Sunday, January 7, 2018

Tricking out the Phoenix Arms HP22A


A Simple Tool But a Snowflake Nightmare Weapon

The Phoenix Arms HP22A is an inexpensive .22LR semiautomatic pistol that is long on fun and cheap on the wallet. One of its greatest features is that its manufacture in the land of fruits and nuts is a fabulous single-digit salute to the numbskull Kalifornicators (it is made in Ontario, just outside Los Angeles). This is a Saturday Night Special:  A cheap, potentially lethal killing machine, the nightmare of snowflake suburban soccer moms, metrosexual urban Euro-worshippers, and Hillary voters.

It's also a bargain plinker.

Gun snobs shelling out big bucks for their never-to-be-concealed-carry Filipino-made 1911s, polymer-framed Glocks, Sigs, HKs, and so on usually look down their nose at cheap zinc-alloy pistols. Of course, Walther's PPK/S also uses zinc alloy for its slide, but hey, it's a Walther, right? You don't hear too many people bitching because that .22 plinker is made in an airsoft factory instead of a real gun manufacturing facility.

Anyhow, I've put at least 500 rounds through my two HP22As, one named Feinstein (nickel-colored), and the other named Pelosi (blackish blued) with nary a hiccup. Most of the encountered problems were due to my inexperience in take down and reassembly. Like most morons who complain about Ruger Mark IIIs being hard to put back together, I initially thought the HP22A was almost impossible until I went through the drill a couple times; the secret is using your finger to hold down the recoil spring, locking the slide back, and ensuring proper fitment between the barrel and part #251 - the take-down lever.


Parts is Parts

Parts for the HP22A are inexpensive, and Phoenix Arms has incredibly fast shipping. You can get nearly every part for your pistol with the exception of the frame and slide (although I did find one vendor selling used slides). You're obviously going to want to get an extra set of recoil springs in order to change one out during at least 500- to 1000-round intervals. Being clumsy, I mangled one just learning reassembly.

Here's a list of spare parts recommended by a few folks on the 'net and the 'tube:

Firing Pin Spring - #221
Firing Pin - #204
Rear Plate Screw - #254
Safety - #208
Recoil Springs - #220
Extractor Spring - #226
Extractor Pin - #215
Extractor - #203
.22 LR Extended Magazine - #260
.22 LR Extended Mag Base - #271 

The parts aren't going to cost you an arm and a leg.

Some parts that may need to be replaced more often include the recoil spring (#220), firing pin (#204), and extractor (#215).

Some Springs and Pins Dimensions

For your information, here are the dimensions of a number of springs and pins I have on hand. I have not seen this info published anywhere on the web by anyone, so I hope this helps a fellow HP22A owner looking for a quick fix in a pinch. From what I have read on-line, earlier versions of the HP22 using solid pins, with roll pins now used extensively; there are exceptions, notably the extractor pin.

#220, recoil spring; 2.36"/60mm long, .29"/7.4mm round, using wire .02"/.6mm thick
#221, firing pin spring, .65"/16.7mm long, .08"/2mm round (tiny!)
#226, extractor spring, .19"/5mm long, .11"/2.9mm round (tiny!)
#227, strut spring, note: larger on one end; large end is .27"/6.8mm round, small end is .21"/5.4mm round, 1.5"/38.4mm long, using wire .04"/1mm thick
#229, rear sight spring, .18"/4.5mm long, .19"/4.9mm round, using wire .1"/.4mm thick

#213, trigger pivot pin, stainless roll pin, .62"/15.9mm long, .06"/1.7mm thick

#215, extractor pin, stainless solid pin, rounded ends, .34"/8.6mm long, .06"/1.6mm thick
#216, sear pin, stainless roll pin, .5"/12.7mm long, .1"/2.6mm thick
#218, hammer ping, blued roll pin, .62"/15.8mm long, .16"/4.2mm round

