Hot Gear Friday: The Higher Power

Every guy’s got a first love.

Sometimes it’s tragic, sometimes comic, often wistful or bittersweet – but it lurks in the background, occasionally sliding into the back, occasionally the front, of the mind, whispering “think about what might have been”.

Sometimes its a girl – a misty memory of a smile, a glint from her eyes, a wisp of hair that accents a charged ocnversation over school desks or across a bar or over a counter bookshelf or endcap at a store, a bit of vocal tone that drills into your memory and, on occasion, giggles at your joke across the years.

Sometimes it’s a guitar – to a non-guitaraist, an inert assembly of wood and wire and metal that looks cool; to you, a heft and a tone and a feel that drills into your brain and gives what’s in there a direct path straight out through your fingers, in ways you’d thought were just verbal unicorn-farts from other guitar players, but that you suddenly understand – and, deterred by timing and budget and your current reality, go back up on the stand, to remain in your mind, whspering “what if”.

It can be a job – a time or place where you felt all the things that humans seek and, in our modern world, miss all too often; accomplishment and compensation, sure, but companionship and respect and common goals, a time in your working life when earning a living, enjoying your day and feeling fulfilled in your life weren’t mutually exclusive.

A car? Sure – one that fit your life and your self-image so perfectly people remember you and that car in the same breath to this day?


And sometimes?

It’s a freaking gun!

It was probably thirty years ago when I first met the Browning HP35 – better known as the “Browning High Power”, or its Walloon Belgian name “Grande Puissance” (“High Power”),

The classic, blued version.

Closely related to, and improving on some ideas from John Moses Browning’s classic Colt M1911A1, it was adopted by many European armies – most notably the British Commonwealth, who gradually replaced its revolvers with it, and kept it in service until well into the War on Terror, nearly 80 years. During World War 2, after the Germans conquered Belgium, they kept the piece in production at the FN factory – so the HP served on both sides.

British “Paras” during the Cold War- the officer (L) with his Browning 35.

It wasn’t the first “high capacity” semiautomatic pistol out there – with its double-stack magazine holding 13 9mm rounds rather than the 7 .45 caliber rounds of the Colt .45, or the 8 of most German 9mm pistols – but it was close.

It’s a little smaller than today’s “polymer guns”, the Glocks and Berettas and SIGs with their 17-21 round magazines. But it was just a little radical, even into the 1970s.


I was at a range in Edina when someone let me use theirs.

Early high-end “Cavalry” version, with adjustable sights

It fit my hand – my weird, long-fingered, compact-pawed guitar player’s hand – perfectly. I’ve never had a gun fit my grip more comfortably. It pointed exactly where I wanted it to point – like no other pistol I’ve ever fired.

I fired off a magazine. If I recall it correctly (shooting stories can certainly turn into fish stories over time), I put everything – all thirteen shots – inside the “9” ring on the first try. I don’t recall ever having a first go at a gun go quite that well.

The HP 35 went out of production in 2018, after over 80 years in service.

But unlike that girl, or that guitar, or that job, or that car, with the HP35, you get another chance!

6 thoughts on “Hot Gear Friday: The Higher Power

  1. HP is back for 2022 not only from FN but from a number of different manufacturers. So rejoice!

  2. Ruger Precision Rifle in 6.5 CM with a Vortex Viper scope and 5 full magazines….doesn’t get any better than that, friends. Take down, um, wild game, at 600 yds, all day.

  3. Our host can’t possibly be telling the truth here, because he’s terrified of guns and lost all of his guns in a tragic boating accident or something.

    Seriously, one of the happiest afternoons of my life was when a guy who’d just sold me an old shotgun showed me his gun collection. Old Walther 9mm, M1 carbine (with then-illegal bayonet lug), and a whole lot more. And then another happy day at that farm was when I got to fire an AR for the first time (that .223 is so quiet I hardly knew I’d pulled the trigger except for the action chambering another round) and then a .454 Casull.

    My hand hurt like heck, but I hit the target with the Casull.

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