A freeform rendition of a Schnellfeuer from Park Plastics of New Jersey.
This has an annoying clacking ratchet mechanism to simulate that
authentic machine pistol sound.
The Big Three
There have been three major books in English devoted to the C-96 - System Mauser (1967), The Mauser Self-Loading Pistol (1969), and The Broomhandle Pistol 1896-1936 (1985). They are usually out of print, and, therefore, horribly overpriced. In general, they are catalogs, attempting coverage of every last one-off variation which can be found, while giving comparatively short shrift to the variants one is most likely to encounter. I have them, and use them all as references, but the definitive C-96 book has yet to be written.
These books also have just about the only material available in print covering Chinese C-96 copies.
John W. Breathed Jr, Joseph J. Schroeder Jr
System Mauser. A Pictorial History of the Model 1896 Self-Loading Pistol
273 pages. Handgun Press, 1967
This was the first of the modern books on the C-96, and, so far as I know, the first systematic display in print of large numbers of C-96 variations. The book is meticulously organized, and in what must be a landmark for books about collector guns, the samples pictured are uniformly described. Serial numbers are given for almost all, as well as the observed serial numbers of identical guns. I found the serial number data to be a particularly useful supplement to my own database when preparing this site.
The major part of the book is a chronological catalog, with a pair of mug shots of every different pistol which passed through the authors' (and of course their numerous collaborators') hands. And each appears with a name tacked on, almost always involving the word "transitional". While certainly a legitimate way to organize the C-96 story, the catalog format devotes exactly the same attention to a random one-off as to a variant made in quantities of hundreds of thousands. The end result is an impression of Mauser production as a maze defying human analysis, rather than the way I prefer to see it, as a straightforward evolution with a few minor detours.
The book reprints several owner's manuals - an early one in German, and an M-30 and Schnellfeuer in English. It also has material on Mauser-made carbine variants, and Spanish copies of the C-96.
The publisher was Handgun Press of Chicago, now in Glenview, Illinois. There were at least two printings. The first printing was in 1967. By far the most common is the undated second printing. It is currently out of print. Used book dealers are asking extravagant prices, in the region of $200. It is common enough on eBay, where it brings anything from $75 to $160 - quite a spread, but that's eBay for you.
James N. Belford, Jack Dunlap
The Mauser Self-Loading Pistol
208 pages. Borden Publishing, 1969.
Although it appeared two years after System Mauser, The Mauser Self-Loading Pistol should probably be considered a contemporary. This is because of the usual delays inherent in publishing; it often takes well over a year for a book to appear in print after the authors have finished with it, so the two books must have been in at least early preparation at about the same time. The Mauser Self-Loading Pistol has more information about factory production and design changes than System Mauser, and relies quite heavily on the notes and reminiscences of August Weiss. Herr Weiss was, apparently, the works manager when the Mauser plant was demolished by occupation forces after WW2, and the subsequent possessor of various records and such which would otherwise have been lost in the rubble.
While a promising approach, the actual result fell short, with one of the most infuriating books I've ever tried to use. A high percentage of the photos - far too many of which are washed-out and indistinct - are not captioned or identified in any useful way. That makes it a tease, not a reference book. There are huge and inexplicable holes in the text - some of the common variants which make up the vast bulk of C-96 production aren't mentioned at all. The quarter of a million guns made during the Prewar Commercial period? The third of a million made during the Postwar Bolo period? Not so much as a squeak. (But cheer up; the M-30 rates a chapter). Now of course in those early days (well, 1969), the terms "Prewar Commercial" and "Postwar Bolo" may not have been in common use. But the guns existed nevertheless, and as they account for the bulk of C-96 production they should have put in an appearance here, no matter what they might have been called.
I'm afraid that The Mauser Self-Loading Pistol is basically a scrapbook in hard covers. And the latest reprint deletes the hard covers. The book also includes material on some of the other Mauser auto pistols - 1910, 1914, 1934, WTP, and the HS series - shoehorned in between C-96 chapters, and adding to that general scrapbook effect.
