Gunnery Network
Gunnery Network

Gun Glossary - Letter F
Index of Firearm & Gun Terminology

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Letter - L Page Updated: 06 March 2003

LAMINATED STOCK: A gunstock made of many layers of wood glued together under pressure. Together the laminations become very strong, preventing damages from moisture, heat, and warping.

LAND: The raised portion of a rifling.  As in Lands and Groves.  The lands are portions of the bore left between the grooves of the rifling in the bore of a firearm.  In rifling, the grooves are usually twice the width of the land.  Land diameter is measured across the bore, from land to land.

LANDS: Those portions of the bore not cut away by rifling grooves.

LANGENHAGEN STANDARD:  The "Langenhagen Standard" — named for the town in Germany where Brenneke Ammunition is located.  The "Standard" specifies that any Brenneke Slug, and the shotgun from which it is fired, must be capable of a minimum five shot group of four inches or less at 50 yards.  

LAW ENFORCEMENT ONLY:  Firearms, ammunition and accessories restricted to the use and possession of law Enforcement Officers and Agencies.  Abbreviated LEO.  Please note; the term "Civilian" is often used to describe non-law enforcement personnel, but under Federal Law, with  state, federal and local law enforcement personnel being non-military and not subject to UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) they are also civilians.

LE:  Abbreviation for Law Enforcement.

LEAD FREE:  Designation for ammunition that is free of lead.  Although the term suggests that such ammunition would contain no lead whatsoever, often it is used to refer to ammunition where the primer is lead free and the (lead) bullet is fully encased in a Total Metal Jacket (TMJ).

LEAD FOULING:  The partial obstruction and loss of accuracy caused by accumulated metal residue in the barrel of a gun.  Lead fouling is the same as leading, and is caused from the lead or lead covering on non-jacketed bullets.  The fouling occurs when the metal particles fill in the grooves in a rifled barrel which causes a rifle to shoot more like a smooth bore.  Some accuracy is lost because the fouled riffling is not imparting adequate spin and stability on the projectile.  Several chemicals are available to remove both lead and copper from the barrel of a gun.  Care must be taken when handling lead and lead cleaners.  Lead is hazardous to your health.

LEADING:  The partial obstruction and loss of accuracy caused by accumulated metal residue in the barrel of a gun.  Accuracy is diminished because the fouled riffling is not imparting adequate spin and stability on the projectile.  Same as Lead Fouling above.

LEGISLATIVE TERMS GLOSSARY: Click Here for Legislative Terms

LEM:  Abbreviation for "Law Enforcement Modification" a new Double Action Only (DA Only) trigger system for the H&K USP handgun.   

Law Enforcement Modification

The LEM system was developed to meet the specifications of the U.S. Immigration Service (INS) and is currently offered to U.S. federal and law enforcement agencies only.  Four thousand USP40 Compact LEM pistols
have already been shipped under contract to the INS. 

The LEM system consists of a set of six drop-in parts that can be installed in all existing full and compact size USP pistols. Unlike conventional DA Only trigger systems, this system uses the rearward movement of the slide to pre-cock an internal separate cocking piece within the hammer. 

The hammer returns forward with the slide after loading or firing, yet the internal cocking piece stays cocked. Once the trigger is pulled, the hammer is driven forward by the cocking piece to fire the pistol. The amount of force of the hammer can be set to the user’s preference at 4.5 to 5.0 or 7.5 to 8.0 pounds with a simple spring change. 

LEO:  Abbreviation for Law Enforcement Officer or Law Enforcement Only.

LEVER ACTION: A gun mechanism activated by manual operation of a lever. A firearm, typically a rifle, that is loaded, cocked, and unloaded by an external lever, usually located below the receiver.  The "Lever Action" design dates back to the late 19th century and is the type of rifle used in most western and cowboy movies.  See example below:

Lever Action Rifle
The Winchester Model 94 Trapper.  A common and very popular Lever Action Rifle.

LEWIS GUN: The Lewis Gun was a British light machine gun (LMG). It was gas-operated, air-cooled, and fed from a rotating drum of 47 or 97 rounds, with a rate of fire of 550 rounds per minute. The gun was used by the British, Belgian, and Italian armies in great numbers, both as a ground weapon (Lewis Mark 1) and as an aircraft gun (Lewis Mark 2). The Lewis gun was initially designed by Samuel MacLean and was then developed and perfected by Colonel I. N. Lewis, of the American Army.  Unable to interest the American Army in the weapon, Lewis took the gun to Belgium and set up a manufacturing company there in 1913.  In 1914 with the outbreak of the Great War (WW I) most of the staff in Belgium fled to Britain where they were able to continue manufacture in the Birmingham Small Arms Company factory.

The Lewis Gun
The Worlds Great Guns

The Lewis Gun
Easily identified by it's top mounted circular magazine

The British adopted the Lewis gun as their standard light machine gun in 1915, thus beginning a "love affair" that was to last for several decades. The value of the weapon was gradually discovered by troops of other countries and was venerated by Australian, French, Norwegian, Russian, Canadian, and German troops who employed it.  Though generally replaced by more modern designs in the 1930s, the Lewis was still in use during the Second World War.  

The Lewis gun was subsequently used by the British,  Common Wealth, Belgian and Italian armies in great numbers, both as a ground weapon and as a aircraft gun. 

Through generally replaced by more modern weapons in the 1930's, the Lewis Gun was still in action during World War Two. 

Lewis Gun Model 1915

Machinegun: Lewis Model 1915
Country : USA, Britain, France, Russia, Australian, 
Norway, Russian, Canada, and German
Caliber :

7.62 mm / 7.69 mm / 7.71 mm / .308 / .303 

Weight : 11.0 kg  - 25 pounds
Rate of fire: 600 rounds per minute

Lewis Gun Model 1915

It was with this great and venerable "Lewis" machine gun that an Australian soldier, Cedric Popkin, of the 24th Machine-Gun Company, 4th Australian Division, is likely to have shot down the famous Red Baron.


LIBERATOR PISTOL: The liberator pistol was a cheaply made stamped metal pistol made in America in 1942 for supply to guerrilla forces in enemy countries.  See image below.

The Liberator Pistol

Liberator Pistol from WWII issued to the OSS and "Irregular Resistance Forces".  

The Liberator was a single shot pistol chambered in caliber .45 ACP with 10  additional rounds stored in handle.


LIGHT MACHINE GUN:  Abbreviated LMG, Light Machine Guns are typically light weight, shoulder fired, automatic rifles carried or crewed by only one soldier.  Modern LMG's are also called Squad Automatic Weapons or SAW.  LMG's are typically equipped with a bipod and are designed to be operated and carried by one soldier; they usually have a box-type magazine and are mostly chambered for the smaller caliber, intermediate-power ammunition fired by the assault rifles of its respective military unit.  Modern LMG or Squad Automatic Weapon SAW, are typically air cooled, magazine fed, shoulder fired rifles capable of sustaining high rates of automatic fire, as used in the fire team and in the squad assault role.  LMG's can be fired rifle style from the shoulder or from a bipod in the prone.  They are also employed on light vehicles and trucks for convoy protection and local security roles as well as Anti Aircraft roles.  The US Army LMG / SAW uses the same 5.56 NATO (.223 Remington) ammunition used in the basic assault rifle model M16A2.

