The case for Hi-Point
I’m not quite sure why, but one of the fastest ways to get people arguing over the merits of guns is to bring up the inexpensive semiautomatic pistols made by Hi-Point Firearms of Mansfield, Ohio. Some people love those pistols while others detest them. It is odd to hear people argue with such passion over whether a gun is terrible or not, but there it is.
And, of course, I’m here to throw in my two cents’ worth for the sheer heck of it. Actually, I might have some information to pass along that will be of interest to people considering purchasing a Hi-Point — so why not?
In the interest of full disclosure, let me point out that I have two Hi-Point pistols and like the heck out of them. I have a JCP 40 SW (.40 caliber S&W) and a C-9 (9mm Luger) and have found them to be very reliable guns that go “bang” every time I pull the trigger. The fact that each pistol cost less then $200 and performs well is incredible to me and I am not alone in that. The cats down at Sue’s Tack and Pawn in scenic downtown Benton tell me they always keep Hi-Points in stock because they work well and about half of the people in Saline County have picked up one by now. To say Hi-Points are popular in these parts is a severe understatement.
And, it’s not hard to understand why they are popular. The things work and they don’t cost much. And you can pick one up in your favorite caliber — .380 ACP, 9mm Luger, .40 S&W or .45 ACP. Heck, I’ll probably wind up picking up the .380 ACP and .45 ACP models just to complete the set. In terms of sheer bang for the buck (pun intended), it is hard to beat a Hi-Point.
Still, there are people who detest Hi-Points and some of them actually have good reasons to dislike the pistols. So, I’ll start off talking about the things I’ve noticed about my Hi-Points that might make them unsuitable for some people. To that end, let’s take a look at what a Hi-Point is not before getting to why I believe they are appealing.
* A Hi-Point is not a good choice for concealed carry. Hi-Points are heavy and bulky out of necessity. These are “blowback pistols” that require heavy slides to work. That huge, heavy slide is what slides backward when the gun is fired and puts the process in motion through which a spent cartridge is thrown out of the pistol and replaced with a new one. What that means is that even the C-9 — which is supposed to be a compact 9mm pistol — is a bear at 25 ounces unloaded. Fill up that 8-shot magazine with shells and you’ve got something that is even heavier. We’re talking about close to two pounds of pistol that pushes the upper limits of what makes for a suitable carry gun. The .380 is in the same boat as the C-9 in terms of size, by the way.
As for the .40 S&W and .45 ACP pistols, forget about carrying those. They are considerably larger than the “compact” 9mm Luger and are a heck of a lot heaver, too. The .40 S&W weighs in at 35 ounces unloaded and the handle is so long that I can easily fit my dominant hand and supporting hand on the same grip with little to no crowding. If you can conceal carry a gun that big, you probably don’t need a gun anyway because you could probably solve all of your problems with your fists.
Frankly, I’m not that concerned about the fact that the Hi-Point is not a good carry gun. I have a Bersa Thunder .380 ACP and a Taurus 738 TCP chambered in .380 ACP that serve as good guns to carry. The Bersa is sleek and reliable whereas the Taurus fits in my pocket easily and happily chews through any ammo I give it.
My Hi-Points, then, are primarily for home and office protection. I love these inexpensive pistols because they are loud, reliable and look downright nasty. Would I trust my life to one of these? Without question — they work that well.
* A Hi-Point is not a trouble-free gun. Have you ever owned one of those guns that has run perfectly since the day you bought it new? If you have owned one of those guns, then the chances are good it was not a Hi-Point.
My C-9 was frustrating at first. The thing jammed like crazy and that is a scary thing. The problem with the C-9 was two-fold (or, at least that’s my guess). For one thing, these guns really do need somewhere between 100 and 200 shells through them because they have to be broken in before they work well. For another, the magazines that Hi-Point sells with their .380 ACP and 9mm are absolute garbage. The guns are fine, but the magazines are simply dreadful.
For whatever reason, the magazine for the .40 S&W (and, I assume, the .45 ACP) work a lot better. My .40 S&W did need to be broken in and shells fed roughly until it was, but the magazine seemed fine.
Ah, but there is a fix for terrible Hi-Point magazines. If the gun isn’t feeding right, grab a pair of needle nose pliers and gently widen the back magazine feed lips (see the photo over to to the right to know where to bend) and that will probably fix the problem. You need to adjust those feed lips slowly because making them too wide leads to a new set of problems.
So, what do you do if the gun has been broken in, the clips have been tuned and the Hi-Point still doesn’t feed right? Get in touch with the manufacturer because there is a lifetime warranty on these pistols and Hi-Point reportedly stands behind it.
Still, there are people who want to buy a gun and have it work right out of the box. They don’t want to spend a bunch of time breaking in a gun and taking a pair of pliers to the feed lips on a clip, and who can blame them?
* A Hi-Point is not a gun that will take just about any ammunition you feed it. One of the reasons I have always preferred revolvers is that they tend to chew threw any ammunition chambered for them. That has never been the case with semi-auto pistols to a degree, but Hi-Point pistols seem particularly finicky. Even after the gun is broken in, you would be foolhardy to simply assume that any ammo you give it will be fine. You do need to test out ammo with these guns before deciding to rely on it.
The irony here is that can get expensive. My C-9, for example, is particularly fussy about hollow point ammo, so some trial and error was necessary. I’m not even going to mention what worked because even that seems to vary from gun to gun. How does that get expensive? Good, defensive rounds are not cheap and you will probably have to try out a few different brands before settling on one you like. You will eventually find something that doesn’t jam, but that could take some time unless you are very lucky.
