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.