The Mauser Self-Loading Pistol was published by Borden Publishing in Alhambra, California, with printings in 1969, 1980, and 1984. Some, perhaps all, of the first printing was bound in leather. Pioneer Press of Union City, Tennessee, reprinted it in paperback in 2000. The paperback is still in print - a rare virtue, and one not to be dismissed lightly.
Wayne Erickson, Charles Pate
The Broomhandle Pistol 1896-1936
298 pages. Rutgers Book Center, 1985
This book is not really all that rare - as I'm typing this, there are three on eBay. But, rare or not, it's grotesquely overpriced. Used book dealers are asking prices from a few hundred dollars up to the $2000 range. On eBay I've yet to see a bid break $130 - so there's no rush on those $2000 copies, as they'll be there a long time.
How's this for mystique - from a used book dealer's site:
Special limited deluxe leatherbound edition signed by both authors. There were 100 numbered copies of this special edition plus a few extras. This is not a numbered copy but it is otherwise identical in every respect to the ones that were numbered.Hmmm. Most of us know a few gun dealers who describe things that way. And here's a good one from an eBay writeup:
You are bidding on a signed by author Charles Pate, 1st Edition limited to 2000 copies book The Broomhandle Mauser Pistol 1896-1936 by Wayne R. Erickson and Charles E. Pate. I have a letter included with book stating that Erickson was out of the country at the time book was signed.So. It's not actually signed by the authors. Well, I can't help wondering what else it isn't.
But on to the opus itself. There is quite a bit of information in it, both good and bad. The organization makes some attempt to separate out rarities and not mix them in with mainstream production, so in that sense The Broomhandle Pistol is probably an advance over System Mauser. And there is some new information which doesn't appear in the earlier books, particularly about stocks and grip panels, and Spanish and Chinese copies.
All that said, I have reservations about The Broomhandle Pistol. Care in production and editing was somewhere midway between the slapdash Mauser Self-Loading Pistol and the meticulous System Mauser. Photographs are large but of indifferent quality. There are errors, and some suspicious chains of logic. Much of what is reported here as fact may or may not be accurate as practically no authority, paper trail, or actual data are cited. Example - The transition to the New Safety is stated to be at serial number 280000. Mauser Self-Loading Pistol states that it occurred at serial number 200000. Which is correct? Why believe one over the other? Bald statements of fact carry little weight. In comparison, System Mauser gives the relevant serial number data, but it takes a little bit of digging to see that it's there and relevant to the question.
The printing history of The Broomhandle Pistol is a bit cryptic. The copy I examined was bought in 1985, although the publisher info page gives us this -
First Printing ... 2000
San Antonio, Texas
Taylor Publishing Company
Copyright© 1985. All rights reserved, no portion of these contents can be used or reproduced without the publisher's written permission.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 84-072601
Apparently the "2000" above is a quantity, not a date, and there was only one known printing, in 1985. A print run of 2000 isn't going to set the publishing world on fire. No wonder the thing was sold out when I ordered one in 1990.
Taylor Publishing is an old printer of school yearbooks; it had a publishing division, Taylor Trade Publishing, which was sold to Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group in 2001.
To add to the excitement, some dealers (such as Amazon) list the publisher as Rutgers Book Center. However Rutgers Book Center (rutgersbookcenter.com, when it's not offline) is a bookstore, for new and used books on guns, militaria, the Great Outdoors, etc. It has (as of 2006) a publishing division, The Gun Room Press.
In any case, The Broomhandle Pistol is now out of print.
UPDATE April 2006 - Yes indeed, there was a Special Limited Deluxe Edition. What made it "deluxe" was gilt edging, a silk placemark ribbon, a slipcase with "1 of 100" marked on front, a felt cover for the slipcase, and an onionskin overlay on the title page marked "Book Number x of a Deluxe Printing of 100" complete with Pate's and Erickson's signatures.
