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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
@zrozulu asked this in the general firearms section.


LGS has an unfired Browning on consignment for 899. First is that a good price? And second, what should I look for in one? Thanks.

I see this come up a lot here and other places. So I thought I would share some of my limited knowledge on the BHP with the forum. I hope this helps someone looking to purchase one or learn more about them. I am not a BHP expert by any means but I own over 12 currently and another 5-7+ have come in and out of the collection over the years. I love to shoot them and love the history and the story behind the gun. Many attribute the design to JMB which is only partially true. He did design a gun based on Saive's 13 round double stack mag but it is not the gun we shoot today. This is JMBs last pistol patent. It was known as the Grand Rendement.





Dieudonné Saive who was the lead designer at FN Herstal, designer of the FN FAL, refined and completed the pistol we call the Grande Puissance, Browning High Power, Browning Hi Power, P35 etc... after JMB died. IMHO it is more Saive than Browning but that is a discussion for another thread. FN named the pistol after Browning out of respect for JMB who they referred to as "le Maitre”, The Master and because of the huge marketing power the JMB named had at the time. Some people incorrectly list Saive as JMBs assistant at FN Herstal but this was not the case. JMB was not a FN Herstal employee he was a contractor.

The BHP has been discontinued by FN Herstal. Since that announcement prices have moved upwards. The old take back has driven up prices but that does not mean you should overpay IMHO. Another factor is that the surplus market is drying up which used to be the best source for quality used BHPs. Today the range for stock BHPs runs from $450-$2000+ depending on a lot of factors. $450 represents surplus guns which have been road hard and put away wet. The over $2,000 range is getting into collector guns some of which are very limited production variants which have high collector appeal but are not necessarily better shooters. Some people pay a premium for one vs the other. The reasons for this are somewhat based in fact and somewhat based in myth. In really broad strokes I breakdown BHPS into 5ish distinct variations. Within each of these there are subset which make one pistol more or less unique and therefore more or less valuable to some people. The 5 variants are as follows:

  • Internal extractor guns which broadly covers all BHP up to about 1962. There is some over lap and you may find some internal extractor guns with date codes after 1962 but that is the generally accepted data. There are many variants and many configurations under this broad heading but all of them have the internal extractor design. The thumb print on the original design was removed in the 1959-1960 range. The internal extractor is no longer made by FN and has a reputation for breaking which some site as the reason for the production change but cost to manufacture the part and assemble the part contributed to the change. I do not recommend these as heavy shooters. They are the most "fragile" of the BHPs IMHO. It is not that they cannot be shot but the parts availability along with the softer forgings can be a issue with high round counts. The guns in the right condition get the some of the highest prices especially the tangent models with shoulder stock. These guns are in the collector range so prices swing wildly. Any internal extractor gun should be priced based on condition, authenticity, vintage and verification of correct date codes. My advice with these is be careful if you don't know what you are looking at.




  • The T series which is the first external extractor BHP. As others have noted many people consider these post WWII guns to be the best of the BHP in terms of fit and finish. The T was added to BHP serial numbers as an inventory code and accounting designation. Early Ts might have the older rust bluing but most guns by 1962-1963 get salt bluing which was a cost saving measure. Oddly this process created a deeper darker blue-black finish which is one of the things coveted about the T series. The real difference in the T series bluing compared to those that followed is that they were the last BHPs to be hand polished. They also received a lot of hand fitting which ended in 1970 when the polishing was done by machine. They still have the smaller half moon sights and original nub thumb safety. Some have tangent or adjustable sights. They make great shooters but many people are buying them for collector value. They also are one of the few frames that can be checkered by people like Mr. Yost because of the location of the serial number on the frame below the ejection port vs the front strap found on later BHPs. People pay premium for these guns. It is rare to see one sell for less than $800 and many go as high a $1,5000+ if they appear to be unshot and have all the accessories like original mags and the black leather pouch.






  • The C series comes next. The general accepted dates for the C series is 1970 but there are many C series guns that have a 1969 date code with a serial number placement identical to the T series. Most C series guns after 1970-1971 have the frame serial number placed on the front grip strap. The Ring hammer was replaced by a Spur hammer by 1970. You will see some C69s with ring hammers. By 1970 the bluing and the polishing of the BHP has moved to a high automated process. Some people consider them a step down from the T. Except for the spur hammer, the bluing, polishing, a serial number change the C series is identical to the T. The C was simply another inventory designation change. When FN introduced the C series they serial number contains the date of production. The first 2 numbers following the C are the year of production of the frame. These are excellent guns and are typically cheaper than T series. They came in fixed sights, adjustable and tangent sight models. If you are lucky you can find one in the $600 range but most good examples are going to cost $700-$1000 with some variants pushing higher.




