I’ve been writing for SOFREP for a bit now, and in that time, I’ve revealed some things to you, dear readers, that I’d be reluctant to announce to a room full of my friends. You’ve been supportive and respectful, but what I’m going to tell you next might make some of you gasp in disgust, and possibly even remove all of my credibility in your eyes.
In 2006, I bought a 9mm Hi-Point pistol.
I know. I know. It’s an awful pistol that sees more action as the butt of jokes than as any respectable gunfighter’s sidearm. It’s the pistol of choice for drug dealers who don’t have the good sense to steal the gun they carry. You’re wondering what could have driven me to such a ridiculous purchase, or if maybe I did so under duress. Maybe Theresa Hi-Point, the evil heir to the Hi-Point fortune, forced me to buy it at gunpoint (using a much more reliable gun than her company offers)? Sadly, no. I bought it because I was poor…and an idiot.
See, in 2006, I was a brand new Marine private first class. At the time, I hadn’t ever even fired a pistol at a real range—in Vermont we usually just chose dead trees and then spent the day trying to cut them down with shotguns (a great way to spend a Saturday)—and in my mind, a gun was a gun. I figured practicing with a pistol I could afford was better than not practicing at all, and I had aspirations to be as deadly and accurate a shooter as I could be. So I strolled into a gun shop about an hour from base, slapped 200 dollars on the table, waited my cool-off period, and headed home with my first-ever pistol—a heavy, black 9mm Hi-Point that looked a little like if Sloth from the Goonies had mated with a Glock.
It wouldn’t be long before I was chosen to join my unit’s anti-terrorism force protection team, a small reactionary force that trained alongside local law enforcement and military police to be activated in the event of an attack in Southern California. As a part of the team, I would undergo all sorts of training, to include hand-to-hand combat techniques, oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray certification, and of course, pistol shooting. Before long, I was racking up pistol expert certifications with my trusty Beretta M9, and my Hi-Point found itself in a drawer, making appearances only occasionally when my buddies and I would go out shooting.
In the decade-plus since then, I’ve gotten my hands on all sorts of pistols. As I’ve written about before, today I choose between an American Classic 1911 and an increasingly modified Glock 19 for my everyday carry weapon, my wife carries a Walther P22, and my old Hi-Point sits in a drawer, just like it always has. Over the years, I’ve probably put about a thousand rounds through it, which sounds like a lot—until you realize that means I’ve really only taken it out of its drawer a dozen times with any intention of firing it, and literally every time it has lived up to the Hi-Point name by being a pain in my ass and failing to impact the paper where I tell it to.
Despite being about the same size as my Glock 19, the Hi-Point manages to outweigh my significantly larger 1911 with a full magazine. But hey, someone in a movie once told me “heavy is good” when it comes to pistols. Surely pop culture has never lied to me about guns, right?
The thing is, in this case, heavy isn’t reliable at all. Granted, I put the cheapest rounds I can find through this thing (I don’t put premium gas in my Kia Optima, either), but one would expect it to be able to fire through a complete magazine without suffering a misfeed or jam at least once in a while. If you can make it through the short mag without having to stop to take immediate action, it might as well be your birthday, because today’s a special day that you and the gun will remember for a long time.
While on the subject of ammunition, let’s talk magazine capacity. Despite being chambered in 9mm, having a similar footprint to my Glock 19, and weighing only slightly less than a Toyota Corolla, the Hi-Point comes with a mag that can house a whopping eight rounds. An extended magazine I use to fit the grip into my hand increases that carrying capacity to 10 rounds. In the never-ending debate between 9mm and .45 pistols, the 9mm guys always proclaim that their increased magazine capacity makes their choice the better of the two, while the .45 guys stand by the superior stopping power allotted by the larger rounds in the .45. Well allow me to present to you the worst of both worlds: 9mm stopping power with a .45’s magazine capacity.
That is, of course, assuming the magazine stays in the gun, which in my experience is fairly unlikely. The magazine release isn’t in the way and it easy enough to avoid, but the weight of the magazine when fully loaded with eight or more rounds, combined with the recoil and jostling of occasionally actually firing, followed by me yelling “tap, rack, bang” at the pistol like it’s a lance corporal who works for me and trying to make it seat another one, almost always makes the magazine just…fall out of the pistol.
It’s not just me, either. Before she passed away, my mother-in-law asked me to take her out into her backyard to do some shooting. We set up a few targets and I introduced her to a series of different guns, but at the time, the only pistols I owned were my 1911 and the Hi-Point, the latter still in my bag, and likely jammed because it could sense my presence. After giving her a few shots with a .22 rifle, she wanted to move on to pistols. I produced the Hi-Point in hopes that the 9mm would be more manageable for her.
In her small hands, the pistol proceeded to fire one round, jam, and have the magazine fall to the ground near her feet. She yelped, assuming she’d done something wrong to cause the problem, and immediately began apologizing to me. Of course, she’d done nothing wrong. The pistol is just a jerk.
But let’s say you’re in an emergency, and your only option to defend yourself is the Hi-Point. You have to assume you’ll only get one round off before the gun jams and ejects its own magazine, so it needs to count. You draw your pistol, focus on the front sight tip as you level the weapon at your attacker. They’re only 10 feet away. You could literally throw a bullet at him and impact his face. But after you squeeze the trigger, you find the assailant still standing, and the window above him and three feet to the left has been shattered. With no magazine left, you decide to use the gun as an odd-shaped club.
Of all the complaints I have about the Hi-Point, the biggest one is its accuracy. I don’t expect it to shoot as well as my Glock or 1911, but when I take it to the range with my friends and their pistols, I have yet to find a single one that shoots as poorly as my old Hi-Point.
You might hear gun guys use terms like “point target” and “area target” accuracy from time to time. To be succinct, “point target” means the distance you can be from what you’re shooting at and still choose exactly where the round impacts. “Area target” is at a greater distance, where the weapon is no longer as accurate, and instead you can just choose the area it impacts. A good example would be the point target range of the M16, which is about 550 yards. That means at 550 yards, I can choose where the bullet I fire hits your body. Beyond that and through around 800 yards, I can hit you, but maybe not necessarily where I was aiming.
The Hi-Point has a point target accuracy of maybe ten meters or so at best. It’s worth noting that 10 meters (around 30 feet) is dangerously close to the 21-foot rule. The 21-foot rule is a law enforcement rule of thumb that says an attacker inside of 21 feet could close with and injure me before I’m able to draw and fire accurately. That means that, in the range the Hi-Point is accurate, I may actually be better off leaving it on my belt and relying on Siskel and Ebert (that’s what I named my fists) to handle business.
At longer ranges, you’re faced with a decision: Should you try to fire toward your opponent and hope the round doesn’t stray into a crowd, and that the loud noise scares away your attacker? Or do you just drop the magazine and throw the thing at them? If you have a pretty good arm, I wouldn’t discount the second option. It might be your best bet.
I know, I know, I sound like one of those guys in the pretentious internet forums who decries anyone who chooses a gun they don’t like, or like a gun snob who thinks you have to spend a certain amount of money to get any satisfaction out of what is effectively a hobby. I know plenty of folks who love shooting, but can’t afford just any gun they want. I really do get it. But spending a few hundred bucks on something that doesn’t do what you want it, need it, or ask it to do isn’t a bargain, it’s a waste of money.
So, does the Hi-Point live up to its reputation as a terrible gun? Absolutely. Should you buy one? Absolutely not.
Should you forgive me for owning one myself? Well…that’s up to you.
Image courtesy of Sony Pictures