Classic Gun Review: Belgian Browning Hi-Power Mk I

Browning Hi-Power MkI (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Classic Gun Review: Belgian Browning Hi-Power Mk I

The Belgian made FN Browning Hi-Power pistol ranks as one of my favorite side arms of all time. I appreciate the gun for its history, as well as its practical use. I’ve bought, shot the heck out of, and then sold many of mine to friends who just couldn’t live without one after shooting them.

That process had left me in the shameful state of not having one around for the last few years. Fortunately a trip to Cabelas recently ended with the purchase of a Mk I that’s in great shape. This one, a Mark I made in 1977, has proven a step above most of the Hi-Powers I’ve previously owned. I think I’ll keep it.

Browing Hi-Power right side (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

There’s far too much history in the Hi-Power to go into in one article. Heck, even a series of articles wouldn’t really do it justice. I would recommend anyone interested in a good history of the gun to obtain a copy of “FN Browning Pistols, Side-arms that Shaped World History” by Anthony Vanderlinden. Suffice it to say, if you’ve been a fan of either firearms or history over the last century, you’ve read something about the Hi-Power, whether you knew it or not.

It’s not all ancient history. When I deployed to Afghanistan in the 2009, the P35, (the military model and of the Hi-Power), was still being used by the British troops, who refer to it as the L9A1. They didn’t switch to the GLOCK until 2013. Although rare, Hi-Powers have been found among members of the Taliban as well.

This was certainly not the first time two forces fought each other with Hi-Power pistols. During WWII, several of the Allied countries would go into battle against their German enemy with both sides well equipped with the Hi-Power pistol, although usually made in different countries. With the exception of the US, just about every major country has used it at some point.

Ever heard of the “Mozambique Drill”, or the more PC version, the “Failure to Stop” drill? Well then you know a tiny bit of the Hi-Power’s history.

If you’ve never owned, or at least spent some time shooting the Hi-Power, do yourself a favor and get right on that. There’s something inexplicable about the pistol. At the time of its first production, is was revolutionary. Even today, it holds up well against contemporary duty and self defense automatics.

Depending on the magazine, it will hold anywhere from 14 to 16 rounds. For an all-steel gun, it’s fairly lightweight. It has every bit of the reflexive pointablity of Browning’s masterpiece, the 1911. And for good reason. He started the Hi-Power design as well. It’s accurate, reliable, easy to use, and beautiful.

Browing Hi-Power field stripped (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

From the purely practical side, there are few pistols as easy to field strip as the Hi-Power. In fact, without much practice, it’s possible to assemble and disassemble the firearm with a single hand. There is very little maintenance involved with the guns, especially when compared to other designs of the time.

Unlike most modern 9X19mm pistols, the Hi-Power was not designed to shoot hollow point ammunition. It was designed as a military firearm. Standard ball ammunition in the 115gr variety is what the gun was built to shoot. And it shoots that extremely well.

When using the ammunition it was designed for, recoil is quite light and easy to manage. Empty, the all steel Hi-Power weighs about 8oz more than an empty GLOCK 17. For an all steel gun, that’s still light, at least compared to a Colt Government 1911.

The weight of the gun, combined with great ergonomics, makes for a fast, light-recoiling pistol. There’s a reason the Hi-Power was used to win many competitions, and more than one gunfight. It’s fast to draw, fast to point, fast to fire and fast to fire again.

Browing Hi-Power spring assembly (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

For those like me seeking to run a heavier, hotter round like the 124gr+P cartridge, you will find swapping the factory 17lb recoil spring for one a bit heavier (around 18.5lbs) will be helpful. The gun has been around forever, and differing varieties of recoil springs are inexpensive and easy to find.

Some people like to go even heavier, but I’ve found the heavier springs are difficult to get back into the gun and provide little benefit. At any (spring) rate, I’ve never had a Hi-Power break from recoil, and I’ve shot thousands of rounds through guns that had tens of thousands of rounds through them before they got into my hands.

Browing Hi-Power backstrap (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The grip of the Hi-Power is fairly wide, especially with the stock checkered wood grips. It’s about the same size in circumference as Beretta 92 series. If this were a double action gun, like the M9, with the trigger set forward, small handed users might have a problem. But it isn’t, and they don’t.

I asked two women of small stature to shoot the Hi-Power at The Range at Austin. Both commented that the grip looked big, but found that it fit their hands just fine once they shot it. The wide arched rear of the grip fits hands well and helps keep the gun on target.

Both the front and the back of the grip is smooth and rounded. The light recoil of the 9mm round the gun was designed for makes handling the gun easy, but, like any pistol, texturing the front and rear of the grip is helpful. As the front strap is a bit more narrow at its point than a 1911, many find that checkering doesn’t’ work well.

Instead, a stipple type texture is often deployed. It’s not as attractive as good checkering, but when done correctly it provides an excellent grip surface. There are also a number of grips available on the aftermarket, some thinner, and some much more aggressive.

Browing Hi-Power grip (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The Hi-Power, although it is a full sized pistol, tends to give the manly-mitted more trouble than our more dainty-pawed population. That’s because the beaver tail on the Hi-Power’s grip is quite short, and sometimes sharp. For folks with particularly large hands, that beavertail can push back during recoil and bruise or cut the web of the hand.

For a few really beefy-pawed individuals, the spur trigger models can come back and strike the web of the hand as well. Unlike the 1911, elongating the beavertail is much more difficult and involves welding material onto the frame, blending it in, and refinishing it.

