REVOLVERS & PISTOLS PART 1:

Parabellum & Lahti L-35

 

 

7,65 mm Pistol M/23 and 9 mm Pistol M/08 Parabellum:

(Selbstladepistole "Parabellum", kaliber 7,65 mm)

(9 mm Parabellum-pistole Modell 1908, P-08)

PICTURE: Parabellum M/23 with shoulder stock attached. This pistol is standard M/23 pistol - with its normal barrel. When equipped with shoulder stock the pistol basically became a small carbine of sort, which was easier to shoot in somewhat longer distances than just pistol. When not in use shoulder stock was carried attached to pistol holster, but apparently made carrying the pistol somewhat clumsy, which is probably why the shoulder stocks are often missing in wartime photos. (Photo taken in Viestimuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (55 KB).

PICTURE: Parabellum M/23 in its normal original form - 7.65 mm x 21 caliber and with gun barrel slightly shorter than four inches. (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (71 KB).

Calibre:

7,65 x 21 Parabellum (.30 Luger)

Length:

210 mm / 213 mm / 215 mm / 225 mm (*)

Barrel length:

95 mm / 98 mm / 100 mm / 120 mm (*)

Weight:

890 g

Magazine:

8, removable

Official abbreviations:

"7,65 pist/23" and "765 PIST 23"

Country of origin:

Germany

Prototype:

Parabellum m/1900 prototype in 1898

(*) Originally German manufacturs had manufactured two barrel lengths for these pistols - 95-mm and 98-mm. Later Finnish manufacturers Sako and Tikkakoski manufactured also 100-mm and 120-mm long replacement barrels for them.

PICTURE: Parabellum M/08. This pistol has safety on, which reveals the German-language text GESICHERT (SAFE) blocked by safety switch, when it is off. Finnish Army listed 7.65-mm Parabellum pistols as pistols M/23, while 9-mm Parabellum pistols were listed as pistol M/08. This particular pistol seems to have Tikkakoski-manufactured 9-mm barrel, which is 96-mm long. (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (118 KB).

Calibre:

9 mm x 19 Parabellum/Luger

Length:

214 mm / 210 mm / 234 mm (**)

Barrel length:

100 mm / 96 mm / 120 mm(**)

Weight:

900 g

Magazine:

8, removable

Official abbreviations:

"9,00 pist/08" and "900 PIST 08"

Country of origin:

Germany

Prototype:

Parabellum m/1900 prototype in 1898

(**) Original barrel length for normal P-08 pistol was 100-mm. Tikkakoski made 9 mm x 19 calibre replacement barrels were manufactured in two lengths: 96-mm and 120-mm.

Finnish use: Finnish military acquired 8,000 7,65-mm Pistol M/23 in 1920's. The first delivery of 2,000 arrived in July of 1922. Small number of 9-mm pistol M/08 also saw use with Finnish military. 7,65-mm pistol M/23 was the most numerous pistol used by Finnish front-line troops during World War 2. They remained in use of Finnish military until 1980's. During Continuation War and later M/23 pistols with worn barrels were modified to 9 mm x 19 cartridge by replacing barrel and return spring - modification which in effect made them pistol M/08.

The name Parabellum originates from old Latin phrase "Si vis pacem, para bellum" ("If you want peace, prepare for war"). Another name, with which the pistol is commonly known (especially in the US) is "Luger" coming from the name of the person who invented this pistol - Georg Luger. The toggle-mechanism used by Georg Luger in his parabellum pistol was based to one used in Borchardt C93 pistol. First country to accept Parabellum pistol as military weapon was the Swiss one, which used Parabellum pistol models 06 and M06/29 chambered for 7.65 mm x 21. However also 9 mm x 19 cartridge had been developed for this pistol already year 1902. The two cartridges were pretty much interchangeable when it comes to Parabellum pistol - changing the pistol from one cartridge to another required only replacing of barrel and return spring. 9 mm x 19 ammunition started its way to worldwide standard when German Navy accepted 9 mm Parabellum pistols with 150-mm long barrels in 1904. But the really large deal did not come until German Army selected 9-mm P-08 pistol as their official sidearm in 1908. Standard German Army P-08 had 120-mm barrel. P-08 and its artillery- (with 20-cm long barrel) and Navy-versions (with 15-cm long barrel) remained in production until end of World War 1. Before and during WW1 German armaments industry (basically DWM and Erfurt factories in this case) manufactured some 1.5 - 2.0 million Parabellum pistols (depending source). About 178,000 of these pistols were Artillery-version.

