The Mauser C96 (Construktion 96) is a semi-automatic pistol that was originally produced by German arms manufacturer Mauser from 1896 to 1937. Unlicensed copies of the gun were also manufactured in Spain and China in the first half of the 20th century.
The distinctive characteristics of the C96 are the integral box magazine in front of the trigger, the long barrel, the wooden shoulder stock which gives it the stability of a short-barreled rifle and doubles as a holster or carrying case, and a unique grip shaped like the handle of a broom. The grip earned the gun the nickname "broomhandle" in the English-speaking world, because of its round wooden handle, and in China the C96 was nicknamed the "box cannon" (Chinese: 盒子炮; pinyin: hézipào) because of its rectangular internal magazine and the fact that it could be holstered in its wooden box-like detachable stock.
With its long barrel and high-velocity cartridge, the Mauser C96 had superior range and better penetration than most other pistols of its era; the 7.63×25mm Mauser cartridge was the highest velocity commercially manufactured pistol cartridge until the advent of the .357 Magnum cartridge in 1935.
Mauser manufactured approximately 1 million C96 pistols, while the number produced in Spain and China was large but unknown due to the non-existence or poor preservation of production records from those countries.
Within a year of its introduction in 1896, the C96 had been sold to governments and commercially to civilians and individual military officers.
The Mauser C96 pistol was extremely popular with British officers at the time and many purchased it privately. Mauser supplied the C96 to Westley Richards in the UK for resale. By the onset of World War I, the C96's popularity with the British military had waned.
As a military sidearm, the pistols saw service in various colonial wars, as well as World War I, the Easter Rising, the Estonian War of Independence, the Spanish Civil War, the Chinese Civil War and World War II. The C96 also became a staple of Bolshevik commissars and various warlords and gang leaders in the Russian Civil War, known simply as "the Mauser". Communist revolutionaries Yakov Yurovsky and Peter Ermakov used Mausers to murder the Russian imperial family in July 1918.
Winston Churchill was fond of the Mauser C96 and used one at the 1898 Battle of Omdurman and during the Second Boer War; Lawrence of Arabia carried a Mauser C96 for a period, during his time in the Middle East. Indian Revolutionary Ram Prasad Bismil and his partymen used these Mauser pistols in the historic Kakori train robbery in August 1925. Chinese Communist General Zhu De carried a Mauser C96 during his Nanchang Uprising and later conflicts; his gun (with his name printed on it) can be viewed in the Beijing war museum.
Three Mauser C96 were used in the killing of Spanish prime minister Eduardo Dato in 1921.
Imported and domestic copies of the C96 were used extensively by the Chinese in the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Chinese Civil War, as well as by the Spanish during the Spanish Civil War and the Germans in World War II.
Besides the standard 7.63×25 mm chambering, C96 pistols were also commonly chambered for 9×19mm Parabellum with a small number also being produced in 9 mm Mauser Export. In 1940, Mauser officials proposed using the C-96 as the vehicle for an upgrade to the 9×25mm Mauser Export cartridge to match the ballistics of the .357 Magnum.  Lastly, there was a Chinese-manufactured model chambered for .45 ACP. Despite the pistol's worldwide popularity and fame, China was the only nation to use the C96 as the primary service pistol of its military and police.
Mauser's first military contract was with the Ottoman Turkish government in 1897. They ordered 1,000 pistols; they had their own serial number range, running from 1 to 1000. They differ in that they use a non-Arabic number system on the tangent sight and the weapon is designated in this number system in the Islamic calendar year "1314" rather than the Gregorian calendar year "1896 / 1897". Markings include a six-pointed star on both sides of the chamber and the crest of Sultan Abdul Hamid II (a trophy of crossed Turkish flags, various polearms, and a collection of his royal awards and honors) and the Muslim year 1314 on the square left rear frame panel.
In 1899, the Italian government ordered Mauser's first major military contract; an order for 5,000 C96 pistols for the Italian Royal Navy. They differ in that their receivers were "slab-sided" (i.e., lacked the milling on the sides found on commercial Mausers). They also have a "ring hammer" (spurless hammer with a hole through its head) instead of the early "cone hammer" (spurless hammer with ribbed cone-like projections on the sides of its head). These guns had their own serial number range, running from 1 to 5000.
