Rebirth Of The Hi-Power

Production of Browning's original ended in 2018, but three new makers are bringing this military classic back to life

Rebirth Of The Hi-Power

While relatively unknown to many newer to the shooting ranks, John Moses Browning’s Hi-Power is a classic semi-automatic pistol that was perhaps his second greatest handgun invention behind the ubiquitous 1911. In fact, the Hi-Power is widely credited with shaping the landscape for both military and non-military handguns more profoundly than any other design in history. 

Before we get too far, however, it’s important to mention that the Hi-Power wasn’t solely a John Browning effort. Browning, the most prolific gun designer of all time, started on the project but died in 1926 well before completion by Dieudonna Saive in 1935. 

The Hi-Power, like many such designs, was the result of a government request for a new military combat pistol — in this case, the French government. In 1921, French officials requested a handgun that would carry 10 rounds of 9mm ammo (Browning’s 1911 typically carried seven to eight rounds of .45 ACP). The gun was also to be compact, have a magazine disconnect device, external hammer and positive safety. Other requirements included easy assembly and disassembly, along with being very accurate up to 50 meters. 

FN commissioned Browning and he filed a patent on the design in 1923. By 1931, the Browning Hi-Power design incorporated a 13-round magazine, a curved rear grip strap, and a barrel bushing that was integral to the slide assembly. The Belgian Army quickly bought 1,000 pistols for field trials, based on this prototype. 

By 1934, the Hi-Power design was complete and ready to be produced. But while France decided not to adopt the pistol, 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. 

Browning Hi-Power pistols were used during World War II by both Allied and Axis forces. It was subsequently adopted as the standard service pistol by more than 50 armies in 93 countries. In fact, at one time most NATO nations used it, and it was standard issue to forces throughout the British Commonwealth. 

The design also quickly caught on with non-military gun owners and shooters, gaining somewhat of a cult following. Because of the pistol’s inherent accuracy and high ammo capacity, it became extremely popular for target shooting, competition and as a defensive pistol. 

However, after 82 years of continuous production, FN Herstal announced that production of the Hi-Power would end. Manufacture of the historic and much-loved pistol was discontinued in early 2018 by Browning Arms, breaking the hearts of many who dearly love the design. 

After a few years sans Hi-Powers, some manufacturers realized the market was still there for this historic handgun. Beginning in 2021 and by earlier this year, three companies are now making their version of this fantastic pistol design.

Springfield Armory SA-35

Well known for its long history of arms making and its currently wildly popular Hellcat line of sub-compact carry pistols, Springfield Armory has mastered the production and marketing of high-capacity polymer pistols popular for sport shooting and self-defense. In the midst of frantically filling orders for those products, Springfield was the first to recognize and fill the Hi-Power void. The result was the SA-35 “High Power,” released in 2021. 

While not an exact copy of the old Hi-Power, Springfield’s SA-35 “High Power” is an updated and improved version of that design. The new pistol features rugged forged steel parts for strength and durability, improved ergonomics and enhanced controls, a factory tuned trigger, modern sights, and an improved feed ramp. 

The company did away with the magazine safety, which wasn’t very popular to begin with. The greatly improved trigger makes it easier to shoot more accurately, while the attractive matte blue finish is quite functional as well. 

Improved grips also grace the SA-35. Featuring attractive grain and finely cut checkering, the gun’s walnut grips complement the matte blue finish of the carbon steel slide. Also, the beveled magazine well holds a 15-round magazine, upping the capacity of the original by two rounds. 

The SA-35 design also does away with the hammer bite problem that plagued many users of the original design. By redesigning the hammer and moving the loop higher on the hammer spur, Springfield was able to largely do away with that little fault. Sights are greatly improved over the original version. too. The new model features a tactical rack rear sight that is adjustable for windage, and a fixed-blade front sight with a white dot that is easy to find quickly in decent lighting conditions. 

The thumb safety on the SA-35 is larger than that of the original Hi-Power, yet slightly smaller than the later versions.

