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A Sub $200 Gun Worth Its Weight in Gold: The Phoenix Arms HP-22

This is an odd concept for an article, perhaps, but in many cases, off the gridders maybe looking for a “throwaway,” a “beater,” or even a gun that can be replicated in bug out bags, geocaches, or used by other members of the family easily in the case of a problem scenario.  The gun in this article may not be looked upon favorably by some of the readers, but I can say that I have real-world experience with this gun and in the almost twenty years of gunsmithing and retail firearms sales experience, I have found it to be an exceptional value in the “cheap gun” class. It’s considered by some to be a Saturday night special, but perhaps unfairly so. It does a lot of things that many guns twice the cost cannot.

First what it is not: It is not a primary defensive weapon or a primary hunting weapon.  It is not made for long-distance shooting, and it is not a fast-draw, last-ditch weapon as it is heavy on safeties (though it can be setup for a relatively quick draw scenario).  It is also not a showpiece.

Now what it is and why it makes sense to check it out.

It’s a sub-$150 (some are even available under $100) small-framed handgun in .22LR with a ten-shot magazine and is made pretty well considering it’s so cheap.  When I bought my eight, (yes, I own eight of them stashed in various places—though that may seem a bit extreme, I promise it sounds worse than it is) they were dealer cost of $75 (MSRP of $125) and came with two magazines (extras at $9) and there was a “target upgrade” option which added $15 to the cost and included another magazine with a finger rest and a barrel four inches longer (than standard) so you would have three magazines and two barrels for $140 MSRP.

I own four blued steel and four satin nickel-finished versions, only one of which is the target version.  My purpose for buying them was as a car gun, tackle box gun, last-ditch hidden gun, or a gun that could be buried in a cache in case I needed to bug out.  Two of my bug-out bags have them as part of the contents as well.

The ammunition is cheap, the gun shoots intuitively for all but the most massive of hands, and the build quality is better than simply “acceptable.” It’s actually fairly well finished and appointed.  Two of the guns I own have over 10,000 rounds through them, and there were very few jams or extraction/ejection problems in those thousands of rounds.  Some of my customers have experienced a “breaking in” phase, which had some jamming and extraction issues.  I have shot mostly ”hot” rounds (CCI blazer and stingers) and have perhaps seen ten jams in the entire process of using these two guns (and those could be attributed to bad ammo or weak magazine springs).  In full disclosure: the magazine springs stink after about 5,000 rounds or a year of leaving them loaded.  Get some extra springs or fool around with higher quality replacements (Brownell’s has several springs as standard stock which will work well).

*An Important Note: Make sure you know what you are doing if you modify a weapon, and make sure it meets minimum safe shooting and firing specifications.

A small ceramic stone on some of the bearing surfaces, including the bolt face/carrier areas and the magwell, will help to improve function.  Buy spare parts: trigger assembly and mag springs will be smart if you intend to use this gun for many years.  The one big caveat (though it has never been a problem in any of the 250+ of these I have sold/used/owned) is the plastic trigger, as it stands to reason that such a things is easily broken and should have been made out of a more capable material.  Again, remember if you choose to mess around with one of these guns, it’s not a custom job, and it’s not an expensive make/model, so plan accordingly.

The real reason these are so interesting is that not only are they easy to shoot, fun for plinking, cheap enough to clone in bug out bags and toolboxes, but they also work really well, digest just about anything one you break them in, and they have three foolproof safeties, so it’s very difficult for a small child to discharge unless they are intimately familiar with the weapon.  Unfortunately, the safeties can also cause a problem in last-ditch scenarios as well, so make sure you understand the weapon well before trusting you life to it.  The hammer block is the better of the safeties as it is a physical safety, hard to activate for small fingers, and “impossible” to override by the hammer.  A small child will not have the dexterity in their little fingers to deactivate this safety, and a slightly older child will likely not have the presence of mind to think to switch it off in order to discharge the weapon.  But a female shooter, a teenager, or someone in the family with no real firearm experience can easily understand this weapon and use it well.

The mag safety is excellent too, and strong to boot.  It does not allow for leeway, and the mag MUST be fully seated for it to fire. There is also a decent trigger/seat disengagement safety, which will allow for easy “safefire” holstering, but it’s not as foolproof as the others: I get the feeling it’s not impossible to override this with a bit of modification (though I have never had the desire to mess with it enough to figure out the truth).

It’s tiny enough to use as a real ankle gun or in a thigh holster for a female and can easily be concealed in a light down sweater without giving away its presence while walking a dog around the neighborhood.

Sure, this gun doesn’t have a ton of stopping power, but it can be a lifesaver in a backpack on a hunting trip or outdoor adventure, on a boat for survival, or in the cabinet in case you are surprised in your home by an intruder.  A .22LR is still a projectile, and ten of them can do some damage.  It’s a gun worth a look if your interest is piqued.

I have made $5,000+ race guns, $10,000 anti material and long-range rifles, and $15,000 custom bolt guns and double over/unders, and I can still appreciate this weapon for its potential and decent feature set for such a low price point.  Don’t overlook this little gun because it’s cheap; it’s a worthy participant in the “beater” category, and I have used mine harder than most could in the ten years I have owned them. The Phoenix Arms HP-22 is worth its tiny weight in gold because it does twice what guns in its price category can do.

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