The Persian government ordered 1,000 pistols. They have the Persian government's "Lion and Sun" insignia on the rectangular milled panel on the left side of the receiver and the serial numbers range from 154000 to 154999. It is often confused with the Turkish contract Mauser.
During World War I, the Imperial German Army contracted with Mauser for 150,000 C96 pistols chambered in 9mm Parabellum to offset the slow production of the standard-issue Luger P08 pistol. This variant of the C96 was named the "red 9", after a large number 9 burned and painted in red into the grip panels, to warn the pistols' users not to incorrectly load them with 7.63 mm ammunition. Of the 150,000 pistols commissioned, approximately 137,000 were delivered before the war ended. Because the army delegated the branding to unit armourers, not all 9 mm pistols carry the nine.
The German government purchased 7,800 commercial M30 pistols in 1940 for use by the Luftwaffe. They have Wehrmacht proof marks and the Mauser serial numbers come from the early- to mid-1930s. The weapon had ceased production in 1937 but the order was filled from remaining stocks.
There were many variants of the C96 besides the standard commercial model; the most common are detailed below.
One of the experimental ideas was the creation of a pistol-carbine for use by light cavalry. They had a "slab-sided" receiver, standard 10-round magazine, a permanently affixed wooden stock and forend, and a lengthened 300 millimetres (12 in) (early production) or 370 millimetres (15 in) (late production) barrel. They were dropped from production after 1899 due to poor sales and little military interest.
There was limited sporting interest in the carbine version and due to small production numbers it is a highly prized collectible priced at about twice the value of the pistol version. Recently, importers like Navy Arms imported late-model Mauser carbines with 16-inch or longer barrels for sale in the US.
A version of the Mauser pistol with a full-sized grip, six-shot internal magazine, and a 120-millimetre (4.7 in) barrel. Production was phased out by 1899.
This is the unofficial term for a variant compact Mauser with a curved wooden or hard-rubber grip, like that of a revolver. The name comes from the US Army designation of the Mauser pistol sent to participate in their self-loading pistol trials.
This is the first model to come cut for a combination wooden stock-holster. The stock doubled as a case or holster and attached to a slot cut in the grip frame.
This model was the first to chamber the 9×25mm Mauser export cartridge. It was designed to appeal to the arms markets in South America and China. Mauser C96 pistols in this caliber usually have an indentation milled into the upper surface of the magazine's follower to facilitate feeding of the straight-cased 9×25mm cartridge cases. The rifling in the barrel has a unique 13:8 twist. In addition, the flat surfaces extending around the chamber are longer to accommodate the higher pressures of the 9×25mm cartridge. Examples of Mauser C96s in this caliber are rare, but are still occasionally found on the private collector's market. The 9×25mm Mauser export caliber receded from the market as the armaments industry reoriented itself towards military manufacture during World War I, but the round enjoyed a resurgence in popularity as a submachine gun caliber in the 1930s.
The Treaty of Versailles (signed in 1919) imposed a number of restrictions on pistol barrel lengths and calibres on German arms manufacturers. Pistols for German government issue or domestic market sales could not have a barrel longer than 4 inches and could not be chambered for 9 mm cartridges.
The Weimar Republic banned the private ownership of military-issue or military-style weapons in an attempt to recover valuable arms from returning soldiers. The confiscated weapons were then used to arm government forces, leaving them with a hodge-podge of military and civilian arms. To meet the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles, a major reworking project was begun that set about converting these weapons.
To be compliant, pre-war C.96 models belonging to the Weimar government had to have their barrels cut down to 99 millimetres (3.9 in). This meant that their tangent sights had to be replaced with fixed sights. They also had to be converted to the standard 7.63×25mm Mauser round, though a few hybrid Mausers were made with salvaged Luger barrels that were chambered for 7.65×21mm Parabellum. Compliant confiscated government-issue guns were marked M1920. This practice was continued on German service pistols even after the ban was ignored and the conversions had stopped.