Browing Hi-Power hammer spur (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

For the vast, vast majority of people I’ve seen have this problem, it’s not because their hands are too big, it’s because they are gripping the gun incorrectly. Like most automatics, and certainly with the 1911, the firing hand should come behind the gun and the web of the thumb should ride up to the top of the grip. Then squeeze hard. Folks tend to drive their hand straight down on top of the pistol as they would a single action revolver. This is a surefire way to get bitten, even if your hands aren’t that big.

As for me, I have size large hands, but when gripping the pistol correctly, I have no issues with the beavertail or hammer spur biting me. Hi-Powers have been made all over the world, by many different manufacturers at different times. So some of them have rough or sharp edges on the beavertail. If that’s the case, sending it to a gunsmith to have it smoothed out and refinished is a wise choice.

Browing Hi-Power in hand (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

You’ll likely find a very wide variety of finishes on Hi-Powers, even those made by FN. The military models tended to get a Parkerized or even enameled finish while the civilian models were usually blued. This blued model has only a little holster wear on the finish, and is generally in very good shape. I’ll likely have the grips stippled and the sights changed, so some refinishing will be done no matter what. For a two to three hundred bucks more, I’ll have the entire pistol refinished with a higher polish, but the factory polish is still very nice, even after decades of use.

Unlike the 1911, the Hi-Power has a pivoting trigger. I’ve never fired a great stock P35 or Mk1 Hi-Power trigger, but I have shot some that are OK. This one is in the OK category. Some Hi-Powers have a lot of grit in the trigger travel before a heavy break. Fortunately, this one does not. There is an infinitesimal bit of take-up follow by a hard, but clean break. My Lyman scale puts this trigger at just over 8lbs, which is on the heavy side for these guns. With some more use, that may come down a tiny bit.

There are a few different safeties on the Hi-Powers, depending on model and year. This one has the simplest type, a single-sided small raised rectangle with deep serrations. Although it’s small I’ve never had any trouble taking it off quickly with a sweep of my thumb. That changes if I have gloves on, or if my hands are slick. I’ll likely end up swapping it with an extended type, which are inexpensive and can be fitted with nothing more than hand tools and patience.

Browing Hi-Power safety (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The Hi-Power’s magazine release is easy to reach with my firing hand thumb, well textured, and works well. However, the release simply releases the magazine, it doesn’t eject. In other words, when you hit the release, the magazine doesn’t fall to the ground. If you pull it, the magazine will come out if you have depressed the magazine release. If you depress the magazine release and then shake it hard, the magazine will come out. Usually.

This isn’t a flaw in this particular gun, it’s how the gun is designed. Although this is not unique to the Hi-Power, a lot of young or new shooters will have never experienced a gun that does this. If you want to swap the magazine quickly, you’ll need to get in the habit of sweeping down the grip with your support hand on the empty magazine on your way to get a loaded magazine. If you are shooting single-handed, you’ll need to reach up and strip the old one, or maybe shake the old one loose.

Reloads are simply never quite as fast with a Hi-Power as they are with firearms that eject the magazine. But with some training, that time is minimal. (The newest production Hi-Power magazines from Browning have a small spring on the bottom to help with ejection. I haven’t tried them yet and I couldn’t find one ready to ship by the time of this article.)

Unfortunately, the Hi-Power includes a magazine disconnect “safety.” That means it will not fire without a magazine. The magazine disconnect safety was originally added to the Hi-Power to appease the French military. I am not French and I think it’s absolutely insane in a duty or carry gun.

Removing the magazine disconnect safety is an inexpensive and easy fix with the Hi-Power. Correcting that design error also has the added benefit of reducing the trigger pull weight by a pound or more, as well as improving its overall feel. It may also get rid of the magazine not falling out on it’s own when you depress the magazine release. I’ve seen it get rid of that issue, and I’ve seen it just improve it. Either way, get rid of it.

Browing Hi-Power front sight (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The Hi-Powers came with a variety of sight set ups, the most common being a fixed front with a rear sight adjustable for windage and elevation. This particular civilian-focused Hi-Power sports the simplest sights available. A small, rounded blade fixed front sight and a drift-adjustable rear notch sight. They aren’t horrible, but there are just barely better than that.

Because the front sight is fairly thin and the rear sight notch fairly wide, getting a good horizontal grouping is difficult. Under bright light, the gleam from the rounded front sight works well, but that same front sight pretty much disappears in low light, especially against a dark background.

Browing Hi-Power through the sights (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

This is one of those places where the stock Hi-Power is OK, but with a little bit of work, it can become great. As you’ll see, accuracy is very good, but with better sights and a little trigger work, could be made exceptional. For me, with this particular model of Hi-Power, a sight change is a must.

One of the high points for all Belgian-made Hi-Powers is the intrinsic accuracy of the weapon. As I’ve said, I’ve put quite a few rounds through these guns over the years and even former military models shot fairly well, despite a lot of slop in the slide-to-frame fit. Models designed for and sold on the civilian market shoot even better, as they usually haven’t seen as much wear and tear.

This particular gun, over four decades after it left the factory in Belgium, shoots better than most. No ammunition I shot scored over a 2 1/4″ average group at 25 yards off a rest. That worst group was shot by the Freedom Munitions 165gr Hush Round, and that’s still pretty good, especially for a round whose weight is well outside the norm for the gun.

