A defensive long gun on a budget and under legal restrictions


I had an interesting exchange with a man who read my three-part article on the personal defensive rifle, and wanted me to address his specific situation.  He has the following complications to deal with.

  1. He’s on a very limited budget – definitely below $500, and cheaper if possible.
  2. His state and city of residence both have very restrictive firearms laws and regulations.  In combination, they effectively make it impossible for him to buy and/or use an AR-15, AK-47, SKS or similar weapon.
  3. Those same laws and regulations prohibit magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, so he wants the most effective round he can carry under that restriction.
  4. He’s in an urban environment, so he doesn’t want a round that can carry a long distance and hurt or kill an innocent person.  A pistol-caliber round is his preference.
  5. His city has seen mob demonstrations and violence that may require more than a few rounds to deal with;  therefore, he wants a weapon that’s reasonably quick to operate and reload.  A lever-action rifle, carbine or shotgun with a tubular magazine won’t fit the bill.
  6. He wants a weapon that can mount a red dot or similar sight, and also a brass catcher (the latter in the light of my warning in another article).

That’s quite a set of restrictions, isn’t it?  Fortunately, there’s a ready-made solution that answers them all;  and despite its low price and funky appearance, it’s actually a decent-quality weapon.  It’s the Hi-Point pistol-caliber carbine, chambered for .380 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W, 10mm Auto and .45 ACP.  The 10mm Auto version is illustrated below;  the others look much the same.

A lot of people look down on the Hi-Point line, particularly their handguns.  I agree, they’re bulky and clunky, and I wouldn’t choose one as a primary defensive weapon if I had better alternatives available.  Nevertheless, in well over two decades of training disabled shooters who were on limited budgets and could only afford Hi-Points, I’ve never seen one of their carbines malfunction, provided it was kept clean and lubricated.  The handguns were more problematic, but that was (in my experience) largely due to “limp-wristing” and similar problems.  The carbines didn’t seem to suffer from the same problem.  They’re not super-accurate (I’ve found 3″ to 4″ groups, or 3 to 4 MOA, at 100 yards are about the best I can do with them on a good day), but that’s more than adequate to deal with the average defensive encounter.  What’s more, with such a wide variety of calibers available, it’s not a problem to find a carbine that uses the same cartridge as your defensive handgun, making ammunition supply easier and simpler.

I particularly like the 10mm Auto carbine.  Back in the 1980’s, the late, great Jeff Cooper tried to promote the concept of a “Thumper”, a light semi-auto carbine chambered (IIRC) for the .44 Auto Mag cartridge.  It didn’t catch on, but it generated a lot of discussion.  The 10mm Auto cartridge is pretty powerful out of a handgun, and given its increase in velocity from a carbine-length barrel, it approaches Cooper’s “Thumper” concept in terms of hard-hitting power.  Its recoil, which can be unpleasant in a handgun, is well tamed by the 7-pound weight of the Hi-Point carbine, making it easy to control, and it’s relatively flat-shooting, allowing easy aiming out to 100 yards or more.  It can over-penetrate the human body, which might be problematic in a crowd situation:  but I respectfully submit that if we’re in a crowd, we should be ducking for cover and trying to “get out of Dodge” as fast as we can, not standing up and shooting back!

The Hi-Point carbines use front and rear sights that are relatively easy to take off, if they don’t work for you (I find it hard to focus on them with my older eyes).  I prefer to use a red dot sight or other simple aiming device, which makes accurate fire out to 100-150 yards relatively straightforward.  (If you’re puzzled by which one to buy, a couple of decent lower-cost solutions are the Bushnell TRS-25, in low mount or raised mount versions, or the Primary Arms MD-RBGII.  I’ve provided literally dozens of each to disabled students over the years.)  The carbine has a Picatinny rail that makes it easy to attach or detach such sights, as well as brass catchers that keep your spent cartridge cases together and allow you to take them with you without having to waste time searching for them.

