Gun Review: Hi Point 995TS Carbine

They say admitting your affliction is the first step on the road to recovery, so I’ll start with a confession: I once owned a Hi Point 9mm pistol.

It was ugly, heavy, and cheaply made. That said, it digested what I fed it, it put rounds where I aimed, and it certainly beat harsh language in a self-defense situation. It was the best $150 pistol I’ve ever owned.

If that sounds like damning with faint praise, consider first the target market for Hi Point. They don’t sell to pistol aficionados or discerning shooters. If you’re a connoisseur of the newest polymer striker-fired pistols, or if you’re a 1911 disciple raised in the church of John Moses Browning, shooting a Hi Point pistol is an exercise in disappointment.

However, if you’re an occasional shooter who owns a gun solely to keep on the night stand for things that go bump in the night, or stash it in your purse or glove compartment and shoot a box of cheap range fodder out of it every couple of years, then a Hi Point is right up your alley. It’s the gun for non-gun people, a utilitarian tool that should be sold in blister packs with two loaded magazines behind the counter at Wal Mart: gun, generic, 9mm.

The Hi Point Model 995TS 9mm carbine is no exception. Just like the pistol, there are four words that will never be associated with the Hi Point carbine: aesthetics, ergonomics and good trigger.

DSC_0001

DSC_0019

But, now that I’ve gotten the bad stuff out of the way, there’s a lot to like about this weapon.

The idea of a pistol caliber carbine is not a new one. In the Old West, it was just considered good sense to have a rifle that ate the same cartridges as your six-shooter. Your sidearm was a utilitarian tool, handy and easy to carry but limited in its usefulness, and your rifle was what you reserved for serious work.

That sentiment is echoed today when modern gun nuts describe their pistol as “the gun you use until you can get your hands on your real gun.”

Viewed in that vein, the Hi Point 995 carbine doesn’t make a lot of sense. I mean, if you carry a Glock, why not choose one of the numerous AR15 lowers that feed from Glock magazines, or buy a KelTec Sub 2000 carbine that feeds from the same magazines as your carry piece?

But a more thoughtful gun nut than myself pointed out the flaws in my reasoning.

“You’re looking at it wrong,” Matt G. told me. “This is not a carbine to back up your handgun. This is the home defense gun for non-gun people. If you don’t know dick about guns, rarely shoot guns, and can’t hit the broad side of a barn with a handgun, this is the gun you get. Put a cheap red-dot sight on that thing, and it’d be stupid easy to get hits on a target in a hurry.”

And you know, he’s right.

The price point and simplicity of the Hi Point 995TS carbine make it a good choice for the new shooter just beginning to exercise their right to armed self-defense. It’s the starter carbine for people who don’t know anything about guns: cheap, reasonably accurate and reliable, and easy to operate.

If you’re like me with my Hi Point pistol, you may rekindle your love of shooting and graduate to more and better guns. But even if you don’t, you still have a reliable home-defense weapon that didn’t require selling a kidney to buy it.

The carbine came into my hands courtesy of Gay Cynic, who acquired it for T&E from the folks at Hi Point. A number of us had fired a few magazines through it at Blogorado, perhaps 100 rounds total. No one reported any malfunctions, although it was soon discovered by Old NFO that the integrated, spring-loaded butt on the carbine (presumably intended to reduce felt recoil) has a nasty tendency to yank out beard and mustache hair. Seriously, get a good cheek weld on this thing, and it will yank out your soup strainer, a few hairs at a time. It pinches your cheek like that aunt you always dreaded seeing at family gatherings.

However, that’s a minor quibble easily solved by the strategic application of a simple bit of tape and padding. By trimming a piece of pipe insulation to fit and taping it in place, I found that not only did it eliminate the pinch, but made it a little easier to align my eye with the sights.

In total, I fired 364 rounds through the carbine, and experienced three failures to feed, all from the same box of Blazer Brass 115 grain FMJ. All three rounds hung up on the feed ramp, nose-up fashion, and required dropping the magazine to clear the malfunction. I experienced no failures to fire or eject.

I had no problems holding four-inch groups, shooting offhand at 25 yards, using the factory sights. From a padded rest, groups averaged around two inches at 25 yards with factory iron sights. The addition of a Sightmark Ultra Shot reflex sight didn’t tighten the groups appreciably, but did make it much easier for me to get on target quickly. Shooting at across-the living-room distances (21 feet), groups of 1.5 inches are easily attainable, and even my rapid fire groups were under four inches.

