Reviews Guns By The Ton: Behind the Scenes Hi-Point Firearms and the JXP 10mm Monster Dave Merrill July 21, 2023 1 Comments, Join the Conversation Manufacturing in the United States has been suffering a death of a thousand cuts, with workers in many previously booming industries finding their jobs evaporating, and others waking to find their careers exported overseas. The COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown that followed froze supply chains, and the fatal flaw of just-in-time production and global logistics waiting in the wings reared its ugly head. Seemingly overnight, the river of products, parts, and pieces manufactured in mainland China dried up. Facilities that relied on foreign materials didn’t have resources, and those “American” companies that simply relabel foreign products suddenly had no product at all. This hit every industry, everywhere. Firearms manufacturing faced the unique problem of higher-than-ever demand combined with harder-than-ever logistics. “We can’t make things here — it’s too expensive” is a refrain that’s rang out since Reagan; and indeed, living wages for American workers cost more than the pennies paid to sweatshop slaves in Shenzhen. But if we learned anything from the curse of COVID, it’s that more things need to be made here. This is what brought us to the small city of Mansfield, Ohio. Nestled off of Highway 71 right between the major metro areas of Columbus and Cleveland, Mansfield was a booming manufacturing center in the mid-20th century. Currently, the median household income of Mansfield hovers at just over half the national average, and its poverty rate is virtually double the state average. The steel buildings from the street look no different than any other machining operation in the Midwest. Stagflation of the 1970s followed by the transpacific smuggling of mass-production in the 1980s means that Mansfield has been under hard times since long before COVID, to say nothing of the 2008 recession. And it’s here we find Hi-Point Firearms. Also now known as Strassell’s Machine, like so many small American businesses that grew ever-larger, Hi-Point was first founded in a small garage workshop in the late 1980s. The intervening years followed the rest of the firearms market through dips and bends, with ownership changing hands between family and friends, rather than corporate venture capitalists. But from the very beginning, they’ve done the seemingly impossible: provided an entirely American-made product at a price point their own neighbors can afford to pay. In early 2023, Hi-Point Firearms announced their first 10mm pistol, the JXP 10. The JXP 10 not only represented an opportunity for RECOIL to cover the most affordable 10mm pistol in existence, but also to have a peek behind the factory doors and see exactly how this all-American sausage is made. This article is neither merely a review nor a factory visit, but an inside look at both the product and the people that make it possible. INSIDE Hi-Point’s central manufacturing facility doesn’t look terribly different from so many others. The only identifying marking is a small sign that states “Hi-Point Firearms. No Storefront, No Sales” outside of the street-facing steel building. But the footprint is a little deceptive, as it’s actually more of a campus, with multiple structures segregating each operation and with plenty of room for expansion. Many operations that would otherwise be automated are performed by people with manual machines. While there’s an additional location in Mansfield for hydro-dipping and relationships with other Ohio companies for some of the processes, the bulk of the work is done here. The main doors open to the smell of cutting fluid and the bustle of building, the same ambiance of machine shops large and small the world round. Workstations are personalized with family photos, jokes, and bumper stickers. Unlike robotic factories full of automation with a lone Bridgeport in the back, Hi-Point Firearms is the opposite: Modern computer-controlled CNC machines are on display, but a surprisingly large amount of work is performed by people. Manual milling machines and drill presses are ever-present, and even the sights themselves are hand-painted on the factory floor. Something we’ve seen plenty of in the last decade are companies closing because they fail to scale. They overexpand during the booms and then falter under the weight of their financial burdens during the bust. Everything designed at Hi-Point is designed to be produced in large quantity. Hi-Point Firearms has thus far avoided this circumstance by staying debt-free, always buying their buildings and equipment outright. This business strategy does mean that new designs and in-line changes take longer to perform, but also helps them better weather the storm of an economic downturn. Along similar lines, Hi-Point Firearms is a 100-percent employee-owned operation. There’s always some confusion around this term, but it doesn’t mean a Soviet-style worker’s paradise where you can fire your boss and give yourself a million dollars an hour. While there are many variations, the day-to-day operations look typical to a normal work arrangement. Also