After being pulled from production in 2018, the Browning High-Power is back, thanks to Springfield Armory SA-35 which recreates one of the most iconic pistols of all times
When in 2018 FN Herstal declared the High Power officially out of production many mourned the end of an era, but Springfield Armory engineers sat at the desk and started to draw a new project, resulting in the Springfield Armory SA-35, where SA stands obviously for the manufacturer’s initials and 35 pays homage to the year of introduction of the first of the “wonder nines”.
Usually this kind of endeavor results in either a plain clone, down to the last pin and screw and carrying on virtues and flaws of the original, or a reinterpretation “enriched” by modern developments, with polymer frame, MRDS milled slide, front slide serrations, picatinny railed dust cover, oversize ambidextrous controls and all the other usual bells and whistles that will make both lovers of the original design and lovers of modern designs wrinkle their noses in distaste for either unneeded “modern trappings” or “new paint” on an old design.
The Springfield Armory SA-35 is neither clone nor “reinterpretation”: it is something borne from the pen of someone who deeply loved and knew the High Power, in all its great features and worst flaws, and bent on carrying on the former, while correcting the latter, like a skilled gunsmith would do in an accuracy job.
Milled from forged blanks and accurately heat treated, the SA-35 is an all-steel gun of old times with no trace of plastic (grip panels are old style as well, and made of checkered walnut) and, from an aesthetic standpoint, at first glance it is identical to the High Power, but on the inside and in the details, differences become evident.
One of the main flaws of the HP was the magazine safety: meant as a safety “feature”, it made the trigger of the gun downright horrible, and was one of the first things to go when accurizing the handgun. Springfield Armory spares you the necessity to pay a gunsmith to remove it, and does it from factory, no charge. The end result is a very crisp trigger, breaking at about 2.2 kg.
The second flaw for which the HP was well known was hammer bite: the SA-35 has a ring hammer that should eliminate or at least minimize the issue. Controls are the usual High-Power ones, but slightly beefed up. Nothing excessive, just enough to make them a bit more comfortable. The slide carries plain, fixed iron sights, smooth but with a crisp sight picture.
Last but not least, the HP magazine held 13 9mm caliber rounds, which in its time of 7-8 round semiautos won the gun the nickname of “wonder nine”. Today you will find 13 rounds capacity on subcompact semiautos, so the SA-35 magazine has been enhanced to a 15 rounds capacity. Nothing to write home about, but on par with many 9 mm semiautos, and the magazine well has been flared, to help in magazine insertion.
Also, Springfield Armory states that they have solved the notorious dislike of the HP for HP ammo (pun intended): the High Power by Springfield Armory should have no problems feeding Hollow Point cartridges.
The downside of such a design, if there is one, is that the SA-35 can’t use most of HP original parts without gunsmithing (while accessories should still be compatible, pending verification). A small price to pay for a handgun which is a Browning HP remade with all the good bits and none of the bad.
And, speaking of price, while analogous initiatives have often ended up sporting a collector’s tier price tag, the SA-35 is sold at an MRSP of 699$, an evident effort from Springfield Armory’s to make this classic available to all pockets sizes.