Making a Workhorse Gun Even Better: High Tower Armory Bullpup Stocks for Hi-Point Carbines

By Oleg Volk

The story of the Hi-Point carbine mirrors, in many ways, the story of the Uzi submachine gun. Both were designed for simplicity of manufacturing; both use enveloping bolt design for compactness; both are in wide use. Since its introduction in 1995, over three quarter million Hi-Point carbines of all calibers have been made. Although disparaged by many for their perception of a crude look and unorthodox manual of arms, both designs remain in wide use, helped by the good performance for the price.

Designed during the 1994–2004 ban prohibiting telescoping stocks, threaded muzzles and magazines holding over 10 rounds, the Hi-Point carbine fits neatly into the legal limitations of the day. The angled single-stack magazine holding 10 rounds allowed a more comfortable grip than the thicker straight Uzi magazine, though at the obvious limitations in extending capacity once the legal constraint passed. The 16-inch barrel in pistol caliber chamberings doesn’t produce visible muzzle flash even without a flash hider. The increasing popularity of this design despite the wide variety of competitors speaks to the value of the package. The gun is reliable with a wide variety of ammunition, is very accurate and has low felt recoil, in part thanks to the spring-loaded and rubberized buttplate. The central location of the grip produces neutral balance. After the 9mm original, 45ACP, 40SW, 10mm Auto and 380ACP variants followed.

Hi-Point carbines are by no means perfect. For example, fixed iron sights must be removed when field-stripping the gun for cleaning. Fortunately, for continued functioning, it is usually enough to hose the internals with solvent and squirt lubricant around the bolt. The slight discontinuity between the top of the stock and the cheek riser can feel unpleasant on recoil, though the soft rubber overmold (rolled out for the 10mm version) completely fixes that annoyance. In sum, the design is sound and ingenious and a great value at around $300 retail, which is why so many of these quaint looking guns have sold over the past 23 years. Almost all of them are still in use, supported by excellent lifetime warranty service from MKS, the parent company of Hi-Point.

With this endorsement, why would anyone mess with the successful product? Just as street racers saw the potential of the once-modest Japanese compact cars, many shooters could see the greater potential of the Hi-Point carbines. High Tower Armory (HTA), a Minnesota company previously known for 10-22 magazines and bullpup stocks, came out with MBS 95 replacement stock for the Hi-Point to neatly improve it in several areas. The most obvious change is the overall length, reduced from 32.5 inches to 26.1 inches—almost the same as the deployed Uzi submachine gun but with a much longer barrel. The length reduction also moved the center of balance back, making one-handed control easier and greatly improving stability in the two-handed hold. The charging handle may now be placed on the left or the right side (or both) and no longer reciprocates on firing.

Magazine release, a push-button forward of the trigger guard, also becomes ambidextrous. Magazines drop free once released. The top of the stock is smooth and more comfortable to the face. Overall weight remains the same.

Typically, bullpup conversions come with a host of problems. One of them is the mushy trigger, but the HTA stock avoids it by using a rigid linkage and a two-part trigger. The wide spring-loaded shoe comprises the first stage and the thinner trigger blade underneath the second stage. Overall weight is the same as with the base carbine, but feels lighter thanks to the greater surface area. Overall feel is of a good double action revolver, with the attendant long reset. Great for accuracy, not as easy to use for rapid fire because there’s no perceptible reset short of the full travel forward. Extra noise and gas from the relocation of the ejection port closer to the shooter’s face is also typical for other conversions, but well controlled here by the recessed opening and a shell/gas deflector above it. I’ve encountered no inconvenience at all at the range. The length of pull increases by an inch from the base weapon, to 15.4 inches, about the same as a full-length AR-15 stock.

HTA takes the first step to solving the most lamented limitations of the original—the 10-round single-stack magazine. The single-stack magwell is an insert within a wider opening. Once 10,000 kits of a caliber are in circulation, High Tower Armory will be able to invest in the rather costly molds for producing double-stack magazines in the 25-30 round range. Given their impeccable credentials in that field, I expect a reliable and economical design.

The most obvious question is whether the cost of the stock, projected to be around $250 when the product ships in early May 2018, is justified by the performance and handling improvements. We took the prototype out to the range in very cold weather, and it passed the ergonomics test despite my thick gloves. All controls were accessible and easily deliberately activated. While the base model carbines are mechanically accurate, the shorter configuration placed the support hand much closer to the muzzle, greatly aiding practical accuracy standing or supported. At 50 yards, I had no problem consistently ringing a 6-inch gong off-hand. That’s not a feat I can manage consistently with a conventionally stocked rifle. The speed with which the gun can be brought to bear on a new target is also notably improved. Straight stock configuration eliminates what little muzzle rise there was before. Supported, the carbine is capable of 1 inch or smaller 10-shot groups at 25 yards. The smooth trigger and perfected balance make it easy to achieve that potential in practice.

Felt recoil, already mild, was reduced to rimfire levels. Having the mag release moved away from the magazine makes it slightly harder to retain magazines but easy to reload quickly. The magwell is flared and stays in a consistent position near the shoulder, though “hand-find-hand” ergonomics of the original probably have a slight advantage. The bullpup stock provides a longer Picatinny rail on top, along with removable rails on the left and right of the forend. Use of optics and illuminators is eased, but the sloping shape of the top front of the receiver reduces the available iron sight radius compared to the stock carbine. Since most shooters would use a red dot or a low power scope, it’s more of a theoretical lament than a real issue.

MBS 95 retains the original safety lever of the Hi-Point carbine and adds a P90-like rotary control under the trigger. To my mind, they are redundant, and the original ever should stay on FIRE, since it cannot be reached without shifting hand position. Both could be used for extra peace of mind if the rifle is carried slung with no expectation of immediate rapid deployment. As with the original, the bolt locks on an empty magazine and can be dropped with the charging handle only. The new charging handle can be locked up into a receiver cutout in the manner of the MP5 controls. The trigger guard is enclosed by a removable hand protector. Although odd in appearance, it turned out to be quite helpful in both supported and compressed short-range holds.

In sum, this stock improves the performance as much as a good scope makes an accurate bolt action shine. For less than the price of most competing pistol caliber carbines, the Hi-Point and the conversion stock may be put together for a very competent result. Made of 35% glass-reinforced nylon, this clamshell stock with metal inserts seems durable and hardy. Importantly for the best reliability and performance, it simplifies the involved take-down process to just punching out two captive pins. In a few seconds, the gun may be taken down for cleaning and re-assembled. All small parts stay captive, and neither the scope nor the iron sight zero is affected. To me, this simultaneous improvement in handling and maintainability warrants the modest expense of the upgrade. You can read about the progress of MBS 95 to market www.hightowerarmory.com on the High Tower Armory website.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N6 (June 2018)
and was posted online on April 20, 2018


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