By Friedrich Seiltgen
The Mauser C96 (German for Construktion 96), aka, the “Broomhandle” because of its distinctive shaped hand grip, was a revolutionary pistol.
The C96 was another piece of art from the Mauser gun works and the first “successful” auto loader! Prior to the 1911, it was the pistol to carry in Europe and the far east. The C96 saw service with Winston Churchill, Lawrence of Arabia, and Chinese General Zhu De during the Nanking revolt. The C96 was so popular that the Chinese produced large quantities of unlicensed copies. It was nicknamed the “Box Cannon” by the Chinese because of its 10-round box magazine and the wooden shoulder stock that doubles as a carrying case. While the shoulder stock does help with accuracy at longer ranges, the C96 has an effective range of 150 to 200 Yards. This doesn’t explain the tangent sight on the C96 which is adjustable to a range of 1,000 meters! Just wishful thinking, I guess.
The original full sized C96 was produced with a 5.5-inch barrel, and another variant was the shorter 3.9” barrel “Bolo” model. Another breakthrough of the C96 was its cartridge. Until the advent of the .357 Magnum introduced in 1935, the Mauser developed 7.63x25mm caliber was at the time the hottest pistol cartridge available at a smoking velocity of 1,394 feet per second! Although the C96 was never adopted by any country as an official military sidearm, all the features of the pistol made it a hit with military officers, especially the British, who bought them personally after its introduction in 1896.
Manufacturer: Mauser (Germany), Astra (Spain), Various arsenals in China
Caliber: 7.63X25mm Mauser
Operation System: Short recoil
Barrel length 5.5 inch full sized / 3.9 inch for the Bolo model
Effective range: 150 yards
Rate of fire: 1,500 rpm for the C96 Schnellfeuer
Muzzle velocity: 1,394 feet per second!
Production: Mauser over 1 million, Spain and China unknown due to poor record keeping
The C96 also came in a machine pistol version capable of 1,500 rounds per minute! The Schnellfeuer (rapid fire) version was produced with a detachable 20 round magazine. These were produced after WWI. Why after WWI, you ask? the Versailles treaty limited the number of light and heavy machine guns Germany could possess, but there was no limit on pistols or pistol caliber automatic weapons. Mauser engineers used that loophole to produce the Schnellfeuer.
The C96’s unique design made it popular for use in television and movies like Star Wars, where a modified version was found in the hands of Han Solo. It is also featured in the James Bond series, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Joe Kidd, and hundreds of others. This gun is also popular for use during Cosplay also, although the collector community is not happy as many of these “actors” are purchasing rare models of the Mauser and modifying them for Cosplay use!
Anyone looking for a C96 better get their wallet out. Prices for original Mauser C96s are high, and the Spanish made ASTRA 900 versions aren’t much better. I saw auction sites listing these weapons with starting bids of $900 to $7,000 depending, of course, on manufacturer, stampings, etc.
Friedrich Seiltgen is a retired Master Police Officer with 20 years of service with the Orlando Police Department. He is currently a Part-Time policer officer with the Starke, Florida Police Department. He conducts training in Lone Wolf Terrorism, Firearms, First Aid, Active Shooter Response, and Law Enforcement Vehicle Operations in Florida. His writing has appeared in The Counter Terrorist Magazine, Homeland Security Today and The Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International. Contact him at [email protected].