DSC_002110 rounds, slow fire at 15 yards with a SightMark reflex sight

The sights on the 995TS are fully adjustable, hooded front post and ghost ring rear aperture. The front sight can be adjusted up or down for coarse elevation, while fine adjustments for windage and elevation can be accomplished via adjustment screws on the rear aperture.

The rear sight assembly is affixed to the Weaver-style rail by means of a couple of screws. The aperture itself rides on a sprung lever, and is adjusted for elevation by turning the sight elevation screw. There are no positive “clicks” for adjustment; sight alignment is accomplished purely through trial and error. Back the screw out to elevate POI, and tighten it to lower. I’d recommend setting those screws with some LocTite once you get them dialed in.

To prove my theory that the Hi Point is an excellent choice for a home-defense weapon for neophyte shooters, I recruited a couple of new shooters to wring out the weapon. Criteria were that they were a) female, b) petite, and c) didn’t know beans about shooting.

Enter fellow EMT DeAnna and her 16-year-old daughter, Dakota.  You could put them both on a scale and have to add some additional ballast to total 200 pounds. Both are avid bowhunters, but neither have any experience shooting firearms. DeAnna had fired her Ruger LCP exactly twice before giving it up because of recoil she considered unpleasant (a perfect example of why mouseguns and snubby revolvers are poor choices for your girlfriend’s carry weapon, boys), and Dakota had never handled a firearm, period.

My intent was to put the Hi Point in their hands with as little experience as possible, but even I am not so perverse as to put a 9mm of any kind in the hands of a neophyte shooter and tell ‘em to have at it. So, after a safety briefing on the Four Rules and a little rudimentary instruction on grip, stance, trigger squeeze and sight alignment, I had them each fire a 25-round magazine KatyBeth’s Smith & Wesson M&P15-22.

After a whopping 25 rounds of .22LR for familiarization, I let them shoot the Hi Point 9mm carbine at 10 yards. Here are the results:

DeAnna-and-Dakota-1024x683

(Note to self: Make sure battery cover on sight is tightened down before filming. Ditto for front sight post screws.)

To sum up my experience with the Hi Point 995TS:

  • Fit and finish: C. It’s a Hi Point. You ain’t buying it for its looks and deep, lustrous bluing. The front sight post actually, well… fell off during shooting, as you can see in the video of DeAnna shooting the carbine. The front sight attaches to the barrel via a collar and set screws, and inlets into a notch in the front of the forearm. Careful tightening of the set screws and application of Loctite solved that problem.
  • Reliability: B. I fired 364 rounds fired personally, a mixed lot of Blazer, UMC, PMC Bronze and Winchester White Box 115 gr ball ammo, with 25 rounds of Hornady TAP 147 gr JHP thrown in for good measure. The gun also had roughly 100 rounds fired through it at Blogorado by various shooters without any reported failures. I experienced three failures to feed, all from the same box of Blazer brass 115 gr FMJ. All three rounds hung nose-up on the feed ramp, and required dropping the magazine and cycling the action to clear. Visual inspection of the rounds didn’t reveal any obvious deformities.
  • Shootability: B-. Two petite, novice girl shooters with a sum total of 50 rounds of experience shooting a .22 LR carbine had no problem getting center-mass hits with the Hi Point at 21 and 45 feet. They reported felt recoil as mild, and preferred the reflex sight over iron sights (once we solved the issue of a loose battery cover on the sight). Both girls shot faster, with groups half the size they shot using my Kahr CW9 and my officer length 1911 in .45 ACP. The trigger pull is heavy, and creepier than a bearded dude hanging outside the playground in a white van marked “free candy.” But the bad trigger doesn’t keep you from getting rounds on target, and for a gun at this price point, you can hardly expect better. If the damned thing didn’t pinch your cheek and rip your mustache out when you shot it, I’d give it an A-.
  • Price Point: A. With MSRP of $285, and new guns selling on Gunbroker from $225-$250, it’s an inexpensive starter gun suitable for home defense. As my fellow gun nut Matt G. said, it’s a good home defense gun for non-gun people. If you’re an avid shooter, likely as not you’ll soon start yearning for a better gun than the Hi Point. But if all you’re going to do is shoot it now and then and keep it handy for things that go bump in the night, it beats the hell out of pepper spray and harsh language.

So, to sum up, the Hi Point 995TS carbine is not a good gun. But it is a good enough gun, which is what I suspect is exactly what it was designed to be. If a novice shooter asks you for advice on a good home defense gun, you wouldn’t be doing them wrong by steering them to a Hi Point carbine and a 500-round bulk pack of ammo to practice with, and they’d likely never appreciate the difference between that and the gun you’d prefer personally.