A "Minimalist" Custom Hi Power...


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Stephen A. Camp
March 26, 2003, 12:19 AM
Hello. While there are likely as many or more 9mm pistols in service and concealment size than other calibers, for some of us, the FN Hi Power remains the 9mm choice for defensive carry. Eventually, those of us truly afflicted will want to "improve" or personalize this pistol; I have no problem with either concept. As is the case in most things, a guy can spend as much as he wants (or can afford) in such endeavors. I've had my share of Hi Powers customized and I do really like/enjoy them, but what about the fellow who can't or chooses not to put several hundred more dollars into his P35? Just how much does he lose if he doesn't have aftermarket sights, fancy grips, and a non-factory finish or stippled gripstraps?

Defensive Handgun "Must Haves":

1. Reliability: It MUST go "bang" each and every time the trigger's pressed. Generally, today's HPs meet this requirement with a variety of defensive ammunition.

2. Practical Accuracy: Translation: It must be easy to shoot, particularly under stress. This generally means decent sights, decent trigger, and for me, comfort in shooting. The Hi Power is almost always more than "combat accurate," which I define as 3 or 4" @ 25 yards. With loads the particular pistol "likes," accuracy can be well under 2" at the same distance.....if the shooter's capable of it.

Surprisingly, with the notable, frequent exception of the Mk III's trigger-pull, that gun can be all we need.

Depending on your personal abilities, some of this work can be done at home by you with "add-ons" being pretty inexpensive.

I bought this MkIII 9mm for $350 used. It'd not been shot much at all, but did have a ding or two on it. The hammer spur was bobbed at home and I did a light trigger-job at the house; it breaks cleanly at about 4 3/4 lbs, fine for a carry gun. Mercifully, this gun did NOT have the magazine "safety" in place when I bought it. The Butler Creek grips cost around $20 at the time and there's maybe a dollar or less in the skateboard tape. Less than ten bucks got me a Wolff conventional 18.5 lb recoil spring and another ten, the Buffer Technology buff. (I've had zero problems with either, but you decide what's right for you.)
http://www.imagestation.com/picture/sraid56/pbf85a894f158cdef6ed4a8046bbe528b/fc7298bb.jpg
So, there's something like another $40 in the pistol. Note also the self-defense type ammunition with the pistol. Some are standard pressure while others are +P and +P+. The gun has no problems with any of them.

Holsters can be cheap, expensive, or inexpensive. For me, one that falls into the latter catagory is the Fobus C-2 and their "universal" double-stack (non-Glock) magazine carrier. Buying one of each will set you back about $45. While they will rub the finish, I find the paddle design secure, convenient, and easy to conceal.

Here's the pistol with the set-up mentioned above. The extra magazine is a KRD 17 rnd magazine that costs around $20 or less, depending on where you buy them.
http://www.imagestation.com/picture/sraid56/pbd302d5a27aecd1d3012512433e1d839/fc7298ba.jpg
Though NOT the holster for the 1911, this IS the holster for a Kimber 1911.

"Something Old - Something New": While some opine that the single-action automatic is "obsolete," I do not share that belief. While I do personally find the old saw that the transition from DA to SA is overstated, for me, the easiest pistol to accurately shoot at speed remains the single-action like the Hi Power or 1911.

Like the 1911, the Hi Power was originally designed for non-expanding FMJ round nose or truncated cone slugs and some of the earlier HPs did require some attention to keep them from choking on blunt ogive JHPs. I have NOT found this to be a problem with the Hi Power from the MkII to today's pistols.

So, let's see how our "old" pistol does with some "new" loads.

Ammunition Used: For today's "work," I chose primarily defensive type expanding factory ammunition. This is what I could lay my mitts on and is not intended to be all-inclusive, but does cover the generally-used range of bullet weights. (I also included two ball rounds that can be had at bargain prices on occassion as most of us like to practice without having to take out a loan for the high-dollar stuff!)

I chronographed 10 rnds about 10' from the gun's muzzle for the average velocities, extreme spreads, and standard deviations shown.

