TFB Review: Girsan MC P35 Ops

The Browning Hi-Power is a legendary design, which has served around the globe for almost 90 years. While it has been overshadowed by more modern designs, some gun nerds have wondered what a modernized Hi-Power would be like. Rejoice, fellow gun nerds, for EAA has listened and is now selling the Girsan MC P35 Ops. It’s a true Hi-Power clone but spruced up for shooters who want an improved experience.

More Hi-Power Coverage @ TFB:

As with any review, it’s important that the reviewer disclose the terms. EAA contacted me to ask if I wanted to try out the MC P35 Ops. I agreed (of course) and they sent out the pistol. I bought the ammo for the review and will keep the pistol at the end of the review. This is my first EAA gun and I don’t have any previous history with the company.

Background

The Browning Hi-Power (aka BHP for those who frequent gun forums) is one of the most prolific service handguns of the 20th century. John Browning himself worked on its design. It fought on both sides in World War 2 and is only now being replaced in some militaries.

Browning sold various models of the Hi-Power but ultimately stopped production a few years ago. Sales performance had not been good, and the BHP simply did not offer a competitive feature set for its price point. The discontinuation has led to more companies entering the market, though. Tisas, Girsan, and Springfield Armory have all introduced Hi-Power clones, and FN now sells the “High Power” which is worth mentioning even though it is not a Hi-Power.

While this is quite the legacy, this is not to say the design is perfect. The trigger is rather poor, especially by modern standards. Other common complaints include the magazine disconnect safety, hammer bite, and lack of an accessory rail. The P35 Ops is an interesting take on a classic Hi-Power with those upgrades.

Features

The MC P35 Ops is made in Turkey by Girsan and imported by EAA. EAA imports other Girsan handguns, including more basic Hi-Powers. Magazines are supplied by Mec-Gar, an Italian OEM who makes a large portion of all handgun magazines on the market.

The Ops ships in a foam-lined plastic hard case, which is decently nice. My only gripe with the case is the cutout for a spare magazine which doesn’t hold the spare magazine securely. The included cleaning tools are secured well, though.

Flat triggers are not my preference. I almost always prefer a curved trigger shoe. That said, I don’t mind the flat face on the Ops. It provides a little more leverage than the highly-curved trigger on a classic Hi-Power.

Other upgrades like the controls and beaver tail are great quality-of-life features. The safety and slide catch are wonderfully easy to use. It is not the most positive or snappy safety, but the large leverage makes it almost impossible to stop between “safe” and “fire.” The extended beaver tail really works and it protects the shooter’s hand.

Adjustable sights are included on the MC P35 Ops and they work. Adjustments did not drift once they were made. I did need to dial in a fair amount of left windage to center the groups.

The fit between the slide and frame is good, but not incredible. There is a little wiggle but it is much less than the average Glock. Slide movement is very smooth. It does not feel gritty or rough like some metal frame import pistols.

EAA's Modernized Hi Power Clone: Girsan MC P35 Ops Review

Holsters for railed Hi-Powers are uncommon, and it is necessary to use more generic holsters like this SADF Pattern 90 chest rig

EAA's Modernized Hi Power Clone: Girsan MC P35 Ops Review

The ambidextrous safety is reminiscent of the Mk III Hi-Power

On The Range

Trigger pulls can be hard to describe, but the Ops is sort of a three-stage unit. There is slack, take up, then a wall. The pull is a little heavy for a single-action pistol, but there is essentially no creep past the wall. It just breaks. When running the gun fast, the slack and take up blend together. Both steps are noticeable in slow fire, though.

My dry firing would have been very annoying if the P35 Ops had a magazine disconnect safety, but EAA was smart and they removed it. Most dedicated Hi Power shooters remove the disconnect safety before they even hit the range. It was nice to have that job already done.

The slide catch and beaver tail are all exceptional. This is the only Hi Power that has not destroyed my shooting hand. It is possible that the extended slide catch will be too extended for shooters with large hands, and it is easy to rest a thumb on that lever. This can lead to failure to lock back.

Girsan chose well with the sights on the Ops. The rear is blacked out, with serrations to reduce glare. It is also windage and elevation adjustable with a small flathead screwdriver. The front sight is an orange fiber optic unit. Combining the black rear sight and bright front sight make for a great combo.

EAA made a great decision in sourcing Mec-Gar magazines. They’re simply some of the best mags on the market. I already had several in my magazine bin (purchased when I thought I might buy a Springfield SA-35, but those are still not on shelves). EAA was also smart to choose the 15-round version instead of the older 13-round. I could find no difference between my spare mags and the one included with the gun.

Reliability

I used a variety of ammo during this review, 710 rounds in total. The breakdown of that ammo by load was:

  • Blazer Brass 115 grain (100 rounds)
  • Blazer Brass 124 grain (50 rounds)
  • Remington UMC 115 grain (50 rounds)
  • Federal 124 grain (50 rounds)
  • American Eagle 70 grain lead free (100 rounds)
  • ZSR Turkish 115 grain (50 rounds)
  • Speer Lawman 115 grain TMJ (50 rounds)
  • Magtech 115 grain (100 rounds)
  • Blazer Aluminum 115 grain (100 rounds)
  • Federal Punch 124 grain JHP (20 rounds)
  • Winchester Silvertip 115 JHP (20 rounds)
  • Winchester Silvertip 147 JHP (20 rounds)

I tried to use a large range of ammunition to see if there were any irregularities. Everything functioned 100 percent. Blazer Aluminum casings did not have robust ejection. There were no failures but they sort of dribbled out of the ejection port rather than flying away. This was my first outing with the 70-grain American Eagle lead-free ammo. It was noticeably louder than the other ammunition and the ejection was very aggressive, but it did not cause any malfunctions either.

