I have not seen one of these old brutes in a long time, but about 20 years back, we were awash in them. If ever there was a handgun with a colorful history, this ugly old warrior is it. The C96 Mauser was produced primarily in Germany at the DWM factory, but also in Spain and China. An unusual pistol with a double-column magazine forward of the trigger guard, the C96 (official name) was nicknamed Broomhandle for its unusual butt. Chambered for a hot .30 caliber bottlenecked cartridge called the 7.63x25mm or .30 Mauser, the broomhandle was beautifully made and finished. They were made from 1896 to 1937 in Germany, as well as a very good copy in Spain’s Astra plaint. Lots of variation in the German product, including a carbine, full auto with holster butt stock and a short pistol for French police. This was a pistol that saw hard service in many European and Middle Eastern locales.
However, the biggest single market for the C/96 was China. The Chinese liked the pistol so much they not only bought them by the tens of thousands, but also equipped a factory to make a copy. The Shansi Arsenal even scaled up the original gun to fire .45 ACP cartridges. There is so much to the Mauser story that a few paragraphs here cannot even scratch the surface. So let’s return to the original question: “Where have all the Mausers gone?”
Although many Mausers came back from the two World Wars via the duffle bags of returning GIs, the supply was not big enough that the guns were common. Then sometime in the 1980s, an importer got into the arsenals of Red China and found cases of the pistols in storage. They were able to purchase a lot of them and import them into this country. Within a year or so, the gun stores all had them. They were so popular that at least two companies set up major refurbishing plants to clean up the worn out ones. Some of the rougher specimens came out looking mighty fine and some of them were even converted to fire 9 mm Luger. If you wanted one, they were easy to find.
But I haven’t seen one of these Chinese Mausers for many years. Was the market for these things so big that they have all disappeared into safes? Indeed, where have all the Mausers gone?