A Turkish Delight: EAA’s Girsan MC P35 Hi-Power

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The Girsan MC P35 from EAA is a faithful copy of the classic Hi-Power
9mm service pistol, sharing its excellent reliability and ergonomics.

We’re well past the introduction stage for the Browning Hi-Power. John Moses Browning’s last design, refined after his death by Dieudonné Saive and released in 1935, with its dual-column 13-round magazine, made it the first high-capacity 9mm service pistol. It fought on both sides of WWII after the Germans captured the Fabrique Nationale works and afterward in other theatres. FN’s worldwide distribution made it a dominant source for military arms and the Hi-Power became the sidearm of choice for almost 100 militaries from Argentina to Zimbabwe, as well as elite units like the British SAS and the FBI’s Hostage Response Team. And then, unexplainably, FN discontinued it in 2018. As one would expect, prices skyrocketed and you can now expect to spend four figures for one.

The hammer is a Commander-style rowel in place of the spur hammer
found on some BHPs. Note the extended ambidextrous thumb safety.

The MC P35 comes equipped with the same dreaded magazine safety that
keeps mags from dropping free on Browning/FN Hi-Powers, as evidenced by
the small, peened pin on the top rear of the trigger.

Hi-Power Resurrection

This created a market gap, into which stepped European American Armory. In business since 1990, EAA has long specialized in the importation of high-quality, reasonably priced firearms like the popular Tanfoglio CZ75 derivatives. EAA’s newly introduced MC P35, manufactured in Turkey by Girsan, is a faithful reproduction of the proven Hi-Power design and retails for a shockingly reasonable $528. Girsan is a well-known maker of Beretta 92 and 1911 clones and reportedly has several contracts with various international law enforcement and military units.

As long as a Hi-Power has the magazine safety, your mags will either
need one of these built-in springs, or you need to get good at
stripping them out during your reload.

True To The Original

In profile, only the hammer and texture of the grip panels readily distinguish the Girsan from the MkII/III Browning Hi-Power. Finished in black Cerakote with a chrome-plated barrel, the pistol is machined from 4140 bar stock steel. While production will transition in the future to machined forgings, there are no plans to incorporate castings into the gun’s manufacture.

Sights are dovetail mounted, front and rear, with a fixed rear and a front ramp whose shallow angle seems to collect light more than simply having a dot on the back of a square Patridge sight. Like the MkIII sights, both front and rear present vertically oriented white rectangles in the sight picture, one on the front and two on the rear (one on either side of the notch). They are a faithful callback to the original Hi-Power, as is the rest of the gun. Only the rear frame contours appear to vary, and I only noticed this after I put on aftermarket grips. In the hand, I couldn’t tell, even after nearly 20 years with the BHP.

The hammer is a Commander-style rowel in place of the spur hammer found on some BHPs, intended to reduce its tendency to bite the hand that feeds it. It’s an improvement, but alas, the web of my hand was still nibbled upon during test firing.

The Girsan uses the familiar non-removable barrel bushing and has a chromed barrel.

Internals

Lockwork is consistent with the latest production Hi-Powers. It retains the frustrating magazine safety that was one of the required design specifications from the very beginning and the later firing pin safety of the MkIIIS. In addition to its intended function, the mag safety keeps magazines from dropping free; hence the mousetrap spring some later mags include that launch them up out of the gun when the mag release is pressed. It is, however, easy to remove, though I left it in for this article. On the other hand, the firing pin safety, initially designed by Devel at the request of the FBI, is the most seamlessly integrated safety of its kind that I’ve seen and I’m glad they kept it.

The trigger broke at an average of 8 lbs., 14.5 oz. on my Lyman digital trigger scale. In use, it felt lighter, but remember this is a service pistol, not a custom carry pistol. Yet. For more on this topic, refer to the upcoming DIY Guns magazine, where you’ll see what we can do to this pistol.

Grips are black plastic with a swoopy, ambidextrous thumb rest and the thumb safety is likewise ambidextrous with the right-side lever roll pinned onto the cross shaft. The Girsan comes with a single 15-round magazine made by Mec-Gar, the largest OEM magazine maker globally and whose magazines I use in my other Hi-Powers.

The Girsan is capable of excellent accuracy at closer ranges, including this
one-hole 7-yard group fired standing unsupported. The sights hampered
group shooting at 25 yards.

Hi-Power Shooting

Now, on to the range. Despite the ammo crisis, I stuck to my usual habit of firing 500 rounds (a few over, in this case) without cleaning or oiling the pistol. The majority of the ammo was supplied by Black Hills, including 124-grain Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP), 115-grain JHP EXP and HoneyBadger in 100- and 125-grain weights. To round things out, I also fired 100+ rounds of ball in both 115- and 124-grain weights and a few rounds of Hornady 124-grain TAP and SIG SAUER 115-grain V-Crown JHP.