PICTURE: Senior Sergeant Kejonen inspects his Parabellum pistol. Pistol's magazine can be seen on his knee. Considering barrel length the pistols in probably M/23 in 7.65 mm caliber. Notice that the pistol's grip panel has place for unit disc. Before World War 2 Finnish military used commonly brass unit discs indicating military unit in its pistols and rifles, but practically all of the discs were removed before during the war. Photographed by Military official V. Hollming in May of 1942. (SA-kuva.fi archive, photo number 86605). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (109 KB).

After losing World War 1 Germany signed peace treaty of Versailles, which forbid it to manufacture pistols which had 9 mm x 19 calibre or barrel length that exceeded 100 mm. This led to Parabellum M/20 with 7,65 mm calibre and 95 mm / 98 mm long barrel being introduced to production in Germany around 1920. Even if P-38 officially become new military pistol of German Reich in late 1930's P-08 remained in use of German military through World War 2 and also remained in large scale production until year 1942. Largest manufacturer of P-08 pistols in 1930's and during World War 2 was Mauser factory in Oberndorf, which manufactured over million P-08 pistols before ending their production in 1942. Much smaller Krieghoff factory continued manufacturing P-08 pistol for Luftwaffe until year 1945. In many countries Parabellum pistol later developed a high reputation, but this does not seem to have happened until after long after World War 2. Production of pistol model 06/29 continued in Switzerland until year 1947. Also Dutch military used Parabellum M/1906 pistols in both world wars. Vickers Ltd in Great Britain manufactured about 10,000 of the Dutch-used pistols.

PICTURE: Parabellum M/23 with (7.65-mm caliber) longer (120-mm) replacement barrel. Also front sight post seem to have probably been replaced with larger one. (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (53 KB).

Finnish Army had a shortage of military pistols in early 1920's and large number of pistols bought from France in 1919 had proved less than ideal for military use. So decision about purchasing new military pistols was made. At 1920's large part of Finnish officer corps was "Jaeger officers", who had served in German Prussian Jaeger Battalion 27 during World War 1 and had formed officer corps after their return in middle of Finnish Civil War in 1918. They had previous good experiences and very favourable opinions about P-08 Parabellum pistol, so naturally Parabellum P-08 was the obvious first choice to be considered as new standard issue sidearm for Finnish military. Finnish company N.C. Fabricius Oy was used as a intermediary. It soon become apparent that only Parabellum pistol available from Germany was 7,65 mm pistol M/20. At that time 9-mm Parabellum pistols would have been available from Belgium, but they would have been much more expensive and their delivery time would have been substantially longer. The Finns decided to buy the 7,65-mm Parabellum pistols from Germany and the first shipments of 2,000 pistols arrived in July of 1922. Year 1923 another 2,000 pistols were bought and at that time Finnish Army officially named the pistol as M/23. More M/23 pistols were bought later and by summer of 1929 Finnish Army had acquired about 8,000 pistols M/23. After decision about developing of domestic military pistol type (L-35) was made around 1929 purchases of M/23 were stopped. Also Suojeluskunta (Civil Guard), its members and Finnish civilians purchased Parabellum pistols in large numbers in 1920's and 1930's from commercial market.

PICTURE: 9-mm Parabellum pistol with 120-mm long Tikkakoski barrel. Notice also new larger front sight post, which combined with enlargened rear sight notch gives better sight picture. This sight improvement was typical post-war modification made to Finnish Parabellum pistols made by target shooters during late part of military use or civilian ownership. (Photo taken in Uudenmaa/Nyland Brigade). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (63 KB).

During Winter War pistols M/23 were issued mainly to front-line troops, this resulted quite high losses and in summer of 1940 only 7,082 pistols M/23 remained. During Continuation War M/23 pistols were again mostly used by frontline-troops and this is visible in level of losses - February of 1944 only 4,850 pistols remained. Not only were lot of these pistols lost or broken in battles but also hard use also wear out lot of them. Yet another factor, which reduced their numbers during World War 2 was replacing original barrels with 9-mm caliber replacement gun barrels manufactured by Sako and Tikkakoski. When equipped with 9 mm x 19 calibre replacement barrel pistol M/23 turned into pistol M/08 in inventory of Finnish military. Apparently replacing original 7.65-mm barrel with 9-mm barrel became so common during World War 2, that Ordnance Department (*) was forced to sent a circular letter forbidding this practice in all such cases in which the original barrel had not worn out or damaged. This reason behind this ban was not only avoid unnecessarily burdening industry and depots with this sort of work. But also because Finnish-manufactured standard issue 9 mm x 19 Parabellum ammunition available at that time was designed for Suomi m/31 submachine gun and loaded so hot, that it would make short work of breaking apart toggle of Parabellum pistol. Year 1951 only 3,724 of the original 8,000 pistols remained. Even with its total number dwindling, pistol M/23 remained as most common sidearm in use of Finnish military until 1980's. Finally in early 1980's new Pistooli 80 (FN High-Power DA) replaced it and old M/23 pistols were sold to civilian market. Pistol M/23 had very good reputation among Finnish troops and served very well during its long career.

