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Browning Hi-Power Standard 9x19mm Pistol

By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff

Browning Hi-Power Standard 9x19mm Pistol
Illustration courtesy of Browning Arms.

World wide, the Browning (www.browning.com) P-35 Hi-Power is perhaps the best known of all autoloading pistols. It has been adopted as the service pistol of some 50 countries and countless police departments and Special Forces units. The Hi-Power is the final evolution of John M. Browning's pistol designs. Introduced in 1935 (hence P-35), the Master and FN's Dieudonne Saive rectified the faults of Browning's earlier 1911 design and added a staggered row (double stack) magazine, increasing magazine capacity to 13 rounds. The superiority of the Hi-Power to other pistols of the time was immediately recognized and the rest is history. Indeed, the P-35 remains in the Browning catalog after 76 years and is still their signature pistol. Hi-Power components are made in Belgium and assembled in Portugal by FN.

In addition to the Standard model, which comes with a high polished blue finish and walnut grips, Browning offers the less attractive Mark III with a black epoxy finish and plastic grip panels. Naturally, we favor the upscale Standard version. Here are the test pistol's specifications.

  • Item number: 051004493
  • Type: Recoil operated, single action, autoloading pistol
  • Caliber: 9x19mm (9mm Luger, 9mm Parabellum)
  • Magazine capacity: 13
  • Barrel length: 4-5/8"
  • Sight radius: 6-1/2"
  • Overall length: 7-3/4"
  • Weight: 2 pounds
  • Metal finish: High polish blued
  • Grips: Checkered walnut
  • Sights: White line Patridge with fully adjustable rear
  • 2011 MSRP: $1100

Except for the walnut grip panels, this is an all steel pistol, including the magazine. There are no plastic or aluminum parts. The grip frame is one-piece; gone is the separate main spring housing (usually polymer) found in 1911 pistols. (The main/hammer spring is tucked neatly inside the all steel grip frame.) The P-35's solid back strap is wide and the grip panels extend all the way rearward; this makes a larger contact area in the hand to better distribute recoil. The grip is curved to fit the hand, which eliminates the need for a bulky beavertail rear tang, even with the Hi-Power's conventional, ergonomic, serrated spur hammer.

Also gone is the clumsy and superfluous grip safety. The ambidextrous frame mounted safety (older model P-35's have a left side safety) is conventional in operation, up for "safe" and down for "fire." It is easy to switch to the fire position (no extended safety required) and unlikely to be moved accidentally. Other safety features include a -cock hammer notch and magazine disconnect safety.

The slide stop lever and magazine release button are conventionally located. Magazines do not rely on gravity to drop free of the pistol. Each magazine has a small ejection spring that kicks it free when the magazine release is pressed, even with the pistol laying on its side or, for that matter, upside down. Overall, the Hi-Power is similar in operation to a 1911, but better.

The Hi-Power measures about " less in overall length and " shorter than a Remington 1911 R1 we had on hand for review and it weighs 6.8 ounces less. It is generally similar in silhouette and style. However, the P-35's subtly more rounded and tapered lines make it look significantly smaller and more graceful than the older style pistol.

The Hi-Power is chambered for the 9x19mm (9mm Luger) cartridge. The 9x19 is a powerful .35 caliber cartridge, but devotees of the .45 ACP 1911 pistol apparently find the Hi-Power name baffling. Well, figure it out. A flush 1911 pistol magazine holds seven cartridges, each 230 grain bullet delivering 356 ft. lbs. of energy at the muzzle (Remington figure). Thus, a 1911 pistol carries 2492 ft. lbs. of kinetic energy (7 x 356 = 2492) in its magazine. A flush P-35 magazine holds 13 cartridges, each 124 grain bullet delivering 339 ft. lbs. of energy at the muzzle (Remington figure). Thus, a Hi-Power carries 4407 ft. lbs. of energy (13 x 339 = 4407) in its magazine. 4407 ft. lbs. is a LOT more energy than 2492 ft. lbs., so the Hi-Power name is literally appropriate.

The 13 shot magazine is not the P-35's only improvement over the 1911; it is just one of many. The P-35 is easier to disassemble, due to a clever disassembly notch on the slide that allows the safety lever to hold the slide in the proper position for removal of the slide stop. Gone is the obsolete barrel bushing at the muzzle. When you remove the slide, you will find that the recoil spring and guide rod are conveniently locked together. The irritating swinging link used to unlock the barrel in the 1911 has been replaced by a ring at the end of the guide rod, making reassembly more convenient. After field stripping a P-35 there are only five parts and assemblies: barrel, guide rod/recoil spring assembly, slide assembly, frame assembly and slide stop. Except for the separate slide stop, the P-35 field strips like a modern pistol!

