Giving New Life to a Time Tested Favorite

KGB turned a well traveled pistol into a functional work of art.

            The news of Browning ceasing production of the Hi-Power caused the prices to skyrocket. Fortunately I was able to procure a used FNH model manufactured in Argentina at Ottawa Ordnance in Ottawa, Ohio (Phone:  419-523-4911; Online: The pistol was in amazing shape and would be perfect to have KGB Custom (Phone: 419-235-5839; Online: rebuild this pistol into a perfect Hi-Power.

            I was impressed with the overall condition of this pistol. Cindy Verhoff, the owner of Ottawa Ordnance was not kidding when she said it was in great shape. There were very few signs of wear even on the slide rails had most of the factory finish intact.

            This is an early Mk ll Hi-Power; the diminutive front sight is part of the slide. Like all P35s the trigger is bad thanks to the magazine disconnect which I removed to reduce the trigger pull and creep.

            I tested stock pistol with mixed factory and reloaded ammunition. It fired the various loads to point of aim/impact in nice 4” groups at 25 yards. It had no issues with hollow points; many of the older pistols can be finicky. Overall, I was pleased with the Argentine Hi-Power.

            I knew it shot so; it was off to KGB Custom so Karl Benning could work his magic on P35. This pistol is going to be a shooter; I wanted new sights, trigger job, new hammer/sear and a beavertail welded and fitted. If you are familiar with Hi-Powers they are notorious for biting the web of your shooting hand and drawing blood.

            To improve the trigger pull I wanted Cylinder & Slide’s hammer, sear, and trigger installed. The hammer and sear will set you back $109-141.00. Most importantly if you do not have a beavertail installed, the no-bite hammer will save your hand. I also wanted their wide chrome trigger for $69.95; the blued version is $52.50.  

This pistol’s is safety is as diminutive as the front sight. A Cylinder & Slide single side safety that will set you back $52.50 or an ambidextrous model for $87.75 drastically improves the safety. If you are like a lot of shooters who use Brownell’s you can find all of these Cylinder & Slide parts there too.

            Having a nice trigger is useless if you cannot see the sights. I sent a set of Heinie Ledge with fiber optic front with the pistol. Lastly to ensure no more pain while shooting, KGB was going to fit a custom beavertail. Not only does it totally eliminate hammer bite, but it helps control recoil when you are shooting fast controlled pairs. To save your hand the pain, spend the $350.00; its money well spent.

            The P35 returned home after about a year. When it arrived home I was shocked. It looked and felt amazing. The stainless hammer and chrome trigger contrasted nicely with the all black Parkerizing.

You can see how KGB’s beavertail keeps the hammer from contacting your hand.

            Two other items caught my eye; the sights and the beavertail. First, the beavertail which is reminiscent of that on CZ75s. It is short enough not to snag on clothing and long enough to do its job. I like this beavertail enough I can see having one added to a couple of other P 35s.

You can see how Karl rounded the Heinie Ledge so it looks like it is part of the slide.

            Second, I really liked how the Heinie Ledge Sights were installed. The leading edges were rounded allowing the sight to blend into the slide. The rear sight is not melted into the slide it just flows without any sharp leading edges to catch your hand on clearing malfunctions. The front fiber optic sight is easily picked up and you have the option of using red or green fibers to meet your needs. It is hard to beat the sight picture of Heinie Sights.

Heinie’s fiber optic front makes target acquisition fast.

While checking it out I found the trigger to be crisp with a small amount of creep; that is normal of any Hi-Power. Pull weight is about 4 ½ pounds. C&S’s wide trigger makes it feel like the pull weight is less. Thanks to Karl’s skills all of the fire control parts mate up and function flawlessly.

            Overall the work Karl did was amazing. The beavertail looked like it was part of the original frame and fit perfectly. Installation of the Heinie sights could not have been done better by the master himself. Installing and fitting the new C&S hammer/sear/safety/trigger made the fire controls and trigger pull perfect. The KBG pistol is a shooting work of art.

            After I was done drooling over the Hi-Power I gave it some lubrication, gathered up ammunition and it was off to the range. I gathered a mix of match range ammunition and a variety of loose factory ammunition. All told, about 200 rounds to give the KGB P35 a shake down. This mix bag of cartridges was polymer coated lead, full metal jacket, hollow points of virtually every weight and type of bullet available for a 9mm chambered pistol.

            This pistol quickly proved to be a shooter. Off hand at 15 yards I had 3”, 13 shot groups with a mixed variety of ammunition. At 25 yards the groups opened up to 4”. I had no doubt this pistol would be more accurate than I can consistently shoot if I ran quality factory ammunition.

We used a variety of ammunition to test the KGB Custom Hi Power and it had no preferences. I changed its look with Duracoat, I like my firearms to be totally unique.

            To thoroughly test the KGB Custom Hi-Power I used a mix of factory ammunition. From Black Hills I had their new 100 grain Honey Badger, 115 grain JHP EXP, and their proven 124 grain +P JHP. I chose Federal’s Tran & Protect 115 grain VHP and 150 grain HST. Hornady’s 115 grain XTP American Gunner, 135 grain FlexLock and 124 grain HAP were a good sampling of their line. I had one offering from Remington, the 115 grain HTP JHP. Finally I had Sig’s 124 grain V Crown JHPs. These loads are a good cross section of ammunition on the market today for range, competition and personal protection. 

  I found the P35 was not ammunition sensitive. This is significant because many older pistols do not feed innovative ojives such as the Honey Badger. KGB’s P35 fired them like it was built to shoot them. I do not suggest a steady diet of +P rounds; they could damage older frames.

            To test for accuracy, I fired 5 shot groups at 25 yards off a rest. All groups hovered around 3”, no one load stood out. There were several sub 2”, 3 shot clusters. It’s nice that the pistol will shoot everything well. If you want a P35 to shoot better you will have go to the expensive of having the rails/frame and a match grade barrel fitted. You have to decide if it is worth the cost. For me the performance was good enough. It is more important that it was reliable and comfortable to shoot.

Cylinder & Slide’s wide trigger reduces felt trigger pull weight by giving your finger more surface area to “pull” on.

            Karl’s installation of the C&S hammer/sear, safety and hammer coupled with the beavertail made controlled pairs a breeze. The sharp clear sight picture of the Heinie Ledge with fiber optic front made picking up the sight fast and was easy to follow during recoil. This pistol was now ready for use in USPSA or IDPA.

During firing there is no way the hammer can bite.

            After running several hundred rounds through the KGB Custom Hi Power, I can say it is a practically perfect pistol. Karl can work magic on a wide variety of pistols, I was lucky enough to have him do this P35. I plan to take it out often and use it in 2020 for matches because it is accurate, safe and fun to shoot.

I have been shooting the Hi-Power in all weather and it never misses a beat.
Scott Smith
Scott is a former federal LEO who served on active duty in the Army in numerous positions and USAF Reserve Security Policeman. He is active in USPSA and three gun competition and is a charter life member of IDPA. Over the past twenty plus years he has written for numerous publications and has graduated from many shooting schools including Gunsite, Sig Academy, Blackwater. Scott passed on June 15th, 2021. He will be missed.