More Modest Books
Know Your Broomhandle Mausers
95 pages. Blacksmith Corporation, 1985
This is an unpretentious paperback, making no claims to be encyclopedic. Much of the material seems to be derived from System Mauser and The Mauser Self-Loading Pistol, and maybe some from The Broomhandle Pistol, but rearranged in an order the author (presumably) considers more logical.
It is currently in print, although some mystery surrounds the list price of the Blacksmith Corp books - the average is $15 or so.
Small Arms Profile 19: The Mauser 1896
Profile Publications Ltd., 1973
Profile Publications has published several series of short pamphlets on various pieces of hardware - military aircraft, civilian automobiles, guns, and who knows what else. This pamphlet runs a mere dozen and a half pages but it is fairly well organized and well illustrated. The Profile pamphlets have often been reprinted in various forms, often in hardcover. I have this bound in with several others by Cormick (on Lugers, Walther autos and flare pistols, 1911s, Browning autos, Webley & Scott autos, Berettas, and Astras; all brief but well done) and titled Famous Pistols and Hand Guns (Profile Publications Ltd, 1977).
Foreign Language Books
Vincenzo A. Fortunati
La Mauser 1899 e la Regia Marina Italiana
Olimpia, Firenze (Florence), 2001
A hefty 400-page paperback devoted to the 1899 Italian Contract. In Italian.
Little to say just yet, but rest assured that the 1896mauser.com research staff is on the job and will report in due course.
Artemio Mortera Pérez
Las Pistolas Españolas tipo <<Mauser>>
Quiron Ediciones, Valladolid, 2003
In Spanish. A modest 71-pager, with black & white photos, about the Spanish-made Mauseresque pistols. Pérez classifies them as the Royal; M.M.31; M.M.34; Super Azul; and Astra 900, 901, 902, 903, 903E, 904, and Modelo F.
The book can be ordered direct from the publisher, at http://www.quironediciones.com/catalogo.php?id_cole=1. The list price is a modest €14.72, but shipping to the USA would add quite a bit.
Harry Kaspar, Albert Beliard
Halte Mich in Ehren!
This one isn't out yet. It is listed on a page at imperialarms.home.att.net/ with no other information save that it is due out in late 2005 - I can't even tell if it's in English or German. Well, wake me up when you're ready for business, guys.
UPDATE - It's now 2006, and it looks like somebody may have missed the bus. The vast American library databases don't list it anywhere. If Harvard, the University of California library system, or the Library of Congress don't have it, well, for practical purposes it doesn't exist.
Mauser C96 Explained
I haven't examined this and know nothing about it. I'm not a big fan of e-books, myself. For one thing, I don't know whether to list them under Bibliography or Links.
Other Useful Printed Items
Hans Tanner (ed.)
Guns of the World
Bonanza/Crown, 1972, 1977
This book is a pastiche of gun, knife, and sword articles by various authors. They tend to be of that annoying "hey guys, this is collectible!" variety. There are loads of pictures, mostly small and dark. A few color pages are stuck in wherever the printer felt like putting them. The price estimates are thirty years obsolete.
A twelve page article by John E. Plimpton, Mauser Pistols, is of interest. As usual, the article concentrates on weirdo variants. There are a few errors in the text, and, it being a Bonanza book, some of the captions are on the wrong photos, but it's an interesting article nonetheless. So far as I know John P. never wrote a whole book on the subject. Some guns from his collection are pictured in System Mauser.
Textbook of Automatic Pistols 1884-1835
Small-Arms Technical Publishing Company, 1934
Wilson was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Artillery. Nevertheless, he knew a thing or two about contemporary handguns.
Julian S. Hatcher
Textbook of Pistols and Revolvers - Their Ammunition, Ballistics and Use
Small-Arms Technical Publishing Company, 1935
Major Hatcher was on the staff of the Springfield Armory, the Frankford Arsenal, and the Ordnance Department from 1917 to 1945. His Hatcher's Notebook is also of interest.
