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American Handgunner Jan/Feb 2010 - Page 40
PISTOLSMITHING Alex Hamilton Hi-Power he Browning High Power is the number two pistol I see most often in my gunsmith shop, second only to the 1911. Smith and Wesson revolvers are at the top of the general “most seen” stack, with Ruger single actions running a tight tie. Right now I would like to talk about something new for the most well designed pistol of all time — the Browning High Power. Quality parts for the Browning HP have always been in short supply and only available from a couple of vendors. Most aftermarket parts have been marginal at best and are in need of considerable improvement, but none have been forthcoming, until now. The great American pistolsmith, Jim Garthwaite, in Watsontown, Penn. has come up with some high quality High Power parts and tools that will make all others obsolete — or surely a distant second. Jim Garthwaite, one of the finest men I have ever known and a gunsmith second to none, has emerged as a Browning High Power aficionado. He and Sue, Jim’s wife of 30 years, and I get together about once a year, usually at the Shot Show to “shoot the bull” about guns in general and the Browning High Power specifically. Our discussion usually ends up talking about the poor quality of custom after-market parts with which we must deal and how much extra work they create. Jim is one of those guys who takes a look at something and says “I can do it better” and sets himself to doing just that. That was the case two or three years ago in Las Vegas. This year in Orlando Jim showed up with his brand new, shiny High Power hammer, trigger and armorer’s tool kit. They are all superb and what we Browning guys have been wanting/ begging for many years! A High Power with Jim’s hammer and trigger installed. You can see the slightly straighter trigger to make shooting more comfortable and efficient. THE INSIDE SCOOP ON PISTOLSMITHING TECHNIQUES Goodies T im’s beautifully designed hammer is EDM/CNC machined from S7 tool steel and heat treated to a Rockwell “C” scale hardness of 48 to 52. No rough, warped, cheap castings for Jim Garthwaite. He accepts nothing but the best. The hammer spur is small and designed to eliminate or at least cut down on hammer bite for which the High Power is famous. This beautifully engineered hammer sells for $69.95 and may be purchased directly from Jim. A word about Rockwell hardness here for those of you who are not familiar with that old industry standard. The hardness number is a relative number based on the maximum known hardness of a diamond with a hardness of 92C. The “C” stands for the hardness as shown on the “C” scale. The other scale is the “B” or Brinell scale which is used to determine the hardness of materials softer than heat-treated tool steel such as brass, aluminum and other softer materials. The firearms industry deals mostly with tool steels, heat-treated to a hardness of from 38C to 42C, but high quality high stress parts such as hammers and sears are treated to hardness of 42C up to 52C. For your general information a Nickelson file is treated to a hardness of 65C, an old Colt match slide or new Kimber slide clocks in around 42C and a match pistol barrel will register around 38C. Proper heat treatment is what cheap firearms lack and is the subject of many thick Above: Jim’s Browning books. This is a tiny peek into that basic industrial standard. High Power gunsmith tool kit has been a long-awaited addition to gunsmith’s toolkits. hammer hardness J Trigger happy J You can easily see how Jim’s trigger is straighter when compared to a factory model. im’s wide trigger is also a beautifully machined piece cut from solid 4140 tool steel. It has a straight extension, which better accommodates a small or gloved hand. Another advantage of a straighter trigger lever is the finger pressure point is better centered or slightly lower than center for better leverage. Sharply curved triggers force the shooters finger down on the trigger so you are pushing down and well as back on the paddle. For you High Power pistolsmiths who Tig weld an internal stop on the front internal extension of the trigger you will no longer have to do that with the Garthwaite trigger. It has extra metal added to the extension which you can file for the perfect over-travel stop. The sample trigger I used required no filing and dropped in for a perfect over-travel fit. This expertly designed trigger sells for $54.95. There will be other high quality parts available from the shop of Jim Garthwaite, but for right now I am sworn to secrecy. * For more info: Jim Garthwaite Pistolsmith, (717) 5381566, www.garthwaite.com WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • JANUARY/FEBRUARY2010 40