The Browning Hi Power is truly one of the world’s greatest firearms. Introduced nearly 85 years ago, it was the military or police sidearm for many countries for most of that time.
Somewhat similar in appearance to the 1911, the Hi Power shares many of the same design attributes. The pistol points naturally and feels comfortable in the hand. It is single-action and hammer-fired with a thumb safety, slide release and magazine release that are logically placed for a right-handed shooter. Designed before left-handed people were a consideration, the pistol lacks ambidextrous or reversible controls, although some later production models did include an ambidextrous thumb safety. The Hi Power does not have a grip safety and is quite different internally from the 1911.
Function is via John Browning’s tilting barrel design but the Hi Power uses a cam rather than a pivoting link to lock and unlock the barrel from the slide. The trigger is pinned into the frame and pivots rather than slides to release the sear. It also uses a mechanical disconnect that prevents lowering the hammer if the magazine is removed. Further departing from its 1911 roots, the Hi Power is built to accept a double-stack magazine. It is this double-stack magazine, able to accept 13 rounds of 9 mm Luger ammo, that set the Hi Power apart from other sidearms of its time and gave it its start to becoming a stalwart in the firearm community.
The Browning Hi Power has been produced by Fabrique Nationale in Belgium and also under license by a number of other nations. It has also been copied and outright cloned without FN’s blessing. Despite its worldwide popularity and excellent reputation as a duty handgun, the Hi Power has been largely replaced by more modern (less expensive to produce) firearms. As a result of these slumping global sales, the Hi Power has now been officially discontinued by FN and its licensees, much to the disappointment of the shooting public. Fortunately, the Turkish firm TISAS (Trabzon Silah Sanayi A.Ş.) is producing a faithful copy. This copy, called the Regent BR9, is now being imported into the United States by LKCI Limited in Heath, Ohio.
The Regent BR9 is available in carbon steel with a black Cerakote finish as well as stainless steel with a bead-blasted matte finish. This makes the BR9 the first and only mass production Hi Power I'm aware of to be available in stainless steel. Fit and finish on these pistols appears excellent. Both the painted and the stainless models are nicely machined and free of crooked lines, rough tool marks or dangerously sharp edges. Sights fit cleanly without any large or unsightly gaps showing underneath. The BR9 appears to be a clone of the Belgian original but is an interesting mix of old and new features. Front and rear sights are dovetailed in and are a 3-dot type. The pistol uses the latest pattern flat feed ramp for reliability with hollow point ammunition. It also has the slightly larger ejection port that was standard on the late production Hi Power pistols. Departing from the later Browning pistols, the BR9 does not have an active firing pin block safety. Also departing from the late production guns, the BR9 uses the old style flat serrated safety and the early pattern big ring hammer.
Have you heard the fable of the scorpion and the frog? I’m reminded of this story when I consider the “old school” big ring hammer used in the BR9. This hammer, combined with the Hi Power’s short grip tang, is notorious for causing painful and severe hammer bite and was eventually replaced by Browning with a spur hammer. The spur hammer might not be as aesthetically pleasing as the original round hammer but it certainly makes the gun more pleasant to shoot. Why did TISAS use the round hammer? Like the scorpion, it stings by its nature. That’s what it does. This original hammer shape, in my opinion, should be replaced in future production with some type of “no bite” hammer. Fortunately for me, I found that a factory FN spur hammer and ambidextrous MKIII safety fit into my stainless example with no issues. This not only changed the pistol’s shooting characteristics (no more hammer bite) but also changed the overall appearance. With the FN parts installed, the BR9 takes on a more modern look. Not as classic as the ring hammer or flat safety but certainly more in keeping with what most shooters will likely want in a pistol of this type.
Other suggestions? Yes. I have a couple. While the wood grips supplied with the pistols look good they don't fit as well as they should. The left grip panel of a test sample rocked clockwise or counterclockwise slightly, no matter how tight the grip screw was. This, of course, is easily corrected by installing a set of aftermarket grips from LOK, VZ, Hogue or many others. Another suggestion regarding aesthetics is that there are a few lines and radii that don't match the Browning original. This is primarily true around the grip tang and is really nothing more than a cosmetic issue. Lastly, while the pistols’ sights all fit well and shot point of aim on the test guns, I would prefer a rear sight that mates up flush with the rear of the slide. This would give the BR9 a cleaner and more finished profile. While we're at it, I would like to see the BR9 use genuine Novak sights or at least the common Novak sight cuts rather than what appears to be proprietary dovetails. This would allow the shooter to easily purchase different pattern sights if he so chooses. Don't get me wrong. I like the factory sights on the pistol but wish they were based on a standard pattern.
