Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Broomhandle Mauser Pistol

Business end of Broomhandle

The Broomhandle Mauser
Generally considered the second oldest successful semi auto pistol it came out in 1896. The Borchardt that came out in 1893 was the first successful auto loader though it didn’t stick around very long and was the forunner of the Luger. The Borchardt pistol came out with a 30 caliber bottle neck cartridge which was also adopted by the Mauser C 96 pistol in essentially the same loading though the C 96 was loaded a little hotter by some accounts. While the Broomhandle wasn’t designed by Paul Mauser three brothers who worked at his factory developed the design over a period of a couple of years starting in 1893. By March of 1895 they had a prototype made and fired it. The brothers Fidel, Friedrich and Josef Feederle had designed the Mauser pistol and by 1896 Paul Mauser applied for patients in several countries as he felt the he had a commercial winner.

Two Bolo Mauser pistols

Going back a few years in 1883 Hiram Maxim developed the first working semi auto weapon. He took a Winchester model 86 lever action and modified it by a series of levers and a spring in the stock attached to a removable butt plate. When fired the spring compressed and the levers removed and replaced the cartridge. While not practical for a military application it did work. The race was on to develop various designs for self loading weapons. He went on to develop some of the first successful machine guns that were in use for many years.

The barrel and reciever were one piece which I consider one of the few design flaws of the Broomhandle

A parallel development to the semi autos was improvements in the ammo. Many semi and full auto weapons abuse the ammo so it has to be made to stand up to the ejection and feeding cycle. Lead bullets and weak cases were problems that had to be over come. In order for a semi auto to function reliably the brass has to be tough and the bullets need a jacket to perform best at high velocity and a proper shape for feeding. Lead bullets can be made to work sometimes but they have a tendency to gum up the works because of leading and the necessary lube on the bullet. If you understand the drawbacks of lead bullets they can work fine. I use them sometimes and in a 45 and 9mm auto they are very accurate and reliable. At low velocities and using good lube they will function in the C96 and other semis perfectly. Some feed ramps don’t work well with cast bullets so you have to experiment with your weapon. I found that if you tumble your loaded ammo in a rotary tumbler with newspaper that will polish the bullet sometimes enabling it to feed reliably. Black powder was a drawback because it would gum up the works in short order especially in small caliber weapons. Gunpowder for semi auto weapons has to have a burning rate that will properly cycle the gun without battering or abusing the action. If it’s too fast it will batter the weapon and if it’s too slow the action may open up before the powder is burned which could spray residue on the shooter. It may also bulge cases in extreme instances. Another problem with early gunpowder is that they were very erosive and burned out the rifling in short order. Over a period of years many of those problems were overcome. A clean burning powder is also desirable in semi and full auto weapons. We have to remember that just a generation before these developments many cartridges were made of various materials including paper, cloth and foil. From the 1860’s to the 1890’s we moved from muzzleloaders and crude breech loaders to workable semi and full auto weapons.

A broomhandle with ammo

Manufacture of the Construktion 96 better known as the model 96 began in 1896. Various prototypes were made with magazines holding from 6 to 20 rounds. Most were designed to be fired with shoulder stocks which also doubled as holsters. In early 1897 full production began and the design was finalized. For some reason perhaps to make it appear that more pistols were being sold then actually the serial numbers were not always consecutive. At later dates they sometimes went back to the lower numbers. Sales were disappointing especially to the military as they preferred the P0-8 Luger because it was easier to shoot and were better balanced. No country officially adopted the Broomhandle though they were used in the military of a number of countries. However between 1916 and 1918 150,000 Broomhandles were manufactured for Germany in the standard 9 mm Luger chambering to supplement the short supply of Lugers. That was to standardize the ammo for the pistols namely the Luger which was Germanys’ official sidearm. They were ordered by the Gewehrprufungs Komission which was (The Rifle Proving Commission) to make up for shortages and losses. They were marked with a red 9 on the grips to differentiate them from the 30 caliber models as they looked like the 30 caliber model. I wonder what would of happened if someone swapped the grips. The 9 will chamber and fire in the 30 but doing so will certainly destroy the gun and probably injure the shooter and bystanders. I tried a 9 mm round in my pistol and it will indeed fully chamber but of course I didn’t fire it as I like my guns in one piece. It goes to show that you always need to make sure that you are using the correct ammo in the gun that you are shooting.

