A Critical Look at the FN Competition Model


Not a really rare Hi Power, this FN-manufactured version of the classic gun is not seen in great numbers. Similar in many ways to the more traditional versions of the classic P-35, it does differ in others.  Unlike the traditional Hi Power, the FN Competition Model was not intended for the hell of battle, police work, or self-defense. It is meant to punch 9mm holes as close to one another as can be done via the Hi Power pattern pistol.


The most obvious difference between the Competition Model and other Hi Powers is the muzzle weight and longer barrel. There are others.




Length: 9.06" from muzzle to rear of hammer spur


Weight: 2.29 lbs. empty with magazine in place


Trigger Pull: 4.19 lbs.


Barrel Length: 5.98" (6 lands & grooves w/1:10" twist)


Sight Radius: 7.56"


Sights: Front sight is fixed post without serrations and integral to the muzzle weight.   Rear is adjustable.


Sight Adjustment Per Click: Vertical is 0.18" @ 25 yards. Horizontal is 0.22" @ 25 yards.


Grips: Pachmayr wrap-around rubber grips



The "245PR" serial number prefix indicates that this 9mm pistol was manufactured in 1987. I am not a Hi Power historian, but I think these pistols were imported for a few years during the '80's and have long since been discontinued.


I bought this one used. Despite its length and fragile (in my opinion) rear sight, a state narcotics officer used it for a short time in enforcement actions.  Fortunately for me it did not get dinged up and he already made the changes I would have.


As they normally come from the factory, the Competition has rubber grips and the small single-side thumb safety common to the classic Hi Power.  This one has been fitted with a Mk III-type factory extended thumb safety with the right-side thumb lever removed and the shaft appropriately shortened.  The magazine disconnect was removed even though on the Competition it does not affect trigger pull at all. I added Spegel checkered, black, delrin stocks. Nothing else was done to other than to bob the factory spur hammer to alleviate hammer bite.


The recoil spring in this gun felt lighter than the factory standard 17-lb. spring common to other 9mm Hi Powers. I replaced it with a factory 17-lb. spring.  The mainspring does not feel as heavy as the standard 32-lb. found in Mk II and Mk III pistols.  It has not been altered.  I routinely equip my 9mm Hi Powers with Wolff's conventional 18.5-lb. recoil spring.  I did not in this case.  The reason is that the barrel weight slows down unlocking more than might be expected and the gun can occasionally fail to lock back after the last shot with the heavier spring; not always, but now and then with standard velocity loads. For that reason I believe the 17-lb. spring is adequate.


In their manual for this gun, Browning does refer to the magazine safety as a "safety". It is a different affair entirely than the one seen on standard Hi Powers and is mounted in the forged frame at the rear of the trigger guard via a roll pin. If FN just has to include this device, I would prefer it be done in the manner of the Competition rather than being mounted in the trigger as is more commonly seen. As it's mounted in the Competition Model there is no adverse affect on the trigger pull. The Comp trigger is the same as for other Hi Powers other than having no provision for a magazine disconnect.


There is no internal firing pin block as is common to Hi Powers from late-production Mk II's to today's Mk III pistols.


The barrel accepts and retains the muzzle weight or "counter-weight" via a threaded barrel and nut. The sides of the barrel are flat.  The weight slides on the barrel and the nut is threaded in place to retain it. An opposing screw on either side of the weight is tightened and the weight clamps down on a nut's skirt to prevent its loosening during firing.  In my experience the system works well, but field stripping requires a 4mm-allenhead wrench to remove the screws. During the firing sequence, the front of the slide does not touch the muzzle weight.  There is a gap of but of few thousandths of an inch between the two.


The sear lever rotates on a roll pin through the slide as on other Hi Powers, but the location is slightly different to provide a cleaner trigger pull.  I've not weighed this gun's trigger pull, but it feels substantially lighter than the factory specifications. Cylinder & Slide offers a similar set up for other Hi Powers to improve trigger pulls.  This does require their drilling another hole for the roll pin.   The lifter does not appear any different than on standard Hi Powers.


