For more than 80 years Fabrique Nationale Herstal made the Browning High Power, one of the world’s greatest modern sidearms. Then they stopped. It turns out the old warhorse just needed a breather, and maybe a minute to grow.
When the new FH High Power was reborn, it wasn’t the same beast at all. The new FN High Power is bigger and better than ever.
Maybe. It depends.
The original Browning Hi Power was, and remains, in the words of the rebel traitor Ben Kenobi, “an elegant weapon, for a more civilized age.” Its sleek lines are a timeless design, immortalized through imitation on countless other firearms. Considering its double stack design, it’s not particularly heavy and concealing one IWB has never been a challenge.
The new FN High Power (yes, that spelling is correct) has the same general geometry, but pretty much everything is different. While the general lines are there, nothing blends and flows together quite like the original and the sharp lines and flat edges of the new pistol look far more at home with the other duty guns of our age.
Because that’s exactly what the new FN High Power is, a modern High Power duty gun.
The whole gun is bigger. At 40 oz., the new FN High Power is almost half a pound heavier than my EDC Hi Power Mark I, but just 1/2″ longer and taller. The slide is slightly thicker, and the frame itself is simply more massive throughout.
The grip itself has a different shape, being thinner than the original, but longer front to back. Both the new and old High Powers have the same overall circumference, but the new High Power’s grip ends up being more rectangular in cross section, meaning less twist in the hand during long shot strings.
The original High Powers used wood or polymer grips depending on the generation. The new High Power is a definite upgrade.
This new High Power ships with two sets of interchangeable G10 scales. This allows you to customize the color of the grip, and I would assume, as the aftermarket develops, get thicker or custom-shaped grips as well. If you don’t like the G10, you can purchase walnut scales instead. Right from the factory, you’ve got a wide array of choices.
A huge improvement over the originals is that the new High Powers don’t include the magazine “safety” disconnect. Right from the factory it fires with just a round in the chamber and no magazine loaded into the gun.
If you carry a Hi Power every day, you’ve probably gone through the relatively simple process of removing the original magazine “safety” (it isn’t one) disconnect to improve the trigger. Some folks then pay for a good trigger job on the Hi Power from one of the ever diminishing number of qualified smiths that do this work.
The new FN High Power comes from the factory with a trigger every bit as good as what you’ll get from a well-used original with the magazine disconnect removed.
That means that, like the originals, the trigger is good, but not great. There’s some take-up, like the slack followed by a wee bit of squish, and a break. The new High Power single action trigger breaks at an average of 4 lbs, 6.3 oz as averaged over five pulls on my Lyman digital trigger scale. There was a total of .02oz difference between those pulls. That’s impressive consistency from a factory pistol.
The new High Power has an ambidextrous slide lock/release and safety, and the magazine release is reversible, features not found on the originals that help bring the gun into the modern age.
What’s also not found on the old Hi Powers, even post-smithing, is a checkered grip, front and back. Stippling is possible on the old Hi Powers, and makes for a visually appealing customization that improves the grip surface, but deep checkering isn’t recommended as the front strap metal is too thin. Not so with the new High Powers, which feature deep checkering all the way around the grip.
One of the most common complaints about the original Hi Powers was slide bite for people with thick hands. The fix was to weld on a beaver-tail grip, a challenging and often an expensive modification.
The new High Power’s beavertail extends just a bit more beyond the back of the frame, and isn’t integral to the frame in the same manner as the originals. Although nothing is available now, it makes sense that longer or otherwise differently-shaped beavertails could be offered in the future.
Even better, unlike the original Mark Is, the new FN High Power comes without the troublesome hump in the feed ramp, meaning that these new guns feed hollow point defensive ammunition without issue. That’s a big plus.
I put 500 rounds through this gun on my own, and then brought it out for show and tell and let a few new shooters have a go with it. From 95 grain frangibles, to 115gr IMI Die Cut rounds and various FMJs, to 124gr Speer HPs and assorted 147gr FMJs, the new High Power never missed a beat.
Put that all together and I hate to say this, but the new High Power is a better shooting gun than the original. You read that right.
Right from the factory, the new High Power really shines on the range and in a way that the Hi Power of old never could. This gun holds steady for long shot strings, and with its 17-round magazines (two are supplied). It makes for longer shot strings than the original.
