The man eked out a living as an illicit pharmaceutical salesman. The hours were long and the working conditions austere, but it was a good way to meet girls. In truth, he liked the work. He had grown up in the field and was good at it. The biggest challenge, however, was managing the competition.
Gangsta Guns and a True Story Shootout
The details of the original insult? Lost to history. It was likely some disagreement over efficacy or purity. It’s equally possible that the initial offense concerned the bonny affections of some fair lass or perhaps a quarrel over territory. Regardless, this amicable discussion morphed into an argument, and things got out of hand in short order.
Both parties reached for guns. Crouching reflexively, the amateur pharmacist reached for the 9mm pistol he kept stuffed into his trousers worn loose and low. He didn’t bother with a holster. A holster might slow him down, and holsters cost money. He’d just stolen this gun, too.
Despite his dearth of practical knowledge of the storied art of armed combat, the young man appreciated that speed was essential. Being the first with rounds on target was always the limiting reagent. In retrospect, however, he just let himself get in too big of a hurry.
As the erstwhile chemist struggled to retrieve his pistol, he inadvertently stroked the trigger and shot himself in the crotch. The young man fell to the ground clutching his thoroughly offended manhood.
The affronted party was justifiably skeptical at first. However, the expanding pool of blood now forming on the asphalt convinced him of what happened. Soon, satisfied that justice had been served, the would-be adversary departed forthwith.
To the ER
I met the wounded rascal maybe 15 minutes later and packaged him up for the urology residents. He would, no doubt, make a great learning case. A perfectly centered, close-range gunshot wound to the genitals is not the sort of thing one sees every day, even in the sordid places we plied our trade.
I encountered the amateur pharmacist a couple of times after that. The real players tend to be repeat customers in the emergency department, and it’s easy to develop an ongoing rapport. His member from that point forward rode at a perpetually cocky angle … pun intended. However, he could still pee standing up thanks to the remarkable skill of the urologist on call that fateful night. I’m not certain that he ever successfully reproduced. One can only hope.
Talking to Thugs
Many, but not quite all, shot-up thugs are actually pretty friendly once you get them out of their native environment. The baddest stud on the street can become quite good company when he’s handcuffed to a hospital bed with a chest drain running through his fifth intercostal space at the midaxillary line. Once things settle down, they generally like to talk.
Most thugs are amateur gunmen at best. A few of them speak the language, but for most of the real players, any handgun will do—the cheaper the better, if money actually changes hands. Most of their guns are stolen. Several told me that quite literally any sort of firearm is available if the price is right.
Glock was a familiar model because the Wu-Tang Clan, Lil Phat, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, etc., seem to rap about them incessantly. On the street, Glock means quality and marks you as a thug of distinction. A Glock stolen from a cop is the pinnacle of “awesome” in these rarefied circles.
However, the preferred handgun is generally whatever is available. Pistols are the obvious weapons of choice. A few admitted to keeping a long gun or three back at their crib. These weapons were used almost exclusively for drive-by shootings directed at competing drug lords or unwanted suitors vying for the affections of their mademoiselle. The fact that they could not be readily concealed made long guns awkward for most illicit inner-city operations. The gangsters spoke of pilfered shotguns as well as SKS carbines, but this was maybe 15 years ago. The landscape has undoubtedly changed since then. One gentleman affectionately referred to his SKS back home as his “SK.”
In my experience, thugs invariably use the cheapest ammunition they can find. Most inner-city shootings I attended as a physician involved ball ammo. By contrast, suicides, hunting injuries and cop shootings most typically involved the good stuff.
The Windy City
But let’s look at some more facts. Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, yet its violent crime rates eclipse those of other American cities. Chicago cops confiscate as many guns as do those in New York and Los Angeles—cities with much larger populations. Despite the fact that each of these “crime guns” already represents a felony (most are either stolen or purchased by a straw buyer), anti-gunners believe that yet more unenforceable laws are the answer.
Until recently, gun shops were illegal in Chicago. In 2014, the Chicago Police Department seized 4,505 guns during the commission of crimes. About half originated from areas immediately surrounding the city. Criminals smuggled the rest in from out of state.
