December 13, 2008
Everyone who has read my blog knows how much I love Rock Island Armory 1911’s. As I have said before they are the best buy bar none in a 1911. The newer “Rock” Match version is just another example of a company that listens to the customer base and produces a fine pistol at an unbelieveable price!
I was at our police department range a week or so ago and ran into a friend who had just purchased a Rock Island Armory Match grade pistol. Yep, I was drooling to get my hands on this one. I’ve been looking for one for a month or so without much luck but at least I got to shoot one.
I told him I would let him shoot my Sig if he would let me play with his new toy:-) He had already fired about 200 rounds through it with no problems at all. I happened to have 150 rounds of 45 ball so off I went to give this fine looking pistol a workout.
This pistol has the fiber optic front sight which I find very useful and easy to pickup as well as being fast. The rear sight is the Millett type that adjust for both windage and elevation and is very precise in it’s adjustment. The perfect setup if you compete in stock class competition. The pistol felt the same as the Rock Tactical I’m so fond of so it was a no brainer getting used to. The controls were very smooth. The action was something I noticed right off as being smoother than the Tactical was when it was new. There was definately some hand fitting with this pistol.
Shooting held no surprises. It was very accurate and produced a ragged hole at 10 yards and at 15 was more accurate than my Tactical again giving excellent results. At 25 yards the pistol really shined and once again produced a group measuring roughly 3 inches with 4 magazines fired. Again, very obvious a bit of extra work went into this pistol. I completely enjoyed shooting this pistol and it just renewed my desire to find one of my own. The way it is equiped is very similar to the S&W Doug Koenig but at a far lower price. It’s every bit as good a pistol as the S&W even if it is a bit more utilitarian in looks. That is not to say it’s an ugly gun by any means. I find the fit and finish of these pistols to be very appealing.
Steve Clark is a man I’m glad to call a friend wrote a fine review for the M1911.org website and graciously allowed me to publish his review of the Rock Island Armory Match 1911. A thorough job as always and I’m sure you’ll enjoy his contributed review.
Recently, I tested a target-style pistol from STI, called the Spartan. This pistol was unique in that STI International chose to use major components (frame, slide, and barrel) manufactured by Arms Corporation of the Philippines (better known as Armscor). During the time I was waiting for the STI Spartan to arrive for testing, I learned that Rock Island Armory was planning to release a target grade pistol too. My imagination began to run wild!
I fully expected the Rock Island Armory Match pistol to be at least a fraternal twin of the STI gun. Initial inspection of the RIA Match revealed a great many similarities, such as a fully adjustable rear sight, orange fiber-optic front sight, parkerized finish, etc. However, closer inspection disclosed some features that instantly got my attention. These not-so-subtle additions had me “itching” to inspect the pistol further, take some photographs, and give it a thorough work-out on my personal firing range. I live in a rural part of Texas, where such facilities are normal.
The Rock Island Armory Match (per the label FS Match) comes packaged in RIA’s black plastic clam-shell case. The interior of the case is lined in egg crate foam, and the pistol was double wrapped in a plastic bag and bubble-wrap bag. Two black 8-round Novak magazines were included in my package (although the pistol will ship with one 8-round magazine). Under the foam lining, one will find a fired cartridge casing, the owner’s manual, a warranty card, a firearms safety pamphlet, and a card entitling the pistol’s owner to buy Armscor ammunition at a 10% discount, if he or she joins (or is already a member of) M1911.ORG. I would also like to stress that this is the first review of the RIA FS Match. No other printed or electronic publication has reviewed this pistol, so this is another first for M1911.ORG.
The RIA Match is a full size (5-inch barrel) 1911, chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge. Inspection of the left side of the manganese phosphate treated slide reveals the company’s logo and Rock Island Armory, roll marked in block letters. The right side of the slide lacks any markings. The ejection port is lowered and flared for improved ejection of spent cartridge casings. There are no front cocking serrations on the slide of the RIA Match. The rear cocking serrations consist of nineteen straight lines, such as those found on G.I. type 1911s. The slide fits snugly on the frame, which has a Parkerized finish applied to its surface. The exterior finish on both the slide and the frame create quite a pleasing visual. There is no movement laterally between these two major components. I was informed that the Rock Island Armory Match is not part of a regular production run at the Armscor factory, but rather the slide and frame are hand-fitted in the Armscor Custom Shop. This extra attention to detail is evident when holding the pistol, as there is no rattle when the gun is shaken. In addition, the entire RIA Match pistol has been moderately de-horned, and the effect of this treatment should be apparent in the photographs. It most assuredly is noticeable when handling the pistol. Hand cycling of the action is effortless, in part aided by the excellent cocking serrations, but mostly because of the fine fitting of the slide to the frame.
The LPA rear sight of the RIA Match is mounted on the top of the slide, and is fully adjustable for both windage and elevation. This sight blends in well with the rear of the slide, and its rear face is horizontally serrated to reduce glare. The front sight is dovetailed nicely into the top of the slide, and its edges are rounded into the slide’s contour. This sight features a bright orange fiber-optic tube.
The slide stop/release is checkered, as is the magazine release button. The trigger has a serrated face with two elongated cutouts. There is no externally adjustable over-travel screw on the RIA Match. Trigger pull was characterized by a very small amount of take-up, with a crisp release of 4.25 pounds, from the box. This was a consistent measurement, meaning the sear released at 4.25 pounds, every time that the trigger was squeezed, or activated by the RCBS Trigger Pull Gauge.
The hammer has a true half-cock notch, and is an elongated Commander-style unit. Mated to the hammer is a beaver-tail grip safety utilizing an extended palm swell. The ambidextrous safety has a serrated shelf on both the left and right controls. These shelves are extended, and the right side is secured by a small cut in the sear pin, which corresponds to a small shelf on the bottom of the safety. Operation of all safety devices is positive and reliable. The magazine well is slightly beveled for easier insertion of the magazines. The pistol is easily loaded, as fully charged 8-round magazines slide into place with an authoritative click. When released, empty magazines fall free with no resistance. The flat mainspring housing is serrated, and fitted nicely to the frame of the RIA Match.
The stocks provided with the Rock Island Armory Match pistol are finely grained wood, and compliment the business-like looks of the gun. Sadly, my example had a small crack from the top of the left side grip screw to the top of the stock. This was the only cosmetic problem that I encountered in my inspection of the pistol. This minor defect is covered under Armscor’s Limited Lifetime Warranty.
The field stripping procedure to be followed with the RIA Match .45 ACP is different than for other, full length guide rod equipped full size 1911 type pistols. Field stripping the RIA Match proved to be much easier than was the case with either the previously tested RIA Tactical or the STI Spartan. Make certain that the pistol is unloaded and the magazine has been removed. A non-marring bushing wrench easily depresses the recoil spring plug so that the barrel bushing may be turned clockwise. Carefully allow the plug to exit the muzzle area, relieving all recoil spring tension. The slide can then be moved to align the take-down notch with the slide stop. After the slide stop is removed from the frame, the slide and frame can be separated. After that, it is a simple procedure to remove the recoil spring and full length guide rod. Turning the barrel bushing counter-clockwise will line up the bushing for removal from the slide, and the barrel can be taken out toward the muzzle. There is no firing pin safety on the Match pistol, so firing pin and extractor removal is accomplished following standard procedure.
Reassembly is in reverse order.
While I am admittedly no big fan of full length guide rods, the ability to use a bushing wrench is preferable to lining up the take-down notch with the slide stop while the pistol is still under the tension of the recoil spring. I applaud Rock Island and Armscor for this improvement.
Shooting the RIA Match Pistol
My normal shooting protocol with any new pistol consists of firing enough rounds to determine functional reliability before accuracy and chronograph readings are taken. This initial test was conducted using the two supplied 8-round Novak magazines, and 100 rounds of Armscor Precision 230 gr. FMJ ammunition. The pistol was discharged from a distance of 10 yards, using a modified Weaver stance.
The Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C 8″ target shows that most of the shots fired were slightly left of dead center. As I tend to sometimes pull my shots to the left, I decided to forego any sight adjustments until accuracy testing commenced. Ejected casings consistently landed four to five feet to the right of my firing position. All 100 rounds fed and ejected without incident. The RIA Match handles recoil admirably, and is easily brought back on target during rapid fire.
During this phase of the test, I decided to try some Hornady 200gr. TAP FPD +P ammunition was kindly provided to M1911.ORG for use in conducting pistol tests. This is a relatively new type of jacketed hollow point, and I felt that if a problem with feeding JHP rounds was to appear, this would provide a good test.
Twenty rounds into the Shoot-N-C target provided ample proof that the RIA Match will reliably feed this type of JHP ammunition. Subsequent accuracy tests with a variety of factory FMJ and JHP ammo produced no malfunctions. I moved my shooting position to take advantage of a natural tree wind-break, but this forced me to shorten my range to 20 yards. All of the above readings and accuracy tests were made at 25 yards, except the Armscor results. From that point to the end of my shooting session, all firing was done from 20 yards.
The NRA target pictured above was engaged with 5 rounds of Armscor Precision 230 gr. FMJ at a distance of 20 yards. This group represented my best of the day, although later groups were centered on the target much better. A one click adjustment on the LPA rear sight brought everything in line. Memorizing the most ideal setting, I made several adjustments to the rear sight to determine how far a click would affect the impact on the target. Considering the windy conditions, I estimated that one click would account for one inch of impact difference at 60 feet. That is on a par with my previous encounters with adjustable sights on 1911 type pistols.
Total round count for the test exceeded 500. More of the full metal jacket ammunition was expended than the jacketed hollow point loads, but that is more a factor of cost per box than what the pistol prefers to digest. The donated ammunition from Armscor and Hornady is greatly appreciated. In addition to the ammunition mentioned in the accuracy and velocity table, I fired the following brands: Winchester SilverTip 185 gr., Speer Gold Dot Hollow Points 185 & 230 gr., Federal Hydra-Shok 165 & 230 gr., Taurus Copper Hollow Points 185 gr., and Remington Golden Saber 230 gr. Twenty rounds of each brand were fired through the RIA Match, with no failures of any kind.
The Rock Island Armory FS Match .45 ACP pistol is assembled and fitted in the Custom Shop at Armscor, in the Philippines. As stated earlier in this review, the slide and frame are hand fitted, and the rest of the components of the gun consist of parts that are made by Armscor. These parts are primarily Metal Injected Moldings, as told to me by Ivan Walcott. The M1911.ORG Forum is full of positive and negative comments concerning the use of MIM in handguns. Correctly manufactured parts that are covered by a Limited Lifetime Warranty should cause no denigration of the quality found in a Rock Island pistol. A manufacturing fact of life is represented by the use of MIM parts. They do not require labor intensive fitting, and allow the manufacturer to pass cost savings on to the consumer. I have thus far tested three guns that are either solely a Rock Island product, or that contained major components from Armscor. I have found nothing wrong with the quality of any of those three examples. I might add that I normally put more ammunition through a test pistol in the course of a review, than a majority of handgun owners would fire in a span of months. I have experienced zero failures in my test samples.
The Parkerized finish held up to several hundred rounds of various types of ammunition being discharged. In fact, the finish on the RIA Match is superior, in my estimation, to those of the previous test pistols, and the aforementioned guns had a dandy finish! I don’t keep a test pistol long enough to measure the effects of holster wear on the finish.
From the time the pistol was removed from its box until I cleaned it and re-packaged it, the trigger pull was excellent. The sear released at a consistent 4.25 pounds of pressure. This exceptional trigger pull, coupled with the adjustable sights and the hand fitting of the slide and frame, make for a wonderfully accurate handgun. Although windy conditions forced me to shorten my testing distance to 20 yards, I feel certain that the RIA Match would have delivered the same degree of accuracy at my normal distance of 25 yards. The bright fiber-optic orange front sight is easily picked up through the LPA adjustable rear sight.
Although I had some issues with earlier test guns and their stocks, I find that I grip these pistols in a different manner than my personal 1911s. That different grip allows me to keep my hand stationary throughout my range sessions, which ultimately yields better results on the target. Perhaps too, it is the type of beaver-tail grip safety that is standard on these target models. In either case, the “feel” of the pistols is growing on me, and I cannot find reason to complain.
I am yet to encounter a Rock Island pistol that refuses to eat hollow point ammunition. While the RIA owner’s manual specifically states that the guns are not warranted to reliably feed this type of ammo, it is gratifying to know that these guns are built to shoot a variety of factory loads and configurations.
My déjà vu reference in the opening of this test/review had to do with the similarities between the Rock Island Match pistol and the STI Spartan that was previously tested. Each of these guns is accurate, a pleasure to shoot, and an economical way to buy a target-grade pistol. However, I must be fair and state that I prefer the Rock Island Match because of the ease of disassembly. While my carpel tunneled and arthritic 57 year old hands can still manage quite a bit, anything that provides easier use is appreciated. I also favor the use of straight rear cocking serrations on my personal guns, and the RIA Match delivers on this option. The Rock Island handgun does not have front cocking serrations, a positive omission in my book. Finally, there is the absence of any type of firing pin safety on this weapon. That non-feature alone gets an A+.
Ivan Walcott (Sales Manager for Advanced Tactical Firearms, the importers of RIA pistols to the United States) states that the suggested retail price of the Rock Island Armory FS Match pistol will be in the plus or minus range of 650.00 U.S. dollars. Considering the quality and accuracy of this gun, I would rate this handgun as a “best buy.”
I would like to thank President Martin Tuason and Sales Manager Ivan Walcott of Advanced Tactical Firearms International Corporation, for providing the Rock Island Armory Match .45 ACP pistol used in this test. As soon as the handgun was available to them, it was sent to me for testing. We strive to provide the readers of the M1911.ORG E-zine with the most up-to-date information. In addition, these fine gentlemen also provided me with several boxes of Armscor Precision .45 ACP ammunition. This was my first exposure to this highly accurate, clean burning ammo. I was quite pleased with its performance, and I recommend it to anyone looking for quality in affordable ammunition.
My thanks go out to Hornady Mfg. Company for their donation of several boxes of their new 200 gr. TAP FPD +P .45 ACP ammunition. I have been pleased with the results in my shooting tests with this ammo, and I look forward to conducting some personal ballistic tests with this brand in the future.
As always, my Competitive Edge Dynamics Millennium chronograph performed above and beyond my expectations. Frankly, the chronograph put up with the wind better than I did!
Finally, I am indebted to Bill Lamb at GREAT GUNS in Burleson, Texas. He consistently stays on top of the test pistol situation, as well as providing a variety of factory ammunition, accessories, and gun expertise. I couldn’t do it without you, Bill, and I am obliged. Many thanks are expressed to your daughter, as well, for her assistance last week.
You may discuss about this pistol, ask questions or in general discuss about this review, in this thread in our Forums Site:
May 31, 2008
Selecting a concealed carry gun is a very challenging task especially during the summer months. I offer this insight from Syd at “The Sight 1911”.
Selecting a Pistol for Concealed Carry
If you are reading this, perhaps you haven’t made up your mind or have questions about your selection of a personal defense handgun. There have been many articles written on this subject, most of which boil down to a discussion of calibers and actions. While the caliber and action discussion is important, I find it incomplete and lacking in some important considerations for a person who carries a concealed handgun for self defense. Hence, my point of departure is what it means to live with a pistol every day.
