The Browning Hi-Power vs Browning 1911

Hi Power vs 1911. Which Of JMB's Classic Guns To Get?

The question? Browning Hi Power vs 1911. The answer? That would be BOTH! Why settle for one when you can two for the price...of, um, two. Because both of these guns are awesome.

The 1911 Government Model 5 inch
The Browning Hi Power

You actually need to decide between them? Oh, fine. We'll go over the finer points of both pistols, and in fairness there are a few things to be aware of that may make one a better choice than the other. In either case, the end result is a pistol with some serious pedigree. Be aware, though, that if you're going to concealed carry a BHP or a 1911, you're making a commitment.

Browning Hi Power: The First Of The Wonder Nines

The Browning Hi Power is one, among many, of the classic guns designed by John Moses Browning. He didn't actually complete it, dying of a heart attack halfway through the project. The remainder of the work was done by Dieudonne Saive, who had already invented a staggered magazine for the pistol - the first double-stack. As the design specs called for chambering the 9mm round, the BHP is therefore the first of the "Wonder Nines."

The Hi-Power is or was the duty handgun for the military and police forces of nearly 70 countries worldwide, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and many more. Civilian shooters have enjoyed carrying and shooting them as well. The BHP is reliable, accurate, and has outstanding ergonomics.

The Hi-Power retains a lot of 1911 DNA, with a hammer-fired single-action operation (actually Saive's idea; Browning started with a striker-fired design) and a frame-mounted manual safety that only engages when the hammer is cocked. Thus, it's best carried cocked and locked. There is also a magazine disconnect safety. It also features a hinged trigger rather than the straight-travel trigger of the 1911. The barrel also deviates from the 1911, as it uses a falling-block design rather than a tilting link barrel.

The Hi-Power is a dyed-in-the-wool service pistol, with a 4.625-inch barrel, standing 5.02 inches tall, 7.75 inches long and 1.4 inches wide at the controls. However, the slide is 0.9 inches wide, making it one of the easier full-size, high-capacity pistols to carry in an IWB holster. It carries 13+1 of 9mm, and weighs in around 32 ounces unloaded.

Sights depend on the model. Older models have iron sights; recent models have modern three-dots.

However, pedigree costs. The Hi Power has just been discontinued as of this writing, but the base model starts at $1100.

Specs of the Browning Hi Power
    Specs of the Browning Hi Power:
  • Overall Length: 7.75"
  • Height: 5.02"
  • Width: 1.4"
  • Barrel Length: 4.625"
  • Weight: 32oz unloaded

The Mighty 1911

The 1911...well, just sort of speaks for itself. JMB designed it for the US armed forces, who issued it for 80 years as a primary sidearm until it was replaced by the Beretta M9. Today, certain units still issue it. It is one of the most popular pistols on the market today.

Ever want to see a Glock fanboy lose their mind? Mention a 1911. Drives them nuts!

The base model, called the Government frame, features a 5-inch barrel, standing 8.5 inches long, 5.5 inches tall and usually 1.2 inches wide at the controls but about 0.9 inches at the slide, which makes it popular for IWB carry just like the BHP.

Carry weight varies by manufacturer and materials used, but 40 ounces unloaded is typical. Carrying capacity is typically 7+1 of .45 ACP, but plenty of 8+1 magazines are out there. Sights can be simple iron sights, three-dot, night sights, competition all depends on who you get it from.

However, here's where things get interesting. The 1911 platform has evolved beyond the basic gun, as multiple frame sizes, frame configurations and chamberings are out there. Commander frames with 4.25-inch and 4-inch barrels, Officer frames with 3-inch to 3.625-inch barrels and shorter grips (4.5 to 5 inches in height) with reductions in capacity to match are available. Alternate chamberings include 9mm and .40 S&W among the other popular carry calibers, ¾-size guns in .380, and uber-powerful versions in .38 Super, .460 Rowland, .45 Super and, of course, the mighty 10mm Auto.

Railed and non-railed guns, double-stack magazine modifications...the sky is kind of the limit with 1911s. It all depends on what you want and what you're willing to spend. Imported GI-spec Government frames can be had for as little as $300, and handmade bespoke pistols can be had from anywhere from $3,000 to Cabot guns costing in excess of $1 million.

Specs of the 1911 Government Frame
    Specs of the 1911 Government Model:
  • Overall Length: 8.5"
  • Height: 5.5"
  • Width: 1.2"
  • Barrel Length: 5"
  • Weight: ~40oz unloaded

Hi-Power Vs. 1911: Depends On What You Want

If choosing between the Browning Hi Power vs kind of depends on what you want. If you prefer the Hi-Power, you know that you prefer the Hi-Power. You like a classic gun, but you want high capacity and in 9mm.

You probably also don't mind spending a bit to get what you want, because Hi Powers don't tend to come cheap though some bargains can be found on the used market. The base model gun is also lighter than the typical Gov't frame.

However, that may not be an issue because the 1911 isn't just the 5-inch model; there are Commander and Officer frames, even the micro 1911 pistols like the Sig P238 or P938, Colt Mustang and so on.

Really, if you lean more toward the 1911, the world is kind of your oyster. The diversity of the platform is pretty well established, so there's a variant of the gun for just about everyone. The 1911 can really be all things to all men...unless what you absolutely want is a Glock 19 or some other bit of tactical tupperware. It just depends on what features you're looking for and how much you're willing to spend. Want a rail for a light or laser? They got 'em. Target sights? Drop a set on or find a factory model with them. Prefer a bit more zip than 9mm? Get you some .38 Super or 10mm. Prefer an actual compact? CCO Commanders and Officer frames abound.

And so on and so forth; the platform's diversity is astounding.

There are a few bits to know about though, which may tilt you toward the 1911 vs Hi Power, or Browning Hi Power vs 1911 as the case may be.

Browning's Hi Power for Concealed Carry
1911 Government Model for Concealed Carry

The 1911 has a longer backstrap, as the grip safety extends further out than that of the Hi-Power. This lets you get a good grip, both high and tight. It also keeps you from suffering hammer bite, which the Hi Power is known for.

Vintage models of both are known to not digest hollow points very well, so a new barrel may be called for should you get an older model of either.

The Hi-Power also comes with a magazine safety, which some people don't care for. (It can be removed if desired.) The trigger pull is also a touch on the heavy side (because of the magazine safety) for a single-action gun, usually around 7 pounds.The 1911, on the other hand, usually - it depends on who makes it - has a crisp, clean, light trigger break around 5 pounds.

The 1911 will also be easier to modify with a greater selection of aftermarket parts for upgrades, in case you're looking to get a project gun. Not that the BHP can't be modified, but the 1911 can be modified more.

Also, you'll want to handle and shoot both. If you find one is easier for you to operate, point, shoot and hit with...that's the one you should get. The on-paper specs only tell you so much.

When you head to the range to test these legacies for yourself, use the free printable Alien Gear Holsters corrective targets!

Corrective target for left-handed shooters, click the image to download!

left-handed corrective target

Corrective target for right-handed shooters, click the image to download!

right-handed corrective target

About The Author

Writer sam hoober