Springfield Armory last month introduced the SA-35, an updated take on John Browning's classic 9mm double-stack pistol. We answer some questions on this rebooted icon. 
 

Springfield Armory SA-35
The basic specs of the SA-35 are common to Hi-Powers and clones, running a 1:10 twist 4.7-inch cold hammer-forged barrel, which gives the pistol a 7.8-inch overall length. Weight is 31.5 ounces, while it stands 4.8 inches high. (All photos: Chris Eger/Guns.com)
Rather than castings, the frame and slide of the SA-35 are forged carbon steel with a matte black finish. It carries checkered walnut grips. (All photos: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

Stacked up against legacy GP-35s


Across its 82-year run, the FN/Browning GP-35 series had several evolutionary generations. Interestingly, Springfield didn't pick up where the Belgians left off by jumping into the production of a Mk III with an SFS trigger system but instead seemed to have dialed it back to about the 1960s T-series guns and made improvements from there. 
 

Springfield Armory SA-35 pistol
For example, here we see our T&E SA-35 compared to the author's circa 1944 Pistole 640b. As you can see, the Springfield has the later external extractor and lacks the "thumbprint" scallop in the frame/slide.
Springfield Armory SA-35 pistol
A better generational fit is to the Hi-Powers of the Vietnam era. Here we see the SA-35 stacked with the author's Israeli trade-in T-series gun with the rounded hammer, external extractor, and smooth slide. 
Springfield Armory SA-35 pistol
Features not carried over from that era were the lanyard post on the grip – a hallmark of period military contracts – the oft-detested magazine safety, or the salt bluing. 


The SA-35 falls short of the Mk II series changes made by FN, such as the spur hammer, ambidextrous safety lever, and plastic grips – or the passive firing pin safety of the later Mk III guns. 
 

Not your grandpa's GP-35


It is easy to think of the SA-35 as a retro throwback. A classic. It certainly looks the part. 
 

Springfield Armory SA-35 pistol
It is nice to see a clean, good-looking steel and walnut gun on the market these days. 


However, the SA-35 has several small tweaks that give a nod to more contemporary defensive pistols.

Upgrades include improved ergonomics and enhanced surface controls, modern sights, an improved feed ramp design, and an increased 15+1 magazine capacity. Gone is the magazine disconnect feature that was standard on most modern Hi-Powers, reportedly giving the SA-35 a smoother trigger pull to its factory-tuned trigger. Also gone are the diminutive fixed sights, replaced with a modern white dot front and Tactical Rack rear that are dovetailed into the slide.
 

Springfield Armory SA-35 pistol
The surface controls are all on the left side of the pistol, with an extended slide-stop lever and a redesigned safety/lock lever. 
Springfield Armory SA-35 pistol
The round hammer has also been given a different profile with what seems to be a longer, thinner spine to alleviate slide bites. 
Springfield Armory SA-35 pistol
Note the difference in the slide stop, hammer, and frame-mounted safety/lock lever of today's SA-35, left, and an old-school 1944 Hi-Power. Also note that the Springfield has deeper, more aggressive slide serrations.
Springfield Armory SA-35 pistol
The SA-35 carries a white dot front and serrated Tactical Rack rear sight that are easy to pick out on target. 
Springfield Armory SA-35 pistol
Note the sight differences between the SA-35 and our T-series Hi-Power.

 

About those mags...


The 15+1 round capacity of the SA-35 comes from the gun's use of Mec-Gar's improved Hi-Power mag that is flush fitting while adding two extra rounds to the stack. That is a major win as I have been using them for years in my BHPs with great success and can vouch for their reliability. 
 

Springfield Armory SA-35 pistol
Springfield's branded SA-35 mag, left, and two Mec-Gar BHP mags to the right, all with the same patent number. 


The bad news is that Springfield just includes one of these excellent mags. 

Does the SA-35 accept regular Hi-Power/GP-1935 mags? I tried it with a mix of military surplus and commercial mags that work in my other BHPs and everything went off without a hitch. 
 

Springfield Armory SA-35 pistol
Thus far, we have found that, if it works in a BHP, it will work in the SA-35.
Springfield Armory SA-35 pistol
Speaking of mags, another slight tweak is that the magazine well has been gently beveled to help with reloads. 

 

Trigger time


The trigger is very good for a factory gun and is crisp.
 

Springfield Armory SA-35 pistol
As Mr. Browning's design is a single-action pistol, it has a light pull by nature and we found Springfield's take on it to break at an average of 4.95-pounds. However, also by nature of its legacy design, it has a long reset when compared to more modern trigger packs. 


Check out the video: 
 

 

Going inside


Take down is easy and familiar to anyone that has handled a Hi-Power. 
 

Springfield Armory SA-35 pistol
Springfield has a nice mushroom on the slide stop lever. Just drop the mag, lock the slide open on an empty chamber with the safety in the disassembly notch, use the heel of the empty mag to push in the slide stop and work it out of the frame. 
Springfield Armory SA-35 pistol
Easy peasy. 
Springfield Armory SA-35 pistol
A clean bushingless design that has been around for almost a century. 
Springfield Armory SA-35 pistol
One nice thing about the SA-35 is the frame-to-slide fit, which is very tight. While a lot of BHP clones sound like rattle traps and have a loose fit, that is not our experience with the Springfield. 


With the changes, especially considering the larger surface controls, you have to worry that the grip panel patterns of the SA-35 may not jive with the standard, which would be a big downer. 
 

Springfield Armory SA-35 pistol
However, we took the walnut grips off and tried a few aftermarket BHP grips we had floating around the toolbox and found they fit like a glove with enough clearance for the safety to do its thing. 


The barrel has an improved feed ramp designed to run hollow points, and we have been evaluating the SA-35 with a variety of loads ranging from 115 through 147 grain with no complaints.
 

Springfield Armory SA-35 pistol
So far, we have about 150 rounds down the pipe without a failure. 
Springfield Armory SA-35 pistol
MSRP on the Springfield Armory SA-35 is $699, and the company says they are working hard to keep up with demand, so be wary of super-inflated prices on these guns. They ship with a branded and lockable zipper bag inside a cardboard box. 


Stay tuned as we stretch the legs on the SA-35 and check in with what we find after 500 rounds.

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