Browning Hi-Power—A Brief History of an Underappreciated Pistol


It is rare to find someone in the shooting sports hobby that doesn’t know who John Moses Browning was. His designs are like a Greatest Hits album of the late 19th and early 20th century firearms. The Winchester 94, the M1919, the Auto 5 and of course the 1911. But one of his last designs seems to shamefully get a little over looked, at least here in the US: the Hi-Power.

Many of the Hi-Power’s lines echo those of a 1911.

The Browning Hi-Power is one of the best combat pistols every made. John Browning started the design in 1923 in response to the French Military’s search for a new pistol. This new pistol had to circumvent the patents on the 1911, which Browning had sold to Colt. This first attempt had a 16 round double stack magazine, pivoting trigger, and was striker fired. Yes, striker fired. Although the final design was not striker fired, it is from this early prototype that the Hi-Power was developed.

John Browning died in 1926 before the completion of the Hi-Power. One of his colleagues at FN, Dieudonné Saive, finished what Browning had started–and it kept the increased magazine capacity. Following the expiration of patents on the 1911 in 1928, Saive was able to use some of these design features on the new pistol. As the French testing for their new pistol dragged on, what was to become the Hi-Power slowly began to take shape. By 1935 the final, well mostly final, design was arrived at. Just in time for the French to go with a different design.


The Hi-Power. Is it as handsome a gun as the older Browning .45 ACP?

The Browning Hi-Power is one of, if not the, most comfortable pistols I have ever fired. It just fits in your hand. The pistol is light, points like an extension of your arm and has very mild recoil. If you have never held a Hi-Power I challenge you to do so. And if you have never fired one, you owe it to yourself to do so.

Being dumped by the French could have been the kiss of death for the Hi-Power, but it wasn’t. The Belgium military picked it up and soon many other countries followed suit. From 1935 until 2018 the Browning Hi-Power, in various forms, has been in production.

hi-power mag

We have some of these amazing mags in stock.

For those of you who are lucky enough to own one, don’t miss out on this deal. We have a limited supply of new old stock Hi-Power mags made for the British Army. These are 100% new, built like tanks, and moving fast.

Arthur Fuerte is a professional tobacconist with a penchant for mid-century militaria. He knows his way around the cigar parings, single-malts, and classic American firearms.

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  • D H Brown

    I have carried the HP since I brought one back from Nam in ’71. Bought another in the late ’70s and a third in ’91. in the Though I have tried many other pistols over these many years, I have found nothing that fills may hand more satisfyingly. Now with Meg Gear 15rd. mags, After more than 10K rds, I have never had a FTF. I am completely comfortable facing whatever life may toss our way. Great gun and personally I feel without compare.

  • Robt Greener

    I found a very sweet low round count 1994 vintage BHP in a pawn shop, it had a $750 price tag on it. I was intrigued by the lines and the deep dark bluing, with medium brown wood grips. It was more than I have ever paid for a firearm up until then, and I was hesitant. After several trips and plenty of time for the pawn shop clerk to see it was not moving, I got it for $600 plus tax (7%) plus $3 NICS fee. $645 out the door!

    Sweetest Shooter I own in most any caliber. It is so finely tuned for recoil that you almost cannot feel it. Just go with the flow… I still need to try the 9mm NATO in there but I know it will be great, the only question is will the added recoil actually show up? I have some replacement parts, slightly stiffer recoil spring and some other BHP tuning items. That is one gun I will never sell, shoots so fine and I got such a great price on it. I was told by a friend who is a dealer that they go for up to $1,000 used. Not sure if that is correct but I have seen them for over $800 on gunbroker.