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Browning Hi-Power Review

This is our Browning Hi-Power Review, and it covers one of the most iconic 9mm of all time. 

It all started in 1921 when the French military requested that FN design a pistol with a 15 round magazine. At the time, this was unheard of. 

Browning Hi Power Review Blade and Sheath

The Browning Hi-Power officially became the first wonder nine years before wonder nines became a thing in the 1980s and ’90s. 

The famous John Moses Browning played a significant role in the development of the Browning Hi-Power. Browning Hi-Power entered production in 1935 and remained in production until 2018 at FN’s factory.

During World War II, production was moved from Belgium to Canada before the Nazi invasion. However, after the Nazi invasion of Belgium, the factory in Belgium continued to produce these pistols for the Germans. 

Elite units like the Nazi SS and paratroopers continued to use this pistol throughout the war. 

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The gun was also popular on the Allied side, despite Canada not getting production models out until 1944. British paratroopers and commando units used the Browning Hi-Power. 

It was also popular with both American and British covert operations groups. After World War II, the British Commonwealth adopted it as the standard sidearm.

Adoption

Since its introduction, the Browning Hi-Power was adopted by over 90 countries. 

Despite being discontinued by FN in 2018, the gun is still produced under license in India. Unfortunately, there are also various unlicensed copies made worldwide, most notably in Turkey and Hungary.

As we mentioned earlier, this gun was the first 9mm high-capacity pistol to achieve commercial success. 

It has been a popular choice for elite units worldwide, especially when other options were not as numerous as today. 

U.S. Navy Seals used the gun in Vietnam, and the FBI HRT used a custom version of the Hi-Power modified by Wayne Novak. 

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If there’s one thing these guns don’t lack, it’s history. 

Now that we’ve covered the past in this Browning Hi-Power review, let’s dive a little deeper into the details of the gun itself.

Role-based off size

While this gun was designed for a military solicitation, in 2021, the gun probably doesn’t make much sense for that role. 

There is a reason FN discontinued the Hi-Power in 2018. 

I heard that the tooling for the gun had worn out, and they would have to create entirely new tooling to continue production of the Browning Hi-Power. So the benefit from an economic standpoint just isn’t there.

In the age of polymer striker-fired handguns, the Browning Hi-Power seems somewhat archaic. 

Browning Hi Power Review gun with magazineBrowning Hi Power Review gun with magazine

While it has a specific class and elegance that these other firearms can’t touch, from a practical standpoint, it’s still lacking. But if you’re reading this Browning Hi-Power review, I doubt you’re the type of person who only cares about pure functionality. 

The Browning Hi-Power is still in service around the world with many militaries and police forces. 

These tend to be units without the funding of most first-world nations. So instead, they’re using guns that have been in circulation for decades.

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The Browning Hi-Power does not have the service life from an around count perspective that many modern polymer guns will have at a much lower price. So if you plan to shoot these guns to a high round count, then this is something you’ll want to take into account. 

So while it could be used for duty use or competition, I would not suggest it unless you love the Hi-Power and are willing to maintain it at a high level.

Concealed carry

The Browning Hi-Power is a great gun for concealed carry, again if you’re willing to maintain the gun thoroughly. 

Ensure that you replace the recoil spring at regular intervals and watch how well the gun is running. 

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For most of its production life, the Browning Hi-Power was made with a forged frame. And while forging sounded good at the surface, the Browning Hi-Power is one gun that’s more durable when produced with a cast frame. 

FN started producing a cast frame when they began making the gun in 40 Smith and Wesson. The cast frame was able to extend the service life of the firearm with the higher pressure 40 Smith and Wesson round. 

In 9mm, this cast frame drastically increases the life of the gun.

IWB 

The Hi-Power can be carried at multiple positions. It’s a great gun to carry IWB or from the three to five o’clock for a right-handed shooter. 

This gun and carrying position will make you feel nostalgic.

AIWB

This gun works equally well for carrying at the appendix position. Carrying a Browning Hi-Power AIWB is pretty much the same as any other gun. 