No gun is perfect and in the case of this new Hi-Power we found three areas to complain about. First, the walnut grips are excessively wide. They come with large, raised checkered panels that merely serve to increase the grip's width. We called our friends at Hogue (www.hoguestore.com), who graciously offered to send a set of their thinner, Model 09020, ivory polymer grips for our test pistol. These Hogue grips are not only thinner and very attractive, they are subtly shaped to fill-in a little more area below the safety levers on both sides of the frame and extend farther up the rear tang for increased comfort. They give the Hi-Power an altogether better feel and we found it also aims more instinctively for point shooting. An excellent way to invest $49.95 (2011 MSRP) if you own a Browning Hi-Power. If polymer is not your preferred grip material, Hogue also offers Hi-Power grips in exotic hardwoods, molded rubber, aluminum and G-10. Whatever your grip needs, Hogue has you covered!

Second, the trigger pull is gritty and unbelievably heavy. It proved impossible for us to measure, as it easily maxed-out our eight-pound RCBS trigger pull scale. We guess it takes between 11 and 12 pounds of force to fire this pistol! Corporate lawyers be dammed, there is simply no excuse for shipping a pistol of this quality and price with a crummy trigger pull like this. It is beyond absurd, especially in a single action pistol.

Third, the main spring (hammer spring) is much heavier than necessary and it made cocking the hammer a chore. Racking the slide with the hammer down requires gorilla hand strength. We have already ordered Wolfe replacement springs and when they arrive Gunsmith Editor Rocky Hays will fix the Hi-Power's hammer and trigger, but it should not be necessary.

A new Hi-Power is supplied in a plastic carrying case with two magazines, gun lock, owner's manual and the usual safety warnings. The pistol is saturated (nearly dripping!) with an oily preservative that should be removed before use. We used Prolix to clean and lubricate our Hi-Power before taking it to the range.

We do our gun testing at the Izaak Walton gun range south of Eugene, Oregon. This outdoor facility has covered bench rests and target stands at ranges out to 200 yards, but we normally do our handgun testing at 25 yards, as we did with the Hi-Power. Our early summer range day in rainy western Oregon was overcast with occasional showers and a high of 69-degrees F. Guns and Shooting Online staff members Chuck Hawks, Rocky Hays, Jim Fleck and Bob Fleck took part in the shooting. We fired five shot groups for record at 25 yards using a Pistol Perch rest.

Our available ammunition included Remington/UMC 115 grain FMJ, Winchester/USA 115 grain FMJ and DRT 124 grain lead free cup point factory loads. We shot at Caldwell Orange Peel 8" bullseye targets. Our first group hit high and to the left. Nine clicks down and two clicks right with the adjustable rear sight served to center our groups. No hammering or filing required. There is just no substitute for a fully adjustable rear sight! Here are our shooting results:

  • DRT 124 gr. CP: Smallest group = 1-1/2", Largest group = 2-3/16", Mean average group size = 1.8"
  • Win. 115 gr. FMJ: Smallest group = 1", Largest group = 3-1/8", Mean average group size = 2.2"
  • Rem. 115 gr. FMJ: Smallest group = 4-1/8", Largest group = 5-1/2", Mean average group size = 4.7"

Except for the Remington/UMC load that the Hi-Power clearly did not like, this is an exceedingly accurate 9mm pistol, perhaps the most accurate we have subjected to a full Guns and Shooting Online Review. The DRT 124 grain and Winchester 115 grain ammo averaged a composite group size of 2". This was achieved despite the worst single action trigger in memory, which made accurate shooting extremely difficult. All of us felt that we could have shot smaller groups with a proper trigger. We estimate that we could average 1.5" groups at 25 yards with the Hi-Power if it had a decent trigger. In fact, discounting the flyers we attributed to the terrible trigger, this is about what the Hi-Power did with the Winchester and DRT ammunition.

Due to the P-35's weight, wide back strap and grip design, recoil was exceptionally mild. This is one of the most comfortable shooting nines we have ever tested. It happened that we had a new Remington 1911 R1, an all steel .45 ACP pistol, at the range with the Hi-Power. The R1 is an exceptionally good shooting 1911, but the Hi-Power was both more accurate and softer shooting, in addition to carrying far more potential energy in its magazine.

Rocky particularly liked the fine sights and everyone agreed that the sight picture was conducive to accuracy. Although a brand new pistol being fired for the first time, the Hi-Power never bobbled. There were no malfunctions of any kind.

FN's Browning P-35 Hi-Power was immediately recognized as a great pistol when it was introduced in 1935 and it remains so today. The first high capacity 9mm, it has aged extremely well. It is easy to understand why so many countries adopted it and continue to use it as their service pistol. If you are looking for an extremely accurate, all steel, single action, high capacity autoloader of excellent quality with a finish to match, you need look no farther than a Browning Hi-Power Standard. In this case, "Standard" is anything but; they should call it the "Hi-Power Exceptional."

Note: Additional reviews of the FN Browning P-35 and FM (Argentine) Hi-Power pistols can be found on the Product Reviews page.




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