Whenever Hi-Power fans talk about their favorite pistol, the FN/Browning P-35, they always seem to find room in their discussions for the non-FN built Hi-Power variants as well. The pistols at the center of the conversation are almost always the FÉG Hi-Power and Hi-Power style pistols, and the Argentine FM Hi-Powers, referred to as the FM 90 and the FM 95. The relative merits of both sets of "Hi-Powers" have been fodder for an endless number of spirited gun forum posts right up to this very moment and will probably continue to be so well into the future. While it is not my intention to conduct such a comparison here, a brief rundown of each gun's history is appropriate in order to help the reader understand some of the basic differences between these non-FN Hi-Power pistols.
I have covered in some detail the history of the FÉG Hi-Power (P9) and Hi-Power style (P9M) pistols in another article. The main focus of this article is to introduce the reader to the only other mass-produced, non-FN, Hi-Power ever made: The Argentine FM90 and FM95. Unlike the Hungarian pistols, the Argentine Hi-Power pistols, began life as license-built FN/Browning P-35's built under full sanction and oversight of Fabrique Nationale in Argentina between 1969 and 1989, a national fondness for the design having been around since the 1930's. During the 1980's, the Argentine government made a few cosmetic change by eliminating the stepped contour of the front of the slide of these pistols, made the slide serrations wider and fewer, made the top of the slide a non-glare surface, incorporated three dot sights and a low ramp into the design, and continued to produce them for its own military and police use as the FM 90. The FM pistols have closely mirrored the latest engineering changes in the FN/Browning P-35 design right up to the present time, which the FÉG firm did not do. The Argentine Hi-Powers, originally produced essentially as a pre-Mark II FN P-35, (almost identical to the FÉG P9), the latest FM 95 models today have most of the latest features of the FN/Browning Mark III Hi-Power pistols -- firing pin safety and ambidextrous thumb safety included, although the humped feed ramp was retained. Aside from the cosmetic changes discussed above and the older type of feed ramp, they remain very faithful copies of the latest versions of the Browning/FN Hi-Power. Although several thousand FM Hi-Power pistols have been imported into this country, they were strictly military/police guns without recreational enhancements like those found on the FÉG Hi-Powers, which were produced for the commercial market.
Recently some of Argentina's obsolete military Hi-Power pistols, FM 90's, came on the surplus market in this country and gun owners have been quick to recognize their value and snatch them up. These guns are the earlier FM pistols I described above. A friend and I availed ourselves of a pair of these pistols recently and the following evaluation tells all about our good fortune. We purchased the guns in "excellent condition" for $339 each. Our total investment in the guns, out the door, is $397 per pistol.
Both guns are unissued, unfired, brand spanking new, and only appear to have been racked a time or two for function checking. We field stripped my friend's pistol and wiped it out with a cloth dampened with solvent, and there wasn't enough crud in it to soil the cloth to any appreciable extent--i.e. the gun was totally clean inside. We removed the grips and found oil and clean metal underneath. The photos below are of my pistol, which has not even been wiped out. It is exactly like it came out of the box.
The guns came in navy blue factory cardboard boxes with waffle foam padding. The boxes were marked in script on top and both ends "PISTOLA FM CALIBRE 9X19mm. PARABELLUM Industria Argentina" There is a label on both ends saying "MILITAR M 90" and a blank space for a serial number.
These guns do not have the totally smooth exterior finish work of the FN/Browning or FEG pistols, possessing a few places where minor tool marks can be seen under close examination. (But we have to remember that the FM pistols were never intended for the civilian recreational market. They are military guns, plain and simple.) These places are in nooks and crannies around the trigger guard and across the back of the slide. They are minor enough that anyone refinishing the gun could easily remove them.
Basically the open expanses of metal are without tool marks and are very smooth. The tool marks I found do not characterize the gun's finish and do not detract from the appearance of the gun at all -- and they certainly do not detract from my feeling that this was a sweet deal. Again, these are hard-service military guns, not BHP's or FEG's intended for the market place of discerning buyers seeking flawless finish work.
The interior machine work is impressive. The breech face and surrounding areas are without marks, the frame rails and areas forward of them are also without marks. The undersides of the slide rails have minor brush marks on them. The ceiling of the slide interior has only the most minor of tool marks, and is just darn near completely smooth. The recoil spring tunnel is also nice and smooth, which was a real surprise.
The pistols function very smoothly in every respect. Both triggers were a very clean-breaking seven pounds or so, sayeth my M1A1 Triggerfingerguessometer. The hammer springs are very strong, indicating that FM followed FN in its transition from the 26 pound spring to the 32 pound spring, whereas FEG did not. Both guns have very strong extractor springs as well. The recoil springs feel strong enough, but new ones are enroute from the Parts Department at Browning nonetheless. My pistol's magazine had the gun's serial number engraved into it whereas my friend's did not. Both magazines were brand spanking new as well.
The feed ramp is of the "humped" variety and is still a little rough in its upper half, but a little Semichrome paste and elbow grease will take care of that. Hopefully I can dirty it up with a little copper soon.
These guns have no markings that would specifically identify their intended application, whether military or police. They appear to be a general purpose military/police pistols.
The photos aren't the best. It rained here today and it was pretty dark for taking photos, forcing me to use the flash, which I really dislike doing. But there has been so much conjecture about these pistols I wanted to get some detailed photos out for you guys to see. I hope they will make up some minds, but you'd better hurry. I have a feeling these are disappearing fast.