Browning Hi Power & Sprinco Recoil System
As you know, topics concerning most aspects of firearm shooting, cleaning, replacement parts, as well as aftermarket accessories come up frequently on most gun boards. In some past responses to questions concerning the Sprinco buffer system in the Browning Hi Power were distinctly negative. Some years ago, I purchased one and it managed with some effort to finally get it into the pistol but like to have never gotten the gun back apart to remove it. Working on a few areas with a needle file I eventually got the thing where I could install it and remove it without difficulty and tried it out at the firing range. It worked but the pistol that I was using it with had a couple of malfunctions with the system…and this gun had never failed to feed, extract, or eject in the past.
I tossed the part and chalked it up to sucker bait and a learning experience for me.
Recently Mr. Alan K. Dugger contacted me concerning Sprinco products. He is with Sprinco USA and he asked me about my experiences with the old Sprinco Hi Power recoil buffer. Without getting too much into the company's private business, let's just say that back then some things might have been better and that some practices were going on that Mr. Dugger neither knew, approved of, or endorsed. Cutting to the chase, Mr. Dugger sent me a brand spanking new Sprinco recoil reducer for the 9mm Browning Hi Power. I advised Mr. Dugger that I would test the part and write it up…good or bad. He never backed up and gave his blessing. (This in itself is usually a good sign in my experience.) It must also be noted that this part was sent to me with no strings attached. A report was not required for the part. Mr. Dugger sent me the part when he learned of my misfortune with the older one. He simply wanted to right a wrong that had occurred without his knowledge and that speaks to a man of the highest caliber.
Opening the package I removed the plastic bag containing the part and was immediately impressed with the quantum leap in finish and general appearance.
Sprinco USA's recoil reducer is seen here. It consists of a primary spring (the longer one), a secondary spring (shorter & stronger) that tensions a hollow cylinder of stainless steel and the guide rod itself. The finish on this system has to be seen to be fully appreciated. In the nicely done brochure that accompanies the part, I noted that the company offers a lifetime warranty against breakage and a 60-day money back guarantee.
The solid parts in the reducer are made of 17-4 stainless steel and the finish is bright, smooth, and flawless.
Mr. Dugger advises that at present the secondary spring is of chrome silicon and is not over-compressed in operation. He adds that it should outlast the gun itself! On current units the primary spring (recoil spring) is of 17-7 stainless wire stock, but future units will have chrome silicon recoil springs. (If these work as well as the ISMI springs I've used in other guns, consumers will not be disappointed. This emphatically is not to say that there's anything "wrong" with the stainless springs on current systems, only that it would appear that Sprinco USA is doing its utmost to build a quality part with but the very best components.
At the top we see the Sprinco system. Below is the factory recoil spring guide with a Wolff 18.5-lb conventional recoil spring and a slightly used Buffer Technology shock buff. This Sprinco system dropped firmly into place and removed as easily as the factory guide rod.
It should be noted at this point that no spring system can actually reduce recoil. Recoil is the opposite reaction from the momentum of the bullet leaving the firearm barrel and is a physical quantity that simply is a part of the equation in shooting. This does not mean that felt recoil cannot be altered or some aspects of it minimized. Since actual accurate measurements are very difficult to obtain and because different folks perceive felt recoil differently, this article will not be able to give precise percentages in descriptions of the system's effectiveness. In other words, I will not be able to say that this system reduced felt recoil in this load by 15% and in another by 12%. My personal observations, like anyone else's will be subjective to be sure, but I will do my utmost to describe them so that the reader can perhaps "see" what I'm speaking of in his mind's eye.
Shooting: There were several aspects to the Sprinco system I wanted to check:
1. Would the unit work and allow the pistol to function without fail?
2. Would felt recoil be lessened and muzzle flip reduced?
3. Would it affect the current POA vs. POI due to any possible timing differences between it and my current set up
No shooting at paper was done beyond 15 yards. Falling plates were shot at about 7 yards and bowling pins were shot at ranges from about 40 to 65 yards.
This 9mm Browning Mk III was fired using both the Wolff 18.5-lb recoil spring and the Sprinco system. The pistol is essentially stock but has had some minor modifications. The hammer spur is slightly reduced and the magazine disconnect was removed long ago. The factory barrel is hard chromed. The HBE holster was used in that some of the drills involved making controlled pairs as well as head shots as I saw this test as an opportunity to keep in practice on other shooting aspects as well. The stocks are from Hakan Pek.
