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Meet the Browning BDM 9mm: One Really Strange Gun Like No Other

The 9mm Browning BDM semiautomatic pistol handgun had much potential but did not earn the fame and fortune and is remembered as a curiosity.

Browning BDM
Browning BDM

When one thinks of handguns bearing the Browning name, one first and foremost thinks of (1) the legendary P-35 Browning Hi-Power, the final invention of the late great John Moses Browning (though he died an untimely death before the product was finalized, leaving it to  Monsieur Dieudonné Saive to put the finishing touches on it); followed by (2) the Browning Buck Mark .22 LR; (3A) the Browning BDA 380 .380 ACP, which was actually a Beretta Cheetah by another name; (3B) and to make matters a tad confusing, the Browning BDA .45 ACP…which was actually just a SIG Sauer P220 by another name.  

However, back in the early 1990s there was another Browning handgun offering that had so much potential but alas did not earn the fame and fortune that the aforementioned models did and instead goes down as a merely oddball and curiosity in the annals of firearms history: the 9mm Browning BDM semiautomatic pistol.

Browning BDM History and Specifications

The Browning BDM (as in “Browning Double Mode”) made its debut in 1991, at a time when (1) “Wonder Nines” with traditional double-action, i.e. double-action/single-action (DA/SA) trigger lockwork were all the rage, and (2) double-action only (DAO) autopistols were starting to make their presence known in the private citizen and law enforcement handgun markets alike. The BDM was a creatively ingenious attempt to offer the best of both worlds. Lemme ‘splain: 

Along the top left-rear edge of the slide there was a round drum with a screw-slotted head. Turning it (with a coin, or a flathead screwdriver, or whatever else you could conveniently get to fit in that slot) to align with a “P” (as in “Pistol” mode) on the slide and the lockwork was set to make the BDM behave like a DA/SA trigger system. And just like most – though not all – traditional DA autos of the time, the safety catch did double-duty as a decocker when the gun was in “P” mode.  

From there…Turn the drum selector to align with an “R” (for “Revolver”) and the gun behaved somewhat like a revolver, i.e. the DAO mode. “But wait, there’s more!” (as the old Ginsu knife infomercials used to say): unlike other DAO pistols such as the Beretta 92DSmith & Wesson Model 5946Heckler & Koch (HK) P2000 LEM, or (blecchh) SIG Sauer P229 DAK, the BDM was truly more revolver-like in the sense that the pistol could be thumb-cocked for SA firing for every shot whilst in that “R” mode!

Specifications included a standard magazine capacity of 15+1 rounds, a barrel length of 4.7 inches, an overall length of 7.8 inches, and a weight of 1.92 pounds.

Experts’ Shooting Impressions (And What Went Wrong?)

Appropriately, famed gun writer (and former USMC officer and Vietnam War combat veteran) Wiley Clapp wrote an article back in May 2019 for NRA American Rifleman titled “The Browning BDM: A Gem That Never Sparkled.” Among other things, Wiley had this to say: 

“The BDM offered dual-lockwork systems and should have been welcome for its unique nature. I really liked the pistol, as did some of the most-informed handgunners I knew. But, I feel the options were not welcome with the clarion call that hailed the millennium. Rather, they confused too many handgunners, who did not buy them… As it was, the Browning BDM died a quiet death after less than a decade of production. That is a shame, because the BDM had other virtues…BDMs are reliable and accurate; I know of several torture-test shoots where the gun was subject to protracted firing. They came out of it with flying colors. But there is one additional virtue of the BDM that makes it competitive to the present…Some small-handed shooters struggle with guns that are just too big. For them, Browning’s BDM is a sound hunk of top-notch fightin’ iron.”

Christian D. Orr has 33 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).