H.M. War Office
Textbook of Small Arms 1929
The Textbook was published by His (or Her) Majesty's Stationary Office at odd intervals from 1863 to 1909. Twenty years later it was extensively revised and is now owned by me (well, one copy, anyway). It has been reprinted, though I believe the reprints are now out of print.
Major emphasis is on British service rifles and ammunition, but the Textbook also contains vast piles of contemporary information on all aspects of the design and manufacture of military firearms and ammunition.
Ian V. Hogg, John Weeks
Pistols of the World
Revised Edition, 1982
3rd Edition, 1992
Encyclopedic in scope, though not entirely free of errors, I have found this to be the most useful general reference for handguns of the post-1870 period. I prefer the second edition to the third. I have not yet examined the fourth edition, published by Kraus (2004) rather than DBI. The late Ian Hogg appears as the author - the even later John Weeks has vanished entirely - and John Walter is listed as the editor.
Edward C. Ezell
Handguns of the World
This has interesting material on early autos. The chapter on mechanical repeaters is particularly noteworthy. Repeaters were a short-lived development - larval autos, sort-of. They became totally obsolete and disappeared once recoil or gas forces were used to do the work, rather than human fingers.
There are many detail errors in the book - don't try to win any bets with what you find in here. Ezell is the current author of Small Arms of the World, which is little more than an update of the old Smith book of the same title, with Smith's name knocked off. A drawback of all the Ezell books is that citation of sources is sometimes inadequate.
Major Frederick Myatt M.C.
Modern Small Arms
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of 19th Century Firearms
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Pistols & Revolvers
These three are large-format books republished by Crescent, and, though modestly priced, are relatively slick productions. Most gun book publishers could take a few pointers from the photos, which are about as large as can be crammed into a 9 by 13 inch book, and well-printed in decent color. The gun photos appear to be of specimens in the Enfield Pattern Room and related collections. There are other historical photos and artwork as well. Modern Small Arms has a contemporary photo of a C-96 in the hands of the Freicorps, and a modern photo of a stocked Prewar Commercial (which Myatt mysteriously calls a "Modell 1912"). 19th Century Firearms has a contemporary photo of a stocked C-96 posing with a pair of Boers, a modern photo of a Cone Hammer, and a none-too-informative sectional drawing of a 1916 Prussian Contract. And Pistols and Revolvers has several historical photos, and modern photos of a stocked Cone Hammer and that "Model 1912" again. The Major's accompanying texts are informative, although not 100% accurate on the tedious details.
Gunsmithing - The Tricks of the Trade
DBI Books, 1982
This is a paperback, printed on that awful newsprint which DBI mistakes for paper, and currently out of print, but not at all rare on the used market. It is the only book I know which discusses the problem of disassembling a C-96 which has jammed up solid because the rocker coupling was installed incorrectly.
Gun Digest Book of Firearms Assembly/Disassembly - Part I: Automatic Pistols
DBI Books, Revised Edition 1979
This covers disassembly of the C-96, albeit not as colorfully as I do on this site.
Gun Digest Book of Pistolsmithing: The Art and Science of Handgun Gunsmithing
DBI Books, 1980
Chapter 10, "Rebuilding the Junker", is a 16 page pictorial recounting the customization of a moderately crummy "1920" rework into, well, I don't know just what. The milled panels were bead blasted to remove the original milling marks and later pits, the remainder of the metal was polished, and the original "9" grip panels were replaced with ivory ones (which you could do back in 1980). An interesting process, I suppose, though I'm none to enthusiastic about the final result.
