I’ve been in the gun business too long to properly fangirl for a brand or manufacturer. I wouldn’t say that I’m necessarily jaded but at some point in the last twenty years I’ve definitely slid past “skeptical” and clean into “cynical” territory.
Among the claims that usually cause me to “Press ‘X’ to Doubt” are when manufacturers whose normal happy hunting grounds are among military or law enforcement customers suddenly announce they are turning over a new leaf and making a renewed commitment to the American commercial market.
“Oh, sure,” I think, as I roll my eyes, “Last fiscal year you barely had anything in your catalog specifically directed at the U.S. private citizen gun owner, and now you’re ‘renewing your commitment’ to us?”
It would be easy for FN to slip into this category. After all, nearly every belt-fed machine gun used by the militaries of the Free World is a product of Fabrique Nationale; they might be the world’s leading purveyor of military small arms. The U.S. commercial handgun market is a rounding error on their balance sheet.
Some cracks had recently begun to show in that completely dot-gov-oriented catalog, however, making their claims about caring about us American private citizen handgun shooters seem a little more sincere than the usual marketing department balloon juice.
First was the subcompact CCW-oriented FN 503, which I reviewed for these pages. Then came the rimfire 502, another pistol with no real military or law enforcement application; another definite play for the American civilian shooter.
Now comes the pistol featured here: This is a big deal, and I’m not sure it’s sunk in with anyone just how big of a deal it is, not even its manufacturer.
The name should be a giveaway: It may look like an FN Hi Power in its general lines, and owes a lot to it in its general DNA, but the High Power from FN America is a new pistol. It doesn’t share any physical parts; it’s a different firearm altogether, as the new spelling hints.
I’m not sure when the last clean-sheet-of-paper, all-metal, hammer-fired pistol intended for the American commercial market happened. The closest thing is probably Wilson’s EDC X9, but the new High Power is a third of the MSRP and intended for a bigger audience.
At a glance, it seems like just another Hi Power clone. Seeing one out of the corner of your eye at your local range, you might not even notice anything unusual about it. That’s intentional, because its lines deliberately hew to those of its spiritual forebear, down to the distinctive “keyhole” silhouette when looking at the muzzle end of the slide from the wrong direction.
It’s only when placed side-by-side with an original Hi Power that the differences in the High Power become readily apparent, like parking a new Dodge Challenger Hellcat next to a 1971 original.
The High Power is a beefier handgun. It’s slightly…but only slightly…larger in every dimension. The grip feels the same in the hand, but the mag well dimensions have been reshuffled to allow a capacity of 17 rounds with flush fit mags (alas, not interchangeable with the originals; sacrifices had to be made.)
The new pistol is just shy of a half-pound heavier than the original and it feels like most of the weight increase is in the nose of the slide. The new High Power shoots flat. If they make a slightly longer-slide version intended for gaming it would shoot super flat and…wait… (checks IDPA rule book) …huh, whaddaya know, this new pistol squeaks in at one ounce under the allowable weight for Enhanced Service Pistol. A remarkable coincidence, I’m sure.
Unlike the original Hi Power, which used the classic radial locking lugs on the barrel mating into matching mortises in the underside of the slide, the new High Power has a square shoulder above the chamber that mates with the front of the ejection port. Easier to manufacture, very positive and reliable, and unlikely to need any hand-fitting during assembly, there’s a reason this is how almost all new modified-Browning short recoil pistols achieve lockup.
At the rear of the grip frame, the dimensions have been slightly juggled to allow a usefully high firing grip while eliminating that scourge of the original Hi-Power, hammer bite. The thumb safeties are usefully large and ambidextrous, as are the slide stops. Further, the takedown is done via means of a pivoting lever like on modern SIGs and Berettas rather than the old “try and reinsert the slide stop and hope you’re holding your mouth right” style of the original.
Available in three finishes: classic blued, bare stainless, or an FDE tactical dirt color, and with several matching or contrasting G10 grip panel colors, the new High Power is a bold move for FN America.
At the launch event, I experienced no malfunctions with any of the several samples I tried. Hopefully we’ll get one to do a 2000-round test here at shootingillustrated.com.
If you want to see more all-steel, hammer-fired, double-stack pistols intended for the commercial market, here’s your chance to demonstrate to FN and other manufacturers that this is a viable market niche.