Most Hi-Point handguns and carbines use magazines holding 5, 9 or 10 rounds, making it relatively straightforward to comply with restrictions in states that have them.  There are a few higher-capacity mags, but you don’t have to buy them.  What’s more, Hi-Point magazines are relatively low-cost compared to those from other manufacturers;  most are under $20 from the manufacturer, and possibly even cheaper “on the street” if you get lucky.

The carbines themselves are also relatively low-cost;  you’ll find them available at between $300 and $400 almost everywhere, with some special offers even dipping below $300 now and then.  At that price, not only are they affordable, but if you should break or lose one, you won’t be crying too hard over your loss.  I know several families that have multiple Hi-Point carbines, one for every adult and near-adult in the group, because that defensive solution is affordable for them.  I know others who carry a Hi-Point carbine in their vehicles as an inexpensive yet effective “truck gun”, and won’t cost them an arm and a leg to replace if it’s stolen.  It’s not a bad idea, IMHO, even though I’d prefer to use a harder-hitting (but more expensive) AR-15 for the job.  You pays your money and you makes your choice.

For the set of problems outlined above, the Hi-Point range turned out to be an ideal solution.  If you share those issues, or are just very budget-restricted, take a look at their offerings.  Sure, you can do better if you can afford it:  but you could also do a lot worse.  I own a couple of Hi-Point carbines as training guns, and I don’t regret spending my money on them.



  1. Another suggestion would be a KelTec Sub 2000
    with a magazine kit to fit the magazines of your defensive handgun.

    "The Full Size Grip" accepts Glock G17/G22 magazines.

    "The Compact Size Grip" accepts Glock G19/G23 as well as G17/G22 magazines.

    Then there's "the MultiMag" option.
    Change a Mag Catch insert and use any of the following:
    Beretta 92 (9mm)
    Beretta 96 (.40 S&W)
    CZ-USA CZ75 / CZ75B / CZ85 / CZ85B (9mm or .40S&W)
    Smith & Wesson M&P Full size (9mm or .40S&W)
    Smith & Wesson 59 (9mm) / 4006 (.40S&W)
    Sig Sauer P226 (9mm or .40S&W)
    Sig Sauer 320 (9mm or .40S&W)
    CANIK TP (9mm)
    (Of course it goes without saying that the 9mm barreled version will only accept 9mm mags and the .40S&W barreled version will only accept the .40S&W mags)

    Folds to 16" for easy storage/cleaning.
    I see quite a few on Gunbroker for sale (not auction) around the $500 price point.

    With a single point sling, it will disappear under a coat (folded) or in a bag/backpack/

    Just for grins & giggles, look at Ballistics by the Inch.

    Federal 115gr JHP @ 1171 fps out of a Beretta 92 jumps out @ 1317 fps in the KelTec Sub 2000.

    A KelTec Sub 2000 in a Skinner Sights folding bag with 3-30rd Beretta mags +
    a Beretta 92A1 / paddle holster +
    3-17rd Beretta mags/double paddle carrier +
    5-15rd Beretta mags makes a compact "truck" or "trunk" bag or an easy to access Grab&Go bag with 100 yd range & plenty of firepower for getting away from a crowd.

  2. @XTphreak: Sadly, the Keltec doesn't come in under the below-$500 price point. The cheapest I've seen them at retail is about $550.

  3. I agree. I've put hundreds of rounds through a Hi Point carbine.
    I even took a deer with one (legal where I was at the time). It did the job – Barely!
    I've met young women for whom it was the only thing they were comfortable shooting beyond a 22.
    I would suggest going with a larger caliber than 9 mm if possible.
    Given the rarity, price and recoil of 10 mm, personally I'd consider 45 acp or 40 s&w before I went to 10 mm.

  4. My own unlettered opinion is that 3-4 MOA for a home defense weapon should be sufficient. It's not likely that in a restrictive urban environment that he could make a "legal" 50 yard shot. I live in a 1000 square foot house on a 70 by 100 foot lot. My longest possible interior shot isn't 40 feet. my longest possible outside shot(on the property), considering placement of house, garage and shed is maybe 100 feet.

