A Simple Tool But a Snowflake Nightmare WeaponThe Phoenix Arms HP22A is an inexpensive .22LR semiautomatic pistol that is long on fun and cheap on the wallet. It's made in the land of fruits and nuts 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 about that.
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:
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').
Here's what the magazine modification to the safety plate looks like. Compare it to your original plate and you'll see what I mean. The modification, a simple snip and then perhaps a rounding (like the one pictured here) of the middle left below the letter 'S' will allow you to drop the magazine without manipulating the slide (not firing pin) safety. The metal corner in an unmodified plate impedes pressing the magazine release button while the plate is in 'Fire' mode (e.g., pushed downwards):
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 also found great results with some ammo with a bit more 'punch': Fiocchi 1,575-round bulk .22LR (#22FFHVCR, according to the manufacturer catalog), which comes in a nice Plano box:
I don't recommend cheap bulk ammo, but may explore some alternatives. Whatever you do, don't buy from Cabela's (they'll charge you state tax and also censor any negative reviews), and don't buy Federal bulk 325-round .22LR - awful stuff!
I did try CCI's Quiet lead round nose (710 fps), but of course 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!
The HP22A is manufactured using (AFAIK), Zamak 3, a zinc alloy. The receiver (frame), barrel, and slide are metal-injection molded (?), then roughly finished and polished. Critical parts of the pistol 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, or perhaps Phoenix Arms uses a dry finishing lubricant, such as Ezoxx?). This was the case with Pelosi, but Feinstein seemed to have had a surprisingly better fit and finish.
At any rate I highly recommend a thorough cleaning before heading out to the range with any 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 'bluing' (if you can call it that - since the pistol is mostly Zamak, my guess it's more like a chemical dip), but you'll still be able to tell on the nickel-colored variant.
The majority of folks experiencing a problem with the HP22A 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. Here is the purported problem area:
Out of the box, Feinstein was dead-on accurate. On the other hand, Pelosi shot low and to the left. 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, and so on. I was quite pleased with the plinking accuracy:
Here's a target from 45 feet at a local indoor range, using Fiocchi HVCP, CCI SV, and Aguila SE:
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!
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.
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). Of course, these grips also work, with the added benefit of scaring the beejeezus out of snowflakes:
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.
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.
Oh, and here's a slick little cleaning kit from Ruger that you can plop into your range bag when you "Go plinking away the day with your HP22A!"
And here's an even cheaper kit I found at Wally World - less than $8:
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.