Springfield’s New SA-35 Hi-Power: Classic Design with Modern Upgrades

Springfield Armory SA-35 Hi-Power Review

Springfield Armory has just introduced a new Hi-Power single-action pistol in 9mm that not only retains the fine original Hi-Power design, aesthetics, and features but adds some modern upgrades. I am fortunate to get one early to review and want to share my opinions with you about it. The external lines of Springfield’s new SA-35 Hi-Power almost exactly follow the classic Hi-Power. It features subtle, but significant improvements and upgrades to American firearms inventor John Moses Browning’s original P-35 Hi-Power 9mm design. It is largely based on Browning’s famous 1911 design. Browning died in 1926, some years before the Hi-Power design was finalized and completed by Dieudonne’ Saive at Fabrique Nationale (FN) in Herstal, Belgium.

Browning Hi-Powers Discontinued in 2018

FN Herstal initially named the design the “Hi-Power” because at the time its 13-round magazine capacity was almost twice that of others. Many say it started the “Wonder Nine Craze.” Other than the P-35, the original is also often referred to as the HP-35, BHP (Browning Hi-Power), BAP (Browning Automatic Pistol), or by the French term “Grande Puissance.” The Hi-Power is one of the most widely used pistols in military history, used by over 50 countries. The Belgium military first adopted the Hi-Power for service in 1935 as the Browning P-35. Springfield Armory refers to their new Hi-Power as the SA-35, the year it was first introduced. Browning Hi-Power pistols were used during World War II by both Allied and Axis militaries. Production was discontinued by Browning in 2018 and the Hi-Power is no longer built, but clones exist.

Hi-Powers Appeared in Popular Movies and Television Series

  • John Wayne in “McQ”
  • Harrison Ford in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”
  • James Spader/Raymond Reddington in 2021 television series “The Blacklist”
  • Al Pacino in “Serpico”
  • James Bond/Daniel Craig in “Casino Royale”
  • Denzil Washington in “Man on Fire” and “Training Day”
  • Ray Liotta in “Goodfellas”
  • Hitman Mosca/Mario Donatone in “Godfather: Part III”
  • Mel Gibson/Riggs takes off Criminal in “Lethal Weapon 2”
  • Eddie Murphy in all the “Beverly Hills Cop” movies
  • Mumbai Police in 2020 action movie “Extraction”
  • Napoleon Solo/Henry Cavill in 2015 movie “Man from Uncle”
  • Stacey Keach in the “Mike Hammer” series using “Betsy”
  • George Peppard in the movie and television series “The A Team”
  • Kurt Russel in the movie “Tango and Cash” 
Browning Hi-Power Compared to the Springfield Armory SA-35 Hi-Power
Browning Hi-Power Compared to the Springfield Armory SA-35 Hi-Power

Familiar Complaints of the Original Hi-Power

Some say there are three (relatively minor) complaints about the early Hi-Power:

  1. magazine disconnect
  2. hammer bite
  3. hard to positively engage and disengage external manual safety

All have been addressed in the new SA-35.

Magazine Disconnect

The original Browning Hi-Power has a magazine disconnect, which means the pistol will not fire if a magazine is not fully inserted. Some see this as a safety advantage when struggling with an attacker for control of the gun since you can press the magazine release button, get the mag out, and leave the attacker with an unloaded gun. But, if you are engaged with a bad guy or gal, this might be a control disadvantage for you when you need your gun to fire and the mag is out. And this also affects the trigger press. All relative for the individual and the particular situation.

Hammer Bite

Hammer bite is the tendency for a pistol to pinch, cut, or “bite” the web of the shooting hand between the hammer spur and the frame’s beavertail or tang. The way you grip any pistol has a significant effect on this, as does the size of the shooter’s hands, the extended length of the hammer spur, the length of the tang protrusion that sits over your hand’s web, how high up you grip the gun, and the type and size of the beavertail grip safety (if present on any gun.)  These structures assist in managing recoil and control, but also protect the hand from the slide assembly as it quickly moves rearwards and is pinched by the hammer spur when firing. Some guns have a short grip safety and a long wide hammer spur. I have found that Commander-type hammers, especially on 1911s, usually fix this. But you can make minor modifications to your pistols’ hammer spur or simply use a bandaid in the web of your hand when shooting. You can also use a gunsmith and a spring kit to correct both hammer bite and the magazine disconnect concern, at a relatively low cost. This concern varies among shooters and I have never experienced it, thankfully, with my grip on any of my guns.

