Non-NFA Shoulder-Stocked Pistols, And How You Can Own Them!
By Will Dabbs, MD
Fitting a handgun with a shoulder stock typically requires registration with the federal government, a $200 tribute and an interminable wait. What you get for all this hassle is a nifty takedown pseudo carbine more controllable than a handgun otherwise unadorned. However, for a special few stocked handguns exempted from the registration requirements you can enjoy the shoulder-stocked cool without, to quote Star Wars, all the Imperial entanglements.
An Odd And Sordid History
Amazingly, all this fuss stemmed from an administrative oversight back in 1934. American culture in the 1930s was like a wounded animal. The 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution passed in 1920 and outlawed the production, importation, transportation and sale of alcoholic beverages. Prohibition, as it became known, spawned a subsequent juggernaut of organized crime.
In 1933 the 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition, but ubiquitous underground criminal organizations had already arisen to feed Americans’ voracious appetite for illicit alcohol. Estimates place the number of illegal gin joints in New York City alone at around 100,000. In some locales turf wars caused blood to flow in the streets.
Politicians are always quick to weaponize a crisis. In the face of newsreels trumpeting the gory exploits of motorized bandits wielding Thompson guns or BARs the public clamored for a legislative remedy. The spectacularly flawed result was the 1934 National Firearms Act.
Legislators of the day actually read the Constitution and believed, rightly so, they lacked the constitutional power to ban things outright. What they could do, however, was tax undesirable items into an artificial state of unobtainability. As a result the 1934 NFA imposed a $200 tax on the transfer of firearms deemed to be particularly dangerous. As $200 in 1934 was the equivalent of $3,700 today, this law quite effectively shut down commerce in such stuff as automatic weapons, cannons and sound suppressors. The NFA also defined any rifle with a barrel less than 16″ or any shotgun with a tube less than 18″ to be subject to the same draconian tax.
What is not so well known is the original language of the law purportedly also included a $200 transfer tax on handguns. It was ultimately appreciated the bill would never pass with handguns included, so the handgun provision was struck from the final language. The minimum barrel length stipulations for long guns was included solely because Americans deprived of handguns would inevitably simply shorten their rifles and shotguns as a work-around. Once the handgun provision was removed nobody thought to delete the barrel length minimums so we remain saddled with them even today. It is indeed pretty darn stupid you can buy a pocket pistol freely at a gun shop but a rifle you couldn’t conceal underneath Rosie O’Donnell’s burqa is an instant felony if the barrel falls below 16″.
The same barrel length stipulations for long guns make it illegal to attach a shoulder stock to a handgun. However, the BATF says, “The Bureau has determined that by reason of the date of their manufacture, value, design and other characteristics, the following firearms are primarily collector’s items and are not likely to be used as weapons and, therefore, are excluded from the provisions of the National Firearms Act.” Here we will explore four of these exempted classic hybrid guns.
The C96 Broomhandle was used extensively during WWI and also saw service with the Waffen SS during the Second World War. The C96 Broomhandle Mauser is a timelessly elegant combat handgun. The weapon’s unique lines have made it a collector’s favorite.
The wooden buttstock for the C96 mounts to the back of the grip and doubles as a holster.
Some C96 pistols can sport some fairly rough residual milling marks.
The 1896 Mauser Broomhandle
The C96 Mauser was the product of brothers Fidel, Friedrich and Josef Federle. More than 1.1 million C96’s were produced between 1896 and 1937. Exact numbers are impossible to ascertain as literally countless unlicensed copies were birthed in Spain and China.
The Broomhandle drew its name from the round wooden grip that was such a prominent feature of the design. In China the same gun was called the “Box Cannon.” The C96 was a fairly awkward handgun that carried its integral 10-round magazine ahead of the pistol grip, yielding a strikingly front-heavy arrangement. However, the C96 was designed from the outset to accommodate a detachable shoulder stock. With the stock attached the gun became a fairly effective carbine.
The C96 came in several broad variations. The standard model sported a 5.5″ barrel. Post WWI Bolo models had their barrels shortened to 3.9″. Most C96 guns fired the 7.63x25mm bottlenecked cartridge. Prior to the advent of the .357 Magnum the 7.63x25mm round offered the highest velocities of any production handgun cartridge. A large number of C96’s were also chambered for 9mm Parabellum. These guns have a prominent red “9” imprinted on the grip to help ensure the guns are fed the correct ammunition. The M712 Schnellfeuer is the selective-fire version of the full-sized gun. A few C96 pistols were chambered in .45 ACP, 7.65x21mm and 9mm Mauser Export, but these original variations remain quite rare.
The detachable wooden shoulder stock for the C96 slid into a slot cut in the back of the pistol grip. My copy is exactly 100 years old and sports a little wobble. Original factory new guns were no doubt much tighter. The stock itself included a hinged wooden buttplate that opened up to reveal a storage space for the gun inside. With the pistol stored inside the stock and the stock suspended from the belt the C96 became remarkably handy.
Most C96 pistols fed from the top via stripper clips. The M712 fed from the bottom by way of detachable box magazines. The guts of the gun were breathtakingly complicated. A detail stripping of the C96 is not for the faint of heart.
The Artillery Luger saw some limited use with the Waffen SS during WWII.
The rear sight on the Navy Luger sports 100- and 200-meter settings.
The P08 Lange Pistole has come to be known as the Artillery Luger. When equipped with a shoulder stock and 32-round drum magazine it becomes a serviceable close-range carbine.
