The 9mm Browning Hi-Power Pistol

The Browning Hi-Power pistol is one of the most successful handgun designs of all time. This short-recoil operated, tilting barrel pistol has a capacity of 13 rounds which was very impressive when it was introduced. But does it still hold up today? In this installment of TFBTV we do some shooting with a truly classic design.

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Transcript …

(gun firing) – [Narrator] The Browning Hi Power, one of history’s most prolific handguns that helped popularize the double column, single feed magazine arrangement that now rules the world.

It’s a product of the genius of both Browning and Dieudonne Saive, and these can still be found in the hands of military and police forces around the world.

While nations like the U.K. have officially replaced them, they still have plenty in use and in inventory.

Canada still uses them as their primary sidearm, as does Australia, and many other nations as well.

Of course, they are still in production, and you can buy a new one right from Browning.

The gun is a hammer-fired, single action design like the 1911, and has a modern magazine release and mags have a springy bit to help pop them out for manual removal by the user.

Drop-free mags are now preferred, of course.

The slide release is in a familiar location, and the safety is also intuitive, familiar, and ambidextrous.

I’ve replaced the factory sights with night sights, replaced the trigger, hammer, sear, mainspring, disabled the magazine disconnect, and refinished it, and I have about $500 in the project total at this time, including the original purchase price of the gun.

All of this has resulted in a fine shooter, too.

And I must say that I enjoy taking it to the range.

It is impressively accurate for a gun that looked like it lived in a shipboard holster when I first got it, but it still works perfectly.

So, let’s shoot it a little bit more.

(gun firing) Thanks to Ventura Munitions for providing the pistol food here, of course.

While the Hi Power is showing its age, and gradually being phased out by most major militaries, it still is a fine handgun to own, shoot, and enjoy.

With a little bit of work, you can really improve them, and I will say that working on this was incredibly simple, and I did it all with no specialty tools or prior knowledge.

What more can you say about the Hi Power that hasn’t already been said? They just work great.

Thank you very much for watching, and we hope to see you next time.



Alex C.

Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and Director of TFBTV.


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  • Martin M

    Hi-Powers will still be around when it’s polymer replacements have all cracked and failed. Long live John Browning. Long live the Hi-Power.

    • Gus Butts

      Not the CF ones, all the barrels and slides crack after sub-1,000 rounds over 40 years of not-really-use. I am tired of sending them back. Some of them have had their barrels and slides replaced multiple times.

    • Joel

      When the Brits switched from Hi-Powers to Glock 17s, they cited maintenance costs as one of the reasons.

      • Paul B.

        It’s not the most durable 9mm out there. Decent service life with std pressure ammo. +p and +p+ are best used sparingly and that includes NATO stuff.

        • Jackson Andrew Lewis

          modern highpowers hold up perfectly fine to plus p ammo……

      • Martin M

        Much the same reason the US military moved on from the 1911. The weapons were old and beat to oblivion. Rather than replacing them, they chose to switch to the ‘new thing’.

        • barry soetoro

          maybe they switch because someone who made the decision got a huge KICKBACK from the company that replaced them. YA THINK ???????

  • Ken

    Definitely an underrated gun in the US. It’s basically the 1911 of the rest of the world.

    • Harry’s Holsters

      The only difference is you can count the manufacturers of the Hi Power so the swings in specs and quality control aren’t as wide. Truly a great gun well ahead of it’s time!

      • iksnilol

        Great gun if you’re expecting an army… or a division.

        • schizuki

          Serpico!

          • UnrepentantLib

            Almost bought one back in 1971, but it was a big chunk of my 2LT pay. I may have to revisit the issue.

          • Ringolevio

            Thanks for reminding us that Frank Serpico carried one in his “hippie” knapsack as he traipsed across the tenement rooftops while surveilling criminal activity below. It was a most unconventional weapon for an NYPD cop to carry (he also carried a revolver) and his colleagues were in awe of the “big, black 14-shot automatic”. Read the book: “Serpico” by Peter Maas.

