Springfield’s New SA-35: Iconic Design with a Modern Flair

A legendary J.M. Browning design – brought back to life by Springfield Armory

In 1935 the handgun that John Moses Browning designed for yet another military request went into production – although Browning himself didn’t live to see it finished. That gun would go on to become an iconic firearm. The pistol was initially manufactured by FN, and later by Browning, and it has had several model names, such as the P-35. But most of us know it as the Browning Hi-Power. Now extinct, those wanting one have to take their chances – and their checkbook – to the used market.

While there is no substitute for a vintage classic, this author is betting that there are many firearm enthusiasts who would love to have a brand-new, modern version of this iconic design that they can appreciate as a tangible reminder of bygone elegance, and also as a range toy, or even the home defense gun. Heck, while we’re at it – it is small enough to be your EDC! Let’s face it, when John Browning put pencil to paper – magic happened. Best of all, the beloved design that most had sadly assumed extinct has risen from the ashes as the new Springfield Armory SA-35 – and it is something to cheer about!

I think many of us presumed that somewhere, someday, someone would revive the classic Browning handgun, most assumed it would take the form of an offshore reproduction with both quality and pedigree perhaps in question. When this sample arrived for testing and review, I was already excited that a stoic American company was making it – and even better that it be Springfield Armory, who is well known for making superb 1911’s. In fact, despite its enormous catalog of modern polymer framed, striker fired handguns – it is the perhaps the model 1911 for which Springfield remains famous. Having established itself as the go-to manufacturer for a high-quality, high-reliability classic handgun at a blue-collar price – the prospect of a production of “Browning’s other handgun” is a sweet one, indeed!

Click above to watch the full video review and see this gun in action

My first impression when removing the SA-35 from its black nylon pouch was the beauty of the finish. The gun has been completed in a matte bluing that makes it look like it could have come from a time capsule. Solidifying that aesthetic is a pair of checkered wood grips that are done in the fashion of mid-century workmanship, with checkering that goes edge to edge except for the very top and bottom where they are nicely smoothed. The single grip screw nicely matches the finish of the gun – one of many examples of attention to detail.

Springfield indicated that it was a firm requirement to manufacture the SA-35 frames and slides from forgings – just as they do with their 1911s. This provides a strength and durability that will last.

And while the original design elements of the gun have been reverently observed, this is by no mistake a modern shooter. Some of the modernizations to the gun include:

  • A modernized thumb safety that is more shooter friendly and fits today’s aesthetics.
  • Updated sights that present a modern sight picture without looking out of place.
  • Changes made to the geometry of the hammer to prevent “hammer bite”.
  • Hammer forged barrel.
  • An improved trigger than has a targeted max pull weight of 5.5 lbs.
  • Tweaks to the feeding system to reliably handle modern defensive ammunition.

Simultaneously, Springfield was dedicated to staying true and authentic to the original styling of the handgun. Some internal changes were made as well, such as tweaking the barrel lug for a better blend to the frame.

Springfield tells me that the team strove to maintain as much interchangeability of parts as possible while reducing tolerances and tweaking the gun for a more precise fitment when compared to the original. I was pleased to hear that it was a specific goal to retain compatibility with aftermarket grip panels. As beautiful as the wood stocks are on the gun, it can be fun to change them for an easy statement of personality.

Other small details that the user can appreciate include beveling of the magazine well – bringing a modern touch and increasing user functionality. And speaking of user functionality and general happiness – there is no magazine disconnect safety in this pistol.

The SA-35 comes with a single 15-round magazine of Italian manufacture. It does not bear the name Mec-Gar, but I presume that is the OEM provider. The magazine is completely modern but does not look a bit out of place with the gun. The purist may wish for a metal follower, but the black polymer one it has seems just fine to me and is almost certainly more reliable.

The SA-35 is relatively small in most dimensions and fits nicely into a smaller hand. The ergonomics are very nice – not unlike the 1911 (no surprise here), and the gun manages the recoil of the modern 9mm cartridge nicely.

SHOOTING THE SA-35

Putting rounds downrange with the SA-35 was a joy. The ergonomics of the pistol seem frozen in time – hard to beat with even the most recently designed modern gun. Those with smaller hands will appreciate the shallow depth of the grip, which makes it feel thin despite the double-stacked magazine contained within.

