We have all heard the fine superlatives honoring the Browning Hi Power pistol as a legend and one of the world’s best-designed and most revered pistols. Many claim it was the first truly modern semi-automatic pistol. Some say its basic operating principles and design are used in almost every successful pistol developed, including its high-capacity double stack magazine. It has proven itself by law enforcement, military, special operations forces, and citizens all over. Today at least 30 countries still issue the Hi Power as their standard service pistol. The 9mm Hi Power was John Moses Browning’s final design and he passed away in Belgium while finalizing it. It was perfected following his death by Fabrique Nationale’s designer Dieudonne Saive in 1935. The Hi Power was introduced in 1954 to the U.S. market.
Browning currently produces two versions of the 9mm Hi Power, the Mark III and the Standard. There are other enhanced and special editions, like the discontinued and hard-to-find Hi Power Standard 75th Anniversary Edition. I was able to get this rare Anniversary edition and want to review it here. It is also known as the Model P-35 or 1935. This classic includes all the functional improvements of the Mark III, while keeping the form and similar aesthetics of the early model. I had to discover for myself if this Hi Power 9mm is truly a classic wonder or just another nice “nine.” I had to experience how it shoots and handles, compared to modern designs.
To begin, I want to give you the specifications and features for the Hi Power. Then I want to give you my 10 criteria that I use to evaluate all guns. When you are evaluating your carry guns or any gun, determine your goal, purpose, and own criteria, being certain to compare apples with apples and not with oranges, so to speak. Finally, I want to give you my analysis for each of my criteria and present my final recommendation to purchase or not. As always, set your own criteria, identify your purpose, do your own research, compare this gun’s attributes against your criteria, and check my data and information with yours, and shoot it yourself before you buy this or any gun.
Criteria and Considerations
Here are just 10 of my criteria and factors I use for evaluating any handgun, so I will use them for the Hi Power. In addition to my criteria, there are other subjective features that may be appealing for some, like a certain style, mag release location, action, caliber, appearance, number of mags included, type of sights/modifications, bore axis, rail, grip angle, non-porting or porting, included extras like a holster and pouch, customer service, etc. So, I combined these into my last Miscellaneous criterion. I must admit that ALL gun-choice decisions involve tradeoffs, but I really want ALL of my criteria to be met. I assigned a total possible point score of 10 points for each of my 10 criteria for a total possible score of 100 points. You can certainly add your own additional criteria and preferences or subtract any of mine.
Hi Power Standard 9mm Range Test
Because of its great, long-term reputation, I was anxious to shoot the Hi Power. I fired about 200 total 9mm rounds of various high-quality Federal Train & Protect 115 grain Versatile HP (1180 fps Muzzle Velocity, 356 ft lbs Muzzle Energy), Sig Sauer V-Crown 115 grain JHP (1185 fps Muzzle Velocity, 359 ft lbs Muzzle Energy), Sig Sauer Elite Performance 115 grain FMJ (1185 fps Muzzle Velocity, 359 fl lbs Muzzle Energy), and Federal Premium 124 grain JHP Hyda-Shok (1120 fps Muzzle Velocity, 345 ft lbs Muzzle Energy) ammo. I also shot just a handful of Federal American Eagle Syntech 115 grain TSJ (1130 fps muzzle velocity-326 ft-lbs muzzle energy.) Thanks to Federal and Sig Sauer for providing the rounds to test and evaluate the Hi Power Standard 9mm pistol.
Shooting all of this premium ammo really gave me a feel for how the Hi Power could handle different ammo grains and types. Usually I shoot 500 rounds over a couple of days to decide if I want to carry the gun or not, but I had the information I needed after shooting about 200 rounds. I will shoot more to confirm my initial evaluations. Below are my evaluations for each of my 10 criteria for my concealed carry purpose. As an old codger with not the best eyesight for this slightly above average shooter, I wanted to put the gun through its paces and check it thoroughly for malfunctions and performance with different quality JHP and FMJ ammo.
For me, the Hi Power’s best features were its great ergonomics. It felt so very good and solid in my hand, as well as in my wife’s smaller hands. The grip angle and comfortable grip with its fine checkering really helped. Both of us could easily reach the controls. This classic 75th Anniversary Edition all-metal gun was very tightly fitted and the frame and slide were beautifully finished and oozed high quality. The polished bluing and smooth, contoured lines made it outstanding among other guns. I really seemed to experience less felt recoil than some other guns recently reviewed. The Browning Hi Power is from a different era with special features recognized over the years by various organizations which have adopted it.
