When was soft point 7.63mm Mauser C96 ammo available?


#1

I was reading an account of Winston Churchill’s capture in the Boer War, and the author states that Churchill had “dum-dum” type ammo for his Mauser C96 pistol. This episode occurred in November 1899. In my opinion, there was no hollow point or soft point rounds available in this caliber at this time. Did DWM, Eley or Knoch manufacture anything other than FMJ ammo for the C96 in the 1896-1899 time period? Churchill purchased his C96 in London in 1898 from Holland & Holland, and I assume he got his ammo at that time. I have heard that DWM did have a hollow point 7.63mm Mauser round listed in their 1904-05 catalog, but there doesn’t seem to be any earlier evidence of a HP or SP round in this caliber. TIA for any info.


#2

Westley-Richards sold plenty of what they termed their “All-Range Bullet”, which was a softpoint with a swaged cup on the nose, around the time of the Boer War, IIRC.


#3

I personally believe that soft-point ammunition was probably available for the 7.63mm Mauser pistol almost as early as any other ammunition was made for this pistol. While in my own library, I don’t have any catalogs earlier enough to prove it, equally, I have no proof that there wasn’t this type of ammo available. I have several different SN loadings from England, probably Eley, in early enough loadings that they are in the unheadstamped cases that have a deep, smooth cannelure around the neck, just below the mouth, and vary in case length. These used to be thought of as Borchardt loadings, although that has been disproven by one with an ELEY .30 M.P. (Mauser Pistol) headstamp. However, they are very early. My earliest Kynoch Catalog is 1902 and it shows SP ammo available in this caliber. From DWM, I have one with headstamp “8 DWM 04 403,” so we know it was available that early, and we know that by 1904, in this caliber, DWM had switched from the * D.M. * K headstamp already. However, in the D.M.K. headstamp I have soft point with the early green-waxed bullet, soft-point of the British Westley Richards All-Range bullet (and probably made for them, or for the British market), and a Schlitze type SN loading as well. All of these rounds predate 1904, but I cannot tell precisely when they were made. Since the Mauser was sold as a pistol-carbine, with detachable stock (not exclusively, there are C.96 types with a different shape grip and no provision for the stock, as I recall - not talking about the Bolo Model, but rather the curved-grip pistols) and sights calibrated for long range, I would think that a soft-nose bullet would have been a quite logical early choice for this caliber. Perhaps we’ll hear from someone with earlier DWM, Kynoch and Eley catalogs.


#4

While returning some cartridges to the cabinets, I had a thought, and found proof of manufacture of soft-point bullets for 7.63mm Mauser before 1900.
While doing research on various calibers some years ago, I made lots of notes from UMC records. The following are from factory notes on the “7.65 and 7.63 Mauser & Borchardt Pistol:” April 1899 - Commenced to experiment. Aug. 1899 - Changed name to 30 Cal. We will make soft point bullets with longer exposure than the German make. Dec 1900-changed the jacket to nickel metal for the soft point bullet, and less exposure."

It appears that they regreted changing the bullet from the German style to give more lead exposure, and changed it back.

It is obvious from the dates and comments that D.W.M. had been making soft-point bullets for this caliber long enough, by August 1899, that Union Metallic Cartridge Company in the United States already had knowledge of them, and probably samples. It takes some time to get a pistol introduced into other countries, and especially for it to reach enough popularity that a company like UMC would begin to make not only the caliber, but two different loadings (the records have comments about FMJ too, but didn’t include them here, as it is off topic and I am long-winded enough in my writing). This corroborates to a great degree, I believe, my gut feeling that soft-nose rounds were produced almost from the start of this caliber.


#5

Just to concur with JohnM - Westley Richards applied for a patent for what was to become the ‘All-Range’ in July 1898 - and supplied Kynoch with a sketch of desired bullet in May 1899. Thereafter are various Kynoch drawings during 1899 of FMJ & ‘All-Range’ bullet variations (note however that designation ‘All-Range’ is absent from all Kynoch drawings and WR sketch) - so it seems probable that Kynoch production of SN bullets started in 1899.
The earliest Eley drawing I have is dated 1909 & shows only FMJ blt (& by then bullet was secured with 3 stab crimps) - though Eley made SN blts earlier as evidenced by 1902 catalogue.
The UMC experience with large soft tip is interesting. The ‘All-Range’ seems to have had a brief life span. It was almost immediately superseded by WR capped blt. The early models of C96 were notorious for feed ramp jams - over 50 in one British Government trial. Were the UMC blts with lots of exposed lead and the ‘All-Range’ blts prone to feed-ramp damage - hence rapid WR switch to capped version?
PS have read accounts of Churchill using his C96 at Battle of Omdurman - but don’t recall reference to ammunition used - what is source of this info?


#6


#7

JohnP-C, here are the references I found about WC’s C96 pistol. Churchill wrote a book titled The River War as soon as he got back from the Sudan. This book covers his use of the pistol in the battle of Omdurman, but doesn’t mention the type of bullets he used. William Manchester wrote a biography of Churchill in 1982, The Last Lion; Visions of Glory, and he mentions the story of WC getting captured by the Boers with dum-dum bullets for his pistol, which Manchester erroneously calls Mk IV or Mk V British quartermaster issued rounds. I believe this shows that Manchester had confused Lee Metford Mk IV and Mk V .303 rounds with Mauser 7.63x25mm ammo. Lastly, WC’s granddaughter Celia Sandys wrote of WC’s Boer War exploits in the 1999 book, Churchill; Wanted Dead or Alive. This biography tells of how Churchill bought the pistol at Holland & Holland in 1898 while he was enroute from India to the Sudan. He would have bought the gun in July 1898 (he was in London only briefly in July 1898). Sandys also repeats the story of Churchill’s capture in November 1899 while in the possession of the two stripper clips of expanding bullet 7.63 Mauser ammo. Both Manchester and Sandys contend that Churchill’s possession of expanding bullets endangered him because of the prohibition of such ammo by the Hague Conference of 1899. It appears that neither author was aware that the provisions of the Hague Conference did not go into effect legally until September 1900. I would assume that Churchill bought an ample amount of 7.63mm ammo in London in July 1898, and carried this same ammo in South Africa in 1899. I hope this background info helps.


#8

Your info prooves that Churchill did not use Kynoch ammo - since drawings for FMJ & ‘All-Range’ were not completed until a year after Churchill bought his pistol. As you mention - seems to be a lot of confusion over the term ‘Dum Dum’ & relevant calibre. Thanks again JP-C