  • In 1975 the C series naming convention is replaced by a machine engraved 2 letter date code system. The first 3 numbers are the model number and the the two letters which are the date code. You can refer to the late Mr Camps sight for the coding system. Somewhere in this timeframe from 1973-1980 the final assembly production of the BHP moved to Portugal. Guns were not marked "Made in Portugal" until the 1980s but there are indications that production was moved before the roll marked changed. These 2 letter date code guns after 1975-1981 are essentially C series guns without the C series serial number. No other changes were made in their production. These guns are generally priced lower than true C series guns. $600-$900 depending on condition and configuration.
https://hipowersandhandguns.com/Hi Power Dates of Manufacture.htm
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
  • MKII was introduced in 1981. It was largely a change meant to update the BHP into a more "modern" pistol. The sights on the gun are improved but by todays standard are not modern. Adjustable sights were still offered but you see less of them in MKIIs. These guns also have what is referred to as a hog nose bushing. The bushing on an MKII protrudes from the front of the frame more than any other vintage of BHPs.

    The finishes on these pistols were parkerized but some were either dark gray, nearly black, and dark green on others. Some different finishes like nickel and hard chrome are also produced in smaller numbers. The hard chrome brings a high premium. I believe that some MKIIs were still blued for the commercial market. The grips were changed to a black checkered nylon vs traditional French walnut. Many started to ship with lanyard rings. The MKII as a small hole drilled in the front of the slide under the muzzle which I assume was to let water run out of the frame. The spur hammer of the C series continued.

    Early production runs did not have the internal firing pin block but Mk II pistols made later did. Another big change was that the feed ramp was altered on the Mk II. The humped feed ramp found on early guns was removed and the ramp was throated. This helped the gun feed JHP and non-ball ammo. The early MKIIs do not have a firing pin safety block. Later guns do. These are still forged frame pistols and for many that makes a difference. The mainspring was also changed to 32lbs from 26-28lbs in the late 70s so all MKIIs have the heavier mainspring. Tons of these were brought into the US as surplus guns so consideration should be made for commercial vs surplus examples. $550-$800 is IMHO the going rate for these guns


Hard Chromed MKII




Mix Master MKII 1/2 Forged Frame Ring Hammer






  • MKIII This was the last major change to the BHP. With the introduction of the 40 s&W caliber in the US FN moved to adapt the MKIII to the caliber. The forged frame of the BHP did not hold up to the additional pressure of the new round. FN moved to a cast frame. They could have done it with a forged frame but it was cheaper to go with a cast frame. This changed the outer dimensions of the frame ever so slightly. The cast frame was also used in the 9mm version. You can tell a BHP is cast because it has serrations in the grip area. This hold true for almost all BHPs. There are some very early cast MKIIs which do not have these lines but will have a casting mark inside the magwell. There are also early forged frame MKIIIs. For many traditionalists these guns are desirable as base guns because they retain the characteristics of the forged frame but represent the strongest of the forged guns in term of the frame. Still for a hard use guns it is hard to beat a cast MKIII.

    In this version we get dovetailed front and rear sights. The top rib of the MKII is gone. Standard grips are not a molded plastic. Some models come with traditional wood grips or rubber Pachmayrs. The ejection port shape was also changed. The finish on the standard gun is an epoxy which is a pretty solid finish but blued models are still available. The tutone Practical is also introduced in both fixed and adjustable sight models. All these guns have firing pin block safeties. The MKIII was the version in production before the gun was discontinued. These price out in the $600-$1000 range again depending on configuration. These were $1000 MSRP guns NIB. So to pay $1000 for new old stock is not absurd. I personally would not pay that much but it is not out of the realm.
MKIII Practical Cast Frame



MKIII Forged Frame






With the BHP there are huge number or variations. There are tons of "contract" guns that have added value to to where they went and how many were produced. There are also Nazi proof marked guns which were made during the occupation. The BHP was the only gun to be issued by both sides of the war. These are the only BHPs to be made without a magazine disconnect. These are some of the poorest examples of fit and finish. Lots of myths surround why they are that way. Some believe the workers at FN sabotaged production. Others state that the speed of production cause the proof quality. There is a market for Nazi stuff but I have no insight there as that is not my thing.

