Today marks the birthday of the greatest gun designer of all time, John Moses Browning. While everyone knows him as the man behind the m-2 .50, the pump action shotgun, and of course the 1911, one of the final designs he made was for the daddy of all double stack 9mm’s: the Browning Hi-Power. While many forces worldwide adopted the Hi-Power in the original version, some countries like Bulgaria wanted to modernize this phenomenal pistol, and thus was born the Arcus 94/98. We’ll be look at the Arcus 98 DA today.
Made in Bulgaria, this pistol was issued to police and military alike; it is at its core a Browning Hi-power, but with multiple updates to the look and feel of the pistol. The biggest change from the famous father is the double to single action trigger. Other changes include a more aggressive slide, slightly bigger beaver tail, and Houge style grips from the factory. The pistol comes in both compact (98 DAC), which takes standard 13 round Hi-Power magazines, and the DA, which can use the longer 17 or 20 round Hi-Power magazines in addition to their standard 15 round. To keep costs down, the internals of the pistol are less polished than the Hi-power, but its nothing too severe that affects the reliability of this battle-ready sidearm.
Shooting the Arcus-98 DA:
I will not lie; I personally own the pair in the picture at the top of this post, and I love them. Out of the box, they are solid feeling with a good lock up and a great feel in the hand. The trigger from the factory is gritty in double action and a very nice 4lb pull on single action. On my set, I polished the frame rails, had a trigger job done, and polished the feed ramps. These small tweaks turned a reliable battle arm into something I prefer over many others for range use or competition. My first range trip with the Arcus was on a cold spring day, and I brought about 500 rounds of everything from Winchester ranger to Tul steel case. After a full day of shooting this pistol, I had a total of four malfunctions, three of which were dud Tul rounds, and the fourth was a stovepipe off Winchester white box. I’ve shot many high powers, and it may be sacrilege, but the Arcus is more accurate than my post-WWII BHP. From the bench, I averaged 4-5” groups at a rapid pace at 10 yards. The three dot sights are easy to acquire and shoot high-speed low-drag with a phenomenal on target percentage for shooting steel. The frame of the Arcus is big enough to accommodate my ogre hands and still small enough to be the wife’s favorite full size pistol. This means across the board it should be a solid gun regardless of hand size. The grips can come off and be replaced with BHP wood if you want a nicer looking gun. For most people though, the Hougesque grips are perfect. On the ammo front, it will eat just about any 9mm you throw at it. On range days, I usually use a 125gr Lead Round Nose over 3.1grains of clay’s with standard small pistol primers. These may not be the major power factor people shoot for, but they are super controllable and reliably cycle the gun. With this load, I usually hit 3-4” groups at 10-15yrds.
The Arcus is considerably cheaper than the Hi-Power, with many under $300 on sites like Gunbroker. It does not feel as refined as the BHP, but at the same time has a much more modern and rugged feel. It is a battle sidearm and not a presentation grade heirloom. All that being said, it is without a doubt one gun that everyone should consider picking up for less than your average new cell phone. The Arcus is just another example of why today, every gun nut, collector, US serviceman, or American in general should stop and say a silent thank you to Mr. John Moses Browning.