Inglis High Power: How a Chinese Whim Became A British Service Pistol

During World War Two, the Canadian government set up a loan program to help Chinese companies provide all manner of material aid to Canada’s allies. Among many others, one recipient of this aid was the Nationalist Chinese government under Chiang Kai Shek. Chinese representatives asked the John Inglis company to manufacture no less than 180,000 Browning High Power pistols, and the company agreed.
After some wrangling, Inglis acquired a license from FH representatives to make the guns, got a complete technical package through the British government and FN’s representatives in exile, and the direct personal aid of Laloux and Saive from FN. Delivery proved difficult, though, with only about 4000 guns being shipped to Karachi and then needing to be flown over The Hump in cargo planes, along with massive amounts of other aid – and a few pistols didn’t get a lot of priority there.
By the fall of 1944, the contract was cancelled under concerns that it was not really contributing to any progress in the war against the Japanese, along with insistence from American General Stilwell that the Chinese forces be armed with weapons that could be supplied more easily through the American logistic network. Production restarted after the defeat of Germany, with another 40,000 or so being made and delivered before it was cancelled again when the Nationalist Chinese forces were seen to be clearly losing to their Communist opponents.
Each of these pistols was supplied with a combination shoulder stock and holster. In the US, attaching a stock to a pistol would normally subject it to registration as a Short Barreled Rifle, but the Inglis High Powers are among the guns exempted from this requirement. They are, in fact, among the least expensive and most modern guns to be exempted in this way.

45 Comments

  1. My understanding from prior video’s is if it is the original it is okay but for example taking an Artillery Luger with the stock lug and putting a modern reproduction on it then it becomes an NFA gun. Personally I would recommend asking an attorney who is up on firearms laws.

    • DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY
      BUREAU OF ALCOHOL, TOBACCO AND FIREARMS
      WASHINGTON, DC 20226

      MAR 12 1999

      903050:RDC
      3311

      Dear :

      This refers to your letter of January 4, 1999, In which you inquire
      about the legality of purchasing a replica shoulder stock for your
      Canadian Inglis No. 1 Chinese contract Browning Hi Power 9mm semi
      automatic pistol having a serial number that begins with the letter
      “CH”.

      27 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 178, section 178.11,
      defines the term “curio or relic” as firearms which are of special
      interest to collectors by reason of some quality other than is
      associated with firearms intended for sporting use or as offense or
      defensive weapons. To be recognized as curios or relics, firearms
      must fall within one of the following categories:

      (a) Firearms which were manufactured at least 50 years prior to the
      current date, but not including replicas thereof;

      (b) Firearms which are certified by the curator of a municipal,
      State, or Federal museum which exhibits firearms to be curios or
      relics of museum interest; and

      (c) Any other firearms which derive a substantial part of their
      monetary value from the fact that they are novel, rare, bizarre, or
      because of their association with some historical figure, period,
      or event. Proof of qualification of a particular firearm under
      this category may be established by evidence of present value and
      evidence that like firearms are not available except as collector’s
      items, or that the value of like firearms available in ordinary
      commercial channels is substantially less.

      – 2 –

      Mr.

      The Bureau has previously determined that the Canadian Inglis No.
      1 Chinese contract Browning Hi Power 9mm semiautomatic pistol
      accompanied by an original Canadian manufactured detachable wooden
      holster/shoulder stock is a “curio or relic” as defined in 27 CFR,
      Part 178, section 178.11. This specific pistol and shoulder stock
      combination has been determined to be primarily a collector’s item
      and not likely to be used as a weapon. The combination is
      therefore removed from the provisions of the National Firearms Act
      (NFA).

      A Canadian Inglis No. 1 Chinese contract browning Hi Power 9mm
      semiautomatic pistol with a compatible reproduction
      holster/shoulder stock is still subject to all of the provisions of
      the NFA. Individuals desiring to acquire a reproduction
      holster/shoulder stock for their Canadian Inglis No. 1 must first
      submit and have approved ATF Form 1 “Application to Make and
      Register a Firearm” and pay the applicable $200 making tax.