Springfield’s modernization of the iconic design do not detract from its timeless beauty

Unchanged by time, the controls are all well within the operator’s reach and can be manipulated without altering the grip by most adult hands. Serrations on the slide are a sharply cut sawtooth pattern, in the traditional form – and are highly effective. The slide catch is easily within reach and functions easily to either lock or unlock the slide. The round hammer spur has nice grooves that make it easy to cock the gun with the strong hand thumb when necessary. The magazine release is of the traditional size and placement and is not too stiff. Lastly, the manual thumb safety has been modernized by adding width and giving it a modern dogleg bend and ‘shelf’ design. It feels and functions much like an up-market 1911 safety.

When you raise the gun to your eye to find the target, you appreciate the modern sights. The front sight is a standard blade containing a white dot, while the rear sight is all black with horizontal serrations to reduce glare and Springfield’s U-notch. Finding your target and maintaining a good sight picture is easy to do.

Recoil is well managed by the SA-35, due in part to the recoil spring, and in part to the all-steel construction that balances the weight. Banging 6-inch steel targets from 15 yards was easily done. I also rested the pistol and put four groups (five shots each) on paper at 25 yards. Yours truly, being the weak link in the chain, produced a flyer or three in the process – but when I look at the “best three” results (which I do to help eliminate my errors) the SA-35 performed well. It was particularly fond of the SIG Sauer Elite Performance V-Crown 124 grain ammo.

What is significant about this is not only the accuracy of wide-mouth hollow point ammo – but the reliability of it. I shot a few types of hollow points during testing, as well as varying bullet weights, and the gun never even hinted at jamming. Springfield says that some geometry has been tweaked to accommodate modern defense ammo (aka hollow points), and my experience with the gun bears that out.

JUST MY OPINION

Going after a legendary pistol design like this one from John Moses himself is a precarious path to tread, and I applaud the folks in Geneseo, IL for stepping into their trail shoes. There will be purists who nay-say some of the modernizations to the gun, and perhaps others will feel it was not modernized enough. I find it to be nearly a Goldilocks blend of vintage design being faithfully respected while being interpreted as a modern shooter.

And in the end, I believe that is the purpose of the SA-35. Owners of vintage pistols are not likely to want to use them as range toys – which will become truer as more time goes by. But even a fussy collector might like a near-perfect copy of that design to take to the range and do mag dumps, or simply enjoy and share the love of the design with young family members, etc. Priced as low as many common polymer-framed, striker-fired handguns – this is a taste of an elegant handgun design that can be a range toy, home defense, or concealed carry. If you can stop admiring the simple beauty, accented by a fantastic factory finish – it’s a shooter!

Learn more about this new gun here: Springfield Armory’s NEW Model SA-35

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{ 55 comments… add one }
  • Grumpy 49 October 29, 2021, 10:16 am

    P35 is a CLASSIC. One reason is that the design intent was to create a fighting handgun that would work in the real world. Just like the Classic 1911, history has proven that the P35 worked, and worked well. Polymer frames are great, but in most cases, the average shooter would be better off starting with a metal frame handgun, and then switch to a polymer frame handgun for their EDC handgun. Poly for handguns carried a lot, but shot little. Metal for handguns shot repeatedly. Shoot a handgun that weights ~14 oz. for 50 or 100 rounds, versus one that weights ~24 oz., and see what bad shooting practices develop. P.S. – Who designed the FN FAL rifle???

  • Ken October 29, 2021, 10:15 am

    Still have my old one… the one I used for the last years I worked as a private contractor. Belgium made. It has become a “safe queen” due to its rarity.

    I continued to carry my 1911 too… often both at the same time. I always carried both cocked and locked.

    Don’t know what the big deal with 15 round mags is. They’ve been available all the time. We used to call them “Brazilian mags”

    As for hammer bite… what are you, a girl? My motto: “Better a sore hand than an ice pick in the throat!”

    I am going to buy one as soon as I can get one. Will provably carry it regularly… at least until my fear of 9mm lack of potency gets the best of me.

    Current carry: Sig 226 in .357 Sig.

  • Ej harbet October 28, 2021, 9:08 pm

    Id love one with a tangent sight and a detachable wood stock. It’s a bucket list thing like the shooter grade army luger and a red9 broomhandle.

  • Brian October 26, 2021, 1:51 pm

    Unfortunately it won’t be available in the PRK, Peoples Republik of Kalifornia, We’ll just have to keep using our original Browning Hi-Powers that were caught behind the lines of Free America…

  • William G October 26, 2021, 12:03 pm

    Can you say erection ? the correct woman, A dependable Harley, P-35 Hi Power. not in any given order. I purchased my 1st p-35 mid 70 s, in So. Florida. I carried both concealed, and open, as security. I owned several side arms, most became safe queens. as the Hi Power was good in the hand, and dependable. I leased the company my Hi Power for $1.00 per year, so I could carry it on the job (once I qualified at the range). I still have and shoot this old pistol…

  • Don October 25, 2021, 10:43 pm

    If they can do a Hi Power this righteous for $695 they should be able to turn out an excellent P-08 for around $1500. I’m in if they do (and I promise to buy a SA-35 as well).

