THE DEFINITIVE MAUSER BROOMHANDLE
The Mauser "Broomhandle" C96 is one of the worlds most famous pistols, very reliable, quite powerful and very modern for its day. In fact it is probably one of the best semi-automatic pistols of all time, it certainly was in 1896 when it was first produced.
The Broomhandle C96 Mauser's development actually began around 1893 by the Federle brothers who were employees of Paul Mauser.
The finished design appeared in 1895 when it was patented and Paul Mauser put it into full production in 1896.
Paul Mauser 1838 - 1914
The C96 was hence produced in Germany by the Mauser company and various models were produced from 1896 until 1937 when production ceased. However, because of the pistols popularity, copies of it were manufactured by a Spanish company called Astra and it was also manufactured in China, up to the mid 1950's.
ORIGINS OF ORIGINALITY
Most of the original C96 Broomhandle Mauser pistols are stamped up with the following identification " WAFFENFABRIK MAUSER OBERNDORF A. NECKAR " with the initials " D.R.P.u.A.P " or " A/N " stamped afterwards.
The Mauser C96 had a caliber of 7.63mm Mauser (.30 cal) which was one of the most powerful 7.63mm handgun cartridges of the day, with a muzzle velocity exceeding 1,450 feet per second, there was not much to match it.
Below are two images that highlight the C96 Mausers rather complex but well engineered rear leaf sight, optimistically calibrated up to one thousand meters. Firearms experts today suggest that the maximum effective range of a 7.63mm round to be about two hundred and fifty meters, not exceeding three hundred meters.
The pistol was originally designed to accept a ten or twenty round box magazine that was inserted upwards into the receiver, just in front the trigger assembly. Later this changed and the pistol was loaded via a ten round stripper clip that was inserted from the top.
A forty round box magazine was also produced for the C96 but was not available in large quantities...the twenty round box magazine was the most common used magazine with the C96.
Below is shown the 7.63mm C96 Mauser with twenty round box magazine fitted, it is quite rare to find these type of Mausers today, as most are of the ten round stripper clip variety.
Below is an image depicting how the C96 was loaded with a ten round stripper clip, the knurled " ears " of the slide were pulled back, cocking the hammer at the same time and opened up the breach so that the stripper clip could be loaded.
The Mauser C96 is quite a distinguishable pistol with its slender five and a half inch barrel, rounded handle and shoulder stock assembly that cleverly doubled as a holster. The shoulder stock could be quickly attached simply by " snapping " it onto the rear of the handle. The clever part of this was that one could never lose the shoulder stock as it was always with the pistol, serving as its holster.
Below is shown the C96 Mauser fastened snugly away into its holster-shoulder stock. Also displayed is a ten round clip of 7.63mm ammunition that was carried separately.
The distinctive appearance of the smooth rounded grip gave the pistol the all time nickname of " Broomhandle " as it was indeed reminiscent of a Broomhandle. The Chinese however, called the pistol the box cannon due to its unique for the day magazine and that fact that it was holstered into a box holster.
With its shoulder stock, long slender barrel and high velocity bullet the C96 Mauser was an exceedingly accurate, powerful pistol and hence afforded better penetration properties than nearly any other handgun in its day. In fact until the advent of the .357 Magnum cartridge in 1935 the Mauser 7.63mm cartridge was one of the most powerful cartridges being commercially produced.
As stated earlier probably the worlds second most powerful cartridge of this caliber next to the 7.62mm Tokarev
Word soon caught on and not long after the pistols appearance, everyone wanted one and almost all officers in the German army bought one. They were also the pilots choice backup handgun during World War One.
The factory that initially manufactured the Broomhandle Mauser are recorded as actually manufacturing one million C96 pistols, which is an unprecedented number for pistol manufacture...this indicates the high demand for them. An exceedingly large number were also produced in Spain and China although the exact amount will never be known due to them not keeping any records of production amounts.
Below is shown the Spanish Astra, with shoulder stock. This pistol is an almost exact duplicate of the Mauser C96, all Astra's were high quality pistols and were indeed hard to distinguish from the original. The only real giveaway was the Spanish markings on the side, as it was made as an Astra in its own right and not as counterfeit gun.