Mauser began manufacturing a compliant version of the C96 for commercial sale from 1920 to 1921. It featured smaller grips, a shorter 99-millimetre (3.9 in) barrel, and was chambered for the standard 7.63×25mm Mauser. An experimental 8.15×25.2mm Mauser cartridge was used to replace the banned 9×19mm Parabellum and 9×25mm Mauser Export cartridges for domestic sales but it never supplanted the 9mm caliber.
Mass-production of the weapon was from 1921 to 1930. It was sold in quantity to armies in the contested Baltic region and was carried by the Poles, Lithuanians, German Freikorps and White Russians. The Bolshevik government (and later the new Red Army) of the embryonic Soviet Union, purchased large numbers of this model in the 1920s and also appropriated them from defeated enemies. The distinctive pistol became associated with the Bolsheviks and was thus nicknamed the "Bolo". The "Bolo" model was also popular elsewhere, as the shorter barrel and smaller overall size made the gun easier to conceal.
There was also a transitional version in 1930 that used the "Bolo" frame but with a longer 132-millimetre (5.2 in) barrel.
Also known as the M30 by collectors, it was a simplification and improvement of the M1921 Mauser. It simplified production by removing several fine-machining details and reverted to the "pre-war" large grip and long barrel. The early model M30s had a 132 millimetres (5.2 in) barrel, but later models had the traditional 140 millimetres (5.5 in) barrel. It was made from 1930 until 1937.
Joseph Nickl designed a selective-fire conversion in 1930. It tended to "cook off" (fire by spontaneous ignition of the propellant when overheated) when fired in long bursts. Only 4,000 of this model were made between 1930 and 1931.
Since the M1932 / M712 variant was full-auto, the semi-auto M1930 it was derived from was sometimes called the M711 by war surplus dealers and collectors.
The Spanish gunmaking firms of Beistegui Hermanos and Astra began producing detachable magazine-fed, select-fire versions of the C96 in 1927 and 1928 respectively, intended for export to the Far East.
Mauser began production of the Schnellfeuer (rapid fire), their own select-fire, detachable magazine version of the M30 designed by Karl Westinger. Production started in 1932 and ended in 1936, which has led to its unofficial designation of "M1932" by collectors. An extremely successful design, around 98,000 guns were made overall and they had their own series of serial numbers.
It was largely intended for export to South America and China or to the opposing sides in the later Spanish Civil War. From 1932 to 1935, the Yugoslavian military tested batches of the Schnellfeuer in both 7.63mm and 9mm Parabellum for the purpose of arming mountain troops and special operations units. Improvements requested by the Yugoslavs included a detachable barrel, improved front and rear sights, more durable parts to prevent breakage under sustained fire and lowered position of the shoulder stock to avoid "hammer bite."
Small numbers of M1932s were supplied to the German Wehrmacht during World War II, who designated it the M712.
The US National Firearms Act of 1934 placed a $200 tax on select-fire weapons ("machine guns"), making exports of the Schnellfeuer guns to the US impractical since at the time this was roughly half the cost of a new car. After World War II, importers sold a semi-automatic conversion of the detachable magazine Schnellfeuer that was made for the US surplus market. The versions imported from China were built on new semi-auto-only frames; the ATF treats them under the law as new guns and not under the curio and relic exemption.
Oyster Bay Industries was an American company that made a detachable magazine conversion kit for the Mauser. It removed the floor plate, spring and follower and added a small magazine catch mechanism that allowed it to feed its own brand of proprietary fourteen round 9 mm magazines. The conversion could either be performed on a "red 9" pistol or a new 9 mm upper receiver could be sold that would convert a standard C.96 7.63mm pistol.
The Brazilian government bought five-hundred 7.63mm M1932 Schnellfeuer machine pistols for the Policia Militar do Distrito Federal (Portuguese: "Federal District Military Police") during the mid-1930s. The PASAM (pistola automática semi-automática Mauser, or "semi-automatic / automatic military pistol") used the M1932 as its base but made a few alterations. The controls were the same as the standard model, except the markings were in Portuguese. The selector switch (found on the left side, above the trigger guard) was marked N for normal (semi-automatic) and R for rápido ("rapid" for fully automatic). The safety control lever (found to the left of the hammer) was marked S for seguro (safe) and F for fogo (fire). It was used with Brazilian State Military Police (Polícia Militar) forces in the 1980s. They preferred to use it as a semi-automatic carbine and reserved its full-auto setting for emergencies due to its recoil and muzzle-climb.