Shooting the Broomhandle

The Broomhandles were manufactured until 1939. Right after WWl the Versailles treaty prohibited Germany from manufacturing military weapons and the Broomhandle was included. During the enforcement of the treaty the Mausers barrels were cut back to 4” and shorter with fixed sights. There was an amnesty requiring that the wartime weapons be turned in and transferred to the Reichsewer for modifications and were stamped 1920. Production resumed around May of 1922 and continued to 1939. Barrel lengths are reported as 3.9, 4.75, 5.25, and 5.5 during various periods of production. According to some reports the Americans destroyed all the production records in 1945 at the Mauser factory. If that’s the case I can’t see any possible benefit to the war effort by destroying records. It would make it more difficult for collectors and historians to study the Mauser. In total there were slightly over a million pistols produced including the full auto versions. This does not include Chinese versions or the Astras. Also there were about a thousand carbines produced but if you run across one today it would be a very valuable collector’s item. I can imagine that it would be fun and interesting to shoot. The carbines sported barrels of 11.75, 14.5 and 16 inches respectively.

Surprisengly these lead bullets fed fine

During the 1920’s many Mausers were sold commercially in Asia notably in China. The Chinese also made copies of the Mauser in several of their arsenals notably the Hayang and the Chong Jing arsenals among others from about 1925 to 1935 and they were of good quality for the most part. The Chinese liked the Mauser pistol very much and eventually produced then in 45 auto. The reason for that was they were making and importing Thompson sub machine guns in 45 and wanted the Broomhandle to have the same caliber. During that period they were having a lot of trouble with bandits robbing their trains so they wanted large caliber weapons to repel them. Their pistols were of high quality by all reports though there were some exceptions and worked the same as the German version though some dimensions were changed to accommodate the 45 ACP cartridges. They also manufactured their version of the model 712 which is the full auto version. With the shoulder stock attached they held them sideways gangland style as they felt that the horizontal fire was more effective against crowds because they are somewhat hard to control in full auto fire. Also holding it vertically the empties went more or less straight up and would distract the shooter. They also nicknamed it the box cannon because it fit into the stock. It seemed that everyone in China used the Mauser from the pirates to the Communist government and it was very highly thought of by all. Up to a couple of years ago they were available in the Shotgun News and I regret not buying one.
A couple of other countries ordered some quantities. The Italian navy ordered 5000 in 1899, which was the second military order after the Turkish Government ordered 1000 in 1897. The Persians ordered a thousand in 1910. In 1919 the French Gendarme (police) ordered 1000 with the bolo barrel on the large frame model. I found a reference that South Africa bought 100 pistols in 1898. Norway and Finland used them but it’s not entirely clear how they obtained them. There were a few other chamberings though they are not common. They included the 30 Luger and the rare 8.15 mm. There were some chambered for the 9mm Mauser exported to South America. The 9 mm was basically a 30 Mauser case necked up to take a 9mm bullet.

Most Broomhandles can take a shoulder stock

Astra and Beistegui Hermanos were among the Spanish makers who made pistols based on the Mauser design. The Astra series 900 was the semi auto version while the 901 was a full auto. There were other versions some with fixed or detachable magazines generally holding 10 or 20 rounds. They were chambered for the standard 7.63 X 25 while the model F was chambered for the 9 mm Bergman which is slightly shorter then the 9mm Mauser. While they looked like the C96 many had mechanical and manufacturing differences in some cases to facilitate the manufacturing process. Many shortcuts were made in the machining and designing process but evidently they worked ok.

Undersized bullets that keyholed

One of the problems with the design was it was complicated and difficult to manufacture. The barrel and receiver are made as one piece as opposed to a separate threaded barrel. That would be much harder to make as the machining would be more difficult. If a barrel has to be replaced it would be more expensive which is why many were rechambered and rebored to a 9mm caliber. Other then the grips there are no screws or pins in the gun. The workmanship on these pistols was excellent but there were a lot of parts to machine. On examples I have seen there are no tool marks anywhere and a high degree of polishing is evident. The tolerances seem to be pretty tight which would probably somewhat complicate manufacturing. The feed ramp isn’t beveled but that doesn’t seem to adversely affect feeding as they have a good reputation for reliability and my example bears that out. The large safety is easy to use and works well. On my example the safety is pushed forward to engage and back to fire the pistol. Out of curiosity I set the safety and rapped the pistol in various places with a plastic hammer to see if it would fail which it didn’t even after several dozen strikes. Still in all I would not trust it 100% as in any safety it’s a mechanical device and can fail. The best safety on a gun is the person using it. The extractor is located at the top of the bolt and is positive and well designed.

