November 07, 2022
By Jim Dickson
Today’s attempts to produce a “personal defense weapon” have spawned guns that are neither fish nor fowl. Strangely configured guns that are too big and bulky to be rightly called pistols and too small to do the job of a legitimate carbine. The best answer to bridging the gap between the pistol and the carbine remains the pistol with a shoulder stock, and the most efficient example of these is the M1896 Mauser military pistol. While it feels clumsy in the hand, it is extremely easy to hit with as a pistol, and with the stock on and the left hand grasping the front of the magazine well it locks in rock steady for accurate distance shooting.
Its 7.63mm cartridge was designed for long-range military accuracy and penetration. Its 86-grain bullet at 1,400 fps will go through 11 standard 7/8-inch boards. The recoil impulse is less than the 9mm Luger, enabling the select-fire version to be controllable in full auto. The tangent rear sight goes up to 1,000 meters for long-range mass firing by troops, which was an effective method to make a piece of ground untenable at extreme ranges where hitting a specific target with each round was not likely.
The first successful military automatic pistol, it set the standard for automatics by having no screws except for the grips. Rugged and reliable, it saw extensive worldwide use. It and its copies and variants have remained in production longer than any other automatic—although it was never officially adopted by any of the countries it served.
For this article I had a near-mint Mauser pistol that was brought back from World War II in the Pacific by an officer in the 24th Infantry Division. I don’t know whether this Mauser was originally captured by the Japanese during their invasion of China or was privately purchased. I had 200 rounds of Fiocchi ammunition and 500 rounds of Privi Partizan ammunition to test fire this beauty with. It consistently gave 0.75-inch groups at 25 yards. There were no malfunctions.
It is hard to believe that a gun that feels awkward and clumsy can hit so effortlessly and unerringly. No wonder officers around the world bought them and carried them. For military use it normally rode a wood holster stock. It also fits unobtrusively in a briefcase, making it a compact bug-out and survival rifle that is still easy to hit with. It can also be concealed under a coat due to its extremely flat design.
The Mauser is often maligned as hard to take apart and put together, but that is not so. One thing the books don’t tell you is that on reassembly many of them need a light tap from a block of wood to finish going together. Just make sure the lug on the right side is aligned with its notch in the rear of the frame before tapping.