In 2018, High Tower Armory, a Minnesota company that previously designed and manufactured aftermarket magazines and P90-looking stocks for the Ruger 10/22, added its MBS95 bullpup stock for all Hi-Point models, lifting this basic budget carbine to a whole new level of performance. Developed in 1995, the inexpensive, reliable and accurate Hi-Point carbine proved popular with American shooters, selling about 750,000 units of various calibers to date and opening up a developing aftermarket to serve these inexpensive guns.
The basic design of the Hi-Point carbine mimics elements from both the Beretta Storm and the Israeli Uzi, with the enveloping bolt and magazine well through the pistol grip. Handy, accurate and mostly ergonomic, Hi-Point carbines now come in .380 ACP, 9 mm, .40 S&W, 10 mm and .45 ACP. Most of these share magazines with the company's pistols of the same caliber. Due to the low cost of the firearm, most of the accessories made for it have been similarly economical.
For all of their great features, Hi-Point carbines have a couple of drawbacks. Field-stripping them requires tools and involves removing iron sights. Loss of zero is possible, which is a pity, especially considering the accuracy potential of the gun. However, these limitations don't take away from the impressive capabilities of the platform. With an iron-sighted .380 ACP model, I was consistently able to put all 10 rounds into one hole roughly 1 inch in diameter at 25 yards. With optics, practical accuracy improves further. The ability of Hi-Point carbines to run reliably while dirty is a mitigating factor: most users just run a bore snake through the chamber and do detailed cleaning once every couple thousand rounds.
One other minor issue on the Hi-Point carbine comes from the spring-loaded stock, which reduces felt recoil and wear on the bolt. The angled top surface of the buttstock swipes across the user's cheek and causes a slight discomfort with every shot, especially on the .45 ACP model. It can be fixed with the addition of a soft cheek piece, but the OEM design can be an annoyance. The High Tower Armory MBS95 bullpup stock fixes this issue with a horizontal cheek piece, eliminating any interference during recoil. Additionally, with the MBS95 stock, the top rail with mounted sights comes off with the hinged fore-end, while full takedown is nearly instantaneous, requiring the removal of just two pins.
The main reason for the configuration of the High Tower Armory MBS95 bullpup stock is the reduction of length. The MBS95 stock turns a 32.5-inch carbine into a 26.1-inch carbine. The layout change also moves the center of mass rearward, permitting effective one-handed operation in case the support hand is busy with a door handle, radio or put out of action by a wound. Length of pull is 15.4 inches, about the same as a fully-extended AR-15 stock.
Despite my preference for short stocks, I found this configuration comfortable, even in a squared-up shooting stance. While the ejection remains right-side only, a bolt-on port cover effectively keeps brass and gas out of the face of left-handed shooters. The non-reciprocating charging handle may be placed on the right, left or both sides. The magazine release is likewise ambidextrous, with a push-button release located just ahead of the trigger guard. Once activated, the magazine drops freely.
While the 10-round magazine is adequate for many tasks, it keeps some users from going with the Hi-Point carbine now that larger magazines are available for competing carbines. Various extended solutions tend to be less reliable than the factory 10-rounder. In the design of the High Tower Armory