The Browning Hi-Power is a classic handgun.
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It was the first "wonder-9" handgun, holding an (at the time) incredible 13 rounds of 9mm. Introduced in 1935, it was first designed by the gun-prophet John Moses Browning (who designed dozens of other important firearms and cartridges) before his death in 1926. Browning's French assistant Dieudonné Saive then took over and changed certain aspects of the handgun before releasing it to the French military, who had placed the initial order for the Hi-Power in 1914 and then rejected the finished handgun in 1935.
A prototype Hi-Power with detachable stock
The Belgian military adopted the Hi-Power as its sidearm and the love affair took off from there. As a military sidearm it was adopted, copied, ripped off, or stolen by dozens of countries across the world over the last 77 years. It was, at the time, the AK-47 of the pistol world: everyone made and used them. During World War Two both the Allies and the Axis in Europe used the Hi-Power: the Nazis took over the Belgian factories and put them into production for their forces while the Allies were given plans for the Hi-Power and began producing the handgun in Canada.
Britian, Argentina, Columbia, Canada, Germany, China, Belgium, Greece, Israel, the United States (FBI), Poland, Luxembourg, Iraq, and dozens more countries have put the Hi-Power to use.
One country that produced the Hi-Power was Hungary. Known as the FEG (Fegyver És Gépgyár) Hi-Power, it was produced starting in the 1970s and was known to be a quality, near exact copy of the Browning Hi-Power. There were several different variants of the FEG with different finishes and uses, but they were mainly produced for export.
I was able to come upon one of these FEG handguns less than a year ago and have been quite pleased with it. The model I found was the PJK-9HP, also known as the FP9, and has a ventilated rib running along the top of the slide as well as a slightly different front slide, looking more like the front slide of a Colt 1911 than that of a typical Browning Hi-Power (as depicted in the first photo). In all other regards the FP9 is identical to the standard Browning Hi-Power.
My FEG Hi-Power, the FP9.
My FEG is a piece of work, a marvel to look at, a masterpiece of gun art. At least to my eye.
The deep satiny blued finish of the metal is contrasted by the utilitarian and rugged wood grips. While normal Browning Hi-Powers are something to look at, the ventilated rib, like those normally found on sporting shotguns, adds another touch of mystique and class to an already attractive handgun. The lines are smooth and straight-forward; nothing too complex to muck up the flow of the eye as it sweeps back along the slide. Like many things, simplicity is beautiful.
Now, a firearm can be extremely beautiful but that matters not if it does not shoot well. So how does the Hi-Power/FEG shoot? In so many words: as beautifully as it looks. The action is very smooth and feels great when fired. The grip fits well in my large hands but might be a tad large or uncomfortable in smaller hands. And the stock Hi-Power barrel is definitely accurate enough for most intended uses, but just in case it isn't match barrels are available in both 9mm and .40 caliber. But out of the box any decent condition Hi-Power is an accurate handgun.
The sights are typical of most vintage handguns: simplistic and rough but more than adequate for the intended use. Remember, the Hi-Power was originally designed as a military sidearm, not a precision weapon.
Like the sights, the miniscule stock thumb safety is quite minimalistic. It is unfortunately barely adequate and is one of the few low points of the Hi-Power, especially for a left handed person like myself. This is one thing I would change in the basic Hi-Power design.
Another would be the magazine disconnect. The typical Hi-Power cannot fire without a magazine being fully inserted into the mag well. It was designed with safety in mind but I would consider it a liability, especially with its intended use being that of a combat sidearm. The magazine disconnect also makes the trigger pull quite a bit stiffer than it really needs to be. This issue can be resolved by (1.) removing the magazine disconnect or (2.) polishing the areas on the magazines where the disconnect makes contact.
Another issue that sometimes comes up with Hi-Powers, especially the older versions, is that they may or may not feed hollow-point ammunition, depending upon the shape of the feed ramp and how well polished it is. Thus far my FEG has had no problems feeding hollow-points.
Hi-Power disassembly is so simple a baboon could achieve it. First, before disassembling any firearm, drop the magazine and visually and physically make sure there is no round in the chamber.
Having done so, pull the Hi-Power slide back and lock it back with the safety. The safety notch fits into a cutout on the bottom edge of the slide. Next, push the slide lock pin out of the frame and carefully release the safety, slowly lowering the slide forward until it is completely off the frame. Set the frame aside.
Next, take the slide and hold it so the bottom of the slide is exposed. Compress the recoil spring from the barrel lug and pull the spring out of the slide, setting it aside. Finally, remove the barrel from the slide. And there you have it, the Hi-Power is disassembled.
Disassembled with an aftermarket 17 round magazine.
To reassemble the Hi-Power merely reverse the steps used in the disassembly.
Like the Colt 1911, it is meant to be carried in a holster cocked and locked meaning with a round in the chamber, the hammer cocked back, and the safety on. This is a perfectly safe way to carry the Hi-Power. I carry mine only for special occasions: it is my best and most beautiful handgun, an engagement gift from my then fiance. Like the dinner jacket, your special cuff links, or your finest shoes, my Hi-Power only comes out with my best. It is a sort of "BBQ gun", as Texans call it. It makes the occasion special and the occasion makes it more special. I was proud to wear it at my wedding.
The Hi-Power has a proud heritage that continues today. Even if you can't find a vintage Hi-Power fear not, Browning still makes them, though prices are over $1,000. Prince Harry was recently seen wearing a well-worn and beat-up Hi-Power in a war zone in the Middle East, a tribute to its longevity and ruggedness.
As with everything else, look to the classics. Classics have been proven through time and experience. There's a reason the Hi-Power is a classic: it was made to be.