      We trust that the foregoing has been responsive to your inquiry.
      If we can be of any further assistance, please contact us.

      Sincerely yours,

      [signed]
      Edward M. Owen, Jr.
      Chief, Firearms Technology Branch

  2. I guess that the stock pistol combination doesn’t count because the intended use is not as a rifle anyway. Just think: nobody snipes from 2000 yards away using a Colt 1911 variant with the standard length barrel! How stupid would it look?

    • The use of shoulder-stocked pistols by the Chinese military began due to a peculiar provision of the treaties regarding China and the various “colonial” powers.

      During the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, the various elements of the Righteous Order of Harmonious Fists (the “Boxers”) showed up with a variety of firearms, but an appreciable number of them were armed with brand-new, state-of-the-art Mauser Model 98 rifles in 7.9 x 57. These rifles had been sold by DWM to the Chinese government for the Imperial standing army, but had been surreptitiously passed on to the Boxers at the orders of the Dowager Empress, for reasons of “plausible deniability”. In fact, DWM was probably in on it, considering their shipments to China substantially exceeded the Army’s stated requirements. Yes, there is good reason to believe that Germany was trying to eliminate most if not all “foreign influence” in China other than their own.

      After that revolt was smashed, the foreign countries agreed not to sell “too many” rifles to the Chinese army, let alone their “warlord” contingents. It was maintained after the 1925 revolution, as nobody was too sure which way Dr. Sun Yat-Sen was going to jump; pro-Western or pro-Soviet.

      DWM thus did a land-office business selling 7.63 x 25 Mauser “Broomhandles”, with shoulder stocks, to the Chinese army, as substitute “long arms” for non-combat units, allowing the fewer rifles permitted to be concentrated in the infantry units where they really belonged to begin with.

      The Spanish gun makers got in on the act, too, hence the “Royal” Mauser Broomhandle copy with its shoulder stock/holster. Incidentally, it was Royal who came up with the first selective-fire “Broomhandle” to reach production, and it was intended primarily for the Chinese military market. Mauser didn’t begin manufacture of their Model 712 “Schnellfeuer” until mid-1932, almost three years after the Royal MM38 was in stock and being shipped out. And the 712 was intended to compete directly with the Spanish “machine pistols” in the Far East.

      The Chinese interest in the stocked M1935 FN was a logical outgrowth of this, since they were already accustomed to using stocked pistols as “PDWs” for non-combat troops.

      It was the P-35’s use by the Commonwealth forces as a result of this which really put the 9 x 19mm round “on the map” as the universal cartridge it is today. Before that, it had been essentially a proprietary round of the German armed forces with only Finland, Poland and Belgium also using it as a standard service pistol cartridge. The first U.S. handguns chambered for 9 x 19mm didn’t arrive until 1953, as a result of the Army RfP for a new service pistol in that chambering; the High Standard T4, the S&W M39, and the Colt “M1954”, the prototype of the aluminum-framed Colt Commander 1911 variant.

      Interestingly, Inglis’ manufacture of Bren guns for the Chinese was in 7.9 x 57 to match their Mauser rifles, both imports and domestic production (such as the Hanyang arsenal M1888 copy). Which except for the Bren’s shorter gas piston assembly and smooth rather than finned barrel, brought its design almost full-circle back to the parent ZB26.

      Oh, NB; while C-47s were used by ATC “over the Hump”, by far the most common transport on those runs was the Curtiss C-46 “Commando”. Its more powerful engines and superchargers allowed it to more easily sustain the altitudes necessary to fly over the mountains rather than risk flying through them, especially when heavily loaded. The need for the C-46s in the CBI doing the run from India to China was why the Commando was seldom seen in other theaters of the war. See The Hump by Bliss K. Thorne.

      cheers

      eon

      • “Before that, it had been essentially a proprietary round of the German armed forces with only Finland, Poland and Belgium also using it as a standard service pistol cartridge.”

