There had been a lot of small arms in the past that were a result of experiments, needs, or pure curiosity. Some of them stood the test of time and were still used until now, while the others were just plain weird and were quickly phased out, if not used at all. The Mauser C96 was one of those that wowed the people during its time. While it was by no means impressive anymore by today’s standards, it is still worthy of admiration.
Rejected by Germany
The Mauser Model 96, or simply Mauser C96, was one of the earliest self-loading pistols to be used in military service. The majority of its design was done by the Feederle brothers, who were working for Mauser. It was Peter Mauser who patented it in 1895 and reproduced it in his factory in Oberdorf. Mauser was a gunsmith in the Royal Wurttem Arms Factory who, with the help of his brother Wilhelm, designed the Model 1871 breech-loading rifle that was used by the Grman military service after some tweaks as the Modell 1871.
Mauser tried to offer the C96 to the German military, but they refused. They instead sold it on the civilian market, and it became a hit. Most buyers were hunters who loved the pistol’s ability to turn into a carbine. How it worked was that an iconic walnut stock was added to the rear of the grip, which was multi-purpose and also acted as the carrying device for the pistol. A carbine version of it with a 240 mm barrel was also released.
A Closer Look
Perhaps one of the main reasons it became a hit was the C96’s excellent accuracy and range, plus its high firing rate and quick reloading capability. The C96’s distinctive shape was due to its 10-round box magazine in front, which was also practical compared to the other handguns of its time. Its fast reloading capability could be credited to the 5-round stripper clips that were especially quicker compared to the usual six-shot revolver.
The early Mauser C96 pistols were predominantly 7.63x25mm, which was a powerful cartridge that remained the highest-velocity round available in the commercial market until the .357 Magnum. A 140 cm-long barrel could also be attached to it to give it better accuracy and range. Due to its rounded wooden handle, it was nicknamed the “Broomhandle.”
Other variations of the weapon included different magazine capacities, so there were six-shot, ten-shot, and 20-shot magazines, all still in 7.63 mm. Then there was a ten-shot magazine with a 6mm version. Before World War I broke out, Mauser produced C96 with 9mm Parabellum for export, which became largely available on the Chinese market.
Witness of Many Wars
As mentioned above, the German military turned down the Mauser C96. However, the British officers did not, so it saw success in the export market, and Mauser supplied the pistol to Westley Richards for resale.
During the Boer War in South Africa, the C96 users took advantage of its close-range and long-range capabilities. Even Winston Churchill was impressed by it that he carried one for himself during the Battle of Omdurman up to the Second Boer War. Around 70,000 of the C96 were built and exported by 1908.
Meanwhile, the Germans walked back their decision during World War I when they could not produce enough of their preferred Luger. They used the 9mm ones known as the “Red 9” because the grip had the number 9 marked in red. They chose this variance to prevent the German soldiers from loading the C96 with the traditional 7.63mm ammo.
The British military stopped patronizing the C96 pistol after the war started, and for obvious reasons. After World War I, Mauser C96 continued to develop and became extensively used in Russia and China. Soon, China copied and produced the weapon on its own. The weapon also saw use in the Spanish Civil War, the Estonian War of Independence, the Chinese Civil War, the Second Sino-Japanese War, and World War II when the Germans used it again, mostly by the second-line troops.
The most famous version of the C96 was the fully automatic Schnellfeuer variant produced from 1932 to 1936, which could fire 900 to 1000 rounds per minute and was highly powerful. Around 98,000 of this variant were built, mostly for export to China and South America.
All in all, it was estimated that over one million Mauser C96 were built, although the exact number was unknown due to the lack of records and unlicensed versions that were made in China and Spain.