Sunday, November 25, 2012

Firearms: the Browning Hi-Power (via the FEG)

This blog is full of classics.  Why not a classic firearm?

The Browning Hi-Power is a classic handgun.

click images to enlarge

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.

Their loss.

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.

The Hi-Power has influenced handgun design, from multiple Smith & Wesson types to the CZ-75 and -85 families.  It has soldiered on not only as the military sidearm that it was designed to be but also as a civilian sporting and self-defense handgun as well.  And while it may not be the best choice anymore as a combat handgun, it is still a classic that will not let the shooter down.  You cannot go wrong with a well-made and taken care of Hi-Power, whether it's a Browning or an FEG.

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.


Nick Smith said...

Much as I enjoy your blog, I'd rather not read about guns. I know this particular one is a vintage weapon, but it's rather discomforting reading for a European palette. As for a gun as an engagement gift, the mind boggles!

Will said...

Like money, a gun is a possession: an inanimate object that is used at the owner’s discretion. It is a tool. Just as money can be used to build a hospital or used to bribe an official, a firearm can be used to do good or commit evil. The gun has no say as to how it is used, it just does what it is physically manipulated to do. To believe otherwise and to assign a personality to an inanimate object like a gun is unhealthy.

Like a scalpel, a firearm can do horrible damage if in the wrong hands, however in the right hands a scalpel can save a life, just like a firearm. And, even though a scalpel is very sharp and dangerous, it is used to save innumerably more lives than it's every been used to take. Just like a firearm.

The basic instinct of revulsion and dislike toward an unknown object is normal and perhaps even healthy: it is a survival reflex. It is a healthy basic response to a dangerous inanimate object. But we are humans with rational minds: rather than keeping oneself in the dark about the unknown object, like a firearm, and therefore staying fearful of said object, an even healthier response would be to educate oneself about that object. That is what an open-minded person should want to strive to do.

Nick Smith said...

Hmm, not sure I agree with you here. A gun's sole purpose is to kill, nothing more, nothing less. I admit that it can be used as a deterrent, but that only works providing you have the bigger weapon. The purpose of a scalpel is to cut. This can confirmed by the fact that if you're over 18 in most of the world, you can buy a scalpel, but gun purchase is restricted.

The US' Second Amendment is one of the more baffling pieces of legislation.

Will said...

Bill Whittle does a better job of describing gun ownership than I ever could.

Flounder said...

I think you mean "Hungary", if you're talking about that country roughly 600 miles north of Grease :)

SharkWhisperer1988 said...

He's European, sir, don't waste your breath explaining, these eunuchs have already been had. Honestly, that "only the biggest gun wins" comment was the only real baffling opinion here...

Stupendous review of a classic firearm, if I may say. It was a pleasure to read and your description was akin to a friendly conversation in a trusted, local gun store. Well said, sir!

Recently came across a similar Hungarian Hi-Power and was looking for a little background info when I stumbled upon your blog and how glad I did! You've earned a new subscriber here, sir.

SharkWhisperer1988 said...

* B'AH!

Just had to go and re-read Nick's comments again, the cheek, huh? The f*cking cheek!

"I'm legally restricted from taking an interest in my own physical self defense, here on the sub-continent, so please refrain from reminding me of this sad fact by blogging about things I'm not allowed to own, despite your personal interest in the subject matter and the fact that it's your d*mn blog in the first place! Yea, it 'offends' my castrated European since of propriety"

SharkWhisperer1988 said...

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Gunner Jacky said...

FEG looks exactly like a gun I used to have when I was 18 years old. I gave it to my friend on his birthday. He was very happy to have FEG gun as a present. Although, I had to transfer my license authority to him and that involves a long process which made me tired. Thanks for bringing back the memory.

MA Firearms School

Geoff Cruz said...

My grandfather is English and he is a gun enthusiast which makes him an odd thing in the UK. He has one of this Browning pistols
and it is one of his prized possession.

Trist Vanquish said...

"Hi-Power disassembly is so simple a baboon could achieve it." Whilst I find your blog informative statements like this are vacuous at best. I would assuredly guarantee you could place any gun in an enclosure with baboons or monkeys of any stripe and never see them disassemble a pistol.

Unknown said...

Ah, Mr. Vanquish - apart from the fact that taking his "baboon" comment literally - which I find quite insipid - is a wild stretch of rhetorical imagination, in all likelihood - given the native curiosity of monkeys - I suspect that with enough fiddling, the pistol would be lying in pieces on the floor of their cage in short order. Particularly if they were shown the process beforehand.

As for the Second Amendment baffling Mr. Smith, one of Her Majesty's subjects, you would do well to remember that Britain still smarts over losing North America to a bunch of rowdies who preferred the sovereignty of citizenry to being a subject of a sovereign, and who recognized that the means by which to accomplish that was to be ever armed against the re-imposition of despotism. Of course, having learned that lesson the hard way, Britain made sure its subjects never again were enabled - physically or philosophically - to exercise such a prerogative against an armed state.

Moreover, it wasn't a piece of "baffling legislation," nor legislation at all. It was a mandatory part of the American Constitution, without the presence and promise of which, along with the other 9 immediate Amendments found in the Bill of Rights, the Constitution would not have been ratified. We were just that pissed about George III.

While you had a sheep-like populace who could be cowed (mixed metaphor there) into compliance with the rules, it was a simple matter to virtue signal the elitist puffery that your police needn't have been armed. Now, of course, that your foolish herders have decided that allowing the wogs to overrun Dover is the "right" thing to do, with London rapidly reverting to third world status in some neighborhoods, the issue of arming police in Merrie Olde has raised its ugly head by necessity. Ah, the unavoidably brutal lessons of reality . . .


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