The paradox of the concealed personal defense weapon is that it is something you hope you will never have to use for its intended purpose, but with which you must achieve a level of mastery and familiarity comparable to the other tools you use to survive and get through your day. You wouldn’t drive to work in a car that you didn’t know how to operate. You wouldn’t wear a coat that was three sizes too small or use a carpenter’s saw to slice up a pot roast. No, you use the tools appropriate to the job and you learn how to work with them competently. The same holds true with a self defense pistol. You should know how to operate it and have the level of skill necessary to use it safely and effectively. It should fit your hand and your lifestyle because you will be spending a lot of time with it. It should be comfortable to shoot and hopefully to carry, although when asked if a carry gun should be comfortable to wear, master trainer Clint Smith said, “Your carry gun should be comforting, not comfortable.” Your pistol should be powerful enough to do the job and accurate enough to hit the target. It should be completely reliable, and its operation should be as familiar to you as riding a bicycle or brushing your teeth. You must also have a clear understanding of the legal issues surrounding the use of deadly force — when you can and when you can’t — and the methods and techniques of using a gun in a self defense situation. Sounds like a lot? You’re right; it is, and if you are unwilling to master the skills and concepts of lethal force, do yourself a favor and just don’t carry a gun. (See also The Psychology of Self Defense and the Force Continuum)
Skill and Familiarity
Handguns are not easy to shoot well. The ability to consistently put bullets into a target quickly and in the places which will stop an attacker is a skill that requires a lot of practice. Too many people have the notion that a pistol is a kind of magical talisman and the user need only take it out and wave it around and the problem will magically disappear. Nothing could be further from the truth. A gun brandished at the wrong time and without the fighting skills necessary to employ it effectively will make a whole bunch of new problems, including getting you killed or arrested and charged with some very serious crimes. Hence, making the decision to carry a gun should be made only with the commitment to practice and learn. This may take the shape of attending classes or participating in a practical shooting sport like IDPA. At the very least, a regular practice schedule should be part of the package. This means that you will be spending a lot of time with your pistol. The gun should be comfortable in your hand, have manageable recoil, and be sturdy enough to stand up to heavy use in practice sessions, matches, and classes. The gun should also have reasonable accuracy. You should be able to consistently put all of your shots in an area the size of a saucer at ten yards quickly.
Types and Sizes: Pros and Cons
When many folks think of a concealed carry gun, they think of little-bitty pocket pistols that will easily disappear into a pocket or purse. While these may be light and convenient, that’s all they are. Aside from that, they’re pretty useless. They lack the power to put down a determined attacker and they lack the accuracy to hit anything at more than spitting distance. But even more importantly, most little guns are unpleasant to shoot. Being very light and having small handles, their muzzle flip is very bad. After a few rounds your hand may begin to hurt. Shoot a match or take a class at Gunsite with one of these pocket guns? Forget it. If you don’t learn to use it, how much good is it going to do you when the chips are down? In this group, I would include the small Berettas, Airweight snubnose revolvers, Seecamp .32’s, Kel-Tek .32’s and derringers. There may be a place for these pistols, but they all suffer from serious inadequacies. (I am particularly fond of the Airweight snubnose .38 Special revolver, but it can be an unpleasant gun to fire.)
Medium Frame Revolvers
Even though they have been around for 165 years, revolvers remain an excellent solution. These pistols are simple to use and accurate. They can handle hot loads and larger bullets making them effective personal defense weapons. Examples of this class of pistol are the Ruger GP Series and the S&W Model 66. The ideal revolver would have a 3″ to 4″ barrel, a six-round cylinder, and a grip that fills your hand. The biggest drawback of these pistols is the speed of reloading, but with practice, a revolver can be reloaded as quickly as an autoloader.
Medium Frame Auto Pistols
The overwhelming majority of professional trainers, operators, law enforcement and military people prefer medium to large framed autoloading pistols. These pistols have the best combination of speed, firepower, accuracy, and power. These pistols will generally load 8-10 rounds in their magazines (or more if you can find the magazines), have full-length grips, and 3.5″ or longer barrels. These guns tend to have adequate accuracy and power, and large enough grips to be comfortable. Examples of this type of pistol would be the Glock 17, 19, 21 and 22, the S&W 39xx, 59xx, and 69xx series, the SIG 22x series, the H&K USP and P7, the Kimber ProCarry and Compact, the Springfield Champion, Para-Ordnance P12, and many others.
Large Frame Pistols and Revolvers
I like big pistols. They shoot more accurately, absorb more recoil, and develop greater muzzle velocity due to their longer barrels. I would include in this group the Beretta 92, the Colt Government Model M1911 (and clones), The N Frame S&W revolvers, Colt Python, Anaconda and their copies. Characteristically, these guns have 5″ barrels and weigh 36 oz. or more. The biggest drawback of these pistols is their weight. They get heavy and small framed people may have difficulty concealing them.
Autoloader Action Types
There are four types of actions around which semi-auto pistols are built. It’s important to understand the differences:
Single Action – M1911 Colt .45 ACP and Browning Hi-Power 9mm
This is the oldest autoloader design still in service, designed by John Browning (with the help of the Army Ordnance Board) during the period between 1905 and 1911. The hammer must be cocked, generally by racking the slide, for the gun to fire. This design in .45 ACP, .40 S&W and .38 Super is favored by competitive shooters, FBI SWAT, FBI Hostage Rescue Team, and many special forces units because it has the best trigger, outstanding accuracy and is very fast. For the gun to be carried in a state of readiness, the hammer must be cocked and the manual safety applied, “cocked and locked” (see “The Conditions of Readiness”). This looks scary and is not recommended for novices or those suffering from attention deficit disorder.
Double Action/Single Action – Beretta 92F (Armed Forces M9), most Smith & Wesson autos, SIG, Walther, and some Rugers.
This has been the standard design for most autos for the last 50 years. These pistols are cocked by the first trigger pull, but subsequent shots are cocked by the action of the slide cycling back. Consequently, the first trigger pull is long and harder (Double Action) since it is also cocking the hammer. Subsequent trigger pulls are easy (Single Action) since the hammer is already cocked. These guns have an external safety lever which puts the gun on safe and de-cocks the hammer. This is generally thought to be the safest design since the long, heavy first trigger pull and the external safety which blocks the firing pin tend to prevent the gun from going off by accident. The criticism of this design is that it forces the shooter to learn two different trigger pulls and accuracy often suffers on the first double action shot. Most accidental discharges with these sorts of pistols are the result of the shooter forgetting to de-cock the hammer.
Double Action/Single Action with De-Cocker Only – Ruger and SIG
This is a variant of the DA/SA which is used by Ruger and SIG. It functions just like a DA/SA except the “safety” lever is not a safety. It only de-cocks the hammer, but the gun will still fire when the de-cocker is applied and the trigger is pulled. I personally do not like this design since the de-cocker looks just like a safety lever but does not put the gun on safe.
Double Action Only – Glock, Smith & Wesson Sigma, some Berettas, some Rugers, Kahr, Kel-Tec, and others.
This is the newest action design made popular by Glock. With these pistols every trigger pull is the same and they have no external safety or decocking levers. The hammers are not cocked by the cycling of the slide (except for the Glocks which are pre-cocked by the slide cycle, and are not true double action). DAO pistols depend on the long double action trigger pull to prevent accidental discharges. In a sense these are autoloaders which fire like revolvers. Triggers vary from model to model. Some, like the Glocks, have very light triggers. Other DAO triggers can be quite heavy and long, and can be very unpleasant to shoot. The advantage of this action is its simplicity and the fact that every trigger pull is the same.
Calibers and Power
Here we get into mysticism and voodoo, and I will just give you my personal opinion and you can take it for what it’s worth. I like the .45 ACP and the .357 Magnum the best. Just under them in effectiveness are the .40 S&W, the .44 Special and the 9mm. Below them are the .38 Special and the .380 ACP. There are other cartridges, but these are the most common for personal defense weapons and the ammunition is readily available.
I wouldn’t be comfortable with anything smaller than a .380 (actually, I wouldn�t be comfortable with anything smaller than a .45 ACP, but that�s a different argument. See also Jim Higginbotham’s “Case for the .45 ACP”). My personal favorite handgun cartridge is the .45 ACP because of its power and accuracy, but smaller cartridges will do the job if you do your part. Like the selection of the gun, the selection of a cartridge should be based on your ability to shoot it well. A good hit with a .380 is better than a miss with a .45. So, as a general rule, your self defense cartridge should be the largest and most powerful load that you shoot well.
