Firearms

Springfield SA-35: The Hi-Power Returns

Springfield SA-35 Browning Hi-Power clone 9mm pistol left profile

The FN Hi-Power — most often called the Browning Hi-Power — is easily the most prolific military handgun of the previous century. Depending on sources, the pistol was used by 50-100 nations. The Hi-Power (Grande Puissance, P35, H35) was produced in the millions. Clones and copies have also been manufactured, most of these were of good quality, such as the Argentine FM, but today we are discussing the Springfield SA-35.

The Tisas BR9 is a recent clone, the Hungarian FEG another. Israel’s Kareen was popular a few years, but quickly disappeared. The Arcus was a beefed up Hi-Power that generally gave good service.

Springfield SA-35 Browning Hi-Power clone 9mm pistol right profile
Well made of good material, the SA-35 is a welcome addition to the Springfield line.

Modern Hi-Power Design

Sadly, as of 2018, FN/Browning discontinued the Hi-Power. I suspect sales were lagging. The pistol was seen as dated by many shooters. The construction of the pistol was expensive and time consuming. When the last MSRP of the Hi-Power was over $1,000, sales were few. Perhaps as important, there would never be further institutional or military sales of the Hi-Power.

Before you shell out well over a $1,000–2,000 for a used FN Hi-Power, you may wish to get on the list for a Springfield SA-35. They are getting into the pipeline more reliably and are affordable at just over $700. Performance should be your only question.

You should first consider what the Hi-Power is and whether this is the pistol you want. Buying on whim is fine — the Hi-Power 9mm is a fun handgun. A sense of history is well represented by the SA-35’s distinctive lines. If you want to make the pistol a frontline defense gun, there are important nuances of operation to understand. For those willing to master the type, the Hi-Power is a formidable defensive handgun.

Springfield SA-35 Features

The Springfield SA-35 features a matte blue finish. The slide scroll markings are subdued. I much prefer these to the loud billboard types. The grips are nicely checkered walnut. This is class. This is dated some will say, and to each his own.

The pistol features a single-action trigger. The slide is racked, and the hammer is cocked as a round feeds from the magazine. The pistol is then placed on safe with the hammer to the rear. This is cocked and locked carry. The pistol should be carried in the holster cocked and locked.

Springfield SA-35 handgun with the hammer cocked and safety engaged
The pistol’s speed safety is a big improvement over previous Hi-Power types.

As the pistol is drawn and you move on target, the safety is moved to the fire position. The trigger does one thing — it drops the hammer — hence the term single-action. There is no handgun on the planet faster to an accurate first shot than the Browning Hi-Power. While the 1911-type is also fast, I could not predict the winner in a contest between them.

The SA-35 pistol features a low bore axis. The center line of the bore lies close to the hand. Control is excellent. Fire, allow the trigger to reset during recoil, and you are on target again. The trigger features a smooth straight-to-the-rear compression.

The SA-35 breaks at 5.0 pounds even — far better than most Hi-Power pistols out of the box. Some Hi-Powers I have tested registered as much as 9 pounds on the trigger scale — recent Hi-Power pistols were better.

The pistol features a safety on the left side only. This is a modern speed safety. The sights are modern wedge types. These sights are superior to anything, save custom sights, that I have found on any previous Hi-Power.

U-notch rear sight picture
The pistol features a U-notch style rear sight.

The front sight is a simple bold post. The rear is a U-notch. The combination is ideal for speed shooting. The wedge type sight is named for the stabilizing wedge-type design that may be used to rack the slide on the belt or boot heel, or more easily to release the slide after a one hand reload with the slide locked back.

Accuracy and Reliability

I have fired the pistol extensively. There have been no failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. I made certain I used a good mix of ammunition from 100–147 grains. Gun writers really do have these bags of mismatched ammunition and partial boxes!

Much of the ammunition was the Remington UMC 115-grain FMJ loading. This load burns clean and offers excellent accuracy. I often use this loading when testing accuracy in top-end target-grade pistols. This loading makes me less likely to brag on my handloads — combat accuracy is excellent.

The pistol cleared leather quickly, landing on target. The front sight hung on the target as I controlled the pistol and the trigger action. Pressing the trigger, allowing the trigger to reset as the pistol recoiled, recovering the sight picture, and I had a hit.