Georg Luger derived his inspired toggle action from the previous C-93 Borchardt autoloading pistol. The C-93 was a revolutionary contrivance hideously balanced and complicated to the point of uselessness. Nevertheless, the basic C-93 action was derived from the articulation of the human knee and was ultimately perfected in Herr Luger’s remarkable design.
More than 3 million Luger pistols were produced in Germany between 1904 and 1945. These pistols could be had in 9mm Parabellum or 7.65x21mm. A scant few Luger pistols were chambered in .45 ACP and submitted for the U.S. Army pistol trials that ultimately selected John Browning’s 1911.
Luger pistols were produced in a variety of barrel lengths and configurations, but most fell into three broad categories. The standard handgun sported a 4″ barrel, the P04 Navy Version had a 6″ tube and the Artillery Model’s was 8″ long. Most of the short-barreled Lugers were cut to accept a shoulder stock as well, but all of the longer versions accepted this accessory.
The standard Luger stock was a simple board with an attaching iron. The determined woodworker could craft a decent facsimile out of 1″ pine shelving. Slots in the stock accepted a leather holster along with a few supporting accouterments.
The rear sight on the Artillery Luger was insanely complicated. It was adjustable out to 800 meters and automatically compensated for spindrift at extreme ranges. Considering the 9mm Parabellum round drops about 140 feet at 800 meters this seems a bit overly hopeful.
The Lange Pistole or “Artillery Luger” was intended to equip artillerymen whose job required a more compact weapon than the standard rifles of the day. The versatility of the gun, particularly when paired with its uber-complicated 32-round snail-drum magazine, caused it to be used in several unconventional roles as well. The Artillery Luger was evaluated as an air-to-air weapon against aircraft engines and airframes in the days before machine gun synchronization equipment. The Arty Luger was also a popular close combat weapon for Stormtroopers assaulting trenches and defensive works later in the war. Eventually true submachine guns like the MP18 assumed this role.
The 6″ P04 Navy Luger was intended to equip German U-boat skippers. In those early days of submarine warfare many of their combat engagements were fought on the surface. The theory was a U-boat captain armed with a stocked Navy Luger might be able to influence a surface action by sniping at his counterpart on the bridge of an enemy vessel. The rear sight of the Navy Luger was adjustable between 100 and 200 meters.
German Navy personnel fighting in ground actions late in the conflict were the source of most of the Navy Lugers brought back by veterans from the Great War. Early versions had a grip safety, whilst later variants did not. The Navy Luger had its own specific shoulder stock, but Artillery Luger stocks fit just fine.
While outclassed by a submachine gun, the shoulder-stocked Hi Power could still be a capable weapon for the individual soldier.
Stocked Browning Hi Power pistols were used by both Allied and Axis forces during WWII. The John Inglis Company in Canada made this stocked Hi Power.
The Browning Hi Power
The P35 Browning Hi Power was John Moses Browning’s final handgun design. Browning died of heart failure toiling at his workbench in Belgium in 1926, several years before the completion of the Hi Power. A gifted Belgian gun designer named Dieudonne Saive completed the gun and was responsible for its remarkable double-column, single-feed high-capacity magazine. The Hi Power served in the armed forces of more than 50 countries and was in continuous series production for 82 years. The last production Hi Power rolled off the lines in 2017.
The Hi Power had a colorful wartime history. The Germans overran the FN factory in Belgium early in the war and appropriated the facility and its workforce to help produce guns for the Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine and Waffen SS. As the Germans were approaching the plant, workers took copies of the blueprints for the Hi Power and fled to England. The Allies shipped this information to Canada where the Inglis Company began producing Hi Power pistols. As a result the Browning Hi Power was the only handgun in series production that saw widespread use by both the Axis and the Allies during World War II.
Hi Power pistols on both sides of the line came in two broad flavors. Standard versions sported fixed sights and were not typically cut to accept a shoulder stock. However, a substantial number included a tangent adjustable rear sight that compensated for bullet drop out to 500 hundred meters along with a shoulder stock slot. Both versions served side by side throughout the war. A large number of Canadian guns ended up going to Chiang Kai-Shek’s forces in China where they were well received.
The Hi Power shoulder stock was very similar to that of the C96 Broomhandle. The mounting attachment was conceptually identical and the stock also opened at the rear to double as a holster. A web frog attached to the side of the stock allowed the device to hang from a belt.
There were two major variants, but the most common shoulder stock for the Hi Power doubled as a holster.
All these guns are old. The stock on my Broomhandle wobbles badly, and my 1940s vintage Hi Power rattles like a child’s plaything. The Lugers are still tight and rigid, however. Each of these weapons shoots much better with the stock attached than is the case otherwise. Care must be exercised not to catch the firing thumb underneath the reciprocating bits of the Broomhandle and Hi Power, but each weapon is indeed stable and effective out to 100 meters or more.
With more than half a century on my eyes I cannot see to shoot out to 500 and 800 meters over open sights. Given the anemic performance of these pistol rounds at those extreme ranges such stuff seems pretty ridiculous to me. The effectiveness of modern rifle fire is questionable at those ranges. Luck begins to play a significant factor in combat engagements at those ranges with pistol rounds.
Up close all these guns run fast and maneuver well. You’ll not be trading your M4 or MP5 in on a P08 Lange Pistole Artillery Luger any time soon, but the German Stormtrooper thusly equipped would have been a force with which to be reckoned in the fetid trenches of the Great War. When stacked against the military technology of the day each of these unusual guns filled a necessary niche. Versatile, compact and cool, these non-NFA stocked antique pistols make an unusual addition to any seasoned gun collection.
Special thanks to World War Supply www.worldwarsupply.com for the cool replica gear we used to outfit our