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Nighthawk: Custom’s Browning Hi Power

By Todd Burgreen

There is a reason why classic firearms hold a special place in our psyche. This is because firearms labeled as classics have heralded a transition in form and/or function.

No matter how many years and other models that transpired since, classics are accepted as such because they set the standard since their appearance that all other firearms strive to match or improve upon.

The Hi Power is such a weapon; its pedigree is unmatchable considering John Browning’s involvement in the project. Many pundits will claim the Hi Power was Browning’s refinement to his legendary 1911.

The Hi Power was the original “Wonder Nine” and existed well before the 1980s when the term first became popular. Research indicates the term “Wonder Nine” initially was a derisive term; however, it soon became accepted and embraced. The Glock 9 mm G17 is considered the current poster child of the Wonder Nine genre. The nebulous nature of the Wonder Nine categorization is evident as the Glock’s singular style of trigger pull resorts back to the Hi Power’s own single-action trigger and is different from the DA/SA triggers that typified the class, beginning with the Walter P38 transitioning through the Smith & Wesson, CZ, SIG SAUER, et al., 9-mm double-stack models.

The Hi Power can be thought of as the blending of American and European handgun design concepts. It took someone of Browning’s stature to pull this feat off and have it accepted on both sides of the Atlantic. The Browning Hi Power was conceived in response to a 1921 French military requirement for a new service pistol. The French requirements were that the pistol should have a capacity of at least 10 rounds, a magazine disconnect device, an external hammer, a positive safety and be simple to disassemble and re-assemble. The 9-mm cartridge was seen as natural selection based on WW I experiences. With Colt holding the patents to his 1911, Browning had to create a different pistol so as not to infringe on these 1911 patents. Colt was not interested in pursuing the potential French contract so Browning turned to Fabrique...

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

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