Monday, April 23, 2007

Buy A Gun Day Browning... sorta...

Look, I has me a Hi-Power!

Or rather, I have an FM M95 detective; a licensed Hi-Power, from the fine folks at Fabrica Militar.

The FM Hi-Powers are made on Browning designed tooling, under FN license since 1968; and in fact FN themselves (the fine folks who make Browning labeled guns) have in the past used FM parts for their own South American export mil-spec contract pistols. Additionally, FM parts are approved for use as replacement parts for Hi-Powers in use with various military organizations around the world.

Essentially the FM Hi-Powers are FN Mil-Spec Mark III P35s (the actual model number of the HiPower), with all the major Mark III features (the Mil-spec features, not the prettier commercial ones); unfortunately including the silly mag disconnect (which will be removed posthaste). They are identical to the FN produced models, except that they have three dot sights, they don't have the lightening relief cuts in the slide from the end of the dustcover to the muzzle (which means some closely fitted Hi-Power holsters would not fit); and the quality of surface finish (baked on enamel over parkerizing - again, Mil-Spec) isn't as good as the FN.

Importantly though, all parts are interchangeable (in fact, you can put a detective upper on an FN lower; and there are companies who will sell them to you for about $200).

The Detective is a standard Hi-Power, only 1" shorter. Basically, it's the "Commander" of Hi-Powers. Because of it's shorter length, it features a full length guide rod, and double nested recoil springs.

Generally speaking, those who own, or have reviewed the FM Hi-Powers like them; commenting on them as not quite as good as the FNs, but a good gun, reliable, and great value for the money; which these days is anywhere from $300 to $425. Here's a good review from Gun Blast, and a page from Cruffler on the background of the pistol.

The only problem people have had with the M95s, is with the detectives; and that is one of spring life, and the difficulty of finding replacements. Thankfully, if you know what you're doing, good quality industrial springs are not hard to order; and there's always Wolff and Springco.

Unfortunately I don't think anyone is importing the M95s right now; but there are plenty in surplus dealer hands; and their import status could change; who knows.

I've always really liked the Hi-Power. It's got the perfect balance of grip comfort and magazine capacity (13+1 standard, up to 18+1 with KRD or other extended magazines as shown here). Sure, it's only in 9mm, but I don't dislike 9mm, I just prefer .45, 10mm, .357sig or .40; and I've said many times before, if someone makes a genuine Hi-Power or clone in .45acp I'm so there (yes I know about the CZ9ZB, and no, it's different).

In many ways, Browning himself thought of the Hi-Power as "fixing the issues" that had come up with the 1911 since its introduction: it has a double stack frame, an external extractor, a takedown latch built into the safety (so you dont have to hold the slide back manually to take it down), an ambidextrous safety is customary, and there is no bushing to break or mis-fit (of course there are counterbalancing disadvantages to all of these points in favor of the 1911).

It's also smaller and lighter than the 1911 (as it should be given the much smaller caliber). Here it is up against my Yost Custom Springfield Champion ( a stainless Combat Commander).

I've always really liked the feel in the hand; and the natural point I have with a BHP (Browning Hi Power), though with he detective I find myself aiming a bit high unconsciously.

Importantly, the wife has the same feel and natural point with the gun that I do; whereas with a 1911, though she likes them, she's fighting the size of the gun jsut a little bit (she LOVES her Llama Especial - a .380 1911 clone - and she's really interested in Springfields new EMP, a 191 that's been scaled down for 9mm).

So now, I'm very happy to have examples of both major Brownings pistols designs that have lasted in continuous production (from 1911 and 1935 respectively) 'til today.... as well as just having a nice gun to carry and shoot.

The best part though, was the price. I traded a friend of mine 400 rounds of premium defensive .40, plus some cash; for the pistol with 4 mags (two 13rd Browning factory - actually made by MecGar if I recall correctly - and two 18rd KRD that I intend only for range use).

If taken retail to retail pricing, the ammo is worth more; but given ammoman/midway/CTD pricing it was a very satisfying deal on both our parts. He bought himself a SIG and needed to offset the cost (plus he shot through all the ammo he bought for it on the first day); and I sold my last .40 (actually the same model of SIG he bought) almost two years ago.

This is my main BAG day gun. I didn't have it up last week, because I hadn't picked it up yet; but I had made the deal to be a BAG day gun. We were both just waiting for the gun show this past weekend to make sure we could complete the transaction without anything popping up in the way.

I intend for this gun to be the basis for a simple Hi-Power project gun. New springs, hammer, new slide release and safety, new sights (Novak nights, almost certainly), and a refinish. The trigger is pretty good (excepting the mag disconnect), at about 6lbs and crisp with no noticable stack or creep; and it's a carry gun so I don't think I'll mess with it other than removing the disconnect (which should shorten and soften the takeup and break a little bit without making it sloppy).

In terms of the refinish and any metalwork, I probably wont go for anything flashy, I'm thinking Black-T maybe, or one of the baked epoxy finishes; and probably no beavertail, though I may change my mind on that. The gun (as with all Hi-Powers) desperately needs at the least a bevel on the factory magwell though, if not an extended magwell, because rapid mag changes are a PAIN. Also, it could use some fine checkering, or stippling, on the front and backstrap (though with the Hogues, the front strap doesn't much matter).

Sure, it'll end up being costing a LOT more than I paid for the gun, without honestly adding to much "value" in terms of resale price, but the utility will be there.

Now, who to send it to? Normally I'd only consider three guys: Wayne Novak, Bill Laughridge, and Ted Yost (who's my usual gun smith, considering he's 5 miles from my house, and does incredible work)... only problem is I don't feel like waiting a year or more to get my gun back. So, I'm open to suggestions.

More discussion on this gun and the project ideas later, but for now I'm zonking out for bed.

...Now if only it was in .357 sig.