The Astra was made in two versions, the Astra 900 and Astra 902, the 902 had a select fire switch that enabled full automatic fire mode. Fully automatic was actually quite stable as the shoulder stock greatly assisted with this mode of fire.
The German S.S and some other units managed to acquire quite a few of these Astra variants prior to World War Two, due to the fact that the Wehrmacht refused to equip any of its " modern " army with an old pistol. Below is an image of an S.S soldier who is believed to be firing an Astra 900...however I would state that it was C96 Mauser with box magazine.
In 1939, the C96 Mauser celebrated its forty-third birthday and in military ideology, a forty-three year old pistol was perhaps just a little bit too old. However, if it works and works well, as this design did...then why worry?
By 1900 the Broomhandle Mauser in 7.63mm caliber had been bought no only by various governments around the world but also by private individuals such as military officers and civilians.
British officers in particular highly favored the C96 Broomhandle Mauser over their standard issue service Webley & Scott revolvers and the old import, export company of Westley Richards Ltd supplied thousands of these to Army officers alone. So during World War One, despite the advent of the Colt M1911, it could be said that many officers on both sides still carried the C96 Broomhandle Mauser.
Below we see a first world war soldier, gas mask on and C96 at the ready. Unlike officers, soldiers were not issued with personal sidearm's but I don't believe there were any rules that stopped soldiers from acquiring any pistol they could get their hands on.
The young twenty-five year old Winston Churchill swore by the C96 Mauser and carried one all the time whilst he served abroad. In 1899, Churchill was actually a war correspondent for The Morning Post and was close to the action during the Boer War. It is said that he actually had cause to use the pistol during The Battle of Omdurman, whether just sounding the alarm with it or otherwise isn't clear.
Lawrence of Arabia, the famous British army officer who organized Arabian guerrilla forces in the Sahara desert during World War One carried a C96. Chinese Communist, general Zhu De, also had a C96 by his side, especially during the Nanchang Uprising and other conflicts. The actual C96 he carried has his name engraved on its side and can be seen in the Beijing war Museum in China.
A PLETHORA OF BROOMHANDLES...
The C96 Broomhandle Mauser basically saw combat service on both sides of The Boar War, World War One, World War Two, the Spanish Civil War, the Chinese Civil War and the Russian Civil War and was carried by almost all notable figures in these wars. To say the C96 Mauser was a prolific weapon is an understatement.
Even though the 7.63mm Mauser cartridge was very popular and widely available during the pistols lifetime, many C96 pistols were adapted to fire the larger 9mm Parabellum cartridge, the same cartridge as the P-08 Luger pistol and several other pistols used. Below, shown at about actual size is the 7.63mm Mauser cartridge...
The 9mm Parabellum cartridge became more abundant than the 7.63mm Mauser and was also more powerful due to its bigger size. As with all firearms, fighting men and those who depended on them, always sought the most powerful and accurate.
The particular C96 Mausers that were converted to fire the newer 9mm Parabellum cartridge had a large number " 9 " etched into both sides of the handle and filled with red paint. They were then known as Red Nine Mausers. This was done so that there was no confusion as to what caliber the pistol actually now was. Below is seen a specimen of a red nine Mauser, designated the Mauser M712.
Although the more modern P-08 Luger pistol made its appearance in 1908 the C96 Mauser's reputation preceded it and was still in high demand, especially during Word War I. Below is shown the P-08 Luger 9mm parabellum pistol, which was the standard sidearm of the German army in both world wars.
In 1916, the German high command initially placed an order for one hundred and fifty thousand, red nine C96 Mauser pistols and designated them as the M96 to distinguish them apart from the 7.63mm caliber pistols that were in abundance at that time. There was actually a total of one hundred and thirty-six thousand, red nine C96 Mauser pistols issued to German forces by the end of World War One Production fell short by just over 15,000 units.
Many of these red nine pistols remained in circulation and were again used in World War Two, as the ammunition was compatible with the standard issue Luger and Walther P-38 pistols of the Wehrmacht. The MP-40 submachine gun also used the same ammunition, so compatibility kept the C96 Mauser alive and kicking all throughout the second world war.