The guns I carry to protect my family are the finest money can buy. I also train like my life depends on it. However, with a lifetime of gun snobbery under my belt, I swallowed my pride, made inquiries and bought the cheapest beater Hi-Point 9mm pistol I could find. It had indeed been confiscated by the cops, came bereft of a magazine and set me back—no kidding—$46.
If you’ve never handled a Hi-Point C-9, allow me to enlighten you. It is indeed cheap in both design and execution. The gun’s rectilinear geometry renders it ugly on a visceral level. The pistol fires from the unlocked blowback and necessitates an absolutely massive slide as a result. The Hi-Point C-9 is rated for +P ammo, and it is the mass of the slide along with its stalwart recoil spring that counteracts all that brawn.
The left-side magazine release and manual safety are both easily accessible by the right thumb. The grip sports shallow finger grooves. The Hi-Point’s single-stack magazines do not drop freely when released, so the magazine floorplate has a modest spur. The slide is supposed to lock to the rear after firing the last round, though mine sometimes doesn’t. Jack the slide back a bit over a fresh eight-round magazine to release it. There is no slide lock lever.
The trigger is a cast component that pivots to release a striker. While the gun’s overall ambience transmits a 1950’s communist-farm-implement sort of vibe, the crunchy trigger is quite serviceable. The slide looks like it was harvested from a 2×4, but the grip is undeniably comfortable. There’s even a Hundred Dollar Bill C9, in case that’s your thing.
For the sake of comparison, I ran my new Hi-Point C-9 alongside a Vickers Tactical Glock 17. This particular model represents the pinnacle of production-grade Glock pistols, and it’s been optimized by Larry Vickers, who’s “seen the elephant” and lived to tell the tale. All shooting was done with the same ammunition by the same seasoned shooter.
As expected, the Glock’s lower bore axis and optimized controls make it markedly faster for both follow-up shots and magazine changes. However, the Hi-Point C-9’s trigger is not to be underestimated, and its utilitarian three-dot sights work just fine. The Glock carries more than twice as much onboard ammo, but that inevitably takes up space. The Hi-Point’s grip is undeniably trim and svelte.
Hi-Point uses the same magazine for both its 9mm and .380 ACP guns, and I had a little trouble getting the slide to close consistently over a fully loaded magazine. The top round in the magazine frequently took a little nose-down dip. However, once that first round got situated, the rest always performed swimmingly. As expected, the Glock ran all the time with every load.
The sheer bulk of the Hi-Point’s slide makes it tougher to hide than its refined Austrian competition. The manual safety on the Hi-Point is a bit stiff, but I like it. Call me a heretic, but I prefer manual safeties on my guns whether I choose to use them or not. And both guns behaved quite well on the range.
A cut-down 12-gauge shotgun makes a definitive visual statement, but it kicks like a mule and patterns poorly at all but point-blank range. A hacksaw and 15 minutes will transform your granddad’s slide-action fowling piece into something more concealable. (Of course, this is a good place to mention that it is illegal for a private citizen to alter a modern shotgun’s barrel so that it is shorter than 18 inches without prior approval, and all that entails, from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or BATFE.) As a former ER doctor, I’ve seen a few close-range shotgun wounds, and they are indeed the stuff of nightmares.
Back in my day, the SKS was cheap and ripe for upgrades. Detachable 30-round Zytel magazines made it the poor man’s Kalashnikov, and aftermarket folding stocks cut the overall length down by a third. However, eight years of Barack Obama flooded the American market with black rifles of both the Eugene Stoner and Kalashnikov variety, and all of these guns are out there for the stealing. Nowadays, your enterprising larcenist need not necessarily be satisfied with an SKS. However, in that same group of 4,505 guns seized in Chicago by the cops in 2014, only three would meet an anti-gunner’s broad definition of an “assault weapon.” Rank-and-file thugs invariably use pistols.
While it’s easy to look down our noses at the humble Hi-Point C-9, it is a deceptively effective handgun. Tough to hide and as ugly as Rosie O’Donnell first thing in the morning, the C-9 yet remains unnaturally accurate and comfortable. The young husband struggling to pay rent and buy diapers is actually quite well served by the C-9 as a home-defense firearm, albeit once it’s successfully charged. Unfortunately, his drug-dealing counterpart on the wrong side of the law is, too.
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