Having the original measurements on hand can be beneficial in finding compatible springs, especially if you carry around a pair of digital calipers (LOL!). For example, many folks report that Ace/TruValue hardware stores carry Hillman's #125 compression spring (#540 374, SKU 08236 12513), which matches the dimensions of part #220, the recoil spring. I ran across a box of matching springs a mile away at a discount/liquidation store, and snagged 8 of 'em for $0.50 each. Now I can easily afford to change out the recoil spring every 500 rounds:

Simple tools on hand may also be used to tinker with this mouse gun. For example, the firing pin is changed out by removing a tiny hex head screw (part #254, which requires a Torx T5) accessed on the firing pin plate on the rear of the slide. You can then pull the plate, then pull out the firing pin and its spring. I initially thought there might be a problem with Pelosi, as a blank rimfire cartridge showed no firm strike when dry firing, but at the range there were no FTFs or light strikes.

The spare safety plate (part #208) is a good investment for less than a Lincoln. You'll want to clip and modify your original safety plate so you can drop your mag and lock the slide back at the range (the multiple safeties on this pistol are a necessary evil due to its host state, but are easily defeated; if you ever have to send your pistol back to the mother ship, install the unmodified safety to protect your warranty). There are many, many 'tube vids on this modification. I didn't bother with most of the mods, just the mag mod, and only on Pelosi. I left Feinstein alone, as, unlike the many morons bitching about the HP22A's safeties, I had no problem whatsoever using the pistol (performing its 'battery of arms').

You may not have to worry about changing out your extractor, but it's nice to have a spare on hand. You can test your extractor by using a spent round in the chamber, racking the slide, then slowly pulling the slide back. If the round pulls out straight, your extractor is fine. If the round is crooked, you may need to either touch up or replace your extractor (there's a 'tube vid on this issue).

More magazines are always welcome, and if you buy just a pistol, you'll get a flat-plate mag. The extended mag base adds a welcome purchase for an extra finger. Changing the plate is easy using just a toothpick poked into the plate's hole - a much easier swap than a Ruger Mark III's magazine! (well, not really, as dis- and reassembly of the Ruger mag isn't difficult either).

 Appropriate Ammo is Apropos

Phoenix recommends .22LR rated at 1050 to 1150 fps. While the HP22A will happily run CCI mini-mags (1,235 fps), my personal opinion is that you're asking for trouble. Hell, even a couple folks on the 'tube have demonstrated that the Walther PPK/S slide is not immune to high-velocity ammo issues.

I'm in the process of testing various rimfire .22LRs, but so far Aguila Super Extra (1,129 fps) and CCI Standard Velocity (1,070 fps) work reliably. I don't recommend cheap bulk ammo, but may explore some alternatives. I did try CCI's Quiet lead round nose (710 fps), but it wouldn't cycle. Hell, you could even shoot a .22 short in the HP22A, but then the pistol is basically a single-shot weapon - LOL!

Potential Problems

The HP22A is manufactured using (AFAIK), Zamak 3, a zinc alloy. The frame is cast(?), and the slide is machined(?), then roughly finished and polished. Even the barrel is cast, and on the entire gun only critical parts are steel, such as the barrel sleeve, chamber face, extractor face, etc. This is a good thing! However, out of the box, your HP22A may feel 'gritty' and dirty (I have to wonder about water shortage affecting the production line?). This was the case with Pelosi, but Feinstein had a surprisingly better fit and finish.

At any rate I highly recommend a thorough cleaning before heading out to the range with a new, out-of-the-box pistol. And don't use too much lube. You'll get a good idea of where to apply oil on the receiver and slide after a break-in of a hundred rounds or so. These wear spots showed up better on Pelosi than Feinstein due to the 'blueing' (if you can call it that), but you'll still be able to tell on the nickel-colored variant.

The majority of folks experiencing a problem have an issue with the magazine well cracking after several thousand rounds. Reports are that this could happen sooner or later, and has even happened to shooters using only recommended rimfire loads. When you take down your HP22A, look down into the mag well from the top and you'll see just how thin the wall is - i wish Phoenix had beefed up this area. One fellow also posted online pics of a cracked slide, but that's only one report out of thousands of owners, and a cracked mag well has only been reported by a half-dozen folks online. At any rate, Phoenix has a lifetime warranty for owners, and at less than $140, the HP22A is in the throwaway price range. Personally, I'm not worried.


