Thursday, January 11, 2007


Browning Hi-Power

Browning Hi-Power

Browning Hi-Power, with adjustable rear sight, and shoulder stock
Type Pistol
Place of origin US/Belgium
Service history
Used by Belgium, United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, United States
Wars World War II

Cartridge 9x19mm
Caliber 9x19mm
Action Recoil-operated
Rate of fire Semi-automatic
Feed system 13 rounds (standard-capacity magazine), +1 in chamber

The Browning Hi-Power is a semi-automatic, single-action, 9 mm pistol. It is based on ideas conceived and patented in 1922 by American firearms inventor John Browning, and later patented by Fabrique Nationale d'Armes de Guerre (FN) of Herstal, Belgium. Browning died in 1926, before he had finished developing a production version. The design was fully developed and realized by Belgian arms designer Dieudonne Saive, working at FN.

The Hi-Power pistol is named for its 13-round magazine capacity, which was almost twice that of contemporary designs such as the Luger or Mauser 1910. The Hi-Power had the first functional double-column magazine of 9 mm Parabellum rounds, and was capable of holding 13 cartridges, with a 14th loaded in the chamber.


The Hi Power was designed in response to a French military requirement for a new service pistol, the Grand Rendement (French for "High Yield"), or alternatively Grand Puissance (literally "high power"). The French military's requirements were that the arm have a 15-round capacity, a magazine disconnect device, an 8-inch barrel, and that it should be chambered for the same 9mm Parabellum cartridge that Germany used. It was to accomplish all of this without weighing more than 1kg (2.2 lb).

FN enlisted John Browning to design a new military sidearm conforming to this specification. Browning had previously sold the rights to his successful M1911 U.S. Army automatic pistol to Colt's Patent Firearms, and was therefore forced to design an entirely new pistol while working around the M1911 patents. Browning built two different prototypes for the project. One was a simple blowback design, while the other was operated with a locked-breech recoil system. Both prototypes utilized a new staggered magazine design to increase capacity without unduly increasing the pistol's grip size or magazine length.

The locked breech design was selected for further development and testing. This model was striker-fired, and featured a double-column magazine that held 16 rounds. The design was refined through several trials held by the Versailles Trial Commission.

In 1928, when the patents for the Colt Model 1911 had expired, Dieudonne Saive integrated many of the Colt's previously patented features into the Grand Rendement design, in the Saive-Browning Model of 1928. This version featured the removable barrel bushing and takedown sequence of the Colt 1911.

By 1931, the Hi-Power design incorporated a shortened 13-round magazine, a curved rear gripstrap, and a barrel bushing that was integral to the slide assembly. By 1934, the Hi-Power design was complete and ready to be produced. It was first adopted by Belgium for military service in 1935 as the Browning P-35. Ultimately, France decided not to adopt the pistol, instead selecting the conceptually similar Mle. 1935.

Design features

Browning HP "Adjustable Rear Sight Model", made for Finnish airforce in 1939. Pistol has internal extractor
Browning HP "Adjustable Rear Sight Model", made for Finnish airforce in 1939. Pistol has internal extractor
Browning HP "Adjustable Rear Sight Model", made for Sultan of Muscat & Oman. Pistol has external extractor
Browning HP "Adjustable Rear Sight Model", made for Sultan of Muscat & Oman. Pistol has external extractor

The Browning Hi-Power has undergone continuous refinement by FN since its introduction. The pistols were originally made in two models: an "Ordinary Model" with fixed sights and an "Adjustable Rear Sight Model" with a tangent-type rear sight and a slotted grip for attaching a wooden shoulder stock. The adjustable sights are still available on commercial versions of the Hi-Power, although the shoulder stock mounts were discontinued during WW2. In 1962, the design was modified to replace the internal extractor with an external extractor, improving reliability slightly.

Standard Hi-Powers are based on a single-action design. Unlike modern 'double-action semi-automatic pistols, the Hi-Power's trigger is not connected to the hammer. If the pistol is carried with the hammer down, the shooter must manually operate the slide in order to cock the pistol. In common with the Colt 1911, the Hi-Power is therefore typically carried, in military use, with the hammer cocked and the safety catch on (a carry mode often called cocked and locked, or sometimes called condition one).

