The Mauser C96 is a semi-automatic pistol that was built by the German arms manufacturer Mauser from 1896–1937.
The C96 gained fame in recent times thanks to two popular series. Author Ian Fleming outfitted SMERSH agents in the James Bond series with Mausers after receiving advice from firearms expert Geoffrey Boothroyd.
Later, a C96 was modified to form Han Solo’s blaster pistol in the Star Wars movies. Reproductions of the blaster became so popular among fans that gun collectors started noticing the increasingly rare original Mausers were being bought and altered to make replica blasters.
The C96 also played a starring role in many Soviet films as the iconic weapon of the Russian Revolution and ensuing civil war.
The Mauser C96 has several distinctive features:
- The integral box magazine in front of the trigger
- The long barrel
- The wooden shoulder stock that doubles as a holster or carrying case
- The grip that is shaped like the handle of a broom
In fact, the grip was so distinctive; it inspired the gun’s nickname–Broomhandle. Because of this distinctive look, the C96 frequently appears as a “foreign” or “exotic” pistol in TV shows or films, and its instantly recognizable shape makes it a popular gun with collectors.
The 7.63-by-25mm Mauser cartridge was the highest velocity commercially manufactured pistol cartridge when the C96 was released. It held that distinction until 1935, when the .357 Magnum cartridge was introduced into the market.
Mauser manufactured approximately 1 million C96 pistols during its life cycle. At one time, the C96 was the most popular pistol of British military officers, who prized the pistol for its superior range and better penetration than other models. Many officers purchased the Mauser C96 for their private collections, but by the onset of World War I, its popularity with the British military had waned.