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Historical G&A TV Handguns Semi Auto

Evolution of the Browning Hi Power

by Guns & Ammo TV   |  December 2nd, 2013 11

The Browning Hi Power is a staple of John M. Browning’s achievements in firearm design. In production since the early 20th century, the Hi Power’s legacy is deeply rooted in military, law enforcement and civilian history around the globe.

However, many don’t realize the Hi Power went through several design changes to become the pistol we recognize today. On this segment of Guns & Ammo TV, Craig Boddington examines the evolution of the Browning Hi Power.

  • swalker

    I’ve read that you should never carry a single action for protection, but nothing feels so good in my hand, and it goes everywhere with me.

    • Bill

      You know who says that? Companies that don’t make SA autos and their industry shills. When I carry a 1911, I can point to three safety mechanisms – thumb safety, grip safety and drop-proof, lightweight firing pin – in addition to the one between my ears. There is no safer handgun! When it comes time to fire, the short and light trigger pull of a SA pistol aids accurate shot placement like no other design. I’ve owned and competed with just about all other trigger actions – DA/SA, DA-only, Glock-style striker-fired. NONE inspire the confidence I have when using a 1911. I’m sure our Hi-Power brethren feel the same.

    • BJC

      Don’t know where your info come’s from but if the single action were so bad, for whatever reason, I don’t think the military would have used it for their main issue side arm for so many years, (still in use in some unit’s) and I don’t think they would be made by almost every firearm manufacturer today. Cocked and locked-safe, fast and effective.

      • Bryant

        Precisely. In 2011, the Colt 1911 service auto celebrated its 100th year in military service; longer than any handgun, or even service rifle, issued anywhere in the world. JMB did something tremendously right when he designed that little jewel, and the Browning Hi-Power is no less a diamond in the Great Handguns jewelry box! I love them both.

      • FourString

        I agree (*big, big big* DA/SA or SAO, condition 1, fan myself, in the form of an H&K USP 9mm) but the British Army switched over from the Browning Hi Power to the Glock 17 Gen 4 recently in part due to a very tragic incident when a British officer (or a grunt, not sure) died in an Afghan camp, when it was penetrated by a spy in ally fatigues, because he couldn’t deactivate his safety in time to get a shot off. I understand where some people are coming from. Personally I think training has to do with carrying condition 1, but as you can see from the above example, no side is completely incorrect.

      • FourString

        Also, DA/SA is still used by the U.S. military (Beretta M9A1) and its more specialised units (Sig P226/Mk25, M11), so single action is still very much the order of the day, and that supports your point further. Since you are presumably referring to SAO I still could not agree more.

  • captneal

    I carried mine off duty in civilian law enforcement and then thru 6 years in the military, 2 in Vietnam and by then 9mm ammo was used by special ops so it was easy to get, 1 in the tube, half cock and your good to go unless you are stupid. I like a 1911 but never liked a military issue one. My Hi Power never failed me.

  • Joseph Rhoney

    Hey! I was just there at the John M. Browning museum in Union Station last week :D Best museum ever!

  • petru sova

    This pistol really should been called the Dieudonne Saive High Power because it was he not John Browning that invented it. Browning invented a striker fired pistol not a hammer fired pistol. Saive also had an eye for beauty and his pistol the FN High power was a beauty compared to John Brownings ugly duckling.

    Back in the good old days gun factories made guns with the highest possible workmanship and materials. Solid steel double heat treated forged parts were used throughout. Hand polished mirror finishes were put on them. Close fitting tolerances often rivaled many of todays so called custom house re-worked guns.
    They were often collectors items the day you bought them.

    Such a gun was the “T” Series High Power. Perhaps the finest high capacity 9mm ever made. I bought one in 1968 brand new for the princely sum of $100 dollars plus 4 dollars tax. The gun was so tightly fitted that I had to hand cycle the slide for the first 50 rounds even though I had drowned it in outers gun oil. Then it started working and is still working 45 years later and is still one of the most accurate 9mm guns I have ever owned despite having over 4,000 round put through it.

    Trigger pull is a fabulous 3 lbs. Try finding a factory gun today or even an expensive custom one with that light a pull, you won’t.

    In WWII it was “The Handgun to Have” and sought after by all sides in the Conflict. Even the Chinese had Canada ship them the Canadian Ingles clone guns. The opposing Japanese though highly of it.

    In the European theater many a Luger, P38 and yes many a 1911 were instantly traded for a High Power. Contrary to popular gun writer myths the .45 was not liked by many G.I.’s as my interviews with them in the 1950′s on revealed to me they distrusted the lousy accuracy of the 1911 which was built to very loose tolerances. Contrary to popular gun writer myth this was not done to insure a superior functioning weapon (the High Power was just as reliable with better accuracy and closer fitting parts) rather it was done to speed up production time.

    For years the High Power was the only double stack high capacity gun made until the much inferior Smith 59 came along. The High Power had a steel forged slide that did not disintegrate when large numbers of rounds were fired. This happened to the Smith M39 in a torture test conducted by George Nonte in the 1970′s. The Smith’s aluminum frame rails disintegrated on the rear of the slide and the cheap cast safety broke in two.

    Of course today the High Power is much changed, it has a passive firing pin safety which leaves only 1/16 of an inch of metal in the rear end of the slide which results in slide cracking if dry fired too much and the frame and internal parts are now castings.

    The frame was changed to a casting in 1994 to cut production costs. The frame was also changed because the former forged frame gun would have had to be given a harder heat treatment to withstand the tremendous pounding of the then new 40 S&W cartridge. This would have drove machine repair costs up so a cast frame was substituted that required way less machining operations, contrary to popular believe the cast frame was not used because it was superior, it just could be made harder with less machine operations in the final manufacture.

    The barrel hood extension has also been done away with as another cost saving measure with a resulting decrease in average accuracy.

    Today mint condition “T” series guns command premium prices, as well they should compared to what is being made today with the usual plastic, metal and cast parts.

  • Santiago Montenegro

    Fabrique is pronounced fabrick, not fabrickè!

  • Shinichi Takahashi


    I want a real pistol

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