A look at the working parts

The Mauser has a locked breech short recoil system, which is fairly strong and reliable. The rectangular bolt moves within the barrel extension, which was machined as a one piece unit with the barrel. Beneath the barrel is the locking piece, which is a one piece steel block with a locking lug that engaged a slot in the lower surface of the bolt. Shortly after production resumed it was engaged to two corresponding slots and lugs and stayed that way until production ceased in 1939. When a cartridge is fired the recoil drives back the bolt, which is locked, to the barrel extension by the bolt lock. When this happens the bolt block would pivot downwards to disengage the lugs and allowing the bolt to travel rearwards. This would cock the hammer and extract the empty out of the chamber. The empty hits the ejector, which is machined in the receiver and throws it away from the gun. The bolt coming forward would pick up a new round and re engage the locking lugs as it closed. The inclined surface at the rear of the bolt would meet the surface at the top of the lock frame forcing the lugs to engage firmly. During the many years of manufacture there were some minor changes incorporated in the action including firing pin and safety improvements. If the bolt isn’t completely in battery the gun won’t fire which is a highly desirable safety feature. There were variations in barrel length and grips as well. It was the first auto pistol to have a hold open device upon firing the last round a highly desirable feature. Stripper clips are available to facilitate reloading but you can load then one at a time though it’s slow.

A rare Persian Broomhandle about a thousand were made

Shooting the gun isn’t particularly hard. Ammo is easy to get but make sure you don’t shoot the hot Tokorev ammo in it. Some of it is meant for machine pistols and the CZ 52 and you would risk destroying a part of history by shooting the wrong stuff. Keep in mind that the youngest Broomhandles are at least 67 years old as of this writing and many are much older. Brass is easy to get as Starline makes it and dies are available from most of the major reloading equipment manufacturers. Fiocchi still makes ammo for it and some military ammo can still be found. Military ammo may be corrosive so keep that in mind when shooting and clean the pistol accordingly. Personally I seldom shoot corrosive ammo because of the extra cleanup involved. If I do I shoot it first then shoot any cleaner ammo afterwards to start the clean up process. I use a 71 grain that was swaged down from a 312 to the 308 diameter as a starter bullet but found them at 308 to be too small. The 71 grain are full metal jacket bullets and feed well in this as well as other military pistols that I load it for. Even though its heavier then standard I tried the 110 grain round nose that is meant for the 30 Carbine. The powder charge was reduced to compensate for the extra weight. The Broomhandle takes some effort to get used to because of the balance. It doesn’t have the point ability of a Luger or some of the newer military pistols. The ammo being located in front of the trigger guard throws off the balance and tends to make it muzzle heavy. The trigger is fairly decent for the period though the hammer drop is a little heavy. The adjustable sights are graduated out to an optimistic 1000 meters. The 9mm version has sites graduated to more realistic 500 meters though even that’s stretching it. The rear sight has a small v notch which is somewhat hard to use at least with my old eyes. It’s apparent that gilt edge accuracy was not a priority with this pistol. It’s not a gun that I would take out in the field for any serious work though it’s fun to shoot. The military ammo has a lot of penetration though not a lot of shocking power due to its small non expanding bullet.

The 30 Luger round is a short version on the Mauser round

The cartridge is the 30 Mauser, which is an elongated and more powerful version of the 30 Luger. It is a bottleneck cartridge, which gives high velocity with a small bullet. The rated velocity for the 86 grain military load is between 1250 and 1350 feet per second depending on who made it. Energy would run about 300 lbs depending on velocity. The more modern Tokerev round which is virtually the same size is loaded a lot hotter and shouldn’t be fired in the Broomhandle. The Mauser round is usually designated 7.63 X 25 while the hotter Tokarev round is the 7.62 X 25 which came out in 1930. There are some exceptions and confusion so if you are in doubt it might be better not to shoot that particular ammo in a Broomhandle. For its time it was the high velocity king until the advent of the 357 magnum according to conventional wisdom. However in reality there was a series of cartridges and pistols that would equal or exceed the Mausers’ velocities. The Mars pistols were very powerful for their time and ours but they were a commercial flop. They were very powerful semi autos made in England around the turn of the century and were probably ahead of their time.