PMP 115 gr FMJ:
Average Velocity: 1092 ft/sec
Extreme Spread: 74
Std. Deviation: 23
(This is neither quite as fast nor consistant as the last batch of PMP ammo I checked in this same pistol.)

Fiocchi 115 gr FMJ:
Average Velocity: 1127 ft/sec
Extreme Spread: 41
Std. Deviation: 15

Federal "9BP"
115 gr JHP, std pressure:
Average Velocity: 1177 ft/sec
Extreme Spread: 57
Std. Deviation: 18

Federal Nyclad 124 gr
Hollow Point, std pressure:
Average Velocity: 1140 ft/sec
Extreme Spread: 50
Std. Deviation: 16
(This ammunition's hard to find as Federal's discontinued its sale to the general public.)

Remington 147 gr Golden Saber:
Average Velocity: 1033 ft/sec
Extreme Spread: 42
Std. Deviation: 17

Corbon 115 gr +P JHP:
Average Velocity: 1411 ft/sec
Extreme Spread: 16 !!!!!
Std. Deviation: 6 !!!!!
(This is THE most-consistant lot of Corbon 9mm I've ever fired and the highest velocity. A past test with this pistol gave an average velocity of 1388 ft/sec.)

Winchester RA9TA 127 gr +P+:
Average Velocity: 1269 ft/sec
Extreme Spread: 31
Std. Deviation: 11

In today's shooting, the Corbon 115 gr JHP was the winner in terms of velocity.
http://www.imagestation.com/picture/sraid56/pbada9f8dfb9bd7b86b0fb0eb51817e5a/fc7298c2.jpg

As mentioned above, there were zero malfunctions of any type in firing any of this ammunition. Though not a definitive test TODAY due to the small number of rounds fired, I've fired quite a bit of some of these rounds over time in this and other Mk III pistols.

Continued...

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Stephen A. Camp
March 26, 2003, 12:20 AM
Accuracy: Each of the loads mentioned above were shot for group at 15 yards, slow-fire, standing w/2-hand hold.

I fired two groups with the Federal 115 gr JHP as I blew the first group, which was not the ammo's fault. Heck, I had one called flyer in the second group! The one high hit with the PMP was not called.
http://www.imagestation.com/picture/sraid56/p5b632b50b1fc54b16e7b47ace2d8e058/fc7298bd.jpg

and the remainder...
http://www.imagestation.com/picture/sraid56/pd68ff613a66c6eddc2b6f19f2919db42/fc7298bc.jpg

Of the rounds fired today, the Corbon had the sharpest recoil to me, followed by the Winchester round, so I fired some controlled pairs at 10 yards with these two.

I only fired 8 rounds of the Corbon as that's all I had with me at this point!
http://www.imagestation.com/picture/sraid56/pd4535d375a8349379a783544397e0746/fc7297e1.jpg

...and the Winchester..
http://www.imagestation.com/picture/sraid56/p7363dbf1a0052896448439c0c97ef0d0/fc7297e0.jpg

I had no timer, but fired as quickly as I could get a "flash sight picture" for each shot.

Fired into water, this standard pressure Federal 115 gr JHP showed good expansion in my opinion. It did shed its jacket, but such is frequent in water-testing. For those interesting in how various 9mm expanding bullets perform in 10% ballistic gelatin, more extensive data can be found at www.ammolab.com.
http://www.imagestation.com/picture/sraid53/pf8edeb1ea7091db65f53e00d51824dfc/fc8c8482.jpg
The expanded bullet weighed 107.8 grs and measured 0.65 X 0.61".

Considered by some as the ne plus ultra of the defensive nine loads, this Winchester 127 gr +P+ expanded to 0.68 X 0.71 and weighed 116.4 gr.
http://www.imagestation.com/picture/sraid53/p21d092b18a7e5a13e82f0ae3c528cad4/fc8c8480.jpg

To me it appears that a fellow can have a pretty formidable defensive Hi Power w/o sinking an arm and a leg in it. The modifications I mentioned above are the ones I find necessary for me to do my best with the Hi Power. In addition, I remove the right-side of the ambidextrous, extended thumb safety as it gets in my way when shooting. Others may not find this necessary.