External Thumb Safety Manipulation

Since the Hi-Power is a single-action design (like a 1911 pistol) that can be carried “Cocked and Locked,” the external manual safety should be easily, positively, and solidly engaged and disengaged.

The original Hi-Power had somewhat of a soft on-and-off click. Extended safeties, like with the new SA-35, positively engage and disengage with a solid click.

Springfield Armory SA-35 Hi-Power Specifications:

Spec 1Spec 2
Caliber9mm
ModelSA-35
Part Number#HP9201
Barrel Length4.70"
Barrel TypeHammer Forged; 1:10" RH Twist
Barrel MaterialStainless Steel
ColorBlack
SightsFront White-Dot Post; Black, Serrated U-Notch Rear-Tactical Rack
Slide MaterialForged Carbon Steel
Slide FinishMatte Blue
Trigger - Type/ActionSingle Action; Recoil-Operated-Spring, Guide Rod; Centerfire
Trigger Press5.00 lbs. (as measured over 10 trials with my Lyman Trigger Pull gauge)
Magazines - Capacity15 Rounds; One Steel Mag; Double Stack
Height4.80"
Width1.38"
Length7.80"
Weight (Unloaded)31.5 oz, Empty Mag
SafetiesExternal Manual Thumb Safety (Ambidextrous)
GripsCustom Checkered Walnut Wood
OtherLimited 1-Year Warranty- from Date of Original New Purchase
MSRP$699

Modern and Improved Features of New Springfield SA-35 Hi-Power

  • “No-Bite” Geometry Improvements in Hammer Spur Shape & Contour for Smooth Control
  • Elimination of Original Magazine Disconnect Safety- Can Remove Mag and Fire Gun
  • Modernized External Thumb Safety; Easy to Access & Positive, Tactile Operation
  • Internal Parts Precision CNC-Machined to Solid, Extremely Tight Tolerances
  • Cold-Steel Forged Slide, Barrel, and Frame; Heat-Treated for Durability & Strength
  • No Metal Injection Molding (MIM) Parts & their Lower-Cost High-Volume Production
  • Increased Original Magazine Capacity to 15 Rounds; Quality Metal, Double-Stack Mag
  • Modernized Sights: Front, Dovetailed White Dot & Low-Profile Tactical Rack U-Notch Rear
  • Elegant and Functional Slim Hardwood, Sculptured Grips
  • Sightly Beveled Magazine Well for Easy Loading of Mags
  • Light and Crisp Single-Action Trigger Press,
  • Recoil-Operated, Heavy 31.5 ounces Centerfire Pistol with Mild Recoil & Accuracy

My Criteria and Considerations

Here are the ten criteria and factors I use for evaluating any handgun for concealed carry, so I will use them for the new SA-35. In addition to my criteria, there are other subjective features that may be appealing for some, like smooth rounded corners, 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 ideally met. I assigned a total possible point score of ten points for each of my ten criteria for a total possible score of 100 points. And a “Recommend” or “Not Recommend” at the end of my review. You can certainly add your own additional criteria, preferences or subtract any of mine.

Recognize that there are several features, characteristics, pros and cons, and personal criteria to include and consider. You make your own tradeoffs according to your priorities, preferences, goals, defined needs, and use.

Concealed Carry Drill

I used my standard “Col Ben’s Concealed Carry Drill” to test and evaluate a pistol after I initially thoroughly clean it. You can use my basic Concealed Carry Drill to test and evaluate your handguns. I like the realistic 5-yard and 7-yard distances best to match common distances for personal defense.