Machine Gun Evolution

Modern LMG - SAW Squad Automatic Weapon by FN

Heavy machine guns were satisfactory for defensive roles but were not really portable. A number of lighter machine guns (frequently called machine rifles or automatic rifles) began to be used in 1915. These included the British Lewis gun (invented in America but manufactured and improved in Great Britain), the French Chauchat, several German weapons, and the U.S. M1918 Browning automatic rifle (known as the BAR). Most, but not all, of these light weapons were gas-operated. Almost all were air-cooled. Generally, they fired from magazines rather than belts of ammunition because detachable magazines were more convenient and more easily transported. Weighing as little as 15 pounds, they were light enough to be carried by one man and fired rifle-fashion or from a prone position.

After World War I, light machine guns virtually took over the functions of their heavier counterparts, although the older weapons continued in service around the world through World War II and for decades thereafter.  In Germany, where heavy, water cooled Maxim-type guns had been forbidden by the victorious Allies, an entirely new generation of light machine guns was introduced by the Maschinengewehr 1934 and 1942. Recoil operated and fed 7.92 mm rifle ammunition on belts, these were equally effective when fired from bipods or when mounted on tripods for sustained fire. Firing at an extremely high rate (as high as 1,000 rounds per minute), they dealt with the overheating problem by being built with barrels that could be changed in seconds. The MG34 pioneered the quick change barrel mechanism, while the MG42, being fabricated largely of stamped sheet-metal parts welded and riveted together, could be made cheaply and quickly even in factories designed for automobile manufacture.

The Soviets began to issue their Degtyarev Pekhotny (DP) in 1933 and supplied it to Loyalist forces in the Spanish Civil War. In 1944 it was modified into the DPM. British infantry units fought World War II with the Bren, a .303 caliber version of a weapon designed by the Czech weapons maker Václav Holek, and U.S. troops relied on the BAR.  All were gas-operated and magazine fed and weighed from slightly over 20 pounds to more than 30 pounds loaded. They fired slowly enough to deliver accurate bursts from their bipods, 350-600 rounds per minute.

After the war, with assault rifle cartridges becoming standard issue in battlefield rifles, terms such as automatic rifle, light machine gun, and medium machine gun gave way to general purpose machine gun (GPMG) and squad automatic weapon (SAW).  Most GPMGs were chambered for the intermediate size 7.62 mm cartridges of NATO and the Soviet Union, while SAWs fired small caliber, high velocity rounds such as the 5.56mm NATO or the 5.45mm Kalashnikov. 

Significant belt fed GPMGs included the West German MG3, a modernized version of the MG42; the Mitrailleuse d'Appui Général (MAG), built by Fabrique Nationale of Belgium; the U.S. M60; and the Soviet Pulemyot Kalashnikova (PK). Of the LMG / SAWs, the most prominent were the belt or magazine-fed Minimi, built by Fabrique Nationale, and the magazine fed Ruchnoy Pulemyot Kalashnikova (RPK).

Light Machine Guns of World War I
1914 - 1918





Rate of Fire

Madsen 8mm 20 lbs magazine fed 450 rpm
German 1915 Muskete 7.92mm 21¾  lbs magazine fed 450 rpm
German Bergmann 7.92mm 30 lbs belt fed 600 rpm
German MG'08/18 7.92mm 32 lbs belt fed 600 rpm
Lewis Machine Gun .303 Brit 25 lbs drum magazine 5-600 rpm
French Chauchat (CSRG) 8mm 20 lbs magazine fed 250 rpm
Chauchat U.S. (American ) .30 Cal. 20 lbs magazine fed 250 rpm
Browning Automatic Rifle U.S.
American  (BAR Model 1918)
.30 Cal. 19½ lbs magazine fed 500 rpm



LINE OF SIGHT: An imaginary straight line from the eye, through the sights, to the point of aim.

LMG: Abbreviation for Light Machine Gun.

LOAD:  The combination of components used to assemble a cartridge or shotshell. The term also refers to the act of putting ammunition into a firearm.

LOADED:  A firearm is loaded when a cartridge is in its firing chamber. Generally used to refer to a gun that contains ammunition.   However, there are some legal subtleties.  For a semi-automatic, most people assume that when a gun is described as loaded there is a round in the chamber.  This may or may not be the case in technical legal terms as for any type of handgun, the firearm may be considered "legally loaded" if ammunition is attached to it in any way.  Review the laws of your jurisdiction to determine how they define the term loaded.  For safety reasons all firearms should be treated as if they are loaded at all times.  See the 4 Safety Rules.

LOADED CHAMBER INDICATOR:   A loaded chamber indicator is a small device found on some pistols which displays a warning when the chamber contains a cartridge. These were first developed for use in the early 1900s by European handgun manufactures. Often the chamber indicator is a small pin that is built into the mechanism of the pistol. When a cartridge is in the chamber, and the action is closed, the pin protrudes from the top, back, or side of the gun.   Abbreviated LCI.


Loaded chamber indicators or LCI's  have the potential to reduce unintended discharges in situations where the user was unaware that the pistol was loaded.  The user, however, must be aware that the pistol has the indicator, be able to recognize it when displayed, and respond appropriately to the information.  While the device acts passively, its effectiveness is limited by the human response. The effectiveness of this response is limited by the small size of the indicator, the potential for damage to the indicator, and the user's level of handgun education. Loaded chamber indicators do not prevent the unauthorized use of the handgun. These devices are not found on revolvers and are only found on a limited number of pistol models.  Most modern pistols include the LCI.

At the present time, no industry standard regulates the design or availability of loaded chamber indicators on handguns, however the Clinton HUD S&W agreement calls for such devices on all handguns.  Some states have mandated LCI's for handguns sold after 2003.

Treating all firearms as if they are always loaded will prevent negligent and unintended discharges.

Ratio of the volume of the powder charge to the volume of the case. The higher the better in terms of accuracy.


LOCK: The lock is the name of the firing mechanism of a firearm or gun. In this context the term  "Lock" should not be confused with the breech locking system which closes the rear end of the barrel of a breech loading weapon.  Although there have been a number of variations the lock has evolved through six main stages: Cannon Lock, Match Lock, Wheel Lock, Flint Lock, Percussion Lock and the modern Center Fire Cartridge.  For detailed information on each stage of lock development see: History and Development of the Lock below.

History and Development of the Lock
Special Thanks to "The Arquebus & Matchlock Musket Page" for information, graphics and lock animations.

The lock is the name of the firing mechanism of a firearm.  On older firearms the lock includes the hinge, the arm and the head or "cock" that moves an igniter down to the pan,  the pan itself and some form of mounting hardware that attach the lock to the firearm.  In this context the term lock should not be confused with the breech locking system which closes the rear end of the barrel of a breech loading weapon.  

