Browning Hi Power Upgrades: Thumb Safeties
May 24, 2013
As a shooter who has lived with 1911s since the '70s, my handgun comfort zone tends to include single-action pistols like the Browning Hi-Power. The Browning is accurate, reliable and is one of the few high-capacity autos that fit my small hands well.
Naturally, custom upgrades to the Hi-Power tend to follow the same track as the 1911: trigger work, sights and thumb safeties. The original Hi-Powers made before the early '80s had a minuscule thumb safety that is difficult to operate under the best of conditions and could be a disaster in a high stress encounter.
Apparently, FN listened to their customers and introduced a larger ambidextrous extended safety with the MKII pistols. It is an improvement compared to the original part but still leaves a lot to be desired in my opinion. The shape is wrong and there is no shelf for the thumb if you use the "high thumb" shooting grip currently being taught. Fortunately, there are options.
Cylinder and Slide, Inc. of Freemont, Nebraska offers two custom safety levers that will make 1911 owners feel right at home. Their "extended" model is similar to 1911 tactical extended safeties, big but not huge, suitable for carry. The "wide extended target" model looks like the big "gas pedal" safeties on competition 1911s offering a wide shelf that is very easy to operate. Both models are available in either single side or ambidextrous versions and in blued or hard chrome finishes.
Installation of a C&S safety usually requires very minor fitting and the included instructions spell out everything you need to know. One thing to remember is that the spring-loaded detent in factory safeties is captured but the C&S plunger is free to fly off into space if you are not careful. I think unrestricted plunger movement may be the reason that C&S levers feel more positive than the originals. So, if you like Hi-Powers but dislike the factory safety don't worry. It's an easy fix.
HP thumb safety
The original style HP thumb safety is not going to hang up in your holster, but is small and difficult to operate under stress or with gloved hands.
The Cylinder & Slide
The Cylinder & Slide "extended" thumb safety for the Hi-Power provides a longer thumb surface while still being suitable for everyday holster carry
The C&S "wide extended target" thumb safety is like the big "gas pedal" safety levers so common on competition 1911s. Good for the range, not for carry.
Later factory safeties
Later factory safeties were better, and offered ambidextrous control, but still not great. The levers are still pretty small and flat, offering little purchase.