Hammer hook depth has been slightly reduced on the Comp. This results in a lighter trigger pull. Take up common to all Hi Powers is present, but there is no overtravel.


One part that is not pictured nor mentioned in the manual is a leaf spring mounted inside the slide. It is between the muzzle and chamber area and is easily overlooked…but it is there.  It pushes downward on the forward end of the barrel from above.  This presumably makes for a tighter barrel-to-slide lock up, enhancing accuracy. I've heard that this arrangement will hasten rounding of the locking lugs, but I have not seen this at all.


As might be expected, the slide-to-barrel fit exhibits no movement.  Slide-to-frame fit is good, but there is a slight amount of both lateral and vertical movement. This would probably result in larger groups if fired from a machine rest, but likely doesn't affect the gun's intrinsic accuracy when being fired by hand. It is minimal in any event.


The frame, slide, and muzzle weight on my gun appear to be either parkerized or very coarsely matted blue. The color is black.  Hammer, magazine release, trigger, thumb safety, and slide release are blue. The feed ramp does appear to have come without the hump common to Hi Powers before the advent of the Mk II. The original owner did not remove it nor did I.


In this picture you can see the post front sight and one of the muzzle weight retaining screws. The "empty" hole toward the front has a screw in it from the other side. The knurled nut screws onto the threaded barrel and a skirt is captured by the weight when the opposing screws are tightened. The weight is split on the bottom and acts as a clamp on the nut.


The rear sight is blue. It is click adjustable for both windage and elevation. The sight itself has a "leg" that curves downward against the slide providing upward tension.  The sight itself is its own spring! The elevation screw is sturdy and screws into the slide. In my opinion this rear sight is too fragile for any kind of hard use.  That said, it works fine for its intended purpose: target shooting.


This pistol came with two 13-round magazines.  The black plastic box is clearly marked "Browning" with the antlered deer logo, but the pistol has the following markings on the left slide flat:


Fabrique Nationale Herstal Belgique

Browning's Patent Depose


On the opposite side in front of the ejection port, it says:


Cassi Inc Colo.  Springs, CO.


The serial number is present on the frame, slide, and barrel. On the frame it is not on the front grip strap, but on the right side just above and forward of the trigger pin. It's on the slide right below the ejection port and visible on the barrel through the ejection port.


Just what the business arrangement between FN, Browning and Cassi, Inc. was is unclear to me. 




The Competition is a real pleasure to shoot.  While no service size 9mm has much recoil, this gun does reduce even that.  No doubt due to the barrel weight, muzzle flip is greatly cut down. This gun had no failures of any kind when shooting either standard pressure or +P factory loads and handled several handloads with ease. Having shot this pistol on several occasions and with a wide variety of ammunition, I recall no failures to feed or extract.


Accuracy has been more than satisfactory. In my hands this pistol holds its own against a SIG P210 and an STI Trojan 6" 1911 9mm.  I am not sure which is more inherently mechanically accurate, but the ease of shooting the Hi Power Competition doesn't hurt!  The Competition Model is capable of smaller groups than I can wring out of it.


This 25-yard group is not unusual for the Competition Model.  The three shots to the left that spoil the group were my fault, not the pistol's.


The FN Competition Model held its mechanical accuracy with loads from the standard pressure 115-gr. Federal JHP to Corbon's +P, maximum effort JHP! These groups were fired at 15 yards.


Even though this version of the Hi Power was never intended for anything other than what its name suggests, I did fire 1 group of controlled pairs at 10 yards.


The pistol handles well in rapid-fire shooting. This group consists of 10 shots and was fired at 10 yards with a two-hand hold. Five sets of controlled pairs with standard velocity ball ammo are shown. The pistol's extreme "pointability" and reduced muzzle flip along with increased sight radius make it very easy to shoot.




