War Dogs – The Classic German Luger and Mauser Part 1 Part 2
The WWII Broomhandle Mauser Model 712 and Luger P.08
By Dennis Adler
If you watch WWII movies, you would think that the only handguns German soldiers ever used were Lugers, Walther P.38s and PPKs, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. Germany is home to some of the world’s most legendary armsmakers, and indeed the Georg Luger-designed toggle link action semi-auto was one of Germany’s principal sidearms from 1908 throughout WWII, but the guns at hand were far more extensive than many realize. In addition to the 9mm Walther P.38 semiautomatic pistol, which wasn’t even adopted until after the start of WWII, officers also had the Walther PP, and PPK, the .380 ACP Astra 300, 9mm Largo Astra 400, and .380 ACP Mauser HSc. In addition to Lugers and P.38s, soldiers in the field who were issued sidearms could have carried the 9mm Parabellum Astra 600, 9mm Browning Hi-Power, which were manufactured during the occupation of the FN factory in Belgium. Earlier Browning FN pistols like the 32 ACP Models 1910 and 1922 were also put into service during the war.
Guns without borders
There were, however, two long established pistols dating back prior to the First World War that were still in use, the aforementioned Luger Parabellum or P.08, which had been produced since 1908, and the Mauser Broomhandle, whose history dated back to the end of the 19th century. Both designs were still viable and in the military arsenal when WWII began in 1939. What does that tell us about the Luger P.08 and C96 Mauser? Both were so well engineered that they weren’t even close to becoming obsolete. The Broomhandle (and Broomhandle design) was also being used in countries across the globe by the early 20th century, including the United States, Great Britain, Italy, China, and Spain. China began manufacturing their own versions, as did Spain through Astra and Beistegui Hermanos.
Broomhandles were chambered in 7.63mm or 9mm (the 9mm guns are referred to as Red 9 models as the grips had a large red 9 cut into the panels to quickly distinguish them from the 7.63mm pistols). The Chinese also developed another Broomhandle version manufactured by Shansei Province Arsenal and chambered for the American .45 ACP cartridge.
Prior to WWII, Mauser developed a new selective fire C96 Broomhandle with a removable 20-round box magazine. This greatly improved reloading time. All other Broomhandle models used an integral box magazine loaded from a stripper clip inserted into the top of the open breech. The new Broomhandle was designated as the Model 712 or Model of 1932, which, like the Luger Parabellum, was still in use during WWII. It is also noteworthy that all of these pistols (some prewar, others captured) were also in the hands of resistance fighters throughout France and across German occupied regions of Europe. Almost anyone could have been armed with a Luger, Walther, or Mauser, among many other German, European, and American arms.
While this fascinating diversity of sidearms used by Germany is historically appealing (and there were still others I’ve not listed), from a military logistics standpoint it had far less appeal because of differing ammunition requirements. American forces relied heavily on only a few different handguns, nearly all of which were chambered in .45 ACP, the round used in the Colt Model 1911 and military issue S&W and Colt Model 1917 revolvers. The only principal exceptions were .38 caliber double action revolvers, most famously the S&W Victory Model, and .32 and .380 ACP Colt Model 1903 and 1908 Hammerless semi-auto pistols issued to General Officers. Conversely, the variety of handguns, calibers and cartridge designs carried by German soldiers and officers greatly complicated supply lines. And there was another issue, they almost all required different holsters. Fortunately, this was something at which German suppliers of military leather excelled.
German pistol holsters are some of the finest looking and most rugged designs in history, and like the semi-autos they held, each was uniquely designed. This is what makes collecting military handguns and holsters exciting. Recreating historic pistols like the Mauser Model 712 and Luger P.08 in .177 caliber, however, is only half the challenge; the other is having something in which to carry them! The most difficult thus far has been the very popular Umarex Mauser Model 712. With the release of the latest weathered finish WWII Model 712 there is a period correct leather holster for this historic selective fire pistol that will be available shortly. This is the first look.
The Broomhandle Mauser could be carried in several ways. Those issued with wooden shoulder stocks had a leather harness that held the stock, cleaning tools, and the gun was carried inside the hollow stock. The entire rig was then slung over the shoulder on a leather strap. Models that were carried without the shoulder stock had contoured leather military flap holsters that could either be worn on a belt or over the shoulder.
The Model 712, however, presented a problem since the 20-round magazine stuck out the bottom of the receiver. Wooden stocks for 20 shot models had a cutaway section allowing the magazine to protrude or a larger cheek piece to contain the entire gun; pistol holsters for the 20-shot models, however, were rare. The example shown with the latest Umarex WWII Model 712 is based on one of those rare designs and follows the traditional style used for all Broomhandle models.
In Part 2 it is time to test the Umarex WWII M712 and P.08 pistols.