When Winchester produced its famous 1873 lever-action rifles and carbines, Colt wasted no time in chambering its single-action Army revolver in Winchester’s calibers from .44-40 down to .32-20. There are times when the quick handling and easy portability of a handgun is of paramount importance for self defense, but when faced with dire threats cowboys knew it was much better to have a repeating rifle. A handgun and longarm in the same caliber was a winner on the American frontier. From a self-defense standpoint, today’s shooters can find a practical, cost-effective, modern parallel to the 19th century Colt/Winchester pairing in Hi-Point carbines and pistols. Hi-Points are chambered in popular pistol cartridges such as .45 ACP, .40 S&W, 9mm Luger and soon .380 ACP, and the .40 S&W and .45 ACP model carbines and pistols even share a common magazine. I tested a model 995ts carbine and C9 pistol chambered in 9mm and was favorably impressed.
It is known that you can get a Colt Defender pistol and Model 6951 AR-15 type carbine in 9mm; however, this combination will cost you about $2,000. The Hi-Points I tested cost less than $500! That puts Hi-Points into a unique niche as the least expensive centerfire firearms on the market. There is a lot more to the differences between Colts and Hi-Points than price, so to narrow the focus of the discussion, I will evaluate the Hi-Points as personal home-defense firearms. In this respect, based on my testing, Hi-Points represent an exceptional value.
Be careful not to make the mistake of assuming inexpensive means poor quality. Hi-Point firearms are engineered to be inexpensive. When I disassembled them, I was struck by the clever way parts were designed to serve multiple purposes and the use of highly efficient manufacturing techniques like metal stamping, zinc alloy casting, metal injection molding, button-rifled barrels, powder coating and injection-molded plastic. The martial spirit of the highly effective Soviet PPSH-41 submachine gun and the clandestine American FP-45 Liberator pistol of World War II are channeled through the Hi-Points. All of these firearms let the ease of manufacture and effective function dictate their form.
An important consumer byproduct of the care taken in designing the Hi-Points is that the production cost of parts is so low, the firearms are warranted forever. Not just for the original owner, but every owner (the instruction sheet with older production guns may still indicate the warranty is limited to the original purchaser, but the distributor at MKS assured me that is not the case). If any of Hi-Point’s firearms has a problem, it will be repaired by the factory free of charge. From my research, they are living up to their promise, and their reputation is excellent.
If Hi-Point’s design has a negative, I believe it is the trigger pull. The one I tested initially was heavy and erratic. Sometimes it let go crisply; other times it creeped one or two times before it released the sear. This trigger spoiled a lot of groups. I think the crux of problem is that by design, each pull of the trigger is doing a lot more than just releasing the sear. When you take the gun apart you’ll see what I mean. It is what it is, but take heart! If your trigger is stiff and creepy like a zombie, I found that dry firing the action a thousand times, like I did while I watched a TV show, improved mine significantly.
The 995ts carbine is a good choice for targets from 15 to 50 yards. It is probably effective at ranges greater than 50 yards, but if you are shooting at someone that far away, it may prove difficult to make a case for self defense in court. It comes with a 10-round magazine and mine had a very handy factory two-magazine clip. This clip attached to the web of the stock allowing me to carry 30 rounds total, in and on the gun. The buttstock had a recoil-absorbing butt pad that was probably more important with the .45 ACP version than it was with the 9mm I tested. The carbine was pleasant to shoot and the military aperture sights were easy to adjust and use. This model has plenty of surprisingly rugged polymer tactical rails to mount all of your accessories and they make a nice-looking vertical foregrip and muzzle-brake, which I did not test.
DEAD FOOT ARMS
The carbine used in this test had several hundred rounds through it before I formally evaluated it. I’ve been using it during our local Zombie Shooters United competitions in central Kentucky for over a year and it has never malfunctioned in competition. I do recall, when I first zeroed it for 25 yards, that the trigger pull was quite heavy. However, during my test for this story the trigger seemed a lot better.
As one would expect, ammo matters. The best of the three different loads I tested was remanufactured semi-target-grade, 124-grain, full-metal-jacket ammunition from AwesomeAmmunition.com. The average 50-yard, open-sight group from five separate five round strings was 2.25 inches, which is pretty darn good for a pistol cartridge at that range. The velocity through the carbine’s 16.5-inch barrel was 1,143 feet per second and was measured 12 feet from the muzzle.
Of the 115-grain full-metal-jacket factory ammo I tested, Winchester Target was clearly the better of the two. It was close behind Awesome Ammunition’s magic beans, with an average group size of 2.98 inches and 1,332 fps. The Winchester groups were more than an inch tighter than another popular low-cost factory ammo. This pattern of performance held for the C9 pistol too. Awesome Ammunition was the most accurate, this time a 124-grain, jacketed hollow point, followed by Winchester and the other famous brand, coming in at a distant third place.
Don’t expect the C9 pistol to shoot like a Colt Gold cup. It’s no target pistol, but it will be head-shot accurate at 7 yards and center-mass effective to 25 yards. I was able to easily put five shots through a green bean can at 7 yards with one hand after I broke in the trigger. When I bench tested at 7 yards, I found the same Winchester load I used in the carbine, printed groups averaging 1.62 inches and had a velocity of 1,104 fps. That cluster of 25 test rounds left a ragged hole in the target which you could cover with the bottom of a soda can. That’s pretty impressive for a $140 pistol. As a point of interest, I shot groups with this same load benched from 25 yards both before and after I broke in the trigger and the difference was dramatic. Breaking in the trigger shaved 2 inches off the group size, dropping it from an average of 9.74 inches to 7.75 inches.
The Hi-Points are heavy guns, but they are reliable, bargain priced, decent shooters and all American made. Without a doubt, they will be the best home-defense guns you will ever own for the money.