Counterpoint: Kevin Smith Re-Reviews the Hi-Point C-9

This is a follow-up review of the Hi-Point C-9 that was originally reviewed here by Ben Shotzberger in May of 2011. In the initial write-up, the reviewer found the pistol to be excessively heavy, had problems with the slide biting his thumb, felt the trigger pull was too heavy, reported repeated issues with failures to feed properly, failures of the cocking mechanism when the pistol cycled, and found that the pistol consistently shot very low (as much as twelve inches at as little as three yards). It was also stated that the reviewer was unable to get the pistol to shoot to point of aim even when he’d “adjusted the sights to their limits.” My results were drastically different…

Having read the previous review, watched the range video, and read his previous “Range report” (which drew oddly different conclusions), I asked Robert Farago to send the pistol to me. I told him I’d document anything that had to be done with the gun in order to make it cycle properly and shoot to point of aim.

I will say at this point that I have owned a Hi-Point JCP 40 S&W for around five months. Contrary to the previous review this is NOT a C9 chambered in 40 S&W but a totally different model. And I’d seen some issues in the video that caused me to question whether the cause of some of the issues were the fault of the pistol or not.

It would be important at this point to describe some of the basic design details of Hi-Point guns and why they are designed this way before getting into too much detail about how this specific one performed. Hi-Point pistols are all designed as blow back operated semi-automatics that fire from an open bolt. This is not a common feature in pistols chambered for modern high powered cartridges and requires certain concessions to be made to the laws of physics in the design.

Unlike blow back operated pistols for low powered cartridges (for example the Colt 1903 Hammerless) or rimfire automatics, the Hi-Point has to have a fairly heavy slide and return spring to keep the chamber closed long enough for the bullet to exit the barrel when fired.  As with many hammerless autos, firing low velocity ammo may cause the weapon to cycle without cocking, resulting in a failure to fire on the follow-up round.

This is a mechanically simple design that’s easy for a competent machine shop to produce, particularly since the heavy slide is made of an easily-cast zinc alloy and uses a polymer frame. This keeps costs low for the company (which is headquartered and manufactures in Ohio), but does result in a pistol that is less than elegant in appearance.

All of the pistols use single stack magazines. The highest capacity magazine the company manufactures is 10 rounds, since these were designed in the “Assault Weapons Ban” era.  (The magazines appear to have been loosely based on the Colt 1911 magazine.) These are not in any way shape or form precision arms. They’re low cost firearms designed and built by an American company, but if you’re looking for a competition pistol I’d say right now to move on.

Now the review:
Upon receipt of the C-9, the first thing I noticed when I unboxed it was that the rear sight was literally cranked as low as it could possibly go. I can only assume that before he boxed it up the previous reviewer took the time to lower the sight as far as he could because…well, I really have no idea why. I assume this because if he had fired it with the rear sight that low, the pistol would shoot extremely low. (Anyone with any familiarity with guns should know that a rear sight moves up to raise point of impact.)

Before shooting the pistol I had to acquire some 9mm ammo as I do not own a 9mm gun. Since I was testing a low cost firearm, I figured it would probably make sense to the majority of people who would be interested in this review if I concentrated on relatively low cost ammunition. So off to Wally World I went. But that meant that I wasn’t able to fire the C9 with +P ammo, though it is rated for it and I have read accounts of a number of users firing their personal C9’s using +P. I avoided steel case ammo as this type of ammo is not recommended for use by the majority of firearms manufacturers.

I used four types of ammo for the test:

Brand/Style

Weight

Bullet Type

Remington/Golden Saber

147 gr

JHP

Remington/UMC

115 gr

JHP

American Eagle

147 gr

FMJ-FP

Federal

115 gr

FMJ-RN

I first set up to shoot at a 100 yard rifle target from only nine feet in order to duplicate the shooting session described in the initial review. I fired my first magazine with the Federal FMJ and did not adjust the sights. As expected the first round landed low.

The C9’s rear sight is adjustable for windage and elevation with the handy multi-tool that comes with the pistol (it also doubles as the key for the trigger lock that the company includes with each firearm). The front sight is a fixed post that is part of the cast slide.

Over the course of firing the first magazine I slowly adjusted the rear sight up and slightly to the right until I was hitting dead center. The first photo, above, is the sight as it was when I took it out of the box. The second photo is the sight after adjustment. As you can see, it required significant correction to get the pistol shooting on target.