The Selection Process
Don’t be in a rush to buy the first gun you see. Give it a lot of thought. Ideally, shoot as many pistols as you can before you make a decision. Most gun ranges have pistols you can rent to see how they feel. If you have friends who own pistols, go shooting with them. Most will be happy to let you shoot their guns and share with you their experiences with them.
Be careful about the advice of clerks at gun stores. Some are very knowledgeable but many others are total idiots. Just because someone works at a gun store doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she is an expert on personal defense pistols. They will all offer an opinion, whether they actually know anything about the matter or not.
I would also maintain a healthy degree of skepticism toward articles in popular gun magazines. They don�t make money by trashing the offerings of their advertisers.
Consider how you dress and your lifestyle. How will you carry the pistol? Can you adjust your wardrobe to accommodate your pistol? Particular body shapes may present special problems. Your physical strength and conditioning may also be a factor, i.e., powerful auto pistols tend to function better for people with strong arms and hands. How much time do you have to devote to practice? As a rule of thumb, autos require more training than revolvers, so don’t pick a single-action .45 auto if you’re not willing to learn to use it.
As important as any other single factor is the size and geometry of your hand. Hand size varies greatly between people and it is very important to handle a gun and note carefully the comfort of the grip and the position of the controls on the pistol. If you can’t easily manipulate every control on the gun with either hand, then find a different gun. People with short thumbs may have trouble with the safety of an M1911. People with short palms may have difficulty with the thick handles of the double-stack 9mm and .40 pistols. People with meaty hands may be “bitten” by the slide of a small auto when it cycles.
Does the gun feel good in your hand? Is the trigger smooth or is it rough and heavy? Is the frame fairly narrow so that it will conceal well? Does the gun have the right balance of power, weight and size? (Remember, bigger is better for shooting and power, but can you carry it for 8 hours if you have to?)
You will notice that I have said nothing about price. I really hate to hear people making a decision on a handgun based on price. No one wants to pay more than we have to or what is fair, but price should be the last consideration. You won�t remember a hundred or so dollars extra you paid for the right pistol, but you will remember the ill-fitting bargain pistol that doesn�t shoot right or feel good.
To summarize, hold it, feel it, fire it if you can, and recognize that you’re going to spend a lot of time with the pistol. Remember also, that it may be called upon someday to defend your life. No, it isn’t easy, and you may end up buying two or three pistols before you find the one with just the right balance of weight, power and comfort.
The selection of a holster which fits the gun you intend to carry is critically important. For a detailed discussion on this matter, click here.
Most of the tactical gurus recommend the carry of at least one reload. If you observe police officers, they often carry 2-4 extra magazines or speed-loaders. If your gun is an autoloader, the second magazine is a good idea for two reasons: (1) you may need the extra rounds (and it’s better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them), and (2) magazines sometimes fail and having a backup will ensure that you won’t get caught with a non-functioning gun. Hopefully, very few of us will ever need twenty one or more rounds, but the carry of a spare magazine or speed-loader is just a wise practice. One of the reasons I prefer an autoloader to a wheel gun in this role is that the flat shape of a magazine is easier to carry on your belt than the rounded and somewhat bulky shape of the speed-loader used for revolvers.
Summary of Selection Criteria
1. Your personal defense weapon should be as large and as powerful as you can shoot accurately and carry with a reasonable degree of comfort and concealment.
2. Your personal defense weapon should fit your hand perfectly.
3. You should be able to manipulate the controls of your weapon with either hand alone.
4. Your personal defense weapon should be of sturdy construction and be able to withstand heavy use and rough handling.
5. Your personal defense weapon should be accurate enough to consistently hit a target the size of a saucer at 10 yards quickly.
6. Select the largest caliber you can shoot well, and a caliber for which ammunition is readily available.
7. A good quality holster must be available for the model of pistol you intend to carry.
May 9, 2008
Charles Daly HP with Novak Sights and Craig Spegal Grips
This is my Daly Hi Power after the upgrades.
I added several upgrades to my Daly Hi Power. These are actually fewer additions than if it had been a Browning since the Daly has the proper slide cuts for easy addition of Novak sights.
Craig Spegal Custom Grips From Novak. These are the grips on the Daly.
I added these Spegal grips as well as a set of Novak plain black sights to replace the XS sights. The other Daly will keep the XS sights. I wanted the Novaks on this one to be more precise in my shooting when on the range. The later model Daly HP’s use a standard 1911 Novak slide cut which certainly makes it easy to change these sights out. The folks at XS told me they didn’t want a proprietary slide cut so owners wouldn’t be limited to the XS sights. They decided that the Novak cut for the 1911 was the best possible solution sense these are the most prolific sights on the market. My hats off to them for this decision! Novak only charges $59 plus shipping for these sights. The grips were $75 and graded Std+.
Installing these sights was a very simple task and took about 30 minutes with only very minor fitting on the front sight with none on the rear. The rear Novak sight was an appropriately snug fit that only needed a tightening of the set screw on top of the sight. The front sight needed a few light passes with 1200 grit wet dry sandpaper to fit properly. After that it was just a simple matter to sight the pistol in. Using the plain black sights allows a very good sight picture with ample space on either side of the front sight.
The Spegal grips fit like a glove as expected but did come with detailed instructions for fitting should yours need it.
Novak Sight Selections
Along with these last additions there was also the addition of the Cylinder and Slide trigger, reduced tactical spring kit which included the extra power trigger return spring, mainspring, extra power firing pin spring and the addition of a C&S sear spring. With the exception of an extractor spring and new extractor most all the internals are now from C&S. This makes for a wonderful trigger, reliability and no MIM parts. The only other addition will be a Bar-Sto match barrel in a couple of months. It’s very accurate as is and this will make it a tac driver for certain.
The sight used is pictured above as the top left and also pictured on the bottom right. The product codes are as follows. LMC01 Colt plain black, DFS02-3.225 black front. These are the standard Novak slide cuts for the 1911. Now this is for the later model Daly HP’s finished by Magnum Research. The earlier guns finished by Dan Wesson used a standard Novak cut for the series II Hi Power. Check my original review for the serial number reference to make sure you order the correct sights for your gun.
Even though the high quality parts added a good amount to the Daly project it came out very nice. Of course if you choose to do the same with your Browning you will need to send your slide in to Novak to have the slide cut for the sights. Turnaround time is one week or less depending on your location and mailing time. One other thing I have to commend Novak on besides the usual great customer service is the shipping time and cost. Many companies add to the profit for parts etc. by charging high shipping cost. Novak will not do that. Two Day Air shipping from UPS was only an $8.00 charge from Novak. Now that’s very reasonable!
I hope you enjoyed the review on my mods to this pistol and will find it useful.
April 28, 2008
My Personal Carry Hi Power
I am frequently asked by other Hi Power fans, “What is your personal carry Hi Power?” Variations on this theme often include, “What modifications have you made?” Finally, ammunition choice is requested.
First, let me assure you that I do not claim to know all things and would not presume to try and “tell” anyone what is “right.” This can vary with the individual and their personal needs, be they real or perceived.
The one thing that I do feel most adamantly about is reliability. With a defense handgun, be it a Hi Power or any other pistol, I put this quality at the head of the list and by a wide margin. Fortunately, the Hi Power is almost always reliable out of the box. Will it be with JHP ammunition? If it is a Mk II or Mk III, probably so. If it is an older classic Hi Power, it might balk with some JHP ammunition. This is due to a difference in the feed ramps. While the Hi Power uses a one-piece ramp, the newer guns do not have the “humped” ramp common to the older ones. The humped ramp works fine with ball and some JHP’s having more rounded bullet profiles. (The older ramps can be made to mimic the newer ones by a competent gunsmith and not all of the older guns will require it; some work just fine.)
Next, I prefer a trigger pull that’s neither below about 4 1/2-lbs nor more than a pound more. Speaking only for myself, I find no difference in group size nor the ability to make quicker (accurate) shots with either if the trigger breaks cleanly. Unfortunately, many Hi Powers come with triggers that are considerably heavier and gritty, a sad and needless situation in my opinion. It is my observation that most detractors of the Hi Power address both the trigger pull (out of the box) as well as hammer bite.