Out of the box, Feinstein was dead-on accurate. On the other hand, Pelosi shot low and to the right. You'll need a sturdy screwdriver to adjust windage, but the rear sight is click-adjustable. To move the point of impact to the left, turn the screw clockwise.

Interestingly, Feinstein has a better sight picture, as there is good contrast between the front and rear sights. Pelosi not only required windage adjustment, but also a dab of fluorescent lime-green paint on the front sight - which made a remarkable improvement on the sight picture for these old and tired eyes. More on paint next!

Touchup Upgrades

For Pelosi's front sight, I went to Wally World (which also sells really nice metal ammo cans for $8) and bought a "Painters" pen in lime green acrylic. One or two careful dabs followed by some hair dryer action from the wife's bathroom drawer sped up the drying process.

 I also bought an oil-based Sharpie pen in white. You'll find both pens in the fabric/craft section of your local Wally World.  Next, I rooted around in the wife's drawer for a decent red nail polish, ending up with a Sally Hansen Miracle Gel in #470, "Red Eye" (most likely from CVS).

The HP22A's fire/safe switch lettering is nearly invisible on the pistol unless you're in full sunlight. And at my age, I need all the help I can get. The letters are stamped onto the safety, and provide a depression for coloring, but even a sharpened toothpick was too thick to apply, so I took the Sharpie and just swabbed over the entire word "SAFE," then wiped the excess, leaving the letters nicely colored in - work quickly!

The nail polish had a sloppy brush, but again I swabbed 'ol 'Red Eye' over the word 'FIRE' and wiped the excess. I like the results. YMMV.

This makes the frame safety switch a lot easier to read in dim light. Curiously, only the slide/firing pin block safety has a daub of red paint. I took the Sharpie and daubed a dot of white to mark the indented safety position on the slide (which is actually the ass end of the sight adjustment screw!).

I like the results, and I don't think these touchups would void your warranty if performed on an unmodified safety plate.

Accessorizing Your Arm

There's a billion-dollar industry aimed at accessorizing weapons. Everything from garments to concealed carry goodies and third-party parts. The Ruger Mark series of pistols is a good example. There's really no such market for the HP22A, aside from some grips (I'm currently waiting on a nice walnut grip for Feinstein), but there are a few goodies that can enhance your enjoyment and use of the HP22A. These won't break the bank and are, like the pistol, a bargain.

Get a Grip


The standard plastic grips are adequate, but like the extended mag, more finger purchase is better on a compact pistol. There are several grip options available for the HP22A. One is to go to that awful, evil auction place on the Internet and sort through the plethora of graphic grip tape overlays, or plastic grips in different colors, such as a nice Zombie lime green. You may also be surprised to find one or more craftsman at work and offering traditional grips, such as these in walnut for less than $30:

I like the wood grips as they beef up the width of the pistol's grip, yet still allow storage in the range bag, pocket holster, or concealed carrier (see below). Another option is to improve handling, and so I highly recommend the Hogue Handall Jr. Small rubber grip for about $7 on Amazon.

One tip: stick the grip under your armpit for a few minutes or hit it with a hair dryer to soften it up before sliding it onto your HP22A. No oil or lubrication is required. I simply worked my grip up until it just cleared the mag plate area. The result is a much 'grippier' pistol - very nice!

Another accessory is for transport and/or concealment. For a low-cost alternative, I recommend the UTG Discreet Sub-compact Handgun case - about $10 or less on Amazon.

You'll be able to store your pistol with an extended mag in place, along with another extended mag inside the case. Speed strips or small Altoids tins will allow you to also store some extra ammo.
If you want to splurge $14, order Phoenix Arm's custom-molded locking case for the HP22A. Add your own cleaning tools or dig a little deeper and get the $8 cleaning kit made for the case. Note that this case has room for an HP22A with an extended mag, an extra extended mag, and also a spare barrel, including the 5-inch version. I did not purchase a 5-inch barrel as I think it doesn't really add too much accuracy and looks funky. I may get one eventually, but i did get a spare 3-inch barrel for Feinstein.


