(This is a reader gun review contest entry, click here for more details.)
It seems like everyday there is a new pistol announced. New polymer this, titanium that, silly “grip zones,” (is that where my hand goes?) and so forth. But what about one of the greatest handguns ever designed — one of the classics — that has effectively been used in some way or another by over 90 nations? No, I’m not talking about the fussy and malfunction-prone 1911. I’m talking about the beautiful, sleek, and reliable successor to the 1911 that has more finesse than a world-class Russian ice-skater: the Browning Hi-Power. Of course, turning one over to the hands of pistolsmith Ted Yost yields the most fabulous example of a Hi-Power – or perhaps any pistol at all . . .
The Hi-Power was originally designed by John Browning in the early 20th century, though he passed away before he was able to finish the gun. It incorporated the first staggered magazine design as well as a linkless barrel, both of which have inspired a century of handgun designs.
After the design was completed and the gun was produced, it was adopted by Belgium as the official sidearm of the Belgian military. Since then, many other countries have also chosen the Hi-Power, including Great Britain. This effectively opened the flood gates for military adoption.
I’m surrounded by a lot of gun-enthusiasts on a day-to-day basis. But, surprisingly, most of them have never handled a Hi-Power, let alone shot one. I attribute this to the fact that perhaps it’s considered the step-child to the 1911 for no other reason than the US adopted the Colt. However, I grew up with them. My father loved his Hi-Powers and it was the first center-fire pistol I ever shot.
I remember shooting a GP (the long barrel competition model) for hours at a time, listening to the steel ring and rarely incurring a miss. The narrow frame fit my small hands so well and yet it’s still comfortable today. The trigger broke perfectly and consistently. And most of all the pistol just looks damn good.
For years I’ve wanted another. But, most of the Hi-Powers one finds are either generic, modern production guns or are collector models. Sure, one can shoot them, but you’ll take a loss every time the gun goes “bang” and generic just isn’t my style. I thought if I were to get one I’d want a custom job.
I came across a new Hi-Power, built on 1972 gun with a St. Louis roll-mark, that was taken nearly to the max by Ted Yost of Heirloom Precision – one of the most talented people to ever touch a Hi-Power. From the moment I laid my eyes on this gun I knew it was unique. The graceful lines of the original design were somehow improved, though details like this might go unnoticed by most.
The slide is blended beautifully with the frame and everything is fitted perfectly, from the sights to the safety to the hand fitted stocks. The gun’s frame has been improved with cutouts and Yost’s signature “sharkskin” stippling on the front and back to increase grip. The top of the slide is flattened and cut with serrations to reduce glare.
Naturally, Yost goes through the gun to ensure everything will result in flawless dependability as this gun is made to be shot. One of the typical complaints regarding the Hi-Power is the hammer bite. Yost has attended to this with another signature attribute, a high cut and shortened hammer spur. Of course, there are a host of other improvements, mechanically and aesthetically, that are made to the gun. The list is exhaustive.
I loaded this gun at the range and the action’s buttery-smooth operation was a clear indication this wasn’t a run-of-the-mill Hi-Power. This gun is a natural pointer. I didn’t even have to try to place it on the X ring. The sights aligned perfectly as if the gun were truly an extension of my arms. The front sight bead was bold – but not obtrusive – and mated perfectly to the finely serrated rear sight.
I slowly began to squeeze the wide, polished trigger and Yost’s promise of a 4.5 lb. trigger is spot on. The trigger is without creep and only minimal over-travel is present. The reset is short and definitive. The gun recoiled in a gentle manner, typical of an all-metal 9mm.
I fired a variety of ammunition through the gun to test its accuracy using the requested 21 foot distance; typically firing five rounds per target. I used an NRA 50-foot slow-fire pistol target. I believe I could’ve tightened the groups with a contrasted target, as the large black bullseye of the target started to blend itself with the sights after a bit in addition to the somewhat dim interior range lighting.
I did fire a couple 13-round groups using the American Eagle and Aguila ammunition and their group sizes were slightly larger than what is detailed below. But to keep things consistent, I’ll use a five-round group for comparison purposes:
In addition, I took the top performers which seemed to be the lighter bullets and pushed things out to 50 feet:
This gun comes apart for field stripping in an incrdibly easy manner. Drop the magazine, pull the slide back and lock it in place using the safety, then push the slide release through from the right side. Release the safety and slide moves forward to be removed. The non-captive recoil spring and barrel come out in a traditional manner. Assembly is the reverse.
Overall, the gun performed exceptionally well without a malfunction of any type. The gun handles very well, is a pleasure to shoot, and makes a fantastic full-size carry gun – if one is so inclined. The accuracy is at the top of the field when compared to most guns. The price point is a bit up there – starting at around $3000 including the base gun – as well as the 24-36 month wait needed to procure one direct from the source. But, these can be found once in a while on the second hand market, so you needn’t wait all that long to go shooting.
Ratings (out of five stars):
Accuracy: * * * * *
Excellent accuracy across the board. Well below 1” at 20ft and less than 2” at 50ft.
Ergonomics: * * * * *
Fits most hands perfectly. Thin, well balanced, and most won’t need to change their grip position to reach the controls.
Reliability: * * * * *
Not one failure within 550 rounds of testing this gun.
Customize This: * * * *
It’s not a 1911 when it comes to accessories, but it doesn’t need them. However, there’s plenty of after-market to suit your fancy.
Overall: * * * * *
When it comes to Hi-Powers, it doesn’t get much better than this. It could also be argued that when it comes to most handguns, it doesn’t get much better than this.