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Accuracy and optimism: early military gunmakers were optimistic when it came to long-range accuracy, but the German artillery Luger tops the bunch.

NO ONE CAN ACCUSE RIFLEMAKERS OF BEING pessimists. How else can you explain the iron sights found on early military rifles ?

The Snider-Enfield (.577 Snider), circa 1870, has sights graduated to 900 yards; a slightly later Austrian Werndl (11.15x58Rmm) has sights graduated to 1,600 meters. The sights on a Ross Model 1905 (.303 British) are adjustable to 2,200 yards.

Of course, before machineguns, infantry rifles were used less for precision sniping than to lay down blanket fire, and that partly accounts for the long-range settings. However, that is not true of every gun.

For sheer optimism, the German artillery Luger from the Great War tops the bunch. Its tangent rear sight, located on the barrel forward of the breech, is graduated to 800 meters (880 yards). This, with a sight radius of just 7 inches, firing a 124-grain truncated-cone bullet at 1,120 fps.

According to the Hornady Ballistics Calculator, given that bullet weight, velocity, and a ballistic coefficient of .170, at 800 meters the bullet has a remaining velocity of only 523 fps and energy of 75 ft-lbs. That is about the ballistic performance Wild Bill Hickok had at his disposal when he killed Dave Tutt in Springfield, Missouri, in 1865 with a Colt Navy at 75 yards, so it's definitely deadly.

Tests by the GPK (Prussian weapon-testing commission) found its power more than adequate. Their standard for artillery small arms was confronting a cavalry charge at a range of400 meters. According to the 1917 German Army "Lange Pistole 08" manual, "At 800 m, Horse skulls as well as French Steel Helmets will still be smoothly shot through." In 1964 one of the performance tests of the then-new .223 AR-15, compared to the .308 M14, was to penetrate both sides of a GI helmet at 500 yards. Standards don't change much.

Accuracy Is the Question

The 9mm may have killing power at 800 meters, but what about accuracy? The GPK did not ignore that, and the 800-meter sight on the "IP 08" was not mere optimism. Field tests indicated that for purposes of protecting an artillery battery from attack the pistol was superior to an experimental Mauser '98 carbine. That was measured in terms of hits per 100 shots, taking into consideration the faster rate of fire, the fact that three times as much ammunition could be carried to support it, and that there could be up to four times as many pistols firing at one time.

This is complicated, to be sure, but it was being assessed in terms of effectiveness for artillery crews who had other things to carry. It was possible, though, to issue every man a pistol without hampering his effectiveness. With typical Prussian thoroughness, the tests employed artillerymen who achieved a level of marksmanship "equal to an engineers' company only."

Still, the 1917 manual goes so far as to say bluntly of the Lange Pistole: "In single fire is up to 200 m every target with success to be shot."

Accordingly, I repaired to the 200-yard bench to shoot at a steel man-sized silhouette target with Federal factory ammunition. The 124-grain bullet is rated at 1,120 fps muzzle velocity, but with my artillery model, the load chronographed 1,208 fps. At 200 yards, its remaining energy is 230 ft-lbs, the same as the .32 H&R Magnum at the muzzle.

Ballistic capability is one thing; usability of sights is another. Sights on the artillery model consist of a narrow V rear tangent sight and an A post front. The sights almost cover a silhouette at 200 yards, so positioning them correctly is tricky, especially if there is glare from the sun.

On the first effort, however, I managed to hit the silhouette six shots out of eight from a solid rest with the shoulder stock. After that, my score varied from zero to seven, depending on the sun and wind. It's no sniper rifle, but out to 200 yards it lives up to its billing.


The year the author's artillery Luger was made saw many notable events, including the U.S. declaring war against Germany and the first Pulitzer Prizes being awarded.
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Title Annotation:SHOOTER'S SHOWCASE: GUNSMOKE; Luger Lange Pistole 08
Author:Wieland, Terry
Publication:Shooting Times
Article Type:Product/service evaluation
Date:Apr 1, 2016
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