The Hi Power of the Future (in 1948): Canada’s Lightweight Aluminum-Framed Browning

In mid-1970s USA, a revolution was brewing, but not one of disenfranchised peasants or minorities. Instead, the time-tested and classic pistols of American gunmakers were about to be upset by European invaders. The Wondernine was coming, and on its heels the Aglockalypse. By the end of the second decade of the new millenium, no challengers would be left standing, and the high capacity Europellet 9mm would reign supreme.

The very first harbinger of this coming tidal wave of change was a design initiated by the great American gun inventor John Browning – but finished by his European protégé Dieudonné Saive in a fitting metaphor for the coming European invasion. This design was the Browning Hi Power, a 13 shot 9mm Luger pistol with classically Browning lines and signs of the able hands of Saive present throughout its mechanism. Today, the Hi Power remains a B-list star in America, when compared to its older brother the 1911, but abroad it is one of the most successful and well-recognized pistol designs of all time.

In 1948, the Canadians took a shot at improving the Hi Power by lightening it with an aluminum – instead of steel – frame and cuts to the slide. We turn to the blog Historical Firearms, whose author Matthew Moss recently got a chance to examine some original source documents regarding these interesting experimental pistols:

In 1947 engineers at John Inglis and Company began work on developing a lightweight Browning Hi-Power. The first pistol had a lightened slide and a steel frame. However, by 1948 Inglis were experimenting with aluminium alloy frames.

Inglis assembled six prototype pistols, chambered in 9x19mm, with steel slides scalloped with lightening cuts on the top and sides and alloy frames. Mechanically the experimental pistols were identical to the standard Hi-Power using a short-recoil action and feeding from a 13-round double stack magazine. Unloaded the experimental pistols weighed 25.5 ounces, a reduction of 8.5 ounces or 25% of the standard Hi-Power’s weight. Externally the alloy frame had a black enamel finish while the slide was parkerised.

image

A standard Inglis Mark I* Hi-Power (source)

Two of the pistols remained in Canada for testing, Britain received two and two were sent to the US for testing and evaluation. Canadian testing of what was officially designated the ‘Pistol, Browning FN 9mm, HP No. 2 MK.1/1 Canadian Lightweight Pattern’ took place in June – July 1948. Their report concluded that “the performance of the Lightweight Pistols during the trial was of the same order as that of the Standard and is acceptable for service use.“ In December 1948, Testing Section staff at the Royal Small Arms Factory, Enfield evaluated the performance of the Inglis prototypes sent to Britain in what became known as ‘The Lightened Browning Trials.’

Be sure to click through and read the whole thing.

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Image source: historicalfirearms.info

 

The lightweight Hi Power unfortunately never went anywhere, which is a shame because in many ways it predicated the trends of the 1970s and ’80s all the way back in 1948. The high performance aluminum frame wondernine would have to wait, though, for guns like the Beretta 92 and S&W Model 59 to take the market by storm and pave the way for that evilest of absolute tyrants, the Glock.





Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • AndyHasky

    looks like it’s set up for a red dot

    • DW

      Assailant arms before it was cool

  • codfilet

    Are the Russians hacking Disqus?

    • AC97

      I think they hacked TFB too, because for a while, I got a “database error” message for the site.

  • AC97

    It would be nice if Hi-Powers were below $1,000…

    • derpmaster

      I’m kicking myself for not getting one of the Argie ones when they were $200 a few years ago.

    • BrandonAKsALot

      If you don’t have to have an FN/Browning one, they are. I got an FEG this year for $205 from Aim Surplus.

      • Richard

        I’ve seen surplus FN/browning ones on gunbroker for anywhere between $300ish to under $500.

      • .45

        Huh. I got an Israel trade in, but it was more like twice that. Shoots nice, but I should buy new springs for it and I don’t like the lack of positive trigger reset thing going on. Need me a two coil spring…

      • Holdfast_II

        Got an ex-Israeli one for around $400 from AIM, and then put about $250 of parts in (including G10 grips, the most expensive part). So for $650 I have a nice-shooting Hi-Power with all new springs and grips that are much nicer than the ones sold by Browning on new guns. Love it.

      • ASterisk

        I got one of the FEG hi powers and sent it off to Robar for customization. For about the price of a new Browning I’ve ended up with a totally custom hi power with one of the nicest triggers I’ve ever used on a gun, and a whole host of other upgrades that don’t come on a new, stock hi power. Definitely worth it

        • BrandonAKsALot

          I cleaned mine up and just left it worn looking. I like it. I got one without the mag lock and the trigger is amazing.

    • idahoguy101

      Keep an eye out for a Charles Daly HP. They’re on the used market for about $400.

  • JustAHologram

    Since these are Inglis Hi-Powers it’s worth noting that a good bit of the war production magazines were actually 14rd magazines

  • BearSlayer338

    I was hoping this article would be about the NAACO Brigadier,a Canadian trials pistol that used .45 NAACO which later became the .45 Winchester Magnum. The pistol had an Aluminum slide and was reported to get 1600 fps at the muzzle with 230 grain ammo.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/23a33ab6e51ce97085042679769339b3ce0ab443c30a2ee18de1b54f0e4a2da9.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f4ad58e07e8bb24de246ad3fb5d859300eab459c9e3e8eab1005c90568233f00.jpg

  • Edeco

    At first I cringed, since even the steel ones, I’ve read, are built but not overbuilt. Which is believable given how svelte they are. But then I think the slide is the weak point.

  • Avid Fan

    I read not too long ago that the high volume European shooters would convert the .40 S&W Hi-Powers to 9mm and shoot the bejabbers out of them. This due to the problem of something or other after 100s of thousands rounds give or take.

  • Jas

    Actually, there were more HP aloy frames made. In the 1970s Belgian Police bought a number of HPs made by the FN factory that had aluminum frames. These guns could only be distiguished by looking at the “bridge”, the part in the frame that unlocks the barrel from the slide. In normal HP pistols this part is oval shaped, in the aluminum framed HP this is a round pin, just like in the older versions of the pistol.

    It is very strange when one picks up such a gun for there is no external difference with the steel version so one wonders “Something is wrong, but what is it?”. Until you realise that the gun is much lighter…. I have no idea how many of these Gendarme pistols were made but in europe we used to encounter them regularly. Sportshooters complained that these guns kicked too hard.