Condensed History of the C96 “Broomhandle” Mauser Pistol
It’s one of those guns that turn heads. The C96 (Construktion 96) pistol was considered one of the best sidearm options available when it first debuted in 1896. The world would not see a hotter handgun until the introduction of the .357 Magnum cartridge in 1935. Around the turn of the 20th century, it seemed like just about everyone from Germany to China was producing them.
Despite the name, Paul Mauser did not design the Mauser C96. Credit goes to the Feederle brothers, Fidel, Friedrich and Josef. Fidel was a higher –up in one of Mauser’s workshops. He and his brothers worked up a prototype in this facility(without the knowledge and then against the wishes of Fidel’s big name boss) for what they called the P-7.63 or Feederle pistol.
In spite of Mauser’s reservations about this broomhandled handgun, the oddly alluring design was finalized in 1896.The pistol went into production at Mauser’s Oberndorf-Necker factory in Germany. It was initially called the Mauser Military Pistol”, but not a single country’s armed forces adopted it as their primary sidearm.
The first group to truly embrace the pistol were British officers who attained the pistol through private purchase. This lead to a taste for the imported broomhandles among the middle and upper classes and the C96 sold out in its’ first year of manufacture. It would maintain this pace right up until the start of WWI.
The very first military model was produced in 1912 and used throughout WWI. The military models originally fired the 7.63mm rounds, but the demands of the war forced makers to upgrade to the more powerful 9mm Parabellum rounds. These models had a large, Red number 9 engraved into their grips to remind the user to load the 9mm cartridge rather than the 7.63.
Mauser manufactured approximately one million C96 pistols between 1896 and 1939. But, that number does not reflect the unknown thousands, perhaps millions, produced in Spain and China, where it was nicknamed the “box cannon”.
The list of wars and colonial insurrections in which this weapon saw service ranges from the Spanish-American War in 1898 to the Vietnam War. It was carried by Winston Churchill in the Battle of Omdurman, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, T.E. Lawrence(a.k.a. Lawrence of Arabia) during his adventures in the Middle East and, of course, Han Solo. George Lucas chose the C96 as the design for Hans’ DL-44 Heavy Blaster in the Star Wars Trilogy.
An expanded history of this handgun can be found at www.wikipedia.org/Mauser_C96 and at www.guns.com/2012/01/26/a-sweeping-history-0f-the-mauser-c96-broomhandle-pistol.
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