Below, I will present my ideas for each of my criteria after my range testing of the Hi Power. I found that the Hi Power was accurate, very reliable, and had great ergonomics. I did have some concerns about its trigger, the standard mag disconnect, the long reset, and some other things. I’ll share these in depth below when I address each separately. Remember, I only fired about 200 rounds in the gun. When range testing, I had no malfunctions or stoppages with any of the FMJ or JHP ammo fired and the gun was very reliable for me. All of the FMJ and the JHP ammo shot fine. But, do I recommend it for concealed carry?
Range Test Results for each of my 10 Criteria:
1. Accuracy and Reliability – Score: 10
The accuracy of the classic Hi Power was acceptable and good for me at distances of 7, 10, and 15 yards for this old codger. Of course, my best group shown above with 12 hits was at 7 yards. I really had to concentrate and work for this nice group. The other groups at longer distances were wider and about 3 inches or so. I was disappointed. The hard 6.5 pound trigger press, with a long reset did not help that much. I was not accustomed to this gun’s press. The comfortable feel and fit in my hand, overall ergonomics, lighter felt recoil, and solid quality build helped me to somewhat overcome the trigger limitations. I guess I am spoiled with my genuine 1911 short and light single action only (SAO) presses vis-a-vis this older-design SAO. I didn’t enjoy shooting it as much as I was anticipating, but it was certainly decent to get, shoot it, and I am glad I did. I am influenced by the many modern SAO, 1911, and striker-fired guns I have shot and reviewed in the past 6-7 months. However, without a doubt the reliability was there over the few 200 rounds I fired with FMJ and JHP ammo. I had no malfunctions or stoppages at all. I would expect this gun will be highly reliable over time, as many law enforcement and military organizations have learned. I used my Modified-Isosceles Stance, a two-handed grip, and the center-mass sight picture. I shot mostly Federal Train & Protect HP and Sig Sauer Elite Performance FMJ ammo. The gun was not picky and digested them easily. The slight beavertail and flatter rear-frame contour allowed me to grip the gun high on the backstrap to control it for accuracy.
2. Trigger Press – Score: 9
The trigger press averaged from 5.85 up to 6.5 pounds with 10 readings from my Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge, with the mag disconnect removed. I repeated the measurements because I was expecting a lighter press. I was disappointed and expected it to be be considerably less for this SAO pistol. While it met my press criteria at the upper limit, it did not meet my expectations. I would not carry this gun since I prefer that my carry guns have a max. of 6.5 pounds press and really much less. This is certainly personal preference and involves training and familiarity with the gun. The trigger press was smooth, longer than I wanted, and it had a long reset. It did not have for me a distinctive reset feel and very definite “click.”
3. Trigger – Score: 8
The trigger had some creep, was heavy and gritty. It is not a clean-breaking trigger. I could not easily identify the tactile and audible click. It had a consistent but very long reset. But, I liked the somewhat smoother trigger near the end of firing the 200 rounds. The steel trigger was slightly curved, but flat enough for my follow-up shots. The trigger reach for my wife and her shorter fingers was fine.
4. Barrel Length – Score: 10
The 4.62-inch Barrel with the gun’s 32 ounce heavy weight helped me control muzzle flip and the felt recoil. The steel barrel had a tight fit to the slide and was of high quality and will be durable.
5. Sights – Score: 9
The front sight was made of metal and the black frame and white vertical bars contrast helped with my quick and instinctive sight alignment and sight picture. It did not have night sights or luminescent sights. These standard stock sights were certainly acceptable to me and I liked them. I would, however, prefer night sights.
6. Proper Gun Weight – Score: 9
The overall 32 ounce unloaded weight was a little heavy for me for everyday concealed carry. It did meet my general criterion and it certainly felt solid in my hand. Of course, there are several lighter polymer guns on the market now. Some prefer them and others do not. Your call. The added weight does help hold the gun steady and definitely helped to mitigate the recoil and muzzle flip. But this will not be my carry gun. It will make a nice range plinking and home defense gun.
7. Caliber – Score: 10
I prefer the 9mm caliber, used with appropriate ammo with the right ballistics and grain weight. So, it was easy and comfortable for me to shoot the 9mm Hi Power. Felt recoil was low and easy for me to control. It digested the various 9mm ammo easily without a single malfunction or stoppage.
8. Capacity – Score: 8
Only two magazines were included and this is a concern for me. As always, I want 3 mags to be included, to save from having additional expenditures and as a minimal necessity. The standard capacity of 13 was nice for this older classic, but several modern guns have at least that and several with more. Wish a third magazine with maybe an extended base for more rounds was included. The mags were high quality & made of metal with witness holes. My medium-sized hands were comfortable with the mags. There is a magazine disconnect safety, but this Hi Power had it removed and I preferred that. It did seem to improve my felt recoil and avoid a mushy takeup at the start of the press.
