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REVIEW / RETROSPECT: Farewell To the Hi-Power

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Recently put out of production, the Hi-Power is a great handgun with a fantastic history. READ ALL ABOUT IT

browning hi power

Bob Campbell

Fabrique Nationale (FN) announced that the Browning Hi-Power pistol has been discontinued from manufacture. In the perfect handgunning world, all pistols would have the mix of history, performance, and collector interest of the Hi-Power. While Hi-Power pistols may be valuable and collectible, they fire the same readily obtained 9mm cartridge as many of our other favorites.
The Hi-Power is among the most recognizable handguns worldwide. If you scan the news, you may see a Hi-Power in the hands of Indian police or being waved by a woman during a street battle in Iraq. Our Canadian allies issue the Hi-Power, and it works as well today as a battle pistol as it ever has. The Hi-Power has been issued to the armed services of more than 50 nations. A generation ago, the Hi-Power was issued to elite units in the United States including the New Jersey State Police Fugitive Squad and FBI Hostage Rescue Team.

hi power self defense
The modern Hi-Power 9mm is a great combat and personal defense handgun.

The pistol was developed by John Moses Browning as a European service pistol. Browning was a great inventor; he was also among the greatest gun salesmen of all time. While 1911 fans may decry the small caliber 9mm and derisively call it the ‘Half Power,’ a .45 caliber service pistol would have been unthinkable in Europe. Browning did not base the Hi-Power on the 1911 but upon Browning principles just as the Tokarev and French 1935, by different inventors, are based on Browning’s work.

Originally, the Hi-Power was intended for the French Army. The French did not want a grip safety, and none was supplied. I respectively submit that Browning had learned a few things since his 1911, and the Hi-Power was designed to be produced as economically as possible.

The Allies left World War I with a great respect for the 9mm Luger cartridge. The 9mm met French requirements and it offers a good level of power for its compact size. The Luger cartridge is compact enough that 13 cartridges could be stuffed into a relatively compact magazine. Browning further refined his locked breech action to eliminate the swinging link and the result was the Hi-Power or Grande Pruissance.

tangent sighted Hi-Power
This is a tangent sighted Hi-Power.

Browning died in his office in Belgium before the final work was completed. Early models illustrate that the Hi-Power was defined by Browning. Dieudonne Saive, a respected inventor in his own right, refined the pistol and gave us the final form. The Hi-Power is a well-balanced handgun and among the finest service pistols of all time.
The French did not adopt the Hi-Power, but just the same, the type saw immense commercial success. Early variants were shipped to China and South America among other nations. During World War II, the Germans took over the FN plant and turned out the Hi-Power for the Wermacht. John Inglis of Canada, a respected maker of armaments including ships boilers, took up production of the Hi-Power for the allies.

The Hi-Power has the distinction of serving on both sides of practically every conflict since 1939. The Hi-Power has been in continuous production and remains a popular handgun today. A look at the specifications of the Hi-Power shows that it is ideally proportioned for the cartridge it chambers. There is enough weight to absorb the recoil of the 9mm cartridge, but the pistol is light enough for daily carry. The grip fits most hands well. The trigger press is straight to the rear, and the pistol is flat enough for concealed carry.

Hi-Power Dimensions
Barrel length:     4.625 in.
Sight Radius:      6.50 in.
Overall length:  7.75 in.
Weight:                    34 oz.

HI-Power rapid fire
The pistol is controllable in rapid fire.

The pistol is all-steel and well-made. The Browning design has gone through several generations but each is recognizable as a Hi-Power. The changes have been minor, usually limited to differences in the sights and the manual safety. The early versions feature a slide lock safety that is smaller than many competing types. With practice, the safety isn’t as difficult to manipulate as some would have us believe.
On the plus side, the original safety is positive in operation and unlikely to be inadvertently moved to the off-safe position. The slide stop and magazine release are easily reached and manipulated. Most, but not all, Hi-Power pistols feature a magazine disconnect that prevents the pistol from firing if the magazine is not in place. The Hi-Power is smaller and lighter than the 1911 .45ACP, and handles quickly. With the greatest respect for the 1911, and its speed into action, if there is a handgun faster to an accurate first shot than the 1911, it is the Browning Hi-Power.

The intrinsic accuracy of the Hi-Power is often very good. Practical accuracy is limited by sometimes heavy trigger actions. Over the years, my RCBS trigger pull gauge has measured Hi-Power triggers at 5 to 11 pounds. There seems no rhyme or reason. The tangent action isn’t easily improved. It is a shame that the heavy trigger action limits accuracy potential in many variants, but then the piece was made for short-range combat.

Then again, there is the shooter who manages the trigger and makes good hits in spite of the trigger action. As long as the trigger is consistent, little else matters to these practiced marksmen. Another advantage of the Hi-Power is speed of loading. All one need do to replenish the ammunition supply was to quickly insert the tapered magazine into a generous magazine well. No need for a magazine chute with this pistol.