Although there have been a number of variations and common names for similar ignition systems, the lock has evolved through six main stages.  They are in order of development and use: Cannon Lock, Match Lock, Wheel Lock, Flint Lock,  Percussion Lock and the modern center fire cartridge system.

The term "Lock Time" is still expressed to indicate the time taken by the firearm to discharge after the trigger is pulled.  The shorter the lock time the better as one is more likely to hit the point of aim if the load is discharged as soon gun is triggered.  Modern lock times are measured in fractions of a second.  See Lock Time below.

The Cannon Lock

The cannon lock was first used in small arms in Europe in 1346.  The cannon lock is the earliest known ignition system which survived on artillery pieces long after hand guns were fitted with more advanced locks. There is no form of mechanism in this type of lock.  After the weapon had been loaded by ramming powder, shot and wad into the barrel, priming powder was placed into a touch hole at the rear of the barrel and ignited by means of a piece of smoldering tow or wood.  

Simple Cannon Lock circa 1350

It is possible that the first small arms were small portable "hand cannon" fitted with a wooden staff and either fired by hand or rested on the ground or on a forked stick. During the 15th Century a great diversity of these weapons were developed. They became smaller and handier and were sometimes mounted in battle axes and maces.  The cannon locks were obviously vulnerable to weather and the weapons were difficult to aim and slow to load and discharge.

The Hand Cannon circa 1350


The earliest 'hand gonne' was developed in the fifteenth century, but was not a great
influence in battle. It was a small cannon with a touch-hole for ignition. It was unsteady, required that the user prop it on a stand, brace it with one hand against his chest and use his other hand to touch a lighted match to the touch-hole, and had an effective range of only about thirty to forty yards.  It surely must have taken iron nerves to use one of these against a charging knight, nearly within his lance's reach, when the powder might not even ignite.

The Match Lock

The first reliable description of a match-lock occurs in the early 15th Century.  Firearms or small arms were introduced into the English Army in the year 1471 and were all of a type of Matchlock Muskets.   Matchlocks retained the same means of ignition as the cannon-lock, a simple fuse that was lit, but matchlocks utilized a mechanical means of applying the burning "match" to the touch hole. The match was nothing more than a lit fuse made of cloth or twisted rope saturated in oil or black powder. 

British Matchlock Musket circa 1510

The match was secured on a curved arm and pressure on a lever beneath the butt stock would cause the arm to rotate forward and plunge the match into the primed touch hole.  This was a great step forward for now two hands were free to hold and steady the gun. 

Early Match Lock circa 1460
Note the "Trigger" and the "Serpentine Cock" are integral.

The next refinement to the Match Lock was to improve the arm or 'serpentine' as it was called, by spring loading it and arranging a trigger and trigger release so that the arm moved forward into the pan and backward away from the pan by mechanical means.

Advanced Match Lock circa 1500
Note the actuator arm is released by a internal trigger mechanism
and the pan cover is added to the flash pan to protect the powder.

The touch hole was improved by forming a flash pan to contain the priming powder and this pan was provided with a hinged cover to prevent the priming from getting wet or blowing away prior to ignition.  Oddly enough, it was during this this period that a certain amount of experimentation was made with both rifling and breech loading methods, but the early examples of this technology did not meet with any success.

The Wheel Lock

It is generally believed that the wheel-lock was invented in about 1517 in Nuremberg, Germany.  Leonardo da Vinci wrote a description of it and claims to have fired it.  All early specimens are of German manufacture. The mechanism was similar in principle to the modern mechanical Zippo cigarette lighter.  A serrated steel wheel was mounted near the flash pan, and a piece of iron pyrites fixed in a clamp was pressed against the periphery of the wheel. A spring was attached to the shaft of the wheel and a key was supplied to wind up the contraption prior to firing. The trigger secured the wheel in the wound up position. 

The Wheel Lock circa 1525

Pressure on the trigger released the wheel which revolved under the pressure of the spring and showered sparks into the priming pan.  Later the pyrites were replaced by flint, but the system remained unchanged. The advantages of the wheel lock were a more positive ignition decreased lock time and the trigger pressure was much shorter with a lighter pull weight than that of the match-lock.  This was of great assistance in the steadying and aiming of the weapon. 

Wheel Lock Musket circa 1550

Wheel Lock Pistol circa 1525

The wheel-lock was not generally put to military use as it was expensive to make and required considerable skill in maintaining it in a serviceable condition.

The Flint Lock

The flint-lock was a natural development from the wheel lock and had none of its disadvantages.  It was easily constructed, easy to maintain, safe to use and rugged in its construction.  Flint Locks first appeared in England in the first half of the 16th Century and the early form was referred to as the 'Snaphaunce'.  This word probably came from the Dutch 'Snappen' to snap and 'haan' a cock, as in  chicken. 

Flint Lock ignition system

The most highly developed flint-locks included a cover to the pan which also incorporated the steel striking plate; the falling cock carried the flint in a small clamp, which simultaneously struck the steel striking plate and uncovered the pan, showering sparks down on the priming powder.  

Flint Lock Rifle circa 1750

It was in about 1690 when the flint-lock superseded the match-lock in the British Army.  All of Marlborough's campaigns were fought with it and there was little change in it until well after Waterloo.  The Americans were faster to adopt the flintlock as they did not have a large number of matchlocks in any existing or standing army.

Flintlock Pistol circa 1700

The most famous example of this flintlock system in America was in the Kentucky Rifle, commonly used in battle and on the frontier.  Kentucky Rifles were actually made in Pennsylvania, mostly by German and Dutch immigrants.  

Click the image to enlarge
Flintlock Rifle circa 1775-1776
 Made in Pennsylvania for the Kentucky Frontier

A typical Kentucky Long Rifle was a .50 caliber, with a full stock made of curly maple, and sported a 42 to 46 inch rifled barrel. A crescent-shaped butt plate, patch box and cheek piece were also common and are helpful in identifying a KY/PA long rifle.  The long rifle was a prime factor in several revolutionary era battles, especially in the West.

The flint-lock remained the principal firearm ignition and lock system for more than 200 years.  It could be aimed to hit a man at 50 yards and a trained soldier could reach a rate of fire of three shots a minute.  One of the most important firearms in American history, the Kentucky (or Pennsylvania) Long Rifle was the most accurate long-range gun for several decades. 

The flintlock was developed in the early 1600's.  By the late 1600's gunsmiths were experimenting with longer, more accurate rifled barrels.  After the French and Indian War brought new lands to the attention of the American frontiersmen, the uniquely American long-range rifles were carried into the frontier (at that time Kentucky) by the long hunters, trappers and explorers. The actual name "Kentucky Long Rifle" was first used in an 1812 song titled "The Hunters of Kentucky". 

The Percussion Lock

The Reverend Alexander Forsyth, a Scottish Minister, invented the percussion method of discharging a firearm.  The Reverend was an avid duck hunter and was put off by the fact that ducks were spooked to flight by the flint hitting the pan, prior to ignition of the load.  In 1805  Reverend Forsythe built a new lock mechanism using a fulminate of mercury cap as a means of igniting the charge.  