Test 1: Controlled Pairs & Failure to Stop Drill from the Draw: This was done standing and at 10 yards from a modified Weaver stance. I'm not particularly quick compared to many, but the controlled pairs were shot as quickly as I could get a flash sight picture. I was estimate them in the 1.5-second range. Several failure to stop drills were shot as well (two to the chest and one to the head) and I these would be approximately 2 seconds from the draw to the last shot being fired.
Here is the 10-yard test results from several sets of controlled pairs and failure to stop drills. The two flyers right and left of the main group were me and not the pistol. Neither shot felt "right" went it went. I wish I could say that those were the first two shots fired, but sadly, they were not. I just messed up. Ammunition was 115-gr. Fiocchi FMJ which usually chronographs 1127 ft/sec from this pistol and barrel.
Test 2: POA vs. POI: Practical type shooting as per this drill is all that interests many shooters, but I wanted to know if the Sprinco system affected more precise POA vs. POI. It seems logical that the timing of the slide unlocking would be affected by the lighter recoil spring and that it would open sooner. Would this cause any difference in where the rounds hit on a gun that had been used exclusively with a conventional 18.5-lb recoil spring?
Both groups were fired from a sitting position with wrists braced and in slow-fire at 15 yards. The group with the Aguilla 65-gr. IQ hollow point consisted of five shots as that was all that ammunition that I had left. From this Hi Power, the Aquilla averages 1537 ft/sec. The old classic Federal 115-gr. JHP gets 1177 ft/sec from this gun. The Sprinco unit did not cause any shifts in POI for the same POA as with the more conventional recoil system I'd been using.
To check this further, I fired a group using the Wolff spring and buffer and then removed them and installed the Sprinco and fired another group at the same target, using ammunition from the same box. This group was also fired as precisely as I could hold from a seated position and using two hands from a rest.
Once again Fiocchi ball was used. I've had good results with this ammunition and it has grouped well for me from several 9mm pistols including the Hi Power. 5 shots were first fired using the Wolff spring and Buffer Tech shock buff. A line marks these bullet holes. One line appears to have been shot away by the subsequent 5 shots using the Sprinco recoil reducer. I note no change in POI vs. POA when the Sprinco is used. The hits slightly to the right of the main group were probably more shooter error than anything else.
I also fired some Remington 115gr. JHP +P using the Sprinco. The company does offer a slightly stronger reducer for folks wanting to use hotter rounds such as Corbon exclusively as the lighter loaded standard pressure/velocity ammunition might not function 100% of the time with such a unit. (More on this later.)
Here we see the Sprinco unit with the recoil spring removed to better let readers see how the secondary spring and stainless cylinder reduce slide impact with the frame Note the high polish on the Sprinco's stainless steel parts. Also pictured is a 115-gr. Remington +P JHP 9mm cartridge and a fired case from the same lot.
Here is a closer shot of the same case that was fired in the Hi Power with the Sprinco system. Note that there is no visible undue case swelling and no massive case bulge near the extractor rim. The same thing was noted when firing Corbon 115-gr. JHP +P. In short, it appears that the Sprinco system does not allow the slide and barrel to unlock too soon.
Conclusion & Observations: I am most pleased to say that the Sprinco USA buffer is well built and of high quality. Does it work? In a word, yes. Were there any malfunctions? No, not one. The pistol chosen has never malfunctioned with loads appropriate for the way I had it sprung. That was one reason for choosing it for this test. Having used the Sprinco, its perfect record is still perfect.
Did the Sprinco reduce felt recoil? That's hard to say. It might be that it did and that it would be more easily noted if I'd been using a hot-loaded .45 ACP or 10mm, but in 9mm I cannot say that I really noticed less "kick." I do believe that muzzle flip was slightly lessened. In both the controlled pairs and in shooting a row of six falling plates several times, the front sight did seem to be on the next target a bit quicker than with the heavier Wolff spring installed. I have no way to measure the possible differences, but I believe that there was a difference in muzzle flip reduction.
Do I like this product? Yes. Sprinco USA is building a very good item here and one that seems to be of very high quality. Would I recommend this part to others? Yes. Forget about my past remarks concerning the Sprinco reducer from years ago. If the current reducer I tested is typical, there is absolutely no comparison between the ones from the past and these. As noted at the beginning of this article, this unit is a quantum leap better than the one I owned previously.
