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Small Arms of WWI Primer 009: German Mauser C96 Pistol


Mauser’s rifles have certainly earned
him a place in history, but these were not his only legacy. You see, Paul Mauser
also kept up a research division in his company and thankfully would recognize
the genius of three of his employees. Their handgun would prove to be one of
the most iconic in history, often quoted as the first truly successful automatic
pistol design. Their names, however, are not often heard, as their gun would be
branded by the company. Mauser. (slow, sorrowful, classy, expensive sounding string instrumental) Hi! I’m Othais, and this is the Mauser construction 96 “Broomhandle” pistol. Let’s take it to the lightbox. Our standard military C96 is going to be
12.3 inches long, 2.5 pounds in weight, it’s going to chamber either 7.63 Mauser
or nine millimeter Parabellum with a ten round capacity. Early versions will
have sights ranged from 50 to 1000 meters and later we’ll see 50
to 500. This pistol is the product of three brothers. They are the Feederle
brothers Joseph, Friedrich, and Fidel Fidel Feederle. I’m not kidding. Now, that last name is probably the most
significant because he really took the lead on this project and he would be
instrumental in other Mauser designs. He was the head of the sort of experimental workshop and he had hands in things like the development of the Mauser 98,
Mauser’s auto loading rifle experiments, and he was sort of
instrumental in the T Gewehr antitank rifle. Rewinding the clock a
little bit though – talking about 1893ish. He is playing around his brothers with an idea
for an auto loading handgun and he gets a little over excited and starts kind of
working on it at work. Now Mauser wasn’t quite ready for that
market at the time and he was a little upset that this, you know, company money and
productivity was being wasted on a personal project. So he shoos them off
to work on it home and they do. They play with it once a week at, I believe, Joseph’s house and they kind of keep Mauser up to date though. It’s not like he doesn’t want to hear
about it, he just doesn’t wanna see it at work. Well now in 1893-1894, some designs are coming to market. We see names like Bittner and Bergmann, Mannlicher, and Borchardt and they’re bringing out
the first semi-automatic handguns that seem to be viable. I mean, the Borchardt’s
really getting attention. Now Paul Mauser wanted to stay in competition with these
guys, so he contacted the Feederles, remembering their design, and asked them to bring them right back into the shop. He took personal attention on the
matter and realistically, it looks like they had it mostly figured out anyway, so very quickly we see this thing worked into an actual working prototype. There’s one that’s noted to be done by March of 1895. Now Mauser goes ahead and patents the pistol under his own name. I’m unsure of the details of how this was
worked out but there’s no sign of the brother is becoming upset or quitting or
anything like that, so it must have been chosen by all. Honestly, Mauser
probably had a, sort of the bigger backing to police the patent, as it was.
Now, they go ahead and designate their new pistol the “Recoil Loader with
Locking Block, Self-loading Pistol, C96”. Thankfully, we just called the C96 now. It was chambered in 7.63 x 25mm Mauser, a cartridge that was frankly stolen from Borchardt Realistically the only difference is
that Mauser crimped his cartridge. Although, because of the stronger action
of the C96, the 7.63 Mauser cartridge would end up being loaded much hotter over the years. Now the first example of this pistol wouldn’t actually look quite like this. It had a more traditional hammer and a
fixed rear sight. Later this would be changed to a cone hammer and finally this ring hammer. There was a large and small. And, right away, we’re going to see the fixed rear sight become adjustable tangent. Now the gun is short recoil locking, which means that the barrel assembly has to come back a little ways
before the locking block inside is cammed down and the bolt is free to go. We’ll
show that in a moment with an animation. You can see it here, when I retract it, that
everything kind of comes back and then resettles a bit. Now, it will lock open
because it’s meant to be fed from a stripper clip. These would normally be loaded with ammo. Mae will show you that in more detail in a moment. And unfortunately, that follower stop on the bolt, and there’s no real easy way to get that thing back where it belongs without sticking your finger in there. So give her a tug, give her a push, and then get the heck out of the way. Now this particular model has the new safety which means I have to manually thumb back that hammer a bit and then flip up the safety and release the hammer. It was just an improvement, we’ll get
there in a moment. Now, Mauser and the Feederles believe pretty strongly in this design, and they develop three variations right off the bat The ten shot that we see here, a six shot, and a 20 shot version. They also, like many other pistol designs at the time, went ahead and paired a stock to the action. This sets us up to have a little carbine. It works out well on this gun especially, because that high bore axis makes it a
little flippy when you use of one-handed. It feels a lot like an old revolver. Now this
stock also serves as a holster. It can be flipped open and the gun set down inside. Neat! They instantly wanted to find military contracts for these things, so they talked to officials at every level they could get and within a year managed to
show their pistols to Kaiser Wilhelm the Second. They brought along the
aforementioned models, plus a dedicated carbine with no ‘Broomhandle’ grip.
The Kaiser loved the design and was thrilled to shoot them. He also charged Mauser
personally with a mission to please adapt it to an auto loading rifle,