Browing Hi-Power group (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The best groups came from the Ruger-branded 74gr ARX round, printing an average 1.5″ five-round group for four shot strings. Right behind it was the inexpensive and easy to find Remington UMC 115gr FMJ at 1.7″. All shots were taken with bags off a rest and all accuracy testing was taken on a fouled bore after 400 rounds of ammunition had been fired through the gun.

This Hi-Power will feed any FMJ of any weight I put into it. It didn’t matter if I was using the original magazine or new 15-round flush fit Mec Gar magazine. No matter what FMJ was used, the pistol loaded, fired, and cycled without issue. If you are running any of the Commonwealth Standard Mk1Z or MkIIz or NATO standard rounds, you’ll experience nothing but the joy of shooting with the Hi-Power.

Browing Hi-Power hump (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

But no hollow point ammunition. At all. Zero, zip, nada. I tried many different weights and shapes, and not a single HP I tried would feed.

There are many different versions of the Hi-Power. Like most of the 70’s era pistols, this one has a hump in the feed ramp. I am at a loss to explain why it’s there, but it makes shooting the HPs a no-go in this pistol. A competent gunsmith can fix this or you can just buy a drop-in or replacement barrel or pay to have one fitted. As this barrel shoots well and is in good condition, I would much rather have the ramp altered than put in a replacement barrel, drop-in or not.

Browing Hi-Power calibre marking (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

If the gun is merely a range toy, or for some reason you’d like to keep it stock, you can run it with FMJs all day every day. Alternatively, since it will run the completely capable ARX round mentioned above, you could just stock up on that round and run it as your carry ammo while shooting FMJ at the range.

Browing Hi-Power muzzle (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

The Hi-Power is a great gun for what it is, and for what it was designed for. It’s an even better gun for what it can be. You can easily spend a few thousand dollars on a Hi-Power, but most of that expense will be purely cosmetic.

For under a grand, you can turn what is an historic and already very practical pistol into a fantastic firearm for duty, range, or everyday carry. That’s what I’ll be doing with this one. Unfortunately, Browning has discontinued the Hi-Power. Used models of any quality are quickly increasing in price, and gunsmiths familiar with the Hi-Power are starting to experience longer wait times. So now is the time to get one.

Whether you keep it stock or customize it as your own, if you get a chance to shoot or to own a quality Hi-Power, jump at the chance. You’ll be glad you did.

Browing Hi-Power left side (image courtesy JWT for thetruthaboutguns.com)

Specifications: Browning Hi-Power Mk I

Caliber: 9X19mm
Capacity: 13+1 standard
Frame material: steel
Slide material: steel
Barrel length: 4.7″
Finish: blued
Sights: checkered hardwood
Length: 7″
Height: 5″
Frame Width: 1.4″ (at widest part of grip)
Slide Width: .9″ (at widest part of slide)
Weight: 2lbs (unloaded with magazine)
Sights: fixed front and drift adjustable rear ledge
MSRP: (discontinued) Quality used guns should run between $600 and $900

Ratings (out of five stars):

Style and Appearance * * * *
This is purely subjective, but I adore the elegant lines of the Hi-Power. There’s something about the narrowed and flat front end of the slide that’s not only functional, but beautiful. For this particular used firearm, there is a mild amount of holster wear near the muzzle, but otherwise the original finish shows very little wear. There is little to no polish inside, and light tool marks abound.

Customization * * * *
There is an extremely wide range of Hi-Power pistols out there, as you might imagine there would be for a gun that’s been produced for almost 100 years. There are also a lot of parts out there, and many can be swapped by any individual with the willingness to be patient and to learn. There are also some great Hi-Power-specific gunsmiths in the US that can perform a wide variety of services, and many others outside of the country. Oddly enough, I’ve generally found them less expensive than the ubiquitous 1911 smiths.

Accuracy * * * *
Nothing got to the 1″ mark, but multiple brands hit the 1 1/2″ to 2″ mark. I’ve not yet found a really poor-shooting Hi-Power, but this one is a particularly good one.

Reliability * * * * * (and * *)
Shooting the projectile it was designed to shoot — the 115gr FMJ — I had no problems at all. I’ve never shot a Hi-Power that had any reliability issues with that bullet. But with any hollow point, it’s a no go.

Overall * * * * (and * *)
If you accept what the gun was designed for, a double stack military sidearm shooting 115gr ball rounds, the Hi-Power is exceptional. With that round, it’s infinitely reliable and surprisingly accurate. But the trigger is meh, the sights on this model are not good, and it won’t feed modern hollow point ammunition. For a little, or a lot of money, all that can be changed. The end result is a pistol that was great when it was made, and even better now.

comments

  1. avatar Bearpaw says:

    We into closet reviews now?

    Dig something out of your closet and review it. A TTAG exclusive.

    1. avatar Anner says:

      And you read it.

    2. avatar jwm says:

      Guns aren’t required to be plastic. Some of us like the history and the older firearms.

      1. avatar James A. "Jim" Farmer says:

        I second that. Another classic historical John M. Browning design was the Winchester
        Model ’97 (1897-1957) “hammer” pump action shotgun. I hopefully will soon acquire
        my late great uncles 12 gauge Winchester Model 97 Standard Grade: 28″ modified
        choke barrel of 1952 vintage. I haven’t seen or handled it since the 1970’s.

        1. avatar Ranger Rick says:

          97’s are excellent and solid scatter guns. You know you’re handling a solid piece of machinery compared to the lates Italian jobs.

