by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

C96 BB pistol
Legends C96 BB pistol

Let’s cut to the chase. The title of this report says Legends C96 CO2 BB pistol, but Americans are going to call this a Broomhandle Mauser because of the shape of the pistol grip. The Legends part comes from the Umarex line of replica air pistols.

Before we continue, I want to express my concern about the Umarex lookalike airguns. I got a CO2 Colt M1911A1 pellet pistol when they first came out, and soon I had 4 different M1911/1911A1 firearms to go with it. Then the PPK/S BB pistol hit the market, and I got one of those. Not long after that, I added a .22 rimfire PPK/S to my firearms collection. Then came the Walther Lever Action rifle. Good, I thought. I’ll never buy the Winchester 30/30 1894 that it is patterned after. But I didn’t need to, because Edith did.

Then came the Magnum Research Desert Eagle pellet pistol. I knew I would never own the firearm version of that big hand cannon, but 2 years ago I got an IMI .357 Magnum Desert Eagle.

Of course there was the Makarov BB pistol that I used to train Crystal Ackley to shoot on American Airgunner. I say “train” advisedly; because after her first magazine, she was out-shooting me! That pistol spawned the purchase of both a 9mm Bulgarian Makarov, as well as the genuine Makarov firearm that the Russians at IZH turned into a BB pistol.

And just last year, Umarex came out with the Parabellum P08. I had already owned a junker Luger in the early 1970s, and I swore that I would never own another one. Well, my resolve being what it is, this past Christmas, Edith gifted me with a 1917 Erfurt P08 that is definitely not a junker!

And, now, I must confess that in my youth I’ve owned not 1 but 2 different low-grade Broomhandles. Both were in 7.63mm Mauser caliber, and neither one was particularly accurate. I reloaded for the last one, which might have been a large part of its problem. And here’s the Legends C96 Broomhandle! Lordy, I can’t afford to keep this up! I just hope they don’t bring out a Colt Walker next!

Is it a C96?
Technically, this pistol is not a C96. It is a copy of the M32/712 Schnellfeuer (German for rapid fire) pistol that has a selector switch on the left side of the gun for semi- and full-automatic operation, but it’s just a cast detail and is entirely non-functional. It also has a detachable magazine hanging down in front of the triggerguard, just like the 20-shot Schnellfeuer.

The C96 never had the detachable magazine or the selector switch. It has an internal 10-round magazine that’s loaded from the top of the gun through the ejection port with 10-round stripper clips. The bottom of the C96 magazine is flush with the bottom of the triggerguard. It’s true that the C96 magazine floorplate can be removed and a separate, detachable magazine can be installed, but these were never a popular option for the C96. I suppose only collectors and students of history will know the difference, so I’ll call this pistol the C96 from this point on.

The pistol
The Legends C96 is a 19-shot BB pistol powered by CO2. The CO2 cartridge and BB magazine are housed together in a single removable magazine unit that’s located in front of the triggerguard. Press a button on the right side of the receiver to release the mag.

There’s a lower magazine cover that hides the CO2 screw and the CO2 cartridge. This is something BB gun shooters are very sensitive about, so it was a necessary feature that completes the look of the gun.

C96 BB pistol magazine

The magazine has been removed, and the lower cover is off. You can see the selector switch in this photo.

When the CO2 cartridge is installed and the magazine is loaded, you might think the pistol would be muzzle-heavy like the firearm, but I don’t find that to be the case. This BB pistol is light enough that there’s very little muzzle heaviness. And it’s light because it’s made with a lot of synthetics. But this stuff is dense, strong and difficult to tell from metal. A matte finish makes it even more difficult to identify.

The pistol grip butt is slotted for a shoulder stock, just like the firearm. Those stocks are hollow wooden holsters with steel attachments that lock into the pistol at this point — forming a small carbine. However, since the gun is made of synthetic, I’m guessing a shoulder stock will not be an option since it would invite fractures at this slot.

C96 CO2 BB pistol grip slot
The pistol grip is slotted for a separate shoulder stock.

Not having a shoulder stock is not a great loss, though. I’ve fired the Broomhandle as a carbine and found it to be very inaccurate. Of course, that could just be the ammo I used, once again. But any pistol/carbine is a compromise, and none of them have a reputation for accuracy or even utility. It would be nice to have an authentic holster in which to carry the pistol, though.

Since the pistol is made to also be a carbine, the rear sight is an adjustable tangent leaf that adjusts up to 1,000 meters. The BB pistol has the same markings on its tangent sight leaf, though no shooter should ever expect to shoot a BB that far unless it’s downward from a high platform. But it does give you the option of elevation for close-range shooting. There’s no windage adjustment on this BB pistol or on the Mauser firearms.

C96 BB pistol tangent sight
The rear sight adjusts up and down for distance.

Blowback!
This pistol has true blowback! Just like the firearm, the bolt handle comes back with each shot and cocks the hammer, so every shot is single-action. You must cock the hammer for the first shot. Some writers have suggested this is not a blowback pistol, but I think they’re not familiar with the C96 Mauser action. It doesn’t have a conventional slide like many autoloading pistols. The bolt is what moves to cock the hammer; and on the firearm, it also ejects the spent cartridge and strips a fresh one from the top of the magazine.

So, the Legends C96 is a true semiautomatic CO2 pistol. The trigger-pull is light and crisp. Unfortunately, unlike the firearm, the bolt does not stay open after the last shot’s been fired, so it’s up to the shooter to know when the last BB has been fired. You can continue to pull the trigger without BBs if you like.

The barrel of the Mauser firearm is dovetailed to the frame and does move when the gun recoils. It’s how the designers delayed the opening of the bolt until after the high-pressure gasses were exhausted. It also allows the pistol to tolerate ammunition with a wider range of power. The BB pistol looks the same as the firearm, but that’s just the casting details. The barrel does not move.

C96 BB pistol barrel detail
The barrel appears to be dovetailed to the frame, but this is just a casting detail.

Although it has blowback, this BB pistol will not recoil like the firearm. A Broomhandle Mauser really snaps your hand back, despite being chambered for light cartridges like the 7.63 Mauser and the 9mm Luger. That’s because the bore is high above the grip, so the recoil has nothing to slow it down. I remember the recoil as one of the bad points of a Broomhandle.

Yes, the blowback of this BB pistol does give the shooter a sense that the gun has fired, but there’s no heavy snap to your wrist. Trust me, this is better!

The safety is identical to the Mauser firearm part and works the same way. I found it to be positive and much easier to apply than the firearm safety.

C96 BB pistol safety
The safety is rotated to the rear and the hammer is cocked, making the pistol ready to fire. You can see the selector switch clearly in this photo.

Summing up
When Herr Wonish of Umarex told me last February this pistol was coming, I told him I was eager to see it. Now it’s here, and I intend examining it thoroughly!