Business Intrigue Gone Wrong: High Powers for Oman

The story of the Browning High Power pistols with Omani national crests is and interesting one. It begins with a man named Paul Van Hee brokering a contract for Cadillac-Gage “Commando” armored cars for the Omani government in the late 1960s. These were to be equipped with FN MAG machine guns, and it came to Van Hee’s attention that Oman might also be interested in High Power pistols. He wasn’t an FN agent, but figured he could make that deal happen (and presumably make a nice profit on it).

Van Hee imported 36 new High Powers into the US, and then had them engraved with Omani crests (although the first 9 were accidentally engraved backwards). Around the time he was showing the guns to the Omani delegation, though, the deal fell apart. FN got wind of it and arranged the sale themselves, eventually shipping one 5,000 pistols to Oman (without any special markings).

The demonstration guns remained in the US, and were sold off onto the collector market having never actually seen Oman. Interestingly, they are exempted from the NFA when fitted with original Belgian shoulder stocks, like this one is.


  1. So how do you prove it’s an original stock and not 1) one you bought separately 2) a replica not built by FN?

    • you can say that about any product unless you were there when it was built right in front of you. So not really a useful argument.

    • The more interesting question would be how would ATF prove its not an original holster stock and therefore exempt from NFA?

      • I don’t think they’d even try. They’d just label you a madman and have you thrown into prison for the next 90 years on “terrorism charges.” JUST KIDDING.

    • Maybe no money at all and they just put them into the same category as the older stocked HiPower pistols? Sometimes even government clerks have a bit of common sense: practically identical pistols to the older exempted ones and there are only a handful of them. IMHO it was just easier to put them on the exemption list.

  2. Not every ATF employee is a maniacal gun-banner. Some of them are actual gun enthusiasts, surprisingly enough. The one who told me that I’d been screwed on an importation inquiry back in the 1980s was as outraged as I was, when he informed me that what I’d tried to import from Germany had been perfectly legal, which was a consecutive serial-number set of immaculate pre-WWII Luger pistols I could have had for a song from a retiring German gun dealer. Who had been stuck with them due to some esoteric change in German licensing laws that made them illegal in Germany.

    One of my major objections to the ATF and the way it does business is the seemingly schizoid and entirely arbitrary manner in which it does a lot of its business. One guy asks for a ruling, one examiner rules one way, and subsequent examiners feel no need for either consistency or precedence. Then, there’s the way they seem to ignore a lot of weapons law violations by actual criminals, only to go after the average Joe with hammer and tongs, for seemingly procedural violations. Government is not supposed to work like that, and won’t, for very long.

    Witness the BS going on here in Washington State; we have a new law under Initiative 1639 that bans “firearms transfers” without going through a dealer for background checks. You saw massive evidence for egregious violations of that law, with people handing out weapons from the trunks of cars during the so-called “CHAZ” and “CHOP” events in Seattle. Has there been a single investigation of those weapons transfers, sans any involvement by FFL holders and waiting periods? Nope; not by the city, not by the state, and not by the ATF. Only firearms-related crime from that period they’re doing anything about is the yucklehead who stole an M4 carbine out of a police cruiser and then tried eBaying the damn thing and its varied accessories…

    Arbitrary and capricious is no way to run a government agency, if you want to retain any semblance of legitimate authority. People notice; people take heed, and behave accordingly. Nobody will like where that path leads us, people of the gun and those who want to ban them alike.

  3. My father was in Oman in 1971/72 as part of the British Army Training Team and remembers the Cadillac Gage Commandos being there then. They were mostly used in the coastal areas, the Saladin 6×6 armoured car being preferred in the djebel as it had better rough terrain performance and the 76mm gun was used as a mobile artillery piece.

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