9. Ergonomics – Score: 10
Overall, the ergonomics of the Hi Power are excellent. The Hi Power’s stellar polished bluing and beautiful and flawless finish make owner’s proud. Practically, it felt great in my hands and the grip angle was just right. The grip felt very good with its just-right texturing and finger reach distance for the trigger. I easily had a firm and very comfortable grip with no cuts and no abrasions from the texturing. The long hammer spur and shorter tang at the top of the backstrap might bite the web of smaller hands, but my medium-sized hands did not have any problems with this at all. I guess a different hammer could be purchased, if this proves to be a problem. The slide release lever is unusually very long and I like it. So easy to use. The mag release button was enlarged and easy for me to engage. ALL of my mags did drop freely and quickly. The mags were solidly made of steel, looked good, and had witness holes to indicate if 13 rounds were loaded. But, I wish that three mags were included. There is no rail and only rear cocking serrations, adding to the sleek and smooth profile. The felt recoil by me was manageable. There are ambidextrous thumb safeties. There is a half-cock safety position.
10. Miscellaneous – Score: 9
As always before shooting any new gun, I disassembled, lubed and cleaned, and re-assembled the Hi Power before I shot it. I did not have to press the trigger to disassemble it and it was very easy and quick to field strip. (Remember, do your SAFETY check to ensure any gun is unloaded before disassembly.) The slide racked somewhat hard with resistance from the 17-pound recoil spring and the 32-pound hammer spring, but I got use to it. My wife had just a little concern with racking it, but the springs can be changed. Recall, we just shot about 200 rounds thru this new, tightly fitted, and solidly built gun. The price of the gun is somewhat high RELATIVE to competing and current striker-fired polymer guns, so compare apples to apples. And this Hi Power 75th Anniversary Edition is very rare and will cost at or probably above the retail price indicated. Included in the high-impact ABS plastic case with the gun are 2 magazines, owner’s manual, lock and key. It does not include accessories like some have, e.g. a holster, mag pouch, loader or other accessories… or the third mag. But, there are several nice features for this very quality gun. Again, there is a magazine disconnect safety on standard models. There is no written warranty.
Total Points = 92 out of 100 Possible.
I certainly recommend this classic handgun for consideration as your home defense gun, your range gun, and even as an investment, as the 75th Anniversary Edition. You owe it to yourself to handle and shoot it. I do not recommend it for your concealed carry gun, given the many competing guns in the market now, their lower prices, with their improvements in certain features. Now don’t take this wrong, this is a high quality, well-built, and fine classic gun. Its design and features were excellent for its time. Technology has increased in several areas and general improvements have been made over the years. Its accuracy, reliability, and ergonomics are there, but there are some considerations, like with its reset, gritty trigger, mag disconnect, trigger break, parts availability perhaps, weight, etc. Of course, what is an advantage for one person may be a disadvantage for another. So it is up to you to consider my opinions and try it for yourself and assess it relative to your own criteria and preferences. The trigger press is a long and hard for my preference. It has a very long reset. The grip angle is great for me and the beavertail with the just-right aggressive grip surfaces are fine. It has an ambidextrous safety and its recoil is manageable with its weight. The Hi Power’s steel barrel, steel slide, steel receiver, steel trigger, steel mags, steel sights, etc. make it a heavy but very durable and refined gun. I was impressed that it had no malfunctions or stoppages with any of the ammo. I did want a third magazine included, but the mags did regularly drop freely. These are just my opinions and ideas, so handle and shoot it for yourself. I hope this review of the Hi Power Standard 9mm pistol has helped you gain some information you did not previously have. Consider that these are just my opinions with limited live-range fire and shooting myself only about 200 rounds of ammo. Like always, I recommend that you shoot any handgun yourself before you purchase it. Decide on your criteria, how you will primarily use the gun, and what features are important to you and you are willing to pay for ahead of your range time. Then critically evaluate the gun yourself per your criteria and purpose, with standard drills (several mentioned in my book), with various ammo types and brands, over an extended break-in period of about 500 rounds. Remember, Safety First Always.
Morgan, UT, 84050
Federal American Eagle, Train & Protect, Hydra-Shok, & Syntech TSJ Ammo
Anoka, MN 55303
Sig Sauer Elite V-Crown & Performance JHP-FMJ Ammo
Newington, NH 03801
Photos by Author.
* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.
© 2017 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected].