You may have seen a tweet today from presidential candidate and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush showing a nice FN FNX .45 pistol with his name engraved on the top of the slide.
He sent the image, paired with the one statement: “America.”
The tweet is going viral. Bush snapped the photo while at the FN America manufacturing plant in Columbia, South Carolina, where he took a tour of the plant and had a town hall with the employees.
This story from the Washington Post goes as far as to say: “The tweet has exploded online and has the potential to boost his image among Southerners beyond South Carolina who value the 2nd Amendment and the right to bear arms.”
The piece then goes on to give a very brief rundown of the storied history of FN Herstal, the parent company of FN America, which is based in Belgium. For many years, the company was known worldwide as Fabrique Nationale d’Armes de Guerre and was most famous, perhaps, for its long-standing relationship with John Moses Browning, producing many of his original firearm designs, including the Model 1910.
In fact, one of the Model 1910s made by FN was one of four weapons taken from the assassins of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, which is often seen as the tipping point event that plunged Europe into the First World War. However, it is not known which of the four weapons fired the fatal round.
The Post story points out that the company was “requisitioned” by the Nazi military during WWII and its factories used to produce weapons for Axis troops, but there’s a bit more to it than that. Yes, the Browning Hi-Power pistol was used by both the Allied and Axis forces during World War II. The Germans gave it the designation of Pistole 640(b) (the B stands for belgisch, or Belgian).
The Hi-Power pistols used by Allied troops were produced in Canada by John Inglis and Company in Toronto. The plans for the pistol were sent from the FN factory to Britain when it became clear the Belgian plant would fall into Nazi hands. This enabled the Inglis factory to be tooled up for Hi-Power production.
After the war, FN continued to produce the Hi-Power at the Belgium factory and it was adopted as the standard service pistol by over 50 armies, including most NATO nations, for a time.
Browning originally designed the pistol on commission from FN, and it was intended to be the new French service pistol. Since Browning had already sold the 1911 to Colt, he had to come up with a completely new design, actually working around the 1911 patent. Ultimately, the French army didn’t go with the Hi-Power.
Today, FN makes various arms for the U.S. military, including the M4 carbine, the M240 machine gun, and the MK19 automatic grenade launcher.