You could almost hear the mourning when Browning announced last year the P35 Hi Power was no longer in production and had been removed from their catalog. I learned through a little research the production line, which had been operating by FN Herstal in Portugal for almost 50 years, was actually shut down and disassembled in 2015. It took until this year for Browning to run out of guns, which is an indication of how slow sales had been for this iconic pre-WWII design.
Most of us know at least some of the P35’s history. John Moses Browning started the design but died before completing it. Belgian designer Dieudonné Saive completed the design and FN Herstal began manufacturing Hi Powers just in time for Germany to take over their country and their arms production. During the war, the German military made use of Hi Powers. Meanwhile a Canadian firm, John Inglis and Company, made Hi Powers that were used by some Allies, including Canada, Great Britain and China.
Just as the 1911 became America’s best-loved handgun, the Hi Power has worn that title in many other parts of the world and has had its own following here at home. Somehow, gun guy that I am, I’ve never owned one and rarely had a chance to shoot one. That’s why I welcomed the opportunity to explore a Turkish-made clone of the P35, the Tisas Regent BR-9, compliments of Brownells. The BR-9 is offered in two finishes, black and stainless steel. My review copy is a beautifully finished black example which arrived in a very nice case with two magazines, a cleaning brush and rod and the mandatory gun lock. Everything about its appearance and packaging impressed me as being worthy of the gun’s P35 heritage. It is an all-steel gun that weights 29.5 ounces. Barrel length is 4.6″. I’m sure Hi Powers have been configured with many different sights over the years. This one has Novak-style white dot sights mounted via dovetails. The rear sight can be drifted to adjust windage. There is a spur-style hammer, which cocks into the tiniest of beavertails. I immediately wondered if I was going to experience the reputed hammer bite for which early Hi Powers are known.
The design shares a profile in common with the 1911 with some noted differences. It has a hinged trigger. There is no grip safety, but the thumb safety is reminiscent of the 1911, though smaller. There are two notches on the slide into which the thumb safety can be inserted. The forward notch assists in takedown. There is no checkering, serrations, grooves or stippling anywhere on the grip frame. The grips themselves are wooden and pretty basic. I’m sure many owners will replace them with aftermarket grips, but to me the factory grips seem to support the historic effect of the gun. The slide has small serrations at the rear to facilitate racking. The 13-round magazines are made by Mec-Gar. There is a magazine disconnector inherited from the original Hi Power.
The Hi Power’s single-action system utilizes a tilt-barrel locking system that differs from that of the 1911 in several ways. The lug is one piece with the barrel. The slide is machined to fit the barrel so there is no barrel bushing. Takedown is more like a modern double-stack nine than a 1911. After insuring the gun is empty, move the slide back until the safety slips into the forward notch. Push the slide stop and barrel catch lever through from the right side and remove it just like on a 1911. Move the slide forward off the frame, compress the recoil spring and lifted it out, followed by the barrel.
After taking the gun apart, I took some photos, oiled it up a bit and put it back together, anxious to try it out. As it turned out, the most fun of the day was watching Hi Power fans, both young and old, look at and handle the gun with appreciation. The Range Safety Officer was a big Hi Power fan. I wanted him to shoot the Regent, but he said he couldn’t while on duty.
When I got behind the trigger, I was a little disappointed. The take-up part of the trigger pull was very gritty and the break was so tough I flinched a few times when the effort was much more than I expected from a single-action pistol. I managed to put at least fifty rounds through it, but accuracy was nothing to brag about because of the trigger pull. There were two positives, however. There was no hammer bite and no malfunctions of any kind.
On the way home, I happened to catch His Editorship Roy Huntington on the phone and discussed the trigger issue with him. Roy suggested I dry-fire the gun a bunch before my next range trip. He shared with me a tip he and his buddies used when breaking in double-action revolvers back during his police days. He suggested that while dry firing push forward on the hammer just as the break occurs. This could put some extra polishing action on the sear. Seems like it did, because after doing that no more than ten times, the grittiness was gone and the break was much smoother. According to my Lyman trigger pull gauge it averaged just above 8 lbs. which is livable. I have several striker-fired polymer guns with trigger pulls that measure in that range, and I never think of them as hard to shoot.
My second trip to the range was to shoot the heck out of it, thinking it is just one of those guns that needs a good break-in period. I ran a box of 50 Armscor 9mm FMJ through it and some assorted JHP rounds and was getting decent-sized groups out to 15 yards. The Range Safety Officer on duty this time was a young guy who is a Hi Power fan. When he and I were the only ones on the range for a few minutes, he took the Regent and shot twenty or so rounds. To him the trigger seemed normal. I noticed his shots were impacting down and to the left just like mine. That confirmed this gun needed a slight sight adjustment, but since it wasn’t my gun, I left the sights alone. My time ran out before I got a chance to do accuracy comparisons with different personal defense loads, but that was all right because I already knew I wanted to shoot the gun again.
When I did get a chance to shoot for groups, I was totally satisfied with the outcome. Five targets, five different loads, all worth bragging on. Technically, Winchester’s 115 grain Train and Defend JHP was the tightest, but Federal HST, Speer Gold Dot, Sig Sauer V-Crown and the recently revived Super Vel® Solid Copper Hollow Point all made a decent showing, grouping within 4″ handheld at 15 yards. All loads impacted slightly down and to the left. A slight shifting of the rear sight up and to the right would correct that problem.
Three different range trips, multiple rounds fired with several types of ammunition and I experienced no malfunctions of any kind. If you are in the market for a modern version of a historical firearm, this is an attractive, well-built and a splendid example of what owning and shooting a Browning Hi Power is like. The price at Brownells is $529.99 for the black model and $569.99 for the stainless steel model. I compared this to prices found online for used Browning Hi Powers. I found some old surplus imports for around $500, but newer models in good condition are going for $1,000–$1,200 and up. The Tisas Regent BR-9 is an excellent value in my book.