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The C96, or "Broomhandle Mauser," was the first semi-automatic pistol to see widespread use. It was manufactured from 1896 to 1936 in Germany, as well as being manufactured in countries such as China, often illegally.

The main characteristics that distinguish this pistol are that the magazine is forward of the trigger, and the handle is shaped like the end of a broom handle, hence the nickname of "Broomhandle."

There were many variants, including versions with detachable magazines instead of the permanently-mounted magazine seen on most versions, versions that came with detachable shoulder-stocks that doubled as holsters, and versions that could be used as submachine guns, with a setting to fire full-automatic. They were usually made in 7.63 x 25mm Mauser, but many were also made in 9 x 19mm Parabellum (Luger), and some Chinese models were made in .45 ACP caliber.

These pistols were widely used; Winston Churchill favored them and used one at the Battle of Omdurman and during the Boer War. Many were sold to Russia, mostly the 9mm variety, giving that version the nickname "Bolo" (short for "Bolshevik") Mauser. They saw service in the later colonial wars, World War One, the Chaco War, the Sino-Japanese War, World War II, and the Chinese Civil Wars, among other places.

Today the Broomhandle Mauser is a popular collector's gun; many have come on to the US civilian market after being exported from China.