While the Browning Hi-Power only holds 15 rounds, it’s still a slightly more significant size than the Glock 19. So this gun is going to carry somewhat similar to a Glock 17. 

So if you’re willing to carry a larger gun, the Browning Hi-Power is undoubtedly an excellent carry option.

OWB

In my opinion, the Browning Hi-Power shines for OWB carry with concealment. 

It has a relatively thin design, and there’s just something nostalgic about carrying a gun OWB and concealed. 

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A Hi-Power could make a great gun to carry during the fall or wintertime when you can use your coat to hide the firearm and holster.

Features 

As stated earlier, the Browning Hi-Power can use a 15 round Mec-Gar magazine. 

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Initially, the Browning Hi-Power used 13 round magazines. However, spring technology has gotten better. 

Browning Hi Power Review Magazine

The 15 round magazines seem to be reliable for many other users and me. Both the 13 and 15 round magazines can be sourced from Mec-Gar, who OEMs the magazines for Browning. 

You can find the Mec-Gar magazines at roughly half the price of the FN and Browning magazines. So it’s an excellent idea to use those magazines instead.

Magwell

The Browning Hi-Power being designed in 1935 doesn’t have any kind of flare on the mag well. 

Browning Hi Power Review Magwell

It’s a straight shot in, so this is not a gun you’re likely to be speed reloading when shooting. It works, and it’s okay. 

But another thing to take into account is the magazines on Browning Hi-power do not drop free. They have to be torn out of the magazine well itself. 

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In 1935, when this was the only gun on the market, this probably wasn’t a big deal. But in 2021, this is something that I find annoying.

Grip/Ergonomics

I should say right now; this FN Hi-Power review might have a little bit of bias in it. 

The Browning Hi-Power was the first centerfire handgun that I ever shot. That said, since then, I’ve owned a lot of pistols, and I’ve had the chance to handle even more. 

Browning Hi Power Review Grip

So I’m pretty well versed in the ergonomics of a firearm. 

The Browning Hi-Power is insanely ergonomic for 1935, and those good ergonomics still hold in 2021. That said, there are a couple of things I can nitpick about the firearm.

Beavertail 

There is no real beavertail on the Browning Hi-Power. That said, there are custom gunsmiths that will add a beavertail to your Browning Hi-Power. 

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People with huge hands often have a terrible time with hammer bite on the web of their hand. 

Browning Hi Power Review Beavertail

A beavertail can alleviate this, or you can use a different hammer. Adding another hammer is going to be the more affordable option. 

I have medium to large size hands, and I’ve never had an issue with this myself. But hammer bite is still a prevalent complaint.

Texturing

There is no texturing on either the front strap or the back strap of the Browning Hi-Power. 

But you can replace the grip stocks. 

Replaceable grips mean that you have many options out there as to how aggressive you want the grips on your Browning Hi-Power to be. 

Browning Hi Power Review Front Strap

You can get lots of wood options as well as more modern options like G10. 

With a gun produced in large numbers and has been around since 1935, like its predecessor, the Browning 1911, there’s no lack of aftermarket options when it comes to grips.

General Feel

The general feel of the Browning Hi-Power is excellent, especially when you consider how early this firearm was designed. 

It far exceeds the ergonomics of many guns designed in the 1970s and ’80s, even some of the more modern guns I’ve handled from the early 2000s.

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The one complaint I’ll have is the tang of the grip has sharp edges on the side. But, at the same time, it’s only slightly annoying. I would likely have a gunsmith round out if I were to customize this gun. 

But, as I said, it’s not a massive deal for me. And this gun works well for people with either small or large hands. 

That said, it would have been nice to see that part of the gun rounded just a little bit more, especially considering how well the rest of the weapon is rounded. 

But, overall, the Browning Hi-Power grip ergonomics are excellent and are still one of the best guns out there when it comes to ergonomics.

Slide

The slide of the Browning Hi-Power is pretty standard. 

