Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mauser C-96 Broomhandle

As Tam likes to say, "The Internet likes gun pics." So, here's a pic of my latest acquisition, something I've wanted since I was a kid, even before I saw Han Solo blow away Greedo*:

It's a wartime commercial Mauser Model 1896 "Broomhandle," AKA, "C-96," chambered for 7.63x25 Mauser. It was made around 1915 - 1916. How I acquired it is a bit of a story, but first, some history.

The Mauser C-96 is generally considered to be the first successful semiautomatic pistol. It was produced from 1896 up until 1937. About a million were made (not including copies). It saw service in numerous wars and copies were made in Spain and China, where it was especially popular. Unlike modern semiauto pistols, it had a fixed, 10 round magazine located ahead of the trigger, loaded with stripper clips. Most C-96s are chambered for 7.63x25 with some in 9x19. The first Broomhandles in 9mm were built at the behest of the German Army in WW1, when production of the standard P-08 Luger couldn't meet demand. Most of these 1916 Prussian Contract guns have grips with red "9"s on them, to differentiate them from the guns in 7.63mm. Many C-96s with shot out barrels have been bored out to 9mm and had Red 9 grips installed. A lot of these were done in the 1980s and '90s, when  thousands of very well used Broomhandles were imported into the US from China.

One of the most unique features was the C-96's construction, which contained only one screw -- the one holding on the grip panels. Everything else fits together like a jigsaw puzzle.

While the gun looks a bit ungainly to 21st Century eyes, it actually handles pretty well. It's a little heavier than a full size 1911 but the balance is different.

Among the most well known users of the Broomhandle were Winston Churchill and T.E. Lawrence. I also ran across of photo of a young Ritter von Leeb packing a C-96.

My dad bought the gun earlier this year. A couple weeks ago he was over at my house to share some Woodford Reserve bourbon and conversation, and I asked him when he was sending the Broomhandle off to get relined (since the bore is shot out). In reply, he asked me if I wanted it, in trade for a nice Polish Radom VIS-35 that he'd given me a few years ago. As nice as the Radom is, the Broomhandle is one of my grails, so I didn't hesitate even a microsecond before agreeing to the trade. (Odds are I'll eventually get the Radom back anyway.)

The exterior of the gun has some pitting and may have been reblued at some point in the past century.  As alluded to previously, the bore is in bad shape. It looks like the entire Heer marched through it.

I plan to shoot it. Before doing so I am going to replace the original springs with a kit from Wolff. (I'll keep the originals in a plastic bag along with the gun.) I have some Hansen (Prvi Partizan) .30 Mauser ammo to try in it. With the bore in such poor shape I am not expecting much in the way of accuracy.

Redman's Rifling & Reboring in Washington State offers a relining service for Broomhandles. I'll probably send the barrel and bolt off to them in early January.

Some thoughts on the correct ammo for Broomhandles in 7.63:

When I was younger the consensus was that 7.63 Mauser was loaded hotter than the dimensionally identical 7.62x25 Tokarev. At some point this reversed and nowadays, the common belief is that Tokarev ammo is loaded hotter than Mauser ammo, and is unsafe to shoot in Broomhandles. However, after doing a lot of research, my belief is that there isn't much of a difference between them, unless you are talking about post-WW2 Czech 7.62 SMG ammo or current Prvi Partizan high pressure 7.62 TT ammo. There is a good discussion of ammo on 1896Mauser.com. (And don't get me started on the myth that the CZ-52 pistol is stronger than Tokarevs. It's not.)

Another characteristic feature of the C-96 is its ability to accept a combination holster/shoulder stock. Normally, in the US, attaching a shoulder stock to a pistol with a barrel less than 16 inches long creates a Short Barreled Rifle, regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934. However, certain curios and relics have been exempted from the purview of the NFA by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. What is sometimes unclear is whether one of these C&Rs is exempt if a replica of the original German stock is attached, rather than an actual original German stock. Being able to use a replica would be ideal because they are available on eBay and other places online for much less than original stocks, which start around $400. I have found scans of letters from BATFE saying replica stocks are OK to use, while there are other ATF letters extant taking the opposite position.

Here's a video from Iraqveteran8888 demonstrating how the shoulder stock is attached and used:

Since I have already invited The Man into my life by building a silencer on a Form 1, I felt that discretion was the better part of valor and emailed the ATF's Firearms Tech Branch, inquiring whether it was legal to attach a replica stock so long as it is substantially identical to the original design. Here's the reply I received:

Received from: Fire_tech@atf.gov
Date: 12/12/14
Dear Sir,
On page 38, in Section III of the Firearms Curio & Relic List, the Mauser Model 1896 is listed with the specific requirement that it be “accompanied by original German mfd. Detachable wooden holster/shoulder stocks…. (Bold in original email.)
ATF – Firearms & Technology Division
From: Dave Markowitz
Sent: Tuesday, December 09, 2014 9:46 AM
To: Fire Tech
Subject: Question regarding the legality of a Reproduction Mauser Model 1896 Stock
Dear Sir:
I own a Mauser Model 1896 (AKA "C96") pistol manufactured in 1915 or 1916. The pistol is chambered for the original 7.63x25mm cartridge and remains unmodified.
After reviewing the Curio and Relic list at <http://www.atf.gov/files/publications/firearms/curios-relics/p-5300-11-firearms-curios-or-relics-list.pdf>, I see that the Model 1896 manufactured before 1940, and fitted with an original German-manufactured holster/shoulder stock has been exempted from the provisions of the National Firearms Act ("NFA"). See Section III, page 38 of that list.
Can you confirm for me whether or not a Model 1896 manufactured prior to 1940, but fitted with a reproduction holster/shoulderstock that is substantially the same as an original holster/shoulder stock would also be exempted from the NFA?
Thank you in advance.
David S. Markowitz

Sigh. I guess I'm in the market for an original stock, rather than an inexpensive replica.

Wikipedia has a nice article on the C-96, but the best site I've come across about the Broomhandle is 1896Mauser.com. The Mauser C-96 is a significant development in small arms history and has made appearances in many movies, including From Russia With Love, not to mention the Star Wars franchise, as the basis for blasters used by Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. I'd love to see a modern made replica to get as a shooter, even if I had to pay a grand for it.

* Han did not shoot first. ONLY Han shot.

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