Browning Hi-Power

Browning Hi-Power
FN Hi Power.jpg
Fabrique Nationale Browning Hi-Power
TypeSemi-automatic pistol
Place of origin
  • Belgium
  • United States
Service history
In service1935–present[1]
Used bySee Users
Wars
Production history
Designer
Designed1914–1935[1]
Manufacturer
Produced1935–2018,[1] 2022-[5]
No. built1,500,000+[6]
VariantsSee Variants
Specifications
Mass1 kg (2.2 lb)[1]
Length197 mm (7.8 in)[1]
Barrel length119 mm (4.7 in)[1]

Cartridge
ActionShort recoil operated tilting barrel
Rate of fireSemi-automatic
Muzzle velocity335 m/s (1,100 ft/s) (9mm)[1]
Effective firing range50 m (54.7 yd)
Feed systemDetachable box magazine
  • 10, 13, 15 or 17 rounds (9mm)
  • 20 or 30 rounds made by Rhodesia (9mm)[1]
  • 10 rounds (.40 S&W)

The Browning Hi-Power is a single-action, semi-automatic pistol available in the 9×19mm Parabellum and .40 S&W calibers. It was based on a design by American firearms inventor John Browning, and completed by Dieudonné Saive at FN Herstal. Browning died in 1926, several years before the design was finalized. FN Herstal initially named the design the "High Power", which alludes to the 13-round magazine capacity, almost twice that of other designs at the time, such as the Luger or Colt M1911.

During World War II, Belgium was occupied by Nazi Germany and the FN factory was used by the Wehrmacht to build the pistols for their military, under the designation "9mm Pistole 640(b)".[7] FN Herstal continued to build guns for the Allied forces by moving their production line to a John Inglis and Company plant in Canada, where the name was changed to "Hi Power". The name change was kept even after production returned to Belgium. The pistol is often referred to as an HP or BHP,[8] and the terms P-35 and HP-35 are also used, based on the introduction of the pistol in 1935. Other names include GP (for the French term, "Grande Puissance") or BAP (Browning Automatic Pistol). The Hi-Power is one of the most widely used military pistols in history,[9] having been used by the armed forces of over 50 countries.[1] Although most pistols were built in Belgium by FN Herstal, licensed and unlicensed copies were built around the world, in countries such as Argentina, Hungary, India, Bulgaria, and Israel.

After 82 years of continuous production, FN Herstal announced that the production of the Hi-Power would end, and it was discontinued in early 2018 by Browning Arms.[10] From 2019 to 2022, with new Belgian Hi-Powers no longer being built, new clones were designed by various firearm companies to fill the void, including GİRSAN, TİSAŞ, and Springfield Armory, Inc. These new Hi-Power clones began competing with each other by offering new finishes, enhanced sights, redesigned hammers, beveled magazine wells, improved trigger, and increased magazine capacity.[11][12]

In 2022, presumably to compete with the sudden surge in Hi-Power popularity, FN announced they would resume production of the Browning Hi-Power. The 2022 "FN High Power" incorporated a number of entirely new features such as a fully ambidextrous slide lock, simplified takedown method, enlarged ejection port, reversible magazine release, wider slide serrations, different colored finish offerings, and 17-round magazines. In contrast to popular belief, the new FN High Power might resemble a modern Hi-Power, but it is, in fact, a different design. One of the noticeable details is the lack of Browning-style locking lugs.[5]

History[]

Development[]

The Browning Hi-Power was designed in response to a French military requirement for a new service pistol, the "Grand Rendement" (French for "high efficiency"), or alternatively Grande Puissance (literally "high power"). The French military required that:

This last criterion was seen to demand a caliber of 9 mm or larger, a bullet mass of around 8 grams (123.5 grains), and a muzzle velocity of 350 m/s (1148 ft/s). It was to accomplish all of this at a weight not exceeding 1 kg (2.2 lb).

FN commissioned John Browning to design a new military sidearm conforming to this specification. Browning had previously sold the rights to his successful M1911 U.S. Army automatic pistol to Colt's Patent Firearms, and was therefore forced to design an entirely new pistol while working around the M1911 patents. Browning built two different prototypes for the project in Utah and filed the patent for this pistol in the United States on 28 June 1923, granted on 22 February 1927.[13][14] One was a simple blowback design, while the other was operated with a locked-breech recoil system. Both prototypes utilised the new staggered magazine design (by designer Dieudonné Saive) to increase capacity without unduly increasing the pistol's grip size or magazine length.

