French Gendarmerie C96: A German Pistol for the Occupation

This is lot #579 in the upcoming RIA Premier Auction. It was scheduled for April, but has been postponed – check their web site for upcoming Online Only auctions every month, though!

In the immediate aftermath of World War One, it appears that the French government purchased 2,000 Mauser C96 pistols for use by occupation forces who were to be stationed in Germany. While the direct link to the French military is missing, a sale of 2,000 C96 pistols through German dealer Albrecht Kind is documented, and we know that French Gendarmerie did use the C96 in the occupation.

The guns that are identified as making up this purchase are in the 430,000-434,000 serial number range, produced right at the end of the war or just after. They are 7.63mm guns with 100mm (3.9 inch) barrels, and distinctive hard rubber grips with an intertwined “WM” logo. Many have a commercial export “Germany” stamp on the receiver, as the purchase was taken from existing stocks and not made to order for the French. The rear sights are 500m sights left over from Prussian Red 9 production, and the shoulder stocks were similarly leftovers – oak stock made for full-length barrels, without lanyard rings.


  1. It appears the French government didn’t want the shortage of side-arms made known to the general public. It would be embarrassing!

      • That was a burlesque or joke — how the German language is portrayed as affecting English. The literal meaning is “[We] will be back, that [is] meant [we mean it].” Plus the reference to the film “The Terminator” wherein Austrian actor Arnold Schwarzenegger intones: “I’ll be back.”

        In popular culture (and sometimes reality) the English W is pronounced as a V by Germans, and the TH sound is slurred into a Z.

        Accent, dialect, slang, idiom: all roadblocks to international understanding.

  2. My proudest moment was when I stood on the white cliffs of Dover and bared my buttocks at the French.

    There was another party of more than 3, entirely at random performing the same duty at the same time.

    It makes me proud like Edward Elgar. Patted each cheek at them good.

    Anyway, what?

    • Yes…what ? What are you doing ? Why there is nearly always, in the english speaking corner of internet+history area some random guy like you putting cheap shots, insults, ”jokes”, manipulated historic ”facts” against the french when a french historical topic came in line ?
      This is ridiculous, childish, unfair and please, please don’t tell me is a joke…it’s lame.
      Ah, just a real fact for you: i’m not french but I lived in this country 20 years and although the english (I insist the english, not the welsh or the scottish) trashy yellow press, comedians, films and a great sector or the locals that love all this are obssesed about the guys over the good side of the channel, in France they don’t give a toss about it, not even the biggest titles in the Sun of other tabloids of the kind…in fact they don’t give much credit to anything others think about them, so you are loosing your time and making a fool or yourself.

      • And lets be honest they did an all, come back; same railway car used in ww1 now with Adolf accepting “France” which you could argue was mainly Frances fault for winding them up after ww1.

  3. Why so crude milling marks ? Looks botched

    Its pretty perverted idea that one country would sell to another, guns that they would use right away in occupation of same countrys territory.

  4. It surprising that the French chose to (had to?) buy them new. As everyone must have been awash with ex WWI arms – including the French with captured German ‘stuff'(presumably including lots of C96 & Luger pistols).Particularly as France was in a poor economic state post WWI.
    ‘Perhaps’ an example of how rapidly wartime stocks ‘evaporate’ post war (scrapped, become unserviceable from neglect, into store, sold abroad etc.). Similar happening after WWII and the Vietnam wars.
    A pity that there seems to be no associated paperwork or other information to clarify.

    • Officially, the French service sidearm in the Great War was the M1892 8mm “Lebel” revolver.

      In reality, it was made at one factory, St. Etienne, and there was no way for them to produce enough for what one writer referred to succinctly as a handgunners’ fracas of never before seen proportions.

      As a result, the French Army had to scrounge pistols from anyplace they could. And the primary source ended up being the Eibar region of Spain, with the default result being the 7.65mm Browning caliber “Ruby” type blowback automatic.

      Huge numbers of these made by over a dozen manufacturers were used by the French infantry from 1915 to 1918. And most of them didn’t survive due to a combination of heavy use, bad operating conditions, and often quality control and materials that were indifferent at best.

      And as for the surviving ones, most of them “went home” in some ex-poilu’s ditty bag.

      So I can understand the French occupation forces in the Rhineland and elsewhere ending up going begging for handguns for policing duties. And I’d have to say that under the circumstances, they could have done a lot worse than “Bolo” Mausers.

      Given the choice between that and a .32 Ruby, I know which one I’d want to stake my life on.



  5. Wow 500 meters on a short barrel 9mm? I dont know if that was just blatant overly optimistic on the designer or if it was meant to instill confidence in the people that carried those.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.