My current carry weapon is a North American Arms sidewinder with five rounds of .22 mag in a Desantis Nemisis pocket holster. Down here in the near Tropics, it's shorts and flip-flops most of the year, so belt, hip, inside waistband or ankle holsters are out of the picture. The sidewinder is perfect, and at six ounces loaded, isn't going to make me look like a hip-hop gangsta with droopy drawers.

Alas, the HP22A is kinda heavy for pocket carry. But it is possible when wearing belted cargo shorts. BTW, never, ever carry any gun in your pocket without protection, even if it's a mammy-made piece of leather folded in half with stitching.

One pocket holster that seems to work well with the HP22A is made in Naples, Fla. - the SM-1 Sticky holster. The holster stays put in your pocket, but the HP22A easily extracts with no snags. You can also store the SM-1 on top your HP22A while inside the UTG case.

There are other pocket holsters, such as those from Uncle Mike's but I haven't tried them.

So there you have it: My experience so far with the HP22A. These pistols are cheap enough that for the price of a Ruger SR22, base Ruger Mark IV or Walther PPK/S you can have several, including one as a spare in case two need to be sent back to Phoenix for any repair. Does the HP22A compare to a Buckmark or Smith & Wesson 41? Hardly. But all these guns all fire the same cheap ammo, and the HP22A can be almost as accurate at short range. Is it a target shooter? Nope, but there can be a challenge in point shooting, and it's a great plinker for practice on the cheap. I like my pistols, especially with a few embellishments.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

A Day at the Range with Phoenix HP22As

Mrs. Santa got me a gunsmith and cleaning kit, so i cleaned up two new pocket pistols and headed off to the range yesterday...

these are the (to my limited knowledge) least expensive .22LR models on the market, but shot surprisingly well w/no problems on 100-round checkouts out of the box...

i named the one on the left 'Feinstein' and the one on the right 'Pelosi':

Friday, December 22, 2017

WARNING: Federal Sells Defective Ammunition and is UNRESPONSIVE TO SAFETY REPORTS!!!

As an avid geek-with-guns, I enjoy plinking .22 shorts, LR, and mag rounds with a variety of revolvers and pistols.

I recently purchased a bulk ammo pack from Cabela's containing a number of boxes of Federal 'Premium' 36-grain copper-plated hollow-points in .22LR:

LOT 1SP259

I went to the range with my Smith 317, and much to my dismay, found that 2 out of 8 rounds were defective in three different ways:

failure to fire (most likely due to bad/no primer)
double-charged round (due to excessive propellant in the casing)

and worse:

under-charges (which resulted in a lodged bullet in my revolver!)

This was very disappointing. First, as you know, you cannot return purchased ammunition. Second, there's no way to get a refund without going through Federal's warranty policy, which is an involved process requiring you to call for an RMA, then packing up and sending the ammo back (expensive), and hoping for a refund.

I figured I could eat the cost, but I wanted to let Federal know about this lot because I could just imagine a youngster plinking with a rifle, then firing an over-charged round into a lodged bullet in a barrel (known as an obstruction)!

So I called Federal at 1-800-379-1732 at start of business on Nov. 20, 2017. The operator reported that 'no one was available, but a tech will return your call'

So I then called back at 12 noon the same day, and was told 'We're very busy, but will call back." I told that operator that my info was important concerning over-charged and under-charged rounds and stressed that I was worried.

I never got a call back. So thanks, Federal, for looking out for your customers. I certainly learned a good lesson and won't buy Federal ammo again.

By the way, I filed a notice with

"Thank you for using to submit your Report to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).  We received your Report No. 20171120-A4358-2147395237 on Monday, November 20, 2017."

So I hope that in the terrible chance someone does get hurt with this lot of ammo, there will be a record on file and a report of the lot number (I filed all pertinent info).

Federal: bad company, bad ammo, bad customer support, bad safety policies!

I also left a negative review about this ammo on Cabelas web site (as a registered customer), and guess what? Cabelas won't publish the review!

Not only that, but Cabelas is STILL SELLING the ammo! (as pictured above; could be a different lot, but who knows?).

