Gilding a Turd: Hi-Point Mods.

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The Hi-Point pistols have two defining characteristics- they are cheap and they work. Mostly. The broad consensus is that they are a turd, and best used as a boat-anchor. As I stated previously I never anticipated owning one, but $75 (used) for a service-caliber handgun with a lifetime guarantee? Why not?

Owning one has changed my perspective. The manufacturer’s started with a question- how can we manufacture a service-caliber handgun that anyone can afford? They weren’t the first to try, but they were first to succeed on a large scale. The key to that success is twofold- the guns are reliable and they have an excellent guarantee and customer service. The guns typically have an MSRP of $199, but if you can’t find one quite a bit cheaper you aren’t trying.

So, my change of perspective- am I a HiPoint fan-boy? Not really- but after having and examining it thoroughly and firing a few hundred rounds I have come to respect them. They are cheap and made of cheap materials but they are thoughtfully designed for the role they are intended to fill. They are big, heavy, ugly, low-capacity, basic handguns that work and with a little shopping around pretty much anyone can afford one. Mission accomplished.

It goes without saying that they aren’t perfect out of the box- they were never intended to be perfect and nothing you can do will make them so. But there are some issues that are easy to address and take nothing but a little time. Over the holidays I had some time and thought, ‘What the hell.’

The first and foremost is the grips. Out of the box they are slippery, with a somewhat greasy feel. This actually exaggerates the weight of the gun because a firm grip takes a lot of pressure and never feels really secure. The simplest and easiest solution is a Pachymer grip-sleeve, but why spend money on a HiPoint?  I actually have one lying around that came on a used gun, but it only partially solves the problem, and it adds size to what is already a fairly large grip.

I mounted a 2mm carbide ball in my engraver and stippled the grips. With the burr spinning at 450,000 rpm you touch the plastic and there is an instant divot. It took maybe a half-hour to do both grips. I cut in deeply all around the safety, which made it much easier to operate.  There are some panels of cast lines on the polymer frame which are pretty ineffective, so I invested another 15 minutes stippling those as well.

It certainly looks a lot better, and the feel of the gun is remarkably improved, Somehow not needing to have a death-grip on the gun makes it feel less top-heavy. It looks better, too. I also stippled small sections of the frame at the top of the trigger-guard as a secure place to rest the trigger finger. Totally needed, but I was a bit stipple-happy by then…

While I had the grip panel off I followed the advice of YouTubers and removed the magazine disconnect safety. This prevents the gun from firing when there is no magazine inserted, and I loathe them. With the grip panel off there is a bar of metal exposed and you simply lift it out. Dead easy, and it improved the trigger-pull significantly. Mind you there is still a ton of creep, but it’s a bit lighter and less crunchy. I could see that there were places I could smooth out the trigger-parts but I just didn’t bother. Maybe another time.

Next was the magazine. The only functional issue with this- and other HiPoints from what I have seen online- is for the first round out of the magazine to nose-dive in the magazine on feeding. Being a 1911 guy from way-back tweaking feed lips on magazines is second nature, so I did. Problem solved.

Last I took off the slide (pretty easy, but requires a punch) and polished the feed ramp. It’s not badly shaped but it’s covered in the same powder-coating as the exterior of the gun. Smooth and clean now. As a note- when you remove the slide everything falls out. Springs, striker, the retaining thingy etc. Make sure you do this in a place where all the bits can easily be found. Reassembly is a bit tricky, but not too bad once you figure out where everything goes.

I took it (and several other guns) to the range yesterday and it functioned flawlessly. Fr a blow-back gun in a snappy caliber (.40 S&W) it surprisingly soft-shooting. The adjustable sights are OK. Nothing to write home about, but they are easy to pick up and use. Accuracy was dead-on. Here’s a rapid-fire group on a 3/4″-size IDPA practice target at 7 yards. Not too shabby.

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So the HiPoint- still heavy, clunky and ugly, but better. Weird as it is to say it, while it would not be my first (or second or third…) choice I would actually bet my life on this gun. It’s accurate, reliable and does the job.

