The Perfect Hi Power
A very frequent discussion topic amongst Hi Power fans concerns itself with the "perfect" Hi Power, i.e., changes that would be made to correct perceived deficiencies in the existing design. I'm frequently asked my opinion on this subject and will post it here, but before doing so, I suggest that what's "perfect" for me might not be for any other living soul.
It might also help to understand that my frame of reference is that of the shooter. I am neither a collector nor a historian on FN Hi Power pistols. I like to shoot Hi Powers and like to shoot them lots. For this reason, you'll probably figure that my suggestions will concern themselves with long term durability in a big way. I also really like 9mm and am not so fond of .40 S&W. My "perfect" Hi Power will be a 9mm.
Those of us wedded to the Hi Power or P-35 are primarily most pleased with both the gun's "feel" and its looks. My ideas are meant to alter this as little as possible, but will probably preclude many existing Hi Power parts from working in this imaginary pistol. One sure exception would be the magazine. My perfect Hi Power would be 100% compatible with current 9mm Hi Power magazines so private citizens could use the Pre-Ban original and high capacity ones.
Barrel: The barrel would retain the one-piece feed ramp and I would want the chamber as fully supported as possible. The barrel would have 3 locking lugs rather than 2, imitating the current .40 Hi Power barrel. A current potential problem area in heavily used Hi Powers can be the locking lugs. With a steady diet of hot loads, a standard recoil spring, and frequently a reduced mainspring, these can round with use. This will result in premature unlocking of the barrel and slide. Having the extra lug's surface and engagement would probably alleviate this completely in 9mm.
Though a goodly number of us do shoot lead bullets through our 9mm Hi Powers, I suspect strongly that most use jacketed ammunition. For that reason, I'd leave the pitch at 1:10." In my experience, this has proven to be very good with both 115 and 124-grain bullets. It has also proven very good with the 147-grain slugs. The internal diameter would remain unchanged, but I would opt for a barrel that is made of stainless steel, but finished in an extremely fine matte as per the STI Trojan barrels. The last half-inch of the barrel going toward the muzzle would be approx. 0.05" larger diameter to help insure a tight lock up as the gun goes into battery. Hopefully, with today's computer assisted machining, barrel to slide fit could be very, very precise. The crown would be polished and recessed and would extend very, very little past the front of the bushing. The same open slot arrangement would be used, as would the recoil spring guide's relationship to the barrel and slide stop lever. Internally the barrel would be extremely smooth for minimized fouling whether shooting lead or jacketed bullets. In short, my perfect Hi Power's barrel would be a precisely fitted match grade one capable of extreme use. For reasons to be more fully explained later, the cam slot might need to be a bit larger. It would not matter to me if the barrel were constructed from one piece or two, as current ones are so long as quality and durability are equivalent.
Slide: Other than the extra cut for the third lug, the slide on "my" Hi Power would be about the same as the existing one on current pistols, but there would be no internal firing pin safety. In my opinion, it is unnecessary and while the current one is much less complex than those found on other designs, it does require a cut in the bottom of the slide that might weaken the slide. There have been a couple of reports of current Hi Power slides cracking at the rear of this cut, but from what I've been able to learn, this is not widespread. While the problem might be more theoretical than likely, I'd just as soon eliminate the possibility altogether.
The lateral hole in the slide through which the roll pin that the sear lever pivots on would be set up as per the Competition model for a better trigger pull. (The necessary corresponding changes in the lifter and trigger would be made as well. In short, the gun would have the trigger "chain" of the Competition model.)
The slide serrations, ejection port, lightening cuts at the front would all remain the same. The permanent bushing would be "flat" as per existing Mk III pistols, not "protruding" quite as much as some of the mid to late '70's C guns nor the Mk II.
The slot for the retaining plate would be a couple of hundredths wider to allow for a slightly thicker retaining plate to avoid cracking as sometimes occurs at the 7 O' Clock position on existing Hi Power retaining plates.