        Aldo Sweden from 1940. It must also be noted that both Finland and Sweden adopted the 9mm Parabellum cartridge primarily because it was better for SMGs than the previous standard pistol cartridge (7.65mm Luger and 9mm Browning Long, respectively). Italy also adopted an overpressure variant of the 9×19mm with the Beretta MAB 38, although it wasn’t accepted for regular infantry use until 1941 (the MAB 38A), and of course the older 9mm Glisenti was just a subsonic variant of 9mm Parabellum with a truncated cone bullet.

        • Portugal also adopted the 9 x 19mm in the 1920s, I understand, in the P.08, but it was part of a hodgepodge of pistols that included the Savage model 1907 in .32 ACP in two versions (M/908 and M/915).

          The Netherlands also used the P.08 in 9 x 19, apparently reworks of ones surrendered by the Reichswehr under the Versailles Treaty and refurbished by Vickers in the UK.

          cheers

          eon

  3. Ian,
    Love the video. Very informative and for once it was cool to see something featured about a gun I actually own!
    At any rate, I wanted to ask you about the Chinese characters on the upper middle of the left side of the slide. There are 2 of them. Do you know what these mean? I have asked 2 Native Chinese speakers about them (one fluent in Mandarin and the other Cantonese) and they don’t really have a clue. Anything you can add is greatly appreciated.

  4. I’m surprised that the Chinese ordered a pistol in 9mm Luger. Most of their small arms at that time were in 7.63 Mauser. Having multiple calibers to supply could be a logistical headache in a hard to supply area such as WW2 China.

    • It could have been worse. Early on, the British Purchasing Commission, which was pretty much paying for all this, said that they’d only foot the bill if Inglis (i.e., Saive) first redesigned the P-35 to use a standard British issue cartridge. Meaning, either the .38in/200 (.38 S&W) or 0.455in Webley revolver rounds.

      Fortunately, cooler heads (plus the capture of several million rounds of very hot-loaded Italian 9 x 19mm for the Beretta M1938 SMG in North Africa) prevailed, and the High Power went into production in its standard 9 x 19mm, which it retains today.

      NB; yes, I know P35s were made in .40 S&W in the last twenty years. It didn’t work out any better than most .40 S&W pistols built on 9mm sized platforms. Like the parent 10mm Auto, the .40 Short belongs in a .45 ACP sized pistol like a 1911 or large-frame Glock, if it belongs anywhere.

      The main reason the Chinese accepted a 9 x 19mm pistol was simple logic, I suspect. They weren’t going to be getting any more 7.63 x 25 weapons from Germany or Spain, there was no other 7.63 x 25mm pistol available, and there was and is just no way to “shoehorn” the long 7.63 x 25 round into the FN’s action designed for 9 x 19mm. (The only other round it was ever made for in that time period, and only in prototype form, was French 7.65 x 20, or more precisely the parent .30 Petersen round, in 1925.)

      It was a case of taking what they could get. They were just lucky that it was probably the best all-around service automatic in the world at the time, and is still in the top five today.

      cheers

      eon

      • “.30 Petersen round”
        Shouldn’t be Pedersen?

        “P-35”
        I am not sure how public is aware of fact that development of automatic pistol which finally evolved in High Power was sparked by French forces requirements declared yet in early 1920s. Initially it varied, it disassembly procedure was much different as what it has now, was blocked by Browning patents possessed by COLT, as they expired 1928, it was heavily reworked.

        • Among other things, the French contract prototype had a drawbar-type double action searage similar to that of the later Walther P.38. This is the likely origin of the High Power’s famous (and infamously gritty)trigger/sear arrangement.

          As for the name, M1935 was the original Belgian Army designation, which FN adopted. The name “High Power” comes from the original FN designation GP, for Pistolet de Grand Puissance, literally “pistol of high power”.

          It was called that because it was the first FN selfloading pistol to use a cartridge (initially the French 7.65 x 20, later the German 9 x 19) with high enough breech pressure to require a locked breech system rather than a straight blowback.

          Some claim the name derives from the “high (fire) power” of the pistol’s 13-shot magazine. This is incorrect.

          cheers

          eon

          • 7.65 Long doesn’t really require a locked breech, but having one enabled the French Modèle 1935 pistols to be considerably lighter than a straight blowback pistol chambered for the same cartridge would have been.

