March 13, 2019
The same mundane Glock 23 has been my faithful companion for over 20 years now. Most would find it a rather boring piece. And yes, I’m aware .40 S&W has gone out of style. To be frank though, I could care less. I’m not stylish or fashion conscious when it comes to self-protection. My 23 is reliable, suitably accurate and hits hard. It serves its purpose and I doubt I will ever carry anything else. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate classic lines, historical significance or a bit of nostalgia. I have some colleagues who view firearms only as tools. That’s not me. I love talking about classic late 19th Century and early 20th Century handguns, reloading for them, bench racing how they stack up to their peers and most of all putting them to work on the range.
My favorite? While I dearly love the work of French ordnance officers, Webley & Scott’s top-breaks and various oddball automatics, nothing spins my crank quite like Mauser’s unmistakable 7.63mm C96 “Broomhandle”.
Why the Broomhandle? That is hard to put into words. I suppose it’s a mix of the pistol’s drop-dead looks which are confused with no other, its ability to mount a shoulder stock and be employed as a carbine, it being fielded in various conflicts both large and small around the globe, its high velocity 7.63x25mm (.30 Mauser) cartridge and old fashioned stripper clip method of loading. Above all else though, Mauser’s Broomhandle is, in my humble opinion, a wonderful shooter. I love burning ammunition through them, either as a pistol or with the stock attached as a carbine. Not everyone will agree with me on this, but that’s what makes horse races.
For this issue I’d like to consider Mauser’s famous Broomhandle from the perspective of a shooter rather than a collector. Leroy Thompson is what I would consider an advanced collector with a fantastic array of highly desirable Broomhandle pistols. His article, in this issue, does a great job covering some of the Mauser’s more interesting history and development. To complement his piece I’d like to investigate Mauser’s classic auto-loader as something you can take to the range and into the field. While the Mauser Broomhandle can be a wonderful shooter, there are certain things you should be aware of if you are contemplating purchasing one to shoot. Remember, this is the first commercially successful auto-loading pistol and it dates from the end of the 19th Century. Due to simple age and wear there are certain things you should check and likely change before heading off to the range. Plus, there are certain spares and accessories which you will want to consider keeping on hand.
“Broomhandle” is a slang term used to describe an entire series of models manufactured by Mauser (and foreign copycats) starting with their Construktion 96. Mauser’s C96 was introduced 123 years ago and was the creation of three brothers: Fidel, Fritz and Josef Feederle who worked at Mauser’s factory in Oberndorf Germany. Patents were issued in 1895 and the pistol was placed into production in 1896. It carries the distinction of being the World’s first successful self-loading handgun. Its unique grip quickly earned it the nickname it is universally known by today, the Broomhandle.
As time went by the basic design evolved slightly and it was subsequently produced in different calibers, barrel lengths, magazine capacities, configurations and even selective-fire variants. The wide variety of models produced during its production life is a boon to collectors. My example seen on these pages is one of the last of the breed, a Model 1930, or M30, produced at the very end of the production run. It is a fairly nice “shooter grade” piece which came with an original wooden holster/stock when I purchased it. I bought it to be a shooter, and have been very pleased with it in this regard. It is typical of the full-size 7.63mm pistols with a 10-shot internal box magazine, tangent rear sight and is slotted for a shoulder stock.
If you have never actually spent time with a Broomhandle you’ll find it to be a large, albeit surprisingly narrow, pistol. My 7.63mm M30 is just over 12 inches in length with the hammer cocked, and it measures about 6.3 inches in height. However, the frame is less than 7/8 of an inch in width allowing it to tuck neatly inside one’s waistband. It is a bit on the hefty side though, weighing 41.3 ounces empty. Its wooden holster/shoulder stock adds another 14.7 ounces. The 3.5 pound combination was typically carried in a leather harness, and a variety of types were produced by its different users.
Pick up a Mauser Broomhandle for the first time and you will either love it or hate it. It’s as simple as that, there is no in-between. You will either be smitten by thoughts of adventure, daring do and “what if” with it sitting in your hand, or you will know it’s simply not for you. The layout of the C96 certainly isn’t for everyone. The grip shape and feel is unique among handguns and the design is indeed a child of an age long past when cavalry were still armed with sabre and lance. The design has its quirks, but in my opinion they simply add to its appeal.
In the hand the Broomhandle is blessed with a timeless sinister look all its own. The pistol itself is a testament to Old World design and craftsmanship. Beautifully machined and fitted, the only screw in the entire design is used simply to hold the grips on. Cracking the pistol open to have a look inside reveals numerous finely machined parts intricately fit together like a Chinese jig-saw puzzle. It is a fascinating design, so let’s delve into how it functions.
