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Weapons: British Pistols Dying Of Old Age
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May 28, 2010: The British Army, underfunded and lacking massive injections of new equipment for several years now, has managed to forge ahead in both Iraq and Afghanistan on its well-deserved reputation for professionalism and discipline. But the equipment and money crisis has affected weapons systems and equipment from aircraft, and now, all the way down to small arms. 

The 9mm Browning Hi-Power automatic, designated the L9A1 in the British military, has been the Brits' standard issue sidearm since 1954, when it replaced the .38 Enfield revolver. Even this elderly pistol can still be found in service.  Prince Harry famously sported one tucked into his body armor in a photo shot while he was serving in Afghanistan. But it was the British LRDG (Long Range Desert Groups) in World War II that had started the trend of using the 9mm Hi-Power, a decade before  that pistol was adopted by the entire British Army. 

The Hi-Power has long been considered a durable, accurate, reliable pistol that packs a lot of man-stopping power, making it perfect for urban or anti-terrorism warfighting. The SAS CRW (Special Air Service Counter Revolutionary Wing), who executed the famous 1980 hostage rescue at the Iranian Embassy made the Browning Hi-Power famous due to their groundbreaking development of close-quarter battle techniques using the pistol. The British have carried the Browning in conflicts ranging from the Falkland Islands mountains to the streets of Northern Ireland. 

The Hi-Power is still produced, by Browning in the U.S. and Fabrique Nationale in Europe. Despite being over 50 years old, the handgun, like the 1911A1 .45, is far from being considered obsolete. The problem, for the British Army, however, is that the Brownings in circulation within the British Army are often older than the men who use them. Pistols are sometimes 20 or 30 years old. While the British have upgraded their standard issue assault rifle, the SA80, and their squad automatic weapon, the L86A2, and other infantry weapons over the course of the last 50 years, little to no attention has been paid to either finding a new sidearm or purchasing newer versions of the L9A1. Meanwhile, the companies that produce the L9A1 offer upgraded, more modern Hi-Power models. Thus, aside from a few special ops units, the majority of British officers are stuck using well-worn, beat-up 9mms that are not aging well. Reliable weapon though it may be, a 30 year-old pistol that has been issued to, and used by, dozens of officers, and spent a lot of time outdoors, is not going to be as reliable as a newer sidearm. Troops are often wary of using such equipment, knowing that a malfunction or a jam in an old handgun could very well cost them their lives in combat. 

Serious attention to the handgun problem is only recently creeping into the British military. The Special Air Service recently transitioned away from the Hi-Power and adopted the Sig-Sauer P226 9mm as their standard sidearm, and a smaller compact pistol for undercover operations. Other units like the Special Reconnaissance Regiment likely have more latitude in their choice of, and access to, newer sidearms in better working condition. 

Instead of gradually phasing out the Hi-Power or purchasing a newer model of the weapon, the British government, unsurprisingly, seems content to ignore the problem until it can no longer be ignored. 

 

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YelliChink       5/28/2010 2:10:48 PM

Hi Power isn't old. ROCA is still using M1911. I've seen some produced in 1920s.

 
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RockyMTNClimber    Metal Fatigue....   5/28/2010 4:34:23 PM

Hi Power isn't old. ROCA is still using M1911. I've seen some produced in 1920s.



Yelli I am going to have to disagree with you on this. These pistols purchased in the '60's and 50's are old. Too old to be in front line service today. It's not that these firearms should be thrown away or melted down. No, they should be donated to gun clubs or sold to private parties where they may continue to provide service. Everything has it's time. The steel does not stay the same regardless of how many snow storms, rainy jungles, nights left in the elements, or just plain abuse, it sustains. A weapon that could serve you and I in private ownership over generations isn't going to serve the Royal Marines or Para's for fifty years. The technology of handguns has not remained static since 1944 either!
 
The metals and other materials used today for handgun design are vastly superior to that our fathers/grandfather's carried off to war. Time to take a hard look at what would serve the military best, and most cost effectively and buy some new guns. To save money the MOD should simply buy new Hi-Power clones. That would allow them to maintain continuity of training and logistics with the present in service weapon. It would be far wiser to buy a new platform.
 
The idea of some Tommy betting his/her life upon a 1930's .38 spec. revolver is positively astounding!
 
Check Six
 
Rocky
 
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trenchsol       5/28/2010 7:25:59 PM
I think that Browning Hi Power model dates to year 1935. So in even 1954 it was not the latest design.  If nothing else, todays 9mm pistols have 15 or more rounds in magazine, while Hi Power has 13. BTW are the British officers allowed to purchase and use their own pistol ?
 
DG

 
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kenprice       5/28/2010 8:15:54 PM
The 9mm is (probably) the worst caliber for a sidearm. It was adopted by the USA only to "standardize" our handguns with the rest of NATO. Special Forces and SEALS continue to use the .45ACP, either the 1911 or a SIG variant. Those weapons were designed as "manstoppers", and continue to function as designed.
 