            Lightness and (relative) compactness were considered important features for service pistols in many continental European countries in the interwar period. It also explains the popularity of the 9mm Browning Short (.380 ACP) cartridge in that period. The Italians even went as far as changing their standard pistol cartridge from the more powerful 9mm Glisenti to 9mm Browning Short just to replace the “cumbersome” Beretta M1915 (& variants).

          • EW;

            There was also the fact that the Glisenti round used the same cartridge case as the full-power 9 x 19mm, but the blowback Berettas, Brixias and etc. designed for the Glisenti round weren’t up to coping with the pressures of the full-powered 9mm Parabellum loads, let alone the even hotter loads for the Beretta M1938 SMG.

            I suspect the change to 9mm Corto for the service pistol may have been motivated at least partly by a desire to avoid accidents.

            cheers

            eon

          • I am not sure that FN’s trigger grouping was just patent avoidance. In the biography of J. M. Browning co-written by his son, it is noted that JMB designed the High-Power’s trigger-sear linkage as an in-battery safety device, and that he was rather proud of it. Since the trigger-to-sear lever was housed in the slide, it could not be rocked by the trigger until the slide was completely closed. I’m sure the trigger pull deficit was countered by this argument in the military mind: “It’s got a lot of rounds in it, you’ll have other soldiers with you, so what if you miss a few? At least it won’t blow up.”

            Does not Mr. M own a stocked P35 which he has shot in matches? Not a word about that!

          • Eon: it’s an attractive theory, but the timing does not fit. .380 ACP was adopted with the Beretta Mod. 1934, but the MAB 38 only in 1938 and at first just for the Carabinieri and other military police units. The first MAB 38s used in combat in North Africa belonged to the PAI colonial police. That combat experience convinced the Army to adopt the MAB 38A for general infantry use.

          • “That combat experience convinced the Army to adopt the MAB 38A for general infantry use.”
            I would say 9×19 Parabellum become popular rather thanks to usage in sub-machine guns of WW2 era, rather than automatic pistols. With big number of sub-machine gun for that cartridge available after Second World War it popularized 9×19.

      • After some reflection, it seems to me perfectly logical for the Chinese purchasers to specify a P-35. They must have had some experience with the 1911 (Fairbarn equipped the Europeans on the Shanghai Police with it; there was even a .45 Mauser Broomhandle copy made at Shansei); certainly the FN Browning was the next best thing, and was more controllable. Plus it could be shoulder-stocked in a way the grip-safety 1911 could probably not. There were no more Mauser pistols coming from Germany, and since 9mm was simply an un-necked and shortened 7.65 Borchardt (identical in size to the 7.63 Mauser), I’m guessing the factories making Mauser ammo could easily adapt. And after the stocked Broomhandles, the stocked Browning looks like a step up: 13 shots instead of 10, heavier bullets at slightly less velocity (but greater muzzle energy), and much easier field-stripping, cleaning, and maintenance.

        Perfectly logical therefore for Britain and Canada to follow as the P35 really was the best available thing in the world at that price in that time.

        PS. Saw a photo back in the ’80s of some British special operations team and they had P.35s with extended magazines that looked like 20-rounders. So the British army owned and issued some for special events.

  5. The Canadian Army had High Powers with (quite large) Chinese markings at least as late as the turn of our century.

    Their army is still trying to find a replacement for the P35 but since Colt Canada has a virtual monopoly on government firearms production, and has no handgun designs a modern army would adopt(they must convince Glock or Sig etc to let them make their pistols under license), the program has dragged on for at least a decade.

    • That is ludicrous situation and growing more so by every coming year. My belief is that Colt connection was a mistake which put CDN gov’t into disadvantageous position.

      Under near bizarre circumstances and as a way out, I propose that Canada purchases for its military current Chinese service pistols. They are fine and price would be certainly a bonus.

