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Canadian Inglis High Power: Why A Chinese Contract Becomes The Canadian Standard



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AMERICAN INVENTOR, BELGIAN ENGINEER, CANADIAN MANUFACTURER

The High Power is a legend of a pistol. While not getting the respect it deserves in the USA, this was one of the greatest pistols ever made. The last design penned by John Browning, who died before he could finish it, this wondrous 9mm pistol would become the standard issue sidearm for a huge part of the Commonwealth as well as be used in some official capacity by over two dozen other nations. 

It would even be used by the FBI HRT and be the standard-issued pistol to SOG during the Vietnam War.

With a weird and wild history of development, over 1.5 million units produced, and being reintroduced in 2022 – the FN/Browning High Power needs a closer look.

Or, as in our case, a closer look at the Canadian Inglis High Power.

CANADIAN LOANS, CHINESE CONTRACTS, & INDIAN WAREHOUSES

I am not an expert on the High Power, so I won’t try to dive too deep into the weeds on the details of the story. Think of this as just the Cliff Notes version. For more info, I recommend Tactical Life’s article and Forgotten Weapon’s video on the Inglis.

The detailed story of the High Power is a bit too long for this article, so we’re just going to focus on the bits that matter in relation to the Inglis-produced version of the High Power.

Our story starts with the John Inglis and Company manufacturing firm. Founded in 1859 in the frozen lands of Canada, this was a huge brand that manufactured everything. During World War I, they made thousands of artillery shells, more than 40 steam engines for shipping freighters, boilers, grain elevating equipment, and a lot, lot more.

Come the second world war, they were ready to build more. At their peak, the arms and ordnance division had over 1 million square feet of production.

By 1940, John Inglis and Company were producing more than 60% of the Bren guns used by the Commonwealth and 30% of the British army’s. More than 100,000 Bren guns would be delivered by the end of the war.

In April of 1943, China needed arms and was working with the Canadian government to get them. They requested 180,000 High Powers with wooden shoulder stocks and long range tangent sights from Canada. 

Inglis made Chinese Contract Mk. I* High Power, image via Rock Island Auction. This sold for $3,163.

Some horse trading was involved, but FN eventually agreed to license the High Power to Canada for a small fee. They also provided the Canadians with blueprints and technical assistance, including having Dieudonné Saive, who finished the High Power’s design after Browning’s death, go to Canada to assist with production. 

Important to the story is the fact that while the Chinese ordered the pistols, they didn’t pay for them directly. Instead, the Canadian government loaned China the money to pay for the pistols, and expected to be paid back after the war. This seemed like a good investment for Canada since the pistols would be used to fight the Japanese.

During the time it took to set up production, the British Special Operations Executive (similar to the American OSS and would be a sort-of precursor to the British SAS) became interested in the High Power as well. They asked for 50,000 units, but without the stocks and long range sights that the Chinese wanted.

Indian Loading Docks

By early 1944 4,000 Inglis High Power pistols had been built and “delivered” to the Chinese. Because of logistical reasons, those pistols were sitting in Chinese-owned warehouses located in India. Instead of being used to fighting the Japanese like the Canadians thought they would be, they were sitting there. Unused.

Dominion of Canada proof marks were not always clearly stamped, but they can be made out

With no way of getting the pistols into the fight, the Canadian government canceled the contract after only 4,000 pistols were delivered, and another 14,000 pistols were made but not yet delivered. The 14,000 pistols that had yet to be delivered would eventually be absorbed by the British SOE. These are widely known as the “No. 1 Chinese Contract” high powers.

Inglis No. 2

Through testing by the Canadian, British, and American governments, the High Power proved to be an outstanding pistol. And since it was being made in Canada, the Canadians had a significant interest in adopting it for their own forces.

After the war ended, the No. 2 version of the Inglis High Power was developed to meet those demands. Removing the Chinese contract’s shoulder stock lug, long range sights, and making some modifications to the slide, ejector, and extractor, the new version of the pistol would be adopted as the No.2 MK1*.

Late in 1944, the British Army also adopted the No.2 MK1* for the airborne. Almost 50,000 pistols would be delivered to the British for their airborne forces and other “non–traditional” combat units.