which unfortunately never really came to fruition. You would think with all that
being said the C-96 would have been a shoo-in for military adoption, but it
gets a little trickier than that. Alright, before we skip that far ahead , though, let’s take a little closer look at the gun as it existed and head over to an
animation. As we go over this, note there is only one screw in the C-96 and it’s
for the grips, not pictured here. Additionally there are no simple pins. The hammer rotates on an extension to the sear spring. Now we’ll need to show this
in layers as so many parts overlap. First let’s load the pistol from a
stripper clip and remove it to release the bolt. As we pull the trigger, pay attention to
the sear and hammer. For the second pass, we’ll show the plungers and rocker. The left plunger presses rearward to drive the hammer. The right side plunger wraps around the rocker, pressing it into the locking block. The locking block is attached to the barrel extension, meaning the slide
cannot retract until the lock is cammed down. This happens when it strikes the lock
mechanism frame. The safety is a simple lever with a shaped plug set on the left side channel the
hammer. When tipped up it blocks the hammer from moving forward. One last point of potential confusion, there is a recoil spring wrapped around
the firing pin. Inside of this is the actual firing pin spring. Alright, we’ll clear the mag… …and let’s hand this thing over to Mae. Let’s start with the stock. Now load 10 rounds from a stripper clip. Aim.. and fire. Depress the hammer and
safety on. This locks the hammer back, so no bang. A quick look at our damage… … and two brief shots with the pistol. And we’re back to Othais. I’m not gonna lie. This was one of
the more fun handguns to shoot that day. Now, you would think, like we said, that
this gun would go on to very fruitful military contracts right away.
Unfortunately it did not. About a thousand were bought by the Ottoman
Empire. Then you had contract sales to Iran and the Italians purchased a
simplified slab side model in 1899. Actually because of the Italian contract
you’re going to see slab side, sort of blank side unmilled flat panel, C-96s for
years to come, as a sort of go through the inventory. Don’t worry they come back. In the year 1902 several ideas, some old and new, spring back up. Here we have a
short barrel, fixed rear sight with reshaped grip and six shot capacity.
These could also be fitted with an experimental articulated joint safety, which
was, frankly, over-complicated. This also marked the introduction of the 9x25mm export cartridge, basically a straight walled 7.63mm Mauser case with a 9mm bullet. It would not prove
popular and production was limited. By 1905, we have our milled panels back and this is where I should probably stop for a second. You see, I could film another 40
minutes of variations and that’s really not the scope of this production.
As a matter of fact, we’re gonna need to leave some for later as it is. Instead let’s skip ahead
to the 1912 military version. You see, this was a somewhat simplified pistol
with the new safety that I mentioned earlier, and six groove rifling. It was
sort of done in response to failing the German trials because the C-96 lost
against the Luger And so the Army has now adopted the P-08 in nine millimeter. These were chambered in the
9x19mm Parabellum cartridge, interestingly also derived from that original Borchardt cartridge. Here, however George Luger had shortened up the length to get a toggle lock and angled grip into respectable dimensions. I don’t think we need to say much more about this cartridge, which is still very popular today. Reaching back to World War One, which is supposed to be our focus Germany has a huge demand on weapons with the outbreak of war, and so they immediately start buying these 1912
military models in 7.63. But they have standardized on that Luger like we said, so they make a request for Mauser to go ahead and chamber the C-96 in
9mm Parabellum. So this ends up being roughly the same model as the 1912, just quickly reach chambered. They worry a little bit about ammo
mix-ups. You see you’re not going to jam a 9mm Parabellum round into a 763 chamber, but you could do it the other way around. So they make a request that the C-96s
in 9mm be marked with a red nine on the grip. This makes them
easy to identify and reduces the unlikely accidents. Now that’s not quite
the end of the C-96 in WW1. A further refinement of the system was developed
as the 1917 trench carbine. This model never saw real production, but it is
fantastic to look at with its detachable 40 round magazine. Despite never being
adopted for issue in its home country, the C-96 was a commercial success. It would
be sold pretty widely internationally even though it was never an official
sidearm for any real large army. Now, after 1918 there are some restrictions put on these things as part of Versailles. The biggest thing that we’ll see is what is
known is the bolo model for its popularity in Russia. It’s a short
barrel with a 7.63 chambering and no option for a shoulder stock. That’s another episode. The biggest purchaser of these things, though, was China. They simply loved them.
Especially in the carbine configuration. They were sold in large
large numbers throughout the continent and they would be used all the way
through World War 2. Actually you’ll see some copycats out of China and especially the Shansei, which came in 45 ACP. Again, another episode. Now Astra would
actually start competing in this market with a very similar looking but
internally different model 900. Now that would inspire the later model 30,
which was a further refinement of this, to be adapted over to a select fire
known as the Schnellfeuer. Now again these are another episode that would really like
to cover in fine detail instead of me just rambling them out at the end of this show. So we’ll limit everything to World War 1, which I think we’ve covered pretty well