The locked breech design was selected for further development and testing. This model was striker-fired, and featured a double-stack magazine that held 16 rounds. The design was refined through several trials held by the Versailles Trial Commission.

In 1928, when the patents for the Colt Model 1911 had expired, Dieudonné Saive integrated many of the Colt's previously patented features into the Saive-Browning Model of that same year. This version featured the removable barrel bushing and take down sequence of the Colt 1911.

In 1929, as an effort to find an alternative solution to the long-ongoing French trials, and with a pistol that they considered by then to be good enough to stand on its own to find other potential clients, FN decided to announce the "Grand Rendement", incorporating a shortened 13-round magazine, for sale in their commercial catalogue. They hoped to find a military contract which would in turn help them finance a production line, essentially through the same process as their previous FN M1900 pistol.

By 1931, the Browning Hi-Power design incorporated the same 13-round magazine, a curved rear grip strap, and a barrel bushing that was integral to the slide assembly. The Belgian Army showed a definite interest and bought 1,000 pistols based on this prototype for field trials.

By 1934, the Hi-Power design was complete and ready to be produced. Ultimately, France decided not to adopt the pistol, instead selecting the conceptually similar but lower-capacity Modèle 1935 pistol. However, it was good enough to stand on its own as a service pistol for the Belgian Army and other clients. These would become the Grande Puissance, known as the High Power, in Belgium for military service in 1935 as the Browning P-35.[15]

Military service and widespread use[]

Browning Hi-Power pistols were used during World War II by both Allied and Axis forces. After occupying Belgium in 1940, German forces took over the FN plant. German troops subsequently used the Hi-Power, having assigned it the designation Pistole 640(b) ("b" for belgisch, "Belgian").[9] Examples produced by FN in Belgium under German occupation bear German inspection and acceptance marks, or Waffenamts, such as WaA613. In German service, it was used mainly by Waffen-SS and Fallschirmjäger personnel.

A Browning Hi-Power decorated using the technique of damascening. Of the few created, one of these models was once in the personal possession of Muammar Gaddafi. The design references the Khamis Brigade.

High-Power pistols were also produced in Canada for Allied use, by John Inglis and Company in Toronto. The plans were sent from the FN factory to the UK when it became clear the Belgian plant would fall into German hands, enabling the Inglis factory to be tooled up for Hi-Power production for Allied use. Inglis produced two versions of the Hi-Power, one with an adjustable rear sight and detachable shoulder stock (primarily for a Nationalist Chinese contract) and one with a fixed rear sight. Production began in late 1944 and they were on issue by the March 1945 Operation Varsity airborne crossing of the Rhine into Germany. The pistol was popular with the British airborne forces as well as covert operations and commando groups such as the Special Operations Executive (SOE), the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS), and the British Special Air Service (SAS) Regiment. Inglis High-Powers made for Commonwealth forces have the British designation 'Mk 1' or 'Mk 1*' and the manufacturer's details on the left of the slide. They were known in British and Commonwealth service as the 'Pistol No 2 Mk 1', or 'Pistol No 2 Mk 1*' where applicable. Serial numbers were 6 characters, the second being the letter 'T', e.g. 1T2345. Serial numbers on pistols for the Chinese contract instead used the letters 'CH', but otherwise followed the same format. When the Chinese contract was cancelled, all undelivered Chinese-style pistols were accepted by the Canadian military with designations of 'Pistol No 1 Mk 1' and 'Pistol No 1 Mk 1*'.[16]

In the postwar period, Hi-Power production continued at the FN factory and as part of FN's product range, which included the FN FAL rifle and FN MAG general-purpose machine gun. It has been adopted as the standard service pistol by over 50 armies in 93 countries. At one time most NATO nations used it, and it was standard issue to forces throughout the British Commonwealth. It was manufactured under licence, or in some cases cloned, on several continents. Former Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein often carried a Browning Hi-Power. Former Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi carried a gold-plated Hi-Power with his own face design on the left side of the grip which was waved around in the air by Libyan rebels after his death.[17] A Hi-Power was used by Mehmet Ali Agca during the assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II in 1981.