The C96 operates on the short recoil principle. With a round in the chamber and the hammer cocked, squeezing the trigger will release the hammer allowing it to fall. The hammer drives the firing pin forward detonating the cartridge’s primer and igniting the powder charge. At this time the bolt is locked closed by a rising block which engages two lugs on the bottom of the bolt. After the projectile has left the barrel the upper receiver recoils back a minute distance on the lower receiver. This action cams the rising block downward, releasing the bolt and allowing it to recoil rearward. The bolt then extracts and ejects the spent cartridge case and at the end of its travel recocks the hammer. The recoil spring then overcomes the rearward momentum and pushes the bolt forward loading another cartridge. As the cartridge is seated the upper receiver returns to its forward position. At this point pressing the trigger will again fire the pistol.
When the last round has been fired the magazine follower rises up and locks the bolt to the rear. This allows a 10-round stripper clip to be inserted into the clip guide machined in the upper receiver. Smooth, even downward pressure will slide the cartridges off the clip and deposit them neatly into the magazine. Removing the stripper clip releases the bolt allowing it to run forward and load a cartridge into the chamber. At this point the pistol is ready to fire. So it’s method of operation is simple and well-proven.
Ok, so with all this in mind, what are some of the things you should be aware of if you plan on shooting your Broomhandle? The place to start is with a thorough inspection of the pistol itself. Broomhandles will range in condition from new looking to badly pitted non-functioning relics. Keep in mind all of them are 80+ years old! Many have been rebuilt over the years, perhaps multiple times. Carefully check the bore and chamber, many have badly pitted and corroded bores from corrosive ammunition or from service in Asia. Carefully inspect the action, and safety, for proper function.
Plus remember, even if the pistol looks to be in excellent condition its springs are suspect. Due to the age and nature of this design I highly recommend inspecting and replacing certain key springs such as the firing pin spring and recoil spring. It’s inexpensive and easy to do, so just do it. I would also consider replacing the hammer spring. Wolff Gunsprings offers high quality replacement springs and you can replace all three for just $10.99. The magazine spring also breaks with such monotonous regularity that a spare was carried on the German military issue leather stock carrier. You can get a firing pin, recoil and hammer spring plus a magazine spring from Wolff for only $29.99. If your magazine spring isn’t broken, give it time and have a spare in the parts box when it does fail. I also recommend logging rounds fired and replacing the recoil and firing pin at regular intervals. Measure the recoil spring before you install it; then inspect and recheck its length every time you clean it.
In addition to the springs I highly recommend carefully inspecting the firing pin itself. These can and do break. Sometimes, even with a good spring, they will pierce modern commercial primers. Keep in mind, the design has a large and heavy hammer designed to reliably ignite 19th century military primers. So I suggest carefully inspecting the tip of the firing pin and keeping an eye on your fired cases. If you run into a problem address it immediately. Firing pin tips can be carefully reshaped if too long. Replacement firing pins are also readily available from a number of sources including SARCO, Inc., Numrich Gun Parts Corporation and KB International. Buy one and throw it in the parts box.
One critical component is the bolt stop. This, as its name implies, stops the bolt at the end of its rearward travel. To be blunt, it’s the only thing which prevents the bolt from flying out of the gun and hitting you in the face. These can and do fail. I have long had older and wiser friends harp on me about carefully inspecting and replacing the bolt stops in my Broomhandles. Peter Kokalis was always vocal about this. I always heeded their advice, but even so I had one break in my M30 today while firing Fiocchi factory loads. My advice is to carefully inspect the bolt stop before you fire a single round through the gun. If there is any doubt, change it out. Putting in a new high quality bolt stop is good peace of mind. They are readily available and relatively inexpensive. Then inspect it after every range session.
I would also suggest having a spare extractor on hand. It’s not recommended to frequently remove the extractor, so just keep it clean and keep an eye on it. They do occasionally fail, and I would expect steel case ammunition is a bit harder on them than brass. So put one in your spare parts box. I also suggest carefully inspecting the firing pin hole on the bolt face to make sure it isn’t badly worn or oversize.
With the pistol itself in good shape there are a few accessories to consider acquiring. Personally, I think the wooden holster/shoulder stock is an absolute must have. It allows you to employ your Broomhandle as a normal full-size service pistol. Plus, it gives you the option of attaching the stock which turns it into a handy, lightweight carbine. Keep in mind, it is perfectly legal to fit an original stock onto an original Broomhandle. This is due to their having been removed from the purview of the NFA as collectors’ items. I probably have the stock attached to my Broomhandle 75% of the time I am shooting it. Overall length with the stock fitted is a compact 25.3 inches.
