of us are familiar with the Browning High Power. The High
Power or P 35 is among the most successful military pistols of
all time, and immensely popular with civilian shooters world
wide as well. Over
the years there have been various attempts at converting the
single action High Power to a double action design, but few have
been successful. Recently, FN or Fabrique Nationale
has introduced a pistol
that appears to be a successful transition of the High Power
into a modern double action only handgun.
While many professionals prefer the single action design
for sound reasons, practical considerations prevent the single
action from being adopted for general police issue. The new pistol not only makes the most of the concept, it
offers genuine improvements over the original High Power.
pistol is intended as a law enforcement product and is marked FN
HP DAO, but the handgun is available to all buyers. At present,
the pistol is available in 9mm Luger only.
pistol is offered in a compact version, a first for FN
production of the High Power. There have been clones of the High
Power offered in ‘Detective’ format and numerous low
production runs or prototypes, but this is the first general
production run of the compact High Power.
When examining the HP DAO, the gun is recognizable as a
Browning derivative, but the pistol is far different from
the High Power. It is obvious some effort has been made to
preserve the outline of the High Power while offering
considerable improvements. Over the years there have been
criticisms of the High Power design centered upon longevity and
ruggedness. The pistol is reliable but there are certain trouble
spots. The FN HP
features a redesigned extractor that will answer many of these
complaints. The frame and slide are different and even the magazines
differ from the High Power. This is a thoroughly modern handgun.
The sights are high visibility and the finish a dull matte that
should prove durable in service.
FN features a newly designed firing pin block that is quite
the trigger is fully pressed to the rear, the firing pin block,
located at the rear of the slide, rises slightly. When this
block rises, the hammer may strike the firing pin. At any other
time the firing pin is positively blocked from any access to the
hammer. This answers the need for a positive firing pin block or
drop safety in modern production.
As for the FN’s trigger compression, it is surprisingly
smooth with a short travel.
Total compression is right at 9 ½ pounds.
This is an outstanding double action only trigger press.
The action is not set by the slide, the trigger may be pulled
again and again in practice. This design also offers a second
strike capability in case of a dud round. The pistol features a
hooked trigger guard and modern thumb swell grips. There is no
manual safety or decocking lever and none is needed. The slide
stop is an extended affair that worked well in practice.
The magazine release is all Browning, easily reached by
short fingers but not apt to drop the magazine at an inopportune
moment. Overall, a
very nice pistol, well designed and executed.
pistol is a compact version, featuring a 3 ½ inch barrel.
The pistol tips the scales at 32 ounces.
A sole criticism of the pistol in several weeks of
testing and evaluation was the grips or stocks. They could have
been more compact, without the thumb rest. This would have made for a more concealable handgun and one
more friendly to small hands.
Just the same, no one felt the pistol was too large for
their hands. Thinner grips would have been more comfortable.
firing test produced no surprises, as we expected the handgun to
be reliable. But we were pleased with the smoothness of the
double action trigger as well as a complete lack of interference
from the hammer. The spurless hammer was most unobtrusive in
rapid fire or in handling drills. The pistol was field stripped
and lubricated with a good coat of Birchwood Casey gun
oil before the initial testing, and we have enjoyed several
range sessions with the handgun.
counts with a personal defense handgun is quick down-and-dirty
shooting, and this gun excels in that regard.
The HP DAO comes onto the target quickly. The trigger is
controllable and the handgun does not exhibit uncomfortable
recoil. I found I could draw, get on target, and get two or
three quick hits ACCURATELY placed as well as with any handgun
at five to seven yards. In short, this is an excellent handgun
for general defense use. At
longer ranges the single action pistol is easier to make a hit
with, and larger guns will also show an advantage, but keep in
mind this is a compact pistol designed to be comfortably carried
for long periods of time with a minimum of tugging on the
trousers. In that light, this is a successful design. The pistol
holds ten rounds in the abbreviated magazine, giving a full
eleven rounds on tap for defensive situations. The older High
Power magazines will not fit this gun, so be certain to order
the correct spares.
the test fire stage, I used inexpensive ball ammunition for the
most part. This included the Cullman, Alabama produced Zero
remanufactured ammunition, an excellent source for inexpensive
practice ammunition, and my own hand loads using Sierra
115 grain FMJ bullets over HP 38 powder. There were no failures
to feed, chamber, fire or eject in firing over 350 rounds of
to my ready range bag, I found a mixture of jacketed hollow
point loads ranging in weight from 90 to 147 grains and velocity
ranges of 900 to 1350 fps.
There were no failures to feed or cycle of any type.
In short, the HP DAO proved reliable with the popular
defense loads as well as ball ammunition.
Unlike many older designs, this pistol is not picky about
its ammunition. The
question of accurate shot placement is answered with trigger
control, and the pistol proved capable of centering its load of
ordnance at 15 yards. The sights were well regulated for 115
grain JHP ammunition. Firing off a solid barricade from a distance of 15 yards,
using proper trigger control and taking care with sight picture,
sight alignment, and follow-through, I obtained the following
115 grain FMJ
115 grain JHP
Sierra 115 grain FMJ / HP 38
Sierra 115 grain JHP / Titegroup
124 grain Hydra Shock
147 grain Hydra Shock
limiting factor is the long double action trigger, but this
trigger offers a good cadence in rapid fire and is a simple
mechanism well suited to personal defense.
Simply draw, line the sights up, and fire.
That simplicity has much appeal to many shooters.
Overall, I find the HP DAO a good handgun well suited to
the rigors of personal defense.
Of the many handguns I have tested in the past few years,
this is among the highest quality to cross my desk, with obvious
care in manufacture and attention to detail.
It should serve well.
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