Sunday, January 7, 2018

Review: 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. 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 1,500 2,000 3,000 3,500 4,000 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 or the flat side of the barrel 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 used 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 pin, 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').

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).

The basic procedure is to take off the slide, support it in a block or your bench, then punch out the extractor pin from the top of the slide (reverse to put back in). You'll need to catch the extractor spring and extractor after you drive out the pin. To save some effort, you may be able to drive out the pin just far enough to remove the extractor. If you don't have a punch small enough, use a small drill bit. 

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!

After Break-In


After you break in your HP22A (perhaps measured in 1,000 rounds or more), you'll be able to shoot additional types of ammo, such as subsonic. Here's a range pic of Pelosi after a front sight modification and 2,000 rounds, with the results of shooting Remington Subsonic .22LR LRN (pictured ammo is actually CCI 'Quiet' as I was shooting my 10/22 with its Firefly bolt):


Potential Problems


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:



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.

Accuracy


Out of the box, Feinstein was dead-on accurate.

On the other hand, Pelosi shot low and to the left (which is to be expected from that skank). So I whipped out a little file, then shaved off just the first level of the front sight, taking care to angle the filing down on the *front,* not the rear in order to keep a clean sight picture. You'll see bright metal if you scratch a 'blued' HP22A, so I simply took a black Sharpie and touched up where the file marks showed. There's no reason to rotate through 600->1000->2000-grit sandpaper to smooth out the marks because this is a $15 barrel on a $130 pistol. I just wanted better point of aim.

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!

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. This is a picture *before* I filed down the tip of Pelosi's front sight:


 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).  Of course, these grips also work, with the added benefit of scaring the beejeezus out of snowflakes:


How about some rattle-can bling? Since the grips are about $6, you can do a quick spray job on a spare set to see if you like the result (be advised: consult with a friend who is experienced in auto body repair first if you want a professional job; i don't give a romeo alpha, so i did two coats with cheap Wally World 'sunflower yellow,' allowing a week of dry time in low-humidity between coats; i'm also careful to use a CLP, not harmful solvents when cleaning):


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, but works well - just a slight improvement on accuracy. I recommend sticking with the standard barrel, and did get a spare 3-inch barrel for Feinstein:


And here's my Zombie Remediation Kit, outfitted with a Spyderco USN H1 filet knife:


Holsters


My current carry weapon is a Smith Model 637-1 w/.38SPL JHP in a Grovetec holster for pocket carry in cargo shorts. For warmer weather,  it's a North American Arms Sidewinder with five rounds of .22 mag in a pony holster, or a Kel-Tec P-32 w/7+1 rounds of Fiocchi 71-grain FMJ in a 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  and P-32 are very light, and at respectively six and 10 ounces loaded, with the 637 coming in at 13 ounces. The Sidewinder and P-32 aren't going to make me look like a hip-hop gangsta with droopy drawers, and the 637 is so light that I barely notice it's there in my pocket.

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.

8 comments:

  1. Thank you very much for your in depth look and great opinions on this wonderful pistol. I own one as well and right now am at 3,000 plus rounds through her with no sign of cracking yet. One thing I remember reading about that cracking issue was that it was mostly towards the 1st generations, the HP22. The second generation ones (HP22A) supposedly were remedied of this. Thank you for your review!

    ReplyDelete
  2. tks - i like my HP22As and am also now at about 3,000 rounds!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Greetings, thanks for the excellent information, and pictures, it's The best info.I've ever seen for the Phoenix hp22a! I have a blued (Pelosi), and nickle (Feinstein) as you. I'm not sure, but think the nickle plating on Feinstein is possibly electoless nickle that has better wear resistance than the blued Pelosi version. My blued pistol is newer, however the bluing is wearing off. No plating loss on the nickle plated version! Again, thanks for the great information.
    Regards Carl in Ocala

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. tks, Carl! i'm still shooting my HP22As... the only thing i think that may come up is a hammer replacement from peening caused by high-velocity rimfire - but that issue may not come up for thousands more rounds!

      willie
      on the Gulf of Mexico

      Delete
  4. Great review with lots of info. I’ve got the “Pelosi” but will add the Feinstein in time. The first time I broke it down the spring went flying and I’ve yet to find it. I think it was last seen headed east over Winnemucca Nevada. Phoenix Arms sent me a pack of five for $6. Talk about cheap. Changing out that spring every thousand rounds or so will probably be good preventive maintenance. I felt a real sense of accomplishment when I was able to break it down and reassemble it quick with no problems. I did the safety mods and painted the front site and safety tab. Also.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. tks! yep, the breakdown/reassembly gets easier as you go along - one tip is to invert the barrel, then use the flat side on top of the spring to prevent it coming out during compression - these pistols are cheap fun, considering that a couple bricks of rimfire are the same cost!

      Delete
  5. Very informative
    Believe I will now get a 22A,as all reviews are positive. Thanks to the reviewers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. tks! i don't think you'll be disappointed - the 22A is affordable fun - you'll definitely want some more magazines and extended grip components... i'm still shooting mine (i bought four of 'em, and sold one as the other three are working just fine)... have THOUSANDS of rounds through them... clean up yours when you first get it... you'll see that it will 'loosen up' after 500 rounds and be a sweet shooter...

      Delete