III. Firearm Information by Type

C. Semi-Automatic Pistols

2. Models and Manufacturers

d. Browning

2. High Power
by Julian Macassey (julian@bongo.tele.com)

last update: Mon Feb 27 05:50:54 CST 1995

Description

This is a 9mm semi-automatic pistol that is chambered for the NATO standard 9mm X 19mm pistol round. This round is also known as the 9mm Luger and 9mm Parabellum.

There have been models made that chamber other rounds than the 9mm Parabellum. These are not dealt with here.

Some modern literature refers to the gun as a "Hi Power". Early literature refers to it as a "High Power", this is a translation from its original title given to it by FN "Grand Puissance".

History

The pistol was designed by John Moses Browning in the 1920s for the Belgian weapons manufacturer Fabrique National d'Armes de Guerre, known usually by the initials "FN". The pistol first went into production in 1935. John Browning died in 1927. The final design work was done on the pistol by an FN employee Dieudonne Saive.

A quick visual inspection of the Browning High Power will immediately show its pedigree. It shares many similarities with an earlier Browning design, the 1911 Colt 45.

The Browning High Power, also known as the Browning 9mm and at one time in the U.K. as the Browning 38 has been produced by several manufacturers besides FN. Millions of these guns have been produced. Some armories have produced copies with the help and blessing of FN. Some countries have produced unauthorised "knock-offs". Of the various clones, some are exact copies and have parts interchangeable with the FN guns, some don't.

At various times during its history, the High Power has been the issue sidearm in over fifty countries. What follows is a partial list to give some idea of the usage: Germany, Denmark, Britain, Iraq, Peru, Israel, Canada, Lithuania, Estonia, and Malaya.

Manufacturers of the High Power

Browning High Power pistols were used during WWII by both the Axis powers and the Allies. The guns the allies used were produced in Canada by John Inglis & Co. Pistols have also been made in Israel, Argentina, Hungary and Indonesia. The current FN production is machined in Belgium and finished in Portugal.

The Argentinian model, called the FM (Fabricaciones Militares), is a clone made with the blessing and assistance of FN. It will interchange parts with the FN Browning and is currently in production. It is not as well finished as the Belgian models, but is functionally good.

The Canadian models went out of production at the end of WWII The Inglis models are not 100% interchangeable with the FNs.

The Hungarian model the FEG FP9 is a direct copy with some differences.It has a ventilated rib and is believed to have some parts interchangeable with the FN.

From Israel there is a clone called the Kareen. This gun is believed to made from parts machined in Hungary.

Indonesia has also produced an unauthorised clone the "Pindad". This gun has not been sold outside of Indonesia and was made to supply the needs of the Indonesian military.

Basic Models

Obviously, over the years there have been many variations of the High Power produced. This is not a list of the minor differences, but a note on the major differences.

Early models were produced with a detachable stock and adjustable sights. The stocks were often wood and doubled as a holster for the gun. It appears these were designed for cavalry use. The pistols designed for the detachable stock have a groove cut into the rear of the pistol grip. Some models have a lanyard ring at the base of the grip. Late models often have an ambidextrous safety. The finish is usually blued. Some models have been made in nickel and chrome plate and many have been phosphated (Parkerised). One finish that has also been used by FN is Parkerising with black enamel paint over the Parkerising. This finish is designed for military use. Guns made for the civilian market by FN are usually blued.

Pricing

Compared to current pricing for semi-automatic pistols, the Browning High Power is a bargain. New models made by FN sell for around $400. New models from the Argentinian FM factory sell for about $250. Prices on the used market tend to be all over the place, usually from $375 and up. Some very battered ex-service weapons are often offered for $800 and up. Seeing as these often saw service with equally battered Lee Enfield rifles that sell for $70 someone is dreaming.

Owing to its history, there are many High Powers living in the backs of closets and in drawers that saw service in WWII and are in excellent condition. The odd discreet enquiry when visiting grandad will often turn up an heirloom.

Most gun stores carry or will order Browning pistols.

Models available in the U.S.

The Browning company at One Browning Place, Morgan, Utah 84050-9326 import the FN Browning. Their customer service number is (800) 333-3288.

The High Power (Hi-Power) is available in the following variations:

Mark III: Fixed sights. Matte blued finish. Two piece plastic molded grips.

Standard: Fixed or adjustable sights. Polished blued finish. Walnut grips.

HP-Practical: Fixed or adjustable sights. Matte blued slide, Chrome frame. Pachmayr rubber grips.

Silver Chrome: Adjustable sights. Chrome plated (matte). Pachmayr rubber grips.

Capitan: Adjustable tangent sights (old style). Polished blued finish. Walnut grips.

All of the above models, except for the Capitan are available chambered for the .40 S&W cartridge.

