The Browning Hi Power is an iconic pistol. It was carried was carried by both Germany and the Allies during WWII, and over fifty nations since then. It's probably safe to say it's one of the most extensively used military pistols ever.
John Browning began designing the Hi-Power in the 1920's in response to a request from the French military. The design of the Hi Power is similar to the 1911, but the details are very different. Browning's assistant, Dieudonne Saive, designed the "double stack" magazine for the Hi Power, and took over the project after Browning died. FN began selling the pistol in 1935. The French didn't accept the pistol, but many others did.
My history with the Hi Power started in 1978. I had grown up shooting 1911's, but because of my hand size sometimes I didn't get the standard G.I. grip safety depressed. I was finishing high school and decided I wanted a semi-auto 9mm as a graduation present from my parents.
At that time your choices in hi-cap semi-auto nines were the Browning or the Smith & Wesson nines. Dad took me to the gun shop, and I handled each of them. Just like my well worn copy of Small Arms of the World
claimed, the pistol's "…better than usually instinctive pointing qualities" felt great in my hand. I informed Dad it was the Browning for me. He smiled, the shop owner smiled and I knew I had made the right choice. (In fact, the 20th Group SF presented Dad with a Hi Power during his Change of Command ceremony when he stepped down as their commanding officer.)
My dad knew the High Sheriff, so I already had a pistol permit; my jobs sometimes required me to carry deposits to the bank. I got a belt holster and a shoulder holster for carry and I was set. Even though it has a double stack magazine that holds thirteen – I always loaded twelve – a loaded Hi Power is lighter than the 1911. The slide is thin and tapers in the front, which means it's easy to conceal and comfortable to carry. That Browning served me well for many years – until I could afford to have a custom 1911 built that actually fit my hands – and it's one of those guns I'll never get rid of.
In today's market of high capacity polymer pistols the Hi Power is often overlooked. But it makes a great carry pistol. There are plenty of options available for custom Hi Powers. Cylinder & Slide and Robar offer parts and smithing services for the Hi Power. Nighthawk Custom offers full tilt custom Hi Powers. And there's plenty of surplus Hi Powers available from one of the many countries that made clones.
If you've never thought about the Hi Power give it a try. You might be shocked to find that a pistol from the 1930's is still great for today. In fact, I may just have to pick up another one to get some custom work done.
Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama. He is the author of "The Book of Two Guns" - http://shootrite.org/book/book.html writes for several firearms/tactical publications, and is featured on GunTalk's DVD, "Fighting With The 1911 - http://shootrite.org/dvd/dvd.html McKee's new book, AR-15 Skills and Drills, is available off Shootrite's website: http://shootrite.org/AR15SkillsBook/AR15SkillsBook.html