Decline and resurgence[]

While the Hi-Power remains an excellent and iconic design, since the early 1990s it has been eclipsed somewhat by more modern designs which are often double-action with aluminum alloy frames and are manufactured using more modern methods. However, even to this day, the Hi-Power remains in service throughout the world. As of 2017, the MK1 version remained the standard service pistol of the Canadian Armed Forces, with the SIG Sauer P226 being issued to specialised units along with the SIG Sauer P225. The weapon is the standard sidearm of the Belgian Army, Indian Army, Indonesian Armed Forces, Australian Defence Force, Argentine Army, Luxembourg Armed Forces, Israel Police, and Venezuelan Army, among others. The Irish Army replaced its Browning Pistols (known popularly as BAPs, or Browning Automatic Pistols) with the Heckler & Koch USP in 2007. From 2013 the British Army is replacing the Browning with the polymer-framed Glock 17 Gen 4 pistol, due to concerns about weight and the external safety of the pistol.[18]

In 2018, FN announced they would end production of the Mark III Hi-Power, which was expensive to produce and had been assembled in Portugal to cut costs. Early in that year, Browning officially ceased production of the Belgian Hi-Power for the first time since 1935. An unlicensed clone called the "Regent BR9" was produced in Turkey by TİSAŞ in 2019 and had gained some popularity now that authentic Hi-Powers were no longer being made and surplus Hi-Powers from other countries like Hungary and Argentina had dried up. The Regent BR9 design was more of a copy of the Mark I design, but did offer some modern design features, like a cerakote or stainless steel finish and Novak-style sights.[11] In 2021, another Turkish company called GİRSAN began producing their own Hi-Power clone called the MCP35, imported by EAA. In 2021, American firearms company Springfield Armory announced their own Hi-Power clone, the SA-35.[12] GİRSAN and Springfield Armory's clones began competing with each other by offering new design improvements that would help them compete in the oversaturated defensive handgun market. GİRSAN's MCP35 attempted to replicate the Mark III design as closely as possible, including the Belgian style ambidextrous thumb safety, Mark III style sights with a windage drift adjustable rear sight and dovetailed front sight and Mark III style black polymer grips. The MCP35 also retained the Belgian magazine disconnect safety. However, the MCP35 incorporated the original ring hammer design instead of the claw hammer design of the Mark III, and also incorporated some design elements to appeal to the modern shooter, such as a 15-round Mec-Gar magazine and cerakote finish.[19]

The steady competition between the MCP35 and the SA-35 to make the original Hi-Power relevant in the current market stirred up a great interest among both Hi-Power fans and new shooters. On 18 January 2022, after a four year hiatus, FN announced they would resume production of the Browning Hi-Power, albeit with a number of upgraded features.[5] FN named the 2022 redesign the "FN High Power" and incorporated a number of features to help it compete with the improved Hi-Power clones being made by GİRSAN and Springfield Armory. FN incorporated a number of changes that would make the classic Hi-Power design more modern and ergonomic. The most significant changes included opening up the top of the slide to increase the size of the ejection port to ensure reliable feeding and ejection, incorporating an ambidextrous slide lock and reversible magazine release, a completely different takedown that is faster and simpler, and redesigning the barrel and recoil spring. Other changes FN made include removing the magazine disconnect safety, adding an extended beavertail and redesigned hammer to eliminate the issue of hammer bite, several sets of redesigned grips, new sights compatible with the FN 509 dovetail pattern, wider slide serrations, different colored PVD or stainless steel finish offerings and 17 round magazines. The new FN High Powers will be made at FN's Columbia, South Carolina factory in the United States.[20][21][5] At SHOT show 2022, GİRSAN announced new color offerings for the MCP35, including two-tone and gold, as well as the MCP35 "Match", which incorporated a number of designs intended to cater to target shooters, such as an integrated 1913 picatinny rail for accessories, ergonomic grips, a shorter hammer throw, beveled and flared magwell, a flat target trigger and raised target sights with a fiber optic front sight.[22][23]

Design[]

A FN Browning High Power, belonging to the Indonesian Marine Corps

The Browning Hi-Power has undergone continuous refinement by FN since its introduction. The pistols were originally made in two models: an "Ordinary Model" with fixed sights and an "Adjustable Rear Sight Model" with a tangent-type rear sight and a slotted grip for attaching a wooden shoulder stock. The adjustable sights are still available on commercial versions of the Hi-Power, although the shoulder stock mounts were discontinued during World War II. In 1962, the design was modified to replace the internal extractor with an external extractor, improving reliability.