Ammunition

The High Power uses the 9mm Parabellum cartridge. A production Browning should have no trouble feeding and firing any cartridge of this caliber. This includes various hollow point, blunt and round bulleted cartridges. Ammunition that fails to feed in modern semi-automatic guns will usually feed and fire with no problems when loaded into a Browning High Power.

Note that the Hi-Power is also available chambered for the S&W .40 cartridge.

Magazines

The standard magazine is a blued 13 round magazine. The Argentinian FM company sells a Parkerised magazine. The magazines currently supplied by FN are made under contract in Italy. There are odd High Power magazines that turn up with no markings on them, they are usually blued. These magazines usually work with no problems. There are stainless steel magazines available. There are also 20 round magazines available.

Since a recent "crime bill", only 10 round magazines are available to the U.S. public. Old style "pre ban" magazines can still be found but command premium prices.

The standard magazine can be disassembled by removing the floor plate. The floor plate slides off by inserting a small screwdriver between the body of the magazine and the front of the magazine body. Pulling the screwdriver away from the body will then allow the follower and spring to drop out of the body. The magazine is usually only disassembled to replace the spring or to thoroughly clean the magazine.

Magazine Safety

As currently manufactured, the High Power comes with a magazine safety. This means that when the magazine is withdrawn, the gun will not fire. The FN company put this in the gun so that if the shooter touched the trigger while inserting a magazine the gun would not fire if there was still a round in the chamber. Many owners remove this safety. It is done for two reasons. First of all, many owners want to gun to be in fireable condition without the magazine so a fresh magazine can be inserted during combat. The other reason is that the magazine safety prevents the empty magazine dropping freely out of the magazine well.

The German military during WWII, told the FN company to leave the magazine safety out. They did this so the gun would always be in fireable condition. When FN took back the factory at the end of WWII, they continued making guns without the magazine safety for a while. These guns have an "A" in the serial number prefix.

Field Stripping

The High Power is easily field stripped. It can be done in the dark. When disassembled, it should consist of the following pieces:

The frame, the slide, the barrel, the magazine, the slide locking lever, the main spring and the main spring guide. Seven pieces including the magazine.

To strip the weapon do the following:

Remove the magazine by pushing the magazine release lever which is on the left side of the gun behind the trigger guard.

Pull back the slide. This will eject a round if there is one in the chamber. Then look through the ejection port on the right side of the gun to visually check that the chamber is empty.

Pull the slide back again and engage the safety lever (usually on the left rear of the gun above the grip) in the second - forward - notch of the slide. The gun should now have the slide held back, the chamber exposed and the front of the barrel exposed.

Push the rear toggle of the slide locking lever up to the top of the slide. Push the the pin end of the lever that protrudes on the right side of the gun. From the left side of the gun, grab the now protruding slide locking lever and remove it.

Push the safety catch down and push the slide forward over the front of the gun and lay it aside.

The slide will now have the barrel, mainspring and mainspring guide inside it.

To disassemble further. Hold the slide with one hand and push the mainspring toward the front of the slide. Then lift the mainspring and mainspring guide. Lift and the barrel away from the slide and lay aside. The mainspring and mainspring guide can then be separated.

To reassemble the unit, reverse the above procedure.

Parts and Maintenance

Because of the long and varied history of the High Power, there are many sources of parts. There is not as much "Customization" as there is of its cousin the Colt 45. Some companies sell special grips, but there are no fancy knobs and bits worth mentioning.

As there have been engineering changes over the years, there are some parts interchangeability problems. A gunsmith familiar with the High Power should have no problems. The differences are well documented. At the owner level, all magazines are interchangeable.

Below is a list of companies that sell parts for the High Power:
Sherwood International (818) 349-7600 (800) 423-5237
Brownells (515) 623-5401
Cylinder & Slide (402) 721-4277 (800) 448-1713
Quality Parts (207) 892-2005 (800) 998-7928
Gun Parts (Numrich Arms) (914) 679-2417
Olympic Arms (Safari Arms) (206) 459-7940
Olympic Arms only sell barrels.
Further Reading

The FN Browning High Power manual

This is a reprint of the original FN manual (1934) that appears in gunstores and in some bookstores.

The Browning Hi-Power Pistols by Donald McLean. Published by Desert Publications, ISBN 0-87947-125-5 Address P.O. Box 1751, 716 Harrel Street. El Dorado, Arkansas 71731-1751. Phone: (501) 862-2077

This is a good booklet that covers the history, care and maintenance of the High Power family.

Jane's Infantry Weapons. A good description of the gun and the countries that use it.

The Browning High Power Automatic Pistol by R. Blake Stevens. Published by Collector Grade Publications. ISBN 0-88935-089-2 Address P.O.Box 250 Station "E", Toronto M6H 4E2 Canada.

This book is a very thorough treatment of the High Power. It has reproductions of the Inglis, FN and British High Power manuals.