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h       5/28/2010 9:15:12 PM
The Hi-Power is used by Canadian forces today and since 1943. They are still accurate and do NOT jam! Accuracy is not a problem as barrels can be replaced and the guns accurised very easily. As for increased magazine capacity of newer pistols, it is always the fight over accurate hits over "spray and pray"! I will always take a good A zone hit over a C zone! The SAS proved it with the double-tap. As for stopping power, it does provide a large wound channel. But, it all depends on ammo selection, as it can. And once again, the SAS "double-tap"  works! Put ANY 9mm in between the two eyes, it is lights out! So, it is upkeep of the firearm and trainning and practice that makes it an efficient weapon system.
 
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trenchsol       5/29/2010 10:15:21 AM
I must admit that I don't have experience in pistol combat, but techniques like double tap or Mozambique Drill, reduce magazine capacity by factors two or three. When one needs two or three rounds per target, extra clip capacity is good.
 
Larger calibers, unfortunately, still don't guarantee one shot - one kill ability.
 
Many people still like 7.62x25 mm like in Russian TT.

DG

 
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StobieWan       5/29/2010 2:06:49 PM
Private ownership of pistols in the UK has been illegal for over a decade As a private citizen, I obviously feel much safer because of that fact. Oh, no, wait....

I must admit I was surprised at the article as I was sure that the 226 had been selected quite some time ago as a replacement (nothing wrong with the HP-35 it's just they're going to be a bit tired now and things have moved on)

Nothing wrong with 9mm as a self defence cartridge - whatever you're shooting at will still get hit two or three times if you're toting a 45 as you're just not going to rely on a single round. Worrying about multiple target engagements at close range is a bit by the way - if they're on top of you, someone will stick a knife in you or pop their S vest way before you run dry on ammo I suspect. For a police carry weapon, where the pistol is the primary weapon, I'd argue differently but in the army, it's just one of a set of tools to hand,

Ian

 
I think that Browning Hi Power model dates to year 1935. So in even 1954 it was not the latest design.  If nothing else, todays 9mm pistols have 15 or more rounds in magazine, while Hi Power has 13. BTW are the British officers allowed to purchase and use their own pistol ?

 

DG





 
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trenchsol       5/30/2010 9:22:12 AM

Private ownership of pistols in the UK has been illegal for over a decade As a private citizen, I obviously feel much safer because of that fact. Oh, no, wait....


You mean, there is no way for Briton to get a pistol ? Even for home defense ? On my visits to UK I've noticed that even regular police is unarmed. How are they supposed to protect the people ? I guess that crime rate in Britain is extremely low.
 
Anyway, I don't think it's a good idea. Determined criminal could always get a weapon. For example, IRA never had problems getting armed.
 
In my country (Croatia) one can get a license for pistol if there is no criminal record or evidence of violent behavior.  On the other hand, there is little more than four millions people in Croatia altogether , so it is much easier to keep record.
 
DG

 
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StobieWan       5/31/2010 7:35:59 AM

Nope, not a chance - the only pistols that can be owned are black powder weapons  - no modern cartridge loading pistols for us, not of any calibre. 

The police aren't routinely armed, and in the main it seems to work -  but gun crime is much higher than it has ever been in the UK so it's safe to say the criminals aren't finding it as hard to obtain weapons as the law abiding citizens are.

Ian

 




You mean, there is no way for Briton to get a pistol ? Even for home defense ? On my visits to UK I've noticed that even regular police is unarmed. How are they supposed to protect the people ? I guess that crime rate in Britain is extremely low.


 

Anyway, I don't think it's a good idea. Determined criminal could always get a weapon. For example, IRA never had problems getting armed.

 

In my country (Croatia) one can get a license for pistol if there is no criminal record or evidence of violent behavior.  On the other hand, there is little more than four millions people in Croatia altogether , so it is much easier to keep record.


 

DG




 
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cwDeici       5/31/2010 1:07:17 PM

Private ownership of pistols in the UK has been illegal for over a decade As a private citizen, I obviously feel much safer because of that fact. Oh, no, wait....




I must admit I was surprised at the article as I was sure that the 226 had been selected quite some time ago as a replacement (nothing wrong with the HP-35 it's just they're going to be a bit tired now and things have moved on)




Nothing wrong with 9mm as a self defence cartridge - whatever you're shooting at will still get hit two or three times if you're toting a 45 as you're just not going to rely on a single round. Worrying about multiple target engagements at close range is a bit by the way - if they're on top of you, someone will stick a knife in you or pop their S vest way before you run dry on ammo I suspect. For a police carry weapon, where the pistol is the primary weapon, I'd argue differently but in the army, it's just one of a set of tools to hand,




Ian




 


I think that Browning Hi Power model dates to year 1935. So in even 1954 it was not the latest design.  If nothing else, todays 9mm pistols have 15 or more rounds in magazine, while Hi Power has 13. BTW are the British officers allowed to purchase and use their own pistol ?



 



DG















I know Londoners who complains about being defenseless against stabbings, yes.
 
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