A sluggung kit such as this can help out in determining which diameter bullet to use

The pistol that I originally planned on shooting is a Bolo model made in the late 1920’s according to the serial number. The outside shows some pitting and hard use but it’s all there. Anyway I went to shoot it and nothing happened when I pulled the trigger. The ammo is new and the primer showed hardly any dent. I pulled the gun apart thinking the firing pin spring might be weak or something along those lines. Anyway the firing pin has some heavy pitting on the end as well as a weak spring. Neither are major problems as Numrich arms have spare parts. The real problem is the rifling is shot out almost completely. Probably at some point corrosive ammo was shot and the weapon wasn’t properly cleaned afterwards. It would be pointless to attempt to shoot for accuracy as the bullets would probably tumble or at least scatter all over the target. While I don’t expect top accuracy with this gun it wouldn’t be a representative sample to shoot this gun for this article. Maybe at a later date I can find someone to bore the barrel out to the odd 8.15 caliber and shoot it that way. Numrich arms show a 9mm barrel available but it’s presently out of stock as of this writing besides I don’t want the 9mm caliber. Another drawback is you have to buy the upper receiver with the barrel, which greatly increases the expense of replacing that part. To me that is a design fault to have the barrel and receiver as one unit. Another option is to have the barrel bored and relined to the original caliber. There are advertisers in the Shotgun News that provide that service.

30 Mauser Broomhandle with clip

As an update I did send the pistol to an outfit in Florida to The Gun Rack in Starke Fl phone # 904-964-5053 to have it relined to shoot a standard 30 caliber (308 diameter) bullet. I shopped around to get a bore job for the 8.15 but no one had the tooling and it was way too expensive for me to buy. Anyway they did a nice job and you can’t tell that it was relined. They also replaced the springs all at a very reasonable price and I had it back within 30 days of shipping it out. One thing I found out right away was it wouldn’t cycle some of the lighter loads that worked in the other pistol. The heavier loads functioned fine and cycled the action. They look very similar but the relined unit has two screws in the grip as opposed to one for the other.

The bottom part of a Broomhandle

Luckily I have another example which is also a Bolo model made about the same time as the first. While the outside has some pitting the rifling is good and it does fire. The grip has the regular one screw as opposed to two in the other. Loading the magazine with a 10 round stripper clip is quick and easy. If you have several clips you could really put out some firepower as they are reliable and the gun doesn’t jam with good ammo. Several bullets were used during the shooting trials including a 71 grain full metal jacket. Hornady has 2 which I tried an 85 grain hollow point and the 86 grain soft point. A 77 grain cast round nose was also used. The hollow point and soft point bullets can be used for small game and self defense. In no way would the 30 Mauser round be suitable for big game hunting with any load.
One other note! I have a replica stock that came from China that resembles the original. It has the features of the German stock though it’s not nearly as expensive. I checked with the BATF of the legality of attaching and firing it. I was advised that unless it’s the original that it would not be legal to attach it so I didn’t. My understanding is that you have to get a form 1 and pay the tax prior to attaching a non original stock. They enforce that law strictly so keep the replica stock out of the presence of the pistol. It is considered a sawed off rifle if the barrel is less then 16” and total length is 26”. That requires an ok from the BATF as well as the $200.00 fee. My advice is prior to modifying any firearm check with the BATF to avoid a lot of legal hassle and expense.

