By David M. Fortier
Certain weapons have a special appeal or mystique about them. A magic that is all out of proportion to their actual abilities. Something that draws people to them. The Thompson sub-machinegun is one, the Luger is another, a cut down double barrel 12 gauge a third. Some weapons simply lack this, such as the Italian Carcano and French Chauchat. They don’t have it, and they never will.
Then there’s Paul Mauser’s Military Pistol, or known best simply as the Mauser Broomhandle. First appearing in 1895 there is something timeless in the Mauser’s looks. As at home in the Boer War in the hands of Winston Churchill as it was in the hands of Han Solo in the movie Star Wars. The Mauser just has a certain sinister appeal that transcends time. Of the 30 or so models of this pistol none is more desirable than the select fire Model 1932 Schnellfeuerpistole (Rapid-Fire pistol) known commercially as the Mauser 712. There’s just something appealing about having a pistol that takes 20 round magazines, has a shoulderstock holster and a switch on the side that lets it run at 850 rpm! Maybe utterly impractical but desirable none the less, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.
The Mauser was one of the first successful self-loading pistols, appearing in 1897. It is a large self loading service pistol with a non-detachable 10 rnd magazine loaded via 10 rnd stripper clips. Chambered for a bottleneck cartridge, the 7.63 Mauser, it was flatshooting and hard hitting. The 7.63 round drove an 86 grain projectile at almost 1500 fps. Compared to its contemporaries, small bore military revolvers such as the French 8 mm M1892, Russian 7.62 M1895, Swedish 7.5 Nagant, and Swiss 7.5 M1882 the Mauser was light years ahead. Whereas most of the aforementioned revolvers served better as a symbol of authority rather than as an actual fighting tool, the Mauser was bred for combat.
Yet while Mauser’s rifles sold like hotcakes to the worlds military establishments his Military Pistol was destined to be always the bridesmaid and never the bride. Passed over in Germany for the Luger, it was never adopted as the standard military pistol by any major power. Instead it served in many armies as substitute standard. The Mauser soldiered through World War I on both sides and, having acquitted itself well, continued to sell briskly throughout the world in odd hot spots. That’s when the trouble started for Mauser.
The Chinese warlords were particularly taken with the Mauser Broomhandle and thousands were exported to China. Then around 1930 some worried Mauser dealers reported that they were losing considerable business to Astra who was selling a selective fire copy of the C96. Unceta and Company also produced a full-auto knock-off of the C96 at a price below what the Germans were selling their wares for. Mauser had to do something. Not to be beaten at their own game Mauser put designer Joseph Nickl to work and introduced the Schnellfeuerpistole in 1930. Some 4000 of this first model were manufactured from 1930-1931. An improved version by Karl Westinger entered production in 1932 with 98,000 being manufactured by 1938. It was a selective fire version of their Broomhandle pistol, modified to take detachable magazines. This model sold well to banana republic generals and warlords, especially in China. The German government both prior to and after Hitler came to power supported Chiang Kai-Shek’s Chinese government. Thus many Mauser 712’s found themselves in China. They continued to do so until signing the Anti-Comintern Pact with Japan. Thus Japan’s invasion of China in 1937 blocked Mauser from selling to one of its best customers. Germany eventually adopted it as the Model 1932 Maschinenpistole. It served with the Waffen SS military police and reconnaissance troops, Luftwaffe motorcycle dispatch riders, and even as a shipboard infantry weapon with the Kriegsmarine.
I’ve always liked Mauser Broomhandles. Just something about them. And I’ve always wanted a Model 1932/712, but have never been lucky enough to own one. Then I saw IAR Inc.’s add in Shotgun News. They were listing semi-auto detachable magazine Mauser Broomhandles as used by the Nationalist Chinese Military Police in excellent military arsenal renewed condition. The kicker was the price, only $439.95!
Skeptica,l I called up IAR Inc. to get the scoop. Sean McEntegart deals with the Mauser’s and he was more than happy to answer my barrage of questions. These guns were sold as surplus from the Chinese Police. Before World War II, the Chinese government purchased nearly 100,000 Mauser 712’s for their army, and produced tens of thousands of selective fire versions for the military, and semi-auto versions for police use. These guns are representative of the police variant. Ten and twenty round magazines are included for your shooting enjoyment. He said they were chambered in 9 mm and in 95% or better condition with excellent bores. Hmmm.
