Can cheap gear be good?

In this week’s 90 Second Gun Review, I tear a few strips out of the Kel-Tec PF9. The gun is cheaply made with indifferent quality control, but at the same time it’s not like they’re asking HK prices for the gun. The price point of certain things is why you won’t see me hating too much on Hi-Points these days. Yes, it’s a terrible design and yes it’s not a very good pistol, but it’s still right around $100. Price has a quality all its own, and if you absolutely must have a pistol to defend your life with right now, a Hi-Point is better than a sharp stick.

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That got me thinking about other kinds of gear though – optics, holsters, slings, belts – things other than guns. We’re forever saying “buy the right gear first” which is why I recommend quality holsters from Blade-Tech or Galco, good belts, etc. I’ll stick to that message, but the longer I do this for a living, the more I realize that if you’re not buying guns for serious self-defense, then maybe you don’t need to buy the $400 Aimpoint to mount on your Working Class Scout Rifle. Actually, we’ll use optics as a starting example.

On my serious guns, the ones that I would shoot for blood or money, I use quality optics from reputable brands. But on fun guns? Guns I’m not planning on shooting at things with teeth and claws or shooting for trophies? I’ll happily buy a Primary Arms MicroDot. Because it’s $80.00, and for eighty bucks I don’t care if I can’t drop it during a HALO jump and expect it to survive. In fact, if I was building a back-up carbine that I wanted as a mirror to a working/competition gun that had an Aimpoint on it? I’d probably buy the PA dot just because it’s a little bit cheaper for a back-up optic.

I will say that one area I’ve never gone cheap on is slings. That’s because a good sling turns a heavy rifle into a light burden, but a cheap sling makes carrying the lightest rifle an exercise in misery. Just because dogs can use your sling as a chew toy doesn’t make it good – tell me how it feels after an 8 hour carbine class. But again, if you’re not going to be taking a carbine class, maybe you don’t need to spend the money on quality gear.

Ultimately it comes down to this: serious guns for serious purposes should have quality kit. Your carry gun, your home defense rifle, your hunting and competition guns should all be surrounded by the best quality gear you can lay your hands on. But fun guns? Guns to take to the range and play with? Get whatever makes you happy…or makes your spouse the least likely to kill you for spending all your money on optics and holsters.

35 thoughts on “Can cheap gear be good?”

  1. Problem for me is knowing what’s possible to go cheap on, and what’s not. Not being overly familiar with rifles, for example, I would have no idea that a cheaper sling is different than a more expensive one as my sole sling usage was using a surplus GI one during an Appleseed shoot. It would be nice to have a good list of pros and cons on various gear…what you get for paying more. I’m sure the Kel Tec review will get many riled up, but comparing a list of pros and cons for it against something of better quality would let someone make an informed decision.

    With the cognitive bias so many have (e.g. I bought a $2000 scope so it must be the best thing in the world and I will disparage anything else to make me feel better about spending that much) that floats up on the internet, it’s hard to tell what’s bluster and what’s actual, accurate advice. Showing a chart comparing size, weight, fit and finish, accuracy, longevity, sights, trigger, etc. helps to show what you’re getting by spending more on…say a Glock vs. a Hi Point.

    But my Bullseye league is a good example, and shows maybe a need for talking about some level of proficiency before seeing benefits…some guys are shooting $5-6000 guns with fancy optics and expensive match ammunition, and I’m catching many of them with an SP-22, a Primary Arms microdot, and boxes of bulk CCI. Perhaps having a comparison of what they’d be getting for their money would be a better guide than ‘but it’s what the top competitors do!’. How many local matches have you been to where a guy with a $3000 rig can’t even keep up with someone shooting a stock, out of the box Glock?

    At some level, it benefits many to keep some mystery around it all…NCStar wants you to believe that you’ll do just about as well as with an ACOG with one of their sites, and the higher end want to keep a mystique around what they’ve got to keep people interested when Aunt Jenny send a fat birthday check along.

  2. I’d be embarrassed to be seen with a Hi Point, but I’ve read reviews that say the work.

    You can still buy a Mossberg 500 for less than a PF9 and they not only work, they’ve got an ambi top safety instead of the cheese-ass 99 cent cross bolt found on shotguns costing hundreds more.

    1. Really, what kind of person is embrassed by a firearm. Is it better looking than you…smarter than you…have you ever fired one…and yes, they do work and work just fine…99% of problems are derived from the magazine. And they are easily corrected. I would much rather have an ugly, heavy, and relatively inexpensive firearm to defend me and my family than not have one when i needed it…Are you that insecure that you actually worry about what someone would say if they “caught” you holding such an inferior gun.

      1. The “embarrassed to be seen” was snark. I don’t actually get embarrassed by much of anything. I’m glad the ugly, clunky, heavy Hi Point is available for those who can’t afford something nicer and for those who wish to spend as little as possible on a functioning bullet shooting appliance. I’m just not either of the above.

        As an American who works for a living I can afford to have higher quality guns and I do.

