End Of An Era

Below is the trailer for the 1973 movie Serpico, and it has a line or two about a gun that the main character is buying.

The gun that the hero hippy cop was buying was a Browning Hi Power, and the guy doing the selling certainly seems to be impressed the firepower it commands.

“Takes a 14 shot clip!  You expecting an army?”

Not exactly accurate.  The magazine at the time held 13 rounds of 9mm Parabellum, with one in the chamber.  Fourteen total, not 14 in the magazine.

Still, consider the times.  Police forces at the time were wedded to revolvers, six rounds in the cylinder and then one had to go through a long reloading process.  To most Americans in the 1960’s and 1970’s, the only autoloaders that existed in their minds were 1911‘s.  Seven round magazines, and then you were out.  The Hi Power must have seemed like a monster on steroids.

Originally designed by famed firearms inventor John Moses Browning, the same guy who invented the aforementioned 1911, the Hi Power was not put into production until 1935, nine years after his death.  It was the most advanced production handgun on the planet at that time, and for decades afterwards, and just about every military wanted something like the Hi Power.

People discussing the merits of the Hi Power like to say that at least 50 armies across the world adopted the gun as their primary sidearm, and that is certainly true.  But what is usually not mentioned is how the design was essentially stolen by at least a few countries.

Make an internal change or two and claim that it is a completely different design entirely.  The Warsaw Pact countries are famous for this, with Hungary being the one that spent the least effort to cover their tracks.  Canada looked to the Hi Power when they were thinking of developing a Magnum autoloader for their military, simply making the design larger and more robust to handle the massive stress caused by firing an incredibly powerful round. Such piracy of the design is a sure sign of how iconic and useful it has been through the years.

Alas, all things must come to an end.  The Browning website states that Hi Power production has ceased.  The guns waiting to be sold will last for some time to come, and the massive numbers already out in the world, will mean that examples of the gun will not become scarce for the rest of my life.  Still, I can’t help becoming a bit maudlin when I consider the end of such a favored warhorse.

3 thoughts on “End Of An Era

  1. The end of an era indeed. Any weapon which has that length of service has got to have something going for it.

    The Hi-power also has the distinction (I believe) of being the only pistol produced by both sides during WW2. The Nazis in Belgium and the Allies in Canada.

  2. To a lady revolver fan, I once held up a 15 round magazine (aftermarket Ruger, I think) and said, “Look, {Redacted}, two and a half revolvers full!” She was not impressed.

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