At a time when most handguns were limited to six rounds, the ten-shot Mauser C96 (Construktion 96) caught the attention of the world for its unprecedented capacity and formidable high-velocity 7.63x25mm cartridge.
The C96 is a semi-loading, short recoil pistol originally manufactured by Mauser from 1896 to 1937 with copies made in Spain and China. The design originated with the brothers Fidel, Friedrich, and Josef Feederle. Fidel was a Mauser employee, working as the Superintendent of the Experimental Work Shop for the company. He and his brothers began designing and prototyping the P-7.63 Feederle Pistol on their own as a side project. When the company decided to manufacture the pistol for commercial sale in 1896, Paul Mauser dubbed the C96 the “Mauser Military Pistol” to attract military buyers.
This saw its ultimate expression in the first-ever select-fire handgun – the “Schnellfeuer” machine pistol, fed by a detachable magazine and offering both full-automatic and single-shot modes.
The C96 was the first semi-automatic pistol to see combat, arming both sides in the Second Anglo-Boer War, and seeing service with the German, Russian, Chinese, and other militaries. Widely purchased commercially, it was carried by none other than Winston Churchill in the Sudan and South Africa, became prized by the Irish Republican Army and Soviet revolutionaries, and even armed Han Solo in the Star Wars movies. It was also a prized World War II trophy of my grandfather, Technician Fifth Grade Melvin Bollig, who displayed it above his basement bar next to his VFW Post 8447 garrison cap and American Legion Post 534 pins.
Featuring full-color artwork and an array of revealing photographs, this is the engrossing story of the C96 “Broomhandle” Mauser, the ground-breaking semiautomatic pistol that armed a generation of military personnel, adventurers, and revolutionaries at the beginning of the 20th century.
Written by Jonathan Ferguson, the Curator of Firearms at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds. Based at the National Firearms Centre, his research interests are in the area of use and effect of firearms, and gun-related mythology and folklore.
Available from Osprey Publishing (OspreyPublishing.com), Amazon, and other book sellers.
Read more in the March 2018 issue.