Anyone who has read my reviews for more than a few weeks probably knows that I'm a fan of the 1911 Government Model .45ACP pistol. What I've never discussed before is that I'm also a fan of another of John Browning's single-action designs: the Hi-Power. While similarities between the two lead some to believe that one was designed as an improvement upon the other (with a debate on which came first), research shows that the development of each was independent of the other. The Hi-Power was designed by John Browning and patented in 1922. He died in 1926 and full production hadn't yet begun. After Browning's death, a man named Dieudonne Saive, working for FN, fully developed and brought the Hi-Power to production. In fact, Browning had to work around his own patents on the 1911 pistol, because Colt had purchased them. It wasn't until those patents expired in 1928 that Saive was able to incorporate some of the design features into the Hi-Power.
Once all design modifications, changes, upgrades, etc had been complete, the Browning-Saive Grand Rendement ("High Yield" in French--France originally commissioned it) was adopted in 1935 by Belgium's military. Ever since, the Hi-Power has also been known as the P-35 or "Model of 1935." In 1962, the design was modified to include an external extractor--an increase in reliability.
The Browning Hi-Power was the first design to successfully incorporate a double-stack magazine design. This was created by Browning to meet the French requirement for a magazine that held 15 rounds of 9mm ammunition. Although Browning fell short by two rounds (the mags hold 13 rounds), he generated a big step in magazine technology by creating the double stack or staggered column magazine. Contemporary magazines do hold 15 rounds of 9mm and are available commercially on the internet.
One of the things that I don't particularly care for in this pistol design was also put in as one of the original requirements from the French: a magazine disconnect safety. The Browning Hi-Power, without a magazine in place, won't function through pulling the trigger. Not only do I think this is a bad idea in any combat handgun, but by including this design feature the trigger pull was destined to be much harder and rougher than it should have been--especially for a single-action pistol.
The Browning Hi-Power pistols have been used by a wide variety of military and law enforcement units internationally. During WWII, both the Allies and the Axis powers used these pistols. To date over fifty of the world's armies have issued or authorized use of this weapon. Probably one of the best known special operations groups, the British Special Air Service (SAS), have used the Hi-Power. Law enforcement teams that have used it include the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team (HRT). No less than eight armies of the world still use this pistol, or some version of it, as their issued sidearm today.
So, all that's well and good, but how well does it function and shoot? THAT is the question…
My sample is a couple of decades old, with a blue finish and wood grips. The rear sight is fully adjustable for windage and elevation. The magazines I have hold 13 rounds each. The first thing I noticed, after having stripped, inspected and cleaned the gun, was that the magazines DO NOT fall free when you push the mag release button. They fall about 3/8" and then stop, no matter how hard or far you push the mag release button. Of course, being primarily designed for use in Europe, this isn't surprising. Many European armies and law enforcement agencies still train to pull out spent or partially-spent magazines, rather than letting them drop. With partially spent magazines I understand doing that. With a spent magazine, I'm in favor of letting it hit the ground. If it's empty, it's trash in combat situations unless I'm carrying boxes of ammo to reload it with.