A competent pistolsmith or trigger specialist who understands and is familiar with the Hi Power design can correct the trigger pull and very serviceable trigger pulls can be had with or without the magazine disconnect in place.
Here is a link to my views on the magazine “safety” issue for those who might be interested in that aspect of the defensive Hi Power:
With regard to the hammer bite problem experienced by more than few Hi Power fans, here is a link to what has worked for me:
There is also a general discussion on the defensive Hi Power here:
The Hi Power that I carry the most is a Mk III 9mm that I bought used. I believe that the magazine disconnect may have already been removed…which save me from doing it. The gun had not been shot very much and the bluing on the breech face was barely scuffed. The gun locked up tight and while it had a small ding or two, it was overall sound and the price was very right.
This is the 9mm Hi Power I am most apt to carry for self-protection. Here are the changes that have been made: The hammer spur was bobbed and reshaped at home. The factory trigger is in the gun. The right-side factory extended thumb safety was removed and the shaft reshaped. There is no magazine disconnect in this pistol and the trigger was good when I got the gun, right at 5-lbs. I have a Wolff conventional 18.5-lb recoil spring in this gun and it works just fine with standard pressure rounds as well as +P. The barrel is stock and the mainspring was left at 32-lbs. The finish is the factory “matte” and the grips are from Altamont. This pistol has proven itself reliable with every conventional JHP I’ve tried that weighed 100 to 147-gr.
This Hi Power is no different than many, many others in the hands of Hi Power fans and I’ve been pleased with the “wearability” of the factory matte finish. The Altamont stocks didn’t seem comfortable to me at first, but sort of “grew” to fit my hand and I like them on this pistol. FWIW…if anything, I also have an extreme fondness for grips from both Craig Spegel and Hakan Pek.
My primary carry Hi Power uses the factory fixed Mk III sights. They are dead bang “on” for me with this gun and I’ve found no good reason to change them. A couple of my Mk III pistols have had Novak fixed sights installed. They are elegant sights to be sure and offer a good sight picture for my eye, but I find no advantage to them over the factory sights in group size, be they fired slow and precisely or at speed. This may or may not hold true for others and is one more decision that is best made by the individual user.
Some folks have asked why I routinely remove the right-side ambidextrous thumb safety lever. The reason is that it gets in my way. With my hand and my grip on the pistol, I have accidentally engaged the ambidextrous thumb safety and have decades of practice in reaching around the rear of the gun with my off-hand thumb and engaging the left-side lever. (When I first started shooting Hi Powers and 1911’s, ambidextrous safeties were practically non-existent.) They just don’t work for me; they might work fine for you.
I use only Mec-Gar magazines for serious purposes be they sold under Mec-Gar’s name or as Browning “factory” magazines. I have found none better in the long run. Though I own and have had no problem with the Mec-Gar 15-shot 9mm magazines, I usually just use the standard 13-shot version.
I have less money in this Hi Power than any of the others and were I to use it in a legal shooting, I am well aware that it will be gone into the evidence locker at least until I am no-billed by the grand jury. I can tolerate this easier than I could were it another having more financial or sentimental worth to me.
Pictured are two guns that rode with me many a night before retiring from police service. I call the Mk III my “Duty Hi Power.” It has Novak fixed sights and the same modifications as the somewhat plainer Mk III shown previously, but this one has Spegel black checkered delrin stocks and the Cylinder & Slide Type I ring hammer and sear. It was reblued after I retired from police work. I do not shoot it any better than the Mk III having the factory sights and I don’t carry this one for sentimental reasons more than any others. (The S&W Model 042 was carried as a BUG in conjunction with the Hi Power.)
As this is written (September 2006), my favored load in the Mk III 9mm is Corbon 115-gr. DPX. More related information is here for those interested:
For my personal opinions on ammunition for the 9mm Hi Power, here is a link:
I hope that the preceding has been of use and that no one is disappointed in the sort of “vanilla” Hi Powers I find to work well for me. If you are new to Hi Powers or are considering using one for protection, I respectfully submit shooting the gun quite a bit before deciding what changes might be in order. Please keep in mind that what “works” for me might or might not be the best choice(s) for you.
April 23, 2008
Stephens Personal Hi Power
As much I as I like these handsome pistols for informal target work, small game hunting, or just knocking around in the woods, their original purpose was for “serious” matters in one area of the self-defense arena, military service. Like its Browning-born predecessor, the 1911, the single-action Hi Power’s initial reason for existence was as a military sidearm and not individual civilian self-protection. It is nice that both readily lend themselves to this, however.
In most cases, the military requirements for a sidearm differ from that of the private citizen’s. With the soldier, the pistol is usually a secondary weapon if he has one at all. The private citizen will be using it as the primary and possibly only weapon at his disposal in “the dark place.” While both the soldier and the private citizen might be attacked without any warning, the citizen will usually be at arm’s length or so from his aggressor while the soldier’s enemy might be a hundred yards distant. To me, this suggests that in most cases, the citizen’s response must be quicker and at least initially without taking cover if unexpectedly subject to violent attack.
The military pistol need only feed ball or FMJ rounds (unless one is being used by certain SOG’s in situations against people not deemed “soldiers”) while the citizen’s pistol will be expected to work reliably with about any kind of ammo the guy can buy. The soldier’s sidearm need not be concealed in most cases while exactly the opposite remains true for the civilian carrier. Again, we’re fortunate that the Hi Power can be pretty easily concealed for the size handgun it is.
Neither needs to be capable of formal competition accuracy, but both do need to be “accurate enough for their intended mission” as has often been stated. I’m glad that in good examples, the Hi Power is usually capable of better accuracy than most shooters can wring out of it. Both must be reliable and the Hi Power is…with one caveat.
The older “classic” Hi Powers were intended to work with FMJ ammunition as used by their first “employers,” the military. These pistols are the ones made prior to the FN Mk II pistols and have the “humped” feed ramps that worked great with ball, but so-so with some JHP’s and no-no with others!
Hi Powers made from the Mk II forward work fine with most JHP ammunition that I’ve tried that weighs from 115 to 124 grains and while my testing is limited with the heavier bullets, the guns have worked just fine with the 147-gr. slugs. If your Hi Power is pre-Mk II, you may have feeding problems with some of the blunter, shorter JHP ammo used today. You can either use ammunition having a rounded bullet profile as exhibited by Federal’s 115-grain JHP, both standard and +P version, or Remington’s 115-grain JHP, also available in standard pressure and +P. If you want to use something else, but the reliability is just not there, you can have a competent gunsmith “throat” the feed ramp on your Hi Power. This is not difficult, but must be done right.
This is the Browning Mk II 9mm pistol. It is the first commercially available Hi Power to be sold having extended ambidextrous thumb safety levers and is quickly identified by its narrow “rib” running the full length of the slide. The front sight is not serrated from the factory and is integral to the rib. Though still somewhat small, the fixed sights on this version are more usable at speed than those on earlier Hi Powers.
These guns are the first I’m aware of that came with the non-humped feed ramps straight from the factory.
As has been the case with the Mk III Hi Power, these pistols have proven extremely reliable with a very wide array of JHP ammunition.
Taken from Browning’s site, this is the Mk III pistol and there are differences between it and the classic Hi Power and the Mk II. Note that the fixed sights are larger and that both are dovetailed to the slide. The ejection port has been enlarged, but is actually beefed up a bit at the lower rear to prevent slides cracking when used heavily. Like the Mk II and the classics made in the ’70’s, it has the spur hammer. The Mk III pistols sold in the US have internal firing pin safeties not present on the classics or the early Mk II pistols.
For lots of shooting or defensive use, the Mk III is my first choice.
