The Mauser C96 (Construktion 96) is a semi-automatic pistol that was originally produced by German arms manufacturer Mauser from 1896 to 1937. Unlicensed copies of the gun were also manufactured in Spain and China in the first half of the 20th century.
The distinctive characteristics of the C96 are the integral box magazine in front of the trigger, the long barrel, the wooden shoulder stock which can double as a holster or carrying case and a grip shaped like the handle of a broom. The grip earned the gun the nickname “Broomhandle” in the English-speaking world and in China the C96 was nicknamed the “box cannon” because of its square-shaped internal magazine and the fact it could be holstered in its wooden box-like detachable stock.
The Mauser C96, with its shoulder stock, long barrel and high-velocity cartridge had superior range and better penetration than most other pistols; the 7.63x25mm Mauser cartridge was the highest velocity commercially manufactured pistol cartridge until the advent of the .357 Magnum cartridge in 1935. Approximately 1 million C96 pistols were manufactured by Mauser, with the number produced in Spain and China being large but unknown due to the loss, non-existence or poor upkeep of production records from those countries.
Within a year of its introduction, the C96 had been sold to governments and commercially for resale to civilians and individual military officers.The Mauser C96 pistol was also extremely popular with British officers at the time and purchased privately by many of them; numbers were supplied to Westley Richards in the UK for this purpose, although its popularity with the British military had waned by the onset of World War I.
Winston Churchill was fond of the Mauser C96 and used one at the Battle of Omdurman and during the Second Boer War; similarly, Lawrence of Arabia carried a Mauser C96 for a period during his time in the Middle East. Chinese Communist general Zhu De carried a Mauser C96 during his Nanchang Uprising and later conflicts; his gun (with his name printed on it) can be viewed in the Beijing war museum.
Besides the standard 7.63x25mm chambering, C96 pistols were also commonly chambered for 9mm Parabellum with a small number also being produced in 9 mm Mauser Export. There was also a Chinese-manufactured model chambered for .45 ACP. Despite the pistol’s worldwide popularity and fame, the only nation to use the C96 as the primary service pistol of its military and police was China. The Broomhandle Mauser has become a popular collector’s gun.
The C96 frequently appears as a “foreign” or “exotic” pistol in a number of films and TV shows, owing to its distinctive and instantly recognisable shape, and for the same reasons and in the same tradition, a C96 was modified to form Han Solo’s prop blaster pistol for the Star Wars films.