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Mauser C96 semi-automatic pistol

Mauser_C96_M1916_Red_9_7The 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 can double as a holster or carrying case and a 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” because of its square-shaped internal magazine and the fact it could be holstered in its wooden box-like detachable stock.

The Mauser C96, with its shoulder stock, long barrel, and high-velocity cartridge, had superior range and better penetration than most other pistols; 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 loss, non-existence or poor preservation of production records from those countries.

Service

An early C96 prototype.

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 also 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 1, however, 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 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”.

Winston Churchill was fond of the Mauser C96 and used one at the Battle of Omdurman and during the Second Boer War; similarly, 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 historical 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.

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 7.63×25mm chambering, C96 pistols were also commonly chambered for 9×19mm Parabellum with a small number also being produced in 9 mm Mauser Export. 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.

Today, the Broomhandle Mauser is a popular collector’s gun. The C96 frequently appears as a “foreign” or “exotic” pistol in a number of films and TV shows, owing to its distinctive and instantly recognisable shape,and for the same reasons and in the same tradition, a C96 was modified to form Han Solo’s prop blaster pistol for the Star Wars films. It was popularized in Soviet films as the iconic weapon of the Russian revolution and civil war.

Contract variants

1897 Turkish Army Mauser

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 and the Muslim year 1314 on the square left rear frame panel.

1899 Italian Navy Mauser

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.

1910 Persian Contract Mauser

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.

M1916 Austrian Contract

Austria-Hungary ordered 50,000 Mausers in the standard 7.63×25mm.

Mauser “Red 9″ C96 with stripper clip

M1916 Prussian “Red 9″

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 load them with 7.63 mm ammunition by mistake. 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 9mm pistols carry the nine.

M1920 French Police Contract

The French government set up an order for 1,000 pistols with 3.9-inch [99mm] barrels for the Gendarmerie Nationale. The pistol had black ebonite grips rather than wooden ones.

WW2 Luftwaffe contract

The German government purchased 7,800 commercial M30 pistols for use by the Luftwaffe. They have Wehrmacht proof marks. The year is said to have been 1940, but the serial numbers come from the early- to mid-1930s and the weapon ceased production in 1937.

Major variants

There were many variants of the C96 besides the standard Commercial model; the most common are detailed below.

M1896 Kavallerie Karabiner

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 11.75-inch [300 mm] (early production) or 14.5-inch [370 mm] (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.

M1896 Compact Mauser

A version of the Mauser pistol with a full-sized grip, 6-shot internal magazine, and a 4.75-inch [120 mm] barrel. Production was phased out by 1899.

M1896 Officer’s Model

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.

M1898 Pistol Carbine

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.

M1912 Mauser Export Model

This model was the first to chamber the 9×25mm Mauser Export cartridge. It was designed to capitalize on the arms market in South America and China.

M1920 Mauser Rework

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 9mm 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 3.9-inches [99mm]. 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.

M1921 “Bolo” Mauser

Mauser began manufacturing a compliant version of the C.96 for commercial sale from 1920-1921. It featured smaller grips, a shorter 3.9-inch [99mm] barrel,and was chambered for the standard 7.63x25mm 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 caught on.

Large-scale production of the weapon was from 1921-1930. 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 or appropriated them from their 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 version that used the “Bolo” frame but with a longer (132mm) barrel.

M1930 Mauser

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 5.18-inch [132 mm] barrel, but later models had the traditional 5.5-inch [140mm] 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.

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.

M1932 / M712 Schnellfeuer

Mauser M712 Schnellfeuer

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 (“Fast Fire”), their own select-fire, detachable magazine version of the M30 designed by Karl Westinger. Production started in 1932 and ended in 1936, This has led to its unofficial designation of “M1932″ by collectors. Again, it was largely intended for export to China or to the opposing sides in the later Spanish Civil War. Small numbers of M1932s were also 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 machine guns making exports of the Schnellfeuer guns to the US impractical. 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; ATF treats them under the law as new guns and not under Curio & Relic exemption.

9 OBI

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 10- or 20-round 9mm magazines. The conversion could either be performed on a “Red 9″ pistol or a new 9mm upper receiver could be sold that would convert a standard C.96 7.63mm pistol.

PASAM machine pistol

The Brazilian government bought 500 7.63mm M1932 Schnellfeuer machine pistols during the 1930s. The PASAM (Pistola Automática Semi-Automática Militar, or “Semi-Automatic / Automatic Military Pistol”) used the M1932 as its base but made a few alterations. 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 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, 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, 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 20/40-round magazines.

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 (“Normal” for 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”).

Notable copies

Shanxi Type 17 (.45 ACP)

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 sub machine 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 on the .45 caliber handgun began in 1929 at the Taiyuan Arsenal. 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 are noticeably bigger than their 7.63mm counterparts, with the 10-round magazine extending below the trigger guard. It was loaded using two 5-round stripper clips rather than the single 10-round stripper clips of the standard 7.63mm Mauser.

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.

Type 80 (7.62mm Type 51)

A machine pistol intended for officers and developed by the People’s Liberation Army of the Communist China. The design drew heavy inspiration from M712 Schnellfeuer, but the pistol grip is the same as that of the Type 64, and the gun itself chambers the more powerful 7.62×25mm Tokarev round.

Hanyang C.96 (7.63mm Mauser)

In 1923 the Hanyang Munitions Works began making a copy of the Mauser C.96. The result was the Hanyang C96, 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.

Astra Model 900

Astra Model 900

The Spanish gunmaker Astra-Unceta y Cia began producing a copy of the Mauser C.96 in 1927. Externally similar (including the presence of a detachable shoulder stock/holster) to the C96 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.

“Royal” MM34 machine pistol

A rare copy of the Astra Model 900 was also manufactured in Eibar, Spain by Zulaica y Cia as the Royal MM34. These are recognized by its finned barrel and capped muzzle. Very few examples of the Royal MM34 are in existence today.

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