Even though my eyes are not what they used to be, I find that the sights on the Mk II or Mk III pistols work fine and I have no trouble with them when practicing quick, defensive types of shooting. I do find the older Hi Power’s fixed sights to be a bit lacking although OK for slow deliberate fire. I find that I do no better or worse with the very popular Novak fixed sights when compared to the factory Mk III sights in slow or rapid fire work. While the defensive Hi Power does require “good” sights in my opinion, I find that the factory sights are plenty “good” enough. On the other hand, there is utterly nothing wrong with having a set of Novak or Heine sights installed on your Hi Power. Just be sure that they are “on” for you. Though I’ve not yet tried them, Novak’s new adjustable rear sight looks to be a very viable option for the Hi Power shooter preferring to be able to change his sights to exactly match various loads. Of the adjustable sights I’ve tried, those from MMC are likely the strongest, but I’ve seen Bomars used on a couple of 1911s under other than range conditions and they held up fine. In general though, fixed sights are the most popular for defense guns, including the Hi Power.
What I’m getting at is that the defensive Hi Power requires sights that can be seen at speed. I do not care for the “express” sights that have some following these days. I personally found them no faster than conventional high-visibility sights and more difficult to get precise hits with. This might be of no import if on a derringer or even a small snub where most expectations are only for close, coarse accuracy, but the Hi Power is capable of so much more that I do not recommend the use of “express” sights. I have been asked about rear sights having the large “ghost ring” aperture, but have not tried it so I cannot comment. If you opt for night sights, you’ll get no argument from me. I still prefer plain black on black sights, but if shooting in extremely dim light, the night sights do make getting good hits easier. If you opt to use them, understand that their life span is about 12 years or so.
This Mk III 9mm has Novak fixed sights. They are visible at speed and these are plain black sights. They are available in night sight versions, as are those from other makers. This pistol has had other modifications as well. I do no better with these sights than with the fixed sights that came on it. If you have a Mk III, you decide what is right for you. If you have an older Hi Power, a change to higher visibility fixed sights is a necessary upgrade in my opinion.
I find the extended thumb safety necessary on the Hi Power, but do not on the 1911. The small classic thumb safety lever is just too small for best work at speed in my experience and some are pretty stiff as well. I prefer the FN factory extended thumb safety to the others I’ve tried, but don’t care for ambidextrous safeties on the Hi Power. The reason is simple. I have large hands and have on occasion accidentally engaged the safety in the middle of a rapid-fire string! Other folks report no such problems, but be aware that it can happen and determine if you’re prone to it or not. I remove the right-side thumb safety lever and reshape the shaft it was mounted on. Cylinder & Slide does offer extended ambidextrous and single-side safeties for folks not liking the factory version. Any should fit any version of the Hi Power as well as the clones, but it will probably need to be fitted by a gunsmith.
Probably the most controversial issue in the defensive Hi Power modifications is removal of the magazine disconnect. Sometimes called “magazine safety,” this device prevents the firing of a chambered round if the magazine is removed. In short, the pistol cannot be fired with the magazine removed. (Actually, it can if you apply pressure to the trigger sufficient to keep the lifter firmly against the sear lever before dropping the magazine, but this is too risky to recommend under the stress of a life or death situation.) The magazine disconnect is pushed into a hole in the rear of the trigger when the magazine is inserted and the pad area of the “safety” actually moves upward against the front of the magazine when the trigger’s being pressed. It contributes to a poor trigger in most cases and one that’s heavier than the same pistol without it.
I routinely remove the magazine disconnect from all of my Hi Power pistols not only to help get a good trigger pull, but also to allow the magazine to drop free when released and to be able to fire the weapon without a magazine in place if necessary. This makes the pistol no more “unsafe” than the slew of 1911’s on the market, HK’s, Glocks, SIG-Sauers, and so forth. Opponents caution that such a removal of a safety device might be used against you in the inevitable civil suit that follows any shooting, justified or not. So far, I have not seen one documented case of this where the complainant prevailed if the shooting itself was intended and the trigger purposely pressed. I do think it could cost the owner of such a pistol if the shooting was unintentional. An example would be kids getting hold of the pistol and thinking it was safe because they’d removed the magazine and then negligently shooting themselves or another. In any event, there are gunsmiths who can put good trigger pulls on the Hi Power with or without the magazine “safety.”
You decide what’s best for your own unique situation.
While speaking of trigger pulls, I’d suggest that you stay in the 4.5 to even 5.5-lb. range. A good gunsmith can provide this and I’ve found that “crisp” and clean breaking is more important than “light” for the defensive handgun and this includes the Hi Power. Like all single-action semiautos, the Hi Power does not “tolerate” improper gun handling and under stress, the errant finger on the trigger might be pressing just a little too hard. You get the idea. My “carry Hi Powers” have triggers of about 4.5-lbs. or so.
The gun should be comfortable and if you have the free choice to choose the Hi Power, you probably already feel that it is. I cannot stand the factory checkered nylon grips with thumbrests that come from the factory on the Mk III pistols. The stocks themselves are fine and provide a secure grip, but I don’t find them comfortable. If you do, they’re fine. Most people seem to prefer aftermarket grips for their Hi Powers. I cannot tell you which is best for you, as this must be decided by you. I can say that I prefer Craig Spegel’s checkered grips to any that I’ve tried. I also like the much less costly black checkered rubber copies offered by Butler Creek. They are thicker. Having had my Hi Power (and other handguns) out in rain or in extreme heat, I do find that the checkered grips provide a more secure grip when the hand is wet. Pachmayr offers checkered rubber grips for the Hi Power that also provide checkered covering of both the front and rear grip straps and Hogue offers a version that has finger grooves in the front strap area. Probably the thinnest grip on the market is from Navridex, but I’ve not personally tried them and some people speak highly of grips made by Ahrends. Pick the one that works best for you.
The Mk III on top is wearing Spegel checkered black delrin grips while the lower has the Butler Creek rubber grips. The front strap has also been covered with skateboard tape as an inexpensive way to provide a firm grip under all conditions. Stippling from a gunsmith is a nicer way, but also more expensive.
Also in the area of comfort is the problem of hammer bite. Many of us are smacked by rear of the spur hammer or the bottom rear of the factory ring hammer when firing the Hi Power, especially if we’ve drawn the gun with a high grip. In the picture above, you can see two solutions that have worked equally well for me. I bobbed the hammer spur of the top pistol at the second lateral serration and fitted the Cylinder & Slide Type I ring hammer on the bottom gun. This solved the problem for me and does for others as well. Other options such as dishing out the shank of the hammer at the back or welding on a tang will probably require the services of a gunsmith. C & S does offer a “no bite” version of the Type I hammer that has the rear of the shank contoured inward to avoid pinching.
I routinely use and recommend 18.5-lb. conventional recoil springs in the Hi Power rather than the 17-lb. factory standard. For me, the heavier spring works just fine with both standard and +P 9mm loads. If you do not have a strong hold for whatever reason, your defensive 9mm Hi Power might be better with the standard 17-lb. spring. The reason is that the heavier the recoil spring, the more firm the grip must be to avoid the gun malfunctioning. There is a minimal level of force required to hold the frame in place so that the recoil spring can be compressed against it. It is possible that one’s shooting hand or arm be injured before the need to return fire ceases. I continue to use the 18.5-lb. springs, but this is something you might consider.
Extended slide releases are not needed on the Hi Power in my opinion. It’s been my experience that they’re prone to be accidentally engaged by the shooting hand, prematurely locking the slide back with rounds left to fire. The consequences in an actual gunfight or deadly force scenario are obvious. If right-handed or inserting the magazine with the left hand the left thumb can disengage the standard slide release lever or the slide itself can be pulled back and released.
Unless your pistol just flat won’t group, I do not find the fitting of a match barrel to be necessary, but don’t argue against it so long as reliability is retained. Most of these will be more tightly chambered than factory barrels so be sure that the Hi Power works reliably with the match barrel before counting on it.
I have no strong opinions on finishes for the defensive Hi Power and normally use plain matte blue, at least for the frame.
I also use recoil buffers in my Hi Powers and have had absolutely no problem with them with any ammunition use. Some folks are concerned that the thing might come apart in their pistol at the most inopportune times. They will if not replaced when heavily used, but an inspection during cleaning will tell you if it is time to change them out or not. On the other hand, a simple solution is to use the buffer at the range and simply remove it when you get home and clean the Hi Power before carrying it for self-protection.
