The Mauser C96, nicknamed the "Broomhandle", was the first semi-automatic pistol to see widespread use. It was manufactured from 1896 to 1937 in Germany, as well as being manufactured in direct or modified - and often unlicensed - form in other countries, such as Spain, and especially China.
The main characteristics that distinguish this pistol are the magazine being forward of the trigger, the long and protruding barrel, and the handle shaped like the end of a broom handle, hence the nickname of Broomhandle.
OverviewEditThe development of the C96 began sometime in 1893 or 1894. Most of the work had been done by the Federle brothers, who worked for the Mauser company. The final design appeared early in 1895 and had been patented by Paul Mauser, and production began in 1896. The C96 was offered to the German military, but it was rejected. However, C96 has a long and successful story on the civilian market - being offered as a pistol-carbine, it outperformed in effective range most of contemporary pistols and revolvers, being especially popular with travelers and hunters in the areas where big animals are rare or absent at all.
The C96 first saw military action during the Boer War in South Africa (1899–1902). During World War I, the C96 had been acquired by the German Army due to the lack of the standard issue Luger P08 pistols. Many German officers preferred it to the Luger and used them as personnel sidearms. It was also been used during the World War II, usually by second line troops of the Reichswehr (German Army).
While serving in the British army, a young Winston Churchill used a C96, having even claimed that the Mauser had saved his life.
The C96 has also beeen widely exported - in the 1920s, Soviet Russia purchased large quantities of the short-barreled (99mm barrels) C96s in 7.63mm, giving the name "Bolo-Mauser" (from Bolsheviks' Mauser) to all short-barreled C96s. In the 1930s, China also purchased large quantities of C96s in 7.63mm, and had also manufactured copies of the C96 that are chambered for .45 ACP. Surprisingly, these Chinese-made copies were of exceptional quality. Many C96 clones were manufactured in Spain, mostly without any license, and mainly by Astra. In the early 1930s, Mauser engineers developed a select-fire version of the C96, which had been used in limited numbers during WWII. The Mauser C96 is a strange weapon and can also equip a stock attachment to help with accuracy.
Technically, the C96 is a recoil-operated, locked breech, semi-automatic pistol. It uses a short recoiling barrel with bolt, located inside the large barrel extension. The bolt and barrel are locked by the vertically tilting locking piece with two lugs, that locks into the recesses on the bottom of the bolt. The gun is hammer-fired. Early guns had hammers with large, round hammer heads with coned sides. The safety is located at the left side of the hammer and locks the hammer when engaged.
The most recognizable feature of C96 is a non-removable, fixed box magazine, located ahead of the trigger guard. Early models were made with 20-, 10- or 6-round magazines, but soon, the 20- and 6-round models were dropped, and since 1905 or so, only 10-round models were manufactured.
The C96 can be loaded with single rounds or from 10-rounds stripper clips. The only way to unload the magazine is to work the slide all the way back and forward for each cartridge in the magazine. Two other notable features were the distinguishable shaped handle (which gave the nickname "broomhandle" to all C96s) and the removable wooden shoulder stock/holster. Finally, most of the C96 were fitted with adjustable rear sights, graduated up to 1000 meters. This, obviously, was more of marketing feature, since at 1000 meters distance the average bullets spread was about 4 meters, but, due to high velocity ammunition (the 7.63mm Mauser round produced muzzle velocities of about 440 meters per second, or 1450 feet per second), the effective range was about 150 or 200 meters, especially with shoulder stock attached.
The C96 took its final shape in 1912, when a new type of safety (marked NS - "Neue Sicherung") was adopted, along with a shorter and wider extractor and a smaller and lighter hammer. In 1915, due to the ongoing World War, German Army purchased some 150,000 C96s from the Mauser Werke, chambered for the army standard issue 9×19mm Parabellum round. These guns were marked with large red "9" digits on the both sides of the grip. In 1931-32, Mauser engineers developed the two latest versions of the C96 - Models 711 and 712. Main difference between these models was the adoption of the removable box magazines for 10- or 20-round capacities. The Model 712 also featured a fire selector mechanism with the fire mode switch on the left side of the frame. Due to the high cyclic rate in full auto (1000 rounds per minute) and light barrel, the full auto could be used with any practical effect only for short time and only with shoulder stock attached. These guns were used in limited quantities by the German Army in the Second World War.