  • JOSH October 25, 2021, 10:02 pm

    Only 1 magazine?!?! You cheap bastages! And no ambi safety? I like it other than SA cheaping out on those two things.

    • Ken November 14, 2021, 10:15 pm

      As someone who shoots with the “wrong hand” -a.k.a left hand – I totally agree about the missing ambi safety. It needs to be added maybe as an option – extra cost if they must. There are also shooting drills for right-handed shooters requiring weak hand shots. Everything else about this piece says “buy me”, too bad SA dropped the ball on the thumb safety.

  • Gerardo Martínez October 25, 2021, 7:07 pm

    I h’ve been waiting for a improved version of this gun my whole life, I love the improvement of the flesh biting trigger, how soon can I buy one?

  • The SGM October 25, 2021, 6:55 pm

    Handgrip appears to be too ‘right angleish to the slide. Trigger at 5.5 is to heavy, should be about 4.5

  • Mark Potter October 25, 2021, 6:51 pm

    I must be spoiled ro my 1911s. While this is of interest to me NO grip frame checkering is a sad oversight IMHO.

    • TXMike October 27, 2021, 1:52 pm

      I don’t consider the lack of checkering an “oversight.” I will be buying one, but I wouldn’t if it came with a checkered frame. Think of it as a nice blank canvas if you want to modify it. I don’t and don’t want to pay extra for a feature I don’t want. Bravo SA.

  • Allen October 25, 2021, 3:50 pm

    Just checked prices. Mec Gar 15 rd mags are in the $25 range and available. I’ve used them and bought my neighbor 2 to use in his older one. I’ve been wanting one but didn’t want to pay the high prices and modify a gun that’s not made anymore from original manufacturers. Now you can go hog wild in checkering or stippling, good rear sight, new C&S firing group etc. I’m getting one. Was going to get a Sig P320 x carry. Not anymore.

  • Shawn October 25, 2021, 3:33 pm

    This is good news! The pictures look great. One issue is drop safety. Did they keep the drop safely of Browning’s Mk III, or does it have a titanium firing pin so as to survive a drop on the muzzle without the resultant “bang?” The other issue is Springfield’s production capacity. It is hard to find any legacy Springfield products on dealer’s shelves, so I hope they are able to produce this in more than “boutique” numbers.

  • Mike Norrell October 25, 2021, 3:18 pm

    Thank you, Springfield Armory!!! I’ve been wanting a BHP for a while now, but they’ve gone out of sight, pricewise of late. I’m a HUGE fan of SA products and I’ll be looking for one of these soon. Two (2) variants I would LOVE to see offered; (1) a highly polished, blued gun. I’m talking bluing on par with the BEST that Browning EVER did. Bluing like that on a Colt Python, bluing so DEEP it’s almost black…you know what I mean, a truly deep, royal blue. (2) a two-toned gun, with a stainless or hard chromed frame and a blued/black slide…I have several SA pistols in that configuration. Can’t wait to get a SA-35 in hand.

  • william horton October 25, 2021, 3:02 pm

    Always was interested in the Hi-Power.This might be my birthday present to me.Might replace my 226 as my favorite.

  • Latigo Morgan October 25, 2021, 2:56 pm

    Sweet! You can’t keep a good pistol design down! I love my FM Hi Power, from Argentina made under license from FN.

    I can’t help but wonder, if St. Browning had lived longer, he would have designed the CZ-75 as an improvement on the High Power?

    • Daniel P Fogarty October 25, 2021, 5:10 pm

      The CZ-75 IS, to a degree, a Browning design already because it is essentially a cold war clone, incorporating many of the features and even the shape.

  • Vince G. October 25, 2021, 2:37 pm

    Any plans for a California compliant model??

    • STIG October 25, 2021, 7:28 pm

      BWAHAHAHAHA! Best comment ever.

  • Lance October 25, 2021, 2:23 pm

    It will be interesting to see what Springfield does with this P-35. There are very few of the alloy framed high-power s around. Argentina also made a shortened slide model called the detective. The Turks made a stainless steel model. And a fellow in South Africa made polymer framed versions. This could get interesting?