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One thing you will have to take into account is it can be pretty challenging to rack due to the pressure of the hammer spring when you’re racking the slide after the hammer’s been dropped. 

It’s a reasonably easy slide to rack if you’re racking the gun with the hammer cocked. 

Browning Hi Power Review Sheathed Blade and Slide

But if the hammer has not been cocked, this gun requires a little bit of force and a proper technique to cycle the slide.

The serrations on the Browning Hi-Power only exist on the rear of the gun, which is pretty standard for an older design. 

My biggest complaint about this is going to be the narrow slide. 

While the slide is wider than the front of the frame, it is not wider than the frame’s rear. 

As a result, like a CZ 75, it’s not the easiest to get your grip on the slide itself. 

Despite the slide being reasonably tall, the slide stop grip panels and the gun’s safety prevent your palm from getting as low as you would like to get an easy grip on the slide.

Sights

The Browning Hi-Power comes with a variety of sights depending on the bearing you get. 

Browning Hi Power Review Sights

I’m going to discuss both the surplus Mark I variant sights or Mark II variant sights that are just little nubs, and they’re not that good, and the Mark III series sights, which you see pictured. 

The Mark III sights are pretty standard, and they’re somewhat like three-dot sites. They’re not great, but they’re better than the previous generation sights. 

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Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of aftermarket sights out there for the Browning Hi-Power. That’s an issue, in my opinion. I really would like to see more options. 

Red dot options

Considering this gun was discontinued before red dots became popular, there aren’t many red options. 

There’s never been one that I’m aware of from FN or Browning. 

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You can send it off to a gunsmith and have a custom adapter plate installed onto your slide or have the slide milled to accept a red dot directly. 

Unfortunately, due to the narrow profile of the slide, it will not take most red dots in the market without some sort of custom adaptor plate being built.

Controls

The controls of a firearm can make or break it. Being able to safely and efficiently reach the firearm’s controls allows you to operate that weapon safely.

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Safeties 

The Browning Hi-Power has a rear-mounted thumb safety. 

Browning Hi Power Review Safety Left On

Depending on the variant, just like the sights, the safety will change. The gun I have is a Mark III series safety, the best Browning Hi-Power safeties. 

It’s ambidextrous and relatively wide while still being somewhat low profile. 

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It’s easy to flick off, and you can ride your thumb on top of it like you do a 1911 safety when shooting. I don’t have any complaints about this design, except I would probably make the safety itself just a little bit wider.

The Mark II variants have a much more low profile safety, which I don’t like as much. 

Browning Hi Power Review Safety Right On

However, if I were carrying a Browning Hi-Power Mark I or Mark II at some point in history, I could probably live with the safety as it was still better than most of the other guns out there. That said, in 2021, the thumb safety leaves a lot to be desired.

Mag Release

The magazine release on the Browning Hi-Power again is straightforward to reach for someone with medium to large-sized hands. 

Browning Hi Power Review Magazine Release

However, it might be a little bit of a reach if you have tiny hands.

You’ll have to break your grip to reach it. My biggest complaint of this magazine release again is that the magazines do not drop free from the mag well. 

You’ll have to strip them out.

Slide stop

The slide stop on the Browning Hi-Power is a pretty standard design, and I can barely reach it with my thumb. 

Browning Hi Power Review Slide Stop

If you have medium to smaller-sized hands, you may not be able to reach this without breaking your grip. To drop the slide using that slide stop, you’ll likely want to use your thumb as a right-handed shooter. 

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If you’re left-handed, unfortunately, the Browning Hi-Power slide release probably won’t work for you. This is because it’s too far back to use your index finger to drop the slide. 

It’s just not set up for a left-handed user.

Trigger

The trigger on the Browning Hi-Power is surprisingly good. 

My specific Browning Hi-Power has the magazine safety installed in the gun. That feature is known for making the trigger not quite as good as it used to be. 

Browning Hi Power Review Trigger

This trigger is still pretty darn good. 

The Browning Hi-Power trigger has just a little bit of light take-up, and then you’re going to feel a wall. Then, from that wall, you’re going to feel some creep, and then it’s going to go into a nice soft rowing break. 