In Canada, the Inglis High Power has been the standard-issued pistol since 1945. It wasn’t until 2022 that Canada decided to finally retire the High Power in favor of the SIG P320 that should be coming into service in mid-2023.

SPECS: INGLIS HIGH POWER, NO.2 MK1*

  • Caliber: 9mm
  • Barrel: 4.4 inches
  • OA Length: 7.7 inches
  • Weight: 34 ounces (empty)
  • Grips: Plastic
  • Sights: Front post, notch rear
  • Action: SA
  • Finish: Parkerized
  • Capacity: 14+1
  • Safety: Manual thumb safety & Magazine safety

MODERN WARS REQUIRE MODERN ARMS

In the era of Glock 19, SIG P320, CZ P10C, and all of the other modern side arms we have – the High Power can get a little ignored. By today’s standards, it’s a little heavy, it’s not very tactical, and you can’t put a red dot on it (not an origonal, at least).

But think in the era of the 1940s. The 1911 in .45 ACP is king in the USA, the Walther P1 and Mauser P08 Luger both in 9mm are in service for the Nazis, and the British are mostly using Webley revolvers in .455 Webley.

By those standards, the High Power is as revolutionary as the Glock was in the ‘80s.

The High Power is also high capacity, compared to the arms of the time. The  Webley was a 6-round revolver, the P08 held 8 rounds of 9mm, and the M1911 held only 7 shots of .45 ACP. The Inglis had a 14+1 capacity. A palm swell grip, usable sights, and sized just slightly longer than a modern Glock 17.

Everything considered the High Power was a badass tactical pistol for the 1940s.

On The Range

Shooting the High Power, even all of these years later, is simply awesome. While a bit heavy, the gun soaks recoil and stays on target with ease. The grip is comfortable and firm, but I miss good front or back strap checkering. 

The exposed hammer is large enough to thumb quickly but small enough that the small beaver tail can protect your hand from any slide or hammer bite.

One negative, I have to say, is the trigger. While the 1911, even old M1911s, has an amazing trigger – the Inglis is heavy. Part of that is age and wear from almost 80 years of use, but the trigger is still heavy no matter what. Not so heavy that a good pull is impossible, but it’s definitely not the crisp single action of a 1911.

One annoyance is the magazine safety. I hate magazine safeties, and I remove them on any gun that has them normally. Since this is a vintage gun and this is just how it was made, I’ve left the magazine safety intact. It’s still a stupid feature that never should have been included, but it is what it is.

END OF AN ERA

My Inglis High Power was made in January of 1945. Production ended in October 1945.

FN and Browning stopped High Power production in 2018. They just don’t make them like they used to.

While FN/Browning and Springfield have brought the High Power back with their newly made clones, nothing will be quite as right as the originals. 

LOOSE ROUNDS

If I needed to pick one WWII pistol to trust my life to, I would pick my Inglis High Power No 2. MK1*. This is a piece of history, it’s also a workhorse combat pistol that has been through the sh!t in almost every major conflict of the last 8 decades. 

Browning didn’t get to see his design finalized and put into production, but I think he would be very proud of his 9mm, that in my opinion, is one of his best designs. Even better than the 1911.

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2 Comments

  • Mike Crenshaw says:

    One significant comment, the 1922 FN “High Power” is not a clone of the FN P35. Nothing is interchangeable and the currently produced “High Power” has only a passing resemblance to the venerable P35 or the Englis. The new “High Power” is just branding off of the history of the P35s and Englises.

  • TA says:

    The last sentence of this article: “Even better than the 1911.” A completely ridiculous statement to make, especially considering the fact that history has already proven that to be incorrect.

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  • One significant comment, the 1922 FN "High Power" is not a clone of the FN P35. Nothing is interchangeable and the currently produced "High Power" has only a passing resemblance to the venerable P35 or the Englis. The new "High Power" is just branding off of the history of the P35s and Englises.

  • The last sentence of this article: "Even better than the 1911." A completely ridiculous statement to make, especially considering the fact that history has already proven that to be incorrect.

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