Does the stock make the pistol more accurate? No. What it does do is provide multiple points of contact allowing you to shoot it to a higher standard. It also makes it easier to control reducing time between shots. With the stock fitted the practical range is extended out to perhaps 200 yards. On a Known Distance Range you can extend it well beyond that with a friend spotting. It’s unfortunate that the National Firearms Act virtually ended the development and evolution of stocked pistols here in the United States. Frankly, they are much more useful than most realize.
Along with the stock you’ll want to pick up an original style cleaning rod. The tips of these are machined to act as a combination tool. The machined tip interfaces with the back of the firing pin allowing easy disassembly and reassembly. While an original would be nice, reproductions are readily available from a number of sources and are very inexpensive. Buy one, they are handy to have. I purchased mine from Pacific Canvas and Leather for $11.90 and am happy with it.
Stripper clips are a must as well if you plan on shooting your Broomhandle. Yes, you can indeed load a Mauser with single rounds, put it’s a bit of a pain. In order to do so you must hold the bolt back with one hand while inserting cartridges with the other.
As soon as the first cartridge is seated in the magazine the bolt will try to run forward. Trust me on this, Mauser intended for you to load your pistol with stripper clips. Just do it.
The issue is finding good quality stripper clips. Both steel and brass clips were made and they hold ten cartridges. They are a two-piece design consisting of the clip and a spring. European clips tend to be of very good quality and work very well. Some Chinese clips I have encountered on the other hand are poorly made and have issues. In addition you will also see Czech eight-round stripper clips advertised for use with Broomhandles. These were actually designed to be used with the 7.62x25mm vz.24/26 submachine guns. They were not designed for the Mauser C96, and may or may not fit in your pistol. I tried a few I had kicking around the bunker and they did wedge into my M30 and worked without issue. The downside is they only hold eight cartridges. My suggestion is to invest in a few quality European stripper clips and treat them like you would a detachable box magazine. Stripper clip prices vary quite a bit and typically run from $3 to $15 per clip.
There are many other wonderful little items you can acquire to enhance your time with your Mauser. Stock harnesses, leather stripper clip pouches, leather holsters of different configurations, original style instruction manuals, leather and canvas display cases, ornate cleaning gear, reproductions of early German ammunition boxes, leather lanyards and much more.
Of course, if you want to actually shoot your Broomhandle you’ll need ammunition. The vast majority of pistols you’ll encounter will be chambered for either 7.63x25mm Mauser or 9x19mm Parabellum. 9x19mm Parabellum ammunition is relatively straightforward so I’ll only touch on 7.63mm. The 7.63x25mm, or .30 Mauser, is a bottleneck cartridge which typically drives an 85/86-grain .309-inch projectile at 1,350 to 1,450 fps. Over its long life it has been loaded in both brass and steel cartridge cases by a wide variety of manufacturers around the world including Remington, Winchester and Western Cartridge. Loads include FMJ, Soft Points and Jacketed Hollow Points. Despite its age, 7.63mm Mauser ammunition is still in production and offered by Fiocchi and Prvi Partizan (PPU). Fiocchi offers an 88-grain FMJ load while PPU has an 85-grain FMJ.
Sounds pretty straight forward, right? The problem is Nikolay Efimov, head of the Second Directorate of the Soviet Union’s Red Army headquarters decided to adopt the 7.63mm Mauser on 31st July 1928. It then became the Soviet standard for use in both pistols and submachine guns as the 7.62mm Model 1930 type P cartridge. The Soviet’s 7.62x25mm remained dimensionally interchangeable with the 7.63mm Mauser. Early Soviet documents even referred to it as “the Mauser cartridge”. Initially this load fired a .309 caliber 85-grain lead cored projectile with a cupro-nickel jacket with a velocity of approximately 1,375 fps from a TT-30’s 4.6 inch barrel. The 7.62x25mm cartridge went on to be adopted by a host of countries aligned with the Soviet Union or supplied by them and saw service around the world. 7.62x25mm ammunition dimensions can vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer. Velocity and pressure also varied over the years with different factories/countries sometimes loading to noticeably higher pressures/velocities for use in submachine guns. For this reason it is not recommended to fire 7.62x25mm ammunition in 7.63mm pistols.