Dean A. Grennell
Gun Digest Book of Autoloading Pistols
DBI Books, 1983
Chapter 15, "Caveat Emptor, and all that ... ", written by John Breathed (of System Mauser fame) is a ten pager devoted to the art of the fake C-96. Unfortunately the writing style is torrid to the point of incomprehensibility. So far as I can make out, he credits (or blames) System Mauser for inspiring the modern rash of fakes.
Joseph J. Schroeder (ed.)
Gun Collector's Digest
DBI Books, 4th ed., 1985
Joseph Schroeder was a co-author of System Mauser, and is currently listed as the e-mail contact for Handgun Press (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Two chapters are of particular interest. "Condition ... Is it really as critical as they say?" is a six-pager by Schroeder, with anecdotes about some of his own C-96s. "1300 Grams of Rust ... a photo essay on the restoration of a rare 'Broomhandle'" by Gale C. Morgan is a 12-pager about a heroic rebuild effort on a 20 shot Cone Hammer with a very early flatside frame. And a good thing it was a flatside - much less machining after all the needed welding. The photos are a bit murky as the book is printed on that wretched DBI paper.
Joseph J. Schroeder (ed.)
Gun Collector's Digest
DBI Books, 5th ed., 1989
An article by Schroeder, "The Mauser Model 06/08 Pistol: Failure or Forerunner?", discusses that gun as the harbinger of several design features later appearing in other Mauser pistols, and as an intended improvement over some of the C-96's shortcomings.
Several books cited above have material on Spanish copies - Breathed & Schroeder (System Mauser), Berger (Know Your Broomhandle Pistols), Erickson & Pate (The Broomhandle Pistol), Ezell (Handguns of the World), and, as always, Hogg & Weeks.
Leonardo M. Antaris
Astra Automatic Pistols
248 pages. FIRAC Publishing Co, Sterling, CO, 1988
The title should perhaps be Astra Automatic Pistols, 1908 - 1980. Encyclopedic in scope, and by far the best information on Unceta pistols available on paper. There are one or two anomalies, such as the Model 500 flare pistol (which was not, naturally, an automatic), and an odd lack of explicit information about the 900's transition from the early small ring hammer to the later type, but in all there's very little to quibble over.
Pages 134 through 167 cover the 900 series. There are also disassembly instructions on pages 237 and 238, but they're far more cursory than the instructions here on this site.
Small Arms Profile 15: Astra Pistols and Revolvers
Profile Publications Ltd., 1973
This 20 page item is of course a far more modest effort than the encyclopedic Antaris book, but it is as well done as Cormack's other Profile pamphlets. It was reprinted in Famous Pistols and Hand Guns (Profile Publications Ltd, 1977).
Gene Gangarosa Jr
Spanish Handguns. The History of Spanish Pistols & Revolvers
This is an odd book. Organization is eccentric. The text seems to be in a semi-chronological order, meaning that all makes and models are jumbled together, making it difficult to find information about any particular gun without searching all over. Text and captions are riddled with typos, some serious in a book of this type - like incorrect dates and model numbers. There is some material on Beistegui Hermanos (Royal and Azul - no mention of ETAI), but not much. There is far more material on Unceta (Astra) but not as much as it seems at first glance. For instance, there are sixteen photos of the Astra 900 in the book, but all 16 are of the same piece, an early and not particularly representative example in ratty "Chinese" condition. Much of the text is mere filler, with lines like this -
The worn-out Astra Model 900s which came into the U.S. from China in the early 1990s have virtually no collector's value because they lack finish and are often mechanically broken.Obviously false. They do indeed have collector's value; who does he think bought them, beat policemen looking for backups? It continues -
Even the presence of several thousand of these pieces in the U.S. collector's market has had no effect on the price of rare specimens in mint condition.Well, d'uh. Although that "no effect" would be difficult to document - the author doesn't even try to do so.
There is a section covering disassembly of the Astra 900, with photos, although it's not as detailed as my instructions here.
This site is written entirely by me. Contents copyright © 2006-2014.
Some photos copied from sales sites. Photos from printed publications appropriately credited.