  5. I'd love to get one in .40, as I am committed to the .40 caliber for other things. Sadly, I live in one of the two states where it's not legal to sell them due to Saturday Night Special laws.

  6. I have had a couple hi-points for a few years now.
    40 pistol and carbine
    few thousand rounds thru them
    mags interchangeable from pistol to carbine
    low recoil
    still affordable

  7. I've owned a couple of Hi-Point carbines and they've been adequate. One of the imported Winchester M92 copies is also a possibility. They avoid magazine restrictions and are not semi-auto, thus fall outside of the realm of the ridiculous restrictions of some states. They are also chambered for some useful calibers.

  8. I probably would never (but never say never!) buy a Hi-Point, and having said that, you're spot on, on every point in this post. 10mm is plenty powerful, I'm in Alaska, I have read articles, friends’ stories and other stuff (even an old COPS! Tv episode) where people have killed moose or brown bear with a 10mm. One guy just a few miles closer to town dropped a 745lb brownie trying to get into his trash, he tried to scare it off, it went after him instead. Note that was in a neighborhood btw.

    Hell, 10mm for a long time it was the only ammo available here in Juneau, made me think of changing my EveryDayCarry just because of that. Having been a Demolition Ranch fan for many a year, Matt has torture tested so many Hi Points that it is without a doubt, ugly as hell but the function is nigh on “legend of AK-47” ability. The silly stuff he’s done and had them still function, well look it up on the channel on youtube sometime. Lot of silly, but the carbines have stood up well.

    The interchangeable mags and etc with the cartridge make for a very strong case on inexpensive, along with the “truck gun” thing you mentioned as well.

  9. Useful comment and makes a very good point.

    The inevitable but is: "an inexpensive yet effective "truck gun", and won't cost them an arm and a leg to replace if it's stolen." suggests that leaving cheap guns around to be stolen is not so reprehensible as leaving expensive guns lying around to be used by law breakers.

    Keeping guns out of the hands of the bad guys starts at home.

  10. Ruger PC 9mm has less recoil than both HiPoint and sub2k, is more robust than sub2k (much less polymer, especially in critical locations), doesn't require hundreds of $ in upgrade parts like sub2k (sub 2k OEM sights and trigger and feed ramp are garbage for starters), has near identical controls to 10/22, and can generally be found for about the same price as sub2k and $100 more than hipoint. Takedown PC almost same size as folded sub2k too, but not as fast to deploy and a couple inches longer since forward rather than pistol grip mag.

    Unless you have to have to have 10mm or live somewhere with absurd mag laws (like 5 round mags, etc.), then I've been recommending to most new suburban self-defense shooters the 10/22, PC carbine, and then either Ruger or glock mag pistol for mag compatibility. Minimum buy once i'm comfortable recommending. Generally can do under $1,200 for all guns and $1,500 once accounting for mags, slings, holsters, spare parts, cheap wolffe springs upgrades to Ruger rifle triggers and perhaps handgun as well, at least one decent weaponlight, etc. Ergos of rugers also similar to Remington shotguns if they're wanting that capability too… And 9mm is much quieter indoors (almost like 22lr when fired out of rifle) than shotgun or a 5.56 AR…

    B/c of weight sub2k is a better backpack gun, but its light weight and blowback does result in more recoil for sub2k than the other two options.

    Both ruger rifles are traditional looking and if going glock mag route, can find glock mag ARs for 500 range as well. 9mm ARs generally require more troubleshooting/tweaking than most new shooters are comfortable with/capable of… Also good warranty, factory support, etc., with ruger.

