The development of the C-96 began in 1893 or 1894. Most work had been done by the Federle brothers, who worked for the Mauser company. Final design appeared early in 1895 and had been patented by Paul Mauser. Production began in 1896. The C-96 had been offered for the German Military but failed. However, C-96 has a long and sucessfull story on the civilian market - being offered as a pistol-carbine, it outperformed in effective range most of contemorary pistols and revolvers, being especially popular with travelers and hunters in the areas where big animals are rare or absent at all. C-96 first saw military action during the Boer war in South Africa (1899-1902). During the First World War C-96 had been aquired by the German Army due to the lack of the stantart issue Luger P-08 pistols. It also had been used during the World War Two, by some second line troops of the Reichswehr (German Army). C-96 also had beeen widely exported - in the 1920s Soviet Russia purchased large quantities of the short-barreled (99 mm barrels) C-96s in 7.63mm, givint the name "Bolo-mauser" (from Bolsheviks' Mauser) to all short-barreled C-96s. In 1930s China also purchased lots of the C-96s in 7.63mm, and also manufactured copies of the C-96 but chambered for .45ACP cartridge. Surprisingly, these copies were of quite good quality. Many C-96 clones were manufactured in Spain, mostly withouth any license, and mostly by the Astra. In the early 1930s Mauser engineers developed a select-fire version of the C-96, which had been used in limited numbers during WW2.
Technically, the C-96 is a recoil operated, locked breech, semi-automatic pistol. It uses short recoiling barrel with bolt, located inside the large barrel extension. The bolt and barrel are locked by the vertically tilting locking piece with two lugs, that locked into the recesses on the bottom of the bolt. The gun is hammer fired. Early guns had hammers with large, round shaped hammer headss with coned sides. The safety is located at the left side of the hammer and locks the hammer when engaged. The most recognisable feature of C-96 is a non-removable, fixed box magazine, located ahead of the triggerguard. Early models were made with 20, 10 or 6 round magazines, but soon 20 and 6 round models were dropped, and since 1905 or so only 10 round models werere manufactured. C-96 can be loaded with single rounds or from 10-rounds sripper clips. The only way to unoad the magazine was to work the slide all the way back and forward for each cartridge in the magazine. Two other notable features were the distinguishable shaped handle (which give the name "broomhandle" to all C-96s) and removable wooden shoulder stock/holster. Finally, most of the C-96 were fitted with ajustable rear sights, graduated up to 1000 meters. This, obviusly, was more of marketing feature, since at 1000 meters distance the average bullets spread was about 4 meters, but, due to high velocity ammunition (the 7.63mm Mauser round produced muzzle velocities of about 440 meters per second, or 1450 feets per second), the effective range was about 150 or 200 meters, especially with shoulder stock atached.
The C-96 took its final shape in 1912, when new type of safety (marked NS - "Neue Sicherung") was adopted, along with shorter and wider extractor and smaler and lighter hammer. In 1915, due to World War, German Army purchased from the Mauser some 150.000 C-96s, chamberd for the army standart issue 9x19mm Luger/Parabellum round. These guns were marked with large red "9" digits on the both sides of the grip. In the 1931-32 Mauser engineers developed two latest versions of the C-96 - models 711 and 712. Main difference of these models was the adoption of the removable box magazines for 10 or 20 rounds. The Model 712 also featured a fire selector mechanism with the fire mode switch on the left side of the frame. Due to the high rate of fire in full auto (1000 rounds/minute) and light barrel, the full auto could be used with any practical effect only for short time and only with shoulder stock attached. These guns were used in limited quantities by German Army in Second World War.
In general, the C-96 is one of the most distinguishable semi-auto pistols in the history, also one of the first practical designs in its class. It was too heavy and too bulky, and slow to reload, but offered great effective range and firepower, along with good reliability. In short - it is what we usually call CLASSIC.
There were many variants of the C96 besides the standard Commercial model; the most common are detailed below.
