SA-35 And The Mozambique Drill

History Repeats Itself
; .

The Springfield Armory SA-35 is an ever-so-slightly modernized
iteration of John Moses Browning’s classic 9mm combat pistol.

The Mozambican War for Independence formally ended with the Lusaka Accord signed in 1974. This pitiless fight technically began back in 1498 when the first Portuguese explorers made landfall on the coastline of what is today Mozambique. Slavery and gold drove the train in the 15th century. By the 20th it was more national pride and geopolitical momentum.

Patriotic hubris can be a powerful engine indeed. Before the guns fell silent the Portuguese were spending 44% of their GDP to cling to the overseas colonies defining their past greatness. Their enemies in Mozambique, a motley band of some 8,000 Marxist irregulars, extracted a ghastly toll in blood and treasure. This fanatical mob was known as the Liberation Front of Mozambique or FRELIMO.

Before the war ground to its bloody terminus the Portuguese had enlisted white mercenaries to help keep FRELIMO in check. These experienced African bush fighters were both well-trained and professional. One of these guns for hire was a legendary South African merc named Mike Rousseau.


From left to right is an FN Hi-Power produced in Belgium under Nazi occupation,
the Canadian Inglis 9mm Hi-Power and the modern Springfield Armory SA-35.
The Hi-Power was the only production gun to see widespread use on both sides during WWII.

The Engagement

Amidst the profligate madness of Mozambique, Mike Rousseau found himself alone in the airport in Lourenço Marques (now Maputo). For reasons lost to history, Mike was without his primary weapon and was reduced to clearing his piece of this labyrinthine structure armed with his GP35 Browning Hi-Power 9mm pistol.

Rousseau came around a corner and found himself face to face with a FRELIMO guerilla armed with an AK47 at around 10 paces. The South African mercenary responded instinctively and shot the Marxist soldier twice center-of-mass. He later related both rounds were solid hits, one on either side of the sternum. The FRELIMO guerilla never slowed down.

Rousseau likely stoked his Hi-Power with ball ammo, and 9mm FMJ rounds typically punch 9mm holes. This is more than adequate to kill a man, but sometimes it takes a while. Mike Rousseau didn’t have time to wait so he immediately indexed to the man’s head.

In the frenetic pandemonium of the moment, Rousseau pulled his shot slightly. What had been intended to be a round to the base of the nose instead dropped to the suprasternal notch between the collarbones. This bullet severed the terrorist’s spinal cord and dropped him like a sack of cement.

Rousseau later related this tale to the legendary Jeff Cooper. Cooper formalized this maneuver — two to the chest and one to the head — as part of his training curriculum at Gunsite Academy and christened it the “Mozambique Drill.” A pair of LAPD SWAT officers who trained under Cooper took the drill back home but renamed it the “Failure to Stop Drill” or simply the “Failure Drill” in an effort to excise any potential racial overtones.

Mike Rousseau eventually returned to Africa where he was killed in action during the Rhodesian Bush War.


The tactical-rack rear sights allow you to charge the weapon
one-handed if your day is extra sucky.

The Gun

The GP-35 Hi-Power was John Moses Browning’s crowning achievement. Completed posthumously some nine years after his death by Dieudonné Saive, the tilting-lock, recoil-operated action of the Hi-Power went on to drive almost every modern combat handgun on the planet. Up until recently, if you wanted a Hi-Power of your own you could either opt for an expensive Belgium-made collectible or a cheap Eastern European surplus knockoff. Now, however, Springfield Armory brings us the real deal made right here at home.

The Springfield Armory SA-35 is a simply beautiful piece of iron. The SA-35 dispenses with the accursed magazine safety of the original. As a result, magazines drop free, and the single-action trigger is to die for. Magazines hold 15 rounds rather than the original 13, and the trim architecture is easy to conceal.

The left-sided thumb safety of the SA-35 is slightly enlarged over the Belgian originals, and the front sight sports a white dot. The rear sight is both serrated to minimize glare and drift adjustable for windage. The stocks are an intoxicating stained walnut and the gun is finished in a rugged dull military blue.


The Springfield Armory SA-35 shoots plenty straight from a simple rest at 12 meters.

Practical Tactical

The SA-35 is designed to be carried in Condition 1 with a round in the chamber, the hammer back and the safety on. Thusly configured, literally nothing is faster. The gun is substantially thinner and lighter than a 1911 and I am living proof you can comfortably manage this pistol in public underneath shorts and a T-shirt.

The steel architecture and modest 9mm Parabellum chambering conspire to create a divine range experience. Recoil is pleasant and the delightful single-action trigger lets you put your rounds right where you want them. Squeeze this magnificent trigger a few times, and your favorite striker-fired GLOCK will seem positively Neanderthal by comparison.

The slide locks back with authority on the last round fired and magazine changes set the standard for everything else — the Hi-Power is a shooter’s gun. The SA-35 feels great in the hand and does precisely what is asked of it every single time.


The communist insurrection in Mozambique helped bleed Portugal dry,
while giving rise to a classic defensive firearm technique still in use today.


Mike Rousseau had to shoot the guy three times in the Lourenço Marques Airport back in the 1970s because sometimes ball ammo just doesn’t work terribly well. Modern expanding 9mm loads through the SA-35 are as precise as a scalpel and as devastating as a hand grenade. As a gun to keep in the car, stow in your nightstand, or drop in your belt underneath an untucked shirt, the SA-35 is where Old School meets Starfleet Academy. The trigger rivals your favorite 1911 without all the large-bore chaos. The SA-35 is the retro pistol you can bet your life on.

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