"Comfort" and "feel" are very subjective, but I find the extra weight and length of the Competition Model to enhance the great feel of the Hi Power pistol.  To me this is the best feeling Hi Power made.  Does this mean that I believe it to be the best Hi Power version?  No, it sure doesn't.  The pistol was intended to fill a niche for competition paper punchers, but the gun was never that well received in this country. It is my impression that some Hi Power fans bought the gun for informal target work or because it was another version to own, but serious competitors simply didn't want it.  9mm has never been a popular target round in the US. The .45 ACP is much, much more in demand and combined with an accurate 1911 pistol cannot be beaten in my opinion. The Competition Model is certainly an accurate easy to shoot Hi Power variation, but one for which there was simply no demand. Another point tilting the scale toward the 1911 is that with that pistol's extreme popularity, a plethora of stocks, mainspring housings, triggers, etc. are readily available.  The Hi Power has considerably fewer aftermarket parts available.


FN has always come up short on adjustable rear sights in my view. Either they're too high and bulky so that the company can avoid costs of machining slides for them or they "low mount" one like the Competition, but make the sight appear fragile. I'm sure the reasoning was two-fold: The rear sight for this gun requires machining the slide, but the cuts are relatively simple and quick compared to that required for such sights as the Bomar.  FN designers saw no "need" in a robust, battlefield worthy rear sight for a model they envisioned strictly as a paper puncher. The rear sight is more fragile than on other pistols having adjustable sights, but that does not mean that it's waiting to just fall apart.  It just means that it probably won't respond well at all to hard knocks. It's plenty tough for a lifetime of shooting paper, plinking, or taking small game. These are the purposes for which I use my Competition Model. From the side and top, the FN Competition rear sight looks unique.  To me the actual sight picture mimics that of the fixed sight Mk III and is not as good as the Bomar.


I do not have the equipment to measure and therefore prove it, but I believe that the Competition barrel's bore is smoother than normal.  Cleaning is noticeably easier with this barrel than my other Hi Power barrels when shooting the same ammunition.


With its 5.98" (call it 6") barrel, it is only normal to wonder how much more velocity the Competition Model gets with the same load over the standard 4.65" Hi Power.  (There are more 6" Competition Velocities listed on this site.  If interested, follow this link:


http://www.hipowersandhandguns.com/9mmFNCompetitionVelocities.htm )


I checked my chronograph data and found several loads from the same lot number that had been fired in both a Mk III Hi Power and the FN Competition. Average velocities are based on 10 shots fired approximately 10' from the chronograph screens.  Also included are average velocities from an STI Trojan 1911 9mm with 6" barrel where I had the data. Velocities are in feet per second.


9mm Chronograph Data for MkIII, FN Competition & STI Trojan  6" 



Browning Mk III

FN Competition

STI Trojan 6"

Glaser 80-gr. Silver +P




Win USA 115-gr. FMJ




Fiocchi 115-gr. FMJ




Remington 115-gr. JHP +P




Corbon 115-gr. JHP +P




Horn 124-gr. XTP handload*





*Handload consisted of a 124-gr. Hornady XTP loaded over 6.0-gr. Unique with Winchester Small Pistol primers and new TZZ cases.


The only real surprise was with the Fiocchi velocity increase. This has been repeated with similar results. In the future I will compare the STI 6" Trojan with its 1:16" twist to the Competition, which has 1:10" to see if there is any significant differences in velocity.  The same can be done with the standard Hi Power factory barrel and the 1:16" twist Barsto barrel.


Just for grins I put a standard Mk III barrel/slide assembly on this gun and it worked fine, but the trigger pull was noticeably heavier. It still broke cleanly, but seemed over twice as heavy as when the Competition slide/barrel assembly is in place. I think the difference is due to the different manner in mounting the latter's sear lever, giving it greater mechanical advantage.  The lifter is not too high or too short and the gun functions normally with the Mk III slide on it.


The downside to owning and using a Competition Model is that the spare parts not common to other versions of the Hi Power are no longer manufactured. The implications are obvious; break or lose a part and you might have a hard time getting the gun running again.  Having said that I do believe that the pistol is worth owning and using.  In the field it holds its own against the SIG P210 and I find the Hi Power considerably more comfortable.  A fellow could purchase an extra slide and barrel and have essentially two guns in one:  a target gun with light, clean trigger and a carry gun with a heavier, but clean trigger.




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