Update (8/11/2015 — my .40 caliber has been broken in to the point where it happily gnaws through hollow points with no problem. The C-9 has improved in that regard, too. Seemingly, the more shells you run through these, the more they become broken in and the better they are about ammo).
* A Hi-Point is not a pretty gun. I’ve already hinted at the fact that Hi-Points are common as sin here in Saline County. It should be no surprise that they are ugly as sin, too. They are large, made of cheap materials (polymer frames, plastic triggers and zinc alloy for the slides) and are about as appealing to look at as a hammer or pipe wrench. Furthermore, the .45 and .40 look rather like power drills and the .45 is actually available in a hideous olive drab color that actually makes the gun uglier than the black ones.
Some people are bothered by that, but I don’t really care. I regard these pistols as tools and overlook their ugly duckling status because they do work quite well.
Still, some people want something sleek and modern instead of something that has the weight, size and appeal of a boat anchor. To each their own.
* A Hi-Point is not a gun that can be stripped and cleaned easily. One of my favorite things about my Bersa Thunder is that I can break it down in about 10 seconds or less with no tools. Taking a Hi-Point apart is a real drag because it involves locking the slide back and removing a pin with a metal punch, jewelers screwdriver or whatever else you have handy. Once you do get the slide removed, there’s a good chance you will send your recoil spring and pin flying. If you’re outside, that can be a problem. If you are in your house, tracking those down isn’t always easy, either.
I was talking to a gun dealer about breaking down a Hi-Point and he said the somewhat difficult task of taking them apart for cleaning means that some people don’t bother to take that step. Even when you have a broken in Hi-Point with a clip functioning well, you’ve got to keep it cleaned or the thing might not work right. These are very durable, simple guns but they do require a fair amount of maintenance and turn into junk unless you are willing to put in the time to keep them running well.
* A Hi-Point is not for someone with slight hand strength or, possibly, arthritis. The slide is heavy, the recoil spring is strong and that means it takes a considerable effort to cycle the slide. If you are looking at one of these, work that slide first and see if that simple action will be a problem for you. If you can’t cycle the slide, the gun is useless.
* A Hi-Point probably is not the gun for you if you want a high capacity magazine. My C-9 has a single-stack magazine that holds eight shells while the .40 caliber holds 10. With guns that are this large, you expect double-stack magazine that hold perhaps 15-17 shells. Having a huge gun with a single-stack magazine that won’t hold anywhere close to what a similarly sized Glock does can be frustrating.
Having said all of that, why not examine why people might want to purchase a Hi-Point. Here goes:
* They don’t cost much. There are plenty of people who will tell you that you need to spend some serious money to get a self defense pistol. But, what if you can’t afford the snazzy pistol you want? What if you want pistols for your home, office and car and would rather spend the money on three of them than buy one for the same price? What if you just want an inexpensive gun you can throw in your tackle box and not worry worry too much about losing while out fishing? The Hi-Point is a great choice for all of that, provided that you will take the time to break it in and then maintain it properly.
And, here’s something else. Let’s say the unthinkable happens and you find yourself in a situation where you have to use it for self defense. You do know your gun is going to be confiscated by the police as evidence, don’t you? Sure, you’ll probably get it back, but I’d much rather let go of my $200 Hi-Point than a snazzy .45 ACP that costs north of $1,000.
Besides, who says you have to lay out a bunch of cash to get a pistol to defend your home from invaders?
* They work well when maintained and are intimidating. Again, what I want from a gun is to pull the trigger and have a bullet fly out of the barrel. My Hi-Points do that, plus they should put the fear of God into anyone they are used against.
They are black, big and more than a bit menacing. That ugly construction actually makes them look nasty and utilitarian and the psychological advantage of that should be important. Add that to the fact that they are ridiculously loud and that could come in handy in a fight. Scary stuff there.
Here’s something else about the design of these pistols — there are few moving parts to deal with, so there is not much that can go wrong. Your Hi-Point should last for years with proper maintenance.
* They come with a lifetime warranty. If anything goes wrong with your Hi-Point, the manufacturer will fix it. The warranty even transfers if you sell the pistol to someone else. Of course, if the company goes out of business that will be a major problem, but it is nice to know that the manufacturer stands behind their products and look out for their customers.
* They are made in the United States. This is a big deal in a day and age where everything is being outsourced. Hi-Points are made right in Ohio, and supporting American labor is a great idea these days.
* The weight actually helps with recoil and accuracy. Because of those huge slides, the barrel tends to stay down instead of flying all over the place. That cuts down on nasty recoil and does contribute to accuracy.
Want to know something else that contributes to accuracy? The .40 S&W and .45 ACP both come with 4.5″ barrels. Longer barrels mean both more velocity and greater accuracy. The sites on Hi-Points are adjustable, too, so dialing in accuracy is very possible.
* Accessories are cheap. There are few third-party accessories available for the Hi-Point due to nonstandard accessory rails on the pistols, but the manufacturer makes plenty and they don’t cost much at all. Sick of the standard 8-round mag in your 9mm or .380? Spend around $20 and get a 10-round magazine. Want an extra 10-round magazine for your .40 or .45? That’s available for less than $20, too.
The same goes for new grips, hard cases, lasers and some other stuff. The manufacturer supports these things very well.
So, there you have it. A lot of people hate Hi-Points, but those pistols have a lot of fans, too. If you invest the time it takes to break in a Hi-Point and maintain it well, you’ll have a reliable pistol that is light on your wallet. There’s not a thing wrong with that.