You can download and print “Col Ben’s Concealed Carry Drill” and targets by clicking on the link at my website at www.FloridaHandgunsTraining.com. Go to and click on the “More” Section on far right of the Home Page and then click on “Carry Drill.” Drag a corner in to resize Drill to full coverage and print on full-size paper.

SA-35 Hi-Power ReviewFIRST SHOTS: Range Test Results with “Col Ben’s Concealed Carry Drill” and Various Ammo

I used my above standard Concealed Carry Drill and easily and quickly landed all 15 rounds (without a mag change) in the five various-sized circles at 5 yards, 7 yards, and then at 10 yards. I bypassed the 3-yard trial for more of a challenge and shot 110 total rounds.

First, I fired rapid fire with the Sig V-Crown 124 grain JHP, and all hit in their five circle targets and within the 20 seconds time limit at 5 yards (see above target hits) and then again at 7 yards with Sig V-Crown 115 grain JHP.  I easily met my short-range goals. Then, I fired the Sig V-Crown 147 grain JHP and repeated the Drill at 10 yards.  I had only 12 hits within the 20 seconds at 10 yards, missing two hits on the 2.5″ circle and one on the bottom 3″ circle, firing quick fire. I met my goal with both the Sig Sauer ammo at 5 and 7 yards and hits at 10 yards were not as good, but I squeaked by the goal. Thankfully, I had no problems with any of these rounds and various weights.

Use my Drill at various appropriate distances for yourself, e.g. 3, 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20 yards to challenge yourself and assess skill-level improvements, as you progress. At first, do not time yourself but safely practice, until you feel comfortable and safe with the Drill. Hope my Drill helps you.

Beautiful, Checkered, and Comfortable Walnut Grips
Beautiful, Checkered, and Comfortable Walnut Grips

SA-35 Range Results: Opinions and Evaluations for Each Criterion

After live-fire shooting with the SA-35 Hi-Power, here are my opinions and evaluations for each of my ten criteria.

1. Accuracy and Reliability – Score: 10

The SA-35 9mm’s Accuracy was excellent and effortless for me at close and medium distances of 5, 7, 10, and 15 yards, typical self-defense distances. Despite my less than average eyesight, colorblindness, and average marksmanship, this senior guy was able to shoot decent groups with the gun right out of the box. My hits out to 10 yards at 20 yards with this compact were on target and Accurate, but I had a little larger group using the various weights of ammo. All of my groups for my Drills of 15 shots each at the various distances were about 2.5 to 3 inches or so, drawing from the DeSantis Slim Tuck IWB Holster, provided by Springfield. I used my Modified-Isosceles Stance, a two-handed grip, and shot various 115 grain FMJ and 115 grain, 124 grain, and 147 grain Sig Sauer JHP ammo. I had no problems with any of the Sig V-Crown hollow points when loading or ejecting. No malfunctions or stoppages whatsoever. The press was short, soft, and crisp, and the recoil was very minimal for me. I was impressed with the SA-35s inherent Reliability.

2. Trigger Press – Score: 9

Out-of-the-box the Trigger Press averaged 5.00 pounds without modification for the SA-35 9mm, with 10 readings with my Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull Gauge. I expected the press to be less than five pounds because my original Belgium-made Browning Hi-Power has a 4.5 pound press. This SA-35 press did, however, meet my goal. With more ammo down-range practice and “break-in,” the press should definitely improve and lighten. I did have a slight abrasion from the slide on my thumb.

3. Trigger – Score: 10

Overall, the curved, pivoting Trigger was crisp, smooth, and excellent, with minimal takeup, and had a short reset, for quick follow-up shots. It was easy to feel the definite reset and it was solid and very identifiable. This excellent single-action trigger had a consistent and very similar press each time. I really enjoyed shooting this single-action short and soft trigger.

4. Barrel Length – Score: 10

The cold, hammer-forged Barrel was stainless steel with tight tolerances. This strong material helped with rust resistance. You could feel how this helped with stability, accuracy, reliability, and minimal recoil. The felt recoil was very manageable for both my wife and I.

