Browning Hi-Power Pistol | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Browning Hi-Power Pistol

The Browning 9-mm pistol (or Browning Hi-Power) is a semi-automatic, recoil-operated and magazine-fed handgun. It is mainly used in close-quarter combat as a personal protection weapon. Canada officially adopted the pistol in January 1944. It remained the standard service pistol well into the 21st century. In 2022, the Canadian government issued a contract to replace the Hi-Power with the Sig Sauer P320 pistol.


The pistol was developed by legendary American small arms designer, John M. Browning. Browning was dissatisfied with the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, the American small arms company for which he had been working. When the Belgian firm, Fabrique Nationale (FN), expressed an interest in his work, he moved to it.

In the early 1920s, Browning began work on a 9 mm-calibre semi-automatic pistol - his final design before his death in 1926. After he died, Dieudonné Saive from FN perfected the design, which became known as the Browning Grande Puissance (high power) or GP-35.


The Browning consists of a frame, which holds a barrel, slide, breech block and the pistol’s 13-round double-stack magazine. The magazine capacity was far greater than other pistol designs of the time.

The Hi-Power weighs 1.1 kg fully loaded. The weapon’s maximum range is 50 m, although its effective range is half that.

Did you know?
A rifle stock was invented to attach to the Hi-Power. The stock also doubled as a holster.

Production in Canada

When the Germans occupied Belgium during the Second World War, they took over FN manufacturing facilities. Before the war, Nationalist China had purchased Browning Hi-Power pistols directly from FN, but could not after Belgium fell to the Nazis. At the time, China was buying Bren guns from John Inglis and Company of Toronto and asked if Inglis could produce the Hi-Power for it.

The Canadian Mutual Aid Board agreed to fund 180,000 pistols for China. Moreover, Britain also wanted to buy 50,000 Browning pistols. With such large orders, Inglis agreed and developed its own version based on plans smuggled out of Belgium and the help of Dieudonné Saive.

Mass production of the Hi-Power began in February 1944. The logistical difficulty of transporting the pistols to China through India, coupled with Nationalist China’s shift in fighting from the Japanese to the Communists, resulted in the order being cancelled by Canada. With thousands of Browning pistols now available and a high production capacity, the Canadian Army decided to adopt the Hi-Power to replace the Webley pistol in 1944. Inglis eventually sold 60,000 pistols to the army.

Did you know?
During the Second World War, the Hi-Power was used by both sides as the Canadians and the Germans adopted the pistol.


A replacement for the Browning Hi-Power pistol had been considered for several years, but it was only in 2016 that the Department of National Defence (DND) advised industry that as many as 25,000 new pistols were needed. In October 2022, Canada announced it awarded a contract for at least 7,000 Sig Sauer P320 pistols (designated the C22) to replace the Hi-Power, with an option to purchase another 9,500.