Those of us who consider ourselves “gun enthusiasts” sometimes forget that the vast majority of Americans are not. The farmers and shopkeepers who stood up to the British on Lexington’s green probably were not. Most of the defenders at the Alamo could afford only one gun, a tool of everyday life that just happened to accompany them from Texas into eternity. The young Marines on the gritty perimeter at Khe Sanh were probably more interested in big-block Chevys than the latest wonder-nine pistol.
Even today, if you asked most street cops what a “ballistic table” is, they would probably tell you it’s where we make them clean their guns after regular qualifications.
We also tend to look down our noses at inexpensive guns from minor manufacturers that might just be an acceptable option for many regular folks in these financially challenging and socially uncertain times.
At my local gun palace, I watched a guy examine a pistol-based carbine. Keith, my favorite sales rep, said, “Those are Hi-Points and we can’t keep ‘em in the store.” He said most of the countermen had purchased them as the hot new truck gun, and word is spreading fast in the Texas Hill Country that they are dynamite for wild pigs in heavy cover. And the price? Depending on caliber, $265 to $325!
Being a cop, the needle on my skeptic alert started to jump. Frankly, I expected something clunky at that price point, but right out of the box, the Hi- Point carbine felt solid and substantial.
The Hi-Point Model 995TS carbine in 9mm is 32 inches overall. The stock is nylon, skeleton type, and has a really interesting three-spring recoil buffer.
The trigger breaks at an easy seven pounds or so, with less creep and overtravel than I have found on guns at twice the price. The stock sights are AR style, with a single adjustable peep rear and guarded post front.
In the shipping box were two tenround magazines, takedown tool, instruction manual, sling with swivels, and vertical foregrip.
FEED THROUGH THE PISTOL GRIP
Combat carbines that feed through the pistol grip are not new, but tend not to be popular in the U.S. The only other commonly found centerfire offering in this configuration is the excellent Beretta Storm, but at a hefty $900 list price, it is three times as much as the Hi-Point.
In both the Beretta and the Hi-Point, the big benefit of the design is more nimble handling. Because the feeding function is not ahead of the trigger assembly but on top of it, the Hi-Point muzzle is a tight 15 inches from the trigger (compared to 21 inches on my S&W M&P15). In manipulation, that means from a low-ready position it snaps up to engage a threat very quickly. And with the weight at a dense but still light 6.5 pounds, in rapid multiple threat acquisition, the gun doesn’t overtravel and need to be corrected back to the target. The Hi-Point is handy—in spades.
Feeding through the grip is also helpful under stress, as it uses the handfinds- hand principle.
BUT IN PISTOL CALIBER?
What about a carbine in a pistol caliber? Know any SWAT guys? I’ll bet many carry an MP5 in 9mm or a Colt CAR in .45 auto on many dynamic entries.
After 50 years of shooting almost everything, I think a fast-handling carbine in a pistol caliber is a more practical choice than any .223 for CQB. Anyone who has actually shot a .223 shorty at night will tell you what it’s like to have your night vision blown for 15 minutes with that muzzle flash. With a pistol round from a 16-inch tube, virtually all combustion is consumed internally, and pistol projectiles dissipate energy far more rapidly on structures.
Decades of advances in bullet design make current Hi-Point carbine offerings in .45 ACP, .40 caliber and even 9mm well worthy of consideration from short to medium distances on mansized targets. Long gone are the days when we jokingly referred to the 9mm as a “.45 set on stun.”
In terms of shootability, most casual handgun owners are not accurate under pressure, and the far more solid hold on a short carbine tightens groups and considerably improves user confidence. Practice with it is inexpensive, and that translates into fun!
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
The shooting impression was at first mixed. Although it fed flawlessly from the start with the factory magazines (using an assortment of the cheapest fodder I could find) and recoil was negligible as anticipated, the rear aperture was too small for my eye, and the iron sights got pulled after the first 50 rounds. I clamped a BSA red dot sight up top and a laser below, and the little gun came alive.
