Gun Digest

Mauser C96: The First Field-Ready Military Autoloader?

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The Mauser C96 “Broomhandle” pistol is the first military semiautomatic pistol to prove itself both rugged enough and reliable enough for field use, argues Massad Ayoob in his newly-released Greatest Handguns of the World, Vol. II.

But that's not all. Here are 5 more reasons why the Mauser C96 made the cut as one of the most important handguns of all time:

1.  The 7.63mm Mauser C96 was the first pistol to lock its mechanism open automatically when it ran dry of cartridges, the better to facilitate reloading. Mauser set a standard for auto pistol design with this feature.

2. This 19th Century single action auto set early standards for handgun ergonomics, particularly when taken from “cocked and locked” carry to “Fire” mode.

3. When viewed from above, the C96 Mauser was a “Flat” pistol…”the shape of things to come” in semiautomatic pistol design and set the stage for the Luger, the Colt/Browning 1911, and all the others that followed to this day.

4. The Mauser C96 was carried and used in battle by a 23-year-old British cavalry Lieutenant by the name of Winston Churchill in the Battle of Omdurman. It was also carried by Lawrence of Arabia!

5. In WWI, 150,000 Mauser 96s were ordered by the Imperial German Army to supplement the Luger pistol. It had become abundantly clear that, in trench warfare, a handgun was a vital tool of close-quarter survival and the C96 filled the role.

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