commonly called a co-op, employee-owned means that the workers are stakeholders and no single entity has majority ownership. Usually managed by a board, all workers are directly invested in the success of the company. It was already over 3 pounds, so after an optic, light, and silencer … It’s not inaccurate to think of it as a publicly traded company, but with the employees themselves as the shareholders. “CRIME GUNS” Like all inexpensive handguns both today and in the past, Hi-Point pistols are overrepresented in crimes. If you produce a gun that people in the lower economic strata can afford, it also means those who rob, steal, and otherwise victimize people in those communities will end up with them too. And in a world where a gun is a gun, that $1,000 burning a hole in a straw purchaser’s pocket can go a lot farther with Hi-Point, than new production FN High Powers. It’s far easier for those in power to blame the firearms themselves than to actually address the root causes of criminality. One of the forensic demonstrator dummies used during court cases. This is an old story — gun control in the United States has always been tied to restricting those who have little and are also the most likely to be victimized. For their part, Hi-Point Firearms has gone through special effort to aid forensic experts and the AFTE (not a typo of BATFE-the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners). Working alongside AFTE and law enforcement, Hi-Points are all ballistically unique and traceable. Changes that were initially performed to reduce back pressure on their pistols evolved into manufacturing techniques to ensure sure their firearms and the bullets fired from them are easy to spot and identify. Hi-Point also designed and produces demonstrator tools for forensic experts, essentially large-scale models of expended ammunition and casings, so juries can more easily see how ballistic signatures from strikers, firing pins, extractors, and rifling are identified. Part of this is undoubtedly a proactive defense, as manufacturers of inexpensive pistols have been villainized in the past, subjected to laws and regulations largely based on the price points of their wares, but another part is protecting the people that actually purchases their products. The diaspora of firearms owners can suffer a massive blind spot, where the fairytale of “gun people equals good people” pervades. But if you want to make it easier for real criminals to victimize the innocent all while making prosecution of actual murderers more difficult, you might just be an irresponsible asshole. DESIGN Everything about the design of firearms produced by Hi-Point is about making them affordable and making them locally. Parts and processes are chosen with this in mind rather than blazing trails of new and risky innovation, but it also means Hi-Point can be slower to the market with changes and updates. Hi-Point is refreshing much of their line over 2023, and yes, we’re told the original Yeet Cannon will be making a debut too. The Hi-Point C9, the standard that comes to mind when the name is mentioned, has remained largely unchanged for decades. The latest, the JXP 10 pistol chambered in 10mm, is a significant departure in terms of aesthetics and accessories, but the roots stand firm with the rest of their current lineup. BLOWBACK No one is going to call a straight blowback action the pinnacle of ingenuity or engineering; there’s a reason why it’s virtually the same design used by homebrew guerrilla gunsmiths and self-styled freedom fighters around the world. It’s simple enough, can be successfully built in basement workshops, and safer to use than many other actions when fed questionable ammunition. It’s the most base-level action of automatic firearms, there’s no tilting, twisting, rollers, locking lugs, levers, or other delay mechanisms — the only thing that holds a round in the chamber of a blowback firearm is the bolt and recoil spring. Because the bolt and spring is all there is, their combined weight has to be extremely heavy to be safe, and the weights increase accordingly with higher calibers and heavier ammunition. Blowback can be safer because the action itself is like a pressure relief valve. This isn’t to say that blowback firearms aren’t subject to overpressure (they are) or that they cannot suffer from dangerous conditions like out-of-battery detonations (they do), but if you’re using cobbled ammunition with sketchy reloaded primers (please don’t) it’s the best of the worst. At the factory, we saw an example of a barrel that had 36 bullets plugged and stacked inside. Because the reciprocal mass of the bolt needs to be high in order to be safe, felt recoil is significantly more than on even slightly more modern actions. Blowback actions are popular today in semiautomatic rimfires of all stripes and for pistol-caliber carbines. In the 20th century, there were hundreds of small-caliber pistols (usually .380ACP and below) produced with blowback actions. And the reason for the small calibers is that the corresponding weight must increase with corresponding power — more on this in a minute. ZAMAK The slides of Hi-Point pistols and the bolts of the carbines