Hi-Points JHP Pistol in .45 Is Good Defense on Budget
by R.K. Campbell
When it comes to inexpensive handguns, we sometimes find blocky firearms with few amenities. On the other hand, they often work well enough. I find it interesting that I have discovered that a number of low end handguns fare better than middle-of-the-road-priced handguns.
To sum it up, top-of-the-line handguns costing $500 and up give excellent performance and are well worth their price. But there are a number of handguns that cost much less that work well enough, they simply are not as polished as the others.
Then, we have quite a few clones and copies of high-end guns that offer indifferent performance. Some templates simply require inexpensive finesse and quality control. When a working man with limited funds feels a need for a self-protection firearmand the choice is not for everyonehe may find a daunting situation at the local commercial arsenal. There are genuinely few handguns that do not represent a weeks pay or more in average wages, and some of us simply cant manage to take this from the family budget.
When purchasing surplus or well-used handguns, we find handguns that are interesting mechanically and historically, but which have seen better days. As an example, I recently added a Star Super B to my collection of Spanish pistols. At first look, it may seem to be an ideal defense pistol for those on a budget. It holds nine 9mm Luger cartridges and offers a proven Browning-type system.
The price was well under $200, but when I fired the gun, the first round of Fiocchi ball jolted the magazine latch loose and dumped the magazine. Holding the bottom of the magazine in place, I established the pistol would fire, but not feed hollowpoint ammunition. Sure, I can fix all of that, but this was not an auspicious start. Bringing inexpensive military guns up to operating standard is not a job for the mildly interested. Others that usually work very well, such as the CZ 52, are in calibers inappropriate for personal defense.
We are aware that over the years there has been much restrictive legislation aimed at inexpensive handguns. This cuts into the rights of those on a fixed income, who are in financial straits, particularly minorities, the young and the elderly. Whether for personal defense or for recreation, we should be able to purchase any handgun we can afford, as long as the gun is safe and reliable to use and we are responsible in its use.
After 23 years as a peace officer and over four in private security, I can state that the average gunowner shows at least as much responsibility and trustworthiness with the handgun as the police, and often more. That being said, I have run across a type of handgun that offers reasonable performance for those on a budget, and excellent performance when the price is considered.
More than a few who own more expensive handguns have admitted to keeping an example of the Hi-Point handgun as a car gun or boat gun. In other words, they trust the gun to work if need be, but realize that if the gun is lost they have not suffered a financial catastrophe. Hi-Point has been around for some time, gradually building a reputation and improving handgun quality.
There are several models available, in calibers from .380 ACP to .45 ACP in the pistols, and there are also inexpensive carbines chambered for pistol cartridges. I chose to test and review the full-size JHP pistol. This is the .45 ACP model, a natural in my favorite cartridge. The first impression is that this is a big burly handgun.
The pistol is about 7.5 inches long, and about 6.2 inches high. The barrel is a full 4.5 inches, long enough to develop maximum velocity in high performance .45 ACP ammunition. The gun weighs 32 ounces, light for such a large handgun. The polymer frame of the JHP is partly responsible for this light weight. The slide is quite heavy, of a non-ferrous material.
Lets get the operating mechanism of the JHP straightthis is not a locked breeched Browning-type design. All Hi-Point pistols operate on straight blow back lines, much like a .22-caliber semi-auto or a pocket pistol. In other words, the slide blows straight to the rear off a stationary barrel. The only way this type of action can be successful is if the slide is rather large for the caliber. As a result, blow back .380s are only slightly smaller than a well-designed locked breech 9mm compact.
But the design allows a very simple pistol with a minimum of machine work needed to finish. There is no tilting barrel, locking lug or swinging link. But in order to counter the effects of full-power handgun cartridges, the slide must have sufficient mass and weight to bear against the cartridge until the bullet has exited the barrel. In contrast, a locked breech type allows the slide and barrel to recoil while still locked. For simplicity of manufacture and low manufacturing cost, blow back operation was the only choice.
The pistol features a striker fired mechanism. It seems positive enough in action, leaving a normal dent in the primer of all ammunition tested. The side safety locks the sear, preventing the gun from being fired when the safety is in the on position. There is also an internal or drop safety that prevents sear movement if the handgun is dropped. I have been leery of carrying a striker-fired handgun with the chamber loaded, but with more time in the design I will make a final verdict.
The pistol features a black powder-coat finish of the type used to give the manifolds on my Chevy Camaro a heat-proof finish. This powder-coat is not unattractive, and should stand up to hard use. It is interesting that the polymer frame has separate grip panels that are secured by screws. The sights are adjustable, but as a bonus the pistol is supplied with a neat little set of Ghost Ring sights if you prefer this type. The sights on my sample pistol featured a brilliant Day Glo orange insert.
A trigger lock is also supplied with the pistol. The magazine holds a generous nine rounds of ammunition. The extractor seems heavy duty enough to claw cartridges out of the chamber with no problem, and there is a small space just to the rear of the chamber that allows the user to instantly confirm if the piece is loaded. A check of the trigger found a compression with a certain amount of mush, but it broke cleanly enough at about 6 pounds, as measured on the RCBS trigger pull gauge.
