Broomhandle Mauser C96

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      These pistols technically could fit in the ‘antique cartridge pistol’ category, but they are most known for their use in the 20th century. Designed in the Mauser plant in 1995 they emerged onto the world market in 1996. They fire a cartridge (7.63x25mm) identical in outside dimensions, but lower in power than the later Soviet Tokarev cartridge. Commercially they can be considered a failure because the gun emerged at the same time as many smaller semi-automatic pistols were also hitting the market. In failed efforts to boost civilian sales Mauser experimented with a variety of different barrel lengths, hammer shapes, grip shapes and cartridge capacities. Eventually what became known as the ‘pre-war commercial model’ became the standard model in 1902. Standardized features included a 10 shot capacity loaded by stripper clip, a 6 inch barrel, a detachable shoulder stock, and of course the broomhandle shaped grip it became famous for.

      As a civilian pistol although the bullet it fired was the hottest bullet commercially available until 1935 when the .357 Magnum edged it out, the gun flopped. It is large and much heavier than other auto pistols of the early 20th century. It is impractical to hide. The amazing ugnoring of ergonomics demonstrated by Mauser when designing the grip make it very difficult to shoot accurately at any range beyond 8 yards, and of course by 1920 the stripper clip was virtually obsolete for handguns having been replaced with detachable magazines. Finally the pistol, which required many hand operations in addition to precision machining, was not inexpensive.

      Military sales however were a different matter. Officers in the British Army liked it. Even Winston Churchill purchased and used one during the 2nd Boer War. In 1897 the Turkish Ottoman Empire ordered 1,000 of them. In 1899 Italy bought 5,000 of them. Persia bought 1,000 of them. The US Army acquired some during the Philippine Insurrection. The Imperial German Army accepted it and placed an order for 150,000 of them in 1916 (many (but not all) of that order were chambered in caliber 9mm Luger). Russia bought them too. Austria ordered another 50,000 of them. In 1920 France bought them too. Because there was an international arms embargo against selling rifles to China the Chines government purchased possibly about a half million of them for use as shoulder stocked pistol carbines. In all over a million C96 pistols were made and most saw combat from the early 1900s up through the time of Mao Tse Tung. By the end of WW1 the pistol was well known as a military weapon. Mauser ceased manufacture of the C96 in 1939, but the pistols soldiered on. When WW2 began, although the stripper clip made the C96 obsolescent, Nazi Germany continued to use them as a substitute standard weapon and also placed orders for both the newer M30 model and a selective fire machine gun version. In 1945, in order to make more office space for his staff, the US Army Colonel commanding the captured Mauser factory ordered the shipping and production records burned. This has created much fun for collectors trying to determine to who Mauser had shipped their pistol back when the gun was new.

      The pistol was widely copied in both Spain and of course China (once hostilities began with Japan China was forced to begin making their own as previously orders had shipped to China through Japan). It is conservative to say over a million and a half were made by one producer or another.

      Some Mauser pistols were captured and brought back to the US by veterans of WWI and WWII. In 1968 US gun laws changed and many of the owners were offered a choice of paying a $200 tax and registering the pistols as a short barreled rifle, or having the attachment groove on the pistol’s rear milled off or filled in with weld metal. Many C96 pistols were accordingly mutilated to comply. Laws change and in the 1980s China finally declared their shoulder stock capable C96 pistols obsolete surplus and tens of thousands of them entered the US where they are highly desired as weapons for any weapons collection.

      Here I fire one in pistol configuration.

      Although a clumsy weapon in pistol configuration when the shoulder stock is attached, as this video shows, the same pistol becomes a handy and quite formidable 10 shot carbine.

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