In 1970, the Policia Militar do Rio de Janeiro (PMRJ) asked the services of Jener Damau Arroyo, a Spanish-born gunsmith, to make modifications on their PASAMs in order to improve their handling. The first modification (PASAM MOD-1), of which 101 were modified, received a metal frame extension welded to the magazine housing. It was fitted with a metal forward grip well ahead of the gun under the muzzle. The original grip was left alone, making it compatible with the wooden holster/stock. The second modification (PASAM MOD-2), involving 89 pistols, featured a similar frame extension, but the forward grip had wooden panels and was of different shape. The pistol grip frame used thicker rectangular wooden grips and had a 1.5-foot (460 mm) "t-bar" metal shoulder stock welded to it. A metal frame attached to the receiver supported a rectangular wooden foregrip, taking pressure off the barrel. In both models, of course, the barrel was left free so as to enable it to do its short recoil during firing. For the record, 295 PASAMs were left in the original condition. It took standard detachable 10-round box magazines, although they can also take the extended 20- and 40-round magazines.
During the Warlord era of Chinese history in the early 20th century, the province of Shanxi was ruled by warlord Yen Hsi-shan, who had established a modern arms factory in his capital city of Taiyuan. Yen was equipping his troops with a locally produced copy of the Thompson submachine gun, chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge, but was experiencing supply difficulties as his troops' sidearms were 7.63mm calibre C96 handguns.
Yen's solution was to produce a .45 ACP caliber version of the C96, thus standardizing ammunition and making supply logistics easier. Designated Type 17, production of the .45 caliber handgun began in 1929 at the Taiyuan Arsenal and ended in 1931. They are inscribed (in Chinese) "Type 17" on the left hand side of the gun, and "Republic Year Eighteen, Made in Shansi" on the right hand side. They were issued (along with Thompson SMGs) to railway guards in the province as defense against bandits and other warlords.
Besides being chambered for a larger cartridge, the Shanxi .45 pistols use a noticeably larger frame than their 7.63mm counterparts, with the 10-round magazine extending below the trigger guard and a 155 mm (6.1 in) barrel. It was loaded using two five-round stripper clips rather than the single 10-round stripper clips of the standard 7.63mm Mauser. Because of the overall increase in size, Type 17 pistols share no interchangeable parts with any other C96 variant.
Most of the Shanxi .45 pistols were melted down after the Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War, largely due to their odd caliber for Chinese Communist standards, but a few examples were exported overseas for sale on the commercial market. Approximately 8,500 Shanxi .45 caliber Broomhandle pistols are believed to have been produced by the Taiyuan Arsenal, but there is some debate as to how many of the Shanxi .45 caliber Broomhandle pistols currently on the commercial market were actually produced for Yen's troops, and how many are more recent productions for the US collectors' market.
In 1923 the Hanyang Munitions Works began making a copy of the Mauser C96. The result was the Hanyang C.96, about 13,000 copies being produced, it is sometimes described as the "fancier" of the two Chinese copies. Like the Shansi Type 17, it is unknown of how many originals are currently left on the market.
Type 80 is a machine pistol designed in late-20th Century by the People's Republic of China. It is based on the C96 which was widely used in China since the 1900s and is chambered for the Type 51 cartridge (Chinese copies of the Soviet 7.62x25mm Tokarev cartridge), but it is fed by a 20-round detachable box magazine instead of the 10-round undetachable magazine in a standard C96. A 10-round box magazine is also available for the firearm. The Type 80 features a different grip similar to that on a TT-33 but seems narrower than that of a standard TT-33. The Type 80 is said to have an effective firing range of 100 metres (about 109 yards)and a muzzle velocity of 470 meters per second (about 1542 fps).It was designed to replace some of the PLA's Type 54s (Chinese copies of Soviet Tokarev TT pistol, the Type 54 was the standard service pistol of the PLA from the 1950s to the 1990s), especially Type 54s in service in the Chinese special forces, as a small, light weapon which was asked to be good at both attacking and personal defending, similar to that of a PDW. But in the 1990s, the Chinese designed a new type of pistol, the QSZ-92,which was adopted as the standard-issue pistol by both the military and most of the police forces later and replaced most of the pistols in their service, including the Type 80.