SA-35 Hi-Power Sights

5. Sights – Score: 9

I like the somewhat larger white-dot front and all-black, serrated rear sights on the SA-35. They are very easy to pickup and use and they allow sufficient light to help you focus. I would, however, prefer a green Fiber Optic front sight since I am color blind and have weak eyes. The front sight is dovetailed into the slide and has a prominent white dot. The medium-large-sized front dot was of sufficient size for me to pick it up quickly. Night sights are important for Concealed Carry and this model does not have them

6. Proper Gun Weight – Score: 8

The SA-35 weighed 31.5 ounces empty and is a heavy pistol, but that weight helps with accuracy, muzzle flip, and recoil control. Loaded this steel gun weighs close to 33 ounces or so and that is not the best for concealed carry. But, certainly helpful for other uses. So, this gun does not meet my up-front stated criteria for carry, but comes close. But, there are tradeoffs for this solidly-made pistol.

7. Caliber – Score: 10

The SA-35 in 9mm caliber was easy and fun to shoot and I managed the recoil well. It is definitely a soft shooter. Of course, shooting 9mm ammo is much less expensive than most others and modern ammo with improved ballistics like the kind I used here get the job done. I prefer the lessened recoil and reduced movement for improved accuracy with the 9mm caliber.

Slightly Beveled Magazine Well Helps Loading & Unloading
Slightly Beveled Magazine Well Helps Loading & Unloading

8. Capacity – Score: 10

I liked the 15-round capacity of the Springfield Hi-Power clone 9mm double-stack mag. But, there is only one steel mag included as standard. Given the likely need to have more ammo to deal with multiple bad guys/gals and the trend toward magazine capacity restrictions, shooters need more than one mag. However, Springfield was nice enough to send another mag for my test and evaluation. I prefer at least two and like three mags to be included as standard, but this adds cost for everyone to the package. The mag has helpful round indicator holes. Without a magazine safety, magazines eject cleanly with an easy press of the mag release button. Mags are backward compatible with the original Browning Hi-Power pistol.

Extended Thumb Safety and Reduced & Skeletonized Hammer Spur
Extended Thumb Safety and Reduced & Skeletonized Hammer Spur

9. Ergonomics – Score: 9

The Ergonomics of the SA-35 9 mm were excellent and I was easily and comfortably able to reach all controls like the thumb safety, slide lever, and magazine release. I could tell this is a high-quality pistol with excellent craftsmanship. It fit great in my medium-sized hands… and for my wife and her small hands. The slide, frame, barrel, and smaller parts are all nicely fit to enhance accuracy and reliability. No rattles at all. I had no slide nor hammer bite, but just a minor thumb abrasion. It felt very good to hold this thin profile pistol. There was no grip safety and I had no problems firing the gun. The slide-to-frame fit was very solid and it was easy for me to rack the slide.

Soft Case, Lock, Bore Flag, and Instruction Manual Included
Soft Case, Lock, Bore Flag, and Instruction Manual Included

10. Miscellaneous – Score: 9

I easily disassembled and re-assembled the SA-35 Hi-Power before I shot it. However, there was no Operating Manual for the brand new SA-35 upon receipt, but Springfield quickly sent me one upon request.

After safety checks to disassemble, first remove the slide stop from the frame by pushing the protruding slide stop pin while lifting up slightly on the slide stop. Then pull the slide to the rear and then move the safety lever down. The slide will move forward under spring tension. Then remove the slide assembly from the frame. Use Caution since the SA-35 has a Non-Captive recoil spring system and the spring is under tension. While holding the slide, press the head of the recoil spring guide towards the muzzle to release the recoil spring guide from the barrel lug. Then easily remove the recoil spring and its guide.

SA-35 Hi-Power HolstersSpringfield sent me a nice DeSantis Slim Tuck IWB Ambi Holster shown on the right, which retails for $35. The Browning Hi-Power is shown in this holster, while on the left the SA-35 is laying on top of a Safariland holster.

There is no hard plastic case included, but there was a nice, well-made soft case included. Included is only one mag, a lock, bore flag, and Instruction Manual. The SA-35 looks beautiful and it is a high-quality accurate and reliable handgun. I really like the quality and attention to manufacturing details, especially for its moderate MSRP of $699. I probably will add this fine Hi-Power clone to be beside my original Browning Hi-Power 9mm.

