Ugly Guns Welcome: The FEG Hi-Power Just Won't Quit
It’s an old, battle-tested design that still gets the job done. Meet the Hi-Power.
John Moses Browning graced the gun world with a wealth of amazing firearms, but his “final design” delivered – if not fully completed – something truly special. We’ve actually already done a nice video covering some of the variants. So here we will do something different and pay homage to a gun that lived a rough life and keeps on ticking.
The Hi-Power became one of the most-serving military pistols in history, fighting on both sides of World War II and even making its way to the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In fact, last we checked, the Canadian military was still working to replace their aging Inglis Hi-Powers from World War II.
If there’s one thing that really stands out about the Hi-Power, it has got to be the capacity. In the 1930s, Browning’s design delivered 13+1 rounds of 9mm. It did this by using a double-stack magazine in a platform that was also reliable and easy to maintain and mass produce.
What’s the Story Here?
This Hungarian-made FEG Hi-Power is really more of a clone of the genuine FN-made Hi-Power, but it shows the same brilliance in the design. It also took a fairly wondering path to the American market. You can dig for hours to try and decode the history of a FEG Hi-Power that “somehow came into Israeli hands" and was eventually imported into the U.S.
Accurate information on these FEG pistols can be a bit fuzzy and occasionally questionable. The hack job on the grip to accommodate a pistol lanyard here suggests to me this gun found its way into service in Israel at some point. Lots of firearms took various routes into Israel, so I won’t claim to be an expert on the hidden secrets this one holds.
There is a nice, affordable read on FEG Hi-Powers. But be warned, the true pedigree of many of the imports can be hard or nearly impossible to unlock. This pistol does feature the frame cross bolt and classic FN Browning Hi-Power operating system, although FEG did modify the internals of other designs later on. Frankly, I’ve learned to live with a little bit of mystery in this gun.
What I can say is this pistol has lived a life, and it has the slide wobble and wear to prove it. This one still boasts matching serial numbers on the barrel, frame, and slide. It has worked its way through at least three different owners in the U.S. before it landed in my safe. Though, I question if that is how it earned its weathered look.
The gun has minimal markings. To the best of my knowledge, this particular pistol was produced in Hungry by FEG and then imported by (or otherwise acquired by) Israel at some point. FEG began creating their own clone variants of the Hi-Power in the 1970s, and Israel was often on the hunt for any firearms they could find for their military and police. It could be a trade-in that was modified or simply a FEG-produced gun that was repurposed for other uses.
This particular pistol shows plenty of signs of wear, and that also suggests a fairly rugged service life. The fairly crude cut in the left wooden grip panel where someone installed a lanyard loop attachment also hints at a life of service on a shoestring budget.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way of knowing. The original magazines are also lost to history. Luckily, I’ve had no issues with the high-quality Mec-Gar replacements I picked up, and they even offer a 15+1 capacity.
How Does It Shoot?
If this was a different gun with the same looks, I might raise an eyebrow before buying it. Short of the added Hogue grips to replace the severely worn wooden panels, I have not changed anything about the gun. Well, I did also take the liberty of putting a small amount of paint on the front site. The very simple notch sights have built up some glare where the bluing is rubbed off.
Even with the basic sights, she holds on target well at 7 and 10 yards and is more than capable of 2-inch groups with little practice. The trigger has about a tenth of an inch of very light take-up before the wall, and it still breaks nice and clean at around 4.8 pounds.
Hi-Powers are not known for beautiful triggers, and that is pretty light trigger. Some users remove the magazine disconnect/safety to improve the trigger pull. This gun boasts that modification as well.
The gun won’t win any beauty pageants, but it can certainly get the job done. I pull the gun out of the safe a few times a year and get a few boxes through it for fun. In that time, I have had two malfunctions. Both were a failure to fully reset the trigger.
That could mean she needs a replacement spring here soon, but removing the magazine disconnect/safety is sometimes blamed for that issue as well. I suspect it could also be my personal experience with the trigger reset after bouncing between various guns at the range.
The gun does not forcefully push the trigger forward on its own to reset after each shot. It’s a relatively common complaint I’ve read from owners of similar examples. After revisiting the range, I was not able to duplicate the reset issue, and the gun hauled through a few boxes like an aging but resilient tank. The gun weighs in at just over 2 pounds unloaded, which helps eat some of the felt recoil as well.
At nearly a century old, the Hi-Power design still impresses. Mine was not a gun that was terribly well cared for during its life – and came with a price point to match that reality. Still, the fact that it keeps moving along makes me love it just a little bit more.
The design also worked around some of the additional complexities of previous guns, such as the barrel link and bushing in the 1911. Disassembly is quick, easy, and demonstrates the “complex” simplicity behind the gun’s design.
Sadly, the manufacture of new Hi-Power pistols stopped in 2017, ending a production history that spanned more than 80 years. The good news? There are plenty of used Hi-Powers still floating around in much better shape. Fans of the gun are fans for a reason, so check them out.