Monday, October 31, 2016

Shooting the .380 Hi-Point Carbine

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Today I had the pleasure to test-fire the 3895TS, kindly loaned to me by Oleg Volk. This is not a full-scale Test & Evaluation, as that would require me to disassemble and clean it and I do not possess the tool required to take it apart (Oleg left it in Tennessee); this is more of a range report.

Initial Impressions
Like all Hi-Point guns, the 3895TS is chunky and functional in appearance, but at 6.25 pounds it was very easy for me to shoulder and operate. I don't know how rugged it is, but it certainly feels rugged.

A few noteworthy observations:
  • The charging handle is nice and big, making it very easy to cock the action. 
  • It is impossible to charge the handle with the safety engaged. 
  • There are three sets of rails on the 3895TS: an upper rail for optics; a barrel shroud rail for accessories like forward grips and bipods; and an under-barrel rail for lasers and flashlights. 
  • The magazine is a 10-round single stack; given the design of the pistol grip, loading the magazine the traditional way (slapping it into place with the heel of the hand) is awkward. I found it easier to load if I put my first three fingers against the magazine baseplate and just pushed it into position. 
The recoil of the 3895TS is so light as to be practically nonexistent. This is partly due to the fact that a cartridge designed for pistols is being shot through a much larger and heavier carbine, and partly due to the spring-loaded buttpad (see photo above) that acts as a shock absorber. These two factors combine to create a firearm that has only slight muzzle rise and recoil less than that of my .22LR bolt-action rifle.

One flaw with this carbine is that the magwell is internally ribbed, meaning that if a magazine isn't aligned just right, it will hit a rib and prevent loading. This can be preventing by making sure that the magazine is canted at the same angle as the pistol grip, which is fine for fun at the range but could prove to be a detriment in a self-defense scenario. This might be less of an issue if magazines with more than a 10 round capacity existed (such as the 20-round Redball magazine for the 9mm carbine), but for the moment it's 10 rounds or nothing.

Loading the magazine is also awkward due to the shape of the feed lips; a manual loader needs to insert a cartridge partway, apply enough pressure to depress the follower (that would be the internal floor of the magazine which lifts the ammunition into position), then slide the cartridge back underneath the lips. I highly recommend a magazine loader to make this easier, but curiously the magazine's front-to-back dimension makes it too long to fit inside a .380 Baby Uplula. However, a regular 9mm Uplula will accommodate it, so if you go this route, it's worth getting a single-stack aligner insert for your Maglula.

I chose to test the carbine at home-defense ranges (20-25 feet), and so I mounted a LaserMax Micro II G laser just underneath the barrel. Since I am 5'4" and had acquired this carbine from a 6'1" man, the first thing I needed to do was zero it.

Once I had the laser dialed in, the 3895TS showed an impressive degree of accuracy at 25 feet. As an illustration, the picture below is the result of a full 10-round magazine, even though it only looks like 5 bullet holes. (The holes in the 5 and 6 ring are from my initial shots dialing it in.)

I do not consider myself a particularly good shooter,
but this is an excellent grouping as far as I'm concerned.

I was very impressed by this, so I ran it out to 50 feet to see how it would do. Again, this was not with an optic; this is just the result of a green laser cowitnessed with iron sights. 

Sure, it's a bit low, but that's still a nice grouping
and it's definitely a kill shot. 

What I Liked:
  • The surprising accuracy of a budget gun. 
  • Its price: the stock version of the carbine has an MSRP of $315, but Bud's Gun Shop (for example) lists it for $271. 
  • Its ridiculously soft recoil. 
  • A separate rail for a laser.
  • That it's rated for +P cartridges, unlike my Sub-2000.

What I Didn't Like:
  • The 10-round only magazine.
  • The way that the magazine jammed if you didn't have it aligned just so
  • The fact that (see video below) you have to engage in a ridiculously detailed disassembly process, including removing the front blade sight, in order to strip the gun for cleaning. 
    • (This is mitigated somewhat by Oleg's insistence that the 3895TS rarely needs disassembly for cleaning and maintenance; I'm told that a boresnake and CLP ought to be sufficient for most situations.)

My Rating: A-
 I didn't think I would like this carbine, but despite its flaws I like it quite a bit. While my mother has not had the opportunity to shoot it, I think it would be an ideal longarm for her: she can easily shoulder it, the minimal recoil will be ideal for her arthritic shoulder, and its tight accuracy when paired with a green laser means she can likely put the bullets where they need to go.

All told, it's an ideal defensive arm for people who cannot afford an expensive firearm. Since it's a long arm, it is not as heavily restricted as a pistol, and the 10-round magazine passes muster in all but the most stringently anti-gun states. The soft recoil reduces flinching and allows for greater control and faster follow-up shots, and the .380 cartridge is available in a variety of self-defense configurations (my ammunition of choice is 90 gr Hornady Critical Defense FTX). The multiple rails allow mounting of whatever accessory you like, such a a red dot optic or a foregrip.

The only true black mark against the 3895TS is its magazine. I dislike how touchy it is when feeding, and increased capacity would reduce the number of times a magazine would have to be loaded in a self-defense scenario. Hopefully Redball will make a 20-round mag for it and fix this issue.

Today's Range Report is sponsored by Lucky Gunner, who gave me three boxes of Winchester-brand 95 grain FMJ Target ammo for review. I'm pleased to announce that all cartridges loaded, fired, and ejected flawlessly. I have also shot these rounds through my Colt Mustang Pocketlite as well, and they performed just as well then as they did today. I absolutely recommend this ammunition!

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