The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Old & New: FN High Power

My grandfather used to cut the tall grass of his 3-acre property by hand. A sickle in hand and a sharpening stone in his pocket, he set forth at the crack of dawn, like the grim reaper. He was a man of few words, but I do remember him saying he liked doing things the old way. 

He felt like he was still useful, as no one could keep up with his cutting skills. His thoughts on life were reflected in the work he did; there was no reliance on anything other than his abilities. Sadly, after he passed away, a riding mower took over the cutting duties. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but this was a metaphor for the changing times. Technology made things easier, but as a byproduct, it made them worth less. 

My grandfather was born in a time where life was traversed with muscle in the arm and sweat of the brow. Life was as simple as that. The tools used in those days mirrored the people — simple yet strong. Today, there’s no time for sweat of the brow, unless it’s in an air-conditioned gym. Technology has made hard work trivial. The times of integrity, respect, and virtues are long gone, just like the sickle. 

There aren’t many tools today that still reflect the ideology of those days, but the Fabrique Nationale (FN) High Power is from this time. Eighty years ago, the design was cutting-edge innovation and remarkably is still being used today. Any product that’s still relevant after almost a century is a testament to its greatness. 

A fully ambidextrous safety and slide stop on the new FN High Power have been introduced for ease of operation for right-hand and left-hand shooters. The magazine catch is reversible.

The High Power pistol has been called many different names over the years. The Browning High Power, Hi-Power, HP, BHP, P-35, HP-35, and GP (for the French term Grande Puissance). If you don’t already know the history of the High Power, it’s an interesting biography. 

This is the last pistol design of the most prolific firearms designer of modern times. John M. Browning started the design before he died in 1926, but it had to be finalized by another. Dieudonné Saive was a great designer in his own right, responsible for designs like the FAL and a few others. With these two names on the birth certificate, the HP had the best lineage.

The original High Power was an all-steel 9mm pistol with a 13-round magazine. This was double the capacity of the other handguns of the time — magazine envy must have run rampant. The barrel featured multiple locking lugs similar to the 1911, while the link-less camlocking system paved the way for most of the pistol designs of today. 

The HP was eventually adopted by over 50 countries and even became NATO’s favorite sidearm for almost 80 years. Needless to say, the High Power reached iconic status as a sturdy weapon that you could trust your life with. It was unmatched during the day, but age has a way of catching up to everyone. The advent of tactical Tupperware obscured the original wonder nine. Until now.

There has been a resurgence of interest in the HP as many clones have come to market. Now, FN decided to pay homage to one of the greatest pistols ever produced with the new FN High Power. The idea of a gun from the 1930s sounds archaic, but this is something different. The new High Power isn’t an exact replica; rather, it’s a modern adaptation of a classic. To create something great, take a pistol with integrity and character and then combine it with the technology of today. To the unlettered, it’s hard to see where the improvements are, but we’re here to help.

WHAT REMAINS

Nowadays, guns have become a bit spiritless … molded plastic parts that can be duplicated with a push of a button. Multi-axis CNC machines, wire EDM, and many other abbreviated terms add to manufacturing efficiency but erase character. Rest assured that all of the features that made the HP a timeless icon remain in the new version. 

An all-steel design adds heft to the hand. While not as common today, steel was the only way to go in the 1930s. This is a good thing for “shootability,” as the weight of the HP helps in taming the recoil impulse. The heavier the gun, the softer it shoots. Conversely, when too heavy it can be a hindrance while transitioning to multiple targets. 

The new High Power feels well balanced not too heavy, and it’s definitely not too light at 40 ounces (about the weight of two Glock 17s).

FN wanted to retain all of the key traits that make a High Power a High Power. The angled dust cover, long slide stop, and scalloped slide appeal to newbies and original High Power connoisseurs alike. 

WHAT’S NEW?

They kept the good and discarded the bad. This is an advantage when revisiting a classic design with a fresh eye. The hammer and beavertail have been redesigned to get rid of the “hammer bite” the original HPs were so infamous for. 

The original is a bit blockish in the hand, but the grip of the new FN has been smoothed over and made to fit like a glove. A high undercut trigger guard as well as front and back checkering all make for one of the most comfortable grips of any pistol. 

FN engineers and designers took great care to minimize (and in some cases, eliminate) the dreaded hammer-bite from the original design. This was accomplished by redesign of the beavertail on the grip frame and changing the geometry of the ring hammer.

Ergonomics probably wasn’t high on the list in the 1930s, but today it’s the strongest feature. Another bonus with a steel frame is the interchangeable grip panels. The FN comes with two sets of plastic grips, but optional G10 grips make all the difference. The extra texture, comfort, and aesthetics are well worth any extra cost.