(*) Ordnance Department of Finnish Armed Forces General Headquarters. During World War 2 this was the authority responsible of equipping Finnish military with small arms and other weapons plus their ammunition and associated equipment.

PICTURE: Leader of machinegun team points out target to machinegunner, who is operating Maxim machine gun. The team leader, who is presumably either corporal or sergeant has Parabellum pistol in his other hand. Finnish Army issued pistols to officers and non-commissioned officers, but there were never enough pistols for supplying pistol to everybody who was supposed to be issued one, hence rifles were often used as substitute. The team leader appears to have Hungarian m/38 steel helmet, while machinegunner has World War 1 era Austrian m/17 . Photographed by Erkki Viitasalo in September of 1942. (SA-kuva.fi archive, photo number 109249). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (124 KB).

Finnish Army used also smaller number of 9-mm calibre Parabellum M/08 (P-08) pistols during World War 2. Some had been left behind from Civil War of 1918, during which Finnish White Army and Jaegers had succeeded acquired small number of them. Some had also ended up to Army later little by little (largest single wartime purchase: 56 pistols bought from Belgium in February of 1940). By summer of 1940 some 224 Parabellum pistols of 9-mm calibre had ended up to Finnish Army use. In addition to this many of the Jaegers now serving as officers of Finnish Army had privately acquired Parabellum pistols. During Continuation War small amount of pistol M/23 were modified by replacing their 7.65-mm caliber gun barrels with new 9-mm barrels (this continued in small numbers also after the war) made by Tikkakoski. Tikkakoski factory also manufactured 7.65-mm replacement barrels, so replacing the barrel did not always result to change of calibre. Besides typical P-08 like M/08 pistols Finnish military also had small number (likely between 100 - 200) of the artillery-version Parabellum (with 20 cm barrel). At least 100 of these Artillery-version Parabellum pistols had been bought from Germany in 1918 and small number may have arrived with Jaegers during Civil War and acquired by other individuals. According one source in addition of normal P-08 pistols also very small number (at least 22) of Navy-version Parabellum pistols arrived to Finland with Jaegers in December of 1917. During World War 2 Finnish troops commonly used 9 mm x 19 ammunition manufactured for Suomi submachinegun M/31 with these pistols. This proved very dangerous as Finnish 9-mm submachinegun-ammunition had too powerful for practically all pistols. Many of the Finnish Army 9-mm Parabellum P-08 pistols broke down because of Finnish submachinegun-ammunition used with them. Usually the toggle-lock seems to be the part of these pistols, which breaks down first. Around 1987 most of the remaining 9-mm Parabellum pistols were sold abroad. Only small number was kept for couriers of Finnish Army. From the two calibre options the 7,65-mm version has gained better reputation in Finland - generally speaking Parabellum pistols chambered to that calibre are known more accurate, more reliable and more durable than their 9-mm chambered counterparts.

PICTURE: 2nd Lieutenant U. Lamminen poses to photographer with his pistol after winning of pistol competion in October of 1943. The position in which he poses was the standard pistol shooting pose of that time. The pistol holster seen in this photo was the standard holster type Finnish Army issued with Parabellum pistols. The holsters originally delivered to Finland with these pistols in 1920's were surplus German World War 1 era holsters, but similar leather holsters were also manufactured in Finland for these guns. Photographed by Military official Uuno Laukka. (SA-kuva.fi archive, photo number 141144). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (124 KB).

Nowadays Parabellum pistols are again quite popular among those Finns who seek nostalgic, but accurate pistol. However ammunition availability is a bit difficult. Ammunition in 7.65 mm x 21 calibre can be difficult to find since only two known manufacturers remain - Fiocchi and Prvi Partizan. If a lot of shooting is done with 9 mm x 19 calibre Parabellum-pistol, then using ammunition less powerful than the European standard of these days is recommended. In Finland Lapua manufactures every now and then 9 x 19 ammunition with 8-gram/123-grain FMJ bullets and 320 m/sec muzzle velocity - this is about the maximum load that can be recommended for old P-08 pistols. Parabellum-pistols are highly valued collectors items, which reflects to their prices and availability.