Again, I have utterly no problem with fixing up the ol' Hi Power with aftermarket sights and other nice touches and admire a fine-handling, good-looking Hi Power as much as the next guy, but the folks who simply cannot afford these sure don't need to feel that they have "less."

Sometimes, less can be more.

Neal Bloom
March 26, 2003, 12:25 AM
Thanks for another great write-up. I sure do need to practice with my BHP after seeing these pics.

CZF
March 26, 2003, 12:53 AM
With more Hi Power guys like you in the world. Nobody would
buy CZs. Well, there are certain times when a DA combat Nine is
required or desired. That's where the P-35 inspired CZ75
comes in:) The classic pre-B to the trendy P-01. Rock Solid!

Given that the CZ75 is marginally larger in most areas..including
the safety. The HP is still smaller, lighter and justifiable as a Landmark design in handguns. I like the 124 gr Nyclad group. Is this ammo still on the market??

I bet your HP loaded with 14 rounds of SENTRY + P would be
nice for carry.

Stephen A. Camp
March 26, 2003, 01:03 AM
Hello and thanks for the kind words.

CZF: I have some Pre-B CZ75s that I like quite a lot and shoot now and again. They're really neat pistols in my opinion. The Federal Nyclad is no longer listed by Federal other than by special order for LE. They claim it was because the stuff didn't sell. I don't know if that's the real reason or not, but there's still some around.

Mr. Bloom: We ALL need to practice more, including me. (Besides, it's fun to compete against yourself.)

Best.

BLiTzNicK
March 26, 2003, 01:52 AM
Where did you find the C2? Fobus no longer lists it on their site, and none of the locals carry it.

Stephen A. Camp
March 26, 2003, 01:58 AM
Hello. I ordered it from Fobus approx 5 weeks ago. Perhaps they're calling it something else? I've also seen them at a local gunshop, but I don't know how long they might have had them.

Best.

Prodigalshooter
March 26, 2003, 02:19 AM
I just want to live long enough to shoot a quarter of the 9mm & .45ACP handguns I've seen you review! I own a few, have shot a few more, but you have me in awe, sir!
insert thumbs up here.;)

Stephen A. Camp
March 26, 2003, 02:21 AM
Hello and thanks.

Best.

beemerb
March 26, 2003, 02:33 AM
Have you done anything with saftey? Mine tears up my thumb when I snap it down.The only after market I can find are over 40.00.Too rich for me.
Any advice in that area?
Thanks
Bob

firestar
March 26, 2003, 02:45 AM
As always, great report. I was surprised at the Fobus holster though.:confused: I don't like Fobus but I have only had one (for a snubbie) so maybe I should try one for a larger auto.

PCRCCW
March 26, 2003, 09:04 AM
Typically great write up by Mr. Camp.
Everytime I read one of these...It makes me wonder about my writing/shooting skills.....Im glad there is only one of you! :D :rolleyes:
PS....Excellent points made about defense requirements of a gun.....
Get a good one and keep it good....
Shoot well

Kahr carrier
March 26, 2003, 10:04 AM
Nice report ,good read.:)

Stephen A. Camp
March 26, 2003, 10:21 AM
Hello and thanks.

Some folks like Fobus holsters and others don't. Use what works best for you. Just because something is "right" for me doesn't mean it's just the thing for the next fella.

Best.

mattk
March 26, 2003, 10:57 AM
Well almost. I picked up an HP for $400 at local store. Plain old Mk3. I did a quick trigger job(I removed the mag safety), slapped some 35 dollar Navidrex grips on it there we got.
I did file down the little nub on the back of the safety because it bothers my thumb but thats it.

