It was a premium day in the Texas Big Bend country -not too hot, very little wind, and a hint of moisture over the Davis Mountains that was building into a promising thunderhead. My buddy Bill stood at the 25-yard line at the Big Bend Gun Club shooting range, staring at a paper silhouette target. In his hand was what I consider to be one of the finest semiautomatic pistols ever made. Bill had been wanting to shoot it for a while, and I’d agreed to let him. We had partaken in our quarterly firearms qualifications for the federal investigative agency we worked for and figured that after the quaIs we’d satisfy his desire.
I’d wanted a nice Browning Hi-Power for a good while, and when I found one, it was ace high. At the time my friend, the late writer Gary Sitton, was attempting to unload his and called me first, knowing I’d been in the market for one. I’d shot the gun with him before and didn’t figure I’d be able to afford the price tag. What was so special about this Browning? Well, it had been completely customized by Robbie Barrkman at Robar, and that’s saying something.
It’s no secret that I’m not the biggest fan of the 9mm cartridge for police duty or self-defense use. That’s certainly not to say that I haven’t used it, though. During my days as an officer with the New Mexico State Police, I was a firearms instructor during the department’s first transition from the .357 Magnum revolver to the 9mm pistol, a Smith & Wesson Model 5906 at the time. My fellow instructors and I put in many hours practicing with those 9mm guns and came to carry them with a good deal of confidence.
When I left the state for an assignment as a federal criminal investigator on the Mexican border, I switched over to a Colt Series 70 Government Model .45 and later an S&W Model 1006 10mm for full-time carry. Some years later, the agency, like many, decided to standardize all sidearms, and we wound up carrying the Glock 19 9mm pistol. I’d not had much experience with the Glock, though I knew it was a good gun. While I felt a little undergunned with the 9mm after carrying the .45 ACP and 10mm for so long, I reminded myself of my state police days and carrying the 9mm on countless traffic stops and other situations. I felt comfortable again.
The author’s Browning Hi-Power 9mm was customized by Robbie Barrkman at Robar, and some of its special features are a tuned trigger, aftermarket hammer and sights, complete dehorning, special finish, and coco bolo stocks.
The Sitton Hi-Power
Thus, when I got the itch for a Hi-Power, the choice between the 9mm and the .40 S&W was pretty easy. Sitton’s Robar-modified gun was one of the most superb 9mm pistols I’d ever seen: beautiful finish and grips, excellent sights, and deadly accurate. Barrkman, head honcho at Robar, truly knows how to customize a firearm. He has a unique background, one that certainly qualifies him to customize handguns, rifles, and shotguns. Born and raised in South Africa, he was in the South African military prior to coming to the United States. He was later an instructor and range master at the famous Gunsite shooting school, where he mastered the art of gunsmithing. Barrkman was so good at working on Gunsite students’ firearms that he eventually decided to go into gunsmithing on a full-time basis, developing the Robar company.
Robar offers a number of gunsmithing services, including custom handguns, shotguns, and precision rifles. On the Sitton gun, Barrkman performed his Browning Hi-Power Super Deluxe Package. This procedure includes an excellent trigger job, which included the removal of the magazine disconnect; installation of low-profile, Novak night sights; complete dehorning; installation of an ambidextrous thumb safety; installation of a Commander-style hammer; installation of a spring kit; stippling of the frontstrap and backstrap; and finishing the pistol with a tough, two-tone finish and a beautiful set of cocobolo stocks.
Fortunately, Sitton and I were able to agree on a reasonable price for the Robar Hi-Power, and I walked away a happy shooter. There’s something about a Hi-Power that makes it feel great in the hand, and the Sitton gun feels even better. That could be a result of the awesome stippling on the fronts trap and backs trap, or it could be the excellent feel and fit of the cocobolo stocks. Actually, it’s probably a combination of both, plus the fact that Browning designed the Hi-Power to fit the hand perfectly. I’ll likely get harassed for saying this, but I believe it feels better in the hand than a 1911-style pistol.
Along with having fine fit, finish, and feel, the Sitton Hi-Power points as well as any handgun I’ve handled. I’m a fan of pointshooting practice, though I’m not a real expert. When pointshooting, I generally address the target in a combat stance, my left foot slightly forward of my right, knees slightly bent, and my weight on the balls of my feet.
This stance allows me to easily address targets at several angles with a minimum amount of foot shifting. One of the most important aspects of successful pointshooting is keeping your eyes focused on the target while maintaining awareness of the gun’s barrel and front sight at the lower edge of the field of view. The trigger is squeezed quickly yet smoothly, when all elements align for the shot. If it’s a miss, just a slight adjustment is needed to realign the shot and get it on target. With the Sitton Hi-Power, this technique can be learned and executed easily.
My partner and I stood by while Bill glared downrange.
I could tell he, like me, was impressed with the way the Hi-Power felt in his hand. He’s an expert pistol shot and quickly put the Browning into battery, addressed the target, and began a rapid-fire string that emptied the magazine in nothing flat. We’d thought he shot too quickly to have much of a group at 25 yards, but when we all walked down to examine the target, we found 10 shots in a good 4-inch group.
Bill stared down at the Hi-Power, smiled, and said, “Now that’s just the way a pistol ought to be.”
I couldn’t agree more.