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C-96 Grips


32595

Grip frame variations

Nearly all C-96s have a slot in the backstrap for the shoulder stock attachment hardware. With the apparent aim of minimizing weight by removing all but necessary metal, Mauser mated a wide backstrap (.34 inch) to a narrow frontstrap (.22 inch). There is a visible step on each side of frame, at the transition of narrow frontstrap to wide backstrap. The grip panels are notched accordingly. Here is a view of a nice rusty specimen, a Prewar Commercial. The grip panels in the photo are not original to the gun.

104441
Here is a view of the grip frame, sans grip panels.
104441
And the same area of a Postwar Bolo.
522022
The M-30 has a grip frame of constant width (.35 inch) - no step
918367
Here is an M-30 grip panel, and a grip panel from a Postwar Bolo. All Bolos have step frames.
The M-30 with grip panels in place. The lack of a frame step is clear. Compare to the photo of the Prewar Commercial with the step frame.
918367
So in summary, all C-96s predating the M-30 have step frames, and need grip panels which are cut for same. All M-30s (and Schnellfeuers) have frames which aren't stepped. Grip panels are not interchangeable between step frame and non-step frame guns.


Serial numbers

In general, the inside surfaces of both grip panels are numbered to their gun. The numbers may be the full serial number, or the last three digits, without rhyme or reason that I've been able to discern. This practice was discontinued at the start of M-30 production. M-30 grip panels have no numbers or markings whatever.


Rubber

The rubber grips are variously described as hard rubber or gutta-percha. Gutta-percha is made from a natural latex obtained from several species of Asian evergreens. During the mid to late 1800s it was used to make the insulating and waterproofing jacket on trans-oceanic telegraphic cables. Slightly later it was used to make something even more important - high-tech golf balls. Gutta-percha tends to break down after prolonged exposure to oxygen or sunlight. At one time it was so common that "gutta-percha" was often used generically to refer to similar but distinct resins. So are these C-96 grip panels gutta-percha, or something like it? Beats me ....
The earliest rubber grip panels I've seen are on a large ring hammer in the 13000 serial range. They are checkered, with a WM monogram in a roundel at the top.

Left and right panels are essentially identical mirror images. One might reasonably conjecture that WM are the initials of Waffenfabrik Mauser. The highest serial gun I've noted with these grip panels is another large ring hammer, in the 20800 range.

13xxx
A modified pattern appears later. The checkering is similar, but the monogram has moved downward a bit and is inscribed in an oddly shaped shield rather than a roundel. Here's one on another large ring hammer, serial 32595.
32595
Closeup of same gun.
32595
The same monogram occasionally appears on checkered rubber Bolo grip panels. At right is one shown in Erickson & Pate, page 130, on an otherwise ordinary prewar Bolo.
42604
The earliest gun I've noted with these checkered late-mongram grip panels is 31260, a large ring hammer with a Von Lengerke & Detmold New-York stamp. They appeared intermittently until the early days of the Stable Production Period, and so can be found on some Prewar Commercials. Then they disappeared, only to eventually resurface on the so-called "Gendarme" models, a batch of postwar guns in the 430000 serial range. Not counting the "Gendarme" guns, the latest I've seen these grip panels on is a Prewar Commercial, serial 86689.
The last rubber grip panel variant is a floral scroll pattern which I find stylistically inappropriate. I have seen it only on Bolos, and usually only on Bolos in the 29000 serial range.

The highest serial number gun I've seen with floral grips is 40543, a prewar Bolo (small ring hammer, 10 shot magazine), shown at right.

40543
Here are both grip panels of serial 29605 (a large ring hammer 6 shot Bolo with fixed sights).

I have mirrored the image of the left grip so that both sides can be compared. They're not identical, but they're close.

29605
With the exception of a few stray Prewar Commercials and the "Gendarme" grips, all rubber grips were dropped before the Stable Production Period. Nearly all guns after the 40000 serial range have grooved walnut grips.


Wood
The nineteenth century was a good era for checkered gunstocks and grips - not flamboyant, just carefully executed. They'd checker anything, and, in the main, checker it well. Wrap the pattern around compound curves? No problem! Not long afterward, cut checkering was usually replaced by machine-cut or, even worse, pressed checkering. As a practical matter, machine-made checkering is confined to relatively flat areas. The development of pressed checkering is sometimes credited to Remington. I'm a major Remington fan, but I can't consider pressed checkering any kind of accomplishment. Its primary effect is to make us appreciate the old cut checkering even more. Here is a revolver made in 1860 by William Tranter, with typically good, though not fancy, checkering.
1960 Tranter
Unfortunately, Mauser wood fails to live up to the promise of its era. Panels in checkered walnut are found on some early C-96s - the first few hundred specimens - and a few Bolos scattered through the 20,000 to 29,000 serial range. But the majority of wood panels are the familiar, boring old grooved type. But to liven things up, Mauser kept fiddling with the number of grooves. Sometimes the number of grooves is indeterminate, as there may be a shallow half-groove at the end - usually the bottom, but occasionally the top. These half grooves seem to have been cut that way, although of course wear will tend to obliterate very shallow grooves. Here is one side from serial 52297, a Prewar Commercial with 34 groove grip panels .... or 35 grooves .... or maybe 36 ...
52297
Cone hammers and large ring hammers almost always have 23 grooves cut into each panel.