At some stage after the advent of the Colt M1911, the Mauser C96 was chambered for the .45 ACP by the U.S, as this cartridge was more prolific than the 7.63mm or even the 9mm Parabellum in the United States at that time. The Chinese also followed these trends and made the C96 in all popular military calibers including the venerable .45.
C96 GETS STRETCHED...
There was also a long range carbine version of the C96 Mauser and these guns gained popularity wherever they were used. They were light, accurate with their 11 inch long barrels and reasonably powerful. Below is an image of this Mauser Carbine version.
This particular version was 7.63mm caliber, there were also several believed to be made in 9mm. The stock was not a permanent fixture and could be removed, a pistol grip was then attached in its place, leaving a very long barrelled pistol!
C96 IN THE MOVIES...
The C96 can also sometimes be seen in movies, being carried by the good guy and villain of the piece, alike. The pistol has a distinctive business look about it and many directors and movie producers like to arm their characters with one.
In the movies of course, the directors often get carried away and we therefore see a C96 Mauser being used, firing a seemingly endless volley of shots before the gun is actually reloaded! I have seen characters load a ten round stripper clip and then fire the gun as if it had a forty round box magazine on! still...that's Hollywood for you!
Below we see two characters from the 1972 movie, Joe Kidd, with C96 Mausers, the pistol actually had extensive screen coverage in this movie. On the left, bad guy Simms Lamarr (Don Stroud) sights up on his target and on the right, Joe Kidd (Clint Eastwood) later doing the same...with Lamarr's gun!
Below we see Robert Shaw as SMERSH agent Grant, as he prepares to use his C96 Mauser in the James Bond Movie From Russia With love. He actually saved Bonds life with it, by shooting a man in the gypsy camp fight scene.
Below a wounded Turkish soldier fires his C96 in the Movie Lawrence of Arabia. He shot Lawrence (Peter O Toole) in the arm with it!
Below is an image of actor Morgan Freeman as he gets to grips with a 20 round box magazine C96...
A POPULAR FOLLOWING...
Even now, the C96 still has a large following amongst the firearms communities and the C96 is always a huge talking point when it appears. The 9mm versions are probably the most popular due to the abundance of 9mm Parabellum cartridges that all modern 9mm pistols still use of course.
However the pistol is now definitely confined to the antiquity and curio department, as they are indeed antiques...one hundred year old antiques! I don't believe any military, police or law enforcement agency anywhere in the world now uses a C96, as they all use Glocks, Browning Hi Powers, SIG's, Steyrs, Smith & Wessons, Colts and other modern guns.
However, the Broomhandle Mauser will always remain with us as one of the most fascinating and famous firearms in history. They saw a tremendous amount of combat and indeed killed many thousands of soldiers during those times, they also saved the lives of many thousands of those whose lives depended solely upon it.
Below is a ten minute video on YouTube that highlights some of this pistols shooting ability...overall quite a good C96 vid...
A C96 A C96 MY KINDOM FOR A C96...
The Broomhandle C96 Mauser is a very popular collectors gun and hence a good unmarked and matching serial number specimen can command a price tag of over ten thousand dollars or even more.
If you are a C96 Broomhandle Mauser enthusiast and would dearly love to own a gun such as this but due to local gun restrictions or sourcing a good C96 at the right price ( As stated an original C96 in good to excellent condition can fetch a few thousand bucks ) then consider a deactivated gun or even one that's air or gas powered. Red Dragon Airsoft currently sell a C96 air powered pistol and could satisfy any cravings you may have.
Shown below is an image of a Red Dragon Airsoft Mauser C96 Box Cannon and at first or even second glance they are hard to distinguish from the real thing.
This gas powered full metal high quality pistol is actually one of the best gas powered pistols that the Airsoft company manufacture, it can fire a 6mm synthetic BB pellet at over 440 f.p.s. on full automatic. So it doesn't just look good it actually fires too. Read more about C96 Mausers by clicking on the image below...
Thanks to Mr. R. Osman from Texas, U.S.A, for help with some historical notes.