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The Mightiest Mauser: Umarex delivers the ultimate Broomhandle – The Model 712

It often comes as a surprise to many owners that semiautomatic pistols are not an invention of the 20th century, but rather the late 19th century! By 1900, a slow but continual shift from traditional revolvers to semiautomatic handguns was already taking place both in America and throughout Europe. The first successful American-made semiautomatic pistols were designed by John M. Browning and manufactured by Colt. Browning also patented a semi-auto design for Fabrique Nationale in Belgium, which became the 7.65mm (.32 ACP) Model 1899-FN and improved FN Model 1900. The later version is historically significant in the history of the early 20th century America West as the handgun carried by Cheyenne, Wyoming, Deputy Sheriff Richard Proctor, famous for arresting Tom Horn in 1902.

Before Browning

Despite John M. Browning’s original 1897 patent for a self-loader, he was preceded by several German armsmakers who had the earliest semiautomatic pistols in production by 1895. The Broomhandle Mauser was among the first and most innovative semi-auto pistols of the late 19th century with origins dating back to 1895 when Paul Mauser test fired the first example on March 15. The company, founded in 1871 by Paul (1838-1914) and his brother Wilhelm (1834-1882), was already one of the world’s most successful rifle makers by the 1890s.

Firearms historian Edward C. Ezell noted in his book, Handguns of the World, that most of the credit for creating the Broomhandle belongs to three of Mauser’s employees, Fidel, Friedrich, and Josef Feederie. Fidel was superintendent of the company’s experimental workshop and along with his brothers had been developing a self-loading pistol since 1893. As the 19th century neared its end, Paul Mauser came to the realization that the future of the handgun belonged to the self-loader. Two years later, on December 11, 1895 the Mauser Model C96 was patented and a new era in the story of the gun was about to unfold.

It’s called a “Broomhandle” Sir

The Broomhandle Mauser put into production in 1896 had already made such an impact in America that three years later the U.S. government considered the importation and use of self-loaders as a military issue sidearm to replace the variety of Colt and Smith & Wesson revolvers then in use. The Ordnance Department conducted tests from December 1899 into February of 1900 comparing the 7.63mm Mauser Broomhandle, 7.63mm Mannlicher self-loader, and in 1902 the Model 1900 Borchardt-Luger, all of which lost out to the new John M. Browning-designed .38 Rimless Smokeless Colt Model 1900. Although the Colt semi-autos were not immediately adopted for use, several hundred of the new models were purchased by the U.S. government for field trials, both the Model 1900 and Browning’s improved Model 1902, modified to meet certain military requirements. In the end, the U.S. Army Board of Officers decided to keep using revolvers as a standard issue sidearm until Browning and Colt Model finally won them over with the Model 1911. Nevertheless, the Broomhandle Mauser had left a lasting impression on America.

By the very early 1900s the Broomhandle Mauser was being sold in the U.S. through New York City retailer Von Lengerke & Detmold, which imported 1,922 Broomhandle Mauser pistols between 1897 and 1905. Von Lengerke & Detmold continued to import the various Mauser models (there were at least six early variations) until around 1910. Broomhandles were also being sold during this same period through Browning Brothers in Ogden, Utah, (yes, that Browning). Iver Johnson was also distributing imported semi-autos and U.S. retailers in major across the county were carrying Mausers, Lugers, and other European self loaders right up to the beginning of WWI.

The Broomhandle Mauser and Umarex Model 712 airgun

The original C96 and all subsequent Mauser Broomhandles, including the Model 712, used a locked-breech design with a rectangular bolt housed inside the square section of the barrel extension. Beneath the bolt, attached to the barrel extension, was the locking piece comprised of a steel block with a locking lug that engaged a slot in the lower surface of the bolt. Sometime in late 1896, the bolt and locking piece were modified to have two corresponding slots and lugs. This design remained in use from 1896 to 1939.

In operation, the locking piece was raised and lowered as it moved along an inclined plane milled into the frame. The bolt, locking block and barrel extension recoiled together for a distance of about 5mm (0.2-inch) before the locking piece began to descend the ramp. As it dropped, the bolt was unlocked and permitted to continue its rearward travel separated from the barrel extension, at which time the spent shell casing was ejected and the hammer re-cocked. The recoil spring powered the closing stroke of the mechanism, which stripped and chambered the next cartridge from the gun’s magazine box, and as the bolt and barrel extension closed, the locking piece was forced up into the locked position by the inclined plane. The Umarex Model 712 operates essentially the same way except there is no empty shell case to eject.