While the manual instructs users to use only standard pressure ammunition, I cheerfully voided the warranty by shooting around 120 rounds of my preferred 9mm load from Black Hills, a 124-grain +P JHP. While recoil was brisker than standard pressure, as expected, there were no visible signs of battering or excessive pressure or wear. However, your mileage may vary, and you do the same at your own risk.

The Girsan comes with the Devel-designed firing pin safety that appeared
on MkIIIS Hi-Powers. It is the most seamlessly integrated such safety Jeremy
has ever seen.

Magazine Factors

To give it the broadest test possible, I shot the Girsan with Hi-Power mags in 10-, 13-, 15- and 20-round capacities. As the gun still had the magazine safety installed at the time of the test, the only mag that dropped free was the 10-rounder, which has the mousetrap spring on it. Others came out with downward pressure on the lip of the magazine baseplate, which I suppose tells us why it has a little extra nub there.

There were two malfunctions, both in the last few mags fired. One was a Black Hills HoneyBadger that did not ride up the feed ramp, stopping the slide with the cartridge still horizontal. The second was a nose-up failure to feed with an older 15-round magazine. While I attribute the first malfunction to the HoneyBadger’s unusual bullet profile, the second was a magazine problem.

To be candid, I’m a little untrusting of added-capacity magazines in any platform, including both the single stack M1911 and the Hi-Power, which was originally designed to hold 13 rounds rather than the now-common 15. While I can’t attribute any problems to the 15-rounder that came with the Girsan, I would watch any 15-round magazine with skepticism and replace it if I started noticing signs of trouble. Or just buy 13-rounders.

Sights are dovetail mounted with a front ramp whose shallow angle collects light.
Similar to the MkIII sights, it presents three vertically oriented white rectangles.

Similar to the MkIII, front and rear sights present vertically oriented white rectangles in the sight picture.

Sighting

The sights were at their best up close. At 7 yards, I shot a one-hole group with the Girsan, showing exceptional mechanical accuracy. However, I did struggle shooting groups at 25 yards, usually running around 6″ when shooting standing. I was, however, able to put five rounds in about 31/8″ when I shot from prone and rested my hands on my range bag. I believe this to have been a function of the sights: Any pistol that one-holes at seven should shoot proportionately well at 25, excluding human factors — in this case, the sights.

The white rectangles dominate the sight picture, especially when shooting at a black silhouette target, where the dark portion of the sight picture is lost, making precise alignment very difficult. Up close, in rapid-fire, it’s an entirely different ball game. The white rectangle on the front sight tracks easily, bouncing up in recoil and slotting right back down into the rear notch for the next shot. Again, they’re faithful replicas of the MkIII sights, but as I expect to keep this gun, they won’t be on it for long.

To field strip, lock the slide to the rear with the thumb safety and push the
slide stop out, M1911 style. The slide comes forward off the rails and the
recoil system and barrel come out from the bottom.

Trigger Observations

While a bit heavy, I never noticed the trigger weight when firing it. This said, the Hi-Power trigger is its own beast and needs some explaining. It is not as crisp as an M1911 — no fighting gun is — which accounts for some of its century-plus staying power.

Rather than use a traditional disconnect, the Hi-Power trigger has a pivoting trigger lever held vertical by the same spring that causes the trigger to reset. When the trigger is pulled, the tip of this lever pushes up under the front end of a sear lever mounted lengthwise in the slide, rotating the rear of the lever downwards against the frame-mounted sear, releasing the hammer. When the slide cycles, it pushes the trigger lever forward, out of engagement with the sear lever. When the trigger is released, the trigger lever drops back down into place underneath the sear lever and is once again ready to fire.

It’s a brilliant system, but the trigger’s sole mechanical connection to the hammer is through the slide-mounted sear lever. With particularly loose slides, you can watch the slide twist on its rails as you press the trigger. This introduces a certain amount of creep into the system; it also creates some inconsistency in the trigger pull because every time the slide cycles, the trigger will reset a little differently, and those who are sensitive to reset may momentarily interpret this difference as the gun having jammed, although it has not. This is not a Girsan thing: it’s an unavoidable Hi-Power characteristic inherent in the design, and I have seen it significantly worse on other Hi-Powers than on this test gun.

And really, that’s the MC P35: Yes, it has the Hi-Power vices, but it has all of its virtues as well — which include solid reliability and some of the best ergonomics of any 9mm service pistol — at a very reasonable price. The Hi-Power has long had a reputation as a professional’s pistol, and if you’re interested in finding out why, you’re not likely to have a better opportunity.

For more info: EAACorp.com, Black-Hills.com

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