    3. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Troll harder.

      “Fortunately a trip to Cabelas recently ended with the purchase of a Mk I that’s in great shape.”

      1. avatar Bearpaw says:

        Come on JW, I’m doing the best I can. Maybe you could help a little by overreacting and not being so practical all the time. Gawd, I must sound like your wife.

        There’s only a million reviews of this pistol, yet my LGS has new stuff. This is TTAG, not the History Channel.

        1. avatar New Continental Army says:

          If TTAG was trying to be the history channel, there would be a lot more “Guns of Zeta Retuclians.” And, “What’s the best round for big foot?”

        2. avatar Erik Weisz says:

          Don’t keep us in suspense: what IS the best round for bigfoot?

        3. avatar jwtaylor says:

          If your LGS only has new guns, your LGS sucks.

    4. avatar Bloving says:

      If you’re have something that hasn’t been reviewed (or you believe it needs a second review to redeem itself), go dig it out and review it.
      There is no rule that reviews must be only about new guns. Given the centuries of guns to choose from, we should have plenty of subject matter to keep us entertained for a long time.
      🤠

      1. avatar BR says:

        Indeed. The more reviews the better. Having lots of data points and lost of different experiences not only improves the ability of readers (and potential gun buyers) of finding the information they need but it increases TTAG’s accuracy on the reviews too.

        And solid review by the way.

        I love and own the HiPower (Mk1as well) and completely aggree. I’ve gotten mine to run Hornady American Gunner HPs with a modified follower in a 10 rnd MecGar mag. It’s still not 100% but I’m still experimenting.

    5. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Why not?

      Did you think that new gun owners buy only new guns, hmmm?

      I’m a huge advocate of buying used guns, especially when one wants a high-quality gun.

  2. avatar Cooter E Lee says:

    I don’t have a hi power but want a good “shooting quality” clone hopefully around $4-600. What brand should I be looking for? Are there any clones of the Browning still in production?

      1. avatar Big E says:

        That is sexy. I have zero need for a H-P….but that is enticing. Thanks for posting.

      2. avatar Joel says:

        Damn. Why did I have to click on that link. Now I have to add another gun to the want list. :/

      3. avatar jimmy james says:

        Interesting and it has a commander style hammer instead of the hand biter.

    1. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

      Arcus. The best sub $500 handgun I’ve ever shot. I got a new one for $300 a few years back, mine has the DA&SA but the model 94 is SA only. If you consider the regent, plan to spend another $200 on quality internal parts.

    2. avatar mike says:

      FEG and FM made good copies that were not expensive.

    3. avatar BR says:

      I’ve had really good luck from FEG Hi Power clones. Not all are true clones though. The FEG PJ-9KHP is a true clone for 450ish. Alternatively if you just want the stylings and shoot ability you could get a FEG P9M for like 300. They are very close to the MK 2 except for the barrel pivot is that of a S&W59 the slide stop lever is slightly different shaped. Still completely reliable with ball ammo. I think FEG has some double action Hi Powers but I’m not sure. (Note FEG is Hungarian and the company is out of business for years.)

  3. avatar jwm says:

    Small nit to pick, JW. 115 grain fmj was not the standard the Brownings, or any other 9×19 service pistol, were set up to. It was the 124 grain fmj.

    A lot of the countries at that time used 9×19 for their sub guns as well. The Germans loaded hotter 9×19, what we would call +p ammo, because of their sub guns and just ran this ammo in sidearms as well. Other countries had similar practices. Hot, +p level, 9mm was the norm back in the day.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      I thought that as well, but it was in reading up the history for this review that I found differently. The Common Wealth standard was 115 grains at 1,200fps and although the 124gr is what we’ve used for a long time, “NATO standard” weights range all the way from 108gr to 128s.
      But I’m still wrong, because really there is no standard single NATO 9X19 weight, only standard pressures. I’ll figure out some way to note that in the article.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Yep. The history is never all that cut and dried. I learn something new damn near every day.

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Me too. Fortunately I forget at least two things a day so there’s plenty of room to learn.

      2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        First of all, the 9×19 Luger wasn’t a “NATO” round. It was a Austrian/German round – hence the names “9mm Parabellum” and “9mm Luger.”

        Remember, folks, the military version of the Luger pistol was what started the 9×19 cartridge on its way to world domination, not NATO. This dates back to 1902.

        Y’all can go read up on the history of the Luger and the German armaments board selection of the 9×19 “Parabellum” round.

        As for the pressure and dimension standards: SAAMI is only for American arms makers. The European standards group for cartridge dimensions, proof testing and ammunition pressure levels is CIP, aka “Commission Internationale Permanente
        pour l’epreuve Armes a feu Portatives” (I think that’s it, I tend to mangle French). They’re like SAAMI, but with more teeth.

        Here’s CIP’s web page:

        http://www.cip-bobp.org/home

        Here’s the CIP page (in English) for the 9×19 Luger:

        http://www.cip-bobp.org/homologation/uploads/tdcc/tab-iv/tabivcal-en-page28.pdf

        NB that 9×19, 9mm Luger, 9mm Parabellum are all the same cartridge.

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          The testing procedure for NATO rounds is neither CIP nor SAAMI, but Electronic Pressure Velocity and Action Time (EVAP). EVAP doesn’t directly compare to either CIP or SAAMI pressure standards.
          The 9X19 didn’t start as a NATO round, I don’t think anyone is saying that it did. But it has been one for 50 years now, with its own set of NATO standards for many decades.

        2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          Absolutely agree.

          The Hi Power just started before NATO was even a feverish damp dream of the striped pants set…

        3. avatar jwtaylor says:

          DG, hard coffee snort laugh on that one.

        4. avatar A. Daniels says:

          Ah, yes, EPVAT. Here is something interesting from the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command in 2011: https://goo.gl/TLhrG1. Note that the three “9mm NATO” weapons listed are the FN Browning Hi-Power (Belgium), Beretta 92F (Italy), and the Beretta 12S submachine gun (Italy).

      3. avatar A. Daniels says:

        JWT: Thank you for reviewing this wonderful, historical, and still-relevant firearm. From the pictures, it looks like you have a superb example. Another advantage of the Hi-Power: it is very slim, making it comfortable to carry IWB. Please note that, according to distinguished Hi-Power gunsmiths such as Wayne Novak and Bill Laughridge, owners of pre-Mark III Hi-Powers should be cautious about firing a high volume of +P, or what some refer to as submachine gun, ammunition through them, especially if the springs are older and/or weaker. For those who wish to do so, Laughridge recommends using a factory .40 S&W Hi-Power, which was strengthened in order to handle .40 S&W, with a Bar-Sto 9mm barrel and fresh springs.

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Thanks. I’ve always been told to up the springs, but never the whole gun! Thanks for the info.

  4. avatar TommyJay says:

    A couple years ago I wanted to buy a classic 9mm and couldn’t decide between a Hi-Power and a CZ-75. I went with the CZ and saved a chunk of money, but the Hi-Power sure is sweet. I didn’t know Browning stopped manufacturing it.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      You’ll never go wrong with a CZ-75.

      1. avatar Hoyden says:

        So say we all

        1. avatar Erik Weisz says:

          chorus: SO SAY WE ALL!

    2. avatar george lortz says:

      When my son got out of the Army, I purchased a CZ-75 for him, so he would have a quality gun, in 9mm, since he carried the Beretta during his service. We have not regretted that choice one bit.

  5. avatar tdiinva says:

    The Hi Power is my favorite carry pistol. I am a bit reluctant to carry it since production ended and am looking at Kimber or Springfield 4″ barrel 9mm 1911 platforms.

    I have had no problem with modern JHP rounds but that may be because I have a MK III. The stock trigger does suck but it doesn’t seem to effect the accuracy.si I have done nothing about it.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Yup, it seems that any of the guns made after 83 or so won’t have that hump and feed anything just fine.

    2. avatar Jim B says:

      I have a 70s Belgium made Hi Power. I simply changed the barrel and it feeds hollow points fine. Of course you can work the existing barrel feed ramp but barrels are cheap, or at least were. I always thought the Hi Power was a far more refined gun than the 1911. I love how it disassembles.

      1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        It is a more refined gun. After all, JMB learned from the 1911, just as when he did the 1911, he learned from the 1905.

        Still, per one of my previous bits of writing here at TTAG, JMB was well known for recycling his solutions to various problems in gun design. If you take apart a 1911 and a Hi Power and lay them out, side by side, and examine the parts, you will see solutions to various problems that JMB considered fully solved to his satisfaction in the 1911 that are then used on the Hi Power.

        NB that the Hi Power was also refined by another FN gun designer after JMB passed away at FN’s offices in Liege in 1926. Dieudonne Saive, JMB’s assistant and FN’s own firearms genius, finished the Hi Power’s design. What had hampered JMB up to the time of his death was that the 1911 patents, still owned by Colt, prevented economic use of 1911 design ideas. But by 1928, those patents came off, and now FN was free to use a few ideas from the 1911 that solved their problems – and lo, the Hi Power was finished.

  6. avatar Randy says:

    Great read! I picked up a FEG clone for $250 a few years ago and it has functioned flawlessly. I replaced the extremely worn wood grips with a Hogue wrap around grip, picked up a couple spare magazines and just enjoyed it as is.

    Also, just fyi, Brownells is selling a clone (in black or stainless) labeled as “Regent BR9” for about $500.

  7. avatar Kevin says:

    I love reading reviews of the “classics,” and the Hi-Power is definitely a classic.

    Well done, Mr, Taylor, and thank you!

  8. avatar Timmer says:

    I have a KBI imported FEG Hi-Power clone. The real one, not the one with the S&W lockwork that only vaguely resembles a Hi-Power. I don’t take it out of the safe much, but it is a fun gun to shoot and very accurate.

  9. avatar Hasty Burford says:

    One of the best shooters I’ve ever shot is a Hi-Power clone CZ-75 with the omega trigger. Wow what a pistol. The newer Hi-Powers are very nice but very expensive. Now with Browning discontinuing production, I’ve seen used Hi-Powers at the price of the new models. If you have one hold on to it for a time.

    1. avatar JD says:

      That’s my favorite pistol. Add a short reset sear, race hammer setup from Cajun Gunworks and you have a HP clone with a 2# trigger. Sweetest shooter and most accurate by far that I own.

  10. avatar Curtis in IL says:

    I picked up a 1986 Hi-power recently. I removed the magazine disconnect before I even fired it. There are multiple yootoobe videos to show you how.

    Without the magazine disconnect, it has a crisp but somewhat heavy single action trigger and the magazines will drop free.

    I make smaller groups with the Hi-power than I ever could with a striker-fired gun. A good single action trigger does make a difference. Never had an issue with hammer bite, and it’s almost as easy to field strip as a Glock.