So I went down and talked to my friend Maurice Torpacka of Torpacka’s Gunshop in Rockland, Maine. Maurice always liked Broomhandles so after we talked about it for a while I decided to take a chance, and he ordered one for me. Now Maurice will usually razz me about the odd military pieces I have him order for me. But I noticed when he handed me the box he didn’t say anything. I opened it up and inside was an absolutely gorgeous Mauser Broomhandle pistol with one 10 round and one 20 round magazine and five 10 round stripperclips. It had a rich dark bluing and appeared brand new. As I looked the weapon over I scrutinized it for any flaws, anything that detracted from its general appearance. Nothing, it looked great. Sean had told me that some of the guns may have Chinese characters on the lower receiver and this one happened to. I was impressed as the markings were very well executed. Most Norinco Tokarevs look like a blind guy with a dull kukri put the markings on them. Maurice and I agreed it was a very nice looking piece, much better than I had even hoped for.
I paid my tab and took it home for a closer examination. Unlike any other Broomhandle I had played with this one had a magazine release button on its right side. It’s within easy reach of the trigger finger, like an M-16. Inserting a 20 round magazine into the weapon gave it a very business like appearance. I smiled when I saw that the tangent sight went to 1000 meters.
Stripping the pistol is fairly easy and I was anxious to have a peak inside. The lower is very well machined, much better workmanship than I’ve seen on any other Chinese firearm. It is basically just a shell that the internals slide into attached to the upper. The internal parts were in good shape, the metal showed some age in its color which is to be expected. Some of the parts I checked were the firing pin, recoil spring and bolt stop. I’ve broken firing pins before in Mausers, but this one was in excellent shape, the recoil spring looked brand new, and the bolt stop showed no wear. The bore looked new. In all honesty, it looked about like a new pistol.
I noticed in IAR Inc.’s literature that they recommend using 124 gr ball. They also cautioned that hollowpoints may cause stoppages. With that in mind I headed to the range. I brought along 500 rounds of American Eagle 124 gr ball plus Remington 124 gr ball, Winchester 115 gr ball, UZI 115 gr ball, IMI 115 gr ball. To check for feeding problems I also brought along some Federal 115 gr Hi-Shock HP’s, Winchester 147 gr HP’s, Winchester 115 gr Silvertip HP’s, and Winchester 147 gr Silvertip HP’s. Also I tried some commercial manufacture 124 gr lead reloads. Chronograph readings and benchrest accuracy results are in the accompanying chart.
I was quite impressed after shooting the Mauser. The magazines are double stack and even the 20 rounder loads very easily right to capacity. To anyone who has loaded Sten magazines without a loading tool, you know what a blessing that is. Both magazines also charged very easily by stripper clips through the top of the weapon. Removing the stripper clip allows the bolt to run forward, loading a round. The safety is conveniently placed for thumb use, push it forward for safe, snap it down to fire. My weapon possessed an excellent trigger on the order of 4 1/2 pounds. Recoil was light and the weapon ate everything I fed it. I had one stoppage and that was a failure to fully feed with a Federal hollowpoint. It was easily cleared and firing resumed. If someone wanted to polish the feed ramp, I think this pistol would feed soup cans.
The pistol was incredibly fun to shoot, more so of course with the 20 round magazine in place. After doing a lot of close range rapid fire I looked at the scale on the rear sight. The lowest setting is 50 meters, so I placed a silhouette at that distance. With American Eagle 124 gr ball firing offhand all my shots were in the center of mass. Slapping a fresh 20 round magazine in place we upped the rear sight to 100 meters. From a sitting position with my elbows supported on my knees I fired at a spot I picked out on the dirt backstop. After five shots with five hits I upped the rear sight to 150 meters, as far as the Outdoor Sportsman’s range went. Picking out a large rock on the backstop I slowly squeezed off a shot. There was a definite pause between when the Mauser barked and when dirt kicked up. Adjusting my hold I proceeded to hit my designated target for most of my remaining shots. I grinned from ear to ear.
My only two complaints are the small ‘V’ notch rear sight, and that the take down latch dug into the web of my hand. The deft use of a file will fix the ‘V’ notch in the near future. A glove or a piece of tape on the latch cures that annoyance. My only other complaint was running out of ammunition! The weapon functioned almost flawlessly despite not being cleaned. The magazines inserted and extracted easily. I much prefer simply stuffing in another magazine rather than thumbing in a stripper, but both systems worked well. The safety was well placed and precise and the magazine release easily activated.
For someone who wanted a shooter with a lot of historical appeal, timeless looks, that functioned well, this pistol would be awful hard to beat. It may be missing that wonderful lever on the side of its receiver, but its available, fun, and cheap! If you’ve ever wanted a Mauser Broomhandle, this would be the one to buy.
33171 Camino Capistrano
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V2N12 (September 1999)|