If you enjoy reloading, the 7.63mm Mauser is definitely one to consider. Its bottleneck case design adds a little complexity, but it’s not a difficult cartridge to load. Lee has dies for $41.98 and Redding, RCBS and Hornady also offer dies and case holders. Starline Brass has Boxer primed brass cartridge cases for $108.50 per 500. These are readily available and of good quality. Standard small pistol primers get the job done nicely. Three readily available projectiles are Hornady’s .308 inch 86-grain Soft Point, Hornady’s .309 inch 90-grain XTP JHP and Sierra’s .308 inch 85-grain Sports Master SP. I have quite a few 85-grain FMJs pulled from 7.62x25mm over the years which I load as well.
Loading data for this cartridge is readily available and many common pistol powders, such as Bullseye, Blue Dot, Accurate #5, 7 and 9 are suitable. My favorite powder for loading this cartridge is Power Pistol. I worked up a load consisting of a Starline case, Wolf small pistol primer, 6.5 grains of Power Pistol topped with an 86-grain .309 inch FMJ. A sedate load, it averages 1,260 fps and averages 3-inch groups at 50 yards from my M30. At 100 yards this load will stay inside 6 inches if I do my part.
When it comes to actually shooting the Broomhandle there are again a few things to be aware of. The first are the sights. The rear sight is a sliding tangent typically running from 50 to 1,000 meters. This features a very small “V” notch. The fixed front sight is an inverted “V”. So, the sights are fairly hard to see. If you are past 40 and your near vision is fading they can be frustrating. This is magnified when the stock is mounted and that very small “V” notch rear is moved very close to your eye. When I was in my 20s the sights didn’t bother me, but now that I’m in my 50s they are troublesome. My solution is to use a set of custom shooting glasses from TacticalRx.com. Someday I might build a custom red dot mount to replace the rear sight.
Another thing to keep in mind is your hand placement when shooting with the stock mounted. I have fairly small hands, but even so I typically keep my right thumb on the right side of the frame when shooting right handed. Why do I mention this? Many an unwary shooter has received a sharp hammer rap to their thumb. My Broomhandle deposited such a lesson to my best friend some 30 years ago and neither of us has ever forgotten it, although it’s much more humorous to me than it is to him. Basically, don’t cross your thumb over the top of the stock.
Lastly, if you take a very high grip when shooting without the stock it’s possible for the web of your hand to push against the safety during recoil. This can push the safety off Fire and prevent you from firing another shot. It’s just something to be aware of.
Accuracy varies from one end of the spectrum to the other depending upon the condition of the individual gun. Don’t expect an example with a rotten bore to shoot well. Don’t be surprised if factory loads do not shoot as well as a dedicated handload. Do expect to have a lot of fun though. Broomhandles typically have a fairly good trigger, the report is a bit sharp and the pistol rolls back in your hand under recoil. Empties eject straight up and hang in the air before suddenly dropping back to earth. It’s a fun pistol to run drills with both with and without the stock. When the bolt locks back dig out a clip and try to strip the rounds into the magazine as smoothly as possible. Yank the clip free and get back to work.
Silhouettes at 100, 150 and 200 yards? Not a problem! Snap the stock on, drop to kneeling or prone and concentrate on the front sight while you press the trigger straight back. Just remember to add elevation as required and watch that wind at 200 yards. Making hits at 100 yards is relatively easy. At 200 yards you’ll need a stable position and a working knowledge of your firearm and load. Drift in a 10 mph full value wind at this distance is about 25 inches with about 41 inches of drop. Velocity has plummeted from 1,450 fps at the muzzle to just 880 fps. You won’t connect with every round at 200 yards, but if you take your time and focus you’ll put lead on steel. Then you’ll want to shoot even further, just because.
Mauser’s Broomhandle isn’t for everyone. Some people get it, many do not. For those that dig this old classic nothing more needs to be said. If you’ve always wanted one, my suggestion is to try one out. They may not be practical, but they’re cooler than Steve McQueen.
MAUSER M1930 SPECIFICATIONSSOURCES
Operation: Short recoil, single-action
Caliber: 7.63x25mm Mauser
Barrel Length: 5.5 inches
Barrel Twist: 1 turn in 10 inches
Feed: 10-round internal box magazine
Length: 12.2 inches
Height: 6.3 inches
Weight: 41.3 ounces empty
Front Sight: Fixed inverted “V”
Rear Sight: Tangent adjustable from 50 to 1000 meters w/“V” notch
Finish: Polished blue
Manufacturer: Mauserwerke AG, Oberndorf
SARCO, Inc. / E-Sarcoinc.com
Hornady / Hornady.com
KB International / KBTacticalStar.com
Lee Precision / LeePrecision.com
Numrich Gun Parts Corporation / GunPartsCorp.com
Pacific Canvas & Leather / PacificCanvasandLeather.com
Sierra / SierraBullets.com
Wolff Gunsprings / GunSprings.com