Got it!

The Mauser C96 “Broomhandle” automatic pistol– if anything I own is “iconic”, it is.

I have wanted one for many years. I will add Arthur Wilderson’s excellent short essay when he sends it, but it was the gun of Churchill at Omdurman and Lawrence of Arabia; Walter “Karamojo” Bell supposedly shot down a German fighter with one in WWI; the great Indian ornithologist Salim Ali, referred to affectionately by his friend Meinertzgagen as”you treasonous little Wog”, had one, as well as a 20 bore Jeffery shotgun bought by his wife, a Mannlicher Schoenauer carbine like mine, and various bolt- action Mausers (and, unusually, Winchesters!)

Ali shooting swallow specimens in the 50’s with his Jefferey

Various versions, including the shorter barreled “Bolo” (for Bolshevik), were used by both sides up and down the Trans- Siberian Railway in the Russian Civil War, and Chinese bandits and government troops both favored them  in .45 ACP, to match their American Tommy guns, which led to the destruction of many in the Cultural Revolution of 1968, for possessing a “bourgeois caliber.” You can’t make it up..

They were also used by two favorite fictional protagonists, Charles Dennim in Geoffrey Household’s Watcher in the Shadows, and Jane Doe in Michael Gruber’s Tropic of Night.

I was in Ron Peterson’s guns for other business when I beheld a clean Broomhandle on the table in front of my friend Mel Merritt, the manager.  I am afraid I behaved badly– I swooped down on the young customer, who was comparing one to a Luger, and said “THAT one is MINE!” Mel looked injured, saying only “I thought you already found one!”

Luckily the kid didn’t have any historical interest, and I ended up with it and all the bells & whistles– a holster/ shoulder stock made of walnut, a pigskin shoulder holster, a set of stripper clips– all for less than any I had seen on the Internet. It is a “Red Nine”, so called not because of any revolutionary associations but because of the big red “9” burned into its side to denote its caliber, the still- popular 9 mm Luger.

That is it on the right of course, beside my S & W  .38 and my Hi-Standard target and rabbit .22.

Everyone has been worried by my absence. I had a tough few weeks with the implant, but it IS a learning process, and my latest setting is the best yet. Unfortunately, I felt so good today that I cleaned out two year’s worth of detritus from the yard, leaving me utterly exhausted. This is all for tonight; I won’t even add links til later. But later this week: new book reviews, a new coursing book, more Beebe, Microraptor, Phillott on falconry; more and worse…

And here is Arthur:

“The Mauser C 96 was not the first automatic pistol, but it was basically the first that worked well.   Its predecessors were curiosities and toys.   It emerged in the last days of the  belle epoque; that last, glorious sunset of European civilization before the blood dimmed tide and mere anarchy were loosed.   As such, it was the sidearm of choice for the roguish heroes and heroic rogues of the era; Winston Churchill, T.E. Lawrence, and Chinese warlords all favored the type.   In that strange, bygone era officers were socially stratified gentry and bought their own weapons.   Very few nations officially adopted the Mauser pistol, but many of their armys’ officers bought them on their own initiative.

“I have spoken to a number of gunsmiths, industry officials and machinists about making reproductions of these things.   A century and change of advances in manufacturing, and these sorts of weapons would be thousands of dollars per piece.   The entire structure of economics, and the price of skilled machinists at the time was incomprehensibly different.

 “Men worked in satanic mills to make the steel billet that would be painstakingly whittled and hand-fitted to form these beautiful, utterly decadent weapons.   A modern combat handgun is completely soulless and utilitarian by comparison.   It is truly an artifact of Hesiod’s golden age.   It’s like a pair of marching boots with gold trim.   Putting that much personal effort, especially into a weapon as unimportant as a handgun, is unthinkable today.

“Our culture is a descendant of theirs, but in some ways it’s unrecognizable.   Wittgenstein said that if a lion could talk, we could not understand him.   Sometimes I think the same is true of the Edwardians.   Their children roamed with incomprehensible freedom.   They lived in cultures with incomprehensible levels of social stratification and thought it (generally) normal, just and natural.   Our science would have few secrets with which to shock them; Einstein’s General Relativity is a hundred years old now!   And yet their medicine barely worked…”

6 thoughts on “Got it!”

  1. Great to hear from you again Steve- the Luger seems to have revitalised you! Enjoy the thrill….

    So pleased that things are improving on the health front. Must be really encouraging.

    We all try and do too much as we age, so remember the story of the Old Bull and the Young Bull and the field of heifers, and tread lightly, and you will get there!



  2. Steve, I recently wrote a post about the C96, here:

    A few quick notes. One, it tended to make a better carbine with the stock than it did a handgun (for which role it really is too large and the bore too high to be as useful as some of its contemporaries, like the Luger). It is in part so good at this because of two, it had an extremely powerful cartridge for the period, 7.63 Mauser, a variant of the 7.65 Borchardt that fed the pistol of the same name (the pistol that would sire the Luger, in fact!). 7.65 Borchardt was the ancestor of many European and American pistol cartridges, the very abbreviated family tree for which is available here: There are many, many more entries to the tree than are shown there, but he hits all the highlights.

    Where was I? Oh yeah, the 7.63 Mauser. It spat about an 85gr bullet at almost 1,500 ft/s from the Mauser's five-and-a-half inch barrel, making it the fastest production pistol cartridge in the world until the advent of Elmer Keith's .357 Magnum of the mid 1930s. Indeed, its immediate successor, the Russian 7.62×25 Tokarev would reclaim the title, firing similar bullets to over 1,700 ft/s in some loads. The Tokarev round would be the standard Russian pistol caliber from 1930 to the early 1950s with the advent of the 9×18 Makarov, and caught on all over the world, most significantly in China and the Koreas, both of which continue to use the caliber. The Chinese probably liked the cartridge so much because it's a hotter, but dimensionally identical version of the 7.63 Mauser, which means you can stuff it (somewhat ill-advisedly perhaps) into a C96 and it works just fine… And the Chinese certainly did this!

    This is all to say that the C96 could function as a carbine very well if asked to, all while breaking down into a convenient package for transport – one that could function as a pistol, in a pinch (which is naturally, right when you need a pistol!)

    So the C96 doesn't look that impressive now, against a backdrop of smaller, more ergonomic pistols that offer the same thing… But they really don't, do they? They don't readily convert into a handy, short carbine that fires powerful, punchy ammo, and unlike the C96 they aren't equally at home poaching foxes as they are at the quickdraw. It's sort of like comparing a shuttle bus to a DUKW amphib bus. Sure, the shuttle bus has better visibility, handling, and comfort, but it can't swim!

    Anyway, my bad analogies aside, the C96 is a classic, and you've got yourself a real shiner of an example. Congrats on both the gun and the recovery!

  3. Good to see you back at the keyboard fella, and congrats on your find, I'm not what you'd call a pistol guy myself BUT
    the Mauser was my favourite of all the guns in my brother and I's collection of Action Man armaments, so I've always wanted to handle a real one.
    Keep well


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