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Legend’s Never Die: Girsan MC P35 PI OPS

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While the 1911 has enjoyed a consistent, if not varied, amount of following over the course of its life, its contemporaries haven’t always been so lucky. The Browning Hi Power — also known as the P-35 — has been constantly overshadowed by not only some of its peers but the myriad newer pistols that have supplanted it over the years, despite its own distinguished combat service record.

More recently, we saw a burst of energy given to the platform when nearly simultaneously Springfield Armory and FN each launched their own revival of the GP35 design. Despite the market influence wielded by both companies, neither one seemed to gain much traction in the collective consciousness. It’s anybody’s guess as to why those efforts were met with such tepid responses. Ours is that neither truly provided clear forward potential or value-add for the platform itself. They were neither obsessively detailed clones of the original, nor were they updated for the needs and wants of modern shooters.

Parallel to this, Turkish manufacturer Girsan has been quietly building out its own line of Hi Power clones that they refer to as the MC P35, imported to America by EAA. There’s an entire series of MC P35 models, including their Ops series, which includes both Picatinny rail frames and optic cuts. There’s also their PI line, based on the lesser-known Hi Power Detective model, sporting a snipped barrel and slide — ostensibly for better concealment when using shoulder holsters, which were much more popular in the Hi Power’s heyday.

Girsan’s newest model combines all of these benefits, and adds a few others, to give the market a pistol with all of the classic style and ergonomics of the Hi Power that’s thoroughly optimized for modern concealed carry: the MC P35 PI Ops Lightweight.


Our first impressions were a string of pleasant surprises that gave us some very real hope for the potential of this pistol and for the modernization of the Hi Power in general. The sub-4-inch slide is already milled for the Shield RMSc/Holosun K footprint. The aluminum frame sports a Picatinny rail as well as some practical G10 grip scales that are easy on the eyes. Unfortunately, the rail isn’t quite long enough to support full-sized weapon lights. We were able to mount a Streamlight TLR-7A, which puts out an adequate amount of light for its size and works well on many compact and subcompact pistols. We finished off our test sample with a Holosun EPS Carry, which fits the K-series footprint while still offering an enclosed emitter and all of Holosun’s latest upgrades.

The trigger shoe is an updated, flatter design in-line with some of the more popular models that have been available for years in the Hi Power aftermarket. Oh, and they removed the dreaded magazine disconnect feature. Our sample gun included a pair of 15-round magazines. Altogether, this appeared to be a fully updated version of the Hi Power that’s finally equipped to compete as a legitimate option for EDC.


The PI Lightweight chugged through several hundred rounds of range testing without a single stoppage or malfunction. It came out of the box thoroughly lubricated, with a little bit of thin oil seeping out from under the control levers and slide rails. The factory trigger broke at an average of exactly 4.5 pounds on our trigger gauge, but it was still the best factory trigger we’ve ever pressed on a Hi Power-style pistol. The take-up was short and smooth, and the reset was more tactile than we’re used to on Hi Powers. But that’s a pretty low bar, and it still requires letting the trigger essentially all the way out to reset. We can’t knock Girsan for this, since we’ve experienced the same thing with every BHP from every manufacturer we’ve ever tried. Our advice? If you shoot any form of the Hi Power, treat its trigger like a double-action revolver trigger and work it fully on every rep.

It’s not the softest-shooting gun we’ve ever run. But no other subcompact 9mm with a lightweight frame (aluminum or polymer) has earned that title either. There’s a steel-framed version of the PI Ops, for those who prefer beefier carry guns that eat a little more of that felt recoil, but the Lightweight is perfectly shootable and less of a burden on the beltline.

Holster options for Hi Powers aren’t as diverse as other carry pistols, but they’re out there. We went to DeSantis Holsters to explore a couple options. In particular, we tried three of their offerings: the Sof-Tuck, Slim-Tuk, and Speed Scabbard. The Sof-Tuck is a straight-drop leather IWB holster with reinforced mouth. The Speed Scabbard is a very traditional leather, belt-slide, canted OWB design. In contrast, the Slim-Tuk is a black Kydex IWB offering more in line with current market trends.

The good news is that, while none of them were sized to accommodate a weapon light, none got hung up on the more squared-off rail frame. Updating a traditionally contoured pistol like the Hi Power or 1911 with a blockier rail frame sometimes disqualifies holsters designed around the original spec. Not the case with these DeSantis models. What did cause a fitment issue was the optic. Neither of the leather holsters, the Sof-Tuck nor the Speed Scabbard, would allow the PI Ops Lightweight to seat fully with an optic mounted. The Kydex Slim-Tuk fit just fine, even with the EPS Carry on top. Without an optic, all three holsters worked as intended. Just know that if you embark on the journey of embracing the Hi Power as a carry pistol, you’ll be investing man-hours into finding a holster that fits your specific configuration.   


A wider thumb ledge on the safety lever would’ve been nice, but we made do with the factory option. Aftermarket levers are available, though they may require hand-fitting. In fact, it should be noted that not all aftermarket parts available for Browning Hi Powers will fit the Girsan MC P35 line. We reached out to Apex Tactical Specialties — whose famous Action Enhancement Kit is now available for Hi Powers and some clones — and asked them about getting one installed on our PI Ops Lightweight. While their kit does fit some Girson MC P35s, it won’t fit any from the Ops line. They did tell us that a separate kit would be coming in the future to fill that gap. But not all Hi Power clones are created equally. So check with the aftermarket manufacturer in question before spending money.

We applaud the EAA/Girsan team for bringing the MC P35 Ops line to market. The Hi Power, and its various clones or offshoots, have been around for most of a century. But the Ops line is the first version we’ve seen go directly to filling the massive gap in this market — bringing thorough and meaningful advancement to the Hi Power platform without changing it into something else entirely. That gap has, thus far, been conspicuously overlooked by other modern rebirths of this pistol. With an MSRP of $749, buying an MC P35 PI Ops Lightweight might actually be easier than saying its long-winded full name. These are officially on the market at time of writing, so check with your local FFL if you think this unique carry offering is the goldilocks gun for you.

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