Like many WWII American soldiers, Corporal Anderson collected a few trophies and gifts along the away. His record of items shipped home included a German hunting knife, a baby's dress and various other incidentals for family and friends. One thing not listed was a 9mm German Luger pistol. As CPL Anderson's grandson Chris Ellis remembers, "When I was young, I would go over to visit Poppa Carl and we would sit on his bed and he would show me how to take the Luger apart."
Unlike some of the other souvenirs Anderson acquired, he came about the Luger in a rather unique way. It seems CPL Anderson and several other soldiers were clearing a building in a German city. Anderson stepped around a corner and a German soldier began shooting at him with the Luger. A bullet grazed Anderson's neck, but he quickly returned fire with his rifle, killing the German. Figuring he'd earned it, CPL Anderson took the pistol and the holster. He carried it as his own the rest of the time he was in Germany. Chris added, "Pops told me he used the pistol frequently in combat."
Anderson's old Luger is in excellent shape and appears to have been manufactured in 1909. Unlike many of the military Lugers you see at gun shows, this pistol is of commercial manufacturer and both the holster and pistol are marked with what seems to be police unit markings. That being the case, it would be interesting to know how the German soldier came to be armed with the Luger. Or maybe, Pappa Carl shot it out with a German policeman. In any case, the Luger still functions perfectly and shoots very well.
The holster is complete with the loading tool and extra magazine—and all serial numbers match. Chris, curious to learn about the pistol, took it to a local collector who valued the gun and accessories—on the low end—at $2,500. I asked Chris what he thought about that and he said, "That's pretty cool, but they haven't printed enough money to buy Pop's pistol."
Chris and I stepped out to the range with a box of full metal jacket 9mm ammo. We took turns shooting the old Luger—and we were both smiling. I was enjoying triggering a piece of history, but Ellis, I'm sure, was thinking about something more special than the pistol we were handling.
I've got to shoot a lot of old guns in my time. In South Africa I shot a rifle picked up off a battlefield during the Boer War. A cousin let me shoot a traditional muzzleloader his great grandfather made and, every now and again, I'll take my grandfather's old pistol out and pop off a few rounds.
However, pulling the trigger on that old Luger, a pistol an American GI took from his enemy and then used to stay alive, was special. It just might be the coolest pistol I've ever fired.
Many families own old firearms with a history and, like Ellis, will hand his grandpa's pistol down to his son. Take the time to record the history of these firearms so the next generation can appreciate their history and pass the story on down the line.