One step in the shooting phase was a mini burndown. I fired 100 rounds as fast as I could. Now, with only four 15-round magazines, I had to stop and reload magazines partway through. The gun worked fine even when it was hot. The barrel was smoking, the slide was too hot to touch and the frame was hot. The heat radiated down the frame into the trigger guard. However, there were no malfunctions. I would have liked to increase the round count of the burndown but I was footing the bill for ammo so this is what we have.

The only functional “failure” during the review was two instances where the slide did not lock back. These were caused by me resting my abnormally long thumbs on the slide catch. It is extended for an easy reach and it was just a little too easy for me.

EAA's Modernized Hi Power Clone: Girsan MC P35 Ops Review

Hollow point defensive ammo did not cause malfunctions in the P35 Ops

Issues/Gripes/Complaints

There were a few issues with the P35 Ops that need to be mentioned. The first is the trigger. The first time I fired the gun I was shocked by how heavy it was. I did not check it with a scale but I would guess it was over 8 pounds. Within 50 rounds, it had lightened up noticeably and was measuring around 6.5 pounds. I gave it a redneck trigger job by dry firing it a bunch by the campfire, and the trigger improved a bit more. At the end of the review, the pull weight had dropped to about 4.25 pounds. While the pull weight improved, that level of change was worrying.

One other aspect of the trigger is the reset, or rather the lack thereof. This is not necessarily unique to the Ops but is common with Hi-Powers. However, it is pretty bad on the P35 Ops. Shooters who ride the reset will be very frustrated with this trigger.

There have been some reports of iffy accuracy with the Girsan P35 series.  At normal handgun ranges, the P35 Ops will not be the weak link. It shoots groups similar to any other 9mm handgun. At 20 yards I had recurrent flyers. Most rounds would fall into a decent group, but the first round from each magazine would throw 5-7″ out to the right from the group. This happens with many pistols because the first round is chambered by hand and the rest of the magazine is chambered by the cycling of the gun. But 7″ at 20 yards is quite a lot. Once I noticed this trend I looked at earlier groups and could see the same pattern, but with a much smaller variation because they were fired at closer ranges. Perhaps a better fitment between the barrel and slide would tighten up the groups.

Girsan has reshaped the frame for a more ergonomic grip, and it was mostly successful. The undercut helps the shooter get a higher grip on the gun and is only beneficial. However, the small spur at the base of the grip will annoy large-handed shooters. I generally wear XL gloves but have thin hands. I still felt that my fingers were squished between that spur and the trigger guard. It was mildly annoying for me but would be an absolute deal-breaker for those of you with gorilla mitts.

The accessory rail is one of the most visible additions to the Ops, but it is a disappointment in practice. Neither the TLR-1 or X-300 fit. Both are just ever so slightly too long to attach to the forwardmost rail slot. Adding one more rail slot or moving the existing slots forward by 1/4″ would do the trick. Smaller lights like a TLR-7 should fit fine, but it seems odd to use a mini light on a gun this size.

EAA's Modernized Hi Power Clone: Girsan MC P35 Ops Review

Neither the X300 nor TLR-1 fit on the P35 Ops, but they are painfully close to fitting. A slight redesign of the rail should remedy this issue.

The G-10 grip panels look nice and provide a good grip on the gun, but they have one major problem. There is a small sharp corner underneath the ambidextrous safeties that really bites into the hand. Now, this is only really noticeable if you choke up high on the grip, so you could remedy it by holding the gun wrong. The location of this sharp corner makes it impossible to use something like hockey tape to soften the edge. I removed the grip panels, dug out some 500-grit sandpaper, and got to work. With about 10 minutes of wet sanding, I had removed the offending sharp corners.

EAA's Modernized Hi Power Clone: Girsan MC P35 Ops Review

The offending little sharp corner at the top of the grip just below the safety

EAA's Modernized Hi Power Clone: Girsan MC P35 Ops Review

That small sharp point was easily removed with some wet sanding

EAA's Modernized Hi Power Clone: Girsan MC P35 Ops Review

Front sight fiber optic attempting to escape its confinementMy final issue was with the front sight fiber optic. It worked loose at about 550 rounds fired. Thankfully I noticed before it launched itself into the dirt somewhere. This is not the first time I have seen this issue with fiber optic sights generally, but it is worth noting that it happened here too.

I provided this list of issues to EAA and they said it was the kind of feedback they want to take to the factory. Hopefully, they can clean up these issues. Some polishing in the trigger mechanism and a slight re-contouring of the grips would deal with two of the problem areas, and those should be easy to change. Tweaking the design of the accessory rail and tightening up the accuracy may be more involved design fixes but should not be impossible.

Conclusion

The MC P35 Ops is a very interesting gun. It melds the classic Hi-Power with features we expect on modern handguns. That implementation is not perfect. The core functions of the gun are solid and it worked with a broad range of ammo. If EAA and Girsan can tune up the issues listed above, the P35 Ops could be an impressive and unique pistol. It will not be replacing my defensive handguns but it will continue to be in my rotation of fun guns on the range.

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