    If you intend to carry it cocked and locked, you’ll definitely want to swap out the safety lever for something more substantial.

    If you find a good one for around $1,000, buy it. They won’t be any cheaper tomorrow. Not only is it a piece of history, but it’s a joy to shoot and a great training gun for new shooters.

  11. avatar J.D. Fowlerton says:

    My Dad has an old Mk I* from the Canadian factory that was supposed to have been brought home by someone in WWII. My grandad picked it up off of the old owner in like the late 70s or 80s and handed it down to my dad. It’s always been one of my favorite guns he owns. It was feeling a little loose on the lock up but a new set of factory weight springs from Wolff really made it feel almost like new.

    I actually just got myself a CZ 75 BD last week because I love the style of the old Hi Power but wanted something more modern to carry. I’ve only taken to the range once but after putting it through its paces I think it’s my new main favorite carry piece next to my S&W 686+.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Does it have a lanyard loop?

      1. avatar J.D. Fowlerton says:

        I really can’t remember but it’s stamped Inglis Canada and has the Canadian proof marks on the barrel and slide and all the serial numbers match. It also has the fixed sights and ring hammer; the gun is a worn out steel grey color at this point so I’m not sure what the original finish was.

        I’m pretty sure it would take JHPs so it may have had some work done over the years, I’ll have to see if he can dig it out tonight to take another look at it.

      2. avatar J.D Fowlerton says:

        So I looked at it and it had the lanyard ring but it’s been lost or broken off sometime as the grip has the cut out and there is an empty hole in the frame where it would have been.

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Dang. If you can find Decoding the FEG Hi-Power and look through its pics, you’ll likely get a better idea of the model and service history.

  12. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Removing that magazine disconnect is fairly easy. I found that out working on a few. And it really does lighten and smooth out the trigger.
    I was very pleased with the outcome.

  13. avatar el Possum Guapo says:

    A good review of an outstanding pistol.

  14. avatar darkstar says:

    Very nice HP! There really is something about them. I have what I would guess is a first or second year production Belgian military model. (ser# low 12xxx range, has all the correct acceptance stamps) shoots great and just reeks of history. FN doesn’t have great records on the pre-war stuff so no way to tell exactly when it was made but sometime between 1935 until the Nazis took over the factory.

  15. avatar Klaus Von Schmitto says:

    I have a Hi-Power my father took off a Chinese “Volunteer” who had no use for it anymore.

    It’s one of my prized possessions.

    My father told me the guy had the shoulder stock for it but he didn’t want to carry it, so he left it there where he found him.

    I really wish dad had dumped something in order to take the stock LOL.

  16. avatar aircooled says:

    Educate me about pros and cons of internal vs. external extractor versions..

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      The primary negative of the Hi-Powers with internal extractors is that they are older and good ones cost more.
      The external extractor provides, in theory, more consistent and reliable extraction from a clean or dirty gun. Take that with a grain of salt, as the internal extractor is what everyone carried during WWII and all over the world until 1962. The pistol was known for its reliability even then.

  17. avatar J says:

    Love my 1992 MkIII Practical. Factory two-tone, target sites and pachmayr wrap around grips that I picked up for a grand along with a Ruger P89 and a .30-06 Winchester Model 670 all in safe queen condition.

  18. avatar SkorpionFan says:

    Apparently, the Inglis Hi-Power pistol was not made from FN manufacturing drawings or drawings recreated in England by FN engineers. The history of the Inglis company’s reverse engineering the Hi-Power using Chinese General Kiang’s personal pistol is explained in
    MILESTONE: THE 100,000TH INGLIS AUTOMATIC PISTOL
    https://www.sadefensejournal.com/wp/?p=4328

    He [National Chinese General Kiang] had established the purchasing team from China in Washington, D.C., and came to tour Inglis in June of 1941. The Nationalist Chinese were fighting the Japanese and needed 8mm Bren guns. Inglis was ready to oblige. While he was there, Gen. Kiang had his High Power and passed it to Hahn. He asked if Inglis could make them…

    High Power production was more difficult than first thought. Reverse-engineering a gun is complex, and having original drawings of the High Power would shave many months off the schedule. Wisely, Saive and a handful of engineers had escaped the oncoming Nazis and fled to Britain. The British put them to work recreating the High Power drawings from memory, but Saive’s attention was divided: He was also working on what would become the SAFN 49…

    Work was slow. The FN engineers believed the British intended to make the High Powers without compensating FN. This would not only rob FN of their share of profit at the time, it would flood the post-war market and destroy it for the future. The bad blood thickened when Inglis asked for the loan of the engineers and Britain refused. A plot was hatched to smuggle a set of original drawings out of FN. While the engineering dragged in Britain, the smuggled plans travelled seemingly by tortoise toward Spain. Both sets would be too late to be of use to Inglis

    As Inglis reverse-engineered the guns, they agreed to pay a royalty to Fabrique Nationale after the war. Out-maneuvered by their own greed, Britain let the Belgian engineers sail to Canada…

    There were some glitches. The Chinese FN-made guns copied by the Inglis engineers incorporated an outmoded barrel cam. This is the angled slot milled into the projecting piece of barrel below the chamber. As the slide moves back, a cross pin rides in this slot to pull the barrel downwards and unlock it from the slide. The slides then recoils and the world unfolds as it should. However, the squarish design of the early cut made the piece prone to cracking. A later, rounded design had cured this, a detail the Saive team reengineered in Toronto. Then, in tests of early production guns, it was found the ejector was too low and ejection erratic.

