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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

Meet the Broomhandle Mauser (Or the Han Solo Star Wars Gun)

Broomhandle Mauser – The Iconic Star Wars Gun: Certain German semiautomatic pistols are recognizable to everyone.

Through their aesthetics and the characteristics of use, they have become icons in real-world combat and in pop culture.

You have the P-08 Parabellum “Luger,” the first 9x19mm pistol ever.

This pistol debuted in 1902 and was the standard-issue pistol of the Imperial German Army in the First World War before going on to appear in countless films and television series. Then came the Walther P38, which was the official sidearm of the Wehrmacht in WWII before attaining its own televised fame, particularly in the 1960s classic spy show “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”

But the granddaddy of them all is the C96 “Broomhandle Mauser.”

C96 “Broomhandle” Mauser Early History and Specifications

As firearms and self-defense guru Massad F. Ayoob points out, “The C96 pistol is one of the most recognizable handguns ever made. Its integral magazine, loaded via stripper clips, sat ahead of the trigger guard, and its rather awkward grip-shape gave it the nickname ‘broomhandle.’ The C96 was the first military semiautomatic pistol to prove itself both rugged enough and reliable enough for field use, though its substantial size and a shape not conducive to concealment would limit its appeal as a ‘personal gun.’

“However, the Mauser was a far-reaching weapon in a much more important way. It was a harbinger of things to come, of the profound changes in battle tactics and technology that would take place in the 20th century.”

The autopistol was prototyped in 1895, patented the following year, and entered into production the year after that. Mauser kept it in production until 1937, with unlicensed copies being made in China and Spain. Over 1.1 million guns were eventually produced. The original caliber was the 7.63x25mm Mauser cartridge, followed by chamberings in 9x19mm, and, more rarely, the 7.65x21mm Parabellum, 9mm Mauser, 8.15mm Mauser, 8mm Gasser, and .45 ACP. The 7.63 Mauser round generated a muzzle velocity of 1,394 feet per second and muzzle energy of 403 foot-pounds, with an effective range of 160 to 220 yards. 

Specifications included a barrel length of 5.5 inches, an overall length of 12,3 inches, a weight of 2 pounds 8 ounces, and a standard internal magazine capacity of 10 rounds.

The Broomhandle’s Performance in History…

A 1,000-word article cannot do complete justice to the real-world combat usage of the C96, so for now we’ll focus on the pistol’s most famous user and arguably all-time biggest fan: none other than Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill

It was basically by historical accident that a young Lieutenant Churchill — a cavalry officer at the time — obtained his Mauser, purchasing one as a substitute weapon after a shoulder injury made use of the traditional cavalry saber infeasible. The purchase would prove fortuitous during Lt. Churchill’s participation in the Battle of Omdurman on September 2, 1898, which pitted 8,000 British regulars and along with roughly 17,000 Egyptian and Sudanese troops against 52,000 Sudanese Mahdist Islamist separatists known as Dervishes. As eloquently articulated my Will Dabbs M.D. in a March 2018 article for Athlon Outdoors:

“In the midst of this battle, young Cavalry Lieutenant Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill killed or wounded three Dervishes at contact range with the Mauser C96 pistol his mother had purchased for him in that Birmingham gun shop. He later reported to his mother that the pistol was ‘the best thing in the world.’ Had he been armed conventionally with a cavalry saber rather than this German repeater, he might very well have been unhorsed and killed on that arid Sudanese battlefield.”

Now granted, the many legions of M1911 .45 ACP and Browning Hi-Power 9mm autopistol fans might reasonably have something to say about that “best thing in the world” bit, but I for one do not care to gainsay Sir Winston.

…And In Fiction

The Broomhandle Mauser has been in more movies than you can shake a stick at. Due to spatial limitations, I’ll narrow the focus down to two films.

Spoiler Alert: Fans of the Lethal Weapon film franchise might recognize the gun from the final scene of Lethal Weapon 2. Head villain Arjen Rudd (Joss Ackland) uses it to wound Sgt. Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) before finally getting his dastardly pro-apartheid head blown off by Sgt. Roger Murtaugh’s (Danny Glover’s) Smith & Wesson Model 19

As old as the C96’s design is, I reckon it only makes sense that it would be used in “a galaxy far, far away.” The classic design is the template for a futuristic-looking laser gun that stars in the most popular sci-fi franchise in cinematic box office history — the BlasTech DL-44 blaster that Han Solo uses to kill Greedo in that hilarious scene from the Mos Eisley Cantina.

Want Your Own?

Be ready to shell out a few clams. True Gun Value states that “A C96 MAUSER pistol is currently worth an average price of $2,138.36 new and $1,415.22 used. The 12 month average price is $2,138.36 new and $1,415.22 used.”

Guns International has a full page worth of such pistols listed for sale, starting at $1,395, and topping off at $50K! Simpson Ltd, which proclaims itself as “Firearms for Collectors, Family Owned and Operated Since 1962,” lists options at a price range of $1,700 to $18,500.

Christian D. Orr has 34 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011. 

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Written By

Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon).