Real, Reworked, or Faked? Authenticating a C96 Mauser

When you get into expensive historical firearms, values begin to diverge significantly for guns in particularly good condition. This, naturally, leads some people to take poor quality guns and make them better. Sometimes this is done with an innocent view to improving condition, and sometimes it is done with truly fraudulent intent (like renumbering parts). Today we are looking at two examples of WW1 German military C96 Mauser pistols to start to learn how to discern elements of a gun that have been repaired, improved, or outright fabricated.


  1. “Confusion, compounded by chaos, with a dash of bewilderment thrown in for good measure” is how the situation can be described. Reworking for returning a side-arm to service-readiness takes all original parts into account and only replaces the downright inoperable at most (like broken springs, grip panels, and firing pins). Faking antiques throws accountability out the window, especially when the markings look a bit too recently made and when the finish on half the parts is just a bit too good to have seen action at all. The most glaringly fake antique automatic pistols I have heard about from others would fall apart if you tried to open the action. I could be wrong.

    One tall tale of a fake vintage pistol took it up to eleven on a scale of ten: the amateur collector loaded up a magazine of dummy cartridges and racked the slide. Upon the return stroke, the “barrel” broke and most of it flew out the muzzle end of the slide! How’s that for a laugh?

  2. A dedicated Faker would watch this and avoid these….to catch the customer that didn’t.

    As an aside, I once purchased a SMLE 3*, BSA Sep 1917, missing the rear sight protect lugs and some pitting in the last 6″ bore….but she shot amazingly well. One inch at 100 yards is ok, and yes the test was passed. Sadly in her subterranean hide a half planet away I can’t dig her out to source the proofmarks, but after many years studying under Meister Ian her history would become plainer. The stock has been sanded down Vigorously, and as a collector piece no value, but as a battle rifle she’d go a few more rounds. So, to the fakers: at least fix the old gat so she can do the wielder proud…won’t be the Last Best Hope of one of the antichrist’s rabble, now, but might grant another day on some hill for someone who won’t take the mark, having not drunk the koolaid.

  3. Once picked up a C96 on auction. Beauty of a gun on the outside. When I got it and took a look at it, it had a copper oxidized green barrel. Somebody, probably decades ago, had shot it and not bothered to clean it. The oxidation destroyed the barrel rendering it useless as anything but a parts gun.

    The auction house took it back, they were good about it. But it was a loser for everyone involved. Very sad.

  4. Very useful indeed-I thought mine was “too nice”, but the wear is just right. Now to try to find out what the tiny M over a crown proof under the barrel means…

    • “(…)thought mine was “too nice”,(…)”
      I was searching for Hemingway quote in English, but was unable to find it – only detected it source is “The Fifth Column” play.
      In Russian in goes so:
      Должен вас предупредить вот о чем. Выполняя задание, вы будете при оружии для поднятия авторитета. Но пускать его в ход вам не разрешается ни при каких обстоятельствах. Ни при каких обстоятельствах. Вы меня поняли?
      It is cited at begin of Трудно быть богом, so if anyone has English version of that book, please provide English version of given quote.

  5. Where the floor plate meets the front edge of the magazine well they are not flush on the “ improved “ gun. If it had been hand fitted at the factory it would be flush fitted.

  6. New helpful PBS type professorial gun Jesus. Enjoyable, instructive, enlightening, but somehow not as fun gun Jesus. Very helpful video, however, should someday in the distant future all the children move out of the house.

  7. My father was in New Guinea and the Philippines with the 32nd ID. He came back with one of these, when he killed a German officer (yes, a German Officer). His ship coming home docked in Seattle, Washington Coming though the line, some guy going though his duffel bag found it and told him was contraband. Dad argued with the guy saying he had to kill The guy who had owned it. The guy threatened to hold up his paper work for a few weeks until it got sorted. Anxious to get home he let it go. Four months later he read in the paper about a group of army guys in Washington State who had been busted selling contraband goods on the black market there. I don’t the old man ever got over that.

  8. A article in the Australian Police Journal (a quarterly for the nine police forces) had some 5 or 6 years ago a article on forgery in relation to firearms, in which antique fire arms had been imported into Australia. It related to a very high quality Borchardt Automatic Pistol, purchased by a firearms collector in Queensland. He received it from Customs, showing it to his inner circle and bragging about the horrendous price (could have bought and put on the road a top of the range BMW for it) that he had paid for this true antique. It looked extremely good, until a very bright chap looking at its measurements told him that it had been made on modern machinery. Subsequent forensic examinations so proved it. It had been bought from a man in Cape Town, subsequent investigation (not by the SA Police) proved that the item had been manufactured in that part of SA the previous year. By a team of men, an engraved a couple of civilian gunsmiths and a couple of chaps from the technical side of ARMSCOR. And they literally had production line underway of the more exotic weapons, which were being sold on the QT as having been items handed in during the various arms amnesties in SA. One of which being a serviceable C96 Mauser carried by Winston Churchill at the charge of Omdurman, and taken off him when he captured by the Boer’s. All of these items came with good paperwork proving providence. This was not a police investigation but carried out by a European private investigative company on behalf of a major insurer. At least ten Churchill Mauser’s had been sold, and a substantial number of other types of antique firearms misrepresenting as genuine had been sold to North America, Asia and the Middle East. But what they produced was very high quality, so would there be a market for such in years to come. They subsequently started producing high quality German badges and decorations, along with equally high quality paperwork, the the superb cases in which such came.. A collector in Adelaide with more money than sense showed me genuine Hitler items to wit some of the file covers made out pigskin that were used for his signature items, and also believe it or not his NSKK driving licence. He did not when I told him Hitler had never learned to drive, and also that the file covers should have been made of goatskin by a Austria firm! But both were beautifully done. He subsequently sold the licence and the folders to a collector in California!!!

    • Whilst I implied it, I should have stated that the folders and the licence came from the same bloke in Cape Town! Yours, G/.

  9. Saw a Bolo M96 that a vet brought back from the Phillipines in WW11. He and his patrol walked out of the jungle to see an outdoor flea market of Nazi memorabilia. It seems that vehicles from an engineering battalion in Europe were immediately shipped to the Pacific theatre when Germany surrendered and before the men could retrieve their war souveniers.wanted to buy it from him but was short of funds.
    . .

  10. Excellent video, Thanks Ian!

    On a seperate note, I have a bridge to sell, would suit a discerning customer…

  11. Your article is very useful, the content is great, I have read a lot of articles, but for your article, it left me a deep impression, thank you for sharing.

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