        1. I can assure you that I can very well afford much costlier “nicer” firearms as I own a good number of handguns and long guns but I do own Hi-Point firearms. And I will challenge anyone at the range to shoot better. It has it’s purpose and for me it is my trunk gun. It can take abuse and still be able to have the trigger pulled and have it go bang, after all, isn’t that what all firearms are designed to do…not laying on a shelf for elitist to google over.

          1. I don’t think preferring a Hi Power or 1911 over a High Point makes someone elitist. Again, I know Hi Points work and keep on working. A hell of an accomplishment considering the price.

            It’s just that guys who own them are so quick to get defensive and butt hurt It’s hard to resist teasing a little bit.

  3. I have 8 assorted Hi-Points and have no problems with them. I carry a .45 JHP daily and have shot competition with it and beat higher priced “quality” weapons and shooters. I’ve done combat courses in the rain and mud with no FTE or FTFs. It is American made with a transferable LIFETIME no questions asked guarantee. Unless you’ve shot them please quit bad mouthing them. They’re not fancy or cool. They are basic but can and will do the job. I’ve nothing against higher priced weapons and have a Glock 41 on order. Hi-Points fill a niche. Find what works for you and run with it.
    (Unless its scissors we are talking about.)

      1. Caleb, I love reading your stuff, but you’re being unnecessarily antagonistic here. And logically inconsistent in responding to this guy. Terrible design = bash. Fair as that bash may be. And the trigger time comment seems inconsistent with what appears to be the point of your article, i.e. dialing down the elitism a smidge.

        1. No no, I’m still elitist as hell. I just think that there’s a place for “cheap and cheerful” guns/gear. But I may have been a bit out of line.

  4. I can comprehend just fine.
    ” The price point of certain things is why you won’t see me hating too much on Hi-Points these days. Yes, it’s a terrible design and yes it’s not a very good pistol, but it’s still right around $100. Price has a quality all its own.”
    Doesn’t sound like praise to me, “Son”.
    It is not outright bashing but it’s putting down an American product that fills a very large niche. I like mine, use mine and trust my life to them every day.
    My major issue with this post is in the inference that inexpensive is cheap. And with people calling me son when I’m probably older than you are. My father passed away over a decade ago and my life has spanned 7 decades. I was his son, not yours.

    1. To each their own. That’s what’s great about America. As far as trigger time, you probably do have more time. I only lasted 13 years behind a badge before back and knee issues forced retirement. Thanks for your service by the way.

        1. They weren’t around in 1979. I carried S&W model 686 most of the time. I went to the Hi-Point after retiring after 1993. Most guys then were going to Sig-Saure P-226. They felt too small in my hand. At 6’4″ and 250 my hands are large.

    2. Caleb, you’re alienating people who read this blog. It’s fine to have an opinion about a product. But you have repeatedly denigrated one of your readers. It is not a personal attack on you when someone states that they have a different opinion than you. I also find it amusing that you call the Hi-Point inaccurate when Gun Nuts did a 2000 round test of a Hi-Point which revealed that it was a very accurate design (prone to failure and not ergonomically well designed).

  5. Yes, there is a possibility of getting good, cheap gear. BUT! for gear to be cheaper than what is the accepted standard, one has to:
    1) Use inferior materials
    2) Use cheaper labor (usually overseas)
    3) Use a simpler, less robust design
    4) Do far less quality control (which is why cheap guns often have great warranties)

    The funny thing about people that buy the really cheap stuff is that many spend hundreds, or even thousands of dollars on really cheap stuff until they finally break down and get that Glock/S&W et all they should have got in the first place.

  6. On my 10/22, I’ve got a scope I got from Walmart for $50. Works just fine for a range fun gun. Don’t have anything for my Mosquito except for a speed loader my dad got me for Christmas.
    I don’t have a carry gun because, for one thing, I don’t have the money for it, and another, I can’t do it on campus anyway and I’m currently unemployed, so I’m pretty much either at school or at home. When I do get my CCW later on, I will spring for the good stuff (assuming I can find a job to afford it, anyway…)
    As for hunting gear, thankfully my dad lets me borrow his stuff, which he can afford good quality, and in turn, I help out with reloading.

      1. Lots of 10/22 are high 200s low 300s. Surely affordable for any teenager with a part time job. Any middle class person can afford a 1,500 handgun if they spend less money on other things. Problem is people pick the lowest priced thing as fair price and good value, and if something is 20% more they flip out and call it a rip off. My point is marlin and mossberg make fine 22’s that I see on sale for $120. So the hyper sensitive priceshopper thinks are ruger 10/22 is practically showing off. I do not. I had a number of guns that I bought with paper route money like a marlin pappose, marlin 336, 10/22, and Russian sks with spare money as a 14 year old kid 20 years ago.

        Not that you said it. But I have to laugh when I hear grown men act like 500 is allot to spend on a handgun. I bought tons of electronics, bikes, cloths, cds, guns with my own money and often had $3500 cash in the bank we I was 13-16. Again that was twenty years ago.

        I support people’s right to buy crappie guns. If someone threatened your life, you need a gun tonight, we’ll a Highpoint is better then a zip gun or a hot poker. Not better then almost any military surplus like cz82/83, feg hipower, pa64, Walther, Israel Karen, fm hipower, star 9mm, and a dozen other guns.

