The Argentinians have a real fondness for Browning-designed handguns, or at least they did in the 70s and 80s. They issued their troops a locally produced variant of the M1911, and when they realized it was time to upgrade, the Hi-Power caught their eye. Unlike a lot of countries, they licensed and worked with FN to produce domestic Hi-Powers for their police and military forces. Interestingly enough, mixed in with the standard Hi-Power was something that became known as the Detective Hi-Power.
The Compacta Modelo Detective, as it was called, was a Hi-Power clone that aimed to be a bit smaller and friendlier to carry. The name comes from the traditions of detectives typically carrying the smaller version of the current duty pistol. Guns like the Colt Detective model weren’t much different from the Colts the uniform officers carried.
The Detective Hi-Power wasn’t a subcompact variant but merely a model with a trimmed barrel and slide. Everything was cut to 3.9 inches, making it very compact and reportedly well-balanced. The question one might have to ask is, were these actually issued to detectives?
The Detective Hi-Power
By the name, it would seem that some Argentinian Detectives clearly packed these pistols. Maybe intelligence agents or something similar? Well, it certainly doesn’t seem so. In fact, it appears while they produced a compact model, the Detective Hi-Power was more of a label applied by importers and exporters to capitalize on the sensationalist name.
After the Falklands War, there was a bit of upheaval in Argentina. The economy was in shambles, and the military government was ousted. This led to industries find new ways to make money, and guns were a commodity worth selling. Hi-Powers were a fantastic but expensive pistol.
Argentina began exporting more and selling them for less. While these guns were nice and robust, they weren’t always up to FN standards. The Detective variant was quite unique, and no one else had ever made a compact Hi-Power. These pistols were imported and named Detective models to likely generate sales of this unique pistol. They sold for less than 250 dollars, so they were quite the bargain.
While plenty of full-sized FM Hi-Powers were imported, only limited numbers of the Detective models made it to American shores. At the time, there didn’t seem to be much demand for it. However, they are now considered valuable collector’s items and are a hot seller in the BHP communities.
Why No More Compact Hi-Powers?
I think the main reason comes down to popularity and gun culture across nations. The Hi-Power was never superbly popular in the United States, especially in a post-War world. The M1911 ruled, as did designs from S&W. The ole BHP was never a mainstay of American gun culture. Additionally, the revolver really clung to American police use.
Across the pond, it was a military pistol. Europeans also had an affinity for smaller pistols, but they wanted those small pistols in small calibers. This includes the Walther PP series in .32 ACP and .380 ACp, the various Mauser handguns, and plenty of FN guns that made use of smaller designs and calibers.
No one ever thought shrinking the Hi-Power would matter. Until now, anyway. The great reinvigoration of the Hi-Power design has been an interesting thing to watch. Girsan and EAA have teamed up to produce the MC P35 PI, a modern take on the Detective Hi-Power. Modern and affordable, and I’m honestly excited to try one out.