Serpico
March 26, 2003, 02:12 PM
Stephen...a true minimalist would have bought his grips here...knocking another 3.75 of the cost....

http://personalsecurityzone.com/cgi-win/order/prodlist.exe/PSZ/?Template=ProdDetail.htm&ProductID=8625

Great job..every time I read one of your HP posts it makes me go to the safe and fondle it....

ACP230
March 26, 2003, 02:38 PM
Stephen:
I have had similar accuracy in my Argentine HP with PMP 115 grain ammo. I wish it was a bit more accurate, but it has been very reliable and cheap.

Have you seen any signs of high pressure in your Cor-Bon cases? I won a few boxes of 115 and 124 grain Cor-Bon hollowpoints playing trivia at the old Second Chance Bowling Pin Shoot. (Regrettabley trivia was always my best event!) It seems too hot for my FM HP. The primers look OK but the cases eject with odd burnished looking bands on them. I figure a small amount of shooting is OK, and I use PMP or Olympic most of the time, but I find the whole thing curious.

Cor-Bon ammo in .38 Special, the old 158 grain LSWC load, shoot fine. Cor-Bon .45 and .40 S&W ditto. The only odd one seems to be the 9mm.

garrettwc
March 26, 2003, 02:43 PM
This thread just got bookmarked :D

Great write up as usual Stephen. I have the same Fobus holster and it works great. I keep telling myself I should order a fancy leather one, but I don't really need it. It's amazing how good the holster is for only $20.

Blitznick, don't know what part of KY you are in. If you are near Louisville, hop across the bridge to Keislers in Clarksville, or check their website keislersonline.com. I bought mine in their retail store.

Stephen, how does the 18.5 lb spring differ from a stock one, and what is the purpose of the buffer? Is it to allow +P? I always thought HPs were standard pressure only guns.

BevrFevr
March 26, 2003, 03:37 PM
If I had $500 more or less to buy my first hp, what should I look for?

Are clones acceptable? What should I avoid? What would be the best models to hope for at any cost.

Any general advice about hps would be great.

You are becoming my favorite reading material.

Thanks for everything -bevr

Zak Smith
March 26, 2003, 03:59 PM
BevrFevr,

Though your question was not addressed to me, I will contribute my opinion.

I recently acquired my second BHP for around $470, delivered. It was used but in excellent condition: c.a. 1995 vintage cast-frame MKIII model, matte black, fixed sights. The "best" is debatable, but by all accounts, the modern MKIII models are solid and reliable performers.

-z

BevrFevr
March 26, 2003, 04:10 PM
did you get it from one of the major distributers like SOG?

-bevr

Zak Smith
March 26, 2003, 04:17 PM
BevrFevr,

Nope, I responded to a private sale and had it shipped to my local FFL.

You might try http://www.fnhipower.com or THR's "for sale" forum for deals. At the last gun-show I went to, I saw about 5 BHPs also, though prices were high.

-z

Johnny Guest
March 26, 2003, 04:21 PM
Bravo, Esteban!

I am so much into the minimalist approach to the BHP that I still haven't sent my T-series slide to Novak for the sights we discussed. I know I'd do better in the matches with higher sights than the old fashioned ones, but I'm having a hard time parting with it for that long. My trigger is okay,and the only alteration I've made is a C&S one-sided safety and the Nill stocks what came with the deal. I feel fortunate that it handles the issue Gold Dot 124 HP efficiently.

The gloss blue is still nice enough that I don't want to carry it in a Fobus holster. I'm using a 1981 Cobra Gunskin for matches, and occasionally pack the piece in a Bianchi belt slide.

Best,
Johnny

DMK
March 26, 2003, 05:15 PM
Interesting topic, beautiful pictures and great shooting.

Thanks Stephen, please keep them coming!

Stephen A. Camp
March 26, 2003, 05:48 PM
Hello. I'll do my best to answer the questions asked by each of you, but understand that the answers will be what I believe to be true, but not being a gunsmith or engineer, I don't know them to be 100% correct. They're simply what I've observed in shooting Hi Powers for about 3 decades.