Previously I mentioned that Sprinco recommends and offers a more heavily sprung units for people wanting to use maximum power loads exclusively in their pistols. The "standard" reducer would work fine for people shooting primarily range ammo or standard velocity 9mm with a smattering of +P fired now and again. Frankly, I suspect strongly that the only malfunctions that might occur with the maximum power reducer would be slide not being pushed rearward enough to lock when the last shot is fired. I have not tested this version so I cannot say for sure.
While evaluating the Sprinco recoil reducer, I noted that this unit might very well be of special interests to some folks who might have problems chambering a round by hand in the Hi Power, particularly if a heavier recoil spring is used in the 9mm. This would also apply to the forty-caliber version in spades. The lighter recoil spring makes the pistol (at least the 9mm version) noticeably easier to retract. It gets harder when the secondary spring begins to be compressed. While we all know that to chamber a round involves pulling the slide fully rearward and releasing to strip a round from the magazine, what would happen if we pulled the slide back and stopped when it began to compress the secondary spring? This might represent what someone not able to fully retract the slide might do. Would the pistol chamber properly? Would it do this off of a full magazine or would it have to be downloaded a round or two? If it worked would it positive or would there be hesitation as though the action could go either way? There was not but one way to find out.
Using a factory 13-shot magazine, I fully loaded it with the short, blunt Corbon 115-gr. JHP +P and inserted it into the Mk III pistol having the Sprinco system in place. I retracted the slide until it the secondary spring started to compress. Releasing the slide with only the lighter recoil spring providing the push to strip and chamber the cartridge resulted in quick and positive chambering. It did so 10 times in a row from that magazine and 10 times in a row from another just like it. Does this mean that the same will absolutely be true for all Hi Powers using a Sprinco that is not completely retracted? No, it cannot. Some depends upon the magazine and some on both the cartridge's bullet ogive as well as the feed ramp itself, but I do believe that with quality magazines and a properly maintained Hi Power, it probably will. On a handgun meant for serious purposes, always test it extensively yourself.
Earlier in this article I explained having only 5 rounds of Aguilla 65-gr. standard pressure IQ ammunition left for shooting the group compared to the 10-shot group using Federal 115-gr. JHP. That's because I wanted to see if the Sprinco unit would function reliably with this low-recoiling ammunition. I used 15 of my 20 cartridges for just that purpose and made sure that they were fired under "worst case" conditions. Here's what I did. I chambered one Aguilla cartridge and loaded the magazine with 12 rounds of ball ammo, topping it off with another Aguilla. I fired. This process let the slide function as it would with that ammo exclusively. The round from the magazine fed and chambered from the magazine as it would have from the impulse of the same ammo. I repeated this process until I ran dry on ammunition and just shot the last round to see if the slide would lock back. It did just as it did when firing the group. (Do NOT take this to mean that I recommend the Aguilla for defense. I do not. I used it to see if the Sprinco system was prone to malfunction with lighter kicking loads. This is the only standard pressure ammunition that occassionally fails to eject from this same Hi Power when using the heavier Wolff spring. When using that spring, cases hit the group but a couple of feet to the right. With the standard power factory recoil spring, they land approximately 6' to the right and the same was true when using the Sprinco. With the more traditional bullet weights of ammunition fired today, cases ejected using the Wolff 18.5-lb spring and buffer combination and the Sprinco landed in about the same place. Hulls fired with one system were intermingled with those fired from the other.
As mentioned earlier, there were absolutely zero malfunctions of any kind with any of the ammunition used. This included: Sellier & Bellot 115-gr. FMJ, Fiocchi 115-gr. FMJ, Federal 115-gr. JHP, Aguilla 65-gr. IQ HP, Corbon 115-gr. JHP +P, Corbon 115-gr. DPX +P, Winchester USA 115-gr. FMJ, Federal 124-gr. FMJ, and Federal 147-gr. FMJ. A total of 360 shots were fired.
It is now my opinion that Sprinco USA offers a top quality product for Hi Power shooters. I trust and recommend this system.
The Sprinco recoil reducer exudes quality. Here is the one used in this report's tests. It is shown installed in its new "home."
Sprinco offers recoil management systems for other pistols as well as other products for the shooting community. You might give them a look. Pricing and detailed descriptions are provided on their site.
7804 Danz Blvd.
Austin, TX 78724
(512) 331-9172 fax
Web Site: www.sprinco.com