The Mauser C96 (Construktion 96) is a semi-automatic pistol that was originally produced by German arms manufacturer Mauser from 1896 to 1937. Unlicensed copies of the gun were also manufactured in Spain and China in the first half of the 20th century.
The distinctive characteristics of the C96 are the integral box magazine in front of the trigger, the long barrel, the wooden shoulder stock which can double as a holster or carrying case and a grip shaped like the handle of a broom. The grip earned the gun the nickname "Broomhandle" in the English-speaking world because of its round wooden handle, and in China the C96 was nicknamed the "box cannon" (Chinese: 盒子炮; pinyin: hézipào) because of its square-shaped internal magazine and the fact it could be holstered in its wooden box-like detachable stock.
The Mauser C96, with its shoulder stock, long barrel, and high-velocity cartridge, had superior range and better penetration than most other pistols; the 7.63×25mm Mauser cartridge was the highest velocity commercially manufactured pistol cartridge until the advent of the .357 Magnum cartridge in 1935.
Mauser manufactured approximately 1 million C96 pistols, while the number produced in Spain and China was large but unknown due to the loss, non-existence or poor preservation of production records from those countries.
Within a year of its introduction in 1896, the C96 had been sold to governments, and commercially to civilians and individual military officers.
The Mauser C96 pistol was also extremely popular with British officers at the time and many purchased it privately. Mauser supplied the C96 to Westley Richards in the UK for resale. By the onset of World War I, however, the C96's popularity with the British military had waned.
As a military sidearm, the pistols saw service in various colonial wars, as well as World War I, The Easter Rising, the Estonian War of Independence, the Spanish Civil War, the Chinese Civil War and World War II. The C96 also became a staple of Bolshevik Commissars and various warlords and gang leaders in the Russian Civil War, known simply as "the Mauser".
Winston Churchill was fond of the Mauser C96 and used one at the Battle of Omdurman and during the Second Boer War; similarly, Lawrence of Arabia carried a Mauser C96 for a period during his time in the Middle East. Indian Revolutionary Ram Prasad Bismil and his partymen used these Mauser Pistols in the historical Kakori train robbery in August 1925. Chinese Communist general Zhu De carried a Mauser C96 during his Nanchang Uprising and later conflicts; his gun (with his name printed on it) can be viewed in the Beijing war museum.
Imported and domestic copies of the C96 were used extensively by the Chinese in the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Chinese Civil War, as well as by the Spanish during the Spanish Civil War and the Germans in World War II.
Besides the standard 7.63×25mm chambering, C96 pistols were also commonly chambered for 9×19mm Parabellum with a small number also being produced in 9 mm Mauser Export. Lastly, there was a Chinese-manufactured model chambered for .45 ACP. Despite the pistol's worldwide popularity and fame, China was the only nation to use the C96 as the primary service pistol of its military and police.
Today, the Broomhandle Mauser is a popular collector's gun. The C96 frequently appears as a "foreign" or "exotic" pistol in a number of films and TV shows, owing to its distinctive and instantly recognisable shape, and for the same reasons and in the same tradition, a C96 was modified to form Han Solo's prop blaster pistol for the Star Wars films. It was popularized in Soviet films as the iconic weapon of the Russian revolution and civil war.