I've always been one to root for the underdog. I simply have a soft spot for those companies who try harder, think up new ideas, and often kick the pants off the big guys. They do more, with less money and often end up with a product that does surprising things.

And less money doesn't always mean less performance. If you can put the gun-snob side of you in a drawer for a minute, you may learn something here when it comes to affordable firepower. I did.

I wanted very badly to hate this little rifle. I looked down my nose at it and harrumphed when I opened the box. It was inexpensive (read: "cheap"), had a genuine plastic stock, trigger, and other goodies, stampings were the norm, and the bolt release looked like something you'd buy at Home Depot. I thought, "Yeah, right. Not this, not in a million years, and not in my police car."  I examined those stampings and muttered, "We'll see about this."

The fly in the ointment was the fact I'd been hearing good things about Hi-Point Firearms' carbines and I simply didn't want to believe them. They were so, 'er, 'um, well, cheap. How could they possibly be any good? And the Hi-Point pistols-ugly, awkward-looking, and painted, for crying out loud. Gads.

I should have been smarter. I had recently tested some of Hi-Point's pistols for American Handgunner and found they ran like a good watch, were more accurate than some $500 pistols I tested with them, had adjustable sights, and cost, well... Not lots of money. I hate it when I'm wrong.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's just say it. Hi-Point's firearms are not family heirloom guns, and fit and finish can't compare to high-end iron. For sheer pride of ownership, you'd better buy something else. But there's more to life than a shiny stock and in the real world of a beat car, performance is what counts.

Of course, with today's shrinking police budgets, the fact the basic Hi-Point Carbine only costs around $200 has its appeal. Nonetheless, if it didn't work, it could only cost $3.49 and it still wouldn't be a bargain.

Surprise, Surprise

Hi-Point has been in the gun business for about 12 years and warrants its firearms for life. Your life, the next guy's life, it doesn't matter. For life.

The company also doesn't have the marketing overhead of some of its counterparts. It doesn't sponsor racing cars, own sports teams, or spend millions in advertising dollars to tout its wares. Hi-Point is a lean company that can pass the savings on to you. The fact all of Hi-Point's guns are made entirely in America isn't a bad thing, either. Every little bit helps.

Before taking our test carbine out for a shoot, I did some nosing around and found two rental ranges that ran Hi-Point Carbines. They would surely prove the guns don't hold up, I thought.

And I couldn't have been more wrong. The first range owner I contacted said, "Yup, we've had one for a long time. It's got around 25,000 rounds through it. I think we replaced a spring once."

The guy at the other place sounded like he had a cold but I could distinctly make out the fact he said, "I dunno', around 50,000 rounds, I'd say. Never broke yet so we just keep letting 'em shoot it."

Mysteriouser and Mysteriouser

So now I was concerned. Geez, these might just be really good, after all. The only way to find out for sure was to shoot it.

I had opted for the basic black version. Guns have gotten to where they are kind of like the original Model T cars-any color you want as long as it's black. Except that's not entirely true here. You can have a nifty cammo color, chrome (yes, I said chrome-you had to be there to appreciate it), and a bunch of other combinations. Still, I think most buyers would elect the black, as difficult as the decision may be with that chrome version winking at you.

Out of the box, the fit and finish showed it was, well, fit and finished. The stock is a two-piece plastic affair that is screwed together and with all the curves and cool-looking doo-dads it sorta' looks like a Buck Rogers ray gun. The barrel is 16.5 inches long and the overall length is 31.5 inches. The stock is sort of pebbly-grained and it manages to stay in the hands nicely. Our Hi-Point carbine had a sling and mounts, several magazines, a laser, compensator, and a Weaver mount that screws right on, replacing the rear sight.

The mag release is where it belongs on the left side and there is a simple safety lever there too. The bolt locks open via what looks like a bolt you can buy at the hardware store, but it functions well and is easy to use. I did notice the magazine did not fall free of it's own accord, which means, actually, that you won't lose a mag unless you really want to. Tactical reloads would probably be the norm when using this rifle, so no foul here. The bolt did not lock back after the last shot.

