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    Gun Test: Browning Hi Power

    Some makers sing the words, but they don’t know the music. A maker that got the steel somatic right is Fabrique Nationale. The Browning Hi Power is a unique design, held in awe by serious handgunners. The Hi Power comes from an era when blue steel and walnut were the norm, and plastic was material for cheap pistol grips. The story of the Hi Power Hi Power has been told many times. However, as a classic, it is always worth one more look.

    Browning Hi Power pistol right profile
    The blue steel Hi Power is a gorgeous handgun.

    The Hi Power or P35 was designed in answer to a French request for a service pistol. The Europeans were impressed with the 9mm Luger cartridge. The 9mm is controllable in service size handguns. Accuracy is good and penetration in web gear is excellent.

    Compared to the ineffective 8mm Lebel, 7.65mm ACP, and other odd calibers, the 9mm was a century ahead. As often occurs, things proven in wartime are forgotten in peace. The French Army did not adopt the Hi Power. While the handgun isn’t a particularly important firearm to an Army, the poor choices the French made were reflected in aircraft and armor management as well.

    The lack of enthusiasm by the French didn’t affect Hi Power sales. The pistol went into production in 1935 and became the most popular service handgun of all time. The Hi Power, or Grand Pruissance, was used by both sides during World War II, adopted by the British Army, and found its way into a number of anti terror teams. The British SAS, FBI HRT, and New Jersey Fugitive Team are among those that issued the Hi Power.

    Bar Sto Precision barrel in a Browning handgun
    The addition of a Bar Sto Precision barrel made for increased accuracy potential.

    At one time, I owned one of the best Hi Powers in the world, an Action Works (Actionworks.com) custom. With Novak sights and a super trigger action, this was an exceptional handgun. I learned a lot about custom handguns and the Hi Power in firing some 20,000 rounds in the Action Works gun. About 90% were handloads. The level of accuracy was excellent.

    I often carried the Hi Power in uniform. Later, I obtained an Action Works .45. Working on a case against a well-known Nazi, I carried both of these handguns at the same time. The story ended up being covered, oddly enough, by Rolling Stone magazine. He did not realize the magazine interview made him a fool, and later I did the same in court.

    Like many items that were sacrificed to a mortgage, family needs, and the whim of the moment, the Hi Power was traded. The 1911s were kept. Along the way I owned other Hi Powers, mostly wartime guns. The Hi Power is an interesting handgun. It is easy to use well but dogged by a heavy trigger action in most renditions. A few simple steps easily improve the pistol. A few years ago, I was able to secure a decent target-type Hi Power. The pistol was affordable but somehow it didn’t grab me. I sent it to my son (my financial situation has improved. I am not plagued by wealth but enjoy gifting my children.)

    Browning Hi Power in a black Jeffrey Custom Leather holster front
    The Jeffrey Custom Leather offers first class leather holsters. The inside the waistband holster offers excellent concealment.

    I think that my hard working son needed a sampling of the classics. Over time, he has concentrated on Smith and Wesson revolvers. All good. So, one day I had a package at my local FFL. I found a box containing a superb Hi Power hardly recognizable as the original I had sent him.

    He had had the pistol re-blued and added a nice set of grips. The magazine safety that prevented the pistol from firing with the magazine removed was removed. Al performed a trigger job. I had sent a Bar Sto barrel for the Hi Power, and the barrel was expertly fitted. This results in a high degree of absolute accuracy. Bar Sto’s barrels are simply first class, artworks in steel. The result is a superlative handgun. It will probably be my last Hi Power. While I am a died in the wool 1911 man I own a number of good handguns. I figure I need but one good Hi Power.

    A half-dozen Mec Gar magazines and a Jeffrey Custom Leather inside the waistband holster accompany the Hi Power. The holster is gorgeous, the work of one of the finest artisans in leather. The holster features a forward tilt that makes for a sharp draw. The belt loops are mounted on wings that are offset from the holster. This helps set the weight of the handgun off from the back. The balance of retention and speed are ideal.

    Browning Hi Power pistol left profile
    The Hi Power is a great shooter and a classic firearm.

    With a bit of practice, I was able to perform a good sharp draw. I carry the pistol often in this rig. I have enjoyed firing this handgun a great deal. A first class handgun deserves first class ammunition. I have fired a good quantity of Winchester USA ready ammunition FMJ ammunition with good results.

    The Hi Power is controllable; the trigger is crisp and tractable. This handgun is a superior combat gun, controllable, accurate, and reliable. It comes on target smoothly and isn’t difficult to put a number of rounds into the target quickly. Of all self-loading handguns, this one is the best pointing handgun I have used.

    25-Yard Benchrest Accuracy 


    Five-Shot Group

    Winchester USA Ready 2.5 inches
    Winchester 115-grain Silvertip 2.25 inches
    Winchester 147-grain PDX 1.5 inches
    Winchester 124-grain PDX +P 1.9 inches

    For defensive use, the load is the Winchester 115-grain Silvertip. The Silvertip has been around a long time and earned an enviable reputation. When I deploy the Browning Hi Power, I am not only armed with a classic I am also armed with an accurate, reliable, and capable handgun far more reliable and accurate than most.