this point. So let’s go ahead and get Mae’s opinion on this classic classic
pistol. Alright we have Mae again. I think we know the routine by now, so you’re the star. Why don’t you tell us how you felt about the C-96? Thanks. So let’s start off with talking about this as the pistol, because, to me, the carbine and the pistol are two totally different guns. First off, the grip – broom handle grip – famous. For me, as a modern shooter, I’ve trained to grip up higher on guns. So for this gun in particular, I
found that it kept pinching me because of these extenders. Just right in between the
thumb and forefinger. So it wasn’t really comfortable for me for a grip. And then because of where the magazine well is located, when you’ve loaded 10 rounds in here, it actually makes it really front heavy, so I’m having to counterbalance it on the
target, just holding it up. And then add on the fact that the barrel itself is so
high up on the gun, it actually causes it have a lot of flip. It can’t handle the
recoil, so i’m having to recenter myself on the target every single time.
But you know, there were a couple things I really liked about it. I found the trigger was actually clean and crisp. The sights, while a little bit over complicated for a pistol, were clean and
easy to read. And if this were the older safety, easy
to one hand, but because we have the newer safety, you have to thumb the hammer back to flip the safety forward. Which, you have to use two hands for that and for me as a
modern shooter, that’s just not comfortable. But overall it was
definitely an interesting gun to shoot. Well that’s a pretty complete picture but it begs the question, what do you think of it as a carbine? As a carbine, this gun just makes sense. I mean the issues that we were worried about before, like with the
adjustable sight not really being useful and the weight up front, everything about
this just lines up as a carbine. It’s like it was almost designed to be a carbine
first, instead of a pistol. There was no kick up, the weight was manageable. It was, this was actually way more accurate at 50 yards as a carbine than it was
at thirty feet with a pistol. You know, that’s a ringing endorsement that I actually agree with. I love the C – May I borrow that? – I love the C-96 as sort of a personal defense weapon
and its wild because, like Mae said, this is designed as a pistol – not in this
original – like this is an add-on, slightly after it was designed as a pistol. This is
the smartest thing they do with this gun, realistically. And I understand that
defensively it’s not the strongest option. It’s not like you’re gonna draw
the gun, pull this out, attach it… Tactically, yes it doesn’t
make a lot of sense, unless you’re prepared and have the gun ready to go. Like we said, these were popular in China. When you look at photos, you rarely see them not already attached and ready to
go. The Chinese really just like using this as a carbine, which is probably the best way to use it. Alright, so you’ve talked about the gun short of
universally just shooting a gun. Mhmm. When we stop and take a moment to realize that this is a design from 1895. Putting back into your mind, the other things that are out there, like the Bittner and the Borchardt and things like that – from 1895 – what’s your real impression of this gun? I feel that this gun was just revolutionary for its time, because, think of the revolver that came before this. We shot the Reichsrevolver. Comparing that this is comparing apples to oranges. There is just no competition. This is a
semi-automatic pistol that has 10 rounds in it, and you can fire it as a carbine
which is deadly accurate at fifty yards. This holds a candle – nothing holds a candle to this in my opinion – that we’ve shot so far. Alright, I guess we’ve gotta get back to our
classic kind of tacky question. It’s World War One. You are looking at the battlefield. Would you put this in your personal kit? Would you comfortably bring it into a combat
environment? You know, overall yes I would. I mean we talked about the pros and cons for this as a pistol, so for personal defense, it’s a little bit
hinky, but with time I could get used to it. And for training it would be
something I feel that I would be comfortable with, and I demonstrated
at thirty feet that I was fairly accurate with this weapon. If I had the
time and was told that I need to go and attack a trench and I had a moment to
attach the actual carbine stock, then yes. This would actually at that – in that
kind of scenario this, I would prefer over an actual bolt action. So yes, I would
definitely take this into battle. Alright. Sounds like the C-96 actually
gets a pass. Realistically there’s a reason why this thing’s a classic. We
really love it. That really wraps us up for this episode. I just want to thank everybody for watching. Glad to have you, and announcements are after the credits one last time. Thanks, guys. (slow, sorrowful, classy, expensive sounding string instrumental) Alright, we’re looking at another last minute update. Sorry for the quality. I let a buddy lure me into helping him move a motorcycle half way across the state. But, good news. We’re like, two dollars shy of $700 on Patreon. That’s hugely important because that money will go towards investing in better equipment, maybe some field trips – see what we can get done for you guys. Part two of the improvements is that the
t-shirts are available. This is actually not one of them. These are friends of the show. Our shirts are WW1 inspired. They feature some of the firearms are or will be on the show. They’re so fresh that I don’t even have one yet. So some of you will probably be
me to them. Check out the link below additionally I just want to say thanks
one more time for being our subscribers and our viewers. Share the show, get the
word out there, and otherwise I hope you like the sort of small improvements we
made on this episode. Give us the feedback. Alright, bye!

