C96 Mauser- a Better Carbine Than Pistol!

Chinese surplus ‘Bolo’ stock/holster

YES! It has arrived! The ‘Bolo’ style stock I purchased from KB Tactical has arrived! This is an un-issued Chinese surplus unit. While KB says it is for the shorter barreled pistols, my full-length 1914 vintage Commercial Model fits just fine, at least with the hammer down and the safety on. Delivery was prompt and on time.

The C96 is not an excellent handgun. It has a fixed magazine loaded from stripper clips located ahead of the trigger, making the gun much longer than it needs to be. The bore axis is very high, and since it shoots a powerful cartridge this means a lot of muzzle-whip, making accurate rapid fire challenging. And the handle? Let us be charitable and say it’s not particularly ergonomic.

OK, don’t get me wrong; the C96 Mauser was ground-breaking in 1896, but in a mere 3-4 years much more advanced, efficient and ergonomic designs like the Luger and FN 1900 hit the market. Despite this the Mauser remained popular for decades, and I believe this was largely due to it’s stock/holster. China was under an arms embargo early in the 20th Century, but pistols were not prohibited and the ‘Broomhandle’ Mauser quickly became popular- especially with the stock mounted to turn it into a short carbine.

Chinese Nationalist soldiers at target practice with their Mausers. They found it to be a handy carbine, and it’s import wasn’t prohibited under the arms embargo.

When I ordered this stock, I wasn’t expecting it to be in such good condition. While obviously not new, it obviously wasn’t very old either. My first, rather uncharitable assumption was that it was a knock-off, but I think there is every chance it might actually be ‘as advertised.’ I’ll explain.

The cartridge case of 7.62 x 25mm Russian, used in the T33 Tokarev, is nearly identical to 7.63 mauser, and they will feed in a C96 just fine. BUT… they are loaded much hotter than 7.63 Mauser and will quickly break the older gun if used in them. When the Soviet Union gave them Tokarevs the Chinese had vast numbers of C96s in addition to Spanish and indigenous clones of them. Because of this when they made ammo for their Tokarevs they loaded it to the power level of the Mauser cartridge so it could be used interchangeably in Tokarevs and Mausers. So I have heard, anyway; this is something I read many years ago and it makes sense, but I have no idea if it’s accurate. If any of you have specific information to confirm or refute this I’m interested.

Shansei company in China produced the Type 17 chambered in .45 ACP and C96 clones in 7.63. In the 1980s there were a number of receivers for these guns sitting around, and they made them up into finished guns. The Type 17s were exported, as were some of the C96s, but I am told many of them were issued to provincial law enforcement for use with the by then ubiquitous down-loaded Tokarev ammo.

Chinese Type 17 pistol, a Mauser clone in .45 ACP! Today a very valuable and much-sought after collectible.

I believe that my stock, if it is indeed ‘surplus,’ dates to this period. The 1980s dating seems much more consistent with its condition and quality. I should note that ATF considers these ‘run-out’ production guns to be modern firearms, and if you attach any stock to them it is an SBR.

Let’s talk about this stock’s quality for a minute. The metal furniture is not highly finished, and I had to de-burr the connector before it could be mounted on my pistol. Not a big deal, just a few minutes with a machinists file. The stock release, if not used carefully, tends to come out. It’s not hard to put back in, but I’l likely to take it apart and see if I can’t fix that. The wood-work is alright, I suppose, but the lacquer used to finish it appears to have been applied with a garden rake. Having seen some Chinese military products of the era I can’t say this is inconsistent.

So… how is it?

The first thing you notice is the stock makes it much easier to load. Tuck the stock under your arm and use your right hand to assist. Way, way easier. The stock does give you a pretty long pull, but it’s manageable. One thing is, if your hand is at all large don’t put your right thumb over the stock. The hammer will tap your thumb, and it’s annoying if not particularly painful.

With the stock mounted the awkward pistol becomes a very handy little carbine, and makes reloading easier.

At first I had some difficulty with seeing the rear sight properly, which resulted in my shots hitting low and left. Not to far off, but not the sort of accuracy I hoped for. I quickly discovered that by moving my cheek back towards the butt solved this issue. Well, gun’s accuracy issues were anyway…

This 25-yard group was low and left, owing to some trouble with seeing the rear sight properly.

As a carbine the gun is quite pleasant to shoot; there is little recoil and the muzzle flip encountered when firing it as a handgun is absent. The sights are not awesome by modern standards, but they’re not bad. One thing I had not noticed was how nice the trigger is; recovery between shots with this gun is slow enough that you cannot take full advantage of the trigger. As a carbine though, it really comes into it’s own. It’s crisp with little creep, and the reset makes lightning-fast double-taps at seven to ten yards a doddle.

Double taps at 7-10 yards are very fast and really easy . .. and a lot of fun, too!

With the stock mounted it really is a whole different gun. All the flaws in handling vanish, recoil is light and it’s just an absolute pleasure. Despite it’s age with the right ammo I could see this being a genuinely viable home defense option, though there are certainly better choices. At four pounds I could also see this being useful as a backpacking/survival gun, and with careful ammo selection and aim in an emergency it would certainly be adequate for medium-sized game. Again, there are better options… but I could see it.

Speaking of Ammunition…

If you want to shoot your own Mauser there are a number of companies producing ammunition, but your options are pretty much limited to 85gr round-nose full-metal case ammunition. I have had good luck with PPU ammunition in this caliber. It’s not particularly expensive, and has been reliable and accurate. Do not be tempted under any circumstances to fire factory 7.62×25 Tokarev ammo through your Mauser; it’s likely to break it.

You can, of course, reload your own; I do. Load data and new brass are available for a variety of modern bullets and powder. The nominal bore diameter is .308, and while I have tried bullets sized for .32 caliber pistols (.311-.312 diameter) and it worked fine, I have misgivings about doing this. If you are having trouble finding suitable bullets there is a relatively cheap and easy solution, however; run them through a .308 sizing/lubing die. This solves the problem and has not, so far, had any adverse effect on the bullet’s stability. These dies are available from Lee and other sources, and are usually under $20.

These are loaded with Speer 100gr. Plinkers, a half-jacketed lead bullet. I found loading data to use these online, and approaching that data with care i was able to come up with a satisfactory load that is reliable and accurate.

I have used 7.62×25 Tokarev brass in some reloads, and it has worked just fine but beware- If the bullet-seating die is set for use with this brass it will crush 7.63 brass. The section from the shoulder to the neck is just a skosh longer on the Mauser brass I have, and it’s just enough to cause problems. If you use both sort them out and use the proper settings for each cartridge.

Wait a minute… Is This Legal?!

To the best information I have been able to obtain, yes. Probably. Some older pistols made to mount a stock are specifically exempted from the National Firearms Act. Some are circumstantially exempted. For example Luger stocks were model-specific, so you have to have the correct stock for your specific model. Stock-equipped Hi Powers must have the adjustable sight calibrated to 500 yards and be below a certain serial number. It is apparent from this that different guns are treated differently.

Addressing the issue of reproduction stocks on C96s ther are several letters:

  • A 1981 letter applying specifically to C96s that states that an original or close reproduction of an original stock is OK.
  • A 1999 letter applying to Ingis High-Power pistols stating the reproductions are not OK, which some interpret as applying to C96s also.
  • A 2002 letter applying specifically to C96 Pistols that says a close reproduction is OK. ” – A C96 (aka 1896) Broomhandle Mauser with pre-1940 manufacture receiver AND with either an original buttstock or a close replica of an original buttstock, is a Title 1 (1968 Gun Control Act) Pistol …(also a Curio and Relic firearm); it is NOT a Title II Short Barrel Rifle. BATF regards this as a collector’s item not likely to be owned as a weapon. However, a C96 Broomhandle either
  • – – with a receiver made after 1940… OR
  • – – with a stock that is NOT an original OR CLOSE REPLICA of an original issue, is considered by BATF to be weaponized and NOT a collector’s item.

This letter is the most recent I have seen regarding stocks on the Mauser, and there has been enough internet discussion that I am pretty sure any contradictory ruling would have been mentioned. Based on my own research I’m satisfied that this is legal, but the bottom line is I’m just some guy on the internet. It would be prudent for you to do your own research, or even check directly with the ATF before mounting one of these stocks on your pistol. Also, you need to check state and local laws; while this appears to be legal under Federal law it may not be legal in your state.

One thing I believe you should NOT do is mess about with a non-reproduction stock or any attempt to ‘modernize’ the gun. The addition of a modern sight or any other significant change to improve the functionality of one of these guns would be very likely to be interpreted as ‘weaponizing’ the gun and would negate it’s status as a ‘Curio or Relic.’ If you want to go that route for some reason register it as an SBR first; it could save you a lot of trouble!

The strap keeps the carrier connect to the stock for use as a holster. There was also a belt provided, but I’m far too fat to use it. I’m actually not sure it would have fit even in my more svelte youth. There is a spring in the top of the stock, so when the release button is pressed the lid springs open, releasing the gun. It’s handier than you might think.

In summary the C96 with a stock is a ball to shoot, and despite the age of this design it is a useful gun even to this day. That being said, this is a collector’s item for a reason; while it does the job it is genuinely obsolete. There are modern guns free of legal ambiguity that do anything this gun can do better, and the price of these guns is far out of proportion to their utility.

If you want to geek out on some cool history and have some fun, you could do worse than a stocked C96. If you want an SBR for practical uses it’s better (and cheaper) to go through the process to register and obtain an SBR… and you’ll have no concerns about whether or not what you are doing is legal.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 28 July 2020

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