August 14, 2022
When FN ceased production of the Hi-Power Mark III, it signaled the end of the road for one of the most prevalent semiautomatic pistol designs of the 20th century. Though many changes and configurations were made since it entered production in November 1934, starting in the mid-1980s, it was overshadowed by the more affordable polymer-framed, striker-fired pistols that carried more than 13 rounds in the magazine. When Browning announced that Hi-Power models were being discontinued in 2018, the final suggested retail was $999 for a spur-hammer-type “Made in Belgium, Assembled in Portugal” gun with black-epoxy finish.
SHOT Show 2022 changed the fortunes of the legendary P.35, though. Springfield Armory launched its SA-35 ($699) — sans magazine disconnect — with a price and feature set that was rumored to have postponed the launch of FN’s new American-made High Power ($1,269). Like (and unlike) the SA-35, the FN design is a heavily revised iteration of the original.
Beating both to the punch, European American Armory (EAA) began importing Girsan’s MC P35 from Turkey in 2021. The MC P35 is based on the Mark III with the addition of a ring-type hammer and three finish options. This year, EAA’s Paul Richter also revealed future models that will feature an accessory rail, fiber-optic sights, enlarged magwell, flat-trigger, a beavertail and unique G10 grips. Retail prices are $544 for a black example, and up to $567 for a tan or two-tone version. Today, the MC P35 is the least expensive P.35-type pistol you can buy.
A Brief History
John M. Browning agreed to work on the P.35 in 1922 at the urging of FN in response to a French request for a new service sidearm. Browning’s protégé, Dieudonné Saive, engineered a magazine around the 9mm Parabellum and made a prototype of a double-column arrangement. He presented it to Browning in 1923 who took it home to Ogden, Utah. Browning made two functioning prototype pistols. The challenge for Browning was to design a pistol that didn’t violate his patents already in use by Colt for making the Model 1911. He filed a patent on June 28 to protect the locked breech design.
France wanted the Grand Puissance, which translates to “High Power,” to offer a capacity of 10 or more rounds of 9mm. It was also to have an external hammer, manual safety and a magazine disconnect safety. But, despite positive response, the French declined FN’s offering after a series of tests in 1923. The pistol’s development was stalled when Browning died of a heart attack at FN in 1926. However, Saive continued work on the design and made several changes — including a reduction of capacity from 15 rounds to 13 — before it went into commercial production.
Belgium’s military adopted the pistol as the “P.35” with a tangent sight and slot for mounting a wood shoulder stock. Unfortunately, the German occupation of Belgium during World War II began on May 28, 1940. The FN factory in Liege fell under the control of Germans who forced production of the P.35 under the designation “Pistole 640(b).&rdquo
In June 1941, a P.35 was smuggled to Canada by a Chinese general to reverse engineer it without plans. John Inglis began manufacturing the Mk 1 and Mk 2 9mm H.P., or “High Power” in 1944.
Following World War II, the P.35 evolved in the manufacturing hands of several countries: Argentina, Bulgaria, Canada, India and Israel. As a result, the P.35 and its High Power variants went on to serve military and police forces in more than 50 different nations spanning Australia to Zimbabwe. Ironically, the list of users even included France. The P.35 was carried into combat by Finnish soldiers during the Winter and Continuation Wars with Russia, and was used by special forces from Malaysia to Poland. It was also used throughout the wars in Africa during the 1980s.
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