II might even splurge on another magazine for it…

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Old Dog, New Tricks

I love old guns; I don’t think that’s much of a secret. I’m particularly fond of old Smith & Wesson top-breaks, not the least because they are still relatively inexpensive. They have other advantages though; they were the highest-quality guns of their type made in America, they have lovely, smooth double action triggers and a high level of detail and finish. They were also, most of them, ‘Drawer guns-‘ shot very little and consigned to a drawer so they tend to be in good mechanical condition. Unfortunately this ‘benign neglect’ means that finishes, particularly nickel, suffer.

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One problem- the stock grip is so small the gun is basically un-shootable in my big mitt.

This Smith & Wesson .32 Double Action (4th Model) had a nickel finish that was pretty far gone and a semi-competantly shortened barrel. After shortening the barrel further and re-crowning it, a new front sight and custom grips it needed refinishing. I stripped the gun and ‘slicked’ the frame (ground all the pins flush) then went to work.

The bulk of the stripping was done with 800 grit sandpaper and a hand-held electric sander. I’m sure that fine gunsmiths the world over are turning over in their graves, but this cleared off the old nickel in record time. Then I went after it with needle-files and more sandpaper to get at the nooks and creases. This is a bit problematic because bare metal looks a lot like nickel. A touch of cold-blue here and there quickly reveals any spots that need more work.

The next step was a sisal buffing wheel with Stainless Steel Black rouge. Sisal is super-aggressive, so never buff across a crease or ridge or it will be gone- buff with the direction of the ridge or crease. Just kiss the parts with he wheel and let the speed and rouge do the work- too much pressure will erode the parts. Don’t be skimpy with the rouge either, or be tempted to substitute pressure for time.

A tip- buff the frame with the side-plate in place; one of the tell-tales of a badly refinished guns is rounding the edges on this plate. By buffing it flush with the frame you avoid this.

Parts were then cleaned and degreased and immersed in Van’s Instant Blue for several minutes, then soaked with WD40. You can see the results in the photos-

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The end result is a gun not much bigger than a .22 or .25 ACP pocket-gun. .32 ACP is pretty anemic, but out of this short a gun it’s at least the equal of most such guns, and a whole lot more fun and interesting.

.22 Magnum Pistol Finished!

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With my back on the fritz I’m stuck doing light-work so I decided to finish this project today. Didn’t get pictures of the process this time unfortunately.

First step- the raised block at the front of the barrel has become ‘ears’ for the front-sight. I mounted the barrel in the milling-vise on the drill-press. Using a 3/8-inch end-mill I carefully removed the material from the center to a depth of about .100 inches. Since the drill-press is a seriously crappy milling machine I carefully filed it to finish. I used a .062″ drill to make a hole centered between the ears and mounted a piece of .062-inch music-wire for a front-sight and trimmed it to height.

That finished I attacked the rear sight. First I milled and filed a groove at the top-rear of the barrel with a 3/16-inch end-mill. Again this was sloppy as hell, so I squared it up with files, then undercut it with a cutting-wheel in the flex-shaft tool, then filed it to shape with a triangular file.

I grabbed a piece of 1/2-inch mild steel, measured the sight-slot and sliced off an appropriately-sized piece. I carefully ground it to match the slot. Since the slot is very slightly tapered I tapped the sight into place with a drift until it is roughly centered. This is a serious force-fit; pretty sure it’s not going anywhere. Mounting the barrel on the drill-press again I mounted the 3/8-inch end-mill and undercut the back of the sight to produce a vertical surface, then used a cutting-wheel and files to cut the rear-sight aperture.

I refinished the gun by the simple expedient of immersing all of the external parts in Van’s Instant Blue for 3-4 minutes, then thoroughly hosing everything down with WD40 and rubbing off excess oxidation with paper towels. The reassembled gun has a lovely charcoal-gray finish that is rather darker than the pictures show.

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This is not at all a large gun- the frame is only 1/2-inch thick, and the barrel is just a slosh wider. The fore-grip is the widest part of the pistol at around 7/8-inch wide. The barrel is 4-1/4 inches. If I remember correctly the gun weighs about 19 ounces. The trigger-pull is light and pleasant and the gun points to a sight-picture naturally. The gun balances on my trigger-finger, and the grip fits my hand extremely well. Hardly surprising since I made it for me…

Quite happy with how this has come out. The only thing left is to polish the chamber a bit. I’ll make a field holster for it; it would make a useful companion for hunting or the like.