    1. avatar J.D. Fowlerton says:

      Thanks for that article. It answered a lot of questions about my dads gun that I hadn’t been able to find the answers to. I was wrong earlier though, my family has had it since about 61 according to my dad not the 70s and we definitely plan to keep handing it down as long as we can. Heck, another 25-30 years it will be a century old.

      I still need to try and narrow down the year it’s made but now I know that the serial places it in the 35-36,000 range and made in Toronto specifically.

  19. avatar Allan says:

    Good Review!
    As a followup, how about a review of the Browning BDA 380. I enjoy shooting mine (1982 model) more than any handgun I have. With the new ammo, the 380 caliber is not as weak as folks think!

  20. avatar David says:

    These older BHPS were made from machined forgings. Alas, the steel alloy is softer than the later machined investment castings, that also wear better frame to slide. They keep a good trigger pull far longer, as the up and over trigger linkage actually createn torque of the slide to frame on a worn example.

    Also, while I’ve had original BHP pistols that choked on the jumped ramp, simply straightening it as per a CZ 75 or Third Gen S&W fixes this quickly.

    Having said that, the Hungarian FEG with their humped ramp appears to cycle JHP bullets without issue, but these are only available on the used market. Use MEC-GAR mags and you probably won’t have any issues.

    Cheers! Good job reviewing this classic.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Thanks for the help. I referenced in the article that I was using Mec-Gar magazines. Unfortunately, they did not remedy the issue.

      “It didn’t matter if I was using the original magazine or new 15-round flush fit Mec Gar magazines.”

  21. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    Jon, excellent article.

    One little item of note: JMB undertook this design at the behest of the French. Not just the mag disconnect – the whole pistol.

    Believe it or not, yes, the French wanted a modern, high-capacity, usable sidearm after WWI.

    1. avatar A. Daniels says:

      DG is correct. And, the French ended up rejecting the “Grande Puissance” for the Modèle 1935, which held 7 rounds of 7.65×20mm Longue. Thus, the French adopted a pistol that didn’t meet their own original requirements (e.g. minimum 10-round capacity). The Belgians adopted the Hi-Power in 1935, hence the P35 designation.

      The Swiss SIG P210, sometimes known as the P49 (Swiss military) or SP47/8 (Swiss civilian), borrows heavily from the Modèle 1935 so I suppose it all worked out in the end.

      Hi-Powers were also made in 7.65×21mm Parabellum, a.k.a. .30 Luger, but I’ve never seen one in person.

    2. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Thank you Sir,
      As you and Mr. Daniels point out, the French threw away exactly what they asked for, in the place of something they never wanted! I’ve read a whole bunch on the history of the Hi-Power, but I’ve never found the full story on that.
      If I could ever figure out the idiosyncrasy of government procurement, I’d be a wealthy man indeed.

  22. avatar RCC says:

    The first pistol I ever fired was Australian Army issue Browning in the 1970’s. We used the same rounds as we did for 8.5 pound F1 sub machine gun. Can’t find data for the load but it felt hot compared to factory loads for my Tanfoglio I bought a few years later.

    Australia still uses Mk3 version but these are going to be replaced by Glocks.

    Hired a Browning last year in San Diego. Still a good pistol to use and carry.

  23. avatar Cymond says:

    I always thought the HP was over hyped, used in media because of its looks. But then I held one …

    I still haven’t fired one, but it’s one of my dreams to own one of these graceful masterpieces. However, they were in production for so long with so many variations that I don’t know what to look for or what to avoid. I don’t know which ones are made from superior or inferior steel. I also heard the FN changed to shape of the forging a little in the 80s, which changed the way the group feels in the hand.

    I just don’t know how to identify and find the right HP for me.

    1. avatar A. Daniels says:

      If for daily use, I’d respectfully recommend a recent manufacture Mark III. They are already throated to feed most hollowpoints, the spur hammer is shaped to minimize bite compared to the rowel or rounded hammer, and the factory magazines have a little external spring which allows them to eject completely. The factory grips aren’t bad, but grips/stocks are a personal choice, and finding a pair that you like should be easy because there are so many different kinds for the Hi-Power. Good luck!

  24. avatar Jon says:

    I have a 1968 model that my dad bought brand new. He gave it to me when I inlisted in 1980 and I used it for low level competitions. Will always be the favorite firearm of all I own.

  25. avatar Clint J dietz says:

    And super easy to put in full auto. Its the only pistol you can put into full auto.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Yup, its the only pistol ever made that be modified or built to fire full auto. The only one ever.

      1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

        huh. those spoo- goo pranksters had me fooled.

      2. avatar mike says:

        You cannot take a matchstick to a Glock 17 to make it a 18

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          The Glock 18 does not exist. Since that pistol is full auto, and the Hi-Power is the only pistol that can fire full auto, the Glock 18, and the majority of other pistols on earth, do not exist.

  26. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    to me it’s odd that the cast slides are more durable than the forged. but i have read that many times.
    and i’m not sure how the hungarian true clones compare in that regard. after 30years mine doesn’t rattle. twenty five years after that purchase i found a nice belgian ring hammer. it’s nicer, but i can strongly recommend the feg. very nice kbi pjk-9hp’s turn up for under 5hondo. the blued ones are surprisingly well polished (externally…).

