The 'Broomhandle' Mauser
Jonathan Ferguson is curator of Firearms at the Royal Armouries Museum - and his knowledge shows in his top-quality work here. This Osprey 'Weapon' series title is a joy to read. Ferguson has written a great short (80 page) history of the Mauser C96 automatic pistol, from its development in the 1890s to its role in the 'Star Wars' movies.
This Osprey is typical of their paperback series, with high quality heavy paper covers, lots of nicely reproduced photos, and color plates. There are cutaways of the pistol and some really interesting photos of some of the more colorful characters who used it.
I'd love to meet these guys....
The Mauser pistol was never the best or most widely-produced automatic pistol, even in it's heyday, but it has a history and fame that seems to exceed any battlefield usage or success. Ferguson explains some of this fame when he sets the stage: In the 1890s, the revolver was 'king' of handguns, so much so that, as he notes, some people still say 'revolver' when they really mean 'pistol'. Before the Mauser, the world's armies and police generally carried revolvers and bolt-action rifles. Once the innovative Mauser hit the scene, however, others quickly followed. By the 191os, admittedly much better automatic pistols such as the US Colt M1911 and the German P08 "Luger" were available.
Promotional (sales) material for the early pistols
Ferguson's development history is interesting for some of the family names that crop up in the story, such as Mauser, Feederle, Schmeisser, Bergman and others who would go on to develop even better weapons.
Mauser pistol disassembled; this is a full disassembly, far more than required for normal cleaning
The fame of the Mauser seems to have started in the pre-WW1 era when few auto pistols were available and when the very small-scale wars allowed an item as minor as a pistol to attain fame. The Mauser's ten-round magazine, semi-auto action and high-velocity 7.63mm ammo were a formidable combination in a Shanghai street fight or African cavalry action. Criticized at times for poor safety and unreliability, the Mauser nevertheless was a popular pistol in those days. It remained very popular in, for example, revolutionary China, Spain, and the Balkans.
Chinese Civil War soldiers firing Mausers
The author mentions that the Mauser has such a distinctive appearance that even non-specialists can usually identify one. It has an almost 'steampunk' aspect that led to its use (lightly modified) in the Star Wars movies.
Beautifully decorated Mauser C96
Mausers on the veldt in the Boer War, showing the detachable shoulder stock/holster
The only real issues I had with this book are the color plates, which are less high quality than what we're used to from Osprey, and perhaps some additional technical detail on the performance of the 7.63mm ammunition fired by the pistol. However, I assume the author was very aware that he was writing for a non-technical, and to some extent non-specialist audience. There are some very high quality photos of the gun itself, which is after all what this book is about, so the weak color plates are not much of an issue.
File this under "This really happened"; WW1 aviators shooting at each other with small arms including Mauser pistols. This incident is described in the text.
Pros: Excellent historical overview; very well-written; technically at the right level; colorful stories; wide-ranging.
Cons: Color plates are lower quality than usual for Osprey. One caption error in the photos.
Highly Recommended for Beginner to Advanced builders.
Thanks goes out to Osprey Publishing for this review sample.
Reviewed by Danny Egan
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