Hi-Power may not be as well-known a term as 1911, but it is in no way generic. Fabrique Nationale (FN) in Belgium made the first Hi-Power 9mm pistol in 1935. It is a latecomer compared to the Colt 1911 and a contemporary of the Walther P38 and Polish Radom. Today, the Tisas/Regent BR9 is in production, though the original Browning Hi-Power is not.
The Hi-Power’s strong points are a 13-round magazine; a single-actionA single-action (SA) trigger is the earliest and mechanically simplest of trigger types. Single-action means pulling the trigger does one action: releases the hammer or the striker., straight-to-the-rear trigger; good quality; and excellent reliability. It was designed to function properly with a wide range of 9mm ammunition — which was by no means produced to standard specifications in those days. The Nazis took control of the FN plant during World War II. But the Hi-Power was re-introduced and eventually became the most successful service pistol of all time, arming more than 100 nations. It was the go-to pistol for many special teams, earning an excellent reputation for reliability in the harshest environments.
Hi-Power Pistol Features
The pistol is dated in some ways — an exposed hammer, manual safety and single-action trigger. Just the same, the Hi-Power is a marvel of ergonomics. The grip fits most hands well, and the straight-to-the-rear trigger compression makes for excellent hit probability.
Some state that Browning intended the Hi-Power as an improvement over the 1911. However, Browning designed the pistol to European specifications. A .45 ACP service pistol would have been unthinkable in Europe. Browning did not delete the 1911’s grip safety; the French simply did not ask for this feature in the design. The Hi-Power, I believe, was designed to be manufactured less expensively than the 1911. For example, the original swinging link used in the locked-breech 1911 was changed to angled camming surfaces in the Hi-Power.
The Hi-Power demands quality machine work and skilled labor. As such, it simply could not be produced and remain competitive with other handguns. As the pistol became more expensive and sales dwindled, the Hi-Power went out of production. Advantages of the Hi-Power leave some bemoaning its passing. The pistol feels good in the hand, points well and is reliable. The Hi-Power is thinner than the Glock, SIG and Beretta service pistols and may be concealed more readily.
New Life for the Hi-Power
While sales were curtailed by the Hi-Power’s high cost, there would seem to be a market for a more economical Hi-Power. Gun buyers would not get excited about a Hi-Power clone unless the quality was at least comparable to the FN original. Tisas Hi-Power, the Regent BR9, is equal to the original Hi-Power at first examination.
The modern black finish is very well done, evenly applied and attractive. The company says it isn’t bluing but a black Cerakote. The grips are well-finished checkered wood, appearing to be walnut. The slide is forged steel and the frame is a casting, in common with late-model FN pistols. Tisas has chosen the rowel hammer, rather than spur. The slide lock and magazine release are standard Hi-Power types. The sights are similar to late-model MKII Hi-Power sights, an improvement over early FN sights.
The BR9 demonstrates the typical heavy hammer spring. This was incorporated into the Hi-Power to ensure the hammer fell hard enough to both crack primers and shove spec loads fully into the chamber in the process. This isn’t a single-action handgun you wish to carry hammer down due to the effort needed to cock the hammer. This concern is true with all Hi-Power pistols.
Tisas chose to model the safety after the original Hi-Power. The FN Hi-Power is a transitional model with modern High Visibility sights but the original safety. The later MKII-type safety is extended and ambidextrous. It surprises me that Tisas did not use the more modern safety. The Tisas does not have a firing pin block as late model FN Hi-Powers do. It features a magazine safety that prevents the pistol from firing without a magazine in the well. An encouraging discovery is that the trigger action is superior to most of the Fabrique Nationale guns. The Tisas trigger breaks at 5.5 pounds after minimal take-up.
Comparing an Original Hi-Power to the Tisas BR9
I closely compared the Tisas BR9 pistol to a 1980s version of the original Hi-Power and found it identical in most dimensions. The sear pin is larger, which isn’t a bad thing. Magazines and grips easily interchange between the two models.
The proof is in the firing. For comparison, the FN model I used is an ex-Israeli service pistol that has fired thousands of rounds without any type of malfunction. It has worn out four magazines and continues to give service-grade reliability and accuracy. The trigger action is heavier than the Tisas action by 2 pounds. The BR9 was tested with a variety of ammunition. This included the Black Hills Ammunition 100-grain Honey Badger, Black Hills Ammunition 124-grain JHP and the Black Hills Ammunition 124-grain JHP +P.
The Tisas never failed to feed, chamber, fire or eject. Currently, the pistol is closing in on 1,100 rounds fired. The pistol handles as well as any Hi-Power. The small safety is a problem for some. While the safety isn’t going to rub off in the holster, some of us find manipulation at speed difficult. The Hi-Power is very fast to an accurate first shot. The Tisas lighter trigger compression results in better accuracy than the FN Hi-Power. Most Hi-Power pistols are good for five-shot groups of 2.5 to 3.5 inches from a solid bench rest firing position. The Tisas was comparable with most groups under 3 inches.
For those preferring blue steel and walnut, the Hi-Power has much appeal. The pistol is fast into action; offers a straight-to-the-rear, single-action trigger; and 13 rounds of 9mm Luger. The piece is accurate enough for any conceivable chore. The Tisas BR9 is at least comparable to the Browning Hi-Power.