This pistol is intended for use by the homeowner on a budget, and as such, will probably not be used at ranges past 15 yards. It is unlikely to be fired for more than a few hundred rounds a year if that much. So, initial reliability is more important than longevity. Just the same, I wished to see how the pistol performed with a variety of ammunition. This included a number of my own handloads. After all, if the pistol doesnt perform well with handloads and cast bullets, it will not be economical for my practice and use.
So, I unlimbered the RCBS dies, RCBS priming tools, Little Dandy measure, and my metering scale. With a certain cadence established with the Rock Crusher, it took but a half hour to knock out a representative sample for use in the Hi-Point. I lightly lubricated the pistol with Birchwood Casey gun oil and loaded the magazines with an eclectic supply of ammunition. Like most handguns, the Hi-Point is a trade off of features. It likes some ammunition better than others, and this is an important consideration for a personal defense pistol.
The pistol requires strong motion to cock the slide to make the gun ready. A young child would probably not be able to cock this handgun. It seems that a round could be chambered but the gun not fully cocked; be certain the slide is fully racked to the rear to make ready. The manual safety is not particularly fast into operation, but seems to work well. A big plus is the sights. They seemed well-regulated for 230-grain ammunition, striking to the point-of-aim at 15 yards.
When testing ammunition, we found that low impulse target loads that function in the 1911-type will not operate the blow back Hi-Point. Some of my loads, using the Winchester 230-grain FMJ 230-grain bullet over Titegroup powder, for 800 feet-per-second (fps), did not fully function the JHP. (This is a target-grade, accurate loading well-suited to paper punching with the 1911.) The slide was very sluggish but functioned with some loads that were just a tad hotter. This is not a criticism of a pistol costing less than $200, simply a warning as concerns ammunition selection.
Normal velocity for 230-grain bullets is 830 to 850 fps, and the pistol flew well with these loads. Turning to full-power loads, I chambered a personal favorite hand load, using the Winchester 230-grain JHP over enough Titegroup to give an honest 844 fps from the Hi-Point JHP. Function was fine through over 100 rounds. I found the pistol pleasant enough, with recoil about in the 1911 class.
The top-heavy Hi-Point requires attention to detail in firing and recovery, but then so do many expensive handguns. Recoil was not unpleasant, and recovery acceptable. Firing off-hand, I found I could place five rounds into a circle about 4 inches in diameter at 15 yards, with care and deliberation. As users of the Walther PPK and the SIG P 230 realize, blow back designs can be quite accurate due to the fixed barrel. The pistol was a pleasant enough plinker on the informal range. Switching to factory ammunition, I fired several magazines of ball ammunition, in this case the Winchester 230-grain USA 230-grain FMJ loading.
I emptied eight rounds into a man-sized silhouette as quickly as possible at 7 yards. Function was perfect, and the groups acceptable. This is a big gun that simply hangs on the target if you do your part. Function with a variety of JHP loads was not as good. Like many .45-caliber pistols, the JHP is sensitive to bullet nose style. A number of the popular JHP styles would not feed in the JHP. Fortunately, I have quite a selection, including partial boxes from other tests, and I was able to find a number of choices that do feed well.
Among the better choices was the Winchester personal defense 230-grain JHP. The Winchester 230-grain SXT also fed and functioned in a single magazine. The Fiocchi 230-grain JHP, using the Cullman, AL-produced Zero hollowpoint, also fed well. I would stick with one of these loads for serious use. Each features a rounded ogive similar to 230-grain hardball and should feed well in any Hi-Point. But be certain you test your own pistol with the load of choice. There is nothing wrong with 230-grain hard ball for personal defense, and the .45 ACP is among a very few cartridges that is truly effective with ball ammunition.
Overall, I find the JHP worth its modest cost. The gun may be angular and ugly, but beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. If the gun saves your life, it will be a beauty to you. The person behind the gun makes the difference. The Hi-Point .45 is reliable and accurate enough for home defense, and will not make a dent in your portfolio. It makes sense as a second gun or a truck gun. I think that makes it worthwhile. It is American-made, which means something to many of us.
I tested a more compact Hi-Point but briefly, though with good results. The 9mm version is a much lighter and more compact handgun, and also less expensive. Plus, it fires the widely distributed 9mm Luger cartridge. The 9mm Luger is much less expensive than the .45 ACP and this can be a factor in choosing a firearm. A female shooter especially would prefer the more compact and easy-to-handle 9mm. The pistol operates in the same manner as the .45.
I began the evaluation with a box of Fiocchis 123-grain Kombat, an accurate loading with a truncated cone bullet. The very first cartridge failed to chamber, but after that the Hi-Point 9mm chugged along without any type of malfunction. Recoil was subdued, but muzzle flip whippy. However, the pistol could be controlled in rapid fire easily enough at common combat ranges.
At 15 yards, firing offhand, I managed to place five rounds in a 5-inch circle. A quick two or three shots at conversational range will save your life, and this handgun will do the business. After the initial firing I proofed the handgun with the Fiocchi 115-grain JHP and the heavy subsonic 147-grain JHP. Both fed, chambered, fired and ejected normally. All in all, adequate performance from an inexpensive 9mm.
For more information on Hi-Point Firearms, contact them at: 8611-A North Dixie Dr., Dept. GWK, Dayton, OH 45414; phone: 877-425-4867; on-line: www.hi-pointfirearms.com.
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