When considering a BHP I always take into consideration what I am going to do with it. Will it remain stock. Will it be more of a collector piece, even collector pieces in my safe gt shot, or is it a working gun. Will it be carried. Will I customize it. Etc.... different vintages offer advantages for different purposes. I have customized T series, C Series MKIIIs, MKII, Alloy BHPs etc...

With vintage guns you need to get out your FN decoder ring. You can't rely on the serial number to tell the story. FN reused serial numbers. Their internal account and records were more art than science. Individual contracts could specify serial number ranges so there are duplicated out there and a particular serial number range does not always equal a particular date range. You can look for proof marks and inspector marks. Like an old 1911 or M1 Garand if you know what to look for you can find date codes and inspector marks to determine the date of production. If you are looking to pay a premium for pre T series or even T guns knowing how to decode the gun can help you to determine value. The date codes built into the serial numbers on C series and later guns is pretty reliable. It is T series and earlier where the waters are pretty muddy.

My recommendations are as follows.
  • If you are looking for a shooter that you intend to put a high number of rounds down the pipe get an early forged frame MKIII or cast frame MKIII. These guns will take the most punishment and make great base guns.
  • If you want a example of old world craftsmanship get a T series but you are going to pay a premium for it. Pay extra for condition. If you get one with flaws and your intention was to have a safe queen beauty the blemishes will bother you down the road.
  • If you want a beater look on gun broker at the surplus guns. I recommend dwjimports because his auctions show the actual gun you are getting. HE also hides the import mark discreetly on the barrel. His rating are conservative and if it says Good most likely it is close to VG. https://www.gunbroker.com/All/search?IncludeSellers=4167750
  • If you want to customize a gun and have the front strap checkered look for T series guns, Early C series guns, MKIII Practicals, MKII & MKIII chromed guns and FN Herstal Rollmarked MKIIIs. These all have the serial number on the side of the frame and can be checkered. Not all these frames are thick enough to be checkered.
  • C series are nice compromise if you are looking for a classic looking BHP without paying the high premium for a T series.
Feel free to correct anything I have posted. I would love to hear from other members about their thoughts on the BHP. I hope this can serve as a starting point for people looking at BHPs.


 

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Thanks for taking the time to make this post. It should be a sticky.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
This needs to be a sticky.

Thank you WVsig for this information. I have always loved the BHP, but because of the bite I used to get when I had one, I went with CZs and Berettas.
A C&S or Novak hammer can fix that for most people.

This really just brushes the surface but its a good start and place for people to get some basic info.
 

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I really appreciate your time to post this. I so want a HP to send to Yost or maybe Karl. I want a custom HP. They can be things beauty but also very functional. Just like our beloved 1911. Might be the tryptophan talking but I want a c&r eligible base that can be checkered. Could be the bourbon too I guess. Off to gunbroker to spend too much $ on a base gun.
 

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Thanks for taking the time to make this post. It should be a sticky.
+1911 thanks from me too and Dan is right.make it a sticky for all to enjoy
 
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
WVsig thank you for taking the time to write and post this information. Out of curiosity, what is your opinion of the MK III Capitan? Thanks.


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They are good guns if you like the sights. If money was no option I would prefer a C&R version with a stock but those are pricey. IIRC the MIIIs don’t have a stock cut. The T series have a nicer finish but again will cost you more and will not hold up to high round counts.
 

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Very cool

I only care for early 70’s and prior. I’ve got one 1972 C Series Sport model (second from right). The rest are from the 60’s, two T Series, and two commercial models built earlier with straight serial numbers and internal extractors.

The 1980 GP Competition on the far right isn’t a pretty gun, but they shoot great. Much better trigger than the standard BHP...


Brown Gun Firearm Tan Trigger
 

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Dragging this one up (it's good info, regardless). I'm looking at a PY date code Hi Power. Finish is a little rough with nicks on the slide. It is not a full MkII in that it does not have the rib on the slide or the hole at the front. It does appear to have the "hog nose" bushing. Does that fit with an '82 gun?

Also, what would you expect to pay for something like that in this market?
 

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Very nice write indeed. My first take on the HP when issued to my group outside of CONUS. It served us all very well. Sorry its all classified. Hey I survived.
 
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