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1896 Mauser
quick identification
For when you have it .... but you don't know just what it is

Is it, or isn't it? Superficially similar guns were made by several Spanish and Chinese factories, and there are some Chinese backyard blacksmith specials around too. There are also many dummy guns, theatrical props, and AirSoft guns bearing a likeness to the C-96. The genuine Mauser-made article isn't too hard to spot. There was some variation in markings in the early days, but some ninety-five percent of C-96s - those made after production settled down - have Mauser markings on the top of the barrel (directly over the chamber) and on the right side of the frame.
NOTE - Chinese copies, complete down to the Mauser address and trademarks, are not unknown, and can be difficult to disitnguish from the real thing, but most Mauser copies didn't go that far.


Barrel - This is almost always marked

WAFFENFABRIK
MAUSER
OBERNDORF A/N
A few specimens have a Mauser banner trademark
instead of the factory name and address.
Frame - The right side is marked

WAFFENFABRIK MAUSER
OBERNDORF A. NECKAR
or

WAFFENFABRIK MAUSER
OBERNDORF A. NECKAR
D.R.P.u.A.P.

Despite popular belief, the vast majority of these guns are semi-autos. There is a full auto or machine gun version, but those are rare in the United States, and must be registered as machine guns. A hefty number of these full autos have been remanufactured as semi-autos and imported into the US over the last twenty years or so. These remanufactured guns are not machine guns and do not have to be registered as such.

Mauser made some relatively weird semi-auto variations in the early days of production, but after 40,000 or so guns, things settled down, and the factory thereafter manufactured only five major varieties of semi-autos. And here they are -

  1. 7.63 mm caliber (.30 inch bore)
  2. 5.5 inch barrel
  3. smooth barrel contour in this area
  4. 5 or 6 digit serial number on diagonal flat
  5. 50 - 1000 meter sight
  6. small ring hammer, early style
  7. hole through safety knob
  8. full serial number in two places on back
  9. "step" frame
  10. lanyard ring pivots fore & aft
  11. walnut grip panels with 30 to 36 lines
  12. no factory markings here (there may be military or police unit marks stamped on later)
      Congratulations, it's a Prewar Commercial



      Identical to the Prewar Commercial (above)
      in all respects, except -
  1. back of hammer has intertwined NS monogram
  2. no hole through safety knob
      Congratulations, it's a Wartime Commercial







      Identical to the Wartime Commercial (above)
      in all respects, except -
  1. 9 mm caliber (.35 inch bore)
  2. 50 - 500 meter sight
  3. walnut grip panels have about 24 lines
    and a large "9"
      There is a small cut taken out of the top of the cartridge follower,
      but it doesn't show from this view.

      Congratulations, it's a 1916 Prussian Contract, a.k.a. "Red 9"





  1. short barrel, less than 4 inches
  2. tangent sight milled off, fixed rear sight soldered on
  3. 1920 stamped somewhere on barrel or frame
  4. All other features identical to any of the above guns
      Congratulations, it's a 1920 rework

      To belabor the obvious just a bit, these guns were not originally manufactured this way.
      They were earlier guns reworked postwar into this "1920" configuration.

  1. 7.63 mm caliber (.30 inch bore)
  2. front sight on band
  3. 3.9 inch barrel
  4. 6 digit serial number on side of barrel
  5. 50 - 1000 meter sight
  6. small ring hammer, early style
  7. back of hammer has intertwined NS monogram
  8. no hole through safety knob
  9. full serial number in two places on back
  10. small size grip
  11. "step" frame
  12. lanyard ring pivots side-to-side
  13. walnut grip panels with 23 lines
  14. Mauser banner trademark on frame (all except earliest specimens)
      Congratulations, it's a Postwar Bolo

  1. 7.63 mm caliber (.30 inch bore)
  2. 5.2" or 5.5" barrel
  3. step in barrel contour
  4. six-digit serial number on side of barrel ....
  5. .... or behind sight
  6. 50 - 1000 meter sight
  7. small ring hammer, late style
  8. hole through safety knob
  9. no serial numbers visible from back
  10. large grip size
  11. non-stepped frame
  12. lanyard ring pivots side-to-side
  13. walnut grip panels with 12 grooves
  14. Mauser banner trademark on frame
      Congratulations, it's an M-30

Here are some late guns which I don't examine in detail on this site.
      Identical to M-30, except -
  1. removable box magazine
  2. strange frame milling
      Mauser made a few guns like this in the 1930s, but most specimens found today are
      genuine Schnellfeuers (see below) which have had the select-fire components removed
      and the resulting hole in the frame welded up, and the frame remachined.

      These reworks were done just before the guns were imported and sold on the American
      market in the 1980s. I don't examine these guns on this site.

      This isn't one of the semi-autos, but it explains
      where that semi-auto rework just above comes from.
  1. detachable box magazine, 10 round (shown) or 20 round
  2. select fire switch of one of two types (late, and most common, type shown)
      Congratulations, it's a Schnellfeuer

      In the United States, Federal law mandates that these are machine guns, and they must
      be registered as "NFA Weapons." I don't examine these guns, either, on this site.

And here are some early guns which I don't examine, as they fall outside the Stable Production Period.
      If the gun has that strange hammer over there by
      the "1", it's nowadays called a cone hammer. The
      factory never called it anything special; it was always
      the Military Pistol no matter what hammer it was
      wearing. Cone hammer guns predate the stable
      production period. The last cone hammer Mauser
      was made around 1899. Mauser was experimenting
      throughout this period, trying to find something which would sell. Features were all over the
      place - there were 6, 10, and 20-round magazines, strange tangent sights, fixed sights, various
      grip materials, long barrels, short barrels, etc etc. Markings - serial number locations, mainly -
      varied widely. The safety, the extractor, and the lanyard loop didn't change much though. But
      whatever odd features a gun may have, if it has that hammer, it's called a cone hammer. I don't
      have much to say about cone hammers, as they're outside the period examined on this site.



      The next major variant was the large ring hammer.
      If a gun has that, it's called a large ring hammer, no
      matter what other features it may have. Like cone
      hammers, large ring hammer guns predate the stable
      production period. Mauser was still experimenting,
      as the customers were staying away in droves. There
      were 6 and 10 shot magazines (but no more 20-shot
      fixed mags - those died with the cone hammers), more sight variants, flatside frames, fixed
      sights, and small-grip guns (later christened "Bolos"), but there was finally a trend toward a
      bit more standardization in serial number locations. The extractor gradually shifted to the
      types always found on the prewar commercial guns. The large ring hammer guns lie
      outside the period examined on this site. All large ring hammer variants were replaced about
      1905 by the small ring hammer guns.





So, now what?

I recommend the FAQ.






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