The Spanish gunmaker Astra-Unceta y Cia began producing a copy of the Mauser C.96 in 1927 that was externally similar to the C96 (including the presence of a detachable shoulder stock/holster) but with non-interlocking internal parts. It was produced until 1941, with a production hiatus in 1937 and 1938, and a final batch assembled from spare parts in 1951. The Spanish copies of the C96 were generally intended for export to China, but after the commencement of the Sino-Japanese war (which blocked supply of guns to Chinese forces) the remaining Astra 900s were used in the Spanish Civil War, and numbers were also sold to Germany in the period 1940–1943.
Produced by Beistegui Hermanos in Eibar, Spain, this was the first pseudo-Mauser on the market, a relatively crude semi-auto appearing in 1926 and full-auto variants appearing in 1927. Mechanically, it was laid out approximately like the Mauser original, but without the removable lock frame. Internal parts (trigger, hammer, safety lever, etc.) pivoted on pins and screws extending through the frame. The screws also held the frame together. The bolt was of round cross-section, unlike the square Mauser bolt. The weapon was stamped with either "Royal" or "ETAI".
This was a much closer copy of the Mauser original than the ETAI/Royal model and variants, with the full separate lock frame and all. It was of much better quality than the earlier gun, though still not at Mauser level. The MM31 was manufactured until 1934. A total of about 10,000 were made, in perhaps four successive variants. These models came in semi-auto and semi-auto/full auto selective fire variants.
This model was much like the MM31, but added a mechanical rate reducer inside the grip area, a three-position lever to select the firing rate. It also had a ribbed barrel to help prevent the barrel from overheating during sustained full auto fire. Only a few hundred of these weapons were made and are very rare today.
The Azul and Super Azul pistols were also manufactured by Beistegui Hermanos in Eibar, Spain, but sold by Eulogio Arostegui. The Azul was a copy of the standard C96 while the Super Azul was a semi auto/full auto select fire variant. Each accepted detachable box magazines instead of having an internal box magazine.
In the late 1980s to the early 1990s, the Federal Ordnance firearms company in South El Monte, U.S.A. made reproductions of the Mauser 1917 Trench Carbine and C96 pistol, named the M713 and M714 respectively. The M713 came in a standard variant with a fixed stock and magazine, as well as a "Deluxe" variant which had a detachable stock and detachable box magazines. The M714 supported detachable box magazines, unlike the original C96, and a "Bolo" variant, with the "Bolo" model having a shorter barrel and grip. All variants of the M713 and M714 were available in 7.62x25mm and 9x19mm ammunition.
The Broomhandle Mauser is a popular collector's gun. It was popularized in Soviet films as the iconic weapon of the Russian revolution and civil war. The C96 frequently appears as a "foreign" or "exotic" pistol in a number of films (such as The Great Silence, where Jean-Louis Trintignant's use of the C96 intentionally contrasts with the Colt Single Action Army revolvers used by the other characters in the film) and TV shows, owing to its distinctive and instantly recognisable shape. Author Ian Fleming outfitted agents of SMERSH in the James Bond series with Mausers on the advice of firearms expert Geoffrey Boothroyd. The C96 was the inspiration for the Buck Rogers Atomic Pistol in the movie serial and the comic, and a popular toy version was produced in 1934 by the Daisy Manufacturing Company. A C96 was modified to form Han Solo's prop blaster pistol for the Star Wars films (under the name BlasTech DL-44 heavy blaster pistol). Reproductions of the blaster became so popular in the cosplay community that gun collectors became aware that fans were buying and altering increasingly rare original Mausers to make blaster replicas. A .45 ACP C/96 was also fictional character Jon Sable's main weapon in the 1983 comic book.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mauser C/96.|