The Hi-Power, like many other Browning designs, operates on the short-recoil principle, where the barrel and slide initially recoil together until the barrel is unlocked from the slide by a camming action. Unlike Browning's earlier Colt M1911, the barrel is not moved vertically by a toggling link, but instead by a hardened bar which crosses the frame under the barrel and contacts a slot under the chamber, at the rearmost part of the barrel. The barrel and slide recoil together for a short distance but, as the slot engages the bar, the chamber and the rear of the barrel are drawn downward and stopped. The downward movement of the barrel disengages it from the slide, which continues rearward, extracting the spent case from the chamber and ejecting it. After the slide reaches the limit of its travel, the recoil spring brings it forward again, stripping a new round from the magazine and pushing it into the chamber. This also pushes the chamber and barrel forward. The cam slot and bar move the chamber upward and the locking lugs on the barrel reengage those in the slide.

The Hi-Power has two major flaws. The standard trigger pull is poor, especially for a single-action pistol. This disadvantage is a consequence of the Hi-power's magazine safety design, which was initially added to the model to meet the requirements of the French military in 1935. The standard Hi-Power magazine safety is connected directly to the trigger and is actuated by a plunger pressing on the surface of the magazine. This action of the plunger on the magazine adds grit to the trigger pull, and the required force to operate this feature adds weight as well. This problem is often resolved by removing the magazine safety entirely, thus voiding the pistol's warranty, or by polishing the interface surfaces between the safety plunger and the magazine.

In addition, the pistol has a tendency to "bite" the web of the shooter's hand, between the thumb and forefinger. This bite is caused by pressure from the hammer spur, or alternatively by pinching between the hammer shank and grip tang. Many HP owners fix this problem by altering or replacing the hammer.

Military service

Browning Hi-Power pistols were used during WWII by both the Allied and the Axis powers. Belgium was occupied by the Axis powers early in the war, and FN's plant was seized by Nazi Germany. The German armed forces used the Hi-Power as the Pistole 640(b) (for belgien). Examples produced by FN in Belgium under German occupation bear a German inspection and acceptance mark, or Waffenamt, such as WaA613.

Hi-Power pistols were also produced in Canada for Allied use, by John Inglis and Company. The pistol was popular with covert operations and commando groups such as the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the nascent British SAS (Special Air Service) Regiment. In the post-war period, Hi-Powers remained popular among military forces, with over 50 armies (93 nations) issuing this design since its invention. As of 2005 The MK1 version is currently in service with the Canadian Forces, and the weapon is the standard sidearm of the Belgian Army, British Army, Australian Defence Force, Argentine Army, Irish Army, and Venezuelan Army, among others.

Example: technical description of the Mark III

A locked-breech, semi-automatic, single-action, recoil-operated pistol. The Browning Hi-Power Mk III uses a 13-round staggered magazine.


  • Caliber: 9 mm Parabellum or .40 Smith and Wesson
  • Length: 7.9 in (200 mm)
  • Barrel length: 4.6 in (118 mm)
  • Weight: 2 lb (930g)(unloaded); 2.3 lb (1.085 kg) (with loaded magazine)
  • Capacity: 13 + 1 or 10 + 1
  • Feed device: 10, 13, or 20 round box (larger capacities available)
  • Modes of fire: Single action
  • Muzzle velocity: 1160 ft/s
  • Safeties: Half-cock notch, manual thumb safety, firing pin block, and magazine safety
  • Sights: Blade front w/ notch rear (dovetailed to slide), white high-visibility markings standard (3 vertical bars), 6.2" (159 mm) sight radius
  • Trigger pull: 7.5 lb
  • Maximum Effective Range: 50 m


Genuine Browning Hi-Power P-35s are still manufactured by FN Herstal of Belgium and Portugal, and under license by Fabricaciones Militares (FM) of Argentina. The Hi-Power remains one of the most influential pistols in the history of small arms. It has inspired a number of clone manufacturers (including Charles Daly of the Philippines & USA, FEG of Hungary, Arcus of Bulgaria, and others) who borrow features from it, chiefly the linkless cam system. Until recently, FEG made an almost exact clone, but the company now manufactures a version with modifications to the barrel, linkage, and slide stop that are incompatible with genuine Hi-Powers.

