by Mike Durand – This article originally ran on Friday, March 20th, 2015
Every serious gun guy has that one gun. You know the one. The one on your mind right now. That one. The one you wish you hadn’t sold. The one you borrowed and never bought. Your first gun. It doesn’t really matter how it left your life, it is no longer in your life. Like that ex or first love, the one that you cannot get over, there is a feeling of regret, even deep loss. Almost as if a loved one died. Though a gun is an inanimate object, it still has the ability to bring out real emotions for people. In some way that weapon’s Tab A fit your Slot B. Click.
For me that gun is the Browning Hi-Power.
I can’t even really explain to myself what it exactly is about the Hi-Power that makes my heart flutter and gives me a giddy, tingly feeling in my Lower 48. But something about that pistol does it for me. I bought my first Hi-Power in 1991 for $285 from a guy I worked bussing tables with. Minimum wage back then was $4.25 an hour; you do the math on how long it took me to save that, because I’m not gonna. The pistol came with a suede zipper case, leather pancake holster, four 13-round and two 20-round mags, making it a really good deal even back then. But it was the pistol itself that hooked me from the moment I saw it.
My Dad owned a beautiful Colt MKIV Series 80 1911 that I could use anytime I wanted, and since first learning the legend of The Colt .45, it was my dream pistol as a teen. I loved it. I think I was born a .45 fanboy. But that Browning…
The Hi-Power was different. Whereas the 1911 is John Wayne, a big brawler with hams for fists, the Hi-Power is Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden in Fight Club. It’s lean, sleeker, all tendon and muscle.
The way the slide and frame narrow towards the muzzle, the sides stepping down in that iconic Browning look… everything about the pistol seemed refined to me, deadlier. It was a Fairbairn-Sykes to a Bowie knife. The Hi-Power would leisurely, coldly, smoke a cigarette while it watched its victim bleed out, while the 1911 would spout 1940’s patriotic John Wayne/Captain America lines before punching Nazis and Japs in the face. At that point in my life I was tired of punching Nazis and Japs. I wanted to spike my hair, flip the collar of my jacket up, and smoke a cigarette. It was so different. I was in love. Worse, I was in lust.
I graduated, joined the Army, came home, and went to college. The Hi-Power went with me. Sure it wasn’t a perfect love, as with any relationship there were things to get over and adjust to after fires die down. First of all, it wasn’t a goddamn .45. The tradeoff was I had six more rounds in my magazine at half the weight. Second was the magazine disconnect. I still hate that feature, but I’ve learned to deal with it.
And that was about it. I had to unlearn some bad habits I’d picked up with the 1911 but that, in the end, was a good thing. I became pretty damn good with the pistol. I should’ve been, since I spent the most time carrying and shooting it. To the range, on day hikes, and camping trips the Hi-Power was with me. The pistol felt like a natural part of me, an extension of my will. Disassembly for cleaning was a snap, much easier than the 1911. And, of course, there’s the magazine capacity. Thirteen or twenty rounds. Baby does, indeed, have back.
Those were the salad days. The days of wind in our hair as we ran, hand in hand, across a sun-drenched meadow under cobalt blue skies.
Then the night came. I was in college and I needed the money.
That’s all I can say about what happened next.
I actually made money on the deal. $150 more, as a matter of fact. Look, I thought it was going to a good home. Debbie was a friend from high school, dating one of my oldest friends, and she was a medic in the U.S. Army Reserve. It was all okay, right? I thought so, up until Debbie knocked the Hi-Power off the seat of her car and into the red mud. The pistol lay ejection port down in a shallow, pistol shaped depression like the chalk outline of a murder victim. Debbie looked up at me. ”Oops,” she said, smiling. I stuffed the money in my pocket and left, crying manly tears. That was 1997.
Fade to black.
Hold up — you need parts for your Browning?
In January 2008 I purchased my second Browning Hi-Power. It was the cornerstone of my new, post-Iraq gun collection. A brand new Mark III. It was a different pistol, but the feelings were all the same and that was good enough for me. Times had changed, though. The days of 13- and 20-round mags were as dead as MC Hammer pants. The political savants on the left in The People’s Democratic Republik of California deemed that the peasants can only have 10 rounds in their magazines. For now, at least. But the extra space makes way for a nifty little spring that shoots the mag out of the well as opposed to digging it out. It’s been replaced as a primary carry by my USP .45. I’m back to punching Nazis in the face with modern Germans. Kind of ironic, isn’t it? But the Hi-Power is always there. It’s an old friend that knows the map of your soul.
Read up on the Browning Hi-Power as it appears on film on the Internet Movie Firearms Database.
There are many good books on the Browning H-Power, including FN Browning Pistols, Sidearms that Shaped the World.
Declare for Morning Wood!