Only a German engineering genius could have designed this three-dimensional steel jigsaw puzzle of a pistol.

The entire gun requires but a single screw, and that’s needed only to secure the grips, or the “handle” if you please. And the German engineering genius who designed it was not Paul Mauser.

The pistol that went into production as the Mauser Model 1896 and soon become known all over the world as the Broomhandle Mauser was invented and designed by Fidel Feederle, the Superintendent of Mauser’s Experimental Work Shop, and his brothers Friedrich and Josef. All Paul Mauser did was blow the steel sand off the prototype, a surprising design he had never even seen before, and approve it for production.

The Broomhandle Mauser was produced for forty-odd years. More than a million of the pistols were made, chambered primarily in 7.63mm (.30 Mauser), but also in 7.65mm Borchart, 7.65mm Parabellum, 8.15mm Mauser, 9mm Largo, 9mm Mauser, 9mm Parabellum and even .45 ACP. It was the first viable and reliable semiauto service pistol, predating both the German Luger and the American 1911, was used extensively by military and police forces all over the world as late as World War II but was never adopted as the official sidearm of any country, not even Germany.

The C96, as it was alternately known, was distinguished by several features. With the absence of pins or screws in its construction, the pistol was made entirely of interlocking parts. The frame, including the receiver and barrel, was milled from a single solid forging. (This means that barrels cannot be changed out, and the modern shooter faced with a shot-out barrel has no recourse but to bore it out to a larger caliber.) The pistol can be entirely disassembled with the point of a cartridge or a cleaning rod. It originally had a 5.5-inch barrel and a fixed magazine fed by stripper clips, but some later models had detachable magazines. In either case the magazine was located forward of the Broomhandle grips, a design detail later declared by California politicians to be immoral and illegal on the face of it. What a good thing these antigun halfwits were not around when geniuses like Paul Mauser and the Feederle brothers trod the planet.

Most Broomhandles were convertible pistol/carbines, with a slot in the back of the grip to accept a hollow shoulder stock which also doubled as a holster, and many were full auto with a cyclic rate of 1200 rounds per minute. Both of these features were considered by Democrat Frank Roosevelt, who lost his ability to trod the planet on his own two feet at an early age, to be highly functional and therefore unfit for American civilian consumption.

The pistols were equipped with 1000-meter tangent sights, which you might consider wildly optimistic. But the U.S. Army Center for Special Warfare conducted a test that showed, even in full auto mode, the C96 was highly effective when used to engage man-size targets out to 200 meters. With shoulder stock attached and firing the 7.63 with its muzzle velocity of 1400 feet-per-second, the little gun could reach out there.

The elegantly designed and precision-made pistol was much appreciated by people who knew something about guns. Many military officers bought Broomhandles out of their own funds. Kaiser Wilhelm II was known to carry one. Winston Churchill carried one at the Battle of Omdurman in 1898 when he was a Lieutenant in the 21st Lancers and in the Boer War. Lawrence of Arabia was known to be an excellent shot with his. Germany used them extensively in World War I, with many chambered in 9mm. After the war, Allies forbade MauserWerke to manufacture pistols firing 9mm, by then the standard German military caliber, or having barrels over 4 inches long. The U.S. Army officer in command of the captured Mauser plant went farther than that, ordering all historical Mauser production and corporate records destroyed. (If this idiot is still alive, I would very much like to meet him in a dark alley. If he’s dead, which is more likely, I would like to get my hands on the names and current addresses of his children and grandchildren.)

Mauser responded to all of this antigun zealotry the way gunmakers always do. They went into full production of a Broomhandle variation which got around the occupying army’s asinine rules and regulations. The gun was chambered in 7.63mm, had a 3.9-inch barrel and a smaller grip than the full-size C96. So the story goes, this gun earned an affectionate nickname of its own based on its popularity with both Czarists and communists fighting out the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. The smaller gun was given the diminutive Bolo for Bolshevik. Whether this story is true or not, it is fairly well documented that a Bolo was one of the firearms used by the communists to murder the Czar and Royal Family. About 500,000 Bolos were eventually made, finding favor with the Italian Navy, Turkish, Norwegian and Yugoslav armed forces. Copies were made in Spain and China. Germany used many in WWII.

The Broomhandle featured here is an early 30s-era Bolo, chambered in 7.63mm Mauser, also known as .30 Mauser. The standard load drives a jacketed 86-grain bullet at 1410 fps. The bottle-necked round is famous for its penetrating power, and is almost identical to the 7.62x25 Tokarev cartridge adopted by the Soviets in 1930. Until the .357 Magnum came along, it was the world's highest velocity pistol cartridge.

With more than a million C96s manufactured over the years, there are still a lot of them out there in good shape. They are not all that expensive and most are quite shootable. According to well-known pistolsmith Gary Reeder (, who went through the Bolo pictured here in the process of restoring, enhancing, refinishing and engraving it for a customer, it was entirely sound inside. I test-fired the gun and found it to be a proverbial tack-driver.

I’m happy that Fidel Feederle and his brothers are finally getting the credit they deserve for inventing it, but the Broomhandle Mauser definitely deserves the family name.