The Girsan MC P35 PI: Too Cool Hi-Power

I have a very keen interest in firearms, which probably shows through this zany profession I now call my own. I enjoy shooting pretty much anything that goes bang. However, every so often, a gun gets me really excited. I can’t say why. It’s not always a practical gun, but it’s one that interests me to no end. I get excited to find one and to shoot the hell out of it. For me, that gun right now is the Girsan MC P35 PI. I’ve wanted one ever since I first saw them at SHOT, and it seems like plenty of others wanted them to. 

P35 PI on concrete
The MC P35 PI is a step back tech-wise.

They were tough to find, so imagine my luck and surprise when I found one on my birthday at a gun shop I had never been to. I snatched it up as a birthday present for myself.

I can’t say exactly what excited me so much about the gun. It’s essentially a compact version of the Hi-Power. I’ve always liked the Hi-Power, and a compact version does seem so cool. The PI nomenclature comes from the original producers of the compact Hi-Power, the Argentinians. 

The p35 pi profile
The MC P35 PI is the first affordable compact Hi-Power.

They produced some well-made and very appreciated Hi-Powers that were imported at a bargain. They created and imported the original PI models, and the PI nomenclature seems to come from the idea of a Detective’s firearm. The quintessential Detective’s gun is often a smaller version of a service pistol. Those Argentinian Hi-Powers go for a pretty penny today, but the Girsan MC P35 PI can be had for less than $500. 

Little Gun, Big Potential 

The PI’s big selling point is trimming the barrel to 3.88 inches. The overall length is 6.25 inches, and the gun weighs 1.6 pounds. The frame isn’t trimmed and uses standard Hi-Power magazines. It’s a bit like the Glock 19X, a compact slide and barrel on a full-sized frame. The gun comes with a flush-fitting 15-round magazine, but as we all know, the Hi-Power certainly has options. The MSRP is $585, but I paid about $450 for mine. 

Markings on gun
Engraved text always kills the aesthetics of a gun.

The P35 PI: A Smaller Classic 

I purchased the Plain Jane model, complete with all the classic Hi-Power features and quirks. There is also an Ops model that I might pick up that modernizes the design by adding a rail and an optic cut. It also makes some ergonomic changes, like an extended beavertail, drop-free mags, and a flat trigger. I purchased the standard MC P35 PI because I wanted that classic look and feel, not necessarily for any particular use. 

P35 PI in hand
This wouldn’t be my first choice for daily carry, but it’s a sweet pistol.

Along with that classic look and feel, we get the classic Hi-Power quirks. This includes magazines that don’t drop free. We have the much-maligned magazine safety and the gritty trigger it causes. The gun’s hammer will eventually bite you enough to make you flinch. If you know that going in, you won’t be disappointed. However, if this is your first experience with a Hi-Power, you might think they did something wrong. 

The gun comes with a single Mec-Gar magazine, and I had an old KRD magazine to use as well. The gun comes in a plain blue box that’s cut for the larger Hi-Power. The MC P35 PI features fairly standard Hi-Power ergonomics. 

Rear grip of p35 pi
The grip is the same size and length as the standard Hi-Power.

The gun does have a nice ambidextrous safety that clicks and pops up and down without difficulty. The hammer is textured for a good grip for easy cocking or decocking. There is no real beavertail to speak of, and the grips are simple black plastic. The sights are standard and are of the three-dot variety. It’s all very basic, but it feels surprisingly nice. 

I wasn’t sure how well Turkish Hi-Powers would work, especially when I handled Turkish shotguns. With the gun in hand, a case of 500 rounds of 115-grain 9mm ammo, I was off to the races. 

Hitting Steel 

The first thing I wanted to do was see how straight the gun shot. I went out to 25 yards and used a 25% reduced-sized steel IPSC target as my fodder. Admittedly, my first few shots resulted in silence. I adjusted my hold to keep the front sight on the head of the IPSC target and let it fly. That’s when I got that nice ding. I practiced going from the low, ready to engage with one round as fast as I could. I was able to hover right around one second and some change. My fastest was 1.08 seconds from low ready to a shot on target. 

Shooting the mc pi p35
The gun has all the OG Hi-Power quirks.

I remained at the 25-yard line and switched to a full-sized IPSC target. This time, I practiced shooting three rounds from the low ready as fast as possible on target. It started a bit rough. I was dragging between shots, so I began working on shooting faster and faster. After a few rounds, I was able to get the three rounds on target in a little over two seconds. I was pretty psyched with that level of performance from a small, iron-sighted handgun. 

Shooting mc pi p35
While we get some slide bite, the gun is still a ton of fun to shoot.

I moved up to 15 yards and returned to the reduced-sized IPSC. This time, I practiced a modified 10-10-10 drill. I was at 15 yards instead of 10 and used a reduced-sized IPSC target instead of a B8, but I still fired 10 rounds. At the beep of the timer, I landed those ten shots in 5.88 seconds and danced a happy little jig. That’s fast for me. 

Fast and Accurate 

Not only did the little gun prove to be fairly accurate with a slightly high hold, but it was also really easy to control. The recoil was minimal, and the all-metal design and beefy 1.6-pound design helped. So does the Hi-Power’s inherent grip design. Now, after about a hundred rounds, the hammer bite became a little more noticeable but wasn’t really a ‘pain’ until you hit about 250 rounds. 

At that point, I pretty much called it a day, but not necessarily because of the hammer bite. The next day, I continued shooting the 250 rounds. I practiced a number of drills and wished I had a holster to practice some more. 

P35 PI shooting
The P35 PI handles like a sports car….fast and smooth

Reload drills proved to be fairly slow since the magazine doesn’t drop. Firing one shot, reloading, and firing another was tough to do in under 3.5 seconds. Maybe I’m slow, but stripping the old mag out seemed to really add time to your reload. I’m not planning on using the gun for anything but having fun, so I don’t mind much. 

In terms of reliability, I didn’t have any problems with the gun and the Mec-Gar magazine. However, the KRD magazine would fail to feed every few rounds. It’s not the gun’s fault. I’ll stick to using MEC-GAR magazines in the gun from now on. 

The Shorty Hi-Power 

I wonder if those poor guys who paid $1,200 for an Argentinian PI are a little salty now? The Girsan MC P35 PI turned out to be a surprisingly nice gun. I’m currently craving the Ops model to use an optic and scrambling to find a good holster. Luckily, I think that won’t prove to be too tough. While I’m writing this in 2024, the MC P35 PI might be my personal favorite handgun of 2023. 

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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