Shooting the Browning 40-Caliber Hi Power

I have not owned a 40-caliber Hi Power in several years simply because I prefer the feel and handling characteristics of the 9mm version.  For that reason I recently found it necessary to borrow one for a project I am currently involved with.  Fortunately for me, a good friend had one that he graciously loaned me. Its serial number indicates a 1995 manufacture date and it has adjustable Millet sights rather than the older "beer can" version, which used opposing screw-tension to hold windage adjustments.  (Current adjustable-sighted Hi Powers have low-mounted adjustable sights.)

All 40-caliber Hi Powers I've seen sport a cast frame which being harder than the older forged ones allows the forged slide be heat-treated to a harder level for increased durability. This Hi Power came with the classic-style walnut grip panels and is finished in a beautiful bright blue, which makes it a "Standard Model".  Using the Mk III "chassis", the pistol has the newer ejection port and both front and rear sights are dovetailed to the slide.  It has the ambidextrous extended thumb safety levers and an internal firing pin block.  Of course, it is also "blessed" with the magazine disconnect and the trigger-pulled measured 7-lbs.

Four commercial .40 S&W loads were chronographed and average velocities shown are based on 10 shots fired 10 feet from the chronograph screens.


Average Velocity (ft/sec):

Win USA 180-gr. FMJ FP


Remington 165-gr. Golden Saber


Remington 180-gr. Golden Saber


Speer 180-gr. Gold Dot HP


All of these loads functioned smoothly using the two magazines that came with the pistol and both had the "mousetrap" spring at the bottom which allows the magazines to literally be "launched" from the magazine well when the magazine release is pressed.  The mousetrap arrangement exists to overcome the pressure applied to the front of the magazine by the magazine "safety" plunger which can prevent magazines from falling free. It has long been known that the plunger rubbing against the front of the magazine frequently degrades Hi Power trigger-pulls.  All factory-supplied ten-shot 40-caliber magazines that I've personally seen are finished in a very slick silver-gray finish to reduce the "grittiness" that can occur with the magazine disconnect plunger being in contact with the front of the magazine.

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Here you can see the mousetrap spring used to insure that the magazine leaves the gun when released.  Note also the gray color on the magazine body. (The magazine floor plate is blue steel.) This gray-colored finish is extremely smooth. The picture on the right shows the upward angle at which the top cartridge is held.  This visually appeared to be constant regardless of the number of rounds in the magazine. Feeding was smooth and flawless with all rounds fired.

WinchesterUSA180gr40-calFMJ 001.JPG40-Caliber GS vs GD (165,180, 180) 007.JPG

This shooting session was never intended as an exhaustive “round up” using every available .40 S&W load to be had.  At the same time it was reassuring that the Hi Power fed these commercial loads flawlessly and without hesitation. Ejection was positive and there were absolutely no signs of excess pressure such as flattened primers or excessively bulged cases. Firing pin strikes were well-centered.

In this short range-session firing was done only at 15 yards due to time-constraints and the 25 yard ranges being occupied with other shooters.

Firing was done using a two-hand hold from a seated position with my wrists firmly atop two sandbags.  My goal was tight groups. I was interested in trying to wring out the gun’s mechanical accuracy.  How well a person handles the faster, quicker “practical shooting” drills is more a measure of that person’s skill-levels and perhaps an indicator of how they might fare in a deadly force scenario…which was not my goal this session. My focus was on how accurately this 40-caliber Hi Power would shoot. (I have no doubt that significantly tighter groups could be had using a mechanical rest.)

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The two shots outside the actual group were my fault.  This Hi Power does not exhibit any “first-shot-flyer” syndrome.  POA was the center of the dark 2” diameter bullseye.

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The speedy 165-gr. Golden Saber load grouped nicely but had the “sharpest” felt-recoil of the bunch.  It was still very manageable in the all-steel Hi Power.

40HPAmmoTest-expansion and target 009.jpg40HPAmmoTest-expansion and target 002.jpg

Both of the 180-gr. expanding bullet loads grouped very well. The best group of the day went to the Remington but all were so close that my shooting is probably just not precise enough to say for sure which of these loads truly is most accurate out of this particular pistol.

I went ahead and fired all three of the expanding bullets into water and all expanded nicely.  No separation of bullets and jackets occurred with any of the loads tried although there was a small amount of jacket slippage visible on the Golden Sabers.  For people concerned with this possibility, Remington does offer this load in a bonded version. I have seen actual bullet separation in deer using 230-gr. Golden Saber .45 ACP hollow points but the jackets were found within two inches of the lead bullet at the end of the wound track and the animal was quite beyond caring.  I am not convinced that such separation is a major issue. I have observed water to separate jackets from bullets more often than any other test material.


Speer’s 180-gr. Gold Dot expanded to nearly 62-caliber and lost virtually none of its bullet-weight.

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Remington’s 180-gr. Golden Saber (left) expanded to nearly 0.70” at its widest point and lost less than 2 grains of bullet weight assuming that the bullet weighed exactly 180 grains from the factory. I did not pull and weigh any of these bullets before firing. The 165-gr. Golden Saber (left) retained nearly all of its nominal bullet weight and expanded to nearly 0.72”. All of these bullets are designed to meet the FBI 12” penetration requirement for 10% ballistic gelatin.

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In my opinion, the 40-caliber Hi Power is truly an exceptionally easy handgun to shoot well in this caliber.

I had forgotten what a pleasure it is to shoot the .40 S&W cartridge from the all-steel Hi Power.  Its 35-oz. weight and ergonomics really dampen the “sharp” recoil frequently associated with this caliber.  Though I have pretty well cast my lot with 9mm Hi Powers and 45-caliber 1911-pattern pistols, were I to once again decide to own a forty, the Hi Power would be my first choice.


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