In 1895, Mauser patented its well-known Model 1896, referenced in Europe as the C96 and affectionately known as the “Broomhandle.” This single-action, locked-breech pistol loaded through the top with a stripper clip and fired the powerful 7.63 mm Mauser cartridge. The pistol was constantly being refined, with seemingly innumerable improvements that now provide a bounty of lavish proportions for collectors. In addition to the standard 10-shot configuration, the gun was also made with a six-shot and a 20-shot, fixed magazine. The majority were assembled with a matching, hollowed shoulder stock for more convenient carrying and, when attached, to function as a carbine.
Early on, Mauser was successful in garnering a few military contracts, with Turkey buying 1,000 “Conehammers” and the Italian navy procuring 5,000 “Flatsides.” During World War I, the German army contracted for 150,000 guns in 9 mm Parabellum (although only about 100,000 were delivered). Afterwards, while selling well over 250,000 pistols to various warlords during the Chinese Civil War, Mauser introduced a select-fire version with a detachable magazine known as the Model 712 or “Schnellfeuer.” As late as World War II, limited numbers of Model 712s were purchased by the Luftwaffe.
Suffice it to say that the C96 was a phenomenal success, remaining in production for about 40 years, during which time more than a million guns were completed!
An early record of its use was during the Sudan campaign of 1898; Winston Churchill used his Mauser pistol when he charged with the 21st Lancers at the battle of Omdurman. Discharging all 10 rounds, he credited the gun with saving his life.