The Browning Hi-Power design began with firearms visionary John Moses Browning, who died before its completion.  Browning first began designing this Belgium’s FN (Fabrique Nationale) of Herstal completed the design of this single-action, semi-automatic 9mm pistol.

Overview of the Hi-Power

The Browning Hi-Power remained in design phase from 1914 to 1935, with production beginning that same year.  Entering service also in 1935, this pistol became one of the most widely used pistols of all time and is considered one of the top pistols in history.  The Hi-Power has been used by military forces in over 50 countries.

Since first being introduced, the Hi-Power has undergone a number of design changes.  Original production models were known as ‘Ordinary Model’, which had fixed sights and ‘Adjustable Rear Sight Model’, which was manufactured with a tangent-type rear sight and a slotted grip to which a wooden shoulder stock could be attached.

The Hi-Power’s trigger is not connected to its hammer.  As a single-action pistol, the shooter must cock the Hi-Power manually prior to the first shot.  This can be done by using the thumb to pull the hammer back, or manually pulling the slide to the rear and then releasing it.  The Browning Hi-Power has a short-recoil, and despite a few design flaws, its 13 round capacity is almost double that of the M1911.

Military History

The Browning Hi-Power was actually used by the Allies and the Axis in World War II.  When Germany took over Belgium in 1940, they gained control of the FN manufacturing plant.  Weapons produced during this era bear Germany’s inspection and acceptance marks.  The Allies attained their pistols from a manufacturing plant in Canada who also produced the Hi-Power.  Canada attained the plans via Britain.  Belgium sent Britain the plans once they realized the country – and thus the manufacturing plant – would soon be under German power.

Specifications of the Browning Hi-Power

  • In Service:  1935 to present day
  • Designers:  John Moses Browning and Dieudonne Saive
  • Production:  1935 to present day
  • Weight:  2.19 lbs.
  • Length:  7.8 inches
  • Barrel Length:  4.7 inches
  • Cartridge:
  •             9 x 19mm Parabellum
  •             7.65 x 21mm Parabellum
  •             .40 S&W
  • Muzzle Velocity:  1,100 feet per second
  • Effective Range:  165 feet


Below is a list of Hi-Power variants which have emerged over the years:

  • P35 – the Original
  • L9A1 – British military version post-1962
  • Mark I – Best-known model
  • Mark I Lightweight – Rare variant of the Mark I
  • Mark II – Upgrade of the original model introduced in the early 1980s
  • Mark III – Additional upgrades from the Mark II – Introduced in 1983
  • Practical – Fixed or adjustable sights – Available in either 9mm or .40 S&W
  • HP-SFS – Mark III variant with modified firing mechanism (Safe-Fast-Shootin)
  • BDA and BDAO – Both introduced in the 1980s.  BDA – double-action, DAO – double-action only – Available in full-sized or compact versions
  • Browning BDM – Similarity to Hi-Power is external only.  Introduced in 1990s by Browning Arms Company not FN.  BDM can be switched from double-action to single-action
  • Rosario / FM90 / FM95
  • Pistol AUTO 9 mm 1A
  • Detective

In all, over one million Browning Hi-Power pistols have been manufactured.  Over the course of its history, the pistol has been adopted as the standard service pistol by more than 50 armies in 93 nations around the world.   The Browning Hi-Power Pistol is also used in the United States by the FBI Hostage Rescue Team.