Total Points = 94 out of 100 Possible.

Conclusions

I certainly Recommend this high-quality Springfield SA-35 Hi-Power 9mm pistol for concealed carry, home defense, and fun plinking at the range. The attention to detail and its precise, finely-built craftsmanship is very evident and are the marks of an excellent and modernized Hi-Power pistol at a very reasonable price. Although the pistol was heavy, I was very impressed with its accuracy, reliability, and its very controllable recoil for a 9 mm, given its weight. Its many great, high-quality features as presented above are there, especially the Accuracy and Reliability.

The USA-built SA-35 Hi-Power is built on a forged steel frame and slide and features a cold hammer-forged barrel, with CNC-machined parts. Its improvements to the original design are exceptional, including its improved “No-Bite” geometry improvements in Hammer Spur, elimination of the magazine disconnect, fifteen-round magazine, checkered walnut grips, and modernized external thumb safety. Extras like beveled magazine well and improved trigger are appreciated. After a total of more rounds down range demonstrating these same results and characteristics, I would bet my life on this excellent pistol. Consider that this is just my point of view with the limited live-range fire of only 110 rounds, with the pistol not being broken in yet.

Continued Success and Be Safe!

Contacts

Springfield Armory
1-800-680-6866
Geneseo, IL 61254

Sig Sauer Elite V-Crown & Performance Ammo
1-603-610-3000
Newington, NH 03801

Photos by Author and Springfield-Armory.

* 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.

© 2021 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 ColBFF@gmail.com.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Accuracy and Reliability
10
Trigger Press
9
Trigger
10
Barrel
10
Sights
9
Weight
8
Caliber
10
Capacity
10
Ergonomics
9
Miscellaneous
9
$599.99 (Reg.$ 799.99)
No Code Needed
Sig Sauer P365 9mm Pistol 12 Rd RTT Tacpac, Coyote

Sig Sauer P365 9mm Pistol 12 Rd RTT Tacpac, Coyote

The award-winning P365 has redefined the micro-compact pistol category, quickly becoming one of the most coveted firearms in the industry.

$449.99 (Reg. $549.99)
No Code Needed
Smith & Wesson M&p Shield Ez 9mm Pistol With Manual Safety, Black - 12436

Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ 9mm Pistol With Manual Safety, Black

The next evolution of the M&P Shield EZ pistol, the M&P9 Shield EZ encompasses all of the M&P Shield EZ features, now in the powerful 9mm caliber.

$159.99
No Code Needed
3 Pack Of Blem Psa Stealth Ar-15 Lowers

3 Pack Of BLEM PSA Stealth AR-15 Lowers

These forged lowers are quality made using material is 7075-T6 and are marked "CAL MULTI" to accommodate most builds. The finish is Black Hardcoat Anodize per MIL-8625 Type 3 class 2.

1 2 3 17
Previous articleThe Hellcat from Springfield Armory | 11+1
Next articleMultiple 911 Calls Go Unanswered As a Man Break Down Door; Family Member Stops The Threat
"Col Ben" is retired with 30 years service in the U.S. Air Force, with joint services Special Ops duty and training, and is Air Force qualified as "Expert" in small arms. He is a Vietnam-era Veteran. Ben is an experienced NRA-Certified Pistol Instructor, NRA Range Safety Officer, and FL Concealed Carry License Instructor. Ben recently wrote the book "Concealed Carry and Handgun Essentials for Personal Protection" (second printing) with 57 comprehensive Chapters about concealed carry and handgun principles, techniques, and tips for both experienced and new shooters. His reference book is endorsed by several organizations and is available on his website at FloridaHandgunsTraining.com. Contact him at ColBFF@gmail.com.
5 2 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
2 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Robert

Great thorough review of an excellent 9mm pistol! Thank you.

SteveP

Thanks Col Ben for a practical and helpful review.Your chart listing the improvements and upgraded features was very helpful to see at a glance the changes. I’m going to get one.