Serpico: While I'm certainly not always a "minimalist," I do appreciate the link.

ACP230: You're quite correct in your assessment that the burnish marks are directly related to pressure. It's simply where the swollen case meets the machining imperfections in the chamber and becomes more apparent as pressure increases. They're not as obvious in smoother chambers, but I've never seen this cause problems in function nor in reloading the cases.

garrettwc: The 18.5 lb Wolff conventional recoil spring is just a bit heavier than the factory standard 17 lb spring. One could likely go up a bit and not harm the sear/hammer engagement with the more violent forward slamming of the slide closed in firing as the guts are the same in the forty-caliber HP and I believe it uses a 20-lb recoil spring. I think that the 18.5lb spring might slow unlocking a little and thus help prevent rounding of the locking lugs and might slightly reduce battering from the slide's smacking the frame in its rearward movement. Some folks don't care to go heavier; I find that the 18.5lb spring works fine with standard pressure and +P loads and warmish handloads. You do what you think's right. The buffer cushions the impact between the slide and frame during recoil. The ones I use cost about ten-bucks each, but they last between about 1000 and 1200 rounds in my guns. At least, this is about when I replace them for even though they continue to work, they're pretty chewed up. To me, this indicates that they're relieving the frame of some battering. Most of the time when I mention using buffs, I get at least a couple of emails in which I'm told that I'm rather foolish for doing so as "everyone knows" that they "always" come apart and jam up the gun. I generally don't respond and just block that sender from emailing me again. I'd always thought that if one wanted to use a buffer, it was not too complex to consider using them only for the range OR using only a brand new one for carry if you want to use one 24/7, OR just removing your buffer for carry. Oh, well. Anyway, I like them, have had zero problems in well over 6K rounds using them and WILL continue to use them. Again, others should do what they personally feel is correct for them. The only "problem" I've had is that in some HPs, the slide will not lock back via the thumb safety for field-stripping. In that case, I just push the front of the slide below the bbl against my loading bench until stopped by the front edge of the dust cover. This happens to be where the slide would be if locked by with the thumb safety. Lift up the slide release lever and push out. On occassion, when shot a little, the buff compresses enough to allow for the thumb safety to work normally for field-stripping. No, it's never, ever interferred with the slide locking back on the last shot in 6 different Hi Powers.

Is the HP a standard pressure-only pistol, i.e., is it "fragile." It's my understanding that Cylinder & Slide's Bill Laughridge believes that +P should not be used in the HP, at least on a regular basis and Ayoob is frequently attributed with writing that the HP was "soft" and somewhat fragile. I emailed him concerning this a while back and he replied that he'd seen but two types of ammo that would mess up a Hi Power in fairly short order; one was some type of British ball designated with an "L" and another was a very hot ball round out of S. America somewhere. I do not shoot the hottest rounds that the 9mm's ballistic envelope will allow, but generally shoot on the warm end of it. Have my pistols lasted because of the 18.5 lb springs and buffers? I'm not really sure at all, but think it helps.

As most know, until the early '90s, Hi Power frames were forged. Current ones are cast. To some this is an sin and I'll admit that esthetically I prefer the forged frame, but here's what I've been told by Browning personnel. I've been told that I am "naive" and maybe so, but it rings true to me: It appears that when FN brought out the HP in forty, the forged frame pistol's rails would warp after 2K to 2500 rnds and this was not acceptable. The forged frame is supposedly tougher; folks disagree with vehemence over this. Me, I don't really know and don't care to enter into the endless debate yet again. Knowing a fellow who heavily shoots a forty HP, I can only assume that if Browning's folks initial statement was true, the frame thing is true. My bud has something over 7K rounds through his HP .40 with zero small parts breakage or catastrophic frame/slide failure. He generally shoots a lead 180 gr bullet just shy of 1,000 ft/sec sec. Soooooo, I feel secure with my cast frame HPs in shooting 9mm rounds. The Browning folks went on to say that since the frame was a bit harder, the forged slide could be heat-treated a bit harder.