100 thoughts on “Small Arms of WWI Primer 009: German Mauser C96 Pistol

  1. Great channel! Saw the MP.18 mentioned as a future video candidate. I'll second that! I would contact some of the longstanding German WW1 renacting groups through the GWA and see if you could meet up to do a video on the MP.18, a few of those guys have them. Those groups have a giant annual tactical meet in Newville, PA once or twice a year.

  2. The C96 was also used in Ireland during the revolutionary period. The Germans gave the C96 and other Mausers to the Irish Volunteers in 1914 to prepare for the Easter Rising. During the Rising the C96 played its part as Lieutenant Michael Malone (who used the C96 Carbine) and 16 other Volunteers killed 240 British soldiers at the Battle of Mount Street Bridge, the most successful military action of the Rising by the Volunteers.

  3. This has become one of my favorite channels now. Thanks so much for bringing us this content. I'm more of a rifle fan but your pistol videos are interesting as well.

  4. Is there a modern equivalent of this gun? A semiauto handgun to which can be attached a stock which doubles as holster? I think there are regulations against this in the US but what about the rest of the world?

  5. I found out something recently that surprised me. I have been reading some very old Daredevil comics and discovered the character "BullsEye" In the old comics tended to use a Broom Handle quite a bit. It's like how the joker using the Luger. It made me curious the reason why they chose it sense they showed the character still using it sometimes in the 80s… I wouldn't be surprised if it was because of the Authority Code of Comics or the people working there just like the gun and made him use it a lot.

  6. Great video – I realize I'm late to the party here. Can anyone direct me to more info? It was mentioned about the "new" safety, that required the hammer be pulled slightly down before it would disengage. I'm interesting in knowing why.

  7. Really nice job on the video you two! Enjoyed your presentation. I shall be watching more of your work. Have fun!

  8. I saw this gun in Resident Evil 4 and I absolutely loved the gun. I even saw one in real life, though it was way out of condition to use. Too bad, I wish I could've shot one.

