Review: 1K Rounds with the Springfield SA-35 Hi Power
A modern and attractive reboot of a classic complete with new features for a 21st century market, Springfield Armory'sSA-35 has a lot going for it.
Introduced late last year, the SA-35 isn't a page out of the old FN/Browning catalog, although it generationally has a lot in common with the latter's 1960s "T-series" Hi-Powers. This includes an external extractor (a little foreshadowing is due here), ring hammer, and "smooth" slide, lacking the earlier thumbprint take-down scallop seen in guns prior to that time. I personally think the T-series was the summit of BHP evolution, so that's a wise choice on Springer's part.
While appearing very JFK-era at first glance, the SA-35 has some subtle differences.
The Springfield Armory SA-35 disassembles easily and has a layout like any BHP or BHP clone. Specs, likewise, are as to be expected. However, once you start to look at it, the SA-35 features improved ergonomics and enhanced surface controls, modern sights, an improved feed ramp design better able to feed hollow-points ammo, and an increased 15+1 shot magazine capacity.
Gone is the magazine disconnect feature that was standard on most modern Hi-Powers made since the 1980s. Also gone are the diminutive, fixed sights, replaced with a modern white dot front and Tactical Rack rear that are dovetailed into the slide.
I've been shooting Hi-Powers and Hi-Power clones for 40 years and can vouch that the SA-35 has one of the nicer factory triggers out there. Thin and without the creaky, crunchy travel that you get with MK III and later BHPs, it breaks at about 4.5 pounds. Like most triggers, it has gotten smoother as we have burned through boxes of ammo at the range.
Check it out in one-handed slow fire, below:
Now, as with all things BHP, there are tons of aftermarket accessories and parts out there for Hi-Powers/clones, so if you don't like the trigger that you find yourself with on the SA-35, there are options that are only a couple of clicks and a tracking number away. With that, I'm not gonna lie, I really like this trigger.
The sights-- a welcome upgrade from the thin fixed sights standard Hi-Powers normally come with-- work as advertised while the trigger allows for a predictable and repeatable experience. Blended with the ergos, the SA-35 had no problem with accuracy. When shooting from a bench at 25, we were able to get touching groups.
We evaluated the Springfield Armory SA-35 with just over 1,000 rounds of ammo from Barnaul, Browning (funny, right?), Federal, Winchester, Remington, and Speer. These ranged from 115 grain through 147 grain in weight, and across both ball and jacketed hollow points.
In all, we went about 993 out of 1,000, with three rounds failing to feed as the last shot on an old (like 1940s era) Hi-Power mag, a similar issue we had with the EAA Girsan MC P35 when using the same sketchy magazine in tests. With that, it’s likely those three rounds were due to that ancient mag, not the gun.
We also had four failures to extract a spent case, all seen with an elevated round count (in the 700s) on a dirty gun. Once the pistol was cleaned, the extraction problem abated. Looking around to see if anyone else had such an issue, Mike over at Garand Thumb saw a worse version of the same thing, as did the folks at BHSpringSolutions. If the problem with ours resurfaces, it could be a simple fix by replacing the extractor, spring, and pin with an optimized one, a roughly $20 investment. Mark Allen over at BHS has said in the past of the family in general, "If there is one spring that is the Achilles heel of the Hi-Power, the extractor spring is it."
The Springfield Armory SA-35 appeared on the scene at a time when the public was hungry for a Hi-Power. Browning/FN halted production of the traditional models in 2017 while many of the old cloners likewise stopped making them or had otherwise vanished, leaving the market wanting more. Springfield recognized this and stepped up with an American-made gun that kept most of the greatest things about the design, while making it better in several ways that really matter.
Kind of like a love letter to those who always wanted a Hi-Power but didn't have that Hi-Power budget. Further, you can still take this gun out and shoot it, an activity that I highly recommend.