Typical Percussion Lock

Research had been carried out by the French into the use of fulminates as a substitute for black powder and also as ignition agents.   In 1808, Pauly from Geneva, working in Paris, did some useful work on fulminate ignition caps.  The percussion cap ignited the load almost instantaneously decreasing lock time and increasing accuracy.  The advantage of percussion ignition was immediately recognized by the majority of leading British, German and American gunsmiths and numerous types of percussion locks were soon developed.  The percussion lock also made great progress in keeping the ignition powder dry as the percussion caps were much less susceptible to rain or moisture.  The percussion rifle was the first all weather rifle.

The most common type of percussion-lock consisted of a hollow nipple screwed into the barrel on which was placed a small copper cap or pellet containing fulminate of mercury, and as the trigger was pulled the hammer rotated downwards crushing the cap. The fulminate exploded under the blow producing a flame which traveled down the hollow nipple and ignited the charge in the barrel.

Conversion from flint-lock to percussion lock was a simple matter of changing the old cock with its clamp that held the flint for a slightly capped hammer and removing the flash pan and cover and replacing it with a hollow nipple. A number of British and American service flint-locks were converted in this manner until the percussion system became available in sufficient quantity.

Inside the Lock

Virtually all muzzleloader locks are internally the same. There are variations from one type to the next, but conceptually they all work in identical fashion.  The three major components of a lock are: the mainspring, which may be flat, V-shaped or coil type; the tumbler, which is notched and projects through the lock plate to the hammer; and the sear, which pivots its tip into the notches of the tumbler and holds the lock in the half-cock or full-cock position. 

As the hammer is drawn back, the tumbler rotates clockwise allowing the sear to ride along the bottom of the tumbler until it clicks into the first notch: the half-cock or safety notch. When the hammer is set in a secure half-cock notch, it should be IMPOSSIBLE to fire or move the hammer by pulling the trigger. If the hammer is then drawn back further, the sear will click into the second notch: the full-cock notch. The gun is now ready to be fired. 

With the gun in the full-cock position, the trigger pressure will push upward on the rear portion of the sear to push the sear tip out of the full-cock notch. The tumbler will then rotate in a counter-clockwise direction under the pressure of the mainspring and drop the hammer to fire the gun. 

The Center Fire Cartridge

The percussion lock led up to the development of the modern center fire cartridge. The principle is the same but the cap hitherto affixed to an external nipple on the barrel, was now mounted in the base of a metal cartridge case, containing the charge and the bullet; the original separate items: charge, wad, bullet and cap, were now all combined into one unit, called a 'round' or a cartridge.

There was of course, intermediate stages in cartridge development.  In 1846 an efficient cartridge was developed whereby the charge and bullet were contained in a metal case; inside the base of this case at its rear end was located the cap; a pin which protruded from the outside of the case and internally to the cap, was struck by the hammer; this drove the pin into the cap and exploded it which in turn ignited the charge.  This system was commonly called the needle lock or needle gun and the  needle fire system.

The Rim Fire Cartridge

Rim fire cartridges were developed about the same time, but instead of having the fulminate contained in a cap inside the metal cartridge case, it was distributed around the rim of the cartridge case so that as the hammer or firing pin struck anywhere on the periphery of the base of the case. the ignition charge was fired.  This rim fire system is still used on .22 caliber cartridges commonly used in small bore rifles and pistols.

Boxer Primed and Berdan Primed

The center fire cartridge originated from an 1852 design by Charles Lancaster. His principle was different from the modern although it demonstrated the immense advantages of the center fire system.  In 1861 an improved cartridge was introduced by Daw, an English gun maker (the patent of F. E. Schneider of Paris).  Colonel Boxer patented a modified form in which the cartridge case was made of thin sheet brass coiled up and mounted on an iron disc which formed the base.  This was the 'Boxer' cartridge used in the Snider rifle and still in wide use today.

About 1882 'solid drawn brass cases' were being manufactured instead of the built-up case, and in 1870 Colonel Hiram Berdan of the U.S. Ordnance Department introduced a solid drawn brass bottle-necked cartridge with the head of the case thickened to contain a recess known as the cap chamber, which formed an integral nipple in the center acting as an anvil and a flash hole drilled on either side.  The manufacture of the cap chamber is a simple punching process.  Today a rather odd situation exists with Britain using the American Berdan cap chamber, and the USA preferring the Boxer cap with a separate component for an anvil and a single central fire hole.

For the sake of reloading it is simple to remember that "Boxer Primed" cartridges are easy to reload and put back in the box.  Berdan Primed cartridges can be reloaded but require additional steps to ream the primer pocket and to re-form the case.

Animated Lock Graphics Copyright © 1999-2002, Arquebus & Matchlock Musket Page & J. E. Quest. All Rights Reserved. Used with express written permission of The Arquebus & Matchlock Musket Page URL:


LOCKBOX: Lockboxes are small, portable, safe-like boxes or cases specifically designed for the storage  and / or transport of handguns.  They allow easy access to the handgun and can be purchased with either keyed or combination locks. Many are designed to be permanently mounted in a variety of locations.   Since they are  portable, lockboxes are not as secure as an immobile safe.   Lockboxes require the user to actively secure the handgun in the lockbox.


   Typical Lockbox

When a handgun is properly secured in a lockbox, it is virtually impossible to unintentionally discharge the weapon.  A lockbox effectively prevents the unauthorized use of the gun by children of any age, as well as unauthorized adults, as long as the child or unauthorized adult does not have access to the key or combination.

Your security is also relevant and with most designs, you can secure the handgun and gain entry to your gun in a matter of a split second or two.  The design above is made so the owner simply touch the key combination with the finger tips and the door pops open.  This design can also be bolted to a table or left mobile.  Similar models can be secured in a vehicle.

The lockbox is the device most often recommended by police and firearms instructors to prevent unauthorized access to a handgun.

The amount of time between when the trigger is pulled and the gun fires.  Generally, the faster the lock time the better, because this makes it easier to shoot accurately.  In order to obtain the fastest lock time, some guns have been built which set off the primer via an electric impulse, rather than through mechanical means.  The New Remington Model 700 EtronX is such an electronically fired rifle.  Another method of decreasing lock time is to install a special firing pin and firing pin spring like the David Tubbs Speed Lock system.

LOCKED BREECH:  A feature of some firearms in which the barrel and breech mechanism are mechanically locked together at the moment of firing, which reduces recoil.

LONG ACTION: A rifle action designed for longer or magnum cartridges.

LONG COLT (.45): A term used to improperly identify the .45 Colt cartridge originally designed for the Colt Single Action Army revolver.  In fact there is not such cartridge as the .45 Long Colt, even though it is commonly used by shooters and some cartridge manufacturers and reloading guides.  The proper cartridge designation is .45 COLT. Another case where Gun Slang has run amok.

LONG RANGE SHOOTING:  Generally considered shooting at distances over 300 yards or meters.  Some sources take the distance out to 500 yards.  It should be noted that many "people" claim long shots and brag about the distance from their imagination factory to there prized game shot in another county and at unimaginable ranges. Of course they did not have a means to measure the shot or are simply full of themselves and the 30 caliber wonder slug.