are essentially the same. It’s not as straightforward as the Israel Ronin Glock conversions, where the pistol is literally shoved into a shell, but the similarities are obvious. This sort of simplicity of manufacturing is part of the culture of the company: find a way to make a working design, do it without going into debt, and have the ability to produce at scale. The original precursor to the Hi-Point pistol was made of stainless steel, but it turned out to be too expensive at the price point they wanted to hit. The slides and bolts are now made of Zamak-3, an inexpensive zinc alloy. Zamak is as easy to machine as aluminum but has a density much closer to steel, important for blowback designs. The real reason to use Zamak is the relatively low melting point, making it excellent for die casting in large quantity. Zamak isn’t particularly durable, so Hi-Point reinforces it with internal steel cages, and any gun produced with Zamak is unlikely to be an heirloom. JXP 10 It’s been said the easiest way to find something to make fun of is to find something the working poor can afford to enjoy. And indeed, Hi-Point Firearms has been the butt of many jokes — we’ve been on the giving end of them ourselves in the past. In more recent years, Hi-Point started letting themselves be in on the joke rather than just the target. The JXP 10 optic mount secures with three standard screws, simply replacing the rear sight. Back in 2019, leaning into internet memes and Boaty McBoatface, Hi-Point allowed social media to decide what to name their new threaded barrel pistol. Digging into Gen Z slang your parents definitely don’t understand, it was dubbed the Yeet Cannon. With a threaded barrel and optic-ready, the JXP 10 is both inspired by and better than the original Yeet Cannon concept. The JXP 10 has greatly improved looks over the previous pistols, with the newer “H” Hi-Point logo textured into the grips and serrations cut into the slide. The barrel is threaded in a standard .578×28 for a brake or silencer, and as there’s no tilting barrel, any silencer used doesn’t require a booster to function. There’s an accessory rail on the dust cover for any lights or lasers, and the adjustable rear sight can be removed to install an optional $20 Picatinny rail for an optic. The trigger is plastic and mushy and breaks north of 10 pounds. The redesign includes a textured grip with logos directly integrated. Hi-Point released their first 10mm back in 2017 in the form of the 1095 carbine (see CONCEALMENT Issue 10), and it has seen some popularity with hunters in so-called “Straight-Wall States” (see CARNIVORE Issue 4). The reason for the delay between releases seems rather obvious once we hefted the pistol. Remember how the slide weight has to increase with power with a blowback action? Since there’s a 10mm in the pipe, the JXP 10 weighs a whopping 50 ounces with an empty magazine inserted. So, of course, we had to add more. Equipped with an Aimpoint ACRO P2, SureFire X300U-A, and Dead Air Ghost-M silencer, it now weighs in at 70 ounces. That would be very lightweight for a rifle (we have an AR in RECOIL Issue 33 that’s only 58 ounces) but it’s downright burdensome for a pistol. Does it shoot? Yes. Is it fun to shoot? For one magazine, yes. You can feel every ounce of that slide coming back, and the effect is exacerbated by the silencer. When suppressed, there’s a lot of gas thrown at your face, as the excess pressure is vented directly from the ejection port. Because we don’t hate ourselves, there was no full Tamara Keel 2,000-round test. LOOSE ROUNDS In a good year, Hi-Point will pump out more than 5,000 guns a week, every week. This is by no means the highest volume in the country, nor does it give them a billion-dollar market cap, but it represents an awful lot of affordable guns for regular people who will use them only occasionally. Hi-Point doesn’t produce competition guns or collector’s items, but the people who buy these guns are unlikely to shoot them enough to wear them out — and if they do, then they can simply buy another at low cost, use that famous lifetime warranty, or upgrade to something else that better fits hard use. Yes, you have holster options. BlackPoint Tactical not only provided a shoulder holster for the heft, but also one that accommodates both the optic and SureFire X300U-A. As is oft repeated about Hi-Point: The carbines are pretty good; the pistols leave much to be desired. We wouldn’t be using a 3-pound pistol for concealed carry or anything outside fun at the range anytime soon, but for someone on a limited budget there are certainly far worse and less reliable options for home defense. Even then, we’d recommend the carbine over the pistol, as it’s much easier to shoot. What the JXP 10 does have is personality. This is one you get if you’re a 10mm collector, seeking a bear gun for car camping, or you just want to put together something totally ridiculous to show your friends. Ultimately, Hi-Point Firearms put this together because people asked and because they could — that’s as American as starting a business in a backyard and then successfully becoming a major manufacturer. 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