  27. avatar RCC says:

    JWT
    The Steyr “Repetierpistole M1912/P16” used in WW1 from 1916 is generally considered world’s first machine pistol. Issued in 9 by 23 mm. Used by Austrian army.

  28. avatar skiff says:

    Nice review. In 1985 or so, my friend and I drove to The Kittery Trading Post in Kittery, Maine for the purpose of buying a Browning Hi- Power. We both decided to buy one with adjustable sights. We attempted to negotiate with one of the owners (who we later found out) with giving us a pair of Pachmayr grips with our purchase. He initially hesitated and then gave in. We both paid around $450.00. The handguns were manufactured in Belgium and came with one magazine, an owners manual and a leather pouch. I still have mine. It’s a beautiful handgun.

  29. avatar M. Harper says:

    I have a 1969C that I bought in the 80’s. It was my first semiautomatic. And to this day it’s still my favorite!

  30. My 1971 Hi-Power was my first handgun purchase, and it is still my favorite gun to shoot. It is the model with the adjustable rear “target” sight. It has held up well for the 45 or so years I’ve owned it.

    Side note: I bought my HP new at Atlas Sporting Goods in downtown Washington, D.C. just before the city got home rule. I did originally have to register the gun with the Metro PD, and in order to do so I had to “modify” the gun so that it would hold no more than 12 rounds. This I accomplished by carving a rubber block the right size and shape to fit inside the bottom end of a magazine spring. I used this kludge solely to get the gun registerable.

    One of the first things the home rulers did once attaining power was to pretty much ban handgun ownership in the District. They did, however, include a grandfather clause for currently registered guns, but they had to be re-registered. I dutifully put the plug back in the mag. Then, as required by the new law, I disassembled the pistol, put it in a box, and then “securely wrapped and tied” the box. I’m not making this up.

    When I got down to the Metro PD office with my paperwork, before I even untied and unwrapped my boxed HP, the fat cop saw that I had a Browning HP, and with great glee and a smug smirk, informed me that I could not re-register my pistol. You see, the old law required that I “modify” it to limit its capacity. The new law required that I “permanently modify” it. I moved out of DC less than a year later, and the handgun bas was the primary reason (moving in with my then girlfriend and later on wife did have something to do with it!).

  31. avatar Jason says:

    Great and thorough review. Love Hi Powers and own two. A MKII that just came back from much custom work a week ago, and a MKIII that was made in 1995 and I recently bought as new in the box. It was never fired by the owner. But I fixed that 🙂

    Just a couple of notes:

    FYI, you are reviewing a MKII Hi Power, this model is not a MKI.

    The MKIII Hi Power was modified to feed Hollow Point ammo just fine. My MKIII eats whatever I put in it be it Ball or HP. I have run over a dozen kinds of ammo through it, including 5 different HPs ranging from 20 year old 147gr Golden Saber to present day 124gr Federal HST. All good to go!

    I have a MKII as well that was just refinished by a gunsmith. I just got it back and ran a couple of mags of 124gr HST. It ate it all up.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      “FYI, you are reviewing a MKII Hi Power, this model is not a MKI.”
      No sir, it’s definitely a MkI. It is a single sided safety, not ambi like the MkIIs. The grips are checkered (red backed) wood, not nylon like the MkIIs. The sights are not the MkII 3 dots and the barrel is not throated. Beyond that, the SN puts it as made in Belgium in 1977, a few years before the MkIIs were released.

  32. avatar IdahoBoy says:

    I know exactly why I kept selling my Glocks. I kept buying different models, expecting one of them to suit me, and none of them did. It all came down to the trigger and the grip angle.

    So, jwtaylor, why did you keep selling your High Power’s? Was it some perceived shortcoming? Or simply to finance other things that caught your eye?

    Inquiring minds want to know…

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      I explained it right in the front of the article. Friends shot them and then wanted to buy them from me. So I sold them, so my friends would have a gun they wanted. Then I went out and bought more. Capitalism is awesome.

  33. avatar DaveB says:

    I bought my Hi-Power new in 1969 for a little over $100. It shoots as well today as it did the first time. I love owning a classic.

  34. avatar Mikial says:

    I know these are iconic firearms and I respect their history, but I was issued Hi-Powers on my first two Iraq contracts. Frankly, I hated them. They worked fine, but I didn’t like the magazine safety and they just didn’t feel good in my hand. I was happy when I was issued a Glock 17 in one contract, and a very nice Kimber 1911 on another.

    But, I will never say the Hi-Power isn’t an excellent gun that has earned its place in history, it just wasn’t right for me.

  35. avatar ldhuckst says:

    GREAT, Well Written Review of one of my favorite CARRY Pistols! I was a Investigator for the local D.A. 43 years ago needing a concealable pistol with usually just one spare Magazine. Traded my Walther PPK in on a New Browning HiPower and after reading Serpico a couple of years later felt the same trust in mine on duty. Seeing your Version brought back GOOD MEMORIES like seeing an old GF that still looks HOT. SGT. LDH

  36. avatar PeterC says:

    Some years ago, I bought a 1985-vintage Israeli police surplus Hi-Power. It had a rough black-painted finish and ugly rubber wraparound grips, which I replaced with pre-war wood grips. I had the sights replaced with more visible aftermarket units, and had the magazine disconnect removed and the trigger worked on at Gunsite. I also had a Cylinder & Slide ambi safety installed (I’m left-handed). The pistol is a pleasure to shoot and achieves quite decent accuracy.

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