On the range, I experienced recurrent failures to extract with both stock pistols. Another troubling occurrence was a cracked firing pin retaining plate. While it is not uncommon for firing pin retaining plates to break, it’s usually not within the first few hundred rounds. I reported these issues to the importer, who promptly sent me replacement extractors and firing pin plates. The importer assured me that the extractor has been redesigned and the material used in the firing pin stop has been changed. Current production pistols will have the new parts installed at the factory and anyone owning one of these pistols having extraction issues should contact LKCI about getting a new extractor under warranty. Out of curiosity, I replaced the extractor in the stainless BR9 with an extractor and spring from Cylinder & Slide. These parts dropped into the gun without any issues whatsoever.
While never as popular with American shooters as the beloved 1911, the Browning Hi Power has still been a favorite choice for some of the country’s top pistolsmiths, including Bill Laughridge of Cylinder & Slide. Laughridge has been building custom Hi Powers for decades and has probably done as much or more with the platform than anyone else in the country. He is now using these Turkish imports as base models for custom builds and was gracious enough to loan me three different pistols for evaluation. Two guns have been customized to the Package One Plus level while the third is a more complete custom build that includes new sights, stippling to the front and rear grip surfaces and a beavertail extension. Feed ramps and extractor surfaces have been checked and polished for maximum reliability on all three guns and the mag disconnect feature has been removed.
The C&S pistols were tested for accuracy using the same method as the two stock TISAS pistols and were fired from a rest at 25 yards using three different loads. I also used these custom pistols from the holster for a few basic shooting drills. The triggers were clean, predictable and consistent. Naturally, the pistols functioned perfectly, and I experienced no malfunctions of any kind. Accuracy from these pistols is acceptable but would no doubt increase greatly with the addition of a full gunsmith fit match barrel.
Laughridge also provided me with a detailed inspection report of the BR9. Here are the highlights:
We have done a complete Rockwell hardness check on all of the critical areas of the slide, frame, and internal parts. The RC hardness is greater than the Browning Hi Power was in the slide locking lugs, slide breech face, and the barrel cam in the frame. The barrel chamber and rifling are very clean. The slide to frame fit is better than most of the Browning Hi Powers but still has some play.
The cast frame is fully machined in all of the critical areas as was the Browning. There appear to be no MIM parts in the pistol.
The Turkish Hi Power clone is very good in all respects. The only part that is different is the sear pin. It is .002” larger than the Browning/FN sear pin.
The serial number is on the side of the frame so we can make our Pathfinder mini Hi Power out of these. The only Hi Powers that we could use were the FN pistols because they had the serial number on the side of the frame. The Browning Hi Powers were marked on the front strap so the BATF would not allow us to move the serial number when we shortened the frame.
The edges of the pistol are clean and crisp. However, for a carry pistol I would personally want to have a carry bevel done to eliminate the crisp edges.
Anyone interested in buying a custom build, build parts, or having an existing gun tuned should contact Cylinder and Slide for more info. Several custom packages are available from Cylinder and Slide ranging from a light polish and tune to a full custom option like the one tested here.
The stock BR9 pistols appear to be fine in their own right albeit with a few minor modifications required. Those interested in buying a stock Regent BR9 as a range toy or as a base gun for later customization should visit the Brownell’s website.
Now that FN in Belgium has stopped making the Browning Hi Power, it will be interesting to see how the TISAS fills the void. Will this Turkish version become the “go to" for Hi Power aficionados and gunsmiths? Certainly the stainless steel model offers many interesting possibilities. My hope is that these pistols do well in the market and eventually lead to a new series of Hi Power pistols not previously available outside of expensive custom work. Who wouldn't welcome a pistol with a factory extended beavertail? What about a lightweight option with an aluminium frame and a mounting rail for a weapon light? My fingers are crossed on future prospects. The fact that Cylinder & Slide is building on these pistols speaks well of their potential.
TISAS REGENT BR9 Specifications:
Manufacturer: TISAS (Trabzon Silah Sanayi A.Ş.)
Importer: LKCI Limited
Action: Semi-Auto, Single-Action
Finish: Matte Stainless Steel or Black Cerakote
Barrel Length: 4.6”
Overall Length: 7.75”
Weight: 1.84 lbs.
Sights: Fixed, drift adjustable. 3-dot
MSRP: $599 Stainless, $559 Black Cerakote. $1,125.72 Cylinder and Slide PKG1 Plus Stainless, $1,093.47 Cylinder and Slide PKG1 Plus Black, $2,440.29 Cylinder and Slide Custom Matte Blue