Perhaps this link will be of interest?

http://fnhipower.com/modules.php?name=FAQ&myfaq=yes&id_cat=3&categories=Ammunition+usage

I think that in a Mk III pistol, one can shoot something like Remington's +P 115 gr JHP w/o worry. This load averages 1251 ft/sec from my pistols with great regularity. For decades now, my primary handload was a 115 gr Sierra JHP @ 1244 ft/sec and in some lots, 1272 ft/sec. I have utterly no idea how many thousands of these rounds I've fired. Been doing it since before Wolff was offering springs! My original HPs are two commercial models made in '71 and bought in that same year. They're still going strong, but I do shoot primarily standard pressure loads in them these days and shoot the warmish stuff in my Mk III pistols. The Corbon 115 gr +P is about as hot as I care to go, but if I could afford enough of it to wear out a pistol, I wouldn't be worried about having to replace that gun. Of late, my preferred handload in Mk III pistols uses a Hornady 124 gr XTP @ 1240 ft/sec; too hot? You decide and there's nothing that says anyone has to use it for a steady diet.

The "safe" thing to say is to use std pressure for the bulk of shooting and reserve the hot stuff for "serious" matters and occassional practice.

BevrFevr: I don't own any clones of the HP, but have shot the FEG and the FM, the latter being a licensed copy of the HP. Both will have rougher finishes and triggers that are generally not stellar. Either can be 'smithed to make them very nice shooters. I think the FEG model that most resembles the HP is the FEG P9K or something similar. I'd buy whichever had the best trigger if the price was about the same or whichever was least expensive. I have no idea how these might do with +P ammunition.

"General advice" on buying a HP: Look for the best price, but keep in mind that HPs can be hard to find right now. I wouldn't pay over $600 for a brand new one and I prefer the Mk III to all other versions other than the "Standard" which is the same thing except with a blue finish.

Friend, Johnny: I don't "blame" you, sir. If I had a "T," I'd likely just leave it as it is and enjoy it for that. What I'm saying is you need to buy another HP! Bawahahahahahahha!

Whew! Hope this helps.

Best.

Serpico
March 26, 2003, 07:33 PM
I wish I knew as much about women as he does about Brownings.....

Stephen A. Camp
March 26, 2003, 07:37 PM
Hello, sir. The thing is that learning about HPs is easy compared to the other!

Best.

MiniZ
March 26, 2003, 10:53 PM
Great write-up, great pistol. Often less is more.

BLiTzNicK
March 26, 2003, 11:34 PM
Blitznick, don't know what part of KY you are in. If you are near Louisville, hop across the bridge to Keislers in Clarksville, or check their website keislersonline.com. I bought mine in their retail store.

I'm not near Louisville, but just checked Keislers web site. They don't list the HP model either. I got a couple of phone numbers from Fobus' web site, and I'm going to call them tomorrow.

garrettwc
March 26, 2003, 11:54 PM
Stephen, thanks for the detailed explanation and the link on the +P. Only bad thing is now I have another forum to keep up with :p

Blitznick, if the phone numbers you got don't pan out, email or call Kiesler's. The website only lists about 25-30% of their inventory. For example, they are a Wilson Combat stocking dealer, but they list no Wilson parts on the website. They may have some up C2's front in the retail store, and they might sell you one over the phone.

Charles S
March 27, 2003, 12:29 AM
Very informative, thanks for the information. I for one love the BHP and really appreciate the information.

Charles

Stephen A. Camp
March 27, 2003, 01:19 AM
Hello and thanks. Glad you found it of use.

Best.

PS: I'd like to use one on Hussein, but would opt for the .45 ACP in that case, simply because it just somehow seems more "American" than John M's HP.

firestar
March 27, 2003, 03:49 AM
I saw one of Saddam's official with a Hi Power on the news. I couldn't tell if it was a clone or not. He also had a brown leather double mag pouch with a open top.:scrutiny: It didn't look like something that would be standard military issue, does Saddam have gun nuts in his cabinet?

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