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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mauser C96 Bolo

Demons do not inhabit guns. To the eyes of many, no other pistol looks as sinister as does the Mauser C96. In most Hollywood thrillers where the C96 appears, it is usually in the hands of the bad guy. In reality, as with rocks, clubs, knives, swords, spears, arrows, and all firearms before and since, the C96 was nothing more than a tool used by both the good and the evil of our world.

The first semi-auto pistol made in any quantity was the
Borchardt C-93. Soon after, the Feederle brothers designed the first commercially successful semi-auto pistol, the C96 which Mauser produced over one million of from 1896 – 1937. The shape of the ungainly grip helped foster the moniker “Broomhandle Mauser.” By use of 10-round stripper clips to load its box magazine, the C96 was a high capacity, rapid-fire arm that provided for fast reloads. The Mauser 7.63 x 25 cartridge is powerful even by today’s standards, chucking an 88-grain slug out of the barrel at a magnum velocity of around 1400 feet per second. The so-called Bolo variant comprised from one-third to one-half of the C96 pistols Mauser made. They came to be after WWI when the Treaty of Versailles restricted the arms Germany could produce. To be compliant, Mauser produced the C96 with shorter 3.9’’ barrels and smaller grips, which had the unintended consequence of making them easier to conceal. The pistol became popular with the Bolsheviks who bought them in large quantities; some say this gave the variant its nickname of “Bolo.”

If you find a C96 when you sort through your great grandfather’s belongings, check with several sources to ascertain its value. Usually a C96 in the worst possible condition is worth more money than is offered by the so-called “buy back” programs. Some Broomhandle Mausers are worth several thousand dollars. The Bolo that I own, even though all of the parts have matching numbers, has only modest value. However, it does make an interesting collectable and is fun to take to the range for an occasional shakedown.

Today, the Mauser 7.63 x 25 ammunition is hard to find, but is still made by
Fiocchi and Prvi Partizan.

SAFETY NOTES: NEVER use the more powerful 7.62 x 25 Tokarev ammunition in your 7.63 x 25 Mauser; it will fit, it will fire, and the results may be categorically tragic. Many of the C96 Mausers available today have suffered through many years of hard use and neglect. Before shooting one of these relics, it is best to have it checked by a competent gunsmith.


James R. Rummel said...

Good post.

Brigid said...


I've sort of metering out my Mauser ammo as it is getting harder to find. I'm getting set up to reload my own I soon, if possible.

James A. Zachary Jr. said...

Brigid and James, you are Saints; thanks.

James Brack said...

As an owner of a Bolo, I agree it is a great gun, and with the wood stock attached becomes a great conversational peice at the range.

I buy my ammo at

Good price I think.

James A. Zachary Jr. said...

James Brack, thanks for that ammo link; good information.

Also, thanks for stopping in.


DirtCrashr said...

1896 was an interesting year! I've always loved the sheer Colonial Adventure aspect of the gun, and wanted one - how does it balance and shoot? I think they should tool-up and make some more (and Colt should come out with a 1903 again).

James A. Zachary Jr. said...

It has some recoil to it, but the grip is not as difficult to hold on to as it looks.

I sure agree with you about the Colt 1903!

Anonymous said...

Very good advice about using correct ammo , I have heard stories about individuals shooting the more powerful 7.62x25 Tokarev ammo and having the bolt of the Mauser come back into their face ! Always do research before shooting any older weapon , and NEVER take someones word that this or that gun will shoot ANY ammo ! I once seen at a gun show an older Spanish revolver chambered for the .38 long Colt , well the individual who was selling this weapon told me "oh the .357 magnum can also be shot in this gun as the .357 shell also fits into the cylinder !" I looked at him and said , if you put a .357 bullet into a gun chambered for the .38 Colt you are a damn fool ! That gun could blow up and blind you or you could loose your fingers !

Anonymous said...

I remember back in the 1970's and 80's when I lived in Los Angeles I would go to a gun store called Martin B. Rettings in Culver City and seeing old worn out "broom handle" Mausers selling for $60-$70 , wish I had bought one of them ! Now like all the older miltary weapons of the past prices are out of sight ! In 1962 my mother bought me a .303 British Enfield rifle from Sears for $12 I was under age at the time so could not buy it on my own , but when I did turn 19 the legal age to buy a handgun in California in 1965 I bought a British .38 Webley for the astronomical price of $20 after tax and the dealer threw in a box of reloads with the gun , unfortunately he gave me the wrong bullets ! .38 short Colt and not .38 S&W ! I wondered why my gun was not too accurate and I had some cracked shells after shooting !

Anonymous said...


Great write up... I'm liking your tastes in firearms! I'm contemplating a "red nine" Mauser at a local dealer. It's got a stock/holster and is going to break my budget (if I get it), but I keep thinking of stuff I can sell to make it happen.

Just one point- Han Solo wielded a Mauser... so there's one good guy that used it on the silver screen (okay, it's supposed to be a Blaster- and it's a moot point whether or not the character fits the mold of the classic good guy). Just thought it'd be an interesting side note.

Keep up the good work!


James A. Zachary Jr. said...

Tony, thanks for the kind words and for stopping in.



Anonymous said...

Got two C-96s.A Prewar Small handle,matching numbers with fixed sights and 3.9 inch barrel,and a 5.5 inch barreled tangent sighted non matching numbers.The 5.5 also has an origional wood holster/stock with it.

Anonymous said...

If you're looking for a real "good guy" using the C 96 you need look no farther than Winston Spencer Churchill. He carried the arm while serving in the 24th Lancers during The River War, late 19th Century in the Sudan. It saved his life during the battle of Omdurman, the climatic engagement of the campaign. Details of the event can be found in "My Early Life." He killed an attacking spearman with the last shot in the magazine.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the account of the bolo's coming into being.I have a Big Red 9 with a fixed rear sight short barrel and 1920 date stamped on it.It was carried in a soft leather holster with two stripper clips It was a bring back by my father in law who "found"it in Bremenhaven in 1945.
The Treaty of Versailles restrictions are still in force in some European Countries very sad Andy Marcell