John Browning and the Hi-Power came up in the comments the other day and we got to talking about how some lesser people consider the H-ipower, JMB’s improved or perfected version of the M1911. Few people know that the Hi-power as we know it isn’t really what JMB had in mind before he died and another gun designer took over. Not being the world class genius Browning was, he changed it to something a bit less revolutionary.

“his prototype 9mm pistol was quite different in many regards. First of all, it was to hold 17 rounds. Yes that’s right. a 17 round 9mm pistol in the early 1920s. Also, the slide was designed with a breechblock very much like that of the Savage pistols of the time: it used interrupted threads. You could remove the breeechblock with half a turn. The slide on the prototype was even more racy than that of the current P-35, and was made for a tangent rear sight.

…the Savage breechblock is a self contained unit that holds the striker, the hammer that is linked to the striker, and the sear. The trigger mechanism links to the breechblock when the slide is closed. When the slide cycles, the breechblock is removed from the trigger linkage, and the act of cycling works as the disconnector does on the 1911. To disassemble the browning prototype you unload, lock the slide back and removed the magazine. Then pinch the hammer/striker back to relieve the spring tension, and then give the assembly a half turn. You then pull it out the back of the slide. Then you use the slide stop to ease the slide forward and off the frame.

When Browning died the design went unfinished. Another famous designer, Deiudonne Saive took over the project and ditched the removable breechblock. He used used levers for the linkage for the trigger and changed the frame and magazine size to make the gun more compact bringing the capacity down to 13 rounds.

“In making the pistol as light as possible he made the frame as compact as he could get away with. The original design appears to be much more robust and Saive’s changes, while pleasing to those who want to save a few ounces, shortened the service life of the P-35.”

Improvement over the 1911 by Browning? I don’t think so. The original prototype? Maybe, but we will never know. The P-35 is a wonderful classic but it’s no M1911 in my opinion.

Quotes from -The 1911 The First 100 Years


  1. John M. says:

    Browning’s design for the Hi-Power was as a 17-round double-stack striker-fired 9mm? Say it ain’t so.


  2. dewatters says:

    FWIW: I’ve been thinking that FN’s name for the follow-on hammer-fired prototype, the “Grand Rendement”, should probably translate as “High Performance” and not as “High Yield.”

    Just for fun, here are some vintage patents tracking the BHP’s evolution from John M. Browning’s original prototype to D.J. Saive’s near final design.

    First is a French patent showing Browning’s early striker-fired, reverse-rail ancestor of the BHP. Note that the breechblock has to be unscrewed first for disassembly. This clears a path to pull the slide forward over and across the barrel, which is trapped within its frame recess.

    Second is the hammer-fired variant of the original design, still maintaining the threaded breechblock, captured barrel, and reversed rails.

    Finally, here’s the 1930 Belgian patent for the nearly complete BHP design. Note the M1911 style barrel bushing and recoil spring plug.


    1. Shawn says:

      expect an email in a few days giving you access to post here on the site


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