The Hi-Power features a heavy hammer spring. This makes thumb cocking more difficult, however, there is a reason for the heavy spring. 9mm Luger ammunition has been produced in many countries. Quality is sometimes indifferent and the Hi-Power had to function with every load and to handle variations in case length as well as hard primers. The hammer gives the primer a solid hit and the pistol has excellent reliability. The extractor design changed about 1962 from internal to external. Magazines interchange in all models. Mec Gar is the preferred magazine brand. I have stated my opinion on the longevity of the 9mm Hi-Power. Any handgun in use for so long will have among its number worn or broken examples.
I have found that the Hi-Power feeds modern JHP ammunition. When hollow points became common in the 1960s and 1970s many featured a wide mouth hollow nose not designed for feed reliability. As a result, these loads did not feed in military pistols without barrel polish or throating. Throating, once universally recommended in the popular press, isn’t the best course and often improperly done.
Modern loads, such as the Winchester Silvertip, perform well and feed reliably. As for Hi-Power accuracy, I feel that the average accuracy of the Hi-Power is pretty consistent. Most examples may be counted upon for a five-shot group of 2-1/2 to 3 inches at 25 yards with good ammunition and from a solid rest.

hi power apart
The pistol field strips easily.

In the end, the Hi-Power is far more than a handgun to be kept in the safe and never fired. It is among the most useful of 9mm handguns. Light enough for constant carry, reliable, effective, and with more than a little pride of ownership, this is a handgun that has stood the test of time.

4 of the Coolest Pistols at SHOT Show 2017

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Niche Market

Across-the-board demand, especially for anything 1911, is spurring
some innovative designs.

By Richard Mann:
Just as in 2015, handguns remained the top-selling firearms in America last year. We are continuing to see suppressor-ready
variants, and these are not limited to center fire handguns. The demand for new and varied 1911s remains strong,
and one manufacturer has upped the ante with a high-grade line of custom revolvers. Although most of the innovation is
occurring with polymer-framed handguns, the real news for 2017 is the niche specialization of various models.

Browning

New Browning Pistol

➤ The Black Label 1911-380 Medallion Pro model, in full-size
and compact versions, features a matte-black frame and a blackened
stainless-steel slide with silver brush-polished flats. The grips are
made of intricately checkered rosewood with a gold Buckmark.
Barrel length on the full-size model is 4¼ inches; on the compact
model, it’s 3 5⁄8 inches. SRP: $799.99; $879.99 with night
sights. Black Label 1911-22LR Medallion full-size and compact
versions will also be offered with similar features for $669.99.
The New Black Label 1911-22LR Gray full-size and compact
models are available with or without a rail. The slides on both are
machined aluminum, and the barrel has a gray anodized finish. The
frames are composite, with a machined 7075 aluminum sub-frame
and slide rails. Sights are fiber-optic. SRP: $699.99; $719.99
with the rail. A Black Label 1911-22LR Medallion full size and
compact will also be offered with similar features for $669.99.
To keep up with the demand for suppressor-ready firearms, the
new Buck Mark Field Target Suppressor Ready 22LR model
will feature a heavy, round, 5 ½-inch suppressor-ready barrel
in matte blued finish. It also will offer an integral scope base with a
Pro-Target rear sight and front blade sight. Grips are Cocobololaminated target. SRP: $599.99. The new Buck Mark Lite Flute UFX model will feature a 5½-inch steel barrel with an alloy sleeve and fluting in a matte blued finish. Pro-Target rear sights and a Truglo/Marble Arms fiber-optic front sight are standard. Grips are Ultragrip FX ambidextrous. SRP: $559.99. Booth #15537.  (browning.com)

Ruger

New Ruger LCP

➤ Ruger’s LCP II features a short, crisp, single-action trigger with an inner trigger safety, improved sights, a larger grip surface, an easy-to-rack slide, and an improved slide-stop mechanism
with last-round hold-open. The LCP II comes with a pocket holster and holds 6+1 rounds of .380 ammunition. SRP: $349.
The striker-fired American Compact features a trigger with a short take-up and positive reset. It has a modular grip system, can be field stripped easily, and has an ambidextrous slide stop and magazine release. SRP: $579. The new Mark IV is a revised version of the ever-popular Mark III. The Mark IV is available in Target and Hunter versions, and its most notable feature is how easy it is to take apart. It has a simple, one-button take-down for quick and
easy field stripping. A recessed button in the back of the frame allows the upper receiver to tilt up and off the grip frame without the use of tools. Booth #11940. (ruger.com)