As large ring hammer production approached its end, the groove count seems to have increased, to a maximum of 36. I've seen one specimen in the 32000 serial range with 33 grooves on one panel, and 35 on the other.

By the time Mauser production had switched to small ring hammers, and the Stable Production Period had arrived, things became not-so-stable in the grip panel department. Prewar Commercials are most likely to have 32 grooves, though I've seen anything from 30 to 36, with a few reverting to 23. The Wartime Commercials covered a slightly narrower range, anything from 32 to 35 lines. The line count dropped slightly on 1916 Prussian Contract guns - the last two I checked had 28 and 33 grooves. The trend toward groove count reduction continued with the Postwar Bolos, which are most likely to have 21 grooves, though some have 22 or 24. Line count reduction reached its apotheosis with the M-30s, which invariably have 12 groove grip panels. (But see Mysteries, below, for an oddball.)



Finish

Mauser walnut grips are oiled, just like proper rifle stocks. I have examined some heavily worn grips with patches of what looks like varnish, but I doubt that varnish was the original finish on any of them. Unfortunately, the varnish has to be removed completely if such wood is to be re-oiled successfully, as of course the oil won't soak into the varnished patches.


Lanyard rings

All C-96s have pivoting lanyard rings, starting with the earliest prototypes. The rings themselves never changed throughout production. However, the attachment points changed a bit.

The rings on all prewar and wartime guns pivot fore & aft. Serial 154594, below, is typical. The small pivot ring is machined as part of the grip frame - that is, it is one piece with the frame, not a separate attached piece. The highest serial guns with this type of ring pivot are the "Gendarme" guns, in the serial 430000 range. Postwar reworks, such as the 1920-marked guns, are reworks of prewar and wartime guns, so of course have the fore & aft pivots.
Soon after the resumption of new production in the early 1920s, Mauser changed the ring pivot to side-to-side. Serial 712943, below, is typical. This pivot is not machined as part of the frame. It is a separate part with a short stud sticking out the top. This stud is stuck through a hole in the bottom of the grip frame, then peened over to fix it to the frame. See the photo at right.
522022
With the start of M-30 production, Mauser changed the pivot. It still pivots the ring side-to-side, but it is distinctly longer than the pivot seen on Postwar Bolos. Serial 881653 is typical. These longer pivots are machined as part of the frame - they're not separate parts.

154594 712943 881653


Mysteries

Mystery Grips, which don't seem to fit into any reasonable pattern, occasionally turn up. Here's a nice puzzling one -

This is serial number 862138. Dedicated students of this site will recognize it immediately as an M-30 from the step barrel and the hammer. The slightly short barrel, the milled rails, and the "D.R.P.u.A.P." in vertical (unslanted) letters are also clear. We would naturally expect it to be wearing 12 groove grip panels. But instead it has grip panels of heavily worn checkered hard rubber, with the "WM" monogram in a shield - the last time those appeared in regular production was in the 86000 range, on the Prewar Commercial. There was a brief reintroduction immediately postwar, in the 432000-450000 range (the "Gendarme").

The obvious assumption, that someone sometime in the last seventy years put some earlier grip panels on this gun, isn't too promising, as those old panels were on step frames, and won't fit on an M-30.

I've never seen another specimen quite like this. Where it came from and why it was built remain mysteries.

Here's another Mystery Grip, a pair of 12 line grip panels, cut for a step frame. Well, almost. The two mystery items, in the center, are flanked by worn but genuine M-30 grip panels -


The Mystery panels are unquestionably walnut. They have 12 grooves, like the M-30, and far fewer than any of the familiar earlier grip panels. The groove pattern isn't identical to the M-30, as it extends a bit further toward the top edge. The top edge is a bit more carefully formed than on the M-30 panel. And the ferrules for the attachment screw are slightly lower (toward the bottom of the grip) than they are on the M-30 panels.

But they are definitely not M-30 grip panels, as they are cut for a step frame - that is, they would fit any large-grip C-96 through the Wartime Commercial and Prussian Contract, but not an M-30. However, they are cut a bit too small to make a secure fit in a step-frame gun. Here is the inside view -


The M-30 panel, at left, has no unusual features. The Mystery panel at right has been built up with clear epoxy to make a proper fit on a Prewar Commercial. Also note that the Mystery panel has no serial number, which we would expect a pre-M-30 Mauser panel to have.

So, what is it? It's not an Astra panel - the Astras didn't have step frames. Backwoods Chinese replacement? The workmanship is good, and the brass ferrules fit a stock Mauser grip screw. If a Chinese craftsman copied a Mauser original, it would be odd to copy some features so exactly, but not others.

So. Another mystery.






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