No, it’s not something out of a steampunky graphic novel; it’s a firearms innovation achieved back in WWII Germany that didn’t come into regular use until the 1980s, and now is pretty much ubiquitous.
When the topic of early tac lights for firearms comes up, names like SureFire and their WeaponLight get dropped. You don’t really think of the Nazis.
The German “Night Pistol” is a prime example example of what Nazi engineers and scientists were capable of, and hints at the kind of weapons they may have developed had the war gone on. The .30-caliber Luger incorporates a tac light housed in a cylinder under the barrel. Not only that, but the recessed brass plates on the grip are part of a circuit connected to the light and its battery. When the gun is gripped, skin conductivity between the plates completes the circuit, and the light turns on. Not a far cry from modern pressure switches—all made in the 40s, with no polymer components.
The flashlight has a machined, anodized brass housing in front of the battery which is wired into the right grip panel. The flashlight unit is also detachable, designed to be carried separately from the pistol when not in use.
The gun is said to have been issued to officers of the Hitler Guard, the men who patrolled The Fuerhrer’s bunker, according to this story on Guns.com. A book by Peter Hoffman titled “Hitler’s Personal Security” says the Night Pistols were loaded with tracer ammunition to make them a more fearsome night weapon, according to an auction description.
Even without the flashlight, the pistol isn’t a common Luger. It’s based on the early designs of the pistol with a 4-inch barrel and a grip safety.
Only two Night Pistols are known to exist. One is in a military museum in Munich, Germany, the other recently sold at the Rock Island Auction House for $184,000. Get more info and high res photos of the auctioned gun here.