The Great Lithuanian-Marked Luger Debate
(Last updated 3/15/08)
Note: for the purposes of this article, "Lithuanian-marked Luger" is used to refer to a Luger pistol prominently marked on the receiver with the Pillar of Gediminas. This national symbol of Lithuanian dates back to the 12th century AD, but was not adopted as a military symbol by the Lithuanian Defense Ministry until the mid-1920's.
Since the inception of this site, I have endeavored to retain a scholarly detachment from the topic of whether the Lithuanian-marked Lugers are, as a group, authentic. The issue is a complex one, especially given the fact that nearly all Lithuanian weapons records were destroyed during the war. However, based on what I have learned in recent years, I believe I would be doing a disservice to the reader if I were to ignore the large amount of evidence suggesting that the Lithuanian markings on these Lugers are spurious. My perspective on this issue has developed largely from several acquaintances and colleagues who own Lithuanian-marked Lugers, and who have spent the last several years researching their pistols. As a courtesy to me, they have kept me copied on research emails they have sent, and informed of meetings they have had with various individuals, and for this I am grateful.
As of November of 2006, I am convinced that the Lithuanian-marked Lugers are spurious -- pieces fabricated purely for the collector market by unethical dealers. I believe that three firearms dealers spuriously marked these Lugers during the mid-1960's (but possibly as late as the 1970's), and conspired to subsequently work to make them seem legitimate. (Note: this website is hosted in an excessively litigious nation, and as a result, I am omitting the names of these three men here.) It remains unclear whether the actual marking of these Lugers was done in the United States, or in Europe prior to importation.
Some important facts to consider:
1) All observed Lithuanian-marked Lugers are in like-new (97%+) condition. However, firearms dating from Lithuanian independence were, to put it bluntly, ridden hard and put away dirty. As discussed on the main site, most of these firearms endured additional duty in the armies of the Soviet Union and its allies and satellites. As a result, pieces in original condition, let alone good condition, are few and far between.
2) Over the past several decades, Mr. Gaidis has interviewed a great many former Lithuanian military officers who served during the period in question, none of whom had ever seen a Luger with Lithuanian markings. If these pieces are legitimate and were around during Lithuania's independence, then why haven't any Lithuanian veterans from this era heard of them? Mr. Gaidis has likewise spoken with modern day Lithuanian military historians at the War Museum and National Military Historical Association in Lithuania, and these authorities likewise had never encountered one of these pistols in Lithuania.
3) It is certainly quite likely that Luger pistols were used by the Lithuanian armed forces during the War of Independence (1918-1920) when the Lithuanian Defense Ministry appropriated anything it could for use in the fields (although not bothering to mark them with any national markings). However, no period photos have yet been found of a Lithuanian soldier wearing or bearing a Luger pistol after the mid-1920's.
4) At least some of these pistols came from Frankenschloss Suhl (a gun dealer but not a manufacturer). It seems unlikely that the military would initiate a contract with a foreign dealer instead of dealing directly with the manufacturer. Some proponents of the authenticity of these firearms argue that the police, and not the military, purchased them, and that this is why they were bought through a dealer in small numbers and why they are less worn. But given the size of the Lithuanian police force relative to the size of the Lithuanian military, surely the police would have inherited all the used service pistols they needed from the military when it upgraded to new, Browning pistols.
5) Barrel length varies on the observed Lithuanian-marked Lugers, which would be very unusual for an institutional order. Likewise, all observed specimens have had ground chambers.
6) Finally, there has never been any objective evidence presented that these pieces are legitimate. Proponents of the authenticity of these Lugers will point to photos of Lithuanian troops with Lugers, but all evidence indicates that these Lugers did not have any national markings.
Two alternative theories which bear mentioning are: 1) that some (e.g., the high serial number) Lithuanian-marked Lugers are manifestly fake, but this does not necessarily mean the remaining specimens are fake (perhaps a side-by-side comparison of an obvious fake and a specimen with undetermined origins is in order?); and 2) that these pistols were produced for Lithuania, but were never delivered (as with the recently-imported Lithuanian Police-marked FEG Hi Powers).
Let me conclude with one final note: I am always open to new evidence on this topic. Please feel free to email me anything you've got!
Observed Lithuanian-marked Luger serial numbers and markings:
694 (lazy C/N, left side only; E/N and E/J and Frankenscloss Suhl stamp on right side; underside of barrel has E/N and E/J with 7.65 cal.)
808 (lazy C/N)
892 removed; this should have read 893, and was the result of a typo in the owner's original email reporting the serial number
893 (lazy E/N on right side; lazy C/N on left side; right side and barrel are same as #694)
59xxA (Eagle N; Frankenschloss stamped)
59xxL (10" artillery barrel; probably 1920's DWM Commercial)
59xxO (probably 1920's DWM Commercial)
59xxP (probably 1920's DWM Commercial)
Possible additional numbers: 8277, 9715, 9649, and 83x.