          • barry soetoro

            serpico was a RAT !!! his coworkers wished he carried the cancer, aids, plague, heart disease virus. he was scum. he should have been tared and feathered !!!!
            111

          • Ringolevio

            “Barry”, I checked your comment history, and I can’t quibble with most of ’em. But on this you are out of line. We’re not talkin’ about cops getting coffee or meals “on the arm”; you are essentially standing up for corrupt cops who were on the payroll and in the pocket of criminals. There was an entire “culture of corruption” that permeated the NYPD, and Frank Serpico and David Durk helped bring it to an end.

  • RGary Driggers

    Browning Hi Power and CZ 75. Two excellent and under-appreciated pistols.

    • Bob Jensen

      My sentiments exactly.

  • Green Hell

    Hi-Power is basicly what I imagine when I think about default generic pistol. It’s like everyone would think about Superman when asked to name the most default generic superhero.

  • mlk18

    THE best gun I will never own. Hammer bites and pinches the heck out of me. Even with the alleged no-bite hammer. If only I had the money for a custom HP with extended beavertail.

    • DW

      You mean CZ75

      • mlk18

        Nope. Don’t like tiny slides.

        • iksnilol

          The slide is (technically) the same size.

          😉

          • mlk18

            And Hillary is technically a woman…

        • DW

          Then get the Israeli CZ75 aka Baby Eagle.

          • mlk18

            No different. 1/2 the slide to grab on to thanks to the slide riding inside the frame.

          • iksnilol

            But more accuracy and less recoil more than makes up for something that causes an non-issue issue.

          • mlk18

            Being able to easily manipulate a slide is only a non-issue if you are a slow paced Sunday afternoon target shooter.

          • iksnilol

            I dunno, I grab the slide from above and thus have never really encountered issue with the small slide.

          • bobinmi

            I was with you up until this one. Pretty sure the CZ’s are dominating in competition right now. I wouldn’t call Angus a sunday afternoon shooter.

          • mlk18

            Competition shooter’s are sunday afternoon shooters.

          • bobinmi

            makes sense, what would the best gun handlers on the face of the planet know about gun working the action on a handgun. Me thinks you need to work on your grip strength.

          • DW

            The entire slide is bigger, also i suppose you can use slide mounted safety as cocking ears.

    • Richard

      You won’t like shooting a Walther PPK then

  • Idahoguy101

    My favorite pistol. Love it! The 1911 has a better trigger. The Beretta 92 has as good a trigger plus is more reliable. However the BHP is tops for ergonomics

    • Paul B

      Yes, same here. The HP is muzzle-light and its trigger reset is mushy but it fits better and feels better in my hand than any other double-stack pistol.

    • Gary Kirk

      My 1911 fits me better than the HP, and my Beretta 96 I really love, except for the recoil when I have my 357 sig upper on her.. She’s just a bit sharper than stock.. Do enjoy the HP, but if I go with a 9.. Probably be a sig 226, unless I can find an older HP at a very good price.. Then I’ll have two 9s

  • thedonn007

    CZ 75 is the modern version of the Hi-Power. I wanted a Hi-Power forever, but got a few CZ-75 pistols instead.

    • Joseph Goins

      CZ 75 is old news. The P-07/09 are the replacements. Put ~25,000 rounds through mine. Only replaced the recoil spring.

      • thedonn007

        I had a P-07 and P-09, sold them both. They are good pistols, but they do not fit my hand nearly as well as my CZ-75 SP-01 and P-01.

      • Arandor Thinnorion

        There’s a difference between “old news” and classic. New does not always mean better. I’m sure the P-07 and 09 are fine–so is the classic.

        Personally, I prefer CZ’s steel frames. Not a fan of polymer.

      • barry soetoro

        WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Joe, you spent upwards of $14,000 on ammo?????? rich man !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        • Joseph Goins

          If you think I paid that much, I’d hate to see where you buy your ammo. I bought some imported IMI stuff a few years back for $0.11/round. It really cost me about $2700 over two years or $120/month. To me, that is a reasonable amount to spend so I can be prepared should something happen. (That also includes training for and participating in IPSC/IDPA.)

    • plingr2

      There are some similarities with CZ, but CZ is not modern version of HP, it is different gun.

      • thedonn007

        True, the CZ-75 is not a clone of the Hi-Power, but the CZ-75 has been cloned a number of times.

