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Browning BDA (Browning Double-Action) Semi-Automatic Pistol (1983)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 4/30/2014

The Browning BDA semi-automatic pistol is based on the proven Browning High-Power of the 1930s.

In the early 1980s, the United States military sought to replace its aging standard service pistols. The choice of the proven and widely accepted German 9x19mm Parabellum cartridge spurred firearms companies to develop an applicable and rugged sidearm to fulfill the requirement. Among the attempts was the Browning Double-Action (or "BDA") by the Belgian firm of FN Herstal (Fabrique Nationale) which continued the successful qualities of the base John Browning design appearing nearly a century before. The design emerged in 1983 and was based on the successful Browning High-Power (Browning "HP") series of 1935 but unsuccessfully competed - ultimately losing out to the Italian Beretta M92F semi-automatic pistol series (to become the "M9" in US military service since 1985).

Though losing out on the lucrative US DoD contract, there was nothing inherently wrong with the Browning submission. It was a conventional semi-automatic pistol design which carried nearly the same form and function of John Browning's original design back in the early 1900s. The weapon took on the typical "L-shaped" configuration with an integrated ergonomic pistol grip and slab-sided slide. The slide featured grips along the rear for cocking the weapon. The barrel was fitted over the recoil spring and both were shrouded by the slide assembly. There was a front and rear iron sight over the slide with the hammer partially visible out of the rear. The trigger was curved in its design an held within an oblong trigger ring. The slide release, magazine release and safety were all set along the side of the receiver within reach of the thumb. Magazines were inserted into the base of the pistol grip in a conventional fashion.

The weapon was initially chambered for the 9x19mm Parabellum cartridge though a later addition to the line saw the inclusion of the Israeli 9x21mm IMI round. It fired from a 14-round detachable box magazine (though this depended on the model type as there were compact forms produced as well utilizing the smaller 7-round count). Fabrique-National (FN) models made use of a different 15-round magazine count through their Double-Action (DA) and Double-Action Only (DAO) marks as well. The weapon operated on a short recoil operation set along a typical semi-automatic function. The double-action nature of the trigger allowed the trigger unit to both cock the weapon and fire it (releasing the hammer).

Despite its non-selection in the US military trials, the Browning BDA went on to be used by the Finnish Defence Force as its standard issue sidearm (the "PIST 80"/"PIST 80-91" series). FN produced the basic model under the "BDA" designation and this was followed by various other marks including the "BDAM" ("Browning Double-Action Medium"), "BDA-9M" ("Browning Double-Action 9M") and "BDAC" ("Browning Double-Action Compact") forms. One other notable version was the "BDAO" ("Browning Double-Action Only") which included a new trigger system with automatic decocking.

The base BDA model sported a weight of 920 grams with a running length of 200mm and barrel length of 118mm. Muzzle velocity was rated at 1,150 feet per second with an effective range out to approximately 165 feet.

For a time, the BDA was initially known as the "BDA-9S" and may also be referred to as the "HP-DA" ("High-Power Double-Action").

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Specifications for the
Browning BDA (Browning Double-Action)
Semi-Automatic Pistol

Country of Origin: Belgium
Manufacturer: FN Herstal - Belgium / Browning - USA
Initial Year of Service: 1983

Overall Length: 200 mm (7.87 in)
Barrel Length: 118.00 mm (4.65 in)
Weight (Empty): 2.03 lb (0.92 kg)

Caliber*: 9x19mm Parabellum; 9x21mm IMI
Action: Double-Action; Blowback; Semi-Automatic
Feed: 7-, 14- or 15-round detachable box magazine
Muzzle Velocity: 1,148 ft/sec (350 m/sec)
Rate-of-Fire: 12 rounds per minute
Range: 164 ft (50 m; 55 yds)
Sights: Iron front and rear

* Listed caliber(s) for firearms may be model dependent if more than one model type/chambering was produced. Always consult official manufacturer's information or a licensed dealer.

Browning BDA - Browning Double-Action; Base Series Designation.

Browning BDA-9S - Original Designation replaced by BDA.

Browning BDAO ("Browning Double-Action Only") - Based on the original BDA with reworked trigger mechanism.

Browning BDAM - Browning Double-Action Medium

Browning BDA-9M - Alternative Designation for BDAM model.

Browning BDAC - Browning Double-Action Compact

Browning BDA-9C - Alternative Designation for BDAC model.

HP-DA - High-Power Double-Action; European Market Designation.

9.00 PIST 80 - Finnish Army Designation

9.00 PIST 80-91 - Finnish Army Designation