PICTURE: 7.65-mm caliber Parabellum pistol disassembled for routine maintenance. This particular pistol was been "demilitarized" by removing its stock attachment lug when it was rebuilt to 7.65-mm caliber probably in 1920's. While this sort of version was not bought by Finnish military, Parabellum pistols were popular among Finnish civilians in 1920's and 1930' with large number of pistols going to World War 2 with their owners. This photo also gives rather good impression about the complex structural design of Parabellum / Luger pistol. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (84 KB).

Writer's personal experiences concerning shooting with 7.65-mm and 9-mm Parabellum pistols: First impression - remarkably high quality of workmanship. Trigger is quite good, but single-stage in that sense that there does not seem to be obvious pressure point after which it breaks and trigger does vary from one pistol to another. Trigger pressure varies from reasonable to insanely light, with the insanely light trigger pressure likely being result of trigger-job done during civilian ownership. Do it yourself trigger jobs most definitely not recommended - key components of trigger system are only surface hardened, so grinding or even polishing them is a poor idea. Original sights give very tight sight picture, which makes shooting this otherwise mechanically very accurate (no tilting barrel to ruin it) pistol more challenging. The typical post-war (civilian) modification was replacing original front sight post with larger one and opening up the rear sight V-notch to larger U-shape notch. With this sight modification the pistol the sight picture is very much improved which makes the pistol notably faster and easier to shoot, but it also causes significant drop of collector value, hence I do not recommend doing to it any Parabellum pistol which has original sights. When magazine release button is pushed, the magazine drops right off. Reliability seems to be otherwise pretty good, but loading of the first cartridge into breech has to be done in correct manner to avoid tip of the bullet hitting above breech and jamming the whole pistol. Correct way of doing this - insert loaded magazine, pull the toggle as far back as possible and release it. While handling firearms in general requires diligence and understanding of safe conduct, due to its design Parabellum pistol requires more diligence than most. Unfortunately structural design of these pistols makes possible to fire a cartridge with only receiver and toggle combination, which does not even need to be with frame of the pistol during accidental misfire. So - before starting to disassemble this pistol remember to double-check that there are no cartridges in it. (Notice: This is based to experience shooting with three individual Parabellum pistols and in some extent old pistols are always individuals - so all of the above does not always apply to all pistols of this type).

 

9 mm Pistol L-35 "Lahti":

PICTURE: Lahti L-35 pistol belonging to series 1. Notice loaded cartridge chamber indicator on top of ammunition chamber and "curve" in top of the slide. This "curve" wasn't no longer present in later series. Finnish L-35 pistol has serial number only in three places, two of which are both visible in this photo. (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (71 KB).

Calibre:

9 mm x 19 Parabellum/Luger

Length:

240 mm

Barrel length:

120 mm

Weight:

1250 g

Magazine:

8, removable

Official abbreviations:

"9,00 pist/35" and "900 PIST 35"

Country of origin:

Finland

Prototype:

1st prototype in 1929, last prototype in 1935

Production:

1938 - 1945 and early 1950's. Total production about 9,000.

Finnish use: This Finnish designed and manufactured pistol was issued to frontline-units during Winter War (1939 - 1940) in very small numbers and in growing numbers during Continuation War (1941 - 1944). After World War it remained in use of Finnish Armed Forces until 1980's.

Aimo Lahti got the idea for developing this pistol from his superiors in autumn of 1929. In those days Lahti was supervising the mass-production of Lahti-Saloranta light machineguns, so he had very little free time. To be accurate he didn't receive exact order for developing a new military pistol, it was more like suggestion for of seeing if he could develop new pistol for tests, which would be arranged in near future. The original rather vague specifications for the new military pistol were simply:

Weapon against which the new pistol would be naturally compared was German Parabellum used by Finnish Army at that time. Lahti managed to get the first version designed already in autumn of 1929 and Weapons-technical depot in Helsinki made the first prototype. Locking mechanism used by Lahti in his pistol had its roots in Parabellum, but in the new locking mechanism the bolt retreats directly backwards with its full length. Pistol has a clear visual resemblance to Parabellum, but its mechanism is very different. First prototype L-29 was in 9 mm x 19 (Parabellum) calibre, but it had been designed suitable for both 7.65 mm x 21 and 9 mm x 19 Parabellum cartridges. But soon 9 mm x 19 ammunition was selected as its future calibre because it was more suitable for submachinegun use (making large capacity magazines was easier for it). Even today the original L-29 prototype still exists, after being originally tested by shooting 6,000 rounds.

