The Browning Hi Power, also known as the P-35, was an iconic and graceful pistol. Designed by John Browning, many consider it to be his best creation.
FN approached Browning to design a high-capacity 9mm pistol to meet the needs of the French military. Browning completed the original design and filed for a U.S. patent in 1923. Browning died in 1926 and never saw the realization of his design.
The Browning Hi Power has a long and distinguished service life. It gained fame as the pistol of choice of the British SAS and other special operations units around the world. It was also the first duty pistol for the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team.
The Hi Power, while not as popular as the 1911 with American shooters, still had a very solid and loyal following.
As with the 1911, a number of custom pistolsmiths became very well known for their work in Hi Power. These included, but are not limited to, Austin Behlert, Bill Laughridge (Cylinder & Slide), Jim Garthwaite, Wayne Novak, and Ted Yost. Their work was exceptional and very creative and did a lot to keep the Hi Power alive.
The Nighthawk Hi Power
In 2015, Mark Stone, CEO of Nighthawk Custom, entered into a partnership with Browning to buy pistols directly from the manufacturer. Stone wanted to offer a highly customized Hi Power to supplement his line of 1911 pistols.
Nighthawk received the pistols in the white with a bald slide and no sight cuts. In addition, Browning relocated the serial number from the front strap to the right side of the frame. A serial number prefix of “NHCB” indicates that the pistol is a Nighthawk Hi Power.
Stone and his team then sat down and developed a build sheet for the pistols. Only four gunsmiths at Nighthawk were selected to do the Hi Power builds. As with Nighthawk 1911s, each Hi Power was built by a single gunsmith.
The Nighthawk Difference
For those that are not familiar with the Hi Power, compared with a 1911, the front strap is extremely thin. This makes checkering extremely difficult, if not impossible. This is why most of the custom shops used a stippling or textured finish to improve the gripping surface.
Hi Powers are notorious for biting the web of the shooter’s hand. Nighthawk decided to do an extended beavertail to eliminate this possibility and to add to the custom features of the pistol.
The buried Henie rear sight, when combined with a gold bead front post, adds to the class of the Nighthawk gun.
Nighthawk also replaced the factory trigger with a trigger from Garthwaite. The new trigger has a straighter curve than the original, and when combined with other improvements gave the Nighthawk Hi Power an amazing pull.
Last of the Hi Powers
In late 2016, I received one of the first Nighthawk Hi Powers for evaluation but, sadly, had to return it. It was one of those decisions that was right at the time, but I still regretted it.
The project was a huge success for the company and pistols stayed on backorder. Then, in late 2017, word came that Browning was going to, once and for all, discontinue the Hi Power. When I heard the news, I contacted Nighthawk to inquire about purchasing one of the last Hi Powers.
I learned that Nighthawk had decided to take their remaining inventory and make them very special. The last 60 guns were sent to Doug Turnbull where they received a gorgeous case hardened frame, high luster blued slide and niter blued controls.
The last 10 of these guns were engraved, prior to being finished, by Turnbull and designated as “VIP I” models. These limited-edition guns were well outside my budget, but it didn’t matter as they were all sold.
Then I received a call from Nelson Davis who told me that there were four built guns left, still in the white. He asked if I wanted one and, after taking a look at my credit card statement, I committed.
When asked what finish I wanted, I decided on a black slide over a gray frame with standard grips, as well as a set of G-10 grips. Several weeks later I took a trip to Berryville, Ark., and stopped in to visit Nighthawk.
My pistol was completed and Stone presented it to me in his office. Of course, I had to leave it with Nighthawk and wait for it to be shipped to my FFL dealer.
When touring the vault, I asked how many Hi Powers were left in the building. Not counting my pistol, there were four guns left and three were already spoken for. I feel fortunate to get have been able to obtain one of the last guns, as well as being able to select my custom finish.
As I write this, my new Nighthawk Hi Power sits on the table next to my computer. It is still unfired, but that will change soon. The photos show my pistol with both the standard grade wood grips and G-10 grips. I will say that photos do not do justice to the pistol and how attractive the contrasting slide and frame are.
While there are no more “new” Nighthawk Hi Powers, they will do the same package on a customer’s pistol. The only difference between a customer-supplied model and an original is the serial number.
The great news is that Nighthawk still has a small supply of both standard and presentation grade wood grips, as well as G-10 grip panels.
For more information, please visit NighthawkCustom.com.
Nighthawk Custom Browning Hi Power Specs
- Hand-textured (Stippled) frame and trigger guard
- Hand-textured slide top and rear of the slide
- Custom extended beavertail
- Contoured magwell
- French border
- Heinie Slant Pro Black Rear Sight
- Nighthawk (14K) solid gold bead front sight
- Crowned barrel
- 25 LPI serrated mag release
- Competition steel hammer, improved sear lever and trigger
- Custom, crisp trigger job
- Cerakote satin rust resistant finish
- Custom select cocobolo checkered grips with Nighthawk logo
- Two, 13-round capacity magazines