At 7, 10, and 15 yards, the pistol proved a joy to fire and use. The X-ring was destroyed at 7 and 10 yards with some hits straying into the 8 and 9-ring, if I fired too quickly. As a personal defense or service pistol, the SA-35 gets the nod. This pistol is probably the best Hi-Power yet, by virtue of the trigger action and sights as well as modern quality manufacture.

I also tested the Springfield SA-35 for accuracy from a solid benchrest firing position. I used the MTM Case Gard K-Zone firing rest. In the past, I have found most Hi-Power 9mm pistols, even those with heavy triggers, would deliver a five-shot group at 25 yards of 2.5 inches. Even well-worn Inglis Hi-Powers from WWII seldom stray over 3.0 inches.

Front sight post on a handgun
A bold front post makes for good hit potential.

This is an accurate handgun by design. I fired several groups using Armscor, PMC, and a dwindling supply of Tula FMJ. Most were in the 2.5-inch range with the Tula an exception at 4.0 inches. Intrigued, I added several loads that I had set aside for the proper time and pistol.

The Fiocchi 123-grain Combat, a full power FMJ loading, went into a brilliantly tight 1.9 inches. Remington UMC broke the 2.5-inch five-shot group standard, slightly, at 2.35 inches. Federal’s Classic 115-grain JHP load went into 2.4 inches. (This ammunition was 10-12 years old.) Hornady’s 147-grain XTP, the only heavyweight I have tested as of this writing, went into a solid and satisfying 2.0 inches.

The Remington Golden Saber 124-grain load offered similar performance. This takes time and discipline to fire a handgun for accuracy from the benchrest. However, I feel the results demonstrate that this pistol is plenty accurate. While absolute accuracy is not as important as speed shooting and getting fast hits at combat ranges, I enjoyed firing the pistol for accuracy and found it to be an accurate handgun that is satisfying to fire.

Checkered walnut grip plates on the Springfield SA-35 9mm pistol
A big plus is nicely checkered grips with a superior contour to anything found on previous Hi-Power-type handguns.

After thoroughly proofing the pistol, I decided to carry the SA-35 in a Bullard Leather Bodyguard holster. This holster rides on the belt, but due to the severe angle makes for a holster that is nearly as concealable as an inside the waistband holster.

Bullard Leather offers a wide range of holsters. The Bodyguard fits my style and is easily concealed beneath a light covering garment. When circumstances dictate greater concealment, a Bullard inside-the-waistband holster keeps the piece concealed inside the trousers, with only a light covering garment needed to cover the handle of the pistol.

Springfield Armory SA-35 Pistol Specifications

Type: Single-action, short-recoil, semi-automatic pistol
Cartridge: 9mm Luger
Capacity: 15+1 rounds
Barrel:   4.6 inches
Overall length: 7.75 inches
Width: .98 inch
Height: 5.1 inches
Weight: 32 ounces
Finish Matte: Blued
Stocks: Walnut, checkered
Sights: Rear U-notch, front post
Trigger: 5.0 pounds

While I found a handgun with excellent accuracy potential, more importantly, the SA-35 never failed to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. Holsters, aftermarket grips and magazines are easily obtained. The SA-35 not only made the Hi-Power available again, it is an improved version.

Springfield SA-35 pistol cocked and locked on a paper target with bullet holes
The SA-35 is an efficient personal defense handgun.

I cannot easily test the pistol’s improved metallurgy, but then the original Hi-Power is a long-lived rugged handgun. The sights, trigger, magazine, and overall design seem to be superior to the original. That is a big win for American shooters.

Hi-Power fans have a reason to rejoice thanks to the introduction of the Springfield SA-35. Are you a Hi-Power fan? Will the Springfield SA-35 soon find a home in your collection? Share your thoughts on the SA-35 or a Hi-Power story in the comment section.

  • Springfield SA-35 pistol cocked and locked on a paper target with bullet holes
  • Springfield SA-35 handgun with the hammer cocked and safety engaged
  • U-notch rear sight picture
  • Front sight post on a handgun
  • Checkered walnut grip plates on the Springfield SA-35 9mm pistol
  • Springfield SA-35 Browning Hi-Power clone 9mm pistol left profile
  • Springfield SA-35 Browning Hi-Power clone 9mm pistol right profile

About the Author:

Wilburn Roberts

When Wilburn Roberts was a young peace officer, he adopted his present pen name at the suggestion of his chief, as some of the brass was leery of what he might write. This was also adopted out of respect for families of both victims and criminals. The pen name is the same and the man remains an outspoken proponent of using enough gun for the job.