    • Edeco

      Yeah I like the rails outside. Similarly had been thinking surplus HP since parts are available and new ones are pretty expensive, but looking into it some were soft metal, they were not overbuilt so if used with a weak spring or hot ammo there could be problems; too much of a minefield.

  • Hoplopfheil

    The swinging link ain’t got nothing on the cam block.

  • Ed

    In ways its simplicity and durability make it still more popular in the worlds military and government uses than new fancy Clocks. Even the SAS may still have them in there inventory.

  • Tim

    Looks good. What did you use to refinish it? I have a HP project myself.

  • codfilet

    I just had a WW2 German one in my hands yesterday-all matching with waffenampts on the various components. Not cheap, that’s for sure. I didn’t even ask how much.

  • tts

    Love that silky smooth 60fps video guys!

    Did you get a new camera?

  • mazkact

    Such a sound design that even the lesser clones are great. Last year I bought one of the surplus Israeli Police FEG clones through AIM. After removing the Mag disconnect it shoots great and would have no problem relying on it if need be.

    • Ringolevio

      I have an FEG P-35 clone and it’s wonderful! And it came with night sights, Pachmayer-type grips and ambidextrous safety. It was my EDC for quite a few years.

  • Pete Sheppard

    Alex C., you are obviously one skinny drink of water! Your lean hand obviously didn’t get bitten! Hammer bite was a big problem with that ring hammer. My hands aren’t very fleshy, but I have been touched by the spur hammer of my Argentine FM. I’d probably have welts if my pistol had a ring hammer.

    • maodeedee

      The reason people get hammer bite is because of the way they grip the gun. Back in the day when pistols were gripped one-handed, people didn’t have problems with hammer bite.

      But the modern two-handed grip also requires that you grip the gun as high as possible to the bore axis and many people also adopt a thumbs-up grip which makes things even worse. I learned to shoot a 1911A1 back in the late sixties and I use a thumbs-down grip and have never had problems with either a GI Issue 1911A1 without an extended beavertail or a standard issue Hi-power and I’m 6’3″ and weight 230 lbs and have fairly large hands. The only gun that has ever “bit” me was a Walther PPK and that was the slide not the hammer.

      The High-power is my all-time favorite handgun but I have a slight preference for the newer forty caliber with the ambi safety to the original 9mm, although the only Hi-power I’ve been able to afford is one of the early Israeli police surplus Belgian Brownings. Interestingly, the Israeli police had apparently removed the mag disconnect from the gun before AIM had obtained it.

      • Pete Sheppard

        Good point about differences in grip techniques; it’s easy to see how that can be a factor. I had read, though, that hammer bite was the reason for going to the spur hammer.

  • Ted Unlis

    I’ve owned my made in Belgium 1950’s vintage Browning HP for decades. A year or so ago I put about 200 rounds through it and was reminded how well it shot and how good the the smaller grip of the HP feels compared to modern double stack 9’s like the Sig P226 and even the Glock 17. I experienced no “slide bite” but the front and back strap of the pistol were getting a little warm after 200 rds. I only carried my HP briefly as an off duty weapon in my early 20’s and there’s a reason for that; the Browning HP is a single action auto with no grip safety which makes it less safe for condition 1 carry, which is why the pistol was never popular for LE duty carry. The modern generations of semi-auto’s like Sig and Glock are reliable because they borrowed the HP’s one piece ramp design. A high quality rigid holster is a must for anyone opting to carry the HP cocked and locked.

  • insertjjs

    I’ll never sell my mkIII Practical. Picked it up for $550

  • Scot168

    I bought the Hi Power in .40 caliber about 22 years ago and then sold it to my neighbor when I bought a Sig P220 probably 15 years ago and he still has it. Kind of wish I would have kept it but all my pistols are either .45 or 9 MM and he shoots nothing but .40. But I do miss it since it was my first pistol.

  • Ranger Rick

    A BHP with Craigslist Siegel grips, one of the best fitting and easiest to shoot pistols.

  • Mark Horning

    Things I like about my Hi-power: capacity, single action, can use 1911 holsters.
    Things I hate: tiny squishy safety, thick humped grip, ergonomics still inferior to a 1911.

