The Sun Never Sets on the Browning High Power

By Alton P. Chiu

To most American readers, the most influential pistol of John Moses Browning is likely the M1911 that has served the US military in various capacities since the early 20th century. Readers in other parts of the world may instead point to the Browning High Power (BHP) that has served over 90 nations and is still in active service today. Lately, surplus BHPs have been coming to the American market, and this article examines the MkII version as purchased from AIM Surplus, a retailer. The follow-on article will focus on various aftermarket parts to bring the BHP into the 21st century.

The BHP was born of a French military service pistol requirement that asked for a magazine disconnect to prevent discharge when the magazine is not inserted, external hammer, positive safety and a capacity of at least 10 rounds. Fabrique Nationale (FN), having a long and prosperous history with John Browning (“FN: The First 125 Years,” American Rifleman, National Rifle Association, Dec. 23, 2014), commissioned a design from him for the contract. Dieudonné Saive, later known for the FAL, developed the double-row magazine containing 13 rounds of 9x19 mm for the pistol. After Browning’s 1926 death at the FN plant in Belgium, Saive incorporated improvements from the now-expired M1911 patents and offered the pistol for sale as the Browning High Power. Although the French failed to adopt the BHP in favor of the SACM 1935 in 7.65 Longue, it was nevertheless adopted by over 90 nations. Alongside the FAL, another FN product, the BHP equipped most of NATO at one point as well as numerous other non-aligned nations such as Argentina, Finland, Nigeria and Singapore.

The BHP had the distinction of being produced and used by both the Allies and Axis in World War II. The Germans took over the FN plant after occupying Belgium in 1940, and they continued production with the addition of Waffenamts inspection marks. Across the Atlantic, John Inglis and Company of Toronto, Canada, received six Belgian-made pistols from China and reverse-engineered them for Allied use (Stevens, R....

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N2 (March 2017)
and was posted online on January 27, 2017


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