrong. Swiss military are identified with c/BUG proofs, and the Swiss + and the +/V, +/N, and +/M are specifically identified as rework marks. This rework mark identification is consistent through all Swiss military entries.

The 1900 American Eagle is described as having c/BUG proofs. Current research suggests that -all- 1900AE are unproofed.

1900AE is specified as being stamped MADE IN GERMANY or GERMANY. MADE IN GERMANY is almost never found until 1920, and not on the frame front.

The 1902AE is described as having c/BUG proofs. These guns are found with c/BUG or no proofs.

The 1903 German test series continues the Danzig Test mis-designation.

The 1904 Navy production and report numbers are straight out of Kenyon and much higher than current estimates.

The 1904 Navy marking section fails to include the crown/M stamped above the lanyard staple on the frame.

The 1906 French Manufacture Franais d armes et Cycles de St. Etiene could have come straight out of Kenyon, information which is now 37 years out-of-date. The serial range is wrong; it does not include 9mm guns; and it reports only two known examples. It also does not include the characteristic, diagnostic number stamped at the bottom of the front grip strap.

The 1906 Dutch contract is described as having unit numbers stamped on the grip backstrap. These numbers were actually stamped on the rear of the frame beneath the lanyard staple.

The Dutch magazine is described as a standard commercial magazine, with no mention of the unique disassembly feature.

All commercial-style number descriptions include the receiver numbered on the receiver (rear), a meaningless designation. It does not specify that the serial number appears on the recoil lug.

The .45 Luger is erroneous in fine detail, particularly in being described as being completely serial numbered in the commercial fashion.

The 1908 DWM description does not include the information that the proofs are found on the left receiver, rather than the right.

The Erfurt general description carries on the fiction that -all- Erfurt P-08 suffer from poor fit and finish.

The serial number range for the 1914 Commercial model is out of date, and could have come straight from Kenyon (as could have the 1913 Commercial numbers).

Davis late-commercial model designations bear no relationship to any commonly used system. He invents the 1919 Commercial variation, serial range 73500-96000 (Stills 20DWM designation). In the caliber detail he has the range only through 92000, however. (He mentions the Basel police guns in this range, which Bill Reupke has tentatively identified as a 1916 Commercial variation.)

Davis perpetuates the 1920 Commercial designation (Stills Alphabet Commercials), but includes 1920 and 1921 dated 5-digit commercials in this variation. In addition, the description of the alphabet guns themselves perpetuates the theory that the suffixes are a result of using numbered military spare frames and parts.

Davis perpetuates the conventional 1920 Sneak variation, and does not recognize the 29DWM designation.

The Safe/Loaded commercial variation is 5,000 units too many, and extends the 5-digit serial range to 96000 again, straight out of Kenyon.

The 1923 Finnish Military variation is claimed to be made specifically for a contract sale. These are actually out of Alphabet Commercial production.

The Persian Mauser toggle stamp is identified as Sanskrit (the receiver stamps are properly identified as Farsi, however). There is no mention of the right-receiver inscription on the 4 inch barrel model, nor a notation that the receiver inscriptions are different between the 4 inch and Artillery models.

The term Black Widow is accepted as a legitimate variant name, rather than a more objective identification such as plastic-gripped.

All pre-1937 Mauser military production (and many other Mauser variants) are specified as being salt blued.

At this juncture I have covered less than half the book and I am gong to stop, for two reasons. One, I have come to sections of the book where my knowledge and expertise do not support detailed examination for errors. And two, I am exhausted of the exercise. I hope that other reviewers will take up the task in the remaining subject areas.

It should be clear by now that the book contains enough errors to require caution in reading. But, did Davis get anything right?

He points out that the flaming bomb proof is nothing more than a [common] inspectors mark.

He properly notes that the circle-S receiver stamp meaning is unknown, rather than reflexively attributing it to Simson.

He addresses the Totenkopf stamp issue objectively and comprehensively, although he does come to a tentative conclusion of a Freikorps/SS connection.

His assessment of the Kl 1933 variation is equally fair. Interestingly, he supports the recent conclusion by Cate and van Gijn that this is the rework mark of Werkstatt Klett, in the Simson organization. It is a noteably contemporary perspective in a book which contains so much out-of-date material.

The Luger Collecting Advice at the end of the book is very sound.