In most cases, good hunters and certainly all professional hunters and game guides, the long shot bragging ritual is the sign of a true amateur, an idiot or simply a liar.  Not only is it very difficult to hit a game sized target at such long ranges, but taking a shot at a living animal at such long range is inhumane and unethical.  You will have a very good chance of missing and or wounding the animal.  If wounded, you will not be able to close the distance and perform a humane kill.  Humane hunting includes the aspects of tracking and stalking of game. Closing on your game and making a very sound and certain kill shot so as not to cause injury or suffering.  Long shots should be for long range 1000 yard shooting competitions and for shooting at paper targets for fun and to refine and study ballistics and the specific performance of your long range rifle. So the next time you encounter a great long shot shooter, you know you have encountered either a liar or an unethical hunter.  I am not sure which one is worse, but I have a very strong dislike for both of them.


by Geoffrey Kolbe

Some history

 In 1907, a great revolution took place in match rifle shooting. For some time the .303 cartridge with a 'Palma' 225 grain bullet had been almost ubiquitous along the firing point. (In those days, any 'military' cartridge was allowed.) Despite its great weight, the bullet had the Metford shape, which was very blunt, and this resulted in a ballistic coefficient of only 0.44 which, combined with a leisurely muzzle velocity of 2350 ft/sec. made for very poor performance beyond 1000 yards.

 Meanwhile, the Germans had been experimenting with pointed bullets of the sort which we are familiar with today, and discovered that they had a great deal less drag than the blunt bullets used hitherto. Today, it is difficult to imagine the shock wave that went around the world as the results of these experiments became known. A certain Captain Hardcastle (whose name was to become quite familiar in the shooting world) had access to bullet making plant at the Chilworth Gunpowder Company and, on reading an account of the German results, went straight out and... 'took the heaviest bullet used in .303 and put onto it the best point that I could hear of.'

 The result was the 'Swift' bullet. This bullet had a 14 caliber tangent ogive nose whose point had a radius of .020". It was flat based, (the advantages of boat-tails were not discovered until much later), and weighed in at 225 grains. Its ballistic coefficient was 0.67, giving it only two thirds the drag of its 'Palma' counterpart.

 History relates that on 29th of May, 1907 Hardcastle shot the English Eight meeting at Bisley as a Tyro, using the 'Swift' bullet. In a strong right hand wind he won the match with 135 out of 150 points - second place scoring 129. In the Scottish meeting, a new world record of 223 out of 225 was scored using the new bullet, (though not by Captain Hardcastle). The Cambridge Match was won without a point being dropped and when the Bisley meeting opened on July 8th, everybody had changed over to ammunition with the 'Swift' bullet!

 I relate this little tale because for many years now the ubiquitous bullet seen across the range in MR shooting has been the 190 grain Sierra Match King. Its ballistic coefficient is 0.56, giving it 20 % more drag than the 'Swift' of 90 years ago! Surely, surely we can come up with something better?

 Of course we can. But curiously, I find MR shooters very reluctant to move away from the 190 Sierra they know and love, throwing up all sorts of excuses and spurious advantages that the 190 Sierra gives. Anyway, I predict that there will be a revolution of the sort that happened in 1907 and that within two years, nobody will be using the 190 grain Sierra.

The best bullet for the Job

 In long range target shooting, or target shooting at any distance for that matter, what do we look for on a cartridge/bullet combination? We want minimum group size and minimum wind drift. That's it. Muzzle velocity, time of flight, flatness of trajectory are not matters that should concern us - though a lot of MR shooters seem to spend a lot of time worrying about them.

 In MR shooting, we are confined to using the .308 Winchester case. While there are a few wrinkles that can stretch performance using this case, which I will talk about later, the main influence on performance over which we have complete control is the choice of bullet. The 190 grain Sierra gives good results up to 1100 yards, where it is still supersonic, but as it goes subsonic on its way to 1200 yards, the group size can increase dramatically. The standard solution to this problem has been to increase the powder charge to primer popping proportions, trying to keep the bullet supersonic at 1200 yards.

 Alas, it has all been in vain. John Carmichael has recently masterminded a wonderful set of ballistic measurements in which he and his team have measured the down-range velocities of a variety of bullets at ranges of up to 1200 yards. The results for the 190 grain Sierra are shown in Table I. It can be seen that despite running at chamber pressures of 50,000 psi, (quite stiff!!) velocities at 1200 yards were still subsonic. It is easy to see why people thought they were supersonic at 1200 yards when we look at the predictions using Ingalls tables based on the Mayevski drag curves. (So why are the Mayevski drag curves still used? - See my article in the 1995 Spring NRA Journal). In these, predicted 1200 yds terminal velocities, at 1200 ft/sec., are comfortably supersonic and achievable with a 2700 ft/sec. muzzle velocity.

Table l: Measured velocities through the ranges (Courtesy JH Carmichael),
Velocity at 200 300 400 500 600 800 900 1000 1100 1200
Berger 210 measured 2566 2280 2131 1986 1845 1736 1515 1394 1288 1190 1099
Sierra 190 measured 2716 2404 2232 2077 1905 1775 1497 1367 1254 1157 1076
Mayevski BC = 0.56 2716 2407 2249 2104 1965 1831 1585 1472 1369 1277 1196
Powley BC = 0.56 2716 2389 2220 2063 1912 1766 1496 1372 1258 1154 1060
Pejsa BC = 0.56 2716 2395 2230 2078 1932 1792 1526 1401 1284 1178 1094

By way of comparison, Table I shows predictions for the 190 grain Sierra using the Powley drag curve and also the those predicted using the Pejsa drag curve. I leave you to decide which is the best fit - but both are a vast improvement on the almost-always-used Mayevski/Ingalls drag curves. So the 190 grain Sierra bullet is not supersonic at 1200 yards out of a .308 Win case and never has been in the history of MR shooting, despite the use of excessive loads to try and make it so. How do we get around this problem? Well, have a look at Table 2.

Table 2
Bullet Weight 150 155 168 180 190 200 210 220 230 240 250 300
Ballistic Coefficient .45 .46 .50 .53 .56 .60 .62 .65 .68 .71 .74 .89
Muzzle Velocity 3002 2981 2866 2762 2700 2632 2569 2517 2460 2413 2370 2163
Velocity 1200 yds 953 978 1017 1040 1061 1083 1099 1114 1123 1136 1149 1167
10 mph Drift (MOA) 13.7 13.2 12.4 11.9 11.5 11.0 10.7 10.4 10.1 9.8 9.5 8.6

This shows computed muzzle velocities, terminal velocities and wind drifts for a variety of bullet weights fired from .308 Win cases in a 30" barrel. A bullet form factor of i = 0.51 and a chamber pressure of 50,000 psi. is assumed. The Powley drag curve was used to predict 1200 yard velocities. The table was created using a bullet shape which is pretty constant across the Sierra range. Namely an 8 caliber tangent ogive nose with a .050" meplat and a boat-tail. Sierra change the weight (and so ballistic coefficient) of the bullet by essentially just adding more length to the parallel part of the bullet. This is modeled here by keeping the form factor the same at 0.51 and, of course, the diameter the same at .308". The ballistic coefficient then just depends on the bullet weight. The result is quite striking. As the bullet weight goes up the muzzle velocity goes down - as expected, but the terminal velocity goes up and the wind drift goes down as we increase the bullet weight. And there is no apparent turn over where the bullet weight gets so big that the long range ballistics suffer.