Because of its weight and improved grip surfaces, the High Power stays right in place, allowing for experienced shooters to hammer targets quickly and with precision. New shooters and those who are particularly recoil sensitive will find it a fantastic learning platform that will continue to perform as they progress.
A portion of the shooting for this review was done on one of Texas’ recent 108 degree, 80% humidity days. I don’t care what you’re shooting, that’s pure misery. The benefit to doing that is you quickly find out how well any particular grip works. The new High Power’s checkered grip, along with its added mass, made recoil management a much simpler matter, especially when my hands were dripping with sweat.
Side-by-side in the heat, there was just no comparison. My beloved Mark 1, with its cocobolo checkered grips and stippled front and back strap was no match for the new High Power for ease of handling in the hard heat.
The new FN High Power is just as accurate as the originals. Unless it was somehow shot out or otherwise damaged, there’s rarely anything to be gained from an aftermarket barrel on the old Hi Powers. The factory barrels were good right from the source. The new High Power is the same.
Winchester White Box 115gr FMJ ammunition put up 1.8″ five-round groups averaged over four shot strings. Wilson Combat’s 147gr HAP shot right at 2″. The Speer Lawman 124+P shot 1.5″. All groups were shot untimed at 25 yards, off bags.
I’d like to see a suppressor-ready barrel offered, but no such tube is available from FN at this time.
The modern version is just as accurate, more reliable, and more customizable than the originals, but the new High Power just doesn’t look quite as good.
Don’t get me wrong, the new FN High Power is a very good looking gun, and if you don’t like the way this one looks, there are several other versions of it right from the factory. But none of them share quite the same look as the originals. Unfortunately, some of the same things that make the new High Power a superior shooter also take away from some of the aesthetics of the original. Everything comes with costs and benefits.
For instance, the originals carried the narrowed flat front end farther back into the body of the pistol, giving the gun a sleeker, faster look. The new High Power’s more blunt front puts more mass near the muzzle, reducing muzzle rise. In a sense, the new gun sacrifices looking faster for actually being faster.
Also note, the ambi controls are not only present, but all of them are just bigger on the new guns. They aren’t in the way — far from it — and there’s no doubt they are easier to reach and manipulate all the way around than they were on the old guns. But of course, since there are more of them, they stand out more. It’s more of the same throughout the pistol; the old gun is a better looking gun, but the new gun is just a better gun.
You can’t help but wonder why, when the original Hi Power was such an incredible sidearm, that FN didn’t choose to simply do then what they’ve done now.
The simple answer is, why would they? Those pistols exist already. You can get a new pistol that more closely resembles a Mark II from several manufacturers, and at decent prices. Even better, there’s quite a few of them on the used market and you can have one perfected to your specifications for about the price of one of the new guns.
Instead, FN chose to take a risk and make a new High Power, and they’ve made a better one.
Specifications: FN High Power – FDE
OPERATION: Single-action, Hammer Fired
MAG CAPACITY: 10 or 17 Rd
WEIGHT: 40 oz.
BARREL LENGTH: 4.7″
OVERALL LENGTH: 8″
TWIST RATE: 1:10″ RH
TRIGGER PULL: ≈5-lb.
SIGHT RADIUS: 6.37
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style and Appearance * * * *
The old lines are are still there…mostly. FN always does a quality finish, and there are several options for those finishes with these new High Power models.
Customization * *
You can swap the grips on any model, but until FN or the aftermarket catches up, that’s about it.
Reliability * * * * *
Perfect. Plain and simple.
Accuracy/Precision * * * *
The sight set up is pretty great for the range, with the serrations eliminating glare and the front post just thin enough to keep right below small targets. Two-inch groups or less with lots of different ammo.
Overall * * * *
These aren’t the same guns as the originals, and good for FN for not just making the same thing yet again just because it was easy. Of course, it says “High Power” and “FNH” on it, so there’s not really much risk of these guns not selling. As it is, especially if you’re trying to shoot quickly or in long strings, the FN High Power will outshoot the original warhorse any day. One star off for not hitting the 1″ accuracy mark and not offering a suppressor-ready barrel and an optic mount to really bring this gun into the modern era.