M1896 Kavallerie Karabiner
One of the experimental ideas was the creation of a pistol-carbine for use by light cavalry. They had a "slab-sided" receiver, standard 10-round magazine, a permanently affixed wooden stock and forend, and a lengthened 11.75-inch [300 mm] (early production) or 14.5-inch [370 mm] (late production) barrel. They were dropped from production after 1899 due to poor sales and little military interest.
There was limited sporting interest in the carbine version and due to small production numbers it is a highly prized collectible priced at about twice the value of the pistol version. Recently, importers like Navy Arms have converted late-model Mauser pistols into carbines with 16-inch or longer barrels for sale in the US.
M1896 Compact Mauser
A version of the Mauser pistol with a full-sized grip, 6-shot internal magazine, and a 4.75-inch [120 mm] barrel. Production was phased out by 1899.
M1896 Officer's Model
This is the unofficial term for a variant Compact Mauser with a curved wooden or hard-rubber grip, like that of a revolver. The name comes from the US Army designation of the Mauser pistol sent to participate in their self-loading pistol trials.
M1912 Mauser Export Model
This model was the first to chamber the 9x25mm Mauser Export cartridge. It was designed to capitalize on the arms market in South America and China.
M1920 Mauser Rework
The Treaty of Versailles (signed in 1919) imposed a number of restrictions on pistol barrel lengths and calibres on German arms manufacturers, Pistols for German government issue or domestic market sales couldn't have a barrel longer than 4 inches and couldn't be chambered for 9mm cartridges.
The Weimar Republic banned the private ownership of military-issue or military-style weapons in an attempt to recover valuable arms from the mobs of returning soldiers. The confiscated weapons were then used to arm government forces, leaving them with a hodge-podge of military and civilian arms. To meet the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles, a major reworking project was begun that set about converting these weapons.
To be compliant, "pre-war" C.96 models belonging to the Weimar government had to have their barrels cut down to less than 4 inches. This meant that their tangent sights had to be replaced with fixed sights. They also had to be converted to the standard 7.63x25mm Mauser round, though a few hybrid Mausers were made with salvaged Luger barrels that were chambered for 7.65x21mm Parabellum. Compliant confiscated government-issue guns were marked M1920. This practice was continued on German service pistols even after the ban was ignored and the conversions had stopped.
M1921 "Bolo" Mauser
Mauser began manufacturing a compliant version of the C.96 for commercial sale from 1920-1921. It featured smaller grips, a shorter 3.9-inch [99mm] barrel, and was chambered for the standard 7.63x25mm Mauser. An experimental 8.15x25.2mm Mauser cartridge was used to replace the banned 9x19mm Parabellum and 9x25mm Mauser Export cartridges for domestic sales, but it never caught on.
Large-scale production of the weapon was from 1921-1930. It was sold in quantity to armies in the contested Baltic region and was carried by the Poles, Lithuanians, German Freikorps, and White Russians. The Bolshevik government (and later the new Red Army) of the embryonic Soviet Union purchased large numbers of this model in the 1920s or appropriated them from their defeated enemies. The distinctive pistol became associated with the Bolsheviks and was thus nicknamed the "Bolo". The "Bolo" model was also popular elsewhere, as the shorter barrel and smaller overall size made the gun easier to conceal.
Also known as the M30 by collectors, it was a simplification and improvement of the M1921 Mauser. It simplified production by removing several fine-machining details and reverted back to the "pre-war" large grip and long barrel. The early model M30s had a 5.18-inch [132 mm] barrel, but later models had the traditional 5.5-inch [140mm] barrel. It was made from 1930 until 1937.
Since the M1932 / M712 variant was full auto, the semi-auto M1930 it was derived from was sometimes called the 711 by war surplus dealers and collectors.
M1932 / M712 Schnellfeuer
The Spanish gunmaking firms of Beistegui Hermanos and Astra began producing detachable magazine-fed, select-fire versions of the C96 in 1927 and 1928 respectively, intended for export to the Far East.
Mauser began production of their own select-fire, detachable magazine version of the M30, the Schnellfeuer ("Rapid Fire") starting in 1932, This has led to its unofficial designation of "M1932" by collectors. Again, it was largely intended for export to China or to the opposing sides in the later Spanish Civil War. Small numbers of M1932s were also supplied to the German Wehrmacht during World War II, who designated it the M712.