I do most of my regular practice shooting “rucked up” on jungle-lane type courses to incorporate different ranges, elevations, footing conditions and cover options in my training. Engaging three targets from contact distance out to about 60 meters, I was soon executing double taps on each target in rapid sequence, with an average total elapsed time for the eight shots at under four seconds—including a drop to kneeling for the longest distance.
Aggregate average group size was four inches: two inches at contact distance shot off the laser, four inches at 15 meters, and six inches at 60 meters using the red dot sight. In my humble opinion, this is plenty good “practical accuracy” for the intended purpose of the weapon.
Frankly, I don’t care how it shoots off the bench, because I have never seen a shooting bench and sandbags at a gunfight scene or felony car stop. It certainly would be adequate for covering fire out to several hundred meters.
Guns and Harleys cry to be customized, and it took me very little time and money (especially compared to a Harley) to make the Hi-Point mine.
The sling attachment locations are traditional and not appropriate for the type of carry I prefer. I sewed a neck sling loop to a gap in the stock and fixed another anchor point midway down the tube. Now it hangs high chest. (A singlepoint sling would attach just as well.) I dropped the front pistol grip just because I don’t like them.
I tried a 15-round aftermarket magazine. It makes the little carbine look cool but wouldn’t feed consistently when topped up. The difference between 13 rounds with unreliable feeding from the extended mag and ten rounds from the stock mags hardly seems worth the vanity. Extra magazines are available from the factory at about $35 for two, including postage. Delivery time for mine was ten days.
The stock recoil springs made length of- pull about an inch too long for me when wearing body armor. I compressed the springs and secured them with cable ties to give a length of pull of a tidy 14 inches. I regulated the laser to point of impact at 25 meters, which is about as far as I can pick up the dot in bright light anyway. An inexpensive LED flashlight from the local hardware store (for navigation only) was taped to the rib at the muzzle, well below the line of the laser. I also attached extra batteries for the electronics out of the way on one of the ribs of the stock.
The charging handle is on the left, and the ejection port is on the right. Finding the bolt hold-open catch probably demands too much fine motor manipulation for high-stress conditions, and clearing malfunctions quickly under pressure will require some practice. (I haven’t had much practice clearing them because I have not yet experienced one using the factory magazines.)
The left-side safety lever, not ambidextrous, functions well with a 45-degree arc to the front, but out of thumb range unless you have monster paws. This requires a disconcerting shift of grip compared to the perfectly positioned safety on the AR, and will tempt some shooters to run the gun hot at all times, with the manual safety always disengaged—a practice I do not recommend. (See THE MECHANICAL SAFETY: Taking Responsibility, March 2012 S.W.A.T. by Patrick A. Rogers for an excellent article on this topic.) The mag release also requires some Braille to find, but functioned without a glitch, with clean drops every time.
Another potential use may stretch the very edges of survival planning sophistication. Where I think this inexpensive little carbine might fill a tactical niche better than anything else that goes bang is for small groups of shooters who are really serious about prepping for a possible system collapse. As you game out potential scenarios, your fire team may find on the doorstep (or perimeter) a former soldier or stranded off-duty cop or firefighter who shows up post-collapse with plenty of motivation and skills but no weapon.
If they pass the attitude check and you can supply him (or her) with a spare gun from the arsenal, it could be a great force multiplier. At less than $300, it may just be the perfect gun for that application. In fact, my second order for this sturdy little gun has already been placed—for that specific purpose.
In summary, this looks to be a very capable offering for the “one gun,” budget-conscious patriot. Lest we forget, they need an option that can (1) be affordable, (2) project a compelling visual deterrent, (3) use inexpensive ammo for regular practice and inventory, and (4) deliver effective firepower at reasonable ranges. At half the price of major brand semi-auto pistols in the same caliber, this is an outstanding price-value relationship.
I would recommend that any firsttime gun buyer who does not intend to get a permit to carry concealed or is forced by circumstances to live in an area that won’t issue them, should consider this gun as an alternative to a handgun for home and neighborhood defense.
Congratulations to Hi-Point for providing such an effective option to so large a potential audience.
Terry Fries served as a reserve officer with the Walnut Creek, California Police Department for 28 years and a firearms instructor for 12. He is an NRA Life Member and currently an executive coach and writer living in Texas.