Springfield Armory SA-35

Springfield Armory’s modern take on the classic Browning High Power design.

by Brian R Smith

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In the history of metallic cartridge handguns, there have been numerous iconic examples that had a significant, lasting influence on future firearm designs – the Colt single-action revolver, the Mauser C96 Broomhandle, the Smith & Wesson Hand Ejector revolver, the Colt 1903 Pocket Automatic, the Colt 1911, the Walther PP, and the Glock are several of these. But one truly innovative pistol design incorporated so many advanced features that it set the stage in one way or another for most everything that followed: the Browning High Power, also known as the GP-35 or P-35.

The Belgium-based iiFabrique Nationale des Armes De Guerre responded to a French military requirement for a new service pistol, the iiGrand Rendement (High Output). FN began with another of the gifted John M. Browning’s designs that he was unable to complete due to his passing in 1929. The project remained a priority for FN and its completion was assigned to John Browning’s principal understudy, Dieudonn Saive. Monsieur Saive completed the iiPistol Browning Grande Puissance (Browning High Power Pistol, BHP) in 1935 in response to a request from the French government for a pistol to meet the following requirements: It must be compact, have a magazine capacity of at least 10 rounds, have a magazine disconnect, an external hammer, and a positive-engaging safety that blocked the sear. In addition, the pistol had to be robust and simple to disassemble and reassemble, and its cartridge must be lethal at 50 meters.

The French eventually rejected the FN proposal and settled on a indigenous design, but the BHP was all that was required and more. The BHP featured all-steel construction with sections of the frame being intentionally as thin as possible to minimize dimensions and save weight. This design concept is obvious in the slim, thin grip of the BHP frame, itself sculpted to fit particularly medium and small hands as well as larger mitts. The frame’s dust cover is thin, as is the profile of the slide surrounding the front of the recoil spring.

The BHP’s short-recoil design is simple, featuring an angled notch in the barrel lug that together with a wedge-shaped crossbar in the frame function as the cam to separate the two lugs atop the barrel from mating recesses in the slide. This is similar to that of the Browning-designed Colt 1911 but eliminates the swinging link of the 1911. This linkless angled notch in the barrel lug has been widely copied in most short-recoil pistol designs ever since. One exception that comes to mind is the design used by Beretta and Walther in their centerfire pistol designs featuring tilting locking lugs.

A further cost saving simplification of the High Power was the elimination of a…

Read more in the August 2022 issue.

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