Favorite airgun and holster combos Part 1
One gun, one holster…
By Dennis Adler
Legendary holster maker and personal defense authority John Bianchi, in his book “Point Blank” noted one basic tenet about carrying a firearm, “Master one gun and one holster.” In the world of concealed carry that is sage advice, though some people have more than one carry gun and more than one holster, depending upon the situation where concealed carry is warranted. (Bianchi also holds the world record for concealing the most handguns at one time, a total of 32 pistols). The idea behind the one gun, one holster rule, is to know your carry gun and holster so well that their use becomes intuitive. How this translates to training with air pistols, which is fast becoming a common and affordable means, is no different, and in many cases the holster in use is the same one that will carry the actual centerfire counterpart to the CO2 powered training gun. But that is not the idea behind this article. Rather this is literally based on one gun and one holster, as in, “if I could only have one air pistol and holster what would it be? And honestly, this is a lot more difficult to answer with an air pistol than an actual cartridge-firing handgun for self defense. With the most recent CO2 models one not only has contemporary handguns to consider but almost the entire 19th and 20th century as well, with CO2 models offering designs that date back to the 1870s! To make this choice a little easier, let’s limit it to semi-auto pistols from any period, and there has to be a good holster available to pair with it. For me, that opens several doors but there is only one I am going to walk through to get my personal favorite, the one blowback action CO2 pistol I would choose hands down if I could only have one; the Umarex Mauser Broomhandle Model 712 and the Chisholm’s Trail Model 712 holster, belt and magazine pouch.
The best blowback action pistol
Aside from the fact that I have always admired the design of the Broomhandle Mauser and its innovative approach to self loading pistols in 1895…yes, it is a 19th century firearm…the Mauser has always had a certain, shall we say, pistol charisma, that no other handgun has (save for one copying the Broomhandle design like an Astra). The Broomhandle has been the hero gun or the villain gun in more films than I can list; it is also one of the most recognized handgun designs in the world, anywhere in the world. So when Umarex introduced a nearly 100 percent authentic CO2 version of the Model 712, as a selective fire (semi-auto or full-auto) with a detachable box magazine, it became the most desirable air pistol on the market, at least for me. And it still is.
What makes the M712 so special?
The answer begins with the origin of the Broomhandle pistol which was patented in Germany by Waffenfabrik Mauser on December 11, 1895. Among the very first successful semiautomatic pistols, it used a locked-breech design with a rectangular bolt housed inside the square section of the barrel extension. This is the same design that is used on the Umarex CO2 model. The Broomhandle also introduced a device to keep the bolt locked back after the last shot had been fired; this unfortunately is one of the very few features that Umarex did not duplicate. The lock back feature was originally intended for the Mauser to be more easily reloaded, which up until the Model 712, was through the top of the ejection port, by pushing a stripper clip of rounds down into the fixed magazine. With the CO2 model you pretty much know when the box magazine is empty and a magazine change is much faster than the old loading method used by Mauser until 1932 and the Model 712 with its detachable magazine. This made it possible for the first time to quickly reload a Broomhandle by changing the magazine. Of course, on full auto 20 rounds were expended in a little less than two seconds, unless one learned to shoot in short five-shot bursts. The same is true of the 18 steel BBs in the M714 air pistol on full auto. A spare magazine or two is a must.
The original Broomhandles with integral magazines were offered in 6, 10, and 20 round capacities. The standard barrel length was 5.5 inches and the guns were fitted with distinctive hardwood grips. The grips on the Umarex are wood grained plastic, nice but not enough to be mistaken for actual Mauser wood grips.
A manual safety on the left rear of the Broomhandle frame was actuated by pushing the lever upward into a notch, which either locked the hammer so that it could not be cocked, or if cocked, blocked the hammer so that the gun could not be discharged until the safety lever was lowered. The 1896 (or C96) Broomhandle was the first semiautomatic pistol that could be carried cocked and locked. There was also a wooden shoulder stock with a steel yoke that mounted into a channel in the gripstrap. This made the Mauser into a modest carbine pistol. The standard capacity (6 and 10-round models) models could also use the hollow shoulder stock as a holster, which could be worn in several different ways. The M712 models also had modified wooden stocks that were cut out to fit the longer magazine, and there were several leather belt holsters designed for the various Broomhandle models.
As the Mauser design evolved over three decades, there were several variations and improvements including changes to the safety mechanism, hammer design, sights, frame styles, markings, and in 1932 the addition of the Model 712 or Schnellfeuer, which introduced the removable box magazine. Considered among the most desirable of all Broomhandle designs, the M712 is also the most expensive for collectors (except for the 20-shot fixed magazine models, which came first and are even for desirable). Original M712 models also fall under Class III firearms, as part of the National Firearms Act of 1934, or as it is more commonly known, the NFA. This makes owning an original Model 712 a costly process. The Umarex M712 makes it possible to at least have a proper-looking model that can do everything the original did, except fire cartridges.
The M712 CO2 model is correct in intricate details like the N S selective fire control switch on the left side of the frame, the elevation adjustable rear sight, and thumb safety operation. All that it truly lacks, outside of firing metallic cartridges, is a more accurate finish to the frame, barrel, bolt, sights and controls, all a clean flat matte finish on the CO2 model, compared to the lustrous blue of the originals and grey (pickled) finish to the bolt, and other controls. Fortunately, the limited WWII edition of the CO2 model, with its weathered finish, makes a lot of this less obvious and the gun all that more realistic in overall appearances. But what is a great vintage firearm design without an equally great vintage holster in which to carry it?
Handcrafted Mauser leather
If you could find a good condition original Mauser leather holster, it would set you back far more than the cost of the Umarex Model 712 Broomhandle. And, of course, it would not fit in the holster with the box magazine attached. The odds of finding a vintage M712 holster would be even greater and more costly. For those who want or have the Umarex Model 712 and have the same desire as I to carry it in a proper holster, the new Chisholm’s Trail M712 holster (the example shown is the prototype in brown, the production models sold by Pyramyd are military black), is a perfect and authentic to the era (1932) Mauser holster. Chisholm’s Trail also makes a period correct waist belt, shoulder strap, and has just introduced a period correct magazine pouch.
The pouch is an early military style with a flap that is secured with a brass stud passing through a slit. This is a design that goes as far back as Civil War era holsters and ammo pouches. And it still works as effectively today as it did in the 19th century. Some things really can’t be improved upon. Chisholm’s Trail copies this design perfectly. The pouches are wet fitted to a magazine mold so the loaded CO2 magazines will slip in and out with ease. The magazine pouches will be available shortly from Pyramyd (in military black) to match the M712 holster. Original military-style belts, like the example pictured, are sold by Chisholm’s Trail, but any 1-1/2 inch military style belt will fit both the M712 holster and magazine pouch.
Without a doubt this is the best looking combination of CO2 handgun and holster I can imagine and I hope many of you share this passion for the legendary Broomhandle Mauser and its phenomenal Umarex M712 counterpart.
On Saturday the answer to the obvious question; what’s my second choice?