In 1896 Mauser introduced what was to become (arguably) the first commercially successful semi-automatic pistol, the C96. It was initially offered in the powerful, high-velocity 7.63x25mm Mauser cartridge, and it was a potent, flat-shooting pistol. With the addition of it’s holster/shoulder stock it could easily ‘reach out and touch someone’ at a hundred yards or more. The success of this gun helped usher in the age of semi-auto pistols.
The gun was widely used even though it failed to land a major military contract, though many nations made relatively small purchases for military use. It continued to be produced until 1937 and large numbers were exported across the world, notably to China.
Despite quickly becoming an Icon the gun was far from perfect. It had a fixed ten-round magazine located in front of the trigger guard and reloaded from stripper-clips. It was in some ways ungainly and quirky, and by the beginning of the 20thC. sleeker, more efficient and handier guns were coming along by the bucket-load. While Mauser was happy to keep making the C96 as long as there were buyers, they felt that to be truly competitive they needed something more in-line with the emerging civilian and military markets.
They decided they should launch a family of guns, each with a common appearance, features and manual-of-arms covering everything from pocket pistols to full-sized service arms. Not at all a bad idea, and they started with a locked breech gun chambered in 9x19mm… which turned out to not be a good idea, but that’s a whole ‘nuther story. They never did get the bugs worked out of the service-caliber gun, but they kept on with the idea of the family of guns and in 1910 they introduced the first of the new line, imaginatively named the 6.35mm (the European designation for .25 ACP.) These guns are now referred to as the Model 1910, but this was never official Mauser nomenclature.
This was a small (but not tiny) straight-blowback pistol chambered in .25 ACP/6.35mm Auto, Jon Browning’s answer to the .22 LR for automatics. The diminutive gun featured a removable 9-round magazine carried in the pistol’s grip, a unique safety, a 3″ barrel and a wrap-around wood or plastic grip.
One of the afore-mentioned interesting features is the safety, which is identical to the Model 1914’s that we discussed in an earlier post. To engage the safety you push down on the lever behind the trigger guard on the left side of the gun. To release it you press the button just below the lever. It’s not hard to learn and is kind of neat.
Another feature it shares with the Model 1814 is the slide lock, somewhat unusual on a .25 auto. It locks open after the last round in the magazine is fired. In fact it will lock back if you rack the slide when there is no magazine in the gun. The only way to get the slide to drop back into battery is to insert a new magazine, whether the magazine is loaded or not. Of course if it is loaded the gun will chamber a round when the slide closes. This was intended to facilitate rapid magazine changes, but some people find this irksome, though I don’t mind it. Even though Mauser continued this system in their later HSC it never really caught on with other manufacturers.
Even in the early days of semi-automatic pistols this was a bit of an odd duck; not as compact as most other .25 ACP pistols, not as potent as slightly larger .32 and .380 autos. This did not seem to dissuade buyers, however; over the next few decades they sold almost half a million across all variations.
There were several of these, making aspects of the pistol easier to produce or more efficient, but it remained unchanged in essentials throughout its run. Production ceased at the outset of WW2, and the now rather antiquated design did not resume production after the war.
So how do you like it, Tinker?
Very well indeed, actually. It’s small and flat enough to conceal easily, but the grip allows me a solid two-finger hold that is much more comfortable and secure than most .25s. The trigger has a lot of take-up, but is light and crisp when you eventually get there; both Linda and I were quite impressed. It’s quirky, interesting, comfortable to hold and easy to manipulate. It even has surprisingly decent sights for a pistol of its era. What’s not to like?
Well, it’s rather heavy for it’s size; it is solid steel after all. Still, 14.6 ounces unloaded isn’t what anyone would call a heavyweight; certainly not a person such as me, who was raised when Men were Men, guns were steel and sheep were nervous. Still, there are snub-nosed .38 revolvers this light or lighter, and in these 21st century days of polymer uber alles it’s hefty for a pocket pistol.
This particular example is in excellent condition, with all of it’s original finish, though this is marred in some places with minor speckling. The bore is very good, with only a slight ‘frosting’ of the grooves.
So then, how’s it shoot?
I haven’t much ammo on hand; not enough for a proper test, certainly. Reloading components are on the way, so a full range-report will have to wait until they arrive and I have a chance to load more. I did test hand-cycling from the magazine, which is fine, and I fired eight rounds for testing purposes, again with perfect results. The gun is just large enough to sit well in my hand in a two-fingered grip, the sights are decent and the trigger is truly excellent- so much so that it will catch you out if you aren’t careful.
Accuracy remains to be seen, though at three yards the bullets hit exactly where I aimed them. Recoil was, as you’d expect, negligible, and the gun didn’t shift in my hand even slightly when firing. I expect this pistol will be very accurate in rapid-fire.
Typically pistols chambered in .25 auto have a 2″ barrel, but the Mauser has a 3″. You’d expect that extending the barrel by 50% would have an effect on ballistics, and you’d be correct.
My standard .25 ACP load is a 58gr hard-cast lead flat-nose bullet over 1.1gr. of Red Dot with a CCI 500 Small Pistol primer. When I tested it in ‘The Battle of the Mouse Guns’ this gave an average of 646 fps. and 54 ft./lbs. of energy; this is not at all a ‘hot’ load for this caliber. The same load from the Mauser did an average of 729 fps. and 68 ft./lbs. This is a 26% increase in power; not a huge difference, but at these low levels of energy every little bit helps. Alright then, how much does it help? The answer is rather surprising.
From the 2″ barrel of the Colt Junior penetration was 12.5″ in Clear Ballistics 10% ordinance gel. In contrast they penetrated considerably further when fired from the Mauser. One bullet exited the top of the block at 8″ and struck the steel backstop hard enough to significantly deform the bullet. One bullet stopped nose-forward at 15″. The remaining six rounds all passed entirely through the 16″ long block.
After it became apparent the bullets were exiting the block I added another, placed a small block behind it, which rested at an angle owing to it’s shape. One bullet embedded itself an inch deep in this after exiting the main block. Three other bullets passed through the smaller angled block on paths that traversed 2-3″ of gel before striking the back-stop. I was surprised to say the least!
The bullet is 16% heavier than the standard 50gr FMC-RN normally used in this caliber giving it significantly higher sectional density, which enhances penetration out of proportion to the increase in energy.
I think further testing is needed when I have more ammo reloaded, and I’ll perhaps try a variety of bullet types. I’ll have 35gr. XTP hollow-points and 50gr. FMC to try then.
This is a delightful little pistol, and I can see why it sold well. It’s much easier to manage and fire accurately than typical, smaller .25s, especially for someone like me with rather large hands, and the negligible recoil would have been much in it’s favor for inexperienced or occasional shooters.
Would I carry it? Around the property, where rats have occasionally showed their pointy little noses, sure. As a self-defense weapon? I reckon if you find an 8-shot J-frame .22 adequate this would serve you as well or better, but let’s be realistic. This is a century-old gun in an anemic caliber; you’d be better off not.
On the other hand as a fun little plinker with a bit of history you could do a lot worse, and with ammo prices and availability they way they have been I can reload .25 ACP cheaper than I can buy .22LR… if I can find any.
Take care and stay safe.
Michael Tinker Pearce, 3 May 2021
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