PICTURE: Major Kämäri, who was battalion commander of 2nd Battalion of 19th (Infantry) Brigade, points map location with his Lahti L-35 pistol to Lieutenant while issuing orders for combat. Notice open pistol holster, this sort of holsters for L-35 and Parabellum pistols appear in Finnish Army World War 2 era photographs every now and then, they were non-standard and appear to include both privately bought new purpose-built pistol holsters and field-modifications of standard issue holsters. Both officers have Czechoslovakian m/34 steel helmets. Photographed by Military official Kauko Kivi in June of 1944. (SA-kuva.fi archive, photo number 155244). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (139 KB).

Year 1931 Lahti made some improvements to blueprints of L-29 pistol. These improvements mainly concentrated removing problems, which would have hampered its mass-production. Prototype of improved L-31 pistol was manufactured, but it broke down in tests. Lahti made several further improvements, which led into test version L-29/35 in 1935. In this version the shape of slide and bolt has been modified to be more angled and a new safety switch was added.

First tests arranged with-in the Army gave a cold shower. Shooters accustomed to Parabellum-pistol found many things to complain in this new pistol. The most usual complaints were:

PICTURE: 2nd Lieutent Gustafson with his Lahti L-35 pistol. Photographed by Military official E. Nurmi in July of 1942. (SA-kuva.fi archive, photo number 101437). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (104 KB).

June of 1935 weapons committee of infantry and light anti-aircraft weapons decided that the pistol could be put into production as soon as the certain problems had been fixed. The trigger mechanism was improved, but the pistol remained heavier and larger than Parabellum. 28th of January 1936 order of 2,500 L-35 pistols was sent to VKT. Price per pistol was to be 650 Finnish marks. February of 1937 pistol L-35 was accepted into mass-production, but the decision demanded grip panels first to be replaced with non-wood ones. Tests had revealed that the grip panels made from wood could become bloated after getting soaked and block the trigger mechanism.

Modifications made for the design further delayed starting of mass-production and also the original cost per pistol proved to be too small. When the pistols per unit price was re-calculated in 1938 it proved to be almost double the original, being now 1,290 Finnish marks per pistol. Test series of five pistols were not finished and given to Army until March of 1938, in July of that same year a larger test series of 94 pistols was completed. Tests done with this test series in Army units revealed several problems, luckily Aimo Lahti had already predicted most problems and managed to develop improvements needed for removing them. These prototypes had wooden grip panels, all actual production pistols had brown bakelite grip panels with VKT-marking.

PICTURE: Non-commissoned officers of Finnish Army with their pistols photographed during pistol shooting competition. Two of the soldiers seen in the photo have Lahti L-35 pistols, while the one in middle has Parabellum. Photographed by Military official J. Taube in June of 1942. (SA-kuva.fi archive, photo number 91228). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (139 KB).

July 1938 the old order of 2,500 pistols was cancelled and a new order of 7,642 L-35 pistols was introduced. The price in this new order was now 1,290 marks/pistol. VKT, which made these pistols, was to deliver them in deliveries of 1,000 pistols in every 3 months. However, the manufacturing didn't start as fast as planned and in summer of 1939 Finnish Armed Forces were still waiting for the first delivery. Whole production had been halted for checking construction of these pistols. March of that year 28 pistols with improved structural design were given to military units for tests. The test results showed that they were much better than earlier tested prototypes. The newly added 23 improvements had resulted much better pistol. Further comparison tests between L-35, Colt 1911A1, FN High Power and Swedish FN (Husqvarna) m/07 were also made in March of 1939. After this test a decision was made to hasten the production of L-35.

Collectors usually divide production of L-35 pistol the following way:

  • Series 0: Series manufactured mainly for field tests in 1938, serial numbers 1006 - 1104. Improvements were still made after this series had been tested in various military units. Those improvements were included to next production series.
  • Series 1:
  • First actual production series. Production was delayed and this production series was finally delivered during Winter War. This production series included about 2,600 pistols, from these first 1,000 were delivered before mid-March of 1940 and another 1,500 by June of 1941. This production series included serial numbers around 1100 - 3700. They are identifiable from slide structure, which still has details needlessly machined for parts (slide recuperator) that were left out after improvements introduced after series 0 and "the curve" in top of the slide.
  • Series 2:
  • This production series of about 1,000 pistols was manufactured around 1941- 1942. Its pistols no longer had any of unnecessary details made inside the pistol for parts (slide recuperator) left out after series 0. Serial numbers were around 3700 - 4700.
  • Series 3:
  • This production series numbered bit more than 2,000 pistols. This time production had been simplified by leaving unmachined some less vital details. These included details originally included for making pistol lighter and look better. The wartime production part of this series had serial numbers around 3700 - 5800 and were almost all delivered in spring of 1944. Peace of 1944 stopped production of new parts, but building L-35 pistols from existing parts continued to end of 1945. This post Continuation War production numbered about 1000 pistols (serial numbers around 5800 - 6800). Last L-35 pistol delivered to Finnish Armed Forces had serial number 6731. Third and less famous part of series 3 production were few hundred pistols (that have four digit serial numbers with V-prefix and no SA-marking) made from parts rejected by Finnish military and sold to civilian market. This series of few hundred pistols that has V-prefix in its serial numbers seem to have their serial numbers in between V0150 - V0400. Finnish military also bought unused L-35 parts and parts waiting finishing stage of production.
  • Series 4:
  • After World War 2 Finnish armed forces had more than enough pistols for peacetime use. But Valmet Oy Tourula Factories (VKT factory with new name) still had lot of half-made parts for L-35 pistol. The company decided to capitilise these existing parts by using them to manufacture pistols for commercial market. This production run with little over 2,000 pistols had serial numbers around 6800 - 9300. Most of these pistols were sold abroad. All series 4 L-35 had Valmet and L-35 markings in top of the slide instead of VKT and L-35 markings used in earlier production series. Series 4 pistols also did not have have stock attachment lug, which had been used in all earlier production series even if the stock and pistol holster designs intended to be used with this lug never reached mass-production. Early series 4 pistols had loaded chamber indicators, which was left out from the late version.
  • Lahti L-35 with three digit serial number:
  • Normal production series of L-35 pistols had 4-digit long serial number, but this small series was an exception. Year 1939 VKT made few dozen L-35 from parts of series 1 pistols rejected by the military. With exception of 5 pistols bought by Finnish Armed Forces during Winter War these were sold to civilians or given as gifts.

    PICTURE: Series 3 L-35 pistol with replacement slide manufactured by Vammaskoski for Finnish military in late 1950's. The replacement slides have been marked with similar serial number as rest of the pistol, but identifying it as replacement part is easy: Missing loaded cartridge chamber indicator and brownish colour are easy to spot. Markings on top of the slide include only SA-marking and text "L-35". Original slides of series 1 - 3 pistols carry VKT-marking, text "L-35" and usually also SA-marking. (Photo taken in Jalkaväkimuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (75 KB).

    As mentioned VKT (Valtion Kivääritehdas = State Rifle Factory) in city of Jyväskylä was the only manufacturer of this pistol in Finland. Name of the factory was changed as Valmet (Valtion Metallitehtaat Tourulan Tehdas = State Metal Factories Tourula Factory) after World War 2. Whole production of L-35 in Finland had a total of less than 9,000 pistols. Obviously Finnish military was the main customer - some 5,500 - 5,600 of these pistols were delivered to Finnish Armed Forces. After series 4 it had become very clear, that L-35 was too complicated and expensive for further production. After all it was pistol with practically all its parts machined from steel. Spare-parts for L-35 were manufactured until 1970's. in 1985 Valmet Oy Tourula Factories made a 50-year commemoration series of 100 L-35 pistols with serial numbers 50001 - 50100. This was the last production series of L-35 pistol.

    Finnish Army routinely issued L-35 with pistol holster, two magazines, loading tool and cleaning rod. The loading tool can also used as screw driver for grip panel screws. In total there were three leather holster versions, which Finnish military issued with L-35 pistols. The earliest of those three was early version only issued in small-scale with pistols of production series 0 (field test series) - it has basic design notably different from later versions and has been made from brown leather with spare magazine pocket, cleaning rod attachments that leave the rod visible and snap-fastener in strap. The second version was early standard issue holster version with basic appearance quite similar to Parabellum/Luger holsters, attachment system with stock holster, tubular attachment for cleaning rod next to spare magazine pocket, tool pocket inside the holster and strap, which is locked with small roller buckle. This second version is made from brown leather, which was normally painted green-grey. The third version was late version of standard issue holster, which is otherwise quite similar to second version, but has normal belt loops behind the holster instead of more complicated belt attachment that earlier version had for shoulder-stock, which never got manufactured beyond few prototypes. The market also has holsters, which have clearly been painted grey at later date, but it is difficult to say if this was done by Finnish military or if it was somebody's idea for renovating a holster. Leather holsters similar to second and third version L-35 pistol holster were also manufactured for Parabellum pistols which have 12-cm / 4.7 inch barrel - for which pistol these holsters are made for can be identified from type of tool pocket, since tools used with Parabellum and L-35 are notably different. Year 1940 Major Birger Linkomies designed for this pistol a wooden holster, which could be used as shoulder stock, but just like wooden shoulder stock (quite similar to that used with Parabellum pistols) only prototypes were made and it was never manufactured in any real numbers.