 You do not believe me? Look at Table 1 again and see what John Carmichael measured using the 210 grain Berger bullet. Lower muzzle velocity, but higher terminal velocity, just as predicted.

 You should not be afraid of using big heavy bullets whose muzzle velocities are sauntering rather than stupefying. The .303 British case has a capacity very similar to the .308 Win. and yet, as we have seen, our forefathers were quite happy to use bullets much heavier than anything MR shooters are willing to contemplate today. 250 Grain Sierra bullets are still available and if you used these you would be 90 ft/ sec. faster than the 190 Sierra at 1200 yards in the same rifle (provided it had an 8" twist barrel) and using the same amount of (somewhat slower) powder to give you the same chamber pressures.

 But it has long been known that there are much better nose shapes than the 8 caliber tangent ogive. Secant ogive bullets were played with by Hardcastle and it is now known that in general, a bullet with a secant ogive nose will have less drag than one of the same weight but with a tangent ogive nose of the same length. Bullets of this shape have been available for a while as VLD (Very Low Drag) bullets and more are on the way. They offer significant advantages over tangent ogive Sierra type bullets of the same weight. For instance, a 208 grain .30 cal bullet with a tangent ogive nose and a ballistic coefficient of 0.75 available from Wayne Anderson, an American manufacturer. I know that Berger has a 230 grain bullet on the drawing board with a ballistic coefficient of 0.85. Under Table 2 conditions the 1200 yard velocity for this bullet would be 1331 ft/sec. and the 10 mph wind drift 7.4 minutes. Now there is a bullet you can drool over!

 The lesson to learn here is summed up in my first aphorism:

'When choosing a bullet for long range target shooting, find the bullet with the largest ballistic coefficient and use that. If there are two bullets with the same ballistic coefficient, use the Lighter one'

 This, of course, is just a restatement of Hardcastle's criterion of 90 years ago.

Squeezing the best ballistics from your Match Rifle (and staying legal)

 The thing to emphasize straight away is that you gain little by increasing the muzzle velocities using the highest-chamber-pressures-the-rifle-will-stand route. The faster a bullet goes, the faster it slows down. Extra velocity gained at the muzzle does not translate to extra terminal velocity of the same amount. For example, take the 190 gr. Sierra bullet. When pushed with a moderate load in a 30" barrel you will get about 2600 ft/sec.. At 1200 yards the velocity will be around 1010 ft/sec. and the wind drift for a 10 mph would will be 12.3 minutes. Now stuff the powder in until the primers start to pop and you will get about 2700 ft/ sec. for your muzzle velocity - an extra 100 ft/sec. But at 1200 yards your terminal velocity has only gone up by 50 ft/sec. to 1060 ft/sec. and the wind drift for the same wind will be 0.8 minutes less at 11.5 minutes. Given that your group, at this range, will be no smaller than a minute of angle (with this bullet), it is doubtful if you would even notice the difference. Where you will notice the difference is in the life of your cases and your barrel!

 It is very important, in Match Rifle shooting, to minimize the instabilities that every bullet suffers in flight. Like a gyroscope, the bullet will yaw and precess as it spins on its way down the range. A certain minimal amount of this precession is required to keep the bullet 'tracking', keeping it pointing along its trajectory. If the bullet did not precess and went completely to sleep' then it would maintain its launch angle throughout its trajectory, which means that on the final part of the flight, when it is descending, it would still be pointing up, thus presenting a much larger cross section and substantially increasing drag. This is the extreme case of what happens when the bullet is spun so fast that the stability factor 's' is greater than about 3. The gyroscopic forces will prevent the bullet from tracking and the drag goes through the roof for the final part of the trajectory. If the precession is greater than that required to keep the bullet tracking then the result is again an increased effective cross section, giving increased drag and leading to disappointing ballistic performance.

 To keep precession at the right level the first thing is to keep the stability factor from around 1.1 to 1.5 for your bullet of choice. Do not use the Greenhill formula to calculate the rate of twist you need, use of this formula is pretty much guaranteed to give you a twist that will stabilize the bullet. But, especially with secant ogive or VLD bullets, Greenhill's formula can suggest twists that will over stabilize the bullet, preventing it tracking well at long range. The computation is not a trivial one, but there are computer programs available which will do this. (See the 'Programs' section of this website.)

 The next thing is to minimize in-bore yaw and keep good control of the launch ballistics. What am I talking about? If the bullet assumes some angle inside the barrel then you have in bore yaw. This is not good because on launch (exiting the muzzle) this yaw translates into precession and so increased drag. Secant ogive VLD bullets seem particularly susceptible to this problem and this may be overcome by loading the bullet out to such a length that the bullet touches the lands in the throat of the barrel. This keeps the bullet well centered on entry into the barrel. It is, of course, also important to load the bullet using an in line seating die or some method that keeps the bullet straight when loaded into the case.

You will also reduce your SD's by using some form of bore lubricant, usually molybdenum disulfide in some form. The new 'Black Diamond' range of ammunition from Norma uses the NECO process of coating the bullets with a film of molybdenum disulfide, but you can probably do just as well by smearing a little molybdenum disulfide grease around the junction of the bullet and the case neck of your loaded rounds.

 Launch ballistics are what happens when the bullet exits the muzzle. A blast of supersonic gas washes over the back end of the bullet and if there is much turbulence or the gas flow is not even over the bullet then it can be upset, inducing yaw and subsequent precession which as we now know, is bad for drag. Boat-tail bullets suffer more from this than flat based bullets, which is why flat based bullets are generally more accurate than boat-tailed ones. The back end of a boat-tailed bullet spends relatively much more time `exiting' the muzzle than a flat based one and so there is more time for the bullet to upset. A good, even crown will ensure that the gas flow over the bullet is even. The 11 degree, so called 'Bench Rest', crown provides a good interface with the boundary of the shock wave from the escaping gases, (so the theory goes), and so minimizes turbulence. Keeping the muzzle pressures down also results in better launch ballistics. Using faster powders gives you lower muzzle pressures, but usually at the expense of muzzle velocity. Or you can use a longer barrel. Longer barrels will give lower muzzle pressures with the benefit of increased muzzle velocity.