  • The Browning L9A1, a military version of the P-35 Hi-Power, is still utilized by several branches of the UK military forces. The Hi-Power was the pistol of choice for the British Special Air Service (Special Forces), throughout the Cold War era.
Browning Hi-Power .40 S&W - groove is machined into the side of the slide to allow clearance for the slide release on .40 S&W and .357 SIG models.
Browning Hi-Power .40 S&W - groove is machined into the side of the slide to allow clearance for the slide release on .40 S&W and .357 SIG models.
  • The Mark I, Mark II, Mark III, Hi-Power Standard, Hi-Power Practical, and Capitan are among the best-known models of the P-35 developed over the last 50 years. A wide variety of options and features are available on the P-35 models. Recently, Hi-Power pistols have become available in the .40 S&W and .357 SIG loadings. However, the use of these calibers in guns designed and built for 9 mm Parabellum has created cases of broken or warped frames. Only Hi-Powers specifically built for these rounds should be used to fire them. The pistols manufactured for these two rounds are easily identified by examining the left side of the slide - a groove is machined into the side of the heavier slide to allow clearance for the slide release.
  • The HP-SFS (Safe-Fast-Shooting) is a current variation on the Hi-Power Mark III with a modified firing mechanism. After the weapon is loaded, the hammer is pushed forward, which automatically activates the safety catch. When the shooter is prepared to fire, the safety is pressed down with the thumb, releasing the hammer to spring backwards into the usual, single-action position. A similar system is available for modifying Colt M1911A1s. Magazines are interchangeable with the Mark III and others.
  • The Detective is a short-slide HP produced by FM. The Detective slide group is also available without the frame, and is interchangeable with other FM and FN Hi-Power P-35s.
Browning HP-DA/BDA9.
Browning HP-DA/BDA9.

The DA & DAO Models were first produced in the 1990s by FN. The DA model is double action, and the DAO model is "double action only," both versions differing from the usual single-action operation of the P-35. These designs have been marketed under the name of HP-DA and BDA-9. The DA and DAO models retain many features of the P-35, and both are available in full-sized and compact versions. Performance of these models is consistent with FN's high standards. These models resemble the P-35, but the most distinguishing feature is the extended SIG-Sauer style trigger guard. Many parts are interchangeable with the P-35, but the magazines (although similar) are not. The compact versions also utilize shorter magazines. FN HP DA is the standard sidearm of the Finnish Army as 9.00 PIST 80-91.

The BDM Model was first produced in the late 1990s by FN. The Browning Double Mode pistol incorporates many features of the DA model, but can be switched from double action to single action by the flip of a lever. These models do not strongly resemble the classic design of the P-35, lacking its sleek lines. The performance of this model is excellent, though. Magazines are usually interchangeable among the full-sized DA, DAO, and BDM models.

  • Both the DA / DAO models and the BDM model borrow features from the SIG-Sauer SIG P220 pistols marketed under the name Browning Double Action (BDA) in the 1970s. The Beretta 84 has also been marketed by Browning under the name BDA 380.

Notable incidents


  • The Browning High Power Automatic Pistol, by R. Blake Stevens (Collector Grade Publications, 1990)
  • The FN High Power Explained, by Gerard Henrotin, (H&L Publishing -, 2003)

See also

External links

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British & Commonwealth small arms of World War II
Weapons of the British Empire 1722-1965
German-made firearms and light weapons of World War II
Side arms (Pistole)
Mauser C96 | Luger | Walther P38 | Walther PPK | Sauer 38H | Mauser HSc
Rifles & carbines (Gewehr & Karabiner)
Karabiner 98k | Gewehr 43/Karabiner 43 | StG44/MP44 | FG42 | StG45(M)
Submachine guns ( Maschinenpistole )
Bergmann MP18 | MP38/MP40 "Schmeisser" | MP3008 "Volks MP"
Machine guns & other larger weapons
MG08 | MG34 | MG42 | Faustpatrone | Panzerfaust | Panzerschreck

Flammenwerfer 35 | Panzerbüchse 39 | Granatwerfer 36 | Granatwerfer 42

Notable foreign-made infantry weapons
P.640(b) | Vis.35 | Vz.24/G24(t) | MG26(t) | Panzerbüchse 35(p)
German-made cartridges used by the Wehrmacht
7.92 x 57 mm | 7.63 x 25 mm Mauser | 7.92 mm Kurz | 7.65 mm Luger | 9mm Luger