So the trigger itself is quite lovely, in my opinion.

Now, if you’re a reset person, then you’re not going to like the trigger on the Browning Hi-Power. 

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You have to let the trigger all the way out for the firearm to reset. 

I don’t mind this. I prefer that type of trigger as I always let my trigger out when resetting the trigger on the firearm. 

That said, if you like a very short reset on a gun, this gun likely isn’t for you.

Rail

No rail ever came standard on the Browning Hi-Power, although Cylinder & Slide did make a custom rail adapter so you could add a light to the gun. 

I think it takes some of the elegance away from the Browning Hi-Power. 

But if it’s your thing, you know that you have that option. But, unfortunately, it will make finding holsters a lot more complicated.

Aftermarket

The aftermarket for the Browning Hi-Power is much better than I thought it would be. 

Even though it has been discontinued, multiple companies are still making custom barrels, recoil spring assemblies, safeties, fire control parts, and most other parts that you can imagine. 

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What’s not easy to find is aftermarket slides or frames. You’re likely going to have to buy a whole different gun if one of those parts break.

Maintenance

Maintaining the Browning Hi-Power is pretty darn easy. 

It’s just like maintaining any other firearm. I like the take-down they use on this gun. To take down the Browning Hi-Power, you’ll want to lock the slide back using your slide release. 

Next, make sure the magazine and firearm are unloaded. And then you’ll want to pull the slide back around an eighth of an inch further and press upon your safety.

Browning Hi Power Review Disassembly Position with Safety

Once you lock the safety into place, it will hold the slide forward. 

From there, you can pop out the slide stop. To pop up the slide stop, you’ll need to lift it into the notch of the slide and then push it forward from the right-hand side. 

Browning Hi Power Review Disassembled

It pops out easily. And from there, the slide will come off the firearm, and then you can disassemble it. Then, to put the gun back together, you just go in the reverse order.

Aesthetics

Aesthetically, the Browning Hi-Power is a beautiful firearm. 

It has a more refined and lower profile elegance than the nine and the 11. I like the lines of the gun and feel that it’s very well proportioned. 

Browning Hi Power Review Left

The firearm is somewhat thin on the forward portion, as we mentioned earlier. 

It has a thin slide as well as a thin frame. The nose of the firearm somewhat tapers. And it’s just a great-looking proportional firearm. 

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I plan on getting a couple of Hi Powers and customizing them to my specs. This will give me the best of all worlds for a high velocity yet classic firearm.

Shooting

Shooting a Browning Hi-Power is somewhat of a disappointment. 

As I said earlier, this was the first centerfire pistol I ever shot. And when I finally was able to purchase the gun for myself, I was left somewhat disappointed when I got to the range. 

My biggest problem with the Browning Hi-Power is the recoil impulse. 

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I was shooting this gun side-by-side with my Glock 48, which is not the lightest recoiling 9mm. And it was very similar in recoil impulse. So it’s much more violent than something like a Glock 19. 

So if I were to have a gunsmith completely customize this gun, it would smooth things out. But I was hoping this gun would be a much softer shooting gun.

This gun’s still holding a nostalgic place in my heart, and I plan to get a couple of them and send them off to build my ultimate custom retro carry guns. 

Shooting the Browning Hi-Power still left me wanting more despite the recoil impulse. 

So I still have to give positive marks in this Browning Hi-Power view considering the weapon is closing in 100 years old. Without a doubt, it was the best option of its time, as we’ve stated in this Browing Hi-Power Review.

2 Replies to “Browning Hi-Power Review”

  1. Rob says:

    These reviews are awesome! I have bought more than one gun just from being convinced by your review. Thank you for them! Also, what knife is that in the main picture!

    1. Harrison says:

      Glad to help! It’s a Compliance Edge. They make a great blade. Not sure if they discontinued this one or if they’ll make another run later on. Most of their products are done in batches.

      https://www.complianceedgeknives.com/

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