Among the Broomhandle’s many unprecedented features was a manual safety on the left rear of the frame 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’s forward movement. This is the original “cocked and locked.” There was also a wooden shoulder stock with a steel yoke that mounted into a channel cut into the gripstrap turning the Mauser into a carbine pistol. The hollow shoulder stock could also double as a holster that was carried in a leather shoulder harness.

The Umarex is based on the Model 712 (also known as the Model 1932 or Schnellfeuer), which was the first Mauser to employ a removable box magazine, as well as being fired either semi-auto or full-auto. Umarex has faithfully reproduced the Model 712 right down to the N R selective fire control switch on the left side of the frame, elevation adjustable rear sight, blowback bolt action and thumb safety operation. The gun is so exact in detail and dimensions that an original (or reproduction) Mauser wooden shoulder stock holster will not only fit the gun the gun will fit inside with the magazine removed!

The original Broomhandle Mauser (actually referred to by Mauser as the Pistole 7.73 until the Model 1930 and Model 712 were introduced), was a well-balanced gun with its center of gravity forward of the trigger to reduce muzzle jump. Recoil was more linear with the mass of the bolt slamming back over the hammer, and delivering its energy into the grip. As with all Broomhandle models the sharp recoil also drove the edges of the metal frame between the grips into the web of the shooter’s hand, which fortunately is not a problem with the Umarex airgun.

During the Broomhandle’s 43 years of manufacturing, the Mauser semi-auto engendered a great following, which extends to this day among arms collectors. The Umarex Mauser 712 version has hit all of the key operating features, particularly for the Model 712, arguably the most desirable of any Mauser Broomhandle model because of its selective fire mechanism.

Box Magazine

Up until the Model 712 the Broomhandle’s magazine was built integral with the frame, and there were three different cartridge capacities 6, 10, and 20 rounds. The standard barrel length was 5.5 inches and the guns were fitted with distinctive hardwood grips. The Umarex has a similar design to its detachable box magazine which holds both the CO2 and 18 steel BBs. Also like the original design, the Umarex uses a manual thumb safety actuated by pushing the lever upward into a notch which either locks the hammer so that it can not be cocked, or if the hammer is cocked, pushing the lever up will lock the hammer in the cocked position. The large knurled ring on the safety makes it easy to operate and there is a positive lock when set, or when released by pulling the safety lever downward (level with the frame).

The M712 also has an accurately reproduced selective fire control switch on the left side of the frame with the correct N R markings, N for single action and R for full auto. Another original Mauser detail that Umarex has a properly reproduced is the elevation adjustable rear sight which is graduated out to 1000 meters; a wee bit optimistic for a blowback action CO2 airgun, but historically accurate.

As to the gun’s markings, it bears the WAFFENFABRIK name on the right side of the frame, and the correctly milled outside panel, just behind the magazine well, (usually left blank), is used for the airgun’s warning information. The Model 712 airguns also have serial numbers on the left side of the magazine well.

Loading and Firing

            The Umarex Model 712 is no lightweight at 51 ounces including the box magazine, which weighs 15 ounces on its own. The magazine is loaded by removing the base screw, inserting the CO2 cartridge, and threading the base screw back in with the supplied hex-head wrench and tightening it down until you hear the CO2 cartridge being pierced; pretty much the same as all 12 gram CO2 airguns, but the self contained CO2 and BB magazine really completes the look of the Mauser 712. Loading BBs is just as efficient, using a follower that locks at the bottom allowing the BBs to be quickly inserted (one at a time) through the loading port. You really need to have at least two or three of the magazines because you’ll burn through 18 shots with this airgun pretty fast.

            For the test I loaded up two magazines for a quick change. Also, when firing full auto you can go though a CO2 cartridge in about three reloads. The magazine release button located on the right side of the frame is easy to activate with the trigger finger, and the drop free magazines are quick to change out.  

Before firing the first round, you pull the bolt to the rear, just like a real 7.63mm (or 9mm) Mauser Broomhandle; this also cocks the hammer, which can then be set to safe. The operation of the selector switch is also identical to the original; press the button in and rotate the lever from N to R, to switch from semi-auto to full-auto, or back again to return to semi-auto. Trigger pull on the test gun averaged 4 pounds 11 ounces with quick take up and a clean break from shot to shot. In full-auto you have to feather the trigger to get burst fire or you will empty the magazine in 1.5 seconds! Average velocity is 360 fps. 

For the shooting evaluation I used Hornady Black Diamond anodized .177 caliber steel BBs. The optimum range for a blowback action air pistol is about 21 feet and the Mauser placed a best 10 shots at 2.25 inches. Fired on full auto, the accuracy opens up considerably, but at that point you really don’t care how many are in the X bull, you just want to load another magazine and listen to that blowback action sing!

by Dennis Adler

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