The systematic Luger identification tree remains an excellent and useful tool for basic Luger identification.

Davis includes a value range for each of the variations he presents, and summarizes them at the end. Although everyone seems to want to know “what is my Luger worth?”, a listing in a book such as this seems to be a pointless exercise save as a snapshot of a particular time. That being said, an assessment of the information is necessary to know if it has any use at all.

In the case of this book, it does not appear to have any. The rating is a poor-fair-good-very good-excellent scale, without a description of what those terms actually mean. Mention of percentage-of-finish (a hard-to-define, subjective scale in its own right) is nowhere to be found.

In general, the money valuations are so overly broad as to cover all cost ranges at all times, and not satisfy a need to know a particular value at any time. The poor values for most of the variations are far below what one can buy even the cheapest Lugers for these days, and the excellent amounts are what we now witness as the most extreme asking prices.

So, in conclusion, is this book worth the money, time, and effort?

Reading back through this review it seems pretty negative. Its hard to say, and the answer depends on ones own experience, patience, and library. I don’t believe that I would recommend this book to any novice Luger collector.

There is no question as to this books thoroughness. I have a fairly extensive Luger research library. In the end, I will probably keep it and use it as a quick thumbnail guide, sort of a detailed index, but will do my fact-checking elsewhere.

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Unread 10-10-2006, 02:19 PM   #2
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Thanks for the book review. It looks like you spent quite a bit of time on this. Just so you know it is appreciated.


Patience is a bitter plant, but it has sweet fruit.
~German Proverb

If it is made before 1930 ..........It is a prototype.
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Unread 10-15-2006, 09:43 PM   #3
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I received in the mail this week, The Luger handbook and the Standard catalog of the luger, both by Aarron Davis. It is unfortunate that I ordered these books before I saw any of the reviews on these books. Oh well!

I don't have enough experience to see the flaws that others have discovered, but I did find one.

I own a Mauser 42 1940. In the "Catalog" it says finish on this model should be salt blue, no straw finish.

Then in the"Handbook" he lists the 5 parts that are straw colour.

I do get a kick out of the fact that he contradicts himself.

In this case I think that the "Catalog" is right as my pistol is all blued.

Anybody want to buy a couple of Luger books cheap
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Unread 10-15-2006, 09:52 PM   #4
Edward Tinker
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Dwight, thank you for the excellent review. One thing I find very puzzeling is the fact that Davis purports himself to be a luger expert, yet from what I can see, he does not belong to either of the luger forums, and obviously does not deal directly with the many experts on these forums. I realize there are many "experts" that are not on line and also many experts that we / I do not know. But still, I can not understand how Davis is considered an expert and yet get so many things wrong?

I do not know, but wonder, does Davis include these "values" so folks will buy his books?

Being paperback, he can sell these cheaper than many other luger books...

And lesson to all, read this forum, see the reviews already written, do searches on something, before you buy something you might regret...

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Unread 10-15-2006, 10:58 PM   #5
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As always Dwight... thanks greatly for such a comprehensive review... I have the same questions about Aaron Davis's expertise that Ed does... how could anyone with this kind of expertise NOT be on the internet and NOT belong to one of the two forums? BEATS ME!
regards, -John S

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Unread 06-13-2015, 07:29 AM   #6
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That is an exhaustive and thorough review. I am glad that we have a member with the in depth knowledge of Lugers, knowledge of other luger sources, writing skills, and willingness to devote your time to this.

Your review is just plain awesome!

I wish you would also post it on in the reviews section for this book. In their reviews, this book got 4.3 out of 5 stars.

Thanks so much for your contribution to our hobby!
"Für Gott, Kaiser, und Vaterland" -seeking: Erfrut Mag 1229 (no script)
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Unread 06-13-2015, 09:19 AM   #7
Edward Tinker
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Originally Posted by siegersallee View Post
I wish you would also post it on in the reviews section for this book. In their reviews, this book got 4.3 out of 5 stars.
OK, let me be direct.

We have members, who have been here a LONG time and they have never read the stickies?

We have members who want to spend the least amount of money on books and never do a search on any of these books?

The point is; its fine to own these books, but not just these books. Aaron is a nice guy, but this book was full of errors. Reeses' book was written when I was in High School and I have been out of the army for 15 years since then, in addition to having been in the army for 20 years before that. Its an older book, good for fun but not with new info,
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