    First thing I did was take care of that stupid magazine interlock – don’t ever call it a safety

    • Ringolevio

      Yes! Thanks for pointing out that it fits just fine in holsters made for the 1911!

  • cisco kid

    Like most pistols the beloved “original” High Power is no longer original but cheapened like everything else.
    In 1989 the installed a passive firing pin safety that left only 1/16 or less metal under the firing pin stop plate, this has resulted in a lot of cracked slides.
    In 1994 FN went to making the frame and internal parts out of modern junk castings. This also increased the circumference of the grip frame which destroyed the “original feel” and natural pointing characteristics of the High Power.
    In about the year 2005 FN eliminated the barrel hood extension that helped stabilize the barrel for consistent lock up from shot to shot. It did not do accuracy any good that’s for sure.

    • Cymond

      Hmmmm … Good to know for those who aren’t already familiar with them.
      This complicated my goal to add one the collection eventually, note vintage is mandatory.

    • StickShift

      Forged frame Hi-Powers are actually weaker than the modern cast frame guns – I think it has to do with the heat treatment on the cast parts, but it could be the alloy as well. The cast frames came out when FN introduced the Hi-Power in .40 S&W, and bent a bunch of frames in the process.

      While plenty of people think all castings are junk, a well engineered mold and tightly controlled process gives a final product little different than it’s forged equivalent.

      • cisco kid

        Your post is very misleading and party wrong as well. Castings are not stronger than forgings given the same heat treatment and same thickness. Castings are not only brittle because of their porosity but they soak up moisture like a sponge and rust away much more rapidly. A really good heat treated forging actually resists rust. The Germans made South American contract guns were deliberately given a very strong heat treatment beuase of the very humid climate found in South American Countries.
        The 40 cal. High Powers were made of junk castings because it was more expensive and harder on machinery to heat treat the original 9mm forged frames to withstand the pounding of the 40 S&W. The frame on the .40 cal guns was made thicker as well. Therefore your comparison is not valid at all.

        • StickShift

          You’re reading into things – nowhere did I state that castings are superior to forgings, as a rule. I stated that Hi-Power cast frames are superior to the earlier Hi-Power forgings, likely due to the heat treat applied to the cast frames.

          I won’t contest that FN could have heat treated the forged frames to superior strength than the heat treated cast frames, but they didn’t, likely for the reasons you stated. That means that the cast frame guns are stronger than the forged guns.

          You’re incorrect that .40 S&W frames are different from 9mm frames. Cast 9mm and .40 S&W frames are the same – it’s the slide that changed between them. You’re probably thinking of the differences between cast and forged frames, rather than different dimensions between calibers.

  • livingonenergydrinks

    A little History note: Browning Died in 1926 while working on a gun for Fabrique Nationale, that gun was finished by Dieudonne Saive and released as the GP35 in 1935, or as we all know it, the High Power.

    A part of me feels like most innovation and advances in firearms stopped after Browning died, and more recently its been an industry run by lawyers who use patents as weapons.

  • anonymouse

    So:
    Q.Does it hold up today?
    A. Yes, if you replace all its old components with new custom ones.

  • Bo Bo

    I had the Browning hi power for over ten years and I enjoyed shooting it. I eventually sold it and bought the Glock 19 gen 4. Some negatives I found with the gun: the magazine cutoff made for a creepy trigger, although I did have a trigger job done no gun smith would remove the mag cutoff for “legal” reasons, removing it yourself was complex on the newer hi powers; the mag doesn’t drop out and has to be pulled out after pressing the release button; hammer bite is a given on the hi power, I sent it back to browning and they did fix the issue; if you had smaller hands the double stack mag made it difficult to get a good grip; on the new hi powers it is so tight you can’t rack the slide without cocking the gun first. The gun is not cheap as brand new it’s over a thousand dollars. for nostalgia reasons it’s the go to gun however, for practical everyday use the new guns do rings around it.

  • OLDNAVYVET

    If I could only have 1 pistol this would be the one.

  • Jackson Andrew Lewis

    this is the pistol whose action 90% of other pistols built since are based on…… and rerally the hi power itself is a fantastic firearm that does not get enough love…. wish browning would keep building other versions of it like 40…. for competition.