    1. *Also, keep an eye on primary arms and vortex 1x prism optics for older eyes. More expensive than a red dot, but not by much once you get to mid-market options. Ruger and HiPoint optic mounting much better than sub2k as well — MCarbo's sub2k optic mount is over $150 IIRC, otherwise you lose folding capability with mounting direct to forearm but even then really still need the steel barrel clamps to stabilize the OEM polymer rail…

    2. ** Prob goes w/o saying, but concept of 3 guns is less "one and none…" and more 1) that 22 allows for cheaper training and stacking more ammo deep in compact space, 2) uber quiet hunting/varmint control with 22 and subsonics (may not cycle properly w/ reduced loads but can hand feed), and 3) and most importantly allows more than one person to be armed in home invasion or SHTF — generally husband most capable rifle with weapon light, wife with handgun and kids (keeps hands free) and barricaded, and responsible older kid with 22 rifle… Handgun and 22 can also leave the house if needed, while 9mm rifle always in home for protection (except family range trips). Generally if just 2 generally recommend rifle and a handgun for self defense (urban, town, and suburban) and both rifles (exurban to rural).

  11. Of course one could go old school with their selection of pistol caliber carbines and pick a lever gun in .357. Would likely need to shop used and definitely add a top rail to accommodate a red dot. Added benefit is compatibility with .357 revolvers.
    And they are obviously cowboy guns so not as scary as those ebil black rifles capable of shooting hundreds of rounds a second through armor plate. /sarc

  12. Hi-Point also offers these advantages
    1) Made in the USA
    2) Lifetime warrantee
    3) they are reliable

    I recommend .40 or .45

    I have both

    great guns for the $

  13. @clark, how can you keep the gun from being stolen if you can't prevent the vehicle from being stolen?

    cars get broken in to, you aren't going to eliminate that risk.

  14. I see a lot of cheap mag fed shotguns around theses days, Palmetto State has a few types less than 500, some in the 300 range. If they are legal in his area its another option. 5+1 of Semi auto 12 gauge and as quick to reload as an AR. That said, I know nothing about their reliability, and as always with SA shotguns you have to find ammo it runs well with.

  15. Given those restrictions, I personally would go for a Black Aces magazine fed pump shotgun. Their Pro M is $400 and takes Saiga magazines. The undeniable lethality of a 12 gauge shotgun, magazine fed for quick reloading and you can buy some magazines and ammunition with the 'extra' money.
    I'll admit to being old school here, I prefer a shotgun for short range work. Go with #4 buckshot and your overpenetration should be minimized, while still doing massive damage to the target. Hey, what would you rather be shot with, any of the pistol rounds or a 12 gauge?

  16. Whatever you get you have to train on it. Fumbling around, half awake in the dark, scared is not a good situation.

    Some can be dry fire but ammo is needed for training. That and a safe place to learn how it shoots.

    MOA is nice at the range, in a home defense shooting it's minute of groin target shooting GIVEN the number of armor wearing thugs now a days.

    Someone stoned out of their mind may not notice the fatal level of bleeding from major wounds. I've seen the results of even simple rage and a buck knife against two Military Police and 9mm "Lung Blowers". Yes, the perp died but I spent all night in surgery and was relived by morning staff working on those MP's.

    High quality and now a days expensive IF you can find them ammo does better but.

    A 20 gauge pump shotgun is an awesomely effective tool IF you train on it. Too easy under stress to short stroke it and jam it up. #4 buckshot is a proven destroyer of human flesh. Even #4 lead bird shot at inside the home ranges is well able to shred a thugs groin into something NO Trauma Team ever wants to see.

  17. Once again, I agree with you. I have owned two. The only issues I had (both with the 9mm) is, first, a feeding problem with some magazines (not the gun itself), easily fixed by playing with the tabs on the magazine. Second, Hi-Point coats the feed ramp, which caused some feeding problems. This was solved by polishing the feed ramp, i.e., removing the coating and smoothing the metal of the ramp itself. I put thousands of rounds through both and had a blast.

  18. I have a Rossi levergun which was not very expensive, reliable, and for those of us in less gun-friendly states, a lot less like to rouse suspicion and fear. But I agree with others who mention mag-loaded shotguns. It's a shame 20 gauge costs more, because a 20 gauge mag loader would be an awesome home defense gun.

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