    PICTURE: Early version standard issue leather holster for L-35 opened up. Notice spare magazine pouch, tubular cleaning rod attachment and end of leather strap pulling of which lifts the pistol from its holster. The attachment strap for shoulder stock have been cut off at some point. The tool pouch is visible in holster hatch. The green-grey paint has mostly worn off, but is still visible in certain parts of the holster. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (63 KB).

    Finnish L-35 pistol was also known with nicknames Lahti-pistooli (Lahti-pistol) and Suomi-pistooli (Suomi-pistol) among Finnish military. It was reliable, accurate and sturdy pistol, but also one of the largest and heaviest 9-mm military pistols ever manufactured. Structure of the this strong looking pistol had its week point: Powerful submachinegun-ammunition often used by Finnish troops with these pistols could crack the pistols slide quite easily. As all 9 mm x 19 ammunition manufactured during World War 2 in Finland was hot loaded submachinegun-ammunition using this ammunition also pistols of same calibre unfortunately wasn't exactly unusual during World War 2 and years after it. When the slides of L-35 broke down in larger numbers Finnish military soon found itself needing replacements for them. Because of this many series of replacement slides were manufactured for Finnish military after World War 2. As you probably have noticed most of these pistols (all but series 4) have shoulder stock attachment lugs. While the Finns developed and tested wooden shoulder stocks and wooden shoulder stock holsters for these pistols, these were never manufactured in real numbers and the pistols were issued without them.

    PICTURE: Slides of L-35. Left to right are slides of production series 1 - 3 and after them the replacement slides manufactured after World War 2. (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (126 KB).

    Production series of replacement slides manufactured for L-35 pistols:

  • Few hundred slides manufactured by Valmet (earlier known as VKT) in early 1950's: Made from wartime 3rd production series slide blanks manufactured earlier and storaged, when production of L-35 for Finnish military had ended in 1945. These have loaded chamber indicator and markings Valmet and L-35 top of the slide.
  • 500 slides made by Vammaskoski factory in 1958 - 1959: No loaded chamber indicator and often brownish colour because of steel and/or mistake during bluing. Markings made in top of the slide were made with electric pencil. These markings were L-35 and SA. Inside the slide is also stamped marking "VS" indicating its manufacturer.
  • About 500 slides manufactured by Valmet in 1979: Structurally beefier than in other slides. These are without loaded chamber indicator. Markings in top of the slide are Valmet and L-35.

    PICTURE: Early series 4 pistol with moving parts pulled back. Notice missing stock attachment lug - only series 4 pistols does not have it. The loaded cartridge chamber indicator was left out around serial number 8000. Series 4 pistol slides have Valmet emblem and L-35 text. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (84 KB).

    Lahti-pistol was not exported in large numbers until 1950's. Before that the only even somewhat worth mentioning export deliveries were:

    Both Estonian and Latvian military had been interested to get L-35 pistols for testing purposes in year 1935, but VKT had not been able to deliver any, so they ended up buying their pistols from FN instead. Around 1951 - 1955 a batch of 600 L-35 pistols was delivered to Israeli military, although the particular export does not seem to have been exactly official. In addition to this number of L-35 pistols were sold abroad to civilian market in 1950's.

    Production license of L-35 pistol was sold to Swedish Husqvarna factory in 1940. Husqvarna made some changes to pistol and named it M/40. Documents suggest that early on the Swedes noticed major durability issue with their new M/40 pistols, which VKT (Valtion Kivääritehdas - State Rifle Factory, the sole Finnish manufacturer of L-35) was intructed to provide help with, although it remains unclear what kind help was provided and in which decree is helped with the issue. It is rather ironic that with the license the Swedish Husqvarna ended up manufacturing much larger number of M/40 pistols than the total number of L-35 manufactured by VKT in Finland. Swedish Husqvarna factory manufactured some 82,480 M/40 pistols in several versions. Swedish M/40 was also exported to several countries, most important of which were Denmark and Norway. Unlike some sources claim Swedish M/40 pistols were never used in Finland. Prices of Swedish M/40 tend to be notably lower than prices of Finnish L-35, so sometimes M/40 have been tried being sold as L-35 - buyers be aware. While early M/40 is basically a copy of L-35, most Husqvarna M/40 had barrel attached with barrel nut and larger trigger guard, from which they can be easily identified.