Very disappointed in Cabelas as well.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Tofu With Black Bean - Hunan Style

This is one of my favorite Asian dishes: tofu with black bean over jasmine rice. After moving down to hurricane country in the near-Tropics I despaired of ever finding this dish (done wonderfully as 'Sauteed Tofu Hunan Style' by the Hunan Village restaurant in Arlington, Va.).

Then I found a local restaurant that produces a very acceptable version with bell pepper and onion. After savoring that meal, I had a 'smack the forehead' moment when I realized that I would be more than capable of making this dish at home!

My approach (where C=cup, T=tablespoon, t=teaspoon):

1. Mix 3/4C of chicken or vegetable broth with 1t sesame oil, 3T of rinsed black bean sauce (plain or garlic, both are salty!), 1/2t black pepper, 2oz white wine, 1t sweet soy (syrupy version, although you could use regular), and 1 level t of corn starch. You can add some red pepper flakes if you want your dish spicy.

2. Slice 1/2 sweet onion and 1/2 small bell pepper (red, yellow, green - your choice)

3. Cut about a third of block of extra firm tofu into 1/4" high by 3/4" wide by 1" long rectangles, then place on a couple paper towels to drain

4. Heat 2t of oil in a wok, then fry onions and pepper until onion is almost translucent, then add tofu

5. Fry until tofu almost starts to brown, then add bowl of broth mix and cook until slightly thickened

I love this dish!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Bosch Dieselgate Settlement - W00t!

Thanks, Bosch! We really appreciate the extra money. It has provided us with two new VHF Tri-band transceivers, small whip antennas, a new dive watch, and a few lunches and dinners this week!

We also look forward to more than $2,000 next year for our Phase 2 Emissions Modification payment!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Tips for Running Raspbian PIXEL on the Apple Macbook Air (2015 edition)

Great news! There is a GNU/Linux alternative to Mac OS X for older Macs, and i've finally found the right distro!

I've been able to create a viable alternative using Raspbian's PIXEL for my Macbook Air (2015 vintage) on a Samsung 64GB compact thumbdrive.

PIXEL 1.1 Dec 2016 w/md5sums

This is the *only* working distro with wifi, sound, printing, and persistence i've been able to put together for my little Apple notebook. I have tried a number of others - the only other one that comes close is a 64-bit version of Anti-X:

antiX for the Mac

(use the 64-bit version - the 32-bit version did NOT work for me!)

Live GNU/Linux distros are a great way to test before an install. However, the PIXEL distro at this point is only live - BUT, you can create a 'persistent' version on a USB boot stick (compact thumbdrive, sdhc in a carrier, etc.) by following the following directions:
 step-by-step to making a persistent USB boot stick

 Mousepad Tweak

Also, to make life nicer with the Macbook Air's trackpad, i created a file named (made executable by using chmod +x), containing:
/usr/bin/synclient TapButton1=1 TapButton2=3 TapButton3=2 ClickTime=1
The file is saved under /usr/local/bin - then in the file $HOME/.config/lxsession/LXDE-pi/autostart:

@lxpanel --profile LXDE-pi
@pcmanfm --desktop --profile LXDE-pi
@xscreensaver -no-splash

This will be used upon log in and provides:

1. button assignments
2. two-finger right-clicking
3. three-finger middle mouse button event
4. tap-to-click


Alas, the internal webcam/camera on the Macbook Air is not recognized. However, i plugged in an inexpensive Logitech C270, and it was recognized as /dev/video0 - which meant that it worked in VLC and Cheese. I have yet to explore video chat, aside from crashing firefox-esr when attempting a Facebook video chat (ain't gonna work - may try bumping up to the latest firefox outside of the Debian repos)

Even so, I am quite happy with PIXEL - best out-of-the-box experience!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Hubs 'N DACs

Having a lot of fun lately with some extra Raspberry Pi Zeros, some Zero hubs, and several DACs to build LAN-connected Internet radio and .mp3 players. I like the Zero footprint, and as you all know, the Raspberry Pi Zero and Zero W are great little computers that don't ding your wallet - by themselves.