Remington

➤ The R1 10mm Hunter Long Slide is a handgun built with the
hunter in mind. From the accurate, 6-inch, match-grade barrel
to the match-quality, fully adjustable sights, picatinny rail, and VZ
Operator II G10 grips, this pistol will get the job done at distance.
SRP: $1,310. The Remington 1911 R1 Limited is a handcrafted version of the most trusted pistol platform in history, with all the features today’s top competitors demand. Accuracy and speed are key in competition, and with the Limited’s match grade trigger and barrel, wide serrations, and ambidextrous thumb safety levers, it is race-ready right out of the box. Available in 9mm or .40 S&W, the Limited has fully adjustable match sights, G10 grips, and a PVD finishCompact Remington Pistol. SRP: $1,250. As the name implies, the Remington R1 Tactical is a fighting pistol. It comes with a Trijicon rear sight, a beveled oversize ejection port, a PVD finish, a Trijicon front sight, an ambidextrous safety, checkered mainspring housing, a
stainless match barrel, a picatinny rail, VZ G10 grips, and two
8-round magazines. SRP: $1,250. Re-engineered and reintroduced,
the Remington R51 has the same appeal for personal protection
and concealed carry as it did two years ago. Its low-bore axis
helps tame +P 9mm recoil, and its snag-free profile makes it ideal for
covert carry. The single-action design allows for one of the best
triggers in its class, and at $448, it will not break the bank. A version
of the R51 with a Crimson Trace Laser Guard is available for $648.
The big pistol news from Big Green is the new RP high-capacity,
strikRemington Pistol 1er-fired polymer pistol. Available in 9mm or .45 Auto, with
a respective capacity of 18+1 or 15+1, this is a seriously sized duty
pistol with a very slim grip profile. At 26.4 ounces total weight, the
balanced slide helps control muzzle rise and makes the 9mm version possibly the smoothest-shooting duty-size pistol on the market. The RP is also affordable. SRP: $489. Booth #14229. (remington.com)

CZ-USA

The 805 Bren S1 Pistol is an interesting SBR candidate; the new version of the P-09 is suppressor-ready, with a threaded barrel; the unique Scorpion EVO 3 S1 Pistol; the SP-01 Phantom has been brought back due to popular demand.BREN S1
➤ The 805 Bren S1 Pistol with its 11-inch barrel has proven a popular SBR candidate for customers wanting to convert it into an NFA firearm. Those who don’t wish to register with the ATF can equip it with CZ’s adapter kit, which allows easy installation of aftermarket arm braces. Chambered in .223 Remington/5.56 NATO, and now 300 Blackout, the pistol uses the STANAG magazine from the AR15/M16. Picatinny rails top and bottom mean it easily accepts optics and lights, and an effective two-port muzzle brake helps keep the pistol solidly on target and reduces recoil and muzzle flip. SRP: $1,799 to $1,899.

ScorpionFalling somewhere between the
Scorpion Pistols and Carbine, the EVO 3 S1 Pistol is perfectly set up
for those who desire a two-stamp gun. The extended forearm will
hide most suppressors and offers M-LOK attachment points. With
a 7.7-inch barrel and a 5-inch flash can, the barrel is extended to just
past the forend. A factory folding stock is an aftermarket option for
this unique 9mm. SRP: $949. The latest addition to the CZ line of handguns is the P-10 C. This pistol is decidedly CZ, from
the way it feels to the way it shoots. With the CZ grip angle, the P-10
avoids that brick-in-the-hand feeling that has plagued many in the
striker-fired genre, allowing it to point naturally. Interchangeable
backstraps allow it to fit a wide variety of hands. Designed to minimize creep and stacking, the P-10’s trigger breaks at a clean 4 to 4.5 pounds and rebounds with a short, positive reset. It has a fiber-reinforced polymer frame, a nitride finish, a generous trigger guard,
and metal three-dot sights. Capacity is either 15+1 or 17+1, depending on the mag used. The CZ P10-C is available in 9mm
Luger or .40 S&W, and a suppressor-ready variant is available in
9mm. SRP: $499 to $541. Loaded with features, but without
all the flash of the Urban Grey series, the 9mm standard black
P-09 Suppressor-Ready now comes with high night sights and
extended magazine bases, in addition to the obligatory extended,
threaded barrel. SRP: $629.

CZ P-09A new addition to the P-09 is the Kadet
Kit. It is a scaled-up version of the P-07 kit to fit on the longer P-09
frame. Topped with the new Shadow 2 serrated target sight and
a rear height-adjustable-only sight, the P-09 Kadet Kit ships with two magazines. SRP: $249.

CZ SP-01Due to demand, CZ has brought back the SP-01 Phantom. This is essentially a polymerframed SP-01 Tactical, with interchangeable backstraps and mag compatibility with the standard 75 platform. The SP-01 Phantom has long been a favorite in the CZ community and has the distinction of being the current sidearm of the Czech Army. Starting from scratch, CZ engineers
took the best features of the original Shadow and improved upon them. The higher beavertail and an undercut trigger guard
bring the shooter’s hand closer to the axis of the bore. Increased
weight at the dust cover/rail helps keep the muzzle down during
recoil. The Shadow 2’s swappable mag release has an adjustable,
extended button with three settings to allow shooters to set it in
the most comfortable position. The new trigger components provide
a smooth DA and crisp and clean SA pull while drastically reducing trigger reset. Available only in 9mm. SRP: $1,299 to $1,399. Booth #11955. (cz-usa.com)