    As with Parabellum M/08 also Lahti pistol should be used only with relatively mild ammunition. Originally the pistol was build for cartridge, which have 8-gram/124-grain FMJ bullet with only 290 m/sec muzzle velocity. While these pistols (both Finnish L-35 and Swedish M/40) are big and heavy and give robust first impression, unfortunately they seem to suffer from a structural weak point, which makes the slide somewhat fragile. Using too powerful ammunition can create durability problems with the slide on the long run. While using submachinegun-ammunition with pistols in not recommendable in general, using it with these pistols is exceptionally poor idea. Even moderate amount of powerful sub machinegun ammunition can break apart the slide of L-35 or M/40. If the stress fracture appears, it typically starts from notch of the accelerator in the slide.

    PICTURE: Equipment for L-35 pistol. Up left cleaning rod and in its right side loading tool, which can also be used as a screw driver. Below are Finnish made magazines for this weapon. Usually only two magazines were issued with each pistol. Finnish-made magazines are usually "in the white", while Swedish-made blued. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (68 KB).

    Writer's personal experiences concerning shooting with L-35 pistol: Obvious first impression is that this pistol is a real handful - it is large and heavy for 9 x 19 pistol. As to be expected quality of work is very good. Grip is rather thick for a 9 x 19 calibre pistol with single stack magazine. Triggers tend vary from good to very good - quite light and relatively short trigger travel. When engaged the safety presses side of the thumb, so one can not really avoid noticing it when holding the pistol. Sights are quite good - good if somewhat tight sight picture with square front sight post and U-notch in the rear sight. Due to weight of the pistol recoil is small. Loading magazines to full capacity without loading tool can be somewhat tedious due to strong magazine springs. Mechanical accuracy (the accuracy for which the pistol is technically capable) tends to be very good if compared to other World War 2 pistols. This is also one of the easiest pistols of that era to disassemble for routine maintenance and put back together after it. The pistol breaks into just four (five if magazine included) parts in routine maintenance.


    Luger Forum Discussion forum specialised to Parabellum / Luger pistols.


    SOURCES:

    Markku Palokangas: Sotilaskäsiaseet Suomessa 1918 - 1988, 1 - 3 (= Military Small Arms in Finland 1918 - 1988 parts 1 - 3)

    Timo Hyytinen: Arma Fennica 2, sotilasaseet (Arma Fennica 2, military weapons)

    Jan Kronlund: Suomen Puolustuslaitos 1918 - 1939 (= Finnish Defence Department 1918 - 1939)

    Ian Hogg and John Wells: Pistols of the World

    John Walter: Luger

    Article: Lahtipistoolin korjausmallit by Jussi Peltola in Ase-lehti magazine vol. 5/2005.

    Article: Parabellum Pistooli 08 by Heikki Pohjolainen in Ase magazine vol. 6/1984.

    Article: Parabellum Pistooli 23 by Heikki Pohjolainen in Ase magazine vol. 3/1985.

    Article: Suomeen toimitetut Parabellum-pistoolit by Dr G.C. Stevens in Ase magazine vol. 4/89.

    Article: Parabellumin tarina, Osa 1 - Keisarillisen Saksan pistooli by Mika Vuolle in Kaliberi magazine vol. 4/1997.

    Article: Parabellumin tarina, Osa 2 - Kohti Kolmatta Valtakuntaa by Mika Vuolle in Kaliberi magazine vol. 6/1997.

    Article: Keisarillisen laivaston parabellum by Mika Vuolle in Kaliberi magazine vol. 4/2003.

    Article: Pitkä Pistooli 08 by Mika Vuolle in Kaliberi magazine vol. 6/2003.

    Article: 50-vuotias Lahtipistooli by Taisto Kuortti in Ase magazine vol. 2/1985.

    Article: Aimo Lahden sotilaspistooli by Mika Vuolle in Kaliberi magazine vol. 4/2004.

    Military manual: Pistoolit 23 ja 19. Rakenne, huolto ja käsittely by Sotaväen Esikunta (1925).

    Special thanks to Sotamuseo (Finnish Military Museum), Helsinki

    Special thanks to Jalkaväkimuseo (Finnish Infantry Museum), Mikkeli

    Special thanks to Viestimuseo (Finnish Signal Museum), Riihimäki


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