      • For those who haven’t followed the nonsense Canada is paying about $ 3200 USD each for 6500 Tikka T3 hunting rifles made by Colt Canada and ~ $50,000 USD each for M240s. The C7/C8 series of rifles were similarly about 4X retail by the time the government took delivery. In the US there is a “government price” which is lower than retail. In Canada the government pays more. Much more.

        • Absolutely correct… almost. I did not come up with this since this may not be directly related to subject, but in core you are right (I believe C6A1 sell price is “only” at around 27k).
          As far as I know, the best version of Tikka T3 is in Cabela for less than $1,000 CDN, sans fancy double-case.

          What we are missing in this country (and I wonder why we cannot publish and discus it right here, instead thru American channel) is some sort of civilian/ citizens oversight. Current status is way beyond reasonable. But that requires broad awareness and interest, which I am doubtful exists.

          • If you have managed to get people to think of the need and value of your armed forces based the “% of GNP” spent on it (making waste a positive) and have many people conned with the “high paying jobs” ruse you end up with the mess at DND and Colt Canada. That the cost difference between a Colt Canada Tikka and a Finnish Tikka would pay for a career’s worth of ammo for the average Ranger dosn’t seem to occur to anyone at HQ.

            I wonder how many tax payers know DND regularly burns ammo to make room for the same calibers (again at higher than retail prices for SAA) in it’s dumps? The waste is stupendous yet there is no party interested in curbing it.

          • One can say we have parliament debates for that purpose…. perhaps I should pay closer attention, maybe even meet with MP. So far I have seen they turn me off on little substance personal attacks. Usual boring stuff.

    • So much for the government taking care of everything! I’d opt for a mixed game, where there is a true competition between private firms and state-affiliated ones. A monopoly on the gun market usually leads to developmental stagnation because there will be no perceived need for evolution or innovation in development. And you know exactly where that leads. Do the unequal treaties forced upon China, Korea, and Japan mean anything to the bureaucrats of this day and age? Oh, wait, they don’t care at all because they think all of that is ancient history not applicable to modern institutions!!

      Just why doesn’t Colt Canada just modify its Hi-Power in terms of aesthetics? A simpler slide with English markings would be a good start!

      • “Just why doesn’t Colt Canada just modify its Hi-Power in terms of aesthetics?”
        It lose with most today service-type automatic pistol in terms of magazine capacity.
        13 round magazine was high-capacity by 1935 standards, but now it looks weak.

        • I think eon stated a few years ago that the Hi-Power could accept a modified Beretta 92 magazine. Thus it would carry 15 cartridges instead of 13. Just how many rounds of 9×19 does one need to handle some berserk rock-wielding maniac, all of them?

          • A 9mm P-35 can accept a Beretta M92 9mm magazine because the original M92 magazine was prototyped by literally taking two P-35 magazine tubes, cutting them in two at two different points,and welding the two “long” bits together.

            The only major difference between the P-35 and M92 magazines other than length is the position of the magazine catch slot in the magazine body. To use the M92 magazine in the P-35 a new catch slot has to be cut for the P-35 catch. This in no way prevents the modified magazine being used in the M92.

            Due to length, while an M92 magazine thus modified can be used in the P-35 (projecting about 17mm below the bottom of the butt when properly seated) the P-35 standard 13-shot magazine cannot be used in the M92. Simply put, it won’t go in far enough to either engage the M92 catch or feed a round to the chamber.

            Incidentally, considering that here in the US at least aftermarket M92 magazines with 25 round or even greater capacities are available, this trick gives the petite’ P-35 a fearsome firepower potential, exceeded only by some of the nastier SMGs.

            cheers

            eon

          • Without checking physical dimension I cannot tell, but that would be an attractive option (I suppose Eon knows a bit more about that). Besides, there are number of magazines which may be even more suitable/ affordable.

            One would think that given the tradition, to set up Canada’s own GP35 revival program would be relatively reasonable option instead of chasing foreign licences. The only catch is that single-action only may not be what Cdn military desires. With new toys, kids get easily spoiled.

          • @eon

            Very interesting thought indeed.

            When I extend it a bit, while using extra large magazine and in combination with a bit longer barrel you have a formidable self-defence weapon, something which Canadian military should not shun.

