Gun Review: Hi-Point C9 9mm Pistol

TTAG contacted Hi Point’s PR peeps in late January / early February. We were up front about our plan: test the pistol to destruction. To prove (we hoped) that what the Hi-Point C9 lacked in refinement it made up for in simplicity and reliability. When asked if the pistol would be in “sellable” condition after the tests, we politely responded in the negative. We were going to break the Hi Point and chronicle the punishment it took along the way. Hi-Point got the point and signed-up for our torture test. Then, time went by . . .

The candles at my dinner table burned to the nub with no one showing up to enjoy the cuisine I’d slaved over for hours on end. Eventually, Hi Point’s rep emailed me. They’d decided against sending us a pistol.

After further consideration, I am going to pass on sending you a c-9 to torture test, we have had many different writers and independent’s [sic} individuals [sic] do this type of thing to several calibers of the Hi-point products, all have attained the same end…Hi-Points are built like a “TANK” they just keep running and are nearly indestructible ( just view the most recient You Tube hi-point attempted destruction test ).

If you want a Hi-Point to try to destroy you will need to run one down for yourself, to be honest we are so busy shipping c-9’s out I really don’t want to break a case of 10-and I don’t think its [sic] fair to send you one to destroy when I have customers wanting them to enjoy.

So imagine my surprise and delight when Manassas Guns and Ammo Warehouse calls and told me “Your Hi-Point is here.” Hi-Point’s marketing mavens had decided to send us a C9 after all. Pistol in-hand, it was finally time to get down to business. I was ready for the C9 to exceed my expectations, expecting it to blow me away. At $155, that wouldn’t be hard to accomplish.

The Hi-Point C9 ships with a rear Ghost-ring sight. Too bad that extra bit of plastic wasn’t added to the nearly-impossible-to-operate-from-a-firing-grip safety. Hi-Point calls it the “quick on/off thumb safety.” Operating the switch is about as fast as a herd of turtles stampeding through peanut butter uphill. In January. Flicking the safety requires a good deal of effort; it must be pressed firmly, like a square peg through a round hole. Worse, it can be left at any degree of on/off while you’re manipulating it.

Ergonomically, the Hi-Point C9 fits the hand decently enough. The Hi-Point rep told me the gun needs a beefy slide to compensate for both the single-action blowback design and  the pistol’s light polymer frame. (The mass of the slide keeps the breech closed until the round has exited the barrel, then the energy imparted by the fired round operates the slide and cycles the pistol.) The C9’s slide borders on behemoth. Somehow, the folks at Colt had figured out how to make their blowback pistol slides not-so gianormous right around 1900 when they introduced the model 1903 and 1908 hammerless pistols. They must have  been using technology from the future.

Here’s a comparison between the ergonomic and aesthetic similarities of the C9’s slide and a common mason’s brick. Again, I’m not implying that the C9 is uncomfortable to hold. I said it “fits” – and I mean it. The discomfort starts when you fire the pistol. In the above picture, you’ll notice a slight overlap of the skin on my thumb and the bottom edge of the slide, just aft of the safety-off indicator. In the picture below, you’ll see that there’s a significant amount of overlap. When I fired this pistol for the first time, the action of the ZAMAK slide contacting, rubbing against, and trying to take off the skin on the top of my thumb, was a wee bit uncomfortable.

Moving along, let’s shoot the thing and see how it performs. Click here for my previous Range Report].

I’d set a standard “bulls-eye” target at three yards. It’s a fine distance for putting rounds on paper and concentrating on the function of the pistol. My sights were perfectly aligned on the bull.

As I took-up the trigger slack I felt a bit of side-to-side “wiggle.” Odd yet manageable. Squeeze … squeeze … squeeeeeeeze … SQUEEEEEEZE. And while we’re waiting fo something to happen, please note that arthritic shooters need not apply; the C9′s nine-pound plus trigger pull will likely break your finger before a bullet comes out the other end.

Eventually, the C9 trigger breaks and round one travels down range. The sights remain on target throughout the entire epic. Lowering the pistol to low-ready, I peer downrange at my work. At three yards, I have failed to put the round anywhere on the paper.

Faced with the prospect of running the target “home” to confirm my suspicions of failure—and showing blank paper to the shooter’s to my left and right—I take aim again and turn my concentration inward. My first thought: the concussion I suffered five days previous has seriously distorted my shooting ability. Fine, let’s finish this magazine and see what happens.

Round two fails to hit paper with a proper sight picture. With round three, I ignored the sights and relied on muscle memory. Finally, a round lands on paper. Barely. Almost. Ok, I lied – all three rounds have disappeared. Things pretty much went that way the entire night: 20 rounds fired, six on paper, only one a “scoring” hit.

Mr. Finn had a similar experience, this gun was shooting no-where near point of aim. I had to confirm I wasn’t crazy and shoot my carry-gun to make sure I was actually able to still put rounds on target, see the target on the right – it’s confirmed, I’m not crazy.

I tested the C9’s accuracy again by myself, with much the same results. I broke the pistol out one final time this past weekend out at Quantico Shooting Club. I put it in the hands of Foghorn, and he let ‘er rip. The two of us again found that rounds were way off target.

Once I realized where the pistol was shooting when benched, and adjusted the sights to their limits attempting to compensate (correctly adjusting them, and failing miserably), I had a little fun. At maximum adjust, the sights still do not reliably produce a near point of aim impact. Rounds will land low – but just how low?

Not too shabby eh? Except that this is again at three yards – nine whole feet, and I was aiming for headshots to illustrate my point. At nine feet, I experienced shot placement over 12 inches low of point of aim, consistently.

Another quirk: feed issues. I obtained seven different magazines for the C9. Out of that group I recorded two different types of feed errors with six of them. The first error was a simple fail to feed. At maximum capacity (eight rounds), the magazine would feed the first round or two into the pistol, but then the follower would hang inside of the magazine and the next round would be tucked down in the magazine too deep to be fed when the slide operated forward.

I solved this problem by dropping the mag, tapping it against my leg to free the bind, then reinserting it. The second failure was a feeding issue due to binding of the bullet within the magazine as it approaches the magazine lip. Below, you can see a correctly oriented round in the top magazine, and a “misfeed” in the magazine beneath. Notice the difference in the angle of orientation of the bullet in each magazine (placed on top of each other).

When the C9 attempted to strip that “misfeed” round off the top to bring the pistol into battery, the pistol jammed. After peering closely into the jammed action and using a flashlight and multitool to locate and assess the hangup, I determined that the case lip of the round snags on the front of the magazine itself. Inside the pistol, the misfed round and magazine look similar to the below image (which I staged for illustrative purposes as it would have been impossible to drop the magazine from the pistol with the round in this position).

Another jamming issue: when the magazine is seated and the slide operated, about 70 percent of the time the slide will contact the round, and stop either halfway to battery, or nearly completely out of battery. After a momentary delay, the slide may decide to “fix itself” and slap forward into battery. If it continues to be uncooperative and non-responsive, you can empty 60 rounds into it in seven seconds . . . I mean “tap” it to correct the issue.

In addition to fail-to-feeds, I experienced two trigger pulls where the sear did not reset. The trigger was pulled, the gun went bang, the next round was chambered, and after being fully-released the trigger was able to pulled all the way to stop without another “bang” happening. Out of over 500 rounds, I was only able to observe this issue twice – both times at the NRA range, where photography is prohibited.

I had planned to record each of the previously mentioned failures individually for your viewing pleasure. In the name of efficiency, the C9 decided to demonstrate the majority of them within 12 rounds and in a single one-minute video.

I wanted the Hi Point to be great. My preconceived notion was this was a pistol that might have been ugly and ungainly, but was one that worked. I planned to write it up as a great “second” gun – the one you leave locked away on your yacht and don’t fret too much about if it drops overboard into 400ft of seawater.

I started planning all of these angles before the pistol was physically in my hand. Once it was here, things just went downhill – like the fat kid on a toboggan, plummeting towards the pond at the bottom of the sledding hill with nothing to do but scream. And what of the torture test? In the end, it proved unnecessary.

SPECIFICATIONS

Caliber 9mm (also available in .380 ACP, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP)
Material (slide) ZAMAK Zinc-Aluminum Alloy (similar to AR-15 lowers)
Material (frame) DuPont Hi-Impact Polymer
Weight 29oz unloaded
Overall length 6.75″
Barrel Length 3.5″
Capacity 8-round magazine standard. 10-round optional
Sights 3-Dot. Fully adjustable rear.

RATINGS (out of five)

Style * * *
You don’t buy a Hi-Point for its looks. It performs its job of looking “workhorsish” flawlessly.

Ergonomics (carry) *
For a “small” pistol (3.5″ barrel), the C9 has a profile exceeding full-size handguns. I’m not quite sure why you’d try to carry the C9 given it’s size and relative round capacity.

Ergonomics (firing) *
No. Without consciously avoiding anything approaching a high hand grip, expect to experience at least one “bite” from the C9. With all of the weight in the slide, and nothing in the frame, this 9mm “snaps” more than a typical .45.

Reliability nil
I could not make this gun go bang every time. That is my one gateway requirement to reliability. When I pull the trigger, it must go boom. When it goes boom, it must consistently be ready to go boom again. The fact that misfeeds and jams were the norm and not the fluke leads to my first ever “zero” rating.

Customizability * 1/2
Two points for the optional ghost ring sights

Overall Rating * 1/2
Even at $155 MSRP, a pistol that does not go bang every time is not to be considered affordable. Or useful. In certain scenarios, the Hi-Point could get its owner into deeper trouble than if he or she didn’t have a gun.

Conclusion
I would not buy a Hi-Point C9 on a bet, but I may end up getting stuck with one. Their PR peeps haven’t told me how to return the pistol.