The Browning Hi-Power is a single action 9 mm semi-automatic pistol. It is based on a design by American firearms inventor John Browning and later improved by Dieudonné Saive at Fabrique Nationale. Browning died in 1926, several years before the design was finalized. It was finished in 1935.
John Moses Browning patented his first self-loading pistol in 1894, and the model shown here was his last before his death in 1926, although it was not formally introduced until 1935. Most of his earlier pistols had been relatively small-caliber pocket models, worked by simple blowback and relying on the inertia of a heavy slide and spring to control the backward action, but in his last version he decided on a locked breach system more appropriate to the relatively heavy round it was designed to fire.
When the first, manually loaded round was fired, the barrel and slide recoiled briefly together until a shaped cam unlocked them. The barrel then stopped but the slide continued to the rear before the compressed spring forced it forward, stripping a round from the magazine in the butt and chambering it for the next shot.
The pistol, which originally had a tangent backsight and a detachable rifle-type stock, was made by Fabrique Nationale but, just before Germans overran Belgium in 1940, the plans were removed and sent to Canada. Here the firm of John Inglis continued to manufacture them, although with a fixed instead of a tangent sight and without the detachable stock. The Germans also kept the Belgian factory going for its own use but it is generally believed that so many were deliberately sabotaged by the Belgian workmen that those bearing German markings are not to be trusted. After WW2, production at the Belgian factory resumed and the pistol is now standard issue for many countries.