A Few Thoughts on the Relevance of the Browning Hi-Power

By James Martineau,

Among the most popular of pistols throughout the last century has been Browning’s Hi-Power. Highly popular in both military, LE and civilian circles, the Hi-Power proved itself in combat and competition. It was developed by John Browning and began production in 1936. The Hi-Power was innovative as it employed a double stack magazine that could hold thirteen rounds. This magazine capacity was highly competitive in the early life of the Hi-Power as most of its 9mm competitors had a capacity of 8-9 rounds. Despite the modern look, capacity and ergonomics of the Hi-Power it struggles to compete against most modern designs in a professional and competitive role.

“1971 Browning Hi Power 9” by ~Steve Z~ is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

One of the primary problems with the Hi-power is inconsistency with magazines. When the magazine release is depressed and slide is opened, one must often remove it with the off hand. This is an obvious disadvantage in a competitive or tactical situation. Granted there are magazines available that has a spring that enables the magazine to drop or the gun can be modified but this can be considered a design flaw. Free falling magazines were not an anomaly at the time when John Browning’s 1911 was developed decades prior. While thirteen rounds of 9mm beat the competition in the early life of the Hi-Power, modern double stack magazine capacity is superior. Certain aftermarket magazines for the Hi-Power that contain 15 rounds but Browning Arms would have done well to develop a magazine that could compete with modern wonder nines.

Another criticism of the Hi-Power is the trigger. The initial pull until the break is rather gritty and feels like dragging ones finger over a paved road. Once the break is hit, the trigger pull is satisfactory. Certainly better than striker fired pistols which is least one should expect when firing a single action pistol. The reset is also poor. When letting off, initial travel is gritty and the reset does not manifest an audible click. Unfortunately for patent reasons John Browning was not able to use the 1911 trigger system in the Hi-Power. A Hi-Power with a 1911 trigger would have been outstanding. It should be known that Hi-Power owners often remove the trigger disconnect and report improved trigger performance.

The Hi-Power is not all bad though as there are many aspects of the pistol that make it as good or better than modern offerings. The slide stop location is excellent as it rests where one would rest ones thumb while shooting. This enables quicker reloads. Another positive is the ergonomics of the pistols. Unless one has large hands the hammer bite shouldn’t be an issue. The gun also feels good and has a grip angle that ensures quick target acquisition. By all accounts the Hi-Power is an accurate pistol. In these respects, the Hi-Power is competitive with modern firearms.

Despite many of the positive aspects of the Hi-Power, its cons make it unsuited for duty or competition use. Indeed with gun smithing and new parts, the Hi-Power is more competitive but with a price tag on the used market of at least $1,000 and hundreds more in upgrades, why not just buy a quality pistol that would be just as good for $600? This being said, the Browning Hi-Power is a perfect addition to a gun collection. The value keeps on increasing especially for models with Nazi stamps or those made by Inglis. D4guns frequently has Hi-Powers for sale on our website. Check out D4Guns.com and have a look at our inventory!