  Interestingly, most original Browning parts and after-market accessories will fit the SA-35 with little or no fitting. The gun sports a 4.7-inch barrel and measures 7.8 inches overall. Weight is 31.5 ounces empty, and it has a capacity of 15+1 rounds of 9mm. Throw in a $699 MSRP, and you can see why it has taken the gun world by storm over the past year, with demand currently outweighing the supply.

EAA Girsan MC P35

Next in line is the MC P35 made by EAA Girsan. Made with serious respect to John Browning’s classic design, the MC P35 pays homage to one of the most widely used military handgun designs in the World. 

Built on a steel frame and slide, the MC P35 boasts a 15+1 capacity in a staggered-column magazine. The short-recoil 9mm, 4.625-inch barrel, along with the slide, allow for quick second-shot resets, getting the shooter on target faster. The rear sight is a windage drift-adjustable sight, and the front is a dovetail sight. 

The P35’s traditional slim trigger allows for a short trigger reset and is accessible even while wearing gloves, while the serrated ring hammer provides a positive grip while cocking. Enhanced external controls include external extractor, ambidextrous safety and magazine disconnect safety. 

Synthetic checkered grips give it a vastly different appearance from the Springfield SA-35, but determining which is best is purely a matter of personal taste. The grips on the P35 are checkered fairly deeply and offer a good handle by which to hold the gun firmly during firing. EAA Girsan gives purchasers a choice of three matte slide and frame finishes—black, dark earth and a two-tone variant with a gray frame mated to a matte-black slide. 

Overall length of the single-action pistol is 7.75 inches, with an unloaded weight of 1.8 pounds. With a very reasonable MSRP of $528, this gun is one that can get customers into a Hi-Power descendant and leave a little money left over for ammunition. 

More recently, EAA announced a more compact version of the pistol to cater to concealed carry practitioners. The MC P35 PI has a 3.88-inch barrel while keeping the 15+1 capacity of its bigger brother. As of early August, dealer orders were already being accepted for the new model. 

“Not only did Girsan find a way to make the already popular MCP35 family of handguns easier to carry but they have found another great market for our retailers to capitalize on,” noted Chase Duffey, national sales and import manager at EAA Corp, in a press release about the new model. “We’ve already seen a huge demand for the more compact MCP35 PI.”

FN High Power

Not to be outdone, FN announced in early 2022 that they, too, will be producing a new gun called the FN High Power. And judging by their initial statements when the gun was announced, they’re expecting big things from it. 

“From NATO’s trusted sidearm for more than 80 years to a modern pistol designed for today’s sport shooter, the FN High Power is reborn to exceed every expectation,” FN announced. “Extending the legacy of the original John Browning pistol design completed in 1935 by FN Herstal, over a million High Power pistols have served more than 50 NATO armies.” 

With 17+1 rounds at the ready the new pistol boasts a capacity of two more rounds than the other new Hi-Power clones. And it’s available in three different finishes — black, flat dark earth and an extremely attractive stainless steel version. Two pairs of grips come standard with the pistol, with seven unique accessory grip pairs to personalize the gun. 

According to the manufacturer, the trigger pull on the single-action, hammer-fired pistol runs about 5 pounds. Sights are driftable steel blackout type using the FN 509 dovetail pattern. An oversized ejection port cycles most factory loaded defensive and target ammunition. 

Barrel length is 4.7 inches and overall length measures 8 inches. At 40 ounces, the robust design keeps the signature rake of the dust cover and long arm slide release, while adding ambidextrous controls for instinctive operation. An extended beavertail and raised hammer fit well in the hand. Plus, the FN High Power takes down instantly for maintenance, deletes the magazine disconnect and ensures that most modern factory loads feed smoothly over the polished ramp of the cold-hammer-forged barrel. 

The FN High Power is likely to appeal to a little wealthier demographic than either the Springfield or EAA Girsan pistols. MSRP is $1,369 for the stainless model, and $1,269 for the black and FDE finishes. 

Continued Popularity

These three new “Hi-Powers” should appeal to a wide range of shooting customers — both young and old. 

Serious shooting sports retailers would be wise to have a few of these well-made, accurate guns on their shelves, as their historical popularity is likely to continue well into the future.


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