Specs & Features
When it comes to ounces and inches, the SA-35 and MCP35 are faithful to the Hi-Power in general length, height, width, and weight with truly little variance. You are still looking at a 4.8-inch barrel, which gives the pistol a 7.8-inch overall length. Weight is 32 ounces unloaded, while the guns stand 4.8 inches high.
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Getting to the nitty gritty, the SA-35 has a lot in common with the latter’s 1960s “T-series” Hi-Powers. Compare this to the MCP35 that seems to be modeled after the later post-1980 Browning Mark II/III models made by FN during the last few decades of the model’s run with that company. Both have an external extractor, a serrated ring hammer, a slim trigger, a windage drift-adjustable rear sight, and use the same Mec-Gar produced 15-shot aftermarket double-stack magazine, but we also found the pistols accept standard 13+1 Hi-Power mags of every type we could put our hands on.
EAA tells us the MCP35 has a frame and slide crafted from 4140 steel, whereas Springfield says theirs is forged carbon steel. Both guns have a tight fitment with little wiggle, and both could benefit from a good deburr and polish job, but keep in mind that these pistols have an asking price well under what FN was wanting in 2018 for comparable work.
Differing from the Springfield gun, the Girsan runs an ambidextrous safety, and a magazine-disconnect safety (more on this abomination later). The SA-35 has a flat-matte finish, its only option, while EAA offers the MCP35 in a shinier black, gray, and FDE, with other flavors reportedly on the way.
The MCP35 ships with synthetic checkered grips with a thumb groove on each side, a ringer to the Browning Mark II guns, while the SA-35 has checkered wooden grips that look sweet but aren’t correct to the old FN panels. Despite that, when it comes to those aforementioned grips, we found both models have standard BHP grip patterns and accepted a variety of aftermarket replacement grips without modification, so that option is wide open.
The surface controls differ slightly between the two guns with the SA-35 having a more extended manual safety and slide-stop lever while the MCP35 has the more basic slide-stop lever and an ambi safety lever. Springfield uses a modified hammer that has a longer spine when compared to the standard BHP ring hammer, which the Girsan replicates, with the SA-35 billed as being less likely to eat up the webbing of the user’s hand as a result.
There may be a bit of truth to that, as we did get a slight case of slide bite with the Girsan a couple of times but not with the SA-35, using the same set of meaty test hands. However, the SA-35 traded the slide bite for sharp edges on the beavertail grip, which proved uncomfortable in extended range sessions.
And, of course, since the SA-35 doesn’t have a mag safety, empty magazines usually fall free when ejected under Earth gravity while the exact same mags typically have to be stripped away when released from the MCP35. Drill for reloads accordingly.
One of the biggest differences between the two clones is in the trigger. The SA-35 has a light trigger that we found to be relatively crisp for a factory machine-fit trigger. Thin and without the creaky, crunchy travel that you get with MK III and later BHPs, it breaks at about 4.5 pounds. Like most triggers, it grew smoother as we burned through boxes of ammo at the range and could Mozambique with ease.
The trigger on the MCP35, even for having the dreaded magazine safety disconnect and the resulting crunch that feature brings to the party, wasn’t deal-breaking horrible for a single-action “combat” pistol of 20th-century design. It broke at about 7 pounds on average with just under half an inch of travel with a corresponding reset. It also smoothed out a little with use but was still nothing to write home about.
In testing, the EAA MCP35 got the upper hand, chewing through 998 rounds out of 1,000 over the Springfield SA-35, which went 993:1000. Most of the failures with the SA-35 were failures to extract a spent case, all seen with an elevated round count (in the 700s) on a dirty gun. This is something of a known issue with the first batch of SA-35s, and Mark Allen over at BHSpringSolutions in Indiana reports that he is seeing later examples that have a redesigned extractor fitted to the pistol.
Both guns have a limited lifetime warranty.
The fixed sights on the Girsan MCP35 utilize a long white stripe on the front with two corresponding stripes on the rear. They can be replaced should the user desire and use a BHP common dovetail pattern. Meanwhile, the SA-35 uses a more proprietary dovetail similar to that used by the Tisas BR9 Regent. BHSpringSolutions has a replacement option as does Heinie Specialty, both recent developments.
In practical accuracy, both guns were well-capable of keeping inside center mass at 25 yards with bulk-pack ball ammo in an offhand stance. We didn’t try the Dickin Drill with these as it wasn’t a thing until a couple of weeks ago but feel confident we could probably pull it off with either.
At the end of the day, it boils down to why you want a Hi-Power in the first place. Both guns are better clones than I have seen in some past efforts under other banners (see the FEG, PJK, and the Bulgarian Arcus 94). Heck, even when stacked against late-model FN MK IIIs assembled in Portugal in the 2000s, there is little to grouse about. This is firmly an apples-to-apples comparison.
The SA-35 has a better trigger and leans towards having tighter groups than the MCP35 – likely because of not having a magazine safety disconnect – while having more of a 1960s commercial BHP look due to its smooth finish and walnut grips. It is pretty. It shoots well. The mags drop free when you press the button.
Then you take the MCP35, which is a little rougher, has a crunchy trigger due to its magazine safety disconnect – which it should be pointed out was a standard FN feature for the last four decades of the BHPs factory production – but the Girsan-made gun plain out works. Further, even though it comes in schemes that are divergent from what FN offered, it may be purer to the original when things like the extractor and sight pattern are involved. It is not as pretty as the SA-35, but it doesn’t look any worse than what Browning was selling in 2018. It is dependable. Then, there is pricing and availability, with the EAA import often being less spendy than the SA-35, both in terms of MSRP and actual price at the dealers’ shelves, as well as more likely to be on those shelves at least as of August 2022.
If you have the time and find the deals, get both. Keep the SA-35 around as something akin to a BBQ gun you out to the range with friends. A trophy wife.
Then, use the MCP35 as a base platform to just meltdown at the range. Let it get dirty and grungy. Upgrade the internals. Have fun with it. That is what EAA is doing. They plan to bring in all sorts of variants of the gun, complete with flat triggers and rails while deleting the magazine safety (yes!). All I can hope for is that they chop some down to a more compact Commander-style (Detective in Hi-Power parlance) pistol, at which point I will giggle into the night.
Either way, the love affair with the BHP has some new legs.