  • FJN October 25, 2021, 1:36 pm

    Was hoping someone would run with the design. Who better than SA!! I have a Browning from the 90’s. While I really enjoy the “Tupperware/matel” guns of today, there is no other pistol in my collection that feels like my Browning, which I see as a great memorial to the military and law enforcement that have utilized this weapon to keep our country and streets safe. Thrilled!!! Can’t wait to get one.

  • Mark N. October 25, 2021, 1:35 pm

    Damn, damn, damn, damn damn! I want want want! But to get my hands on one of these I’d have to move out of California! (Or pay double for an original in unknown condition.)

    • Vince October 26, 2021, 4:56 pm

      I know, I know. It sux…

  • Doug Lash October 25, 2021, 1:17 pm

    No ambi safety? Modernized safety my a**! Even right handed shooters work on weak hand drills. Handling a loaded single action semi without a safety you can reach with the shooting hand is asking for trouble. If they don’t want to include it to keep production costs down at least offer a factory ambi safety for users to have installed later. Too bad, looks like I’ll still be saving my pennies for a used Mark III.

    • John DeSilva October 25, 2021, 8:23 pm

      Parts interchangeability suggests that AMBI safeties from the existing models should work. Both my fans have them and the nice ring hammers as well

  • Ray Atkinson October 25, 2021, 1:04 pm

    I packed an old Hi=Power for 43 years in Federal Law Enf (mostly DEA) in Mexico and on the Texas Border, still have it and shot some 3000 rounds, and its still going strong and still have the gun and not one fail to feed, pretty amazing..Its perfect as is no need for the twin safety, not in all that time..I will be adding this one to my closet!! now for a 10 or 45, that would be perfect..No matel toy plastice guns for me, steel and wood only for this old curmudgeon..

    • Ronald Dunne October 26, 2021, 4:33 am

      One Old Curmudgeon to Another: I hear you- carried a BHP lightly tuned for many years on and off duty. I wanted one for years and they were just out of sight- until I found a used one I could afford. Still have it, altho it has, like myself, been retired for several years… due to the Glockification of America. Still there is no comparison in the quality of materials used or the craftsmanship. I like a double-action, abhor plastic just cuz, and still love the BHP for what it is! Glocks without doubt “is what they is” and they sure arent the 1911 or BPH’s we aspired to and carried!

  • Dennis K October 25, 2021, 12:49 pm

    Sold.

    So when will they be available for purchase?

  • Mike in a Truck October 25, 2021, 12:28 pm

    I Want One! But I want it in stainless- because carrying it everywhere is what I intend to do.You know SA is gonna make one. Haven’t had one since my days in Africa- I was a young man then.

    • Scotty Gunn October 25, 2021, 1:41 pm

      You can get them in Stainless. Just do a quick search. Just not via Springfield, that is all.

    • Jeffrey Hall October 29, 2021, 2:11 pm

      The S.S. ones are made in Turkey. By all accounts a very nice gun. Decent prices too from what I hear.
      I just can’t make myself support Turkey.

  • Altods October 25, 2021, 12:05 pm

    Owned one of the originals back in the 70s. Loved it but my meaty web between thumb and forefinger always got caught under the hammer, which was the spur type.

    By the time a magazine full went through the weapon the backstrap was covered in blood. The fact that Springfield took note of this issue and did something about it just increased the desirability as far as I’m concerned.

    This one looks very close to the original’s quality. Unfortunately, when manufacturers advertise a new model (to them) they often takes 2 or 3 years for to appear in the gun shops.

    • Ronald Dunne October 26, 2021, 4:41 am

      Altods- “By the time a magazine full went through the weapon the backstrap was covered in blood”.

  • Bill October 25, 2021, 11:55 am

    The “Matte Finish” probably cut the price almost in half. Compared to the high luster blue of the FN Browning hi-powers from the 60’s and 70’s it seems rather dull and boring.

    • Ronald Dunne October 26, 2021, 4:46 am

      Bill: Get that sucker bumper-chromed…. what the hey, you wouldnt be desecrating an FN…

  • TM1 October 25, 2021, 11:52 am

    Make that in 10mm or 45 cal, I’d be interested.

  • Brian October 25, 2021, 11:51 am

    And my comment is the exact opposite. The lack of an ambidextrous safety is a deal killer for me. I like the modernized safety and would want it on both sides. It’s absolutely beautiful otherwise. Does it have the magazine safety?

  • DaveP October 25, 2021, 11:48 am

    The commercials just write themselves, don’t they?