Sights are robust and consist of a well  protected post up front and a very good aperture rear. The rear is fully adjustable for windage and elevation and has very clear index marks visible to make the job easier, and repeatable if necessary.

Our version came with the optional  Beam Shot laser, which mounts onto the rail on the bottom of the comp. That same rail would lend itself to a light mount, too.

There is a finned cover over the barrel, which is probably mostly there to help make the package look cool, and it actually does. The parts that should be steel are, and the bits that don't matter seem to be castings or stampings or plastic.

There is also a supplied double mag pouch, which slips onto the butt and holds, uh, two magazines. So with one in the gun, that would be three and with 10 rounds in each mag, that would be 30. Not bad. The mags look like they are proprietary to the Hi-Point.[PAGEBREAK]

Mechanics

If I was a betting man, I'd imagine what Hi-Point did to make the Model 995 Carbine was simply use the pistol action and "upgrade" it into a carbine. The inside bits are heavy castings and appear to operate on a simple blow-back system. There is an external extractor and a nice, big ejection port to clear the trash out after the bang.

The safety seemed to work well and basic function and fit was actually very impressive as it was played with a bit to get familiar with the controls. It felt good against the shoulder and, in all honesty, felt very much like another gun we all know so well, only at about 15 percent of the cost involved in the "other" gun.

Taking apart the Hi-Point Carbine involves some "stuff," so read the supplied book and trust us when we say to take your time. This may be the only place where the high-dollar guns take an easy lead. But then again, how often are you going to have to take this thing apart? Shoot it, blast it clean with some spray cleaner, a shot of lube, load up, and you're back in business.

The laser turned on and off nicely and the firing pin went "click" every time we pulled the trigger. After assembling some 9mm ammo, off we went to the range.

Jam Free

Our Hi-Point ran just fine from the moment we began until the end of the day. Exactly 557 rounds of 9mm (give or take one) went through it and there were no jams of any kind. I was surprised, the crew was surprised, and frankly, we really wanted it to be bad so we could all nod knowingly and say, "See, we told you so." But it didn't work out that way at all.

As a matter of fact, we're all a bit embarrassed to admit we liked it and now we all want one to play with. We're not alone in this. It seems some 60-odd actual police agencies have already adopted the Hi-Point Carbine for a duty rifle and more are following suit. I saw the list and Hi-Point will supply you their names and phone numbers if you want to check on how the guns are doing for yourself.

At 25 yards and closer (where most of the police rifle fights occur) the carbine printed ragged, tea-cup sized groups if we didn't screw up. Quick work on multiple targets was a snap. Even shooters who are handgun-challenged found the carbine easy to run and the bullets found the right spots on the targets with pleasing regularity.

The Model 995 was easy to keep on target and fun to shoot, and as a former cop with over 20 years in the field, I wouldn't hesitate to stick one of these in my trunk and put it to work. At this price, even if you simply get your agency to approve them, you can buy one yourself out of your beer and pizza money.

As a home defense gun, this carbine just can't be beat. Virtually no recoil, low muzzle report, low (virtually non-existent) muzzle flash, and accuracy that is right at the top make it easy to transition to and great for small-statured shooters.

The longer barrel generally delivers slightly higher muzzle velocities, so if you have a plus-p load now, you might want to investigate whether the bullet will hold together in tissue at the higher velocity the rifle will deliver. The Hi-Point Carbine is rated for any plus-p load.

This ain't rocket science. The Model 995 is simply a tough-as-a-tank, basic package for delivering your duty handgun ammo quickly and accurately.

Hi-Point  Firearms
Model 995 Carbine

Caliber: 9mm and .40 S&W
Stock: Black Zytel plastic
Weight unloaded: 6 pounds
Capacity: 10 + 1
Trigger pull: 6.5 pounds as tested
Barrel length: 16.5 inches
Overall length: 31.5 inches
Cost: Approx. $250 as tested
www.hi-pointFirearms.com

Roy Huntington is a long-time member of the POLICE Advisory Board, a former editor of POLICE, and the current editor of American Handgunner magazine.

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