But with no audio out and limited USB, you'll need to add a few items to your project if you want some tunage and connectivity. The Raspberry Pi Zero W handily provides wifi - a real bargain $10 computer that I predict will introduce many new products and a new standard in SBCs, but again, you'll need to add audio for any sound-related project. And if you want to host additional devices, such as thumb drives, mouse, or keyboard, you'll need some additional USB ports.

Audio Solutions

I suppose the cheapest way to get audio on the Zero is through a USB audio dongle. You can find these devices - which provide audio in and audio out connectors - everywhere for about a Lincoln (US$5). They work well with GNU/Linux, and most are C-Media devices easily recognized and configured for use by the kernel (gone are those terrible days of having to rebuild the kernel every time install a new sound card!)
The problem is that you will most likely still need the sound amplified in order to play music on your speakers. Some dongles offer mute buttons, and some speakers are USB powered, but then only offer physical controls for volume, bass, etc.

Getting your hands on an amplifier for a stereo speaker project is kinda easy. I have scavenged a number of small amplifier boards from 3V battery powered speakers found in thrift stores and at flea markets. You can also buy one of the boards Adafruit sells to interface with your Zero's audio output.

Digital-to-Analog-Converters, or DACs, come in several form factors and flavors for the Raspberry Pi family. I have several: Pimoroni's PHAT DAC, a PiZeroAudio DAC, and Adafruit's Speakerbonnet.

Zero Hubs

Getting additional USB ports onto your Zero can be accomplished by using a hub. Like cheap audio amps, I have also scavenged old 4-port dongle hubs for Zero projects, such as this FrankenZero, a complete Desktop computer with wifi, sound, and a VGA port:

Hardware developers have come up with some nice Zero-footprint hubs at a reasonable cost. Putting together some of the required bits for an audio project that will work well with speakers can be interesting! Here is a MakerSpot hub (highly recommended), with a Pimoroni PHAT DAC, and an Adafruit 7W audio amplifier - great sound out of this one:

Amplified sound is provided by the screw jacks on the side of the amp board, with power (5V) supplied by the Zero's GPIO bus. The DAC's output is drawn from its RCA connectors:

I've incorporated another hub, the new Hubpixed, which works with the rpi0 1.3 and W, and have an inexpensive DAC attached - note there is no amplifier! :
But my favorite solution is the Adafruit Stereo Speaker Bonnet, which has the DAC and amp on a single board, and also provides your RPi's i2c and power GPIO pins in a separate area on the board - brilliant! i have this board installed in a Western Digital PiDrive enclosure on an RPi3 - great sound out of this one!

Here are some tips and tricks with the speaker bonnet:

1. i have found that cutting a 4-pin Grove connector works great as a JST-4 plug - this makes hooking up stereo wires a lot easier or to route the stereo lines out to my RPi's enclosure

2. after a bit of research and command-line foo, i found the proper incantation to play video during Raspbian Pixel desktop sessions on an RPi3 and have the audio routed through the speaker bonnet (great sound!)

hint: vlc, as currently distributed, won't work! you must use omxplayer and you must specify the Alsa card number of the bonnet... for example:

omxplayer -b -o alsa:hw:0,0 ManBearPig.avi

(the -b option creates a black background in case your video is smaller than your desktop)

at some time i'm going to try to recompile vlc for hardware acceleration... i understand that v2.2.4 will build properly at this point in time...

3. typing the omxplayer command line works, but is a pain in the ass if you're kicking back on the couch and using a Logitech remote keyboard and mouse; in this case, you'll want to create an association using a right-click on a movie file in the pcmanfm (file manager) window:
you'll want to make sure that omxplayer is launched in a terminal, or you'll lose control of the program once the video starts playing (i.e., no volume control, pausing, or quitting); after you click 'OK' you will see the 'doit' option when you right-click your movie file - this is the easiest way for me to launch omxplayer without typing a command line.

tip: you'll need to create this custom launch option separately for .avi or .mp4 files - to save a hassle and time, rename your .mkv files to end in .avi (they're the same file internally - at least this has been my experience).