He has been on the hit list of a well-known hate group, traveled in a dozen countries and written on many subjects, including investigating hate crimes and adopting the patrol carbine. He graduated second in his class with a degree in Police Science. It took him 20 years to work himself from Lieutenant to Sergeant and he calls it as he sees it.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (28)

  1. I bought a Belgium made Hi-Power in the mid 90’s, and it came with an ambidextrous safety. I have to admit the excellent feel in my hand was what made me choose it over several other 9mm’s.

  2. I bought a Hi Power in 1966 as my carry gun during my second Vietnam cruise as an A-4 Skyhawk pilot. It had the tangent sight and the rounded hammer like the SA-35. The parariggers made me a belt holster out of parachute strap that was molded to the gun and had two retention straps with pull the dot fasteners. It was very slim and worked well with the g-suit and survival vest. I never took the nylon letdown so I didn’t have to torture test the design. The Hi Power is the best feeling and most balanced handgun ever. This one is now only shot occasionally because of sentimental value and will be passed down. i intend to get an SA-35 for myself and each of my sons as daily shooters because they are so much fun to shoot. I had looked for a Tisas BR9 but no one has them and I will buy American with the SA-35. Can’t wait to get it. Incidentally, up until two years ago, my carry gun was a Kimber Ultra CDP .45. My current carry is a P365 with 2 15round reloads. The Zombies are running in bigger packs.

  3. Is there or will there be an ambidextrous safety option from Springfield? I bought a Browning one back in the very early seventies and was very frustrated no one made an after market one back then.

    1. Erik,

      No plans at this time. However, a competent gunsmith should be able to handle the alteration easily enough. ~Dave

    1. Cocked and locked is the proper carry technique for the Hi-Power, as it is for the 1911, but I would have to say that it is very different from a striker-fired handgun that does not have a manual safety. ~Dave

  4. I have one of the aforementioned, Argentine “FM” Hi-powers that I purchased new in the late 90s for around $250, as I recall. I’ve fired countless rounds through it, mosly FMJ 115gr, with never a failure to feed or eject. I have a long and short barrel and slide, both “FM” manufactured. Its parts are interchangeable with the FN and Browning models. I entered it in a Racegun Competition once and won the match. However, after post-inspection of the pistol I was disqualified because it was not actually considered a “Racegun” as it was “out of the box, stock configuration”. Ha! Since then, over the years, I have made some modifications and tweaks, the last being Night Sights. I think the SA-35 may be on my list, as Springfield has negated all the custom work out of the box.

  5. Your review missed the fact that the SA-35 changes the action of their Hi-Power to drop the magazine safety mechanism. This caused drag on the trigger in the original design, and was sometimes gritty depending on the finish of the magazine.

    I’m curious about how SA has reduced the cost of production of this gun, compared to the FN and Browning originals.

  6. Great article. Please help educate me. Why is the SA-35 not referred to as a 1911? Is it or isn’t it a 1911? It sure resembles one. Is it just because of what the manufacturer is calling it- a “Hi-Power”? Could they just as well have named it a “1911”? Thanks for any help clearing this up.

    1. BO\oth were originally designed by John Moses Browning, although Browning passed away in 1926 and one of his proteges finished the design. While they do look similar the Hi-Power was built to be a 9mm. It lacks a grip safety, but the originals had a magazine safety that prevented the gun from firing without a magazine being inserted. The internals are also different in many respects. For example, the Hi=Power does not use a barrel bushing. Being the editor, I can assure you (wink wink) that an article on the history of the Hi-Power and a break down of old versus new will coming soon. ~Dave

  7. A fine pistol, the Hi Power. I have owned a few clones and traded into a very nice original from an FBI friend a number of years ago. Unfortunately, the GP 35 did not fit my needs for carry as I am left handed. I went instead to the Sig P220, which I carry to this day. (I carried a 1911 for several years prior to going to the Sig also) I ended up selling that wonderful Browning because I ended up with another, one which I got from the widow of a dear friend who passed. It is not as nice, having been subjected to a salt water environment, but it is quite serviceable! Yes, I have a number of other 9mm handguns – but there is just something about the way that firearm fits the hand, the way it feels and of course, the accuracy! A class act, to be sure!
    Art B

  8. Hell yes I want one but I’m not going to pay the current price of $1,000+ when they were $500-$600 when they first came on the market. And that’s when they’re in stock. Yes I know, supply and demand. Sometimes capitalism kind of pisses me off.