    “The GP35. It was good enough for the SAS, the CIA, the SOG, the Wehrmacht, and Frank Serpico. Now, it’s good enough for you.”

  • Jerry October 25, 2021, 11:32 am

    Nice article. Just put this on my christmas/must have list. Nice to see the enlarged the safety WITHOUT MAKING IT AMBIDEXTROUS. since I’m right handed the ambi safety only serves to catch on my clothing when carried under another piece of clothing. What’s the price on extra magazines by the way and will OEM browning and aftermarket hi-power mags work?

    • Justin Opinion October 25, 2021, 11:48 am

      I don’t have info on magazine pricing, but Browning and other legacy mags should work fine. Mec-Gar makes these, so I’m sure they will be easily available once initial demand surge subsides.

      • Luke A Chiavelli October 25, 2021, 12:15 pm

        So the mags are interchangeable even though the new mags are 15 rounds and the original Browning mags were 13 rounds. I hope you are correct, but it seems unlikely that they were able to fit two more rounds inside the same magazine size. If they did, then kudos to them for great engineering.

        • Scotty Gunn October 25, 2021, 1:42 pm

          Mec-Gar has been doing it for years. They hollowed out the follower. The spring goes up inside, so it holds two more, and they work great.

        • Lance October 25, 2021, 2:19 pm

          Mec-gar has been making 15 round mags for years. They were originally made for FM, that’s the Argentine military armory.

  • August Bender October 25, 2021, 11:30 am

    The pistol looks very nice, an excellent copy of the old P-35 at a very reasonable price from a reputable manufacturer. The modern improvements make sense without changing the iconic look of the gun. The accuracy is nothing to brag about though. I was at the range the other day shooting my Uberti made copy of the Colt SAA, chambered in .44 Special. Using my own inexpensive handloads and shooting offhand at 25 yards I got better 5-shot groups than the author did with this SA-35 fired from a rest.

  • Ford October 25, 2021, 11:29 am

    Great article, and it makes me think about how this will compare to my classic Belgium made Browning, that I use for my Every Day Carry . I have been looking for a new alternative for my EDC, with the same feel and ergonomics, since I do twinge when I inadvertently bump and bruise my Hi-Power. If this new Springfield is as accurate as my classic I admit it will be worth every penny. I constantly shoot 3/4” groups at 15m. Browning’s just seem to always be an extension of my hand.

  • Harvey E Gussow October 25, 2021, 11:12 am

    For all that Springfield Armory gives us. They should remind themselves that two are better than one when it comes to magazines and new models. Get it into the hands of the shooters and let them use it on the range. Reloading isn’t fun when you go back and forth shooting and reloading. FNH Knows that and they do extend there combat or “Tactical’ models with 3 Magazines. Let’s face it you guys have to trust the public sometime why not now?

  • Walleye October 25, 2021, 10:52 am

    The Hi Power was initially designed by J.M. Browning, but he died at the FN factory in 1926. Dieudonné Saive, a protege of Browning, worked for years to get the gun suitable for adoption in 1935 by police and military units around the world. In recognition of Mr. Browning’s contribution, FN named it the Browning P35 Hi Power when it was patented.

  • Brian Carevich October 25, 2021, 10:45 am

    I’ve been waiting for browning to reproduce this gun for a long time now. It’s hard taking my dad’s mint Belgium model out to the range even though I love the gun. Problem solved!

  • Cliff Walters October 25, 2021, 10:35 am

    Add another mag to the box and $50 to the price or make the mags readily available. The pistol is beautiful.

    • TXMIke October 27, 2021, 4:40 pm

      Why? Instead of getting an extra mag from SA and adding $50 to the price, buy a couple of Mec-Gars online for that same $50 or so.

      • Jeffrey Hall October 29, 2021, 2:19 pm

        I bought two mags from Springfield on the 25th, when they became available. They should arrive tomorrow. (Saturday the 30th). So I’ll have the mags and a Desantis holster a bit before my gun arrives. They are $35.99 from Springfield.
        When I get the gun, I’ll have to get started making a leather pancake holster for it. I needed an excuse to make another holster.

  • Mattias Petrmichl October 25, 2021, 10:24 am

    Does it have a firing pin safety like the MKIII S?

  • Edwin Clements Parrish October 25, 2021, 10:23 am

    Well, DANGIT! And I was planning to use that money for a Kimber revolver! 😆

  • Mike D October 24, 2021, 12:39 pm

    Nice write up, thanks.
    I’ve always wanted a Browning HP, and this might just scratch that itch.

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