        Never buy zinc guns. The slide on a hipoint is trash metal.

  7. For the sake of argument I’ve had 2 Galco holsters break on me. I’d say foreign parts. I was told ts on any replacement by Galco.

  8. My 10/22 sports a Crossman 4×20 scope that I yarded from a childhood air rifle. I’ve yet to use it in defense or competition but it’s certainly put a lot of food on my table over the years.

  9. I have 6 Hi Points
    The C-9 I carry – it has never had a failure of any sort
    My Carbines I shoot often – They are so much fun at the range
    The quality is in the product – the customer service is unbelievable
    AND it is 100% MADE IN AMERICA the good ole USA
    Can you Glock say that

  10. Caleb, your statement of ‘Yes, it’s a terrible design and yes it’s not a very good pistol’, could be considered offensive by some – myself included. The Hi-Point guns are made of lower cost materials – is that what you mean by ‘not a very good pistol’? As for a ‘terrible design’, blowback pistols have been around a long time. Consider the Colt 1903 Pocket Pistol, Russian Makarov and Walther PP/PPK. Consider your words more carefully in the future, it’s part of what makes a good writer.

    1. It’s a terrible design because it’s prone to out of battery detonations that cause the pistol to spontaneously disassemble itself. It’s not a very good pistol because it has a heavy trigger, the ergonomics of a brick balancing on a pencil, and isn’t very accurate or reliable.

      1. ARE YOU SERIUOS
        Have you ever shoot a Hi Point
        They are as accurate as the person shooting it
        The gun by itself is as accurate as the person that adjusted the sights

  11. Price point has absolutely nothing to do with accuracy. It is the gun and the one shooting it. I have out shot shooters at the range who fired Glocks, Sig, Colts, Kimber. I regularly shoot a M&P 9 and I really feel the Hi-Point is more accurate and I love my M&P. I spent 20 years in the Marine Corps and I have been more accurate with the Hi-Point than I was with any .45 or .38 I ever qualified with (I was a Pistol Range Officer and was able to shoot every day) and was 30 plus years younger. IMHO…

    1. This is a reply to Calab’s posting at January 31, 2014 at 14:07.

      By the way, the time stamp seems to be off. I may be incorrect.

      1. They do. They are all cops, seal team 6, federal agents, guys who have shot a half million rds over the last 40 years, and they all seek out basically one of the worst guns made.

        I find it weird, borderline insane that people with resources to train and shoot the way these people claim so often, seek out $150 guns. They talk values, then go on to say how what ? its no big deal to drive 10 miles both ways in gas, spend 20 bucks on the range, 100 bucks in ammo, etc. Just using and sorta kinda proving to yourself your hipoint is not a dud, means you basically doubled the amount you have spent on the gun. AND it is a ticking timebomb zinc slide that can snap in half at any moment.

        I am supposed to believe they do this, take classes, GET ON A PLANE AND SPEND $700 on a class, hundreds on hotel, rental car, ammo, days off work, etc. Then they get off not buying a $399 MP or Xd ?

        LIES !

  12. Kel-Tec mustb have really wronged you at some point, to see your 90 review and then read the hi point review. Neither is designed to be a Sig, of even a Glock. Both price points are equal based on what you get. Personally I dislike Colt products (no reason) also I won’t buy an Apple product (I just dislike the compny). But I’ll at least admit it’s prejudice on my part.

    I own a PF-9 bought it for a “car gun”, I also own an LCP. a PPQ (with the trigger gard mag release, and a Glock 36. All tools for different jobs. Personally I would rather go into a tight situation with the PF-9 rather than a high point, as a matter of fact I would be “better armed” with that sharp stick than the high point!

    1. I am no fan of either but i would own and shoot a keltec especially if i got one for crazy cheap or free. I would not own or keep even a free highpoint. I would sell it, and feel like i ripped off the guy i sold it to.

      If you can just not like colts, because … well then you give caleb and everyone else a pass to do so also. I have plenty of reasons to not like keltec (good innovative designs ruined by cheap materials and workmanship), hipoint is just price focused trash. Has no merit other then someone working a low level job can buy one in a day or twos work, and protect themselves. That is with the caveat, they refuse to educate themselves on better values for a bit more, and need it now, and need it new.

  13. Why do people think if you do not like a hipoint you must not have shot one. Everything about the guys from every angle is designed to be cheap first. Nt the best. Not good. It has to be crazy cheap, and still profitable to make. The shape is weird. The slide is zinc. The trigger is crappie. The limit on high capacity mags ended eons ago and they still sell only ten Rd mags! Wtf! That’s insanity!

    They are not certain death for the user. I could hit targets with them good enough I guess, but as long as I can come up with 300 bucks there are sooooo many better choices.

    In 2007 I bought a sig 225/p6 for $259. It has slide wear on the phosphate finish. Zero wear on the rails, barely a scuffing of the internals. Probably shot 500rds or less.

    Yes $259. Inxpensive does not mean bad. It shoots like to 850-900 gun that it is.

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