The slides would continue to forged.
Extractor: It would continue to be of the same dimensions, etc as it is now. The spring would be extra strength as sold currently by Wolff.
Sights: I'd look long and hard at Novak's new adjustable sight that looks very much like his existing fixed rear sight. This appears to be a compact and hopefully durable enough sight and is small enough that should changes be deemed necessary down the road, they could be done. An example might be changing the rear sight to something like a Heine or Bomar. The front sight would be dovetailed in and a semi post, much like what exists today. I'd prefer my sights plain black on black with a serrated front.
Hammer: I'd have no problem at all with using the existing Cylinder & Slide Type I ring hammer or a spur hammer similar to the current factory one, but it would need to have an abbreviated spur to avoid biting. The hammer (and sear) would be made of the strongest possible steel, but the hammer and sear from C & S would probably be fine. I don't require the thinning of the hammer shank to avoid pinching so my "perfect" Hi Power wouldn't have it. I would like the edges of the hammer to be discreetly beveled.
Magazine Disconnect: None.
Thumb Safety: I find the existing thumb safety to be very comfortable and would opt for one of the same general design. Like the "perfect" hammer/sear, it would be of the finest steel. As they get in my way, "my" gun's thumb safety would be single-sided and for a right handed shooter. The plunger would be more pointed like the C & S version with appropriate detents in the slide for more positive positioning.
Magazine Release: I have no issues with the existing magazine release so it would be fine on this pistol.
Trigger: As mentioned earlier, any necessary changes for the trigger to work with a sear lever and lifter designed for the Competition linkage would be made. There would be no provision for a magazine "safety" and for me, the existing width of the trigger is fine.
Slide Release: I have no problem with the current slide release lever.
Frame: For my "perfect" Hi Power, I would want the frame as near existing dimensions as possible and don't care if it's forged, milled from a billet of steel, or cast. I want the one that will last the longest, and take the greatest amount of shooting. When discussing the barrel, I mentioned that the cam slot might need to be a bit larger. Another weak point on the Hi Power seems to be the cam that the barrel sits on. If at all possible, this would be made a bit larger and of the strongest possible steel. The trade-off must not be weakening the barrel around the cam slot, but if possible, I'd like to see the cam possibly beefed up.
The Hi Power has a pretty short tang. Some like the extended tang and I'd be willing to have one extended a quarter inch or so if it can be done without major changes to the hammer. Another person's "perfect" Hi Power might need a drastically altered hammer for a very extended tang.
The front strap would be kept at the same contours as much as possible, but I would make it about 0.03" thicker so that checkering could be done without unduly weakening this area. This might also allow for at least a slight bevel of the magazine well. Whether anything was done, I'd like to see this area strengthened a bit. "My" Hi Power would probably be stippled on the front grip strap from the bottom of the grip to the bottom of the rear of the trigger guard. If the front was stippled, the rear would be done the same way, but only up to about the height of the grip screws. Above that would be smooth. The gun's serial number would be on the bottom of the dust cover in front of the trigger guard.
Finish: I'd be happy with a matte blue for the frame. The slide would have polished bright blue slide flats with the top a matte blue, as would be the rear of the slide. The trigger, safety, grip screws, hammer, slide release lever would all be finished in the dull gray NP3, as would all pins in the gun.
Stocks: Black, checkered Spegel delrin grips.
I would expect the gun to have a crisp 4-lb trigger. I understand that the reset will never match that of the 1911, but do think the trigger could easily meet that goal with the Competition-type trigger set-up. To that end and with the extra locking lug, I'd be willing to see the mainspring reduced from 32-lbs to 29 or 30 if that would help. The recoil spring would be conventional and 18.5-lbs. In my experience, this weight spring works fine with both standard and +P ammunition as well as warm handloads.
Building my version of the "perfect " Hi Power would be expensive, but for one built like this, I'd be willing to save and spend for it.