The more some things change, the more they stay the same. What am I talking about you ask? If you were to poll most people today about the location of Austria, they would say it’s German or part of Germany. And there is at least one historical figure who thought the same thing: Adolf Hitler.
When talking about the Steyr-Hahn P08 variant, it’s necessary to understand how this pistol came about.
The Steyr-Hahn was fielded by the Austro-Hungarian Empire sometime around 1911-1914 as a standard duty sidearm. It was chambered in what is known as the 9mm Steyr (9×23). Finding the pistols for sale on the internet is sometimes a challenge since many times the seller will name the year of manufacture as the model number. I have seen them described as, “Steyr 1908” up to “Steyr 1919”. So be through when searching auction sites as many ads have no reference to the word Hahn at all.
Most of these listings will be in the 9mm Steyr caliber. For those so inclined you “can” find new production 9mm Steyr ammo as it is (I am told) a somewhat common caliber in Europe. The word is Privi & Fiocchi do runs every few years after getting enough backorders. Incidentally, I do recall there being a limited run of Colt 1911s some years ago in 9mm Steyr. I assume intended for the European market. Maybe 9mm Steyr is not considered a “military caliber” in some countries and therefore is not restricted? But I’m guessing.
Video showing basic function of the Steyr-Hahn.
But back to Hitler. Or least least his legendary German logisticians. After Hitler “annexed” Austria, the German authorities found themselves with a huge pile of these old Steyr-Hahn pistols in 9 Steyr. Not wanting to waste a perfectly good second-line handgun, the German government immediately set about having some converted with 9mm Luger barrels and designed them with a P08 marking.
Which leads me to the gun pictured here. I was looking far and wide for a Steyr in 9mm Luger. When you find them for sale, frequently even the seller won’t know the difference between 9 Luger and 9 Steyr. So the only way to be almost certain is to see if there is a “P08” roll mark added to the slide.
This gun was perfect for me. Just what I had been looking for. A shooter-grade Steyr, that had been converted by the Germans, that was obviously re-blued sometime in the US after the war! Translation: No collector value but along with with you leave behind the collector prices as well.
On a somewhat nice day I snuck down to one of the pistol pits and put some rounds through the Steyr after I had finished my normal VP9 tune-up. I shot her on steel and with a timer.
The Steyr-Hammer is a single-action only handgun that fires cocked-and-locked just like a Colt M1911. The main different between the two pistols is the Steyr has an internal magazine that feeds from a stripper-clip. I have yet to source those clips so I thumbed them in by hand. And yes, THEY are CLIPS. Don’t be THAT GUY. You come off like a douche. [See Magazine vs Clip Here]
Since the Steyr’s magazine is internal, to empty a loaded pistol you lock the slide back with the thumb-lever. And then hit the button on what looks like a modern slide-stop / slide-release. This engages an interrupter (what I call a moveable feed-lip) and all of the rounds just shoot out if the top like some kind of baby-vomit routine. It is also VERY easy to do by accident if you are a modern slide-stop user vs a sling-shot shooter. [Click here to watch video showing the process]
While Filming, a guy came up and wanted to see what I was doing. So, he volunteered to shoot the pistol while I filmed him. No I am not thrilled with his grip, but what can you do? He was having a good time.
The thumb-lever uses TWO notches in the slide. One to lock the slide back for loading and unloading. The second is to work as a manual safety for cocked and locked like a 1911. As best as I can tell, reloading the Steyr is a mandatory 2-handed operation. Because once the gun runs dry and locks back, the shooter needs to manually engage the first notch with the safety / slide lock lever.
If you do not do this, thumbing rounds in the gun by hand will result in “Auto-slide-slam—Hungarian-Army-Thumb” or ASSHAT. No need to go into detail on how I know this. Just believe me that I know it. Don’t be an ASSHAT.
How it shoots: Actually pretty well. I have no feeling one way or the other what condition the springs are like in this pistol. It seems to work fine. Someone went to the effort to blast and re-blue it. Did they also update / replace the springs? Dunno, but I will look into it.
She fires 124 grain modern 9mm fairly well. We did experience a some stoppages. One or two as I recall. But nothing to jump off the roof over. It’s a range toy, not a carry gun. But…I will say this. If I was forced to choose between handguns of the time period and someone already snatched up the 1911, I might take this over the Luger.
The trigger isn’t horrible since it’s single action. The safety is VERY intuitive. Better than the safety on a period correct 1911. And it’s a super-flat handgun being a single stack 9mm. Which beats the Luger in all kinds of ways when you consider modern IWB holster preferences.
Other final points if interest. Some sources on the internet claim a full-auto version of this gun was the world’s first “Machine Pistol”. I will have to take their word for it. Other sources indicate that the Steyr-Hahn design was a fairly robust format that withstood the slimy, dirty, trench warfare of WWI pretty well. Again, I will have to take their word for it. I have no plans to tomahawk the gun into a steel plate or drop it in a mud-hole to find out.
It’s a range toy for the reference library. Within those parameters, I am pretty happy with it!
Final notes: any error or omissions about this firearm or it’s history are mine and mine alone. If there are some changes needed or omissions made, please feel free to leave them in the comments below so we can have them for the record.
“Shooting Guns & Having Fun”