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Springfield Armory SA-35 9mm: Could It Be One of the Best Guns on Earth?

Stateside gun enthusiasts who want a P-35 but are inclined to “Buy American” out of patriotic sentiment are in luck: say hello to the Springfield Armory SA-35.          

Image Credit: YouTube Screenshot.
Image Credit: YouTube Screenshot.

Besides the M1911 .45 ACP, the Browning Hi Power 9mm AKA the P-35 AKA the BHP AKA the “Grande Puissance (GP)” is undoubtedly the most successful semiautomatic combat pistol of all-time. Indeed, it was for several decades the most widely-issued military and police sidearm in the world – particularly to antiterrorist/counterterrorist units – which is a claim to fame that not even the M1911 can boast. 

And just like with the M1911, the BHP inspired its fair share of copies and clones.

Interestingly, up until now, none of the GP’s clones have been American-made: there’s been the Canadian Inglis Hi-Power, the Argentine FM, and the Hungarian FEG.

But now, Stateside gun enthusiasts who want a P-35 but are inclined to “Buy American” out of patriotic sentiment are in luck: say hello to the Springfield Armory SA-35.               

Springfield SA-35 History and Specifications

The original Browning Hi-Power needs no introduction to our gun-savvy readers, but for the sake of our less gun-oriented readers, here’s the skinny: it was the last design of the late great John Moses Browning – who, among other things, also designed the M1911 (appropriately enough) and the M2 “Ma Deuce” .50 caliber machine gun, to name just a couple of examples – although alas, Mr. Browning died of an untimely heart attack in 1926, leaving it up to Belgian gun designer Monsieur Dieudonné Saive to carry on Mr. Browning’s legacy and apply the finishing touches, officially debuting the pistol in 1935. The rest, as they say, is history. 

It stands to reason that Springfield Armory of Geneseo, Illinois (not to be confused with the original Springfield Armory of Springfield, Massachusetts, which is a national historical landmark) would be the American company that took the initiative of producing a modern Browning Hi-Power clone. After all, it was the first company to truly challenge Colt for the lion’s share of the M1911 civilian gun enthusiast market (i.e. not counting the Remington-Rand amd Singer M1911-A1s of WWII) starting in the 1980s, so hey, why not follow suit with the other half of Mr. Browning’s most popular pistol duo, eh? 

Springfield debuted their SA-35 in 2021. As the manufacturer’s official info page puts it

It’s had many names in its century-old history and today, we reimagine this renowned design for modern use.. Featuring subtle but significant upgrades to John Moses Browning’s original P-35, the 9mm SA-35 captures the appeal of the “wood and steel” era of arms making while offering the upgraded enhancements of today’s defensive pistols…Made in the U.S.A., the SA-35 features rugged forged steel parts for strength and durability, improved ergonomics and enhanced controls, modern sights, an improved feed ramp design, and an increased 15-round capacity. Configured without a magazine disconnect for a drop free magazine the SA-35 features a factory-tuned trigger with a smooth pull and crisp, clean break…Call it a legend, call it an icon, but whatever you do, don’t call it a classic.” 

Hey, c’mon now, what’s wrong with calling it a “classic?!” 

Specifications for the most part are true to original BHP specs, including the 4.7-inch barrel, 7.8-inch overall length, 4.8-inch height, and 31.5-ounce weight. Regarding the elimination of the magazine disconnect safety: ‘twas a common feature on 1st through 3rd Generation Smith & Wesson autopistols such as the S&W Model 39 in addition to the BHP, and although self-defense guru Massad F. Ayoob has pointed out multiple instances where the feature has saved good guys’ lives during gun grabs, many shooters don’t like it because it screws up the quality of the trigger pull. Indeed, far big-name fewer gunsmiths were willing to do custom trigger work on Hi-Powers than they were with M1911s because of the greater difficulty involved with the former, but there were (and still are) noteworthy exceptions such as Wayne Novak and Bill Laughridge’s Cylinder & Slide Inc.  

Three other improvements are the increased magazine capacity from 13+1 rounds to 15+1 rounds, the high-visibility sights, and the extended thumb safety.  

The SA-35 ended up winning On Target Magazine’s 2021 Editor’s Choice Award. g

Personal Shooting Impressions/Range Report

So then, it was back to good ol’ Silver Eagle Group (SEG) indoor pistol shooting range in Ashburn, Virginia, to try out a rental SA-35 

Target used was my preferred ICE-QT target. Ammo used was 50 rounds of Speer Lawman 124-grain total metal jacket (TMJ), divvied into 25 rounds of heads shots at 7 yards and 25 yards of center-torso shots at 25 yards, all delivered from the Classic Weaver Stance.  

At 7 yards, my shot group blew the paper bad guy’s nose…off, that is, with the first shot giving him a ballistic equivalent of a fat lip. At 25 yards, only one proverbial black sheep strayed into the 4-zone, with the remainder staying in the 5-zone and five hits in the tiebreaking 5X-zone. 

Fit and finish were very impressive, with a matted blue that’s not as maintenance-friendly as Parkerizing or stainless steel but definitely pleasing to the eye. Reliability was flawless, even when topped off to full 15+1 capacity; this is a significant improvement over old-school Hi-Powers, which ofttimes had to be downloaded to 12+1 to ensure reliable function. And unlike my personally-owned 1967 vintage BHP, the front sight never sheared off, which is a huge plus! And yes, the trigger was indeed much improved as well…still a wee bit of slack and creep, but not in a way that was detrimental to practical accuracy. 

Overall, a very well-made BHP clone on Springfield Armory’s part, very consistent with the quality of their multiple other firearms that I’ve shot.

Want Your Own?

True Gun Value states that “A SPRINGFIELD ARMORY SA 35 pistol is currently worth an average price of $692.53 new and $691.20 used. The 12 month average price is $698.17 new and $705.27 used.” Springfield’s website shows an MSRP of $799.00. Bud’s Gun Shop has a current asking price of $749.99, whilst Brownells – the company best known for their aftermarket 1911 parts – is selling theirs for a whopping ten bucks cheaper.

Christian D. Orr has 34 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011. 

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Written By

Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon).