Friday, August 08, 2014

Classic Pistol Pr0n: From Belgium with love.

In the spirit of the recent "You can choose only two..." games that we played last week, I had to select a pistol to fly north with yesterday. So after several minutes spent staring into the abysses of the gun safes and agonizing over which one to take and which ones to leave like a chick looking into a shoe closet (This is how it is for you ladies, right?) I finally found the perfect week-end traveling pistol--the Browning Hi-Power.
This pistol began as a John Browning design when Fabrique Nationale of Belgium commissioned him to design a new military pistol for the French back in the 1920s. They wanted a pistol that was compact, yet capable of killing a man at 50 meters, held at least ten rounds, and had an external hammer and a magazine disconnect safety. They also wanted reliability and ease of maintenance. Since Browning had already sold the rights to his incredible 1911 to Colt, he had to work around the patents that they now held, and he was still working on two variations--one a locked-breech and one a blow-back design--when he died in 1926. But his work on the locked-breech design was picked up by FN designer Dieudonné Saive, no slouch himself, and eventually the "HP" or "High Power" came to be in 1935, the name being derived from it's 13-round magazine which held more ammo than most of it's contemporaries of the day. Ironically but almost predictably, the French turned up their noses at this pistol, choosing instead to go with the Modele 35, a pistol designed and built in France, that held fewer rounds and was much less cool. The Hi-Power went on to be adopted by over 50 countries with production in the millions, and thanks to the original French demand, they all came out with that magazine-disconnect safety that muddies up the trigger pull. Originally built in Belgium, it was also used by the Nazis after they overran the FN plant and cranked out plenty of Hi-Powers for their own troops as the Pistole 640(b). Meanwhile, seeing this coming, FN brass sent the pistol's plans to Canada, where the John Inglis company continued to make them for the Commonwealth war effort, thus ensuring that Hi-Powers would battle Hi-Powers throughout the war. Of course they would do so again during the Falklands conflict some four decades later, as Argentina and Britain were both still using them as they sparred over those islands out in the middle of nowhere.

Mine is an old Commonwealth military gun, as evidenced by the black baked-on paint, lanyard ring and black plastic grips (replaced by me with Pachmayrs). It's also got a Cylinder and Slide ambidextrous safety that I added so that I, a leftie, can carry it "Condition One". It has a pretty good trigger as it is, although one day I will pull that magazine disconnector out.
I do love this pistol, and shame on me, but it's languished back in a dark corner of the safe for far too long while I've toted Glocks and Smiths and 1911s around. So just to be fair and give an old classic it's due, I brought it along this week-end, both because I like to fly armed and because I might want to go downtown Detroit for a coney dog this week-end, and a foray into "The D" for coneys requires a credible and reliable defensive tool. In that aspect, I couldn't ask for better gear, absent a Sherman tank, of course.


  1. Downtown Detroit. *shudder*

  2. Hey, if you're going to be up my way at all on your trip up, I've got some .40 brass I've been saving for you and/or Aaron. 300 rounds at least, and most if not all fired from an XD40. There could have been some Glock-fired that got mixed in with mine that I picked up, but there would only be a few.

    You could even add another airport to your list: FPK. There could even be opportunity to do some shooting, as I'm a member of a club about 15 minutes from there and would be glad to take you over. If you brought, you know, some other types of luggage with you besides the HP, you wouldn't have to rely on my measly arsenal.

    Offer stands while you are up north here. Aaron has my number, and your passenger is welcome also.

    1. Sadly I won't be here that long this time, but I'll be back soon and maybe Aaron and I can get over there. Sounds like a good time.

  3. Nice choice of firearm, but for me a better analogy than shoe closet would be weapons chest, also known as the six tiered toolbox o' knives.

  4. Sherman hell, M-1A!!! I've got one of those too :-)

  5. I'm a big High Power fan. Collected them obsessively for a few years. My oldest is similar to yours, but with wooden grips. I got the nice brushed satin pistol with bronze accents the day I left the Marine Corps, last thing I bought before I turned in my id card. Then there are the Practicals, and of course the .40 Caliber guns. So many guns, so little time....

  6. Anonymous10:22 AM

    I acquired mine in 1995, probably 20 years after first learning of them. They are AWESOME!
    I miss mine - enjoy yours!