When the shooting sports rumor mill had Springfield Armory debuting a new pistol in October 2021, I figured it would likely be a new version of Springfield’s workhorse 1911s or a slick little concealed carry 9MM. Maybe a high-capacity big bore?
After all, Springfield has been cutting-edge tactical for a good while, with ever more offerings of concealed-carry and home-defense pistols.
Instead, Springfield went in a very different direction, kind of Upgraded Old School, when it launched the SA-35 9MM pistol, essentially an improved version of the iconic Browning High Power, the last handgun designed by firearms genius John Moses Browning.
First introduced to the world in 1935, the 9MM Browning High Power quickly became one of the top combat and law enforcement pistols, adopted by dozens of militaries and hundreds of policing agencies. In that time, the High Power has seen many improvements and variations. And while it has always been a favorite around the world, the High Power really never gained the popularity in the U.S. comparable to the 1911 (which is yet another Browning design).
Springfield Armory looks to change that with this newest version of Browning’s last design.
Made in the U.S.A., the single-action, semi-automatic SA-35 features a forged-steel frame and slide for strength and durability. This gives the SA-35 a solid feel and a nicely weighted balance. Springfield replaced the rather diminutive sights with a white-dot front post and a serrated rear blade, improved the feed ramp design to better handle self-defense hollow points, and increased the magazine capacity to 15 rounds versus the High Power’s 13 rounds.
Springfield also did away with the High Power’s magazine disconnect, which made the pistol unable to fire without a magazine in place. That disconnect held the magazine in place, too, even when the magazine release was pressed. With the disconnect no longer featured, the SA-35 magazines drop free with a quick press of the release.
The SA-35 also features a factory-tuned trigger with much less resistance than the original. My trigger averaged just over four pounds of trigger pull, with a small amount of uptake and a crisp break.
But first and foremost, the SA-35 is a shooter.
At my outdoor range, I ran the SA-35 with Federal Premium’s 9MM Syntech Range firing a 124-grain bullet coated with Syntech poly and Remington UMC range ammunition with a 115-grain full-metal jacket. For a self-defense load, I employed Winchester’s Train & Defend rounds loaded with 147-grain jacketed hollow points.
I fired the SA-35 offhand at distances of between five and ten yards, and from a rest at both 12 and 20 yards. Some of my best groups included:
• Remington UMC at five yards offhand, five shots at .91-inches
• Winchester Train and Defend, seven yards offhand with five shots at .93-inches
• Train and Defend also made a 1.41-inch, five-round group at 20 yards, shooting from a rest
• Federal’s Syntech Range grouped five shots at 1.61-inches, at 20 yards from a rest
Of course, I shot larger groups, too. Initially, very large as I got used to the pistol. But the SA-35 was clearly capable of great accuracy, if I held up my end of the shooting bargain.
In over 200 rounds, I experienced zero malfunctions. The SA-35’s sight came up easily to my eye and provided a sharp-edged sight picture.
As far as looks go, the real walnut grips complemented the black-matte finish of the pistol. I did wish the grip checkering was a bit deeper, though; some checkering on the metal front and back straps would’ve been a plus especially when hands get damp and grimy.
The SA-35’s safety snapped in to and out of SAFE positively and without too much effort. The slide worked easier than most 1911s I’ve used, and the beveled magazine well made for easier and quicker reloads.
For a compelling connection to history that performs with the best of todays’ concealed-carry and home-defense pistols, the Springfield Armory SA-35 may be the perfect choice.
Action: Single, Semi-Auto
Color: Matte Black
Barrel: 4.7″ Cold-Hammer Forged, 1:10 Twist
Slide: Forged Carbon Steel, Blued
Frame: Forged Carbon Steel, Blued
Sights: White Dot Front, Serrated Tactical Rack Rear
Recoil System: SA-35™ Recoil Spring & Guide Rod
Grips: Checkered Walnut
Magazines: (1) 15-Round
Weight: 31.5 oz