It has been three weeks since my last blogpost, so I thought it would put this up for those who still follow me. I wrote this essay after shooting my BHP last weekend.
Of course, the phrase TEOTWAWKI is an acronym for The End Of The World As We Know It, and denotes a collapse of society and civil government. The Browning Hi-Power -also known as the P35 and the Browning SA- is a 9x19mm caliber handgun. For brevity sake, I will usually refer to it here simply as the BHP.
A TEOTWAWKI could start, and then play out, in many different ways. Economic collapse. Tyrannical government. Massive natural disasters and resultant people displacement that the FedGov could not handle. A petroleum shortage that takes the J.I.T. economy and transportation past the breaking point. A nuclear exchange with Russia, perhaps followed by Russian invasion. Gang warfare and racial strife boiling over and everyone -including those in uniform- siding with their ethnos. I will not speculate how or when any of these scenarios will occur, though I suspect that America’s days are numbered.
When a TEOTWAWKI scenario begins, the important thing is being able to survive it, not who predicted it most accurately in advance. To survive, one must be able to supply themselves and their loved ones with food, water, shelter, and (in cold climates) heat -and be able to defend themselves. Enter the BHP.
The Browning Hi-Power design was started by firearms genius John Moses Browning, but finished by Dieudonne Saive in present day Belgium after Browning’s death. (Saive went on to design the FAL rifle). The BHP was first marketed by Fabrique Nationale in Belgium around 1935, hence the term P35 sometimes applied to it. It was widely used during and after WWII, and was perhaps the most common “free world” service pistol during the Cold War era.
Mechanically, the BHP is a steel framed, recoil operated, single action semi-automatic pistol. It is chambered in 9x19mm, which is sometimes referred to as 9mm Luger or Parabellum. The BHP has a 13 round magazine. The operator controls and the grip angle are very familiar to anyone who has used John Browning’s earlier pistol, the 1911. The BHP may be carried in Condition One (cocked and locked), and that is how I would carry it. The current production pistols have high visibility sights and a decent ambidextrous safety, unlike WWII era examples.
The BHP has several factors that make it a good pistol for those of the survivalist mindset. It is a time proven and reliable design. It is easy to fieldstrip for cleaning. It is reasonably accurate. It can be carried in Condition One and has a consistent trigger pull (unlike DA/SA designs). It uses the same cartridge that is the current NATO issue for pistols and SMGs. It has light recoil and high magazine capacity. The ammo is currently commercially available at prices significantly lower than 40 S&W or 45ACP, making training and putting back a little stockpile easier for working class people in America.
Now to the downsides, one significant one and a few minor ones. First the major one. The BHP is only a 9mm. While the 45 auto has proven to be a good fight stopper with G.I. ball ammo for decades, 9x19mm stopping power is rather lacking in ball/FMJ loadings. Unless one has a hollow point brand that they trust, and the finances to stockpile a few cases of it, at some point in a post-collapse America they will be running on standard FMJ. Invading troops will not be bringing your favorite boutique loading of hollow point with them, and neither will the looters who stole the last box of ammo from WalMart before they torched the place. This is something to consider.
Now on to the minor issues, which are: the mag safety, trigger pull, size, and price. The BHP has a magazine safety; this means the weapon will not fire without a magazine locked in place. I hate that. In a physical struggle and your mag gets ejected? You pistol now will not fire. Also (perish the thought) if your last mag gets combat lost or destroyed and you still have some ammunition, you cannot load a round in the chamber and at least have a single shot pistol, as it will not fire without a mag in place. (Note: For mechanical reasons, it is not good to place a round in the chamber and drop the slide on it; I am only talking about a post-collapse desperation scenario here).
The trigger on the BHP is often a bit heavy and just not the best, but it is manageable. If you are used to shooting a $500 polymer pistol it might seem good, but it is not on the 1911 level, much less that of a custom tuned 1911. I do not shoot my BHP as well as the 1911 that I use as my primary defense pistol, the trigger being a large part of that.
The BHP is a tad small for my rather large hands, but definitely within the usable range. Part on my right pinky finger rests below the magazine, and when I first got the gun, the web of my right hand got “bit” by the slide. This grip size issue will not apply to women, or most men. The grip size and light recoil are actually good if you have a wife who might also use the weapon.
Last is the price. The current civilian market production BHP, the Browning S.A. MkIII, retails for just over $1,100. Yes, it costs almost twice what many polymer pistols do. Military surplus pieces (how heavily used?) are sometimes available, as are knock off copies from Argentina and elsewhere. If you shop a round, you might find a decent deal on a lightly used FN made MKIII, as I did.
Is the BHP a better choice than other 9mm pistols, some that cost much less? That is a choice that everyone must make for themselves. I have fired the Glock 17 and the Sig P239 pistols in 9mm, and they were both good pistols -reliable and sufficiently accurate for self-defense. For many years the SEAL teams used the Sig full size P226, the various models of the P226 generally retail for between $1,000 and $1,400. I have not shot a Beretta 92, as the design (and DA/SA pistols in general) do not really appeal to me. And yes, you can buy a Glock 17 for about $600.
And of course, whichever pistol you choose for defense during TWOTWAWKI, buy enough magazines! In general, I would recommend owning at least five magazines per handgun, or twice the number that one usually keeps loaded at one time, whichever is greater.
I like the BHP. While differing in some mechanical aspects, from an operator perspective, it is much like a scaled down 1911 with a mediocre trigger pull. I prefer a 45 caliber 1911 for my daily defense needs, and would continue to do so post-collapse. But if the collapse lasted long enough, and I outlived my stash of 45 ammo, I would put on my BHP without fear.
© Copyright 2017 by Joseph Charles Putnam of Orange County, Indiana. All rights reserved.