Curious Relics #044: In With The New? – Browning Hi-Power Part 4
Welcome, if you are a newcomer to this fun bi-weekly segment of AllOutdoor.com! The last time around I covered the history, its variations, and how to date your personal Hi-Power, specifications, aftermarket parts/accessories, and now finally a range trip! What a wonderful feeling to shoot something that has so much history. Let’s dive right into the rabbit hole!
Note: Many photos used throughout the next three parts or so will be of my personal FN Hi-Power made in the 1990s and chambered for 40 S&W and also the new Springfield Armory SA-35.
Welcome to our recurring series of “Curious Relics.” Here, we want to share all of our experiences, knowledge, misadventures, and passion for older firearms that one might categorize as a Curio & Relic – any firearm that is at least 50 years old according to the ATF. Hopefully along the way you can garner a greater appreciation for older firearms like we do, and simultaneously you can teach us things as well through sharing your own expertise and thoughts in the Comments. Understanding the firearms of old, their importance, and their development which lead to many of the arms we now cherish today is incredibly fascinating and we hope you enjoy what we have to share, too!
FN Hi-Power Range Time
I have owned my FN Hi Power for around five years now. It was a good friend that I know well and worked with at FN America. He had already owned a Hi-Power in 9mm and felt the more neglected 40 S&W version would have a better home with me so I bought it. Ever since I have grown to have an even higher appreciation for the design than that of my initial wishlist pining.
Range time with my good old FN Hi Power is always a pleasant experience. Even though I wish that it was in the more common, less expensive, higher capacity, and lighter shooting 9mm, It still impresses everyone who has ever shot it. It delivers a noticeable amount of snap while remaining comfortable. The sights are blacked out but has grooves for whatever paint you wish to apply ( I recommend model/craft paint). The magazine is an annoying and outdated feature and as the story goes it makes the trigger pull worse. Fortunately, it is extremely easy to remove but unfortunately, I like the idea of keeping my FN Hi Power stock. Speaking of safeties, the manual thumb safety I have always found to be lacking in a “positive” switch. There is not much of an audible or feel clue of when you flip from fire to safe or visa versa besides literally looking at its position.
I would wager that the average gripe someone may have with this gun is the notorious hammer bite that is rendered by lack of much of a beaver tail. I myself have never experienced this phenomenon with my FN Hi Power, nor anyone that has used mine. That is not to say that my pistol is any different (it is not), it is just a curious observation.
One problem I have experienced, however, was the slide prematurely locking open during firing. This is an entirely user error. I shoot with the more modern “Combat Grip” and my thumb(s) tend to push up on the slide release while firing which forces that lever to do its job and lock open the slide.
SA35 Range Time
When the SA35 was introduced in late 2021 I was absolutely elated! Not to say that I had been wallowing in sorrow over the discontinuation of the actual Hi Power back in 2017, but it was refreshing to see someone go to take up the slack. The Hi-Power is such a famous, well-made, historic handgun so it was a very pleasant surprise to see brand new ones being made in America by Springfield Armory. AllOutdoor Editor Adam S already did a full review of the SA35 and I highly recommend you check out that article at the link here.
At the range, the SA35 was an exciting gun. Never before did I have such an opportunity to extensively experience this specific platform in the comfortable 9mm cartridge. The overall feel of the gun was very similar to my personal Hi-Power. The recoil was lighter but in all honesty, it was barely a noticeable change swapping from one to the other. The safety was more positive than my own and the grip panels are contoured differently but in a way I prefer.
In many of the advertisements, I have seen for the SA35 they say it has been changed slightly to improve both the trigger pull and eliminate the hammer bit. The trigger pull is very nice! Slight take-up and then a crisp drop. The hammer bite claim is curious to me. Strangely I actually experienced the slightest and lightest hammer bite. This was the first time it has EVER happened to me and showing a picture is almost pointless how weak of an impression it left but it would feel wrong not to mention it. It was not so much a literal bite as much as a slight sting after a whole magazine. The hammer must have just smacked the web of my hand a few times but only slightly. Most likely this is because of my largish hands.
Lastly, I really enjoyed the sights on the SA35. The “U-Notch” style sights are becoming a mainstay with Springfield Armory and more popular with the public. General consensus from people have spoken with is it is just a more comfortable sight. It is a circle and its rounded nature makes it pleasantly sit in the round slot of the u-notch. Simple but effective!
Doing an “official” comparison is actually quite hard since there are so many versions of the actual Hi-Power. That being said, I will form observations and comparisons by looking at my FN Hi Power. Dimensionally the guns are very similar, so similar to the point that it would be useless for me to waste time taking measurements, they are that close. The footprint is basically the same and the overall weight and balance are very similar.
The new SA35 has a “matte blued” finish. I put those in quotes because that is what Springfield Armory calls it. It appears to most as parkerizing but I believe Springfield Armory since the color and texture is different from traditional Parkerization. Regardless this finish choice is not so much an homage to military parkerized Hi Powers as much as it is more than likely something to cut down on cost. The SA35 is fairly affordable all things considered so no complaints here! The hammer is an old-school ring style rather than the later more common spur hammer. This choice is an attempt to go for the classic look and I believe it suits the gun well. The grip panels are quite different as well. The SA35 has thicker rounded panels while the older FN has flat-faced thinner panels.
As I mentioned earlier the sights are quite different. My FN and many others like it have relatively fixed blacked-out sights while the newer more modern-oriented SA35 has a black dovetailed U-Notch sight and a front dovetailed white dot sight. A notable improvement on the Hi Power design that the SA35 features would be a much crisper and lighter trigger. That being said they completely did away with the magazine safety as well.
For a very long time, the Hi-Power was my favorite pistol and once I got one it felt like I checked it off the list and something new could wear the crown. Having the SA35 to compare and enjoy as a Test & Evaluate gun has renewed my excitement for the design and I am eagerly waiting to see if Springfield Armory comes out with some other versions of the SA35. Until then I hope these four parts were of some educational value as well as entertainment value. I am very excited to bring you guys what is next. Until then, take care!
In closing, I hope our Curious Relics segment informed as well as entertained. This all was written in hopes of continued firearm appreciation and preservation. We did not just realize how guns were supposed to look and function. It was a long and tedious process that has shaped the world we live in. So, I put it to you! Is there a firearm out there that you feel does not get much notoriety? What should our next Curious Relics topic cover? As always, let us know all of your thoughts in the Comments below! We always appreciate your feedback