  9. The Red Nine is my unicorn. Every time I see one for sale I don't have the funds to buy it, and when I do have the money I can't find one.

  10. If I was trench raiding heck yes I'd bring a C96 with a stock? It would be perfect for that kind of close quarters combat. Only thing I think would be better at the time would be the Winchester 1897 or one of the early submachine guns.

  11. When May removed the stripper clip the bolt was going forward but it wasn't fully position. You cud sea the rim of the cartridge it wasn't fully lockt.

  12. I am enjoying this series very much. I finally have an understanding of what has been a poorly represented era in firearms development. I mean specifically late 19th century European rifles. Very good format. Very well done.

  13. I acquired this week from GB a c96 m1912 Bolo with ser #502XXX Mauser logo on left so close to 1920 or 21 not in best condition but can be used by you in future book or episode to borrow, will send you an email with info.

  14. IMPORTANT!!!!!Awesome video as usual. Can I shoot 7.62 x 25 Tokarev, crate marked"PI" IN MY 7.63 x 25 C96?

  15. Was the M1917 Trench Carbine select fire? I know they were testing with full auto C96s during WWI but nothing would come of it.

  16. And Mattel toys made a fully automatic version that included the stock/holster in the late 1950s. It was called the Mattel Machine Pistol and of course it only shot roll caps. I had one as a kid. Great for our cap gun wars!

  17. Great video, It would be great if somebody did one on all the maker's of that gun type even though they may not be military weapons?
    I have seen them in 9mm Largo.

  18. So…you only got to fire a 9mm version here? Any comments on the 7.62? It seems that was a well-liked round, and the lighter projectile might make a difference in control and comfort.

  19. Imagine a pistol that have the same layout as the mauser c96 but this one will has a stronger action and also chambered in 44 magnum.

  20. I just recently joined the C96 family.  Of note it is highly recommended to replace the recoil and firing pin springs before shooting these fine weapons.

  21. Like & Subscribe
    The Mauser C96 could have
    prevailed as a military weapon
    if only the carbine w longer barrel (7.63) had been equipped with a detachable 75+ round drum (full-auto).
    It might have helped Germany
    Win the horrible Trench Warfare Battle and alter European History as we know it. (IMHO)
    Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

  22. I haven't owned any firearms for about 20 years. I've always wanted to own a C96 and I just recently bought one that the barrel was opened up to 9mm. I could have used it as is, but I wanted it in 7.63. I paid a fair price for it being an outwardly numbers matching Post War Bolo, so I sent it out to have the barrel re-lined back to original. I would have preferred a Broomhandle with the longer barrel and full size grips, but oh well, at least I finally have one. I know it's a quirky pistol to operate but I love it and I'll get used to it whatever it takes. I really like watching Mae shooting all the weapons from WW-I and all the history that's packed into your Primers. Keep up the great work.

  23. As much as I find this video very informative on the topic of history, there's always a question about its nickname that is always bugging me.
    You (and many other history/shooting channels for that matter) say it was nicknamed "broomhandle" because its grip resembled such of a broom.
    The thing is, I am yet to see a broom like that, all I have seen had just wooden poles for "grips", no widening to the bottom, no grooves, just plain wooden stick cut round and smooth.
    Maybe it's just that I don't come from neither USA nor Germany (nor English is my mother tongue), but could somebody show me a broom with a handle like this? This gun's nickname for me is one hell of a confusion.

  24. Mae you are a star. I would defiantly take you into battle with me 🙂 I have a replica model of this gun and love it. It’s just a pistol version but super fun shooter

  25. I actually fired a C96 and didn't have a real problem with muzzle flip. Compared to the Luger and Smith & Wesson M1917 I shot before it, the C96 was actually far more controllable and more comfortable to shoot once I adjusted to the weird shape.

  26. I'd love to know more about the early reputation of 9mm parabellum. Especially compared to the more powerful but lower caliber cartridges like 7.62 Tokarev, or less powerful but higher caliber cartridges like .455 Webley.

  27. If I’m not mistaken, I believe Winston Churchill used a C96 when he was a war correspondent in the Boer War.

  28. A pistol with a shoulder stock holster is totally a defensively sound idea. Ever heard of the broomception reload?

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