 Barrels longer than 30" do not result in vast increases in muzzle velocity for the .308 Win. case. For example, a 35" barrel will give you about 50 ft/sec. more than a 30" barrel. The stiffness, (and so inherent accuracy), of the barrel decreases as the fourth power of the length. It does not take many extra inches to give you a barrel with all the stiffness of a piece of spaghetti! But. . . you do get lower muzzle pressures which helps the launch ballistics and, by way of a bonus, the SD of the MV's seems to drop dramatically too. The weight limit (in the rules) for a Match Rifle barrel is the limiting factor on how far one can go in this direction, but stiffness can be maintained to a degree by the use of heavily fluted barrels. Another solution is to bed the rifle on a barrel block situated in the middle of the barrel, instead of on the action as usual. This reduces the effective cantilever length of the barrel substantially and so greatly increases its stiffness. This technique is much favored by 1000 yards bench rest shooters, who look for ten shot group sizes of the order of 3" or better! MR barrels are now being fitted that are over 34" long, early indications are that these barrels give much enhanced performance, at 1200 yards, over a 30" barrel.

 As I write, the Match Rifle committee seems set to introduce a chamber gauge into which your empty case (or loaded round) must fully enter. This is to police the rule which says that you must use a standard .308 Win. or 7.62 x 51 NATO chamber. The gauge is reamed to the maximum dimensional tolerances of the chamber drawings that fall within the rule. By fire-forming cases in such a chamber it is possible to get about 4 % extra volume over a case of standard dimensions. This means you can get two grains more powder into the case, which translates, for a 200 grain bullet, to a muzzle velocity 50 ft/sec. greater Extra case volume can also be created by having the throat of the chamber pushed forward so that the bullet is only minimally held by the neck. By pushing the throat forward 0.1 " over a standard chamber you gain about another 3 % of volume and another 40 ft/sec.

 So what sort of performance can we expect, using fire-formed cases in a 34" barrel with a chamber reamed to the maximum size permitted and the throat pushed forward as far as we dare? We can then shovel in enough powder to give us a stiff 50,000 psi chamber pressure that does not leave us poking about for dropped primers. For a 210 grain bullet, the muzzle velocity would be about 2660 ft/sec. and for a bullet with a ballistic coefficient of 0.75 we should expect a velocity of 1350 ft/sec at 1200 yards, comfortably supersonic. It should be extremely accurate and all without the proof load chamber pressures to which some find it necessary to resort. Wind deflection for a 10 mph wind is just 7.7 minutes. This wind drift is only two thirds of that experienced by the 190 grain Sierra from a 30" barrel, putting this another way, the drift to be expected from a 190 Sierra at 900 yards! All this is possible - Today!


 Technologically speaking, there is a lot more juice to be squeezed out of the Match Rifle rules than most people seem to appreciate. I hope this will have given you a flavor of what is possible within the MR rules. I have not even talked about what you can do with sabot ammunition, (which, although in fact allowed under the MR rules of combat, would no doubt leave the MR committee scratching their collective heads), but that will have to wait until another time.

What cartridge should I use in my Any Rifle?

 The Any Rifle match allows you to use the cartridge of your choice, within limits, and so exposes one to an agony of choice not experienced by Match Rifle purists. The process of choosing is that of comparing one cartridge case against another, one caliber against another and one bullet against all others in the various cartridge/caliber combinations! To help out, here is a second aphorism.

`Regardless of caliber, bullets of the same ballistic coefficient will have the same muzzle velocity when fired from barrels of the same length - provided the ratio of case capacity to bullet weight is the same.'

 Table 3 shows what I mean. For bullets having a 0.5 ballistic coefficient I show a variety of case and bullet combinations that will give 3000 ft/sec. for a variety of calibers, all with 30" barrels. All these cartridges will have the same ballistic performance. That is the same muzzle velocity, the same terminal velocity and the same wind drift at any range.

 The only assumption made is that all the bullets have the same shape and so the same form factor. But it transpires that this is a pretty good assumption across the range of target type tangent ogive bullets. If in a comparison you find that the case capacity to bullet weight ratio is higher for one combination than the other, then that combination will have the higher muzzle velocity and so a superior ballistic performance.

 Take, for example, the RG NATO 7.62 ammo against a .223 Remington case loaded with a 70 grain .224 caliber Berger bullet. The RG 143 grain bullet has a ballistic coefficient of 0.42, as does the 70 grain .224 Berger bullet. The case capacity of the RG case is 55 grains of water and that of a .223 Remington case is 28.5 grains of water. Which cartridge will have the superior ballistic performance? The ratio of case capacity to bullet weight for the .223 Rem. cartridge is .41 while it is .38 for the RG 7.62 ammo. The .223 Rem case with the 70 grain Berger bullet is the better combination. In fact, the muzzle velocity for this cartridge will be about 150 ft/sec. faster than the RG 7.62 ammo and so at all ranges it will have less wind drift - and also be more accurate. There have been those who have written that the .223 Rem somehow hits a brick wall at between 400 and 600 yards (depending on the author) and that there is no point in trying it at long range. On the contrary, this particular cartridge/ bullet combination will outperform the 7.62 RG ammo every day of the week!

Table 3 Comparison of calibers

Calibre Bullet Weight (BW)  Case Capacity (C) C/BW Cartridge
.224 90.0 40 .446 22-250 Rem
.243 105.4 46 .436 No Example
.264 124.4 56 .450 6.5-284 Win
.284 144 64 .444 284 Win
.308 169 75 .444 30-06 Improved
.338 203 91 .448 8mm Rem Mag necked down

Ballistic coefficient = 0.5. Form Factor i = 0.51

 Muzzle velocity = 3,000 ft/sec. Barrel Length 30".

This article was first printed in the Spring 1996 issue of the NRA Journal. It has been altered here to correct a few small errors and to make it more suitable as a stand-alone article.

Used with express written permission - Copyright © Geoffrey Kolbe 1998, all rights reserved.



Designation for .22 caliber rim fire ammunition that is the longest length and highest velocity of the .22 family (excluding the .22 magnum).  Abbreviated LR.

LOW READY: A shooting position where the shooter holds the gun pointed downrange and angled downward at 45 degrees.   Starting at the "Low Ready" is sometimes used as a substitute for drawing from a holster at shooting ranges or events where drawing is not allowed.

LUBE DENT: A dent in a cartridge case caused by using too much lubricant when resizing.

LUBE PAD: A pad, impregnated with lubricant, on which cases are rolled before resizing.

LUBRICANT: Case sizing lubricant is used to reduce friction between the case and die during the resizing operation in reloading.

LUGER: American name for the German "Parabellum" semiautomatic pistol introduced in 1900.  The Parabellum was designed by George Luger, and based on the earlier Borchardt pistol.   The official German military nomenclature was "Pistole '08" or "Po8."  At first, it was chambered for the 7.65mm Parabellum round.   Soon, it was modified to use the 9mm Parabellum cartridge, which is what most people refer to today when talking about a "9mm."  "Luger" is now a trademark owned by the Stoeger Arms Co.  The artillery Luger was a German 9 mm calibre automatic pistol introduced in 1917. It took a 8-round box magazine. Note: "Parabellum" means "For War" from the Latin.