The US National Firearms Act of 1934 placed a $200 tax on machine guns making exports of the Schnellfeuer guns to the US impractical. After World War 2, importers sold a semi-automatic conversion of the detachable magazine Schnellfeuer that was made for the US surplus market.
Oyster Bay Industries was an American company that made a detachable magazine conversion kit for the Mauser. It removed the floor plate, spring and follower and added a small magazine catch mechanism that allowed it to feed its own brand of proprietary 10- or 20-round 9mm magazines. The conversion could either be performed on a "Red 9" pistol or a new 9mm upper receiver could be sold that would convert a standard C.96 7.63mm pistol.
PASAM machine pistol
The Brazilian government bought 500 7.63mm M1932 Schnellfeuer machine pistols during the 1930s. The PASAM (Pistole Automático Semi-Automático Militar, or "Semi-Automatic / Automatic Military Pistol") used the M1932 as its base but made a few alterations. The pistol grip frame used thicker rectangular wooden grips and had a 1.5 foot [320mm] "t-bar" metal shoulder stock welded to it. A metal frame attached to the receiver supported a rectangular wooden foregrip, taking pressure off the barrel. It took standard detachable 10-round box magazines.
It was still in use with Brazilian State Military Police (Polícia Militar) forces in the 1980s. They preferred to use it as a semi-automatic carbine and reserved its full auto setting for emergencies due to its recoil and muzzle-climb.
The controls were the same as the standard model, except the markings were in Portuguese.The selector switch (found on the left side, above the trigger guard) was marked N for Normal ("Normal" for semi-automatic) and R for Rápido ("Rapid" for fully automatic). The safety control lever (found to the left of the hammer) was marked S for Seguro ("Safe") and F for Fogo ("Fire").
1897 Turkish Army Mauser
Mauser's first military contract was with the Ottoman Turkish government in 1897. They ordered 1,000 pistols; they had their own serial number range, running from 1 to 1000. They differ in that they use a non-Arabic number system on the tangent sight and the weapon is designated in this number system in the Muslim year "1314" rather than the Christian Gregorian year "1896 / 1897". Markings include a six-pointed star on both sides of the chamber and the crest of Sultan Abdul-Hamid II and the Muslim year 1314 on the square left rear frame panel.
1899 Italian Navy Mauser
In 1899, the Italian government ordered Mauser's first major military contract; an order for 5,000 C96 pistols for the Italian Royal Navy. They differ in that their receivers were "slab-sided" (i.e., lacked the milling on the sides found on commercial Mausers). They also have a "ring hammer" (spurless hammer with a hole through its head) instead of the the early "cone hammer" (spurless hammer with ribbed cone-like projections on the sides of its head). These guns had their own serial number range, running from 1 to 5000.
1910 Persian Contract Mauser
The Persian government ordered 1,000 pistols. They have the Persian government's "lion and sun" insignia on the rectangular milled panel on the left side of the receiver and the serial numbers range from 154000 to 154999. It is often confused with the Turkish Contract Mauser.
M1916 Austrian Contract
Austria ordered a run of standard 7.63mm Mauser pistols.
M1916 Prussian "Red 9"
During World War I, the Imperial German Army contracted with Mauser for 150,000 C96 pistols chambered in 9mm Parabellum to offset the slow production of the standard-issue Luger P08 pistol. This variant of the C96 was named the "Red 9", after a large number "9" burned and painted in red into the grip panels, to warn the pistols' users not to load them with 7.63 mm ammunition by mistake. Of the 150,000 pistols commissioned, approximately 137,000 were delivered before the war ended.
Mauser "Red 9" C96 with Stripper clip WW2 Luftwaffe Contract
The German government purchased 7,800 commercial M30 pistols for use by the Luftwaffe. They have Wehrmacht proof marks. The year is said to have been 1940, but the serial numbers come from the early- to mid-1930s and the weapon ceased production in 1937.