  9. For Kris Lee Walker: The ‘speed safety’ refers to the shape of the thumb lever. It is shaped differently than most factory FN/Browning safeties, as well as most aftermarket ones as well. The shape would appear to be optimal for rapid disengagement of said safety. I hope this helps.

  10. I have the FEG version. It’s a pretty good looking pistol. I would say nothing “points” like a HighPower. However, in this day of light-weight, accurate, double action pistols (with excellent triggers and accuracy), I would say that the end of single-action carry guns is nigh. Personally, I would not carry a cocked and locked pistol without a thumb-break strap under the hammer (the exception might be the Colt Series 80 which has a firing pin safety device). It’s all about safety to me. God bless and stay safe.

  11. Many years ago, I think back in the 80’s, I bought a Browning hi power. One problem was FTE. Eventually I realized the gun was very sensitive to the type of ammo vs the spring poundage. By changing out the springs it solved the problem. Second significant issue was hammer bite. After six months a 100 ban aids I sent the gun back to browning. They returned the firearm, they didn’t explain what they did but problem solved. Hammer bite was always a problem with hi powers. The good. Extremely accurate. I won several competitions at my club. About two years ago I sold it and bought the CZ 75 with the Omega trigger. The guns have many similarities but I found the CZ to be much more reliable and as accurate.

  12. Nice gun … would buy it in a heartbeat… too bad there aren’t any on the shelves!! … why flood the gun mags, websites,etc with articles, field tests, specs & mountains of praise if ya don’t have ANY to I’ll sell ??!?!!!… just wrong!!

  13. Nice gun … would buy it in a heartbeat… too bad there aren’t any on the shelves!! … why flood the gun mags, websites,etc with articles, field tests, specs & mountains of praise if ya don’t have ANY to sell ??!?!!!… just wrong!!

    1. Our writer received an early production model. Please be patient, Springfield should be shipping soon. ~Dave

  14. Next to my Savage 99, my Hi power was the gun I most regretted selling and to this day I cannot believe I was so stupid to sell either of them. After selling it I ended up with a Beretta 92A1 as my go to 9mm sidearm but it is just not the same, as much as I like it, the Hi Power just fit me so much better. Everything about it fit me “just right” I carried it for about 10 years and really want another one and as soon as I can find one of these for sale I’m buying one! Two comments on it, I want adjustable sights!! I hate having to drift the sights for windage, and got to do something with the hammer, I just don’t remember it being so butt ugly. 🙂

  15. Great review of a great handgun, I’ve moved to the top of my wish list. Being relatively new to handguns this is the first time I’ve heard the term “speed safety” a quick google came up with zero results. What makes it a speed safety, I’m guessing location but…
    Thanks for any replies.

  16. My local gun shop has a waiting list for the SA-35. There is no promised date of delivery. I am on the fence about purchasing this pistol. I doubt I would shoot it much. Still the price is right if you like all steel handguns

  17. My LGS has been unable to procure an example as of yet, but when they do, it will be just a stack of bills and a 4473 away. I was dismayed at the announcement by FN a few years back. The Hi Power has a certain mystique about it, and an ability to fit the hand like few other pistols can. I have a few retired Israeli examples, MkIIs and MkIIIs, and was about to get a new Browning when I heard the news. From what I can see, someone over at SA was a fan too, because the upgrades look to be about right.

  18. I own two original Hi-Powers. My favorite pistols – ever. The feel and balance of it in my hand is superior to almost any other pistol in existence. My only problem with it was feeding anything other than FMJ. I had the bullet ramp polished and chamber throated a bit to solve it, but they still had problems with some JHPs. I had an FMJ as the first round in the magazine, and then the JHPs would feed pretty well after that. But I always had a mag full of FMJs ready if it started to jam and needed an immediate action drill to clear and continue firing. If this version solves this problem, I’ll stand in line to acquire one of these to add to my collection.

  19. I had a very nice Interarms Hi-Power up until yesterday when I gave it to my grandson. The reason for the gift is because I plan to get the SA-35 as soon as I am able to find one. I am a fan of the older traditional designs even though I have a number of the plastic toys.

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