What has been postulated here is that the defensive Hi Power must be reliable, safe, easy to get into action, have sights you can quickly see, and have a decent trigger pull. All of this is for naught if you don’t use quality magazines. For carry, I recommend the factory Browning magazines or those by Mec-Gar, who make the factory Browning magazines. Second choice would be good condition Inglis surplus magazines and finally, the KRD 15 and 17 round magazines. I would use the Post-Ban 10-round magazines before I’d use some of the second rate aftermarket Pre-Ban magazines that may or may not be reliable. Even if using high quality magazines, test each and every one in your pistol with the ammunition that you intend to use. If you change ammunition, retest.
The groups shown were fired from a Mk III with standard barrel, Butler Creek grips, and a trigger job. The top two targets were fired slow fire while the larger target consists of 5 sets of controlled pairs. This Hi Power has had minimal custom work done and is plenty capable of handling self-protection needs.
This Mk III has had Novak fixed sights added and the target shown consists of 5 sets of controlled pairs at 10 yards. I see no difference between this and the Mk III using standard sights. On the other hand, there’s really nothing “wrong” with having such sights simply if you prefer them for looks or some other reason. Neither pistol has a match barrel. Both shoot tighter groups than most of us are capable of attaining, particularly under the stress of a deadly force scenario.
It remains my opinion that the Hi Power, though now “dated”, remains a most viable and world class pistol for not only self-protection, but also just plain fun.
April 3, 2008
Charles Daly Hi Power
As many of you know from forum post or the information I posted here the Charles Daly Hi Power has been discontinued. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t get one by any means. Many guns have been made with this fine Hi Power version available from wholesalers as well as a great number that were purchased by CDNN. The going price is excellent at between $290 at CDNN or through wholesalers for $330 which is what I paid for my second one a couple of weeks ago. My gun dealer, Cott Firearms , had no trouble getting one for me in three days from request to delivery. After exchanging emails with Michael Kassnar, CEO at Charles Daly, I was assured the warranty on these guns will remain in effect as if it was a current production gun. It’s unlikely but they have many parts should you require service or parts replacement.
This version of the Hi Power differs from the Browning in several ways. One important way is the factory trigger pull is better with the Daly than the Browning. Also, the Daly has a thumb safety that is very similar to the one that Cylinder & Slide sells. The safety is easy to manipulate and has a positive click both on safety and off. The commander type hammer doesn’t bite as the standard hammer does. The supplied rubber grips are patterned after the Craig Spegel grips which feel better than any grip you can buy for the Hi Power. The sights are also an improvement over the Browning sights having the XS sight system. These sights have a shallow v notch with a vertical line while the front sight has a large white dot. Essentially what you have is a dot that is placed over the vertical line making it look like a lollipop:-) It’s a very fast sight set giving you a very quick sight picture for up close work. The magazines are very good being made in Italy. Yours may say MecGar or another name but they will say made in Italy. This is the magazine company that supplies mags for Sig as well as many other top of the line pistols. For my extra mags I use the 15 round MecGar’s. The mag release is also slightly longer than a stock Browning type allowing for positive magazine ejection. A good deal of thought was put into the extra features of this pistol. It isn’t necessary to add new sights, thumb safety etc since the factory ones are very usable as is.
There are still some things I always do with my Hi Powers. I first and foremost remove the magazine disconnect from the trigger group. This greatly helps the trigger pull. The magazine also falls free when ejected instead of having to pull it out. It also allows you to fire the pistol with a round chambered and the magazine out. This is something I very much prefer. For those of you who may not be familiar with the method of stripping the Hi Power all the way down or just partially I highly recommend Stephen Camps guide to the Hi Power. You can purchase these directly from Stephen at http://www.hipowersandhandguns.com/. The website has a great deal of Hi Power information along with this guide as well as similar guides for the 1911. A picture of the laminated pages of the guide is pictured below. It is also held together with a ring binder allowing you lay the guide open for easy reference. This link is the order page and shows all the products he has for sale. http://www.hipowersandhandguns.com/Products5.html
Stephen Camps Hi Power Guide
The guides are very well written and the instructions are clear and easy to follow. The pictures that accompany the instructions are also very good. This guide makes it very easy even for a novice to completely strip the Hi Power down to the last part and reassemble. Stephen is also very easy to contact via email if you have any questions. His website also has a forum section where you can get together with other Hi Power enthusiast.
There are a few other modifications I like to do on my Hi Powers. Besides removing the magazine disconnect I also like to change out the trigger for one made by Cylinder & Slide. The C&S trigger has no accommodation for the mag disconnect which is good from a legal standpoint. This prevents some lawyer from accusing you of removing a safety device even though the mag disconnect isn’t a true safety system anyway. The trigger surface is wider making it easier to gain a good purchase on the trigger and the trigger does feel lighter because of the increased surface area. The surface is also a bit more rounded than the stock trigger. I also purchased a spring kit #CS025D from C&S. This spring set is the Tactical Trigger Pull Reduction Spring Kit. This takes the trigger pull down another 1.5 pounds. Included is the extra power trigger return spring, extra power mainspring and extra power firing pin spring. I also change the recoil spring to an 18.5 from Wolff. The 18.5 works very well for +P rounds and functions fine with standard loads. This kit not only reduces the trigger pull but resets the trigger for faster follow up shots. The springs also last a very long time with no need for any spring replacement for at least 5000 rounds depending on how many +P’s you use. The spring kit is show above with the Stephen Camp Hi Power guide. Stephen is one of the foremost authorities on the Hi Power regardless of who makes them. The Daly Hi Power parts also interchange with any brand or type of part without exception. Once the mods are done you will notice a very pronounced improvement in the trigger pull. The trigger pull on this recently purchased Hi Power now has a trigger pull of 4.3 pounds. This is certainly about perfect for a carry pistol. The mods take about 3 hours to do since you have to completely disassemble the pistol. The mods are fairly cheap. The spring kit is $17.50 with the C&S trigger at $37 from Brownells. The recoil spring is $4.95 from Wolff.
Update Sat 3/5/2008
The C&S trigger came in today for the Daly. It only took about 20 minutes to install. As I said above I have used these triggers before and found them to be an excellent addition. This is even more true for the Daly for some reason. I can’t put my finger on exactly why but this time the C&S trigger made a fantastic change in trigger pull and feel. There is almost zero overtravel and it’s very crisp. It honestly feels more like a match trigger on a 1911 than a Hi Power trigger. The trigger pull is now just a hair above 4 pounds. I can only credit this to the heavier construction and angle of the wider trigger. I’ve never had a trigger replacement make this much improvement to a triggers feel and pull. If you purchase a Daly Hi Power this is a must have addition! The price at Brownells, if you are a member, is $37 plus shipping for a total of $42 and change delivered USPS. This is a good savings over the suggested retail which is usually just above $50. You really have to add this trigger to your Hi Power!! I’m not usually so adamant about an add on part but this time I certainly am! It’s a must have:-)
Shooting the Hi Power is a joy. Outside of the 1911 no other gun comes close to the comfort of the Hi Power grip as well as the natural pointing attributes of this design. As far as carry ammo I use Winchester Ranger “T” 127 grn. +P+. This is the best carry ammo in 9mm you can buy. It’s very hard to find right now so my second choice is the Federal Tactical HST 124 grn. +P round. These are Law Enforcement only rounds but can be purchased legally. Only the factory restricts the sale of these rounds to the public. The best place to buy this ammo is Tactical Defense Solutions at http://www.tds-us.com/catalog.php/tds/pg10243. If you are a soldier or a police officer you are also eligible for a good discount after sending in a copy of your military or police ID. They are also great folks to deal with. They also carry LEO only Speer Gold Dots and assorted other brands.