History of the Luger Pistol

Luger Pistol circa 1910

I. Hugo Borchardt and the C/93

The Luger's direct ancestor, the Borchardt C/93 self-loading pistol was, one of the very earliest viable semiautomatic pistols available in any quantity. It was designed by Hugo Borchardt while in the employ of Ludwig Loewe & Co, Karlsruhe, Germany. The pistol fired a round with the same dimensions as the 7.63 Mauser cartridge, but a weaker powder charge. It should be noted that the Mauser semiautomatic pistol for which that cartridge is named was actually designed later at Mauser by the Feederle brothers, using ammunition provided by Ludwig Loewe and Co. While the Borchardt is similar to the Luger in the most important way, the use of toggle-action, the Borchardt pistol differs significantly from the Luger. The Borchardt features a straight up-and-down grip, and a bulky protrusion behind and above the grip that houses the mainspring and toggle mechanism. It is also rather larger overall than the Luger. It was never produced in very large quantities.

II. George Luger and the Parabellum Cartridge

While the Borchardt was a fine target arm, it was cumbersome and somewhat fragile, unsuited for use as a military side arm. George Luger, an employee of Loewe & Co., took the Borchardt pistol as a starting point for designing the first pistols resembling what we would call a "Luger." The changes he made included development of a new cartridge, the 7.65 Parabellum or 7.65x23 cartridge (also called .30 Luger in USA), which is a 2mm shorter version of the Borchardt cartridge with a different powder charge. (The 7.63 Mauser has a 25mm case). In addition to the new cartridge, Luger also redesigned the complex mechanism behind the grip. He retained the toggle-locking action of the Borchardt, but replaced the Borchardt's bizarre mainspring and the large housing it necessitated with a leaf spring in the grip, improving the balance of the pistol. He also angled the grip for better point ability. A grip safety was added to the rear of the frame by 1904.

After making the changes described above, Loewe vigorously sought military contracts for production of the pistol. The first major success came in Switzerland, which adopted the Luger as its service pistol in 1900, in the 7.65 caliber.  Switzerland produced Lugers for army use at an arms factory in Bern. Swiss pistols can be identified by the Swiss federal cross above the chamber. A number of other countries evaluated the Luger (including the USA, for which Loewe & Co. manufactured a number of Lugers in caliber .45ACP. The Luger was defeated in trials by the Colt-Browning that became the model 1911). Lugers were also sold commercially in this period, but the Luger was never a big seller due to its' high cost.

In an attempt to allay concerns about poor stopping power with such a small-caliber bullet, George Luger developed a second cartridge, the 9mm Parabellum. The 9mm Parabellum also goes by the names 9mm Luger and 9x19mm, and is distinct from a number of other cartridges that use the designation "9mm" in their names (such as 9mm short, 9mm Makarov, 9mm largo). The 9mm Parabellum cartridge case has the same base dimensions as the 7.65x23 Parabellum cartridge, but is not necked down, and is shorter, only 19mm long. A number of design changes to the Luger were made in the early 1900's, including replacing the leaf mainspring with a coil spring, and deleting the grip safety. Some pistols were produced with a lug to attach a shoulder stock. The so-called "new model" Luger of 1904 in caliber 9mm Parabellum was accepted by the German navy and later the army and designated the P08. Thereafter, German military sales accounted for the vast majority of Lugers ever produced.

In the pre-WWI period Lugers were produced by the German government arms factory in Erfurt as well as by Loewe's company, which was at that time named Deutsche Waffen- und Munitionsfabriken (DWM). The DWM monogram or Erfurt Crown logo can be found on the toggle of the pistols they manufactured (Usually. In the world of Luger markings there are always exceptions). The Luger was the standard German side arm throughout World War I. Luger production continued sporadically during the post-war period, in part due to restrictions on German arms manufacture imposed by the Treaty of Versailles. The allies permitted official production to begin in 1925 at Simson and company. Simson, however, was owned by Jews, and the company was liquidated when the Nazis came into power. The Luger manufacturing machinery was purchased by Krieghoff. Mauser purchased DWM's Luger manufacturing machinery in 1929, and produced Lugers until the later part of World War II. The Luger was officially replaced for German military use in 1940 by the Walther P38 double-action 9mm Parabellum pistol, but certainly Lugers saw service throughout the war.

Switzerland replaced the Luger with more modern designs in the late 1940's, which ended the era of use of the Luger as a service pistol. Lugers continued to be used as police side arms in the German Democratic Republic, which refurbished a number of existing guns (see below). 

A number of revivals have occurred in the post-war years. In the 1960's, a .22 caliber blowback toggle-action Luger was produced by ERMA, a successor of the Erfurt company. Mauser produced a series of Lugers somewhat similar to the Swiss military model in the early 1970's. In the USA, Stoeger, which has owned the Luger trademark in the USA since the 1920's began in 1980 to sell newly manufactured stainless steel Lugers. These are still in production, to the best of my knowledge.


The most distinctive feature of these pistols is undoubtedly the toggle-lock mechanism, which holds the breech closed by locking in a manner not unlike the human knee, which can sustain a heavy weight when straight, but once bent is quite easy to continue to bend. The toggle joint in its straight position resists the rearward force of the detonating cartridge, then "buckles" after enough time has passed. When a round is fired the entire breech, barrel and toggle move straight rearward (on rails) until the toggle begins to ride up on a pair of cams that "breaks" the toggle (makes it bend at the joint). Once the toggle joint is no longer straight, it bends freely, allowing the bolt to come rearward, and the striker to be cocked. The spent cartridge is extracted by a combination extractor / loaded chamber indicator on the top of the toggle, is ejected as the toggle nears the end of its rearward travel, and a new round is stripped from the magazine and chambered as the toggle is driven back to the straight position by a spring.

The Luger is a fairly complicated pistol, requiring quite a bit of precision hand-fitting to manufacture, and tight tolerances between parts. These things contribute to its' accuracy, but detract from reliability. Even for its' time, the Luger was considered complex, expensive, large, and powerful. These factors limited civilian sales especially, given the ubiquity of small, cheap Browning-style pistols.  Ultimately, even for military applications, more reliable and cheaper pistols replaced it. Even a little dirt on the exposed parts of the firing mechanism on the left side can cause failure to function. Remember also that the Luger was designed to feed only round-nosed bullets, and hollow-points will almost certainly cause problems. I recommend against doing any polishing or reshaping in an attempt to get hollow points to feed. Instead, find another pistol for personal defense, and enjoy the Luger for what it is. I have had best luck with a Remington 115 gr hollow-point whose bullet is contoured much like a standard metal-jacketed "ball" 9mm round, but reliability is still less than with FMJ.

LUP or L.U.P.:
  Abbreviation for Lead Unit of Pressure.  A pressure value determined by means of comparing standardized lead "crusher" cylinders, before and after exposure to a measured charge of explosive or gunpowder.  The LUP measurement was used to express chamber pressure or the pressure the expanding gasses exert on the interior parts of a firearm.  LUP measurements are generally obsolete replaced first by CUP or Copper Unit of Pressure measurements and then by modern Piezo electric measurements of actual pressure.

LYDDITE: A British explosive used for filling artillery shells during the South African War and the Great War (WW I). It was actually molten and cast picric acid, the name being adopted in order to conceal the nature of the substance and was taken from the initial trials which were conducted at Lydd, in southern England. 

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