      • Any monopoly leads to the chaos of the calculation problem and the knowledge problem.

        Without a free market, and private ownership of the means of production, prices cannot arise, without prices, rational economic calculation is impossible.

        Governments and their various franchises (town councils, militaries, state sector police, central banks, environmental agencies etc) are monopolies, hence the chaos that we see.

        The chaos isn’t due to incompetance, stupidity or the wrong political party ( though they can all exacerbate it), it’s inherent in the institution

      • If you can get the cutout for the magazine catch in the right place, longer mags made for a variety of other double stack 9mm pistols will work.

        S&W and Berretta, copied the high power’s mag for their double stack pistols.

      • ” I’d opt for a mixed game, where there is a true competition between private firms and state-affiliated ones. ”
        This time it is miss. Remember what Fabrique Nationale means…

    • Daweo,
      There are other magazines out there that fit into a Hi-Power. 13 rounds was the original French requirement IIRC.
      South Africa’s made 20 rounders, there are common 15-17 round magazines out there for it as well. Shoot, the Inglis I have accepts a 15 round magazine just fine and runs like an ape that just sat on a branding iron. The problem with Canadian Defense contracting is in the bureaucracy and procurement process. It should be a simple matter of dropping an RFP for cost, select the vendor with the best terms, and stroke a check.

      • “20 rounders”
        If there exist bigger (say at least 15 round) magazine which fit High-Power AND do not extends more than original, then capacity is no problem.

  6. Oddly, the magazines for the Beretta 92 Compact are 13 rounds.

    I wonder if they are identical to HP mags, minus the retention cuts.

  7. Note from a British viewer. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) did not exist before April 1965 when the Air Ministry, Admiralty and the War Office were amalgamated to form it. My dad was a soldier occasionally going up to London to see the “War Office” for things he never told me about.
    Best wishes,

  8. According to one source, the Inglis Hi-Power pistol was not made from manufacturing drawings set recreated in England by FN engineers but reverse engineered at Inglis and then improved/updated with assistence of the FN engineers in exile.

    Excerpts from
    MILESTONE: THE 100,000TH INGLIS AUTOMATIC PISTOL
    https://www.sadefensejournal.com/wp/?p=4328

    He [National Chinese General Kiang] had established the purchasing team from China in Washington, D.C., and came to tour Inglis in June of 1941. The Nationalist Chinese were fighting the Japanese and needed 8mm Bren guns. Inglis was ready to oblige. While he was there, Gen. Kiang had his High Power and passed it to Hahn. He asked if Inglis could make them…

    High Power production was more difficult than first thought. Reverse-engineering a gun is complex, and having original drawings of the High Power would shave many months off the schedule. Wisely, Saive and a handful of engineers had escaped the oncoming Nazis and fled to Britain. The British put them to work recreating the High Power drawings from memory, but Saive’s attention was divided: He was also working on what would become the SAFN 49.

    Work was slow. The FN engineers believed the British intended to make the High Powers without compensating FN. This would not only rob FN of their share of profit at the time, it would flood the post-war market and destroy it for the future. The bad blood thickened when Inglis asked for the loan of the engineers and Britain refused. A plot was hatched to smuggle a set of original drawings out of FN. While the engineering dragged in Britain, the smuggled plans travelled seemingly by tortoise toward Spain. Both sets would be too late to be of use to Inglis

    As Inglis reverse-engineered the guns, they agreed to pay a royalty to Fabrique Nationale after the war. Out-maneuvered by their own greed, Britain let the Belgian engineers sail to Canada…

    There were some glitches. The Chinese FN-made guns copied by the Inglis engineers incorporated an outmoded barrel cam. This is the angled slot milled into the projecting piece of barrel below the chamber. As the slide moves back, a cross pin rides in this slot to pull the barrel downwards and unlock it from the slide. The slides then recoils and the world unfolds as it should. However, the squarish design of the early cut made the piece prone to cracking. A later, rounded design had cured this, a detail the Saive team reengineered in Toronto. Then, in tests of early production guns, it was found the ejector was too low and ejection erratic.

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