Bullets that can be used

My initial shooting session started with 5 X Herco behind the 71 grain full metal jacket. While they were accurate the load was too mild for them to cycle the action so I fed them one at a time. The cases were covered with soot a sure sign of low pressure loads. If the load is real light the brass won’t expand in the chamber allowing the powder to blow back and darken the case with soot. The same load behind the 85 and 86 grain produced good working ammo as the extra weight made them powerful enough to work the action. There were no jams or misfeeds of any type. Even the cast bullets fed ok and cycled the action. The wad cutters even fed fine which surprised me a little. Recoil with any of the loads was no problem what so ever. My objective was to get ammo that is similar in performance to the military load without straining the gun. Here are some loads that I tried. I could have increased the velocity a little but an 85 grain bullet at 1200 feet per second is plenty for the old warhorse. Winchester standard small pistol primers were used in all the shooting with no misfires. The loads here are the best that I tried they all functioned the pistol were accurate and had mild recoil. As a note I have driven the Hornady 86 grain hollow point to 1600 feet per second in my CZ 52 but would never attempt such a load in the Broomhandle. Unique seemed to be the best powder and burned clean enough to prevent malfunctions.
5 X 231 71 grain full metal jacket 1073 mild
6 X 231 71 grain full metal jacket 1104 Hmmm
5 X 231 77 grain cast round nose 1097 consistent
5.5 X Unique 86 grain wad cutter 1229 fair
5 X 231 86 grain Hornady 997 ok
6 X Unique 85 grain Hornady HP 1139 good load
6 X Unique 85 grain Hornady round nose 1222 accurate
5.5 X Unique 100 grain Hornady 1142 consistent
5.5 X Unique 100 grain Speer 1155 accurate
4.5 X Unique 110 grain round nose 952 ok

These bullets can make this a nice small game pistol or increase it's defensive possibilities

My first trip to the range produced a surprise. Starting at 15 yards everything tumbled though they grouped fairly well. I put some loads together using an 86 grain wad cutter ahead of 5 X 231 and they shot into a 3” group though they keyholed. By the way they fed perfectly as did everything else. Whatever faults the Broomhandle may have real or perceived the inability to digest various types of ammo isn’t one of them. I shot the Mauser several hundred times and it just didn’t fail to feed anything. I didn’t clean the pistol during the test to see if fouling would stop it. It didn’t. The feed ramp isn’t beveled like some other pistols which make it all the more surprising that it would feed full wad cutters among other bullets. Slugging the barrel revealed that I should be using .312 diameter bullets instead of the called for .308. Like many military guns the bore is oversize though I never have ran across anyone mentioning that fact with the Broomhandle.

I shot some .312 diameter cast round nose and wad cutters with 5 X 231 and they shot point on as normal. Some 311 and 312 jacketed bullets also produced normal bullet behavior. Accuracy at 15 yards was good about 3” with the best loads and of course feeding was perfect. Using the rest of the loaded ammo with the 308 diameter bullet showed keyholing. I suppose they could be used as a close range self defense load as the entrance hole would be pretty big. Anyway it shows what .004 in diameter increase can do.

Many of the historical guns are being made today as replicas. As a rule they have good quality and are reasonably priced. It enables us to shoot historical guns that we otherwise may not be able to. However since the Broomhandle is so complicated and difficult to manufacture I don’t see that ever being replicated. If it was made the same way as the original it would be so expensive that only the well heeled shooters would be able to afford it. So I guess that we better hold on to the ones we have and enjoy them. Shooting the Broomhandle like shooting any historical weapon is always an enjoyable experience.
Bob Shell


aaron said...

Great post. I've got a Broomhandle Shansei that I ifound going through some of my father's estate, all wrapped up. It's SN 4862 and looks like it's never been fired. The markings seem to indicate its manufacture date is about 1930. Any idea what I would do with it?

Ed Foster said...

Aaron, either sell it to me, or let me post a bond or something and copy it. I'm chief designer at Continental Machine & Tool Co., New Britain CT.

We make our own Stag Arms weapons, also Rock River, Bushmaster, and Armalite.

I'm really interested in making a copy. Modern CNC machines could make turning out something like that a snap. My e-mail is, and my name is Ed Foster. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

i found one of these in a barn in ohio but it doesent have a clip, do they make one without one or can i buy one somewere.

Anonymous said...

You can buy clips from various sources including Numrich arms. It would be slow to load it without them though possible

Twalls said...

Hi Bob,

As a longtime Broomhandle aficionado, I enjoyed your article greatly.

I would love to find a Broomhandle in 9mm Mauser Export, however I am wondering since that's a much hotter round it might have adverse effects on the frame or bolt stop over the long term.

According to the Wikipedia article (which I created and wrote most of) the ammunition can be made from 9mm Winchester Magnum brass using .38 ACP loading data.

If anyone's worked on such a project please let me know!


Arlo Cade said...

I am totally in love with this pistol the look of this pistol is really antique thanks for share this with us!

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