Yesterday, we looked at a deliberately faked Ithaca M1911A1 being offered by a probably unwitting consignor. Now we have an apparently witting seller misrepresenting a clone as a genuine Browning Hi Power. Buckle up, ’cause it’s going to get ugly here.
Item II: The Phony Browning
Here you have a Hungarian FÉG 9HP Browning Hi-Power Clone, extensively gunsmithed, misrepresented on GunBroker by a Texas seller (M118LRShooter) who is not an FFL as a genuine Browning and sold for a genuine Browning price of about $1400.
It was only on arrival in Connecticut that Mike, the buyer, realized that he had a mismatched parts gun on an FÉG frame, a disclosure the initial sale did not make. The initial auction was not billed as a Browning clone or an FÉG, but, as you can see, Custom Browning Hi Power 9mm Pistol! Mike began to get a sinking feeling that he’d been had.
Not only was this breathed-on clone called a Browning Hi Power in the title of the auction, “Browning” appeared four times and “Hi Power” seven in the description (count them yourself, below). “FÉG,” “Hungary,” “clone” and “copy” are conspicuous by their absence. We’ll make it easy for the 90% of you that are not red-green color blind with a little color highlighting.
This Browning Hi Power has a custom carry package…all the sharp edges are rounded and smooth…the pistol has been tuned for total reliability and function, as well as accuracy. The sights are a combination of tritium Novak rear night sight, and XS Sight Systems tritium express front night sight…this Browning was meant to be carried and used. Special slim line grips are fitted to this pistol. A Cylinder and Slide trigger kit has been professionally installed resulting in an unbelievably smooth combat trigger. The magazine disconnect has been removed so this pistol will fire with the magazine removed. Browning Hi Power specialists, and defensive shooters will immediately note the custom beavertail on this frame. There is no Hi Power out there that will feel as good as this one in your hand. It is so well done it looks like it came from the factory this way. A commander hammer has been professionally fitted as part of the defensive carry package. Your hand will never get chewed up again….Hi Power shooters will know what I mean…. This pistol has a custom satin black Cerakote finish that will not wear off, or chip. This pistol will come with two original Hi Power 13 round magazines. Add the features up and see what a value this pistol is. If you’re considering buying a Hi Power and having all this custom work done….get ready to write a big check….or win the auction on this one and go to the range…. This is the Custom Browning Hi Power you are searching for.
Mike contacted the seller of the misrepresented pistol, thinking it might have been an inadvertent error.The response he got made him realize that there was no error involved at all, except maybe his. The seller insulted him, standing behind his “as is” boilerplate, and refused to take a telephone call to sort the matter out. “Finders keepers, losers weepers” as gun-sale code of conduct?
There are two mental exercises that will steer you to understanding the integrity level of the seller, M118LRShooter. Put yourself in his position,
- If you made an honest error, and inadvertently misrepresented a gun, and the buyer was unhappy he did not get what you falsely advertised, would you take it back?
- If you set out to be dishonest, and deliberately and knowingly misrepresented a gun, and the buyer was unhappy he did not get what you falsely advertised, would you then take it back?
Now, we have no way of knowing what was in the mind of Texan seller, M118LRShooter. We only know that he acted as he would if he were operating in Case 2 above.
Then when Mike entered negative feedback — a fair response to a seller misrepresenting a gun about a dozen times in a single listing, the seller — previously quite happy, presumably, to have gotten nearly $1400 for a $400 gun — changed his feedback for the buyer. His initial feedback was:
A+: Excellent buyer! Payment and communication were fast and correct…would do business with this man again…no hesitation…
But that was before the Connecticut buyer found out that he had been defrauded, and left negative feedback for the scamming seller:
Item was clearly described as a Browning Hi Power. Received a FEG PJK-9HP with a Browning slide. Contacted seller w/no resolution. Seller stated that I should’ve asked more questions about its origin.
Then, the seller responded with the same message, essentially, “it was as-is, FU” and changed his earlier feedback to punish the buyer for exposing the fraud:
F: If a buyer has specific questions about things that are important to him…he should ask them, not blame a seller for his mistake. This guy is a 10% buyer…watch out. I will always block this bidder!
Well, yeah, scammers tend not to respect or like their marks.
The story may not be over yet, although it seems to be at an impasse at this time. The whole sad tale is here on the 1911 Forum.
In practical terms, the
seller buyer (duh) has no recourse. It’s too hard to prove criminal intent. It doesn’t yet seem to be a pattern of behavior from the seller. No sane lawyer would take an interstate civil case for such a small amount in dispute.
The Factory Frauds
As it happens, a lot of FÉGs are inadvertently misrepresented as actual Hi-Powers, because they are very close copies (the parts interchangeability of these reverse-engineered Iron Curtain clones is practically 100%), and because FÉG themselves mislabeled entire runs of these pistols during the Iron Curtain era. Here are two images of different FÉG clones bearing spurious FN rollmarks:
Most of these clones that are found in US and European collector circles are not in good condition; many of them came from Israeli stocks, and seem to comprise both weapons Israel bought and issued to police (which are heavily holster worn) and weapons Israel recovered from Arab nations and guerrilla movements, which tend to signs of Arab (i.e., no) maintenance.
Some of these guns were imported directly into the USA like that (by Kassnar), and Browning and FN apparently let them get away with it, back in the 1980s.
Why these guns were made is uncertain, but it seems probable that large numbers of them were intended to be used as “deniable” weapons by Warsaw Pact clandestine services and by Soviet and Satellite supported terrorist groups in the 1980s. Some may also have been sold directly (or indirectly) to Israel in contravention of the bloc’s pro-Arab policies, for the private profit of those doing the deal. FÉG did cut a deal later with Israel to support Israeli production of the BHP, and that deal was almost certainly done under the table.
Others may have been injected in international commerce at a premium price over the FÉG clones, with the delta between what FÉG earned and what the middleman got from the end user nation probably going to some secret policeman’s or Politburo member’s offshore bank account.
A great many of these clones are going to get sold as Brownings sooner or later, and a great many of them already have. Note that the misrepresented FÉG parts gun in the first part of this story was not one of these guns, it appears to have a genuine Browning slide on a FÉG frame.