Polymer Frame for the Hi Power
Until recently, I did not believe that there were any polymer frames available for the Browning Hi Power. I was wrong. Apparently, such an animal exists and is made in South Africa. It's my understanding that it's produced by a man on a limited basis and as far as I know it is not available in the United States. I'm told that it is popular with quite a few carrying the Hi Power for serious purposes.
Here is the Mk III slide on the SMB polymer frame. Note how its position is slightly more forward than on the FN frame. This allows for the somewhat extended tang to prevent hammer bite.
I've been fortunate to make friends all over the world via this site as well as several firearm forums. One lives in a country in which private firearm ownership is tenuous but personal attack very common. I was able to advise him on a few small "gun smithing" procedures such as eliminating hammer bite and getting rid of the magazine disconnect. I will not disclose his country or his name, but he was kind enough to provide me with a few pictures that I've cleaned up as well as a description of the polymer Hi Power frame.
Converting his figures from metric to inches, I came up with the following:
FN Hi Power Frame:
Weight (frame only): 11 oz.
Width: Approx. 3/4"
Length, from rear of tang to front of dust cover: 5 7/8"
Weight (frame only): 8 oz.
Width: Approx. 1 1/16"
Length from rear of tang to front of dust cover: 6 3/8"
He advises that with the steel parts installed in the polymer frame, it weighs right at 10 oz, still an ounce less than the FN steel frame without parts.
The frame is marked with the letters SMB on the lower right side grip area. The finish on the steel is purplish or plum and appears to be blue from what I'm able to ascertain, but this might not be the case. I'm told that it's relatively inexpensive.
I do not have anymore information on its manufacture or how many were made or if there are other versions available.
It appears that the frame consists of steel inserts for the rails and cam. The polymer surrounds it and is supposed to be very well done with a matte black color. The front and rear grip straps are serrated, as is the front of the trigger guard. The areas in which the sear, ejector, and hammer ride are lined in steel. In other words, these steel parts do not rub against polymer, but steel. The tang is longer than on the steel frame made by FN and others. It is also split to allow the hammer to fully cock while still providing protection to the hand shooting the gun. It extends rearward enough that getting bit does not appear likely at all. The slide sits a little farther forward than on the FN frame so that the hammer's not pushed downward so far with the tang sitting farther rearward. The magazine release is said to be polymer. I see this as a potential problem as Hi Power magazines are steel. With much use, I suspect that the polymer would wear and allow the magazine to be positioned lower. This might result in malfunctions. The frame itself forms the grip and there are no grip panels, ala Glock.
With a Hi Power 13-round magazine, the floor plate is more flush as behind the magazine well; the frame is slightly extended. This area is flat on the FN frame.
Two hex head screws are visible on the grip area, one on each side. I'm told they're not removable and are apparently used to reinforce the steel interior mentioned above as it extends downward into the grip.
The frame is expected to be used with the small, classic Hi Power safety. I'm told that folks wanting to use extended safeties must either removed polymer from the area that would block the safety's movement or reduce the width of the safety. Most take the former approach, but the safety lever was thinned in this example. Considerable removal of the polymer on the right side of the frame would be necessary for those wishing to use ambidextrous safeties.
Here you can see the recessed areas for the slide stop and the thumb safety as well as the color of the steel within the SMB frame.
The frame's polymer frame also affects the trigger area. There appeared to be slightly less trigger available than on the FN frame and my observation was confirmed by my friend. He did add that most folks never noticed the difference and that it did not cause any problems. It is also obvious that the slide stop shaft does not extend beyond the frame on the right side. This would seemingly make its removal for fieldstripping slightly more difficult.
This picture shows the Mk III slide as it fits the rails from the rear. Farther to the right you can see that the slide rides atop steel as well. I am told that there's very, very little lateral or vertical movement in this slide's fit to the frame. The gentleman sending this information did not know if this slide-to-frame fit was common to Mk III's only or if it applied to earlier versions of the Hi Power. I don't, either.
I trust this man's observations based on conversations we've had in the past. He advised that the frame is very well made and while he's not shot thousands upon thousands of rounds through his "carry Hi Power" using this frame, he has fired several hundred. His view is that neither function nor accuracy has been affected and that there's been no undue wear or visible problems with the SMB frame.
It appears that most folks do the minor fitting required to assemble a Hi Power with this frame themselves or get a capable friend to do it, as gunsmiths are limited in number.
Using his Mk III slide/barrel assembly and FN frame guts with the SMB polymer frame, I'm told that converted Hi Power's reliability and accuracy have been unaffected. He shoots primarily ball, as JHP's are extremely difficult to get, but did state that two 13-round magazines of Remington 115-gr. JHP worked fine.
As stated earlier, these are not made in great numbers nor do they seem likely to be exported. I'd like to be able to test one in depth and long-term. If this becomes possible I'd give it a try. For now, that doesn't appear likely.
Even if we cannot readily obtain such a frame, I thought that Hi Power fans might find this of interest. I do not have any further information on this item, but will post it if and when it becomes available.
My sincerest thanks to the man who made this report possible.