Standard Hi-Powers are based on a single-action design. Unlike modern double-action semi-automatic pistols, the Hi-Power's trigger is not connected to the hammer. If a double-action pistol is carried with the hammer down with a round in the chamber and a loaded magazine installed, the shooter may fire the pistol either by simply squeezing the trigger or by pulling the hammer back to the cocked position and then squeezing the trigger. In contrast, a single-action pistol can only be fired with the hammer in the cocked position; this is generally done when a loaded magazine is inserted and the slide cycled by hand. In common with the M1911, the Hi-Power is therefore typically carried with the hammer cocked, a round in the chamber, and the safety catch on (a carry mode often called cocked and locked in the United States or "made ready" in the UK, or sometimes called condition one).

The Hi-Power, like many other Browning designs, operates on the short-recoil principle, where the barrel and slide initially recoil together until the barrel is unlocked from the slide by a cam arrangement. Unlike Browning's earlier Colt M1911 pistol, the barrel is not moved vertically by a toggling link, but instead by a hardened bar which crosses the frame under the barrel and contacts a slot under the chamber at the rearmost part of the barrel. The barrel and slide recoil together for a short distance, but as the slot engages the bar, the chamber and the rear of the barrel are drawn downward and stopped. The downward movement of the barrel disengages it from the slide, which continues rearward, extracting the spent case from the chamber and ejecting it while also re-cocking the hammer. After the slide reaches the limit of its travel, the recoil spring brings it forward again, stripping a new round from the magazine and pushing it into the chamber. This also pushes the chamber and barrel forward. The cam slot and bar move the chamber upward and the locking lugs on the barrel re-engage those in the slide.

Design flaws[]

The pistol has a tendency to "bite" the web of the shooter's hand, between the thumb and forefinger. This bite is caused by pressure from the hammer spur, or alternatively by pinching between the hammer shank and grip tang. This problem can be fixed by altering or replacing the hammer, or by learning to hold the pistol to avoid injury. While a common complaint with the commercial models with spur hammers similar to that of the Colt "Government Model" automatic, it is seldom a problem with the military models, which have a smaller, rounded "burr" hammer, more like that of the Colt "Commander" compact version of the 1911. Another flaw is that the original small safety is very hard to release and re-engage. This is because when cocked, the shaft the safety turns on is under hammer spring pressure. Later versions went to a larger safety to address this issue.[24][25][26]

Hi-Power artillery version with its adjustable tangent rear-sight and shoulder-stock in the upper right-hand corner

Variants[]

Genuine Browning Hi-Power P-35s were manufactured until 2017 by FN Herstal of Belgium and Portugal and under licence by Fabricaciones Militares (FM) of Argentina. The Hi-Power remains one of the most influential pistols in the history of small arms. It has inspired a number of clone manufacturers (including Charles Daly of the Philippines & the US, FEG of Hungary, Arcus of Bulgaria, IMI of Israel, and others). Many modern pistols borrow features from it, such as the staggered column high-capacity magazine and the Browning linkless cam locking system (which on modern pistols is often simplified so that the barrel locks into the ejection port, meaning the barrel and slide do not have to be machined for locking lugs). Until recently, FEG made an almost exact clone in 9mm and .40 S&W, but the company now manufactures a version with modifications to the barrel, linkage, and slide stop that are incompatible with genuine Hi-Powers. Arcus has also superseded its Arcus 94 Hi-Power clone with the Arcus 98DA, a model that draws heavily from the Hi-Power but is capable of double-action operation.

Browning Hi-Power Practical .40 S&W
Browning Hi Power SFS with Crimson Trace laser sight
Pistol Auto 9mm 1A manufactured in RFI, India

Users[]

Canadian Inglis-made Pistol No 2 Mk 1* Browning Hi-Power
A worn Browning Hi-Power, made in Argentina in the mid-1970s
Canadian soldiers inspect a Hi-Power pistol during a training exercise in April 2009.
A Uruguayan marine armed with a Canadian made Hi-Power during a training exercise in April 2009
A 1971 Browning Hi-Power 10

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External links[]