The Browning Hi-Power (or Fabrique Nationale FN GP35 - "GP" for "Grande Puissance") has a lineage dating back to the original John Browning Colt M1911 and became the last of Browning's designs before his death in 1926. Design work on the Hi-Power began in 1914 and was still ongoing in 1926, leaving the pistol in the hands of FN's chief designer Dieudonne Saive. Saive replaced Browning's original striker design to a more traditional hammer mechanism. Chambered for the 9x19 Parabellum cartridge, the Hi-Power was fed from a double-stacked magazine holding thirteen rounds. Despite being ready for manufacture, the firearm saw itself delayed with the onset of the Great Depression, pushing its formal release until 1935 - hence the FN GP35 designation.
Externally, the Hi Power presented a very conventional look for a semi-automatic pistol with many of the same lines as featured in the Colt M1911. The slide dominated the upper regions of the gun and protected the critical internal working components as well as housing the barrel and recoil spring, the latter fitted under the barrel. The sides of the slide contained the requisite finger grooves for managing the assembly during cocking. The hammer was clearly visible at the rear of the weapon above the tang. The trigger was held within an oblong ring and connected to the angled pistol grip lined with a grip pattern along both sides. Magazines were inserted into the base of the grip in a conventional way with the cartridge ejection port seated along the right side of the body.
With the arrival of World War 2 in the late 1930s, the German Army steamrolled its way throughout Europe the following year. This included Belgium - the home of Fabrique Nationale and its factories. As such, production of the Browning Hi Power was now in German control and the Army took to local production of the fine pistol under the designation of "Pistole 640(b)" ("b" for "belgisch" to signify its Belgian origins). The pistol managed an existence in this fashion in some number until the end of the war. During the war itself, copies of the gun managed their way to Britain to which the sidearm was reproduced for the British, Canadian and Chinese armies. For the British, the type proved useful as a paratrooper and special operative sidearm for its high-capacity magazine and proven an-stopping capabilities over that of their standard issue revolvers. Local production was taken up in Canadian factories and dispersed to awaiting forces within time. As the war ended with the Nazi defeat in 1945, FN factories began free production of the Hi Power once again. The war had proven the Browning design as reliable, rugged and capable. Such was its impression upon the British that British Army adopted the type as their standard sidearm in 1954. Beyond this some 90 total nations took delivery of the weapon for various military, security, police and civilian roles.
The Browning Hi-Power was produced through several variations that featured different trigger systems, fixed or adjustable sights and even an optional fixed wooden holster stock to improve aim. Early production forms included a version that fitted a tangent rear site while later production models were witnessed chambered for .40 Smith & Wesson ammunition or .357 SIG ammunition.
As a final design, John Browning no doubt left a lasting legacy of gunsmithing in his Hi-Power. The handgun proved as serviceable as advertised and still remains in production in one form or another today (2012) either through license-production or illegal copy of this masterwork system.
Manufacturing Browning Arms - USA; Fabrique Nationale - Belgium; Fabricaciones Militares - Argentina; John Inglis & Co - Canada
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- Close Quarters Battle (CQB) / Personal Security
GP35/P35 - FN Designation
Standard - Mark III firing system.
Practical - Pachmayr rubber grip; revised rounded hammer; 9mm or .40 S&W calibers.
L9A1 - Militarized Version for British Army
Hi-Power Mark I - Based on the P35
Hi-Power Mark I Lightweight
Hi-Power Mark II - Upgraded Base Hi-Power; nylon hand grip; 3-dot sight; ambidextrous safety; throated barrel.
Hi-Power Mark III - Improved Mark II; appearing in 1998; firing pin safety
Capitan - Based on Mark III
HP-SFS (Safe-Fast-Shooting) - based on Hi-Power Mark III.
Detective - Featuring short slide.
Browning BDA Model - Double-Action
Browning BDAO Model - Double-Action Only
Browning BDM - Similar to BDA; produced by Browning Arms.
Rosario - Copy of Mark II series; intended for South American/Latin American export market.
FM90 - Export Model of Mark II; Colt-style slide.
FM95 - Export Model of Mark III; Colt-style slide.
BAP (Browning Automatic Pistol) - Irish designation.
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