A magazine disconnect was required for the initial design courtesy of the French government, but it’s no longer needed. The idea that we need a mechanism to save us from ourselves is what’s wrong with the world today. There was no disclaimer on my grandfather’s sickle. Plus, a byproduct of that magazine disconnect is a heavy trigger. Essentially, it added another link in the chain for dropping the hammer. We’re glad it’s gone.

When dealing with pistol triggers, it’s more about feel. A crisp trigger is preferred for shooting accurately, and a “rolling” break is easier to “slap” for speed shooting. The new trigger is a happy medium between both. 

There are over 350 different color and grip combinations available for the FN High Power, which enables the consumer to make their pistol truly unique.

It features some roll while breaking clean at around 4 pounds. It gives options when engaging targets — slapping the trigger makes for faster splits, but you can still prep to the wall for precision shooting. This is what a single action trigger is supposed to be. It’s clean, light, and short on the reset. The soul of the 1930s marvel remains, but the body is all 21st century. 

A cold-hammer-forged barrel features a polished feed ramp to ensure proper feeding of modern ammunition. The 1911-style top locking lug design has given way to a more modern, Petter-style breach design. To cause more envy, the magazine capacity that made the High Power revolutionary has been increased to 17 rounds. 

In the days of the original High Power, pistol sights were more of an afterthought, and “speed bump” sights were the norm. These new tactical-style sights are robust, but not overbearing to the design. Plain black-on-black sights can be hard to see in certain lighting, but the dovetailed pattern is the same as the popular FN 509. 

This makes finding aftermarket replacements easy. 

The controls on the FN are ambidextrous. This is definitely a modern feature, as lefties were thought of as evil until the late 20th century — come to think of it, maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing. The beefy safeties are big enough to engage without adjusting grip, but they don’t get in the way while shooting, while the pivoting slide stop is an obvious nod to the original. 

The new FN High Power features a modern, rapid takedown for immediate field stripping. There are no pins or bushings to remove for field stripping which means faster and easier ways to maintain your pistol.

The addition of the takedown lever makes field stripping a breeze, especially with no pins to lose. Even the magazine button is reversible. Someone on the FN design team is definitely left-handed.

There has been a bit of confusion when it comes to the original High Power’s extractor. It’s switched back and forth from internal to external configurations over the generations. The new version is a hefty internal part that features ample purchase on the case rim. The ejection port has been opened up to let spent cases out without interference. 

You can choose from three different PVD-coated finishes offered: black, stainless, and the FN signature FDE. 

FN kept all of the best features of the original while sprinkling on modern technology. It’s a perfect mix of old and new.

CUTTING GRASS

On the range, the new High Power is a proper gentleman. The pistol shoots soft and flat. The weight of its steel construction makes it easy to keep track of the sights, and accuracy is better than most. 

Testing was done with a wide variety of bullet profiles and weights — 147-grain FMJ hand loads, 124-grain Sierra HP, SIG 124-grain FMJ, SIG 115-grain HP, and S&B 115-grain FMJ. The gun ran flawlessly with whatever ammo we put through it. 

The FN High Power is available in three finishes from the factory — black, stainless, and flat dark earth.

We also shot five-round groups at 25 yards. The FN delivered the best group with the SIG 115-grain at just under an inch (0.969 inch), while all the other groups were close to the inch mark. 

The consistency with ammo is there. The ergonomics make it easy to expend more ammo than you intend. The FN had us scrounging through our range bag looking for loose rounds. We wanted more. 

IN THE END

By today’s standards, the FN isn’t contemporary, and it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. But these aren’t the only metrics when measuring a great gun. How many times do inferior products get disguised as new and innovative? 

The feel of a gun can’t be measured analytically, and “shootability” isn’t technically a word — yet the new High Power excels at both. It feels like a proper machine rather than a tactical Tupperware toy. 

Timeless designs mixed with the technology of today have evolved guns like the 1911 into legendary status and isn’t now time for the High Power to do the same? 

This gun is worth more than the sum of its parts. Iconic guns that last have no concept of time. No matter the age, they can still put in the work, just like grandpa. 

There are plenty of recently designed firearms, but none with this character and pedigree. The original HP is on almost every short list for top handguns of all time, so imagine where the new and improved FN version stands. 

SPECS

FN High Power:

  • Caliber: 9mm
  • Barrel Length: 4.7 inches
  • Overall Length: 8 inches
  • Weight: 40 ounces
  • Capacity: 10 or 17 rounds
  • MSRP: Starting at $1,269

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