After a range session with all the mods complete I was shooting one hole groups at 10 yards standing unsupported (1 1/4 inch). At 15 yards they were still groups of one ragged hole of about 2 inches firing fairly fast. It does take some practice to get used to the XS sights but after that your groups shrink back to what you would normally expect using more precise sights. This pistol is a real shooter. After 50 rounds of assorted ammo I had a one hole group again of about 2 inches from ten yards. There were no stoppages or malfunctions of any type after 200 rounds. I can’t say enough about the feel and natural pointing of this Browning design. The man was a genius after all:-)
This HP has a matte black finish with nicely polished slide flats. A very handsome finish to be sure. You can see the thumb safety in this picture and the similarity to the C&S type. I get kidded a lot since most of my pistols have skateboard tape on the front of the grip but hey it works and provides a good solid non slip grip even with wet or sweaty hands in summer. You can normally get the tape from any skateboard shop for free since they have scraps lying around. Sometimes you can also find some at Walmart if you have no skateboard shops in your area. By the way the rounds pictured are Hornady TAP 124 grn’s. I picked up a box of these a few months ago. Since I have six loaded mags I left one loaded with these. Some may consider the 9MM an underpowered round but you have to remember that the 9MM round has undergone many very significant improvements in recent years. If you do your part this round and this gun will do it’s job very well.
To conclude the P-35 Hi Power is a time tested design that is still very popular after all these years. It’s a favorite of mine. I tend to rank the 1911 first but sometimes it’s almost a tie for first with the Hi Power. At worst I would rank it second finest pistol of all time. If you are in the market for a Hi Power or just a reliable as well as beautiful pistol you would be served well by this Daly version. Get a new one while they are still available!
Happy and Safe Shooting!
September 30, 2007
Update from Charles Daly 2/13/08:
I’ve learned some sad news directly from Charles Daly this afternoon. The Daly Hi Power has been discontinued. I really hate to hear this news since I think a lot of this gun. There are still some out there at various distributors so if you want a new one now is the time to get it. Of course all warranties are still in effect so that should be of no concern to any potential buyer. After these are gone we’ll just have to locate them on the firearm auctions websites. I did check with some distributors and was able to locate some of these hi powers. The prices are around $330 (includes shipping) to your FFL. Daly has reduced the prices for the remaining inventory.
Information From Charles Daly
For your readers, serial numbers beginning with HP—- were completed by Dan Wesson. Serial numbers beginning with HPM—- were completed by Magnum Research.
I’ve been comparing the Browning HiPower with the Charles Daly version and come up with some interesting conclusions. Now some may say there is no decision to make you can’t beat the original Browning. If a shooter comes to this conclusion that’s certainly fine but here’s some food for thought. I was able to find a Browning HiPower at Bass Pro Shop for $595.00 which is a very good price for a blued fixed sight Browning. I also found a Charles Daly HiPower for $399.00. Ok, $200 difference between these two guns. I’m sure I could find a Daly for less money but lets just go with the $200 difference in price.
Lets make some comparisons between these two fine guns. First the Browning Hi Power is assembled in Portugal from Belgian parts. No big deal on that count. Daly Hi Powers are a joint venture between KBI and FEG of Budapest, Hungary. They
manufacture most of the components and Magnum Research (Desert Eagle fame) doing the final machining, finishing, assembly and test firing here in the US. The Daly Hi Powers are very well made. They weren’t always fine guns (the 1911’s) but in the last ten years quality has been greatly improved.
CORRECTION: I’m not one to try and hide my errors. I asked a gunshop owner I know who makes the Daly Hi Power and was given incorrect information for which I apologize to readers and to Mr. Kassnar. Mr. Michael Kassnar of KBI wrote me to correct my error. I submit the following correspondence from Mr. Kassnar by way of correction. “Just to correct the record, KBI, manufacturer, importer and distributor of Charles Daly firearms, is an American company (incorporated in 1989) located in Harrisburg, PA. Our Hi-Power was the result of a joint venture with FEG of Budapest, Hungary, who manufactured most of the components and Magnum Research (Desert Eagle fame) doing the final machining, finishing, assembly and test firing here in the US. There are no Philippine parts at all in our Hi-Power. Our 1911’s are made in the Philippines by Armscor (same manufacturer as the RIA). Perhaps that is where the confusion came from. Other than that, thanks for the great review on this pistol. We feel it is the great Hi-Power value in the market.”
On to the feature comparison. The Browning has the standard ambi-safety which for me could be improved. The contour and surface area leave something to be desired for positive function. It’s a hard safety to manipulate and many Browning owners change this part out with a C&S thumb safety. The Daly has a single thumb safety but is designed much like those tactical safeties for the 1911. It has a wide flat upper surface which the thumb just naturally engages. The safety is also crisp whether flipping it up to safe or down to fire. The tension is perfect and very positive to engage. The trigger on the Browning is as always very heavy with very perceptible stacking as slack is taken up. This is because of the mag safety which is a useless feature and shouldn’t even be called a safety feature. This can be remedied by replacing the factory trigger with a C&S trigger which has no accommodation to reinstall the mag safety. This greatly improves the trigger pull. The Daly uses the same setup but for some reason the trigger is much, much better even with the mag safety in place. Since all parts between these guns are the same you can also replace the Daly trigger with the C&S for an even better trigger pull. My personal feeling is that once you bring the gun home that’s the first thing I would do is change out the trigger. One consideration is the legal ramifications should, heaven forbid, you ever had to use your gun in a violent encounter. Lawyers love to hang anyone who disengages what they term a safety device. This is a big consideration when having any custom work done on a gun. I can live with the Daly mag safety whereas the Browning trigger is just awful with the mag safety. One minor consideration for me is the hammer. The Browning uses a standard hammer which can bite you pretty good. The Daly uses the commander type which is easier on your hand. Next lets compare sights. The Browning has the usual higher profile plain black sights. Not ideal sights but certainly usable. The Daly has the XS sight system pictured above. It uses a large white dot on the front sight with a v notch on the rear with a vertical white post. You just place the dot on target on top of the rear post and fire. These are also available with tritium inserts from the factory. They also have an option of a larger dot in the front if you prefer. I know some don’t like these sights but after speaking with Sheriff Jim Wilson he agrees that these sights are very fast to get on target. If you are approaching 50 years old your older eyes appreciate this setup even more. Sheriff Wilson has these sights on his Walther PPK and several other of his guns. He also owns a Daly Hi Power. After testing it he bought it:-) These are the basic differences between the two guns but they are major differences. As Jeff Cooper said what you need on a fighting gun are sights you can see and a good trigger. Everything else is secondary in my opinion.
Cosmetically the Browning with a blue finish is beautiful as always. The Daly is also blued but doesn’t have that deep blue the Browning has. One thing Daly did was to get rid of the silver highlight stamping on the slide. I always though that was a bit gaudy. The new ones still have the large name on the slide but has no color to it. It looks much better this way. Both guns are attractive but you have to give the nod to Browning on the guns with the deep blue finish.
Now for the question—do you want to pay the extra $200 for the Browning name and beautiful blue finish and the need to do some type of work for a serviceable trigger which of course means spending more money. Will you be satisfied with the Browning sights or would you rather have a sight system that is superior and very fast on target. Can you live with the thumb safety on the Browning or would you rather have a Daly which already has a fine thumb safety? In short the Daly doesn’t really need anything done to it it’s fine as is or would you rather spend the extra money on the Browning? What did I decide to do? I’m going to buy the Daly. I’ve shot both guns a lot. They are both very accurate and reliable. The Daly is a little more accurate but I believe that’s because of the good trigger. The Browning suffers in accuracy because of a heavy trigger. What would I really like to do? Buy both and have the work done on the Browning but for me that’s not an option. Being a retired police officer I’ve had to save and before retiring work all kinds of off duty jobs to get the guns I have. Some great fellow shooters can afford to do what they want and more power to them but for most of us we have to choose between guns and plan ahead and of course save money for our guns.
One last thing. Do I feel comfortable with the 9MM. In short a resounding yes! Over the last ten years or so ammunition companies have made great strides in developing better loads for all calibers. The 9MM has probably benefited more from these improvements than any other round. Give me a Daly Hi Power loaded up with Speer Gold Dot 124 grn +P or the Remington Golden Saber 124 grn +P and I feel very well armed! One last comment. Stephan Camp is an authority on the Hi Power and has his website listed in the blogroll. He also puts out a very nice book on disassembly of the Hi Power and other reference material. Give his site a look it’s very informative.