So last summer we found ourselves temporarily living near Tacoma and, being us, we soon happened across the local gun shop and shooting range. We popped in to check the place out and while looking through the pistol case I spotted a .40 S&W Hi Point pistol. To say that this is not a gun that appeals to me would be an understatement. Ugly, bulky, heavy and cheap.
These pistols have been around for a few years now. Made in the U.S.A., these guns main claim to fame is that they are inexpensive. MSRP on the .40 S&W is $199, but they can often be found for rather less than that. They offer two ‘compact’ models, one in .380 ACP and the other in 9x19mm. Neither are particularly compact. Large-frame guns are available in .40 S&W and .45 ACP. All models are rated for +P ammunition. There are also carbine models in the three service calibers. Hi Point makes extensive use of castings in Zymex 3, an aluminum/zinc/copper alloy. The barrel, breech and mechanical parts are steel and the frame is plastic. The finish on the slide appears to be a baked-on enamel of some sort.
While this was not a gun I had any interest in owning I was somewhat intrigued; I had watched a number of Youtube video reviews of Hi Point guns and even an extreme torture-test that was quite impressive. I asked to see it, and it was pretty much what I’d expected- very basic and very, very heavy. Most of that weight is in the slide; it takes a lot of mass to employ straight-blowback in a service-caliber gun. The grip is surprisingly comfortable, with an angle that allows the gun to ‘point’ instinctively and the frame-mounted safety is reasonably easy to operate. the slide serrations are easy to grip and it’s easy to operate the slide. The gun also possessed some surprising features, like the fully-adjustable three-dot sights. Yes, the rear sight is plastic, but it works.
Out of idle curiosity I looked at the price tag- $75. Uh, what? The gun appeared new; surely they meant $175? Nope. I dithered and finally Linda said, “For God’s sake, it’s a service-caliber gun for $75 and it has a life-time guarantee.” So we bought it and I became the proud (?) owner of a gun I never expected to have. They never said why it was so cheap and I never asked. It came with the original box with all the paperwork, a trigger-lock and a Ghost-Ring sight that can be swapped in for the regular sight.
So, the details. The simple striker-fired mechanism is similar to that used in many other inexpensive pistols like the Raven and Jimenez. Unlike some of the other cheap guns of it’s type it employs three different safeties- a magazine disconnect safety, an internal drop-safety and a manual safety located at the top of the left-side grip. Unlike some other guns of this ilk it is theoretically safe to carry this gun with a round chambered and the safety on. The frame-mounted safety is small but easy to engage and disengage. The safety can also be used to lock the slide to the rear. This is for disassembly; although the slide locks to the rear after the last round in the magazine is fired it does not engage an external slide release. One must grip the slide, pull to the rear and release it to chamber a round when a fresh magazine is inserted. The trigger pull has a lot of creep but eventually breaks cleanly and the reset is acceptable.
The single-column magazine holds ten rounds and is released by a conventional push-button located right where you’d expect it at the base of the trigger-guard. I have a fairly large hand and can easily operate all the controls without shifting (much) from a firing grip, but people with small or medium-hands will need to. None of the controls are ambidextrous. The trigger guard is surprisingly small for no apparent reason. there is a single-position accessory rail just ahead of the trigger-guard. Unexpectedly the magazine-well is bevelled, making it very easy to insert the magazine. Another inexplicable feature is the magazine base-plate. It’s enormous and kind of ugly. It makes an already bulky gun even more so for no reason I can see.
This is not at all a small gun; it’s overall dimensions are not exceptional for a service-pistol (excepting that magazine baseplate) but it’s thick. 1-1/4 inches thick across the grips and 1-3/8 inches across the slide. I haven’t weighed it but the term ‘metric butt-ton’ comes to mind.
I have to admit that after examining the gun I was rather impressed. It’s definitely made to be as inexpensive as possible and if you run out of ammo you could beat a whale to death with it, but for all that it is surprisingly well and thoughtfully designed.
The proof, as they say, is in the pudding so on my next range trip I ran a box of American Eagle FMCFP ammo through it. To my surprise it was rather pleasant to shoot. Recoil was surprisingly mild. It is accurate and double-taps are easy to keep on-target. It was also reliable; everything worked. No malfunctions, the slide locked back when it was supposed to etc. Since then I’ve put a few hundred more rounds through it, including a mixed-bag of hollow points. No malfunctions of any kind. From all of the reviews that I have seen this isn’t unusual, either.
This is not a gun without flaws, mind you. Recommended maintenance is to blow it out with an aerosol gun-cleaner every 300-400 rounds and run a brush down the bore. I suspect this is because stripping the weapon requires tools and is a bit of a pain. Drop the magazine, lock the slide to the rear with the safety and then drive out the roll-pin at the back of the frame with a punch or screwdriver. Pull the slide further to the rear and lift the back, then run it forward off the fixed barrel. Reverse the procedure to reassemble. It’s not all that hard but it’s kinda fiddly.
So on the one hand it’s cheap, heavy and ugly. The grips are a bit slippery for my taste. It’s bulky. On the other hand it’s tough, durable, reliable and even at MSRP it’s cheap. Would I recommend it? That depends. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it as a carry gun- it’s just too damn bulky and heavy. For a range-gun or house gun I’d say if you cannot afford better it will do the job.
Oh, and if it does break Hi Point will fix or replace it. Period. They have even replaced guns that were deliberately destroyed in destructive testing. By all accounts their customer service is superb.
Ugly is as ugly does, and from that prospective perhaps it isn’t so ugly after all. Oh who am I kidding? Yes it is… but I can live with that.