The recoil from the Federal ammo was relatively light. The combination of heavy spring and a massive slide really reduces felt recoil. Unlike the previous reviewer, I did not find the safety especially difficult to use (though I would prefer to see its flat surface have a slight raised ridge on it) or hard to reach with my thumb. Even though I have rather large hands I did not have a problem with the slide contacting my hand while firing.

I fired a minimum of eight magazines at eight shots using each ammo type over the course of several weeks. I fired several hundred of the UMC (that stuff is cheap). Through all of that, I did NOT have a single failure to fire, jam, or feed problem with any of the ammo listed.

I did sit down with some snap caps and my JCP and succeed in duplicating the failure to pick up the first round from a new magazine seen in the video of the initial review. But that was only by very carefully pulling back on the slide until the last round hold-open just released and then letting go before drawing the slide completely back. This required some practice and watching the video several times to succeed in duplicating the issue. In general I would recommend just pulling the slide fully back and releasing it in one quick motion, with this and any other auto.

The C-9′s trigger pull measures 7.25 lbs. Some people might consider this heavy, but factory triggers on production pistols usually run higher.  Competition pistols run in the 4-6 lb range. (Even my Detective Special, when manually cocked, has a trigger pull of 3.25 lbs and it’s scary light). There is some slack in the trigger, though. I estimate about 1/16” before it resists.

The picture at the top is a target I fired a full magazine into at 25 yards with the UMC ammo. As you can see, the C-9′s accuracy is not an issue.

The UMC and the Federal ammo fired with sufficiently light recoil that a quick follow-up shot was easy, even when firing one handed. The Golden Saber and the American Eagle recoil was a bit stouter – firing one handed was still possible, but for purposes of a following shot, I would recommend using a two handed grip, especially for smaller shooters.

The C-9 is a perfectly serviceable (if not flashy) firearm for plinking and home defense. I wouldn’t recommend it as a “purse gun” for ladies to carry, but then I am not aware of a centerfire automatic in anything larger than .25 ACP that would serve in that capacity. The pistol’s size isn’t as big an issue as the weight it would add to the bag it’s carried in. It’s roughly the same size as a Glock 26, but is 10 oz. heavier.

As far as concealed carry in a belly holster or shoulder rig, I have a friend that carries the Glock 26 concealed with no problem.  In terms of recoil it’s far more manageable than the Glock (or the lightweight surplus Makarovs or Tokarevs I’m sure someone will suggest.)

Am I saying this is a better overall firearm than a Glock? No. Should someone enter a combat shooting contest with one? No. Can you buy three of these for the cost of one Glock 26? Definitely. Would I recommend one of these to a woman living alone in a dangerous part of town? In a heartbeat. Nobody should be denied their right to protect themselves just because they can’t afford a $500+ pistol.

SPECIFICATIONS
Model – Hi-Point Firearms Model C-9
Caliber – 9mm Luger
Magazine capacity – 8 rounds standard, 10 round magazine available
Materials – Polymer frame, cast Zymak-3 slide, steel action and barrel.
Barrel – 3.5”
Action – Double
Weight – 29.5 oz
Cost – $148 (that’s direct from the company, have seen it as high a $170)

RATINGS (out of five stars)

Style:  * * 1/2
You aren’t gonna see James Bond or Jason Bourne with one of these any time soon. But if you want somebody to be really sure it isn’t a toy when you have to aim it at them, it will do.

Ergonomics:  * * 1/2
It doesn’t have the smooth feel of my uncle’s Single Six .357 or the quick handling of a Detective Special. And it’s definitely not a custom 1911. But it sure feels better than a Tokorev.

Reliability:  * * * *
Pretty sure somebody is gonna argue with me about this, but it went bang every time I squeezed the trigger and it never jammed. I’d have given it 5 but I only have around 300 rounds through it.

Customize This:  *
Not in any way shape or form. This is not a tinker toy. I had to make my own grips for my JCP and that’s pretty much true for any mods to the Hi-Point pistol line. If you can’t DIY it, any major modifications would cost more than the pistol.

Accuracy:  * * * * *
Once I adjusted the sight it hit what I aimed it at. Over and over. I shot a Pepsi can 7 out of 8 time at 20 yards. Can’t reasonably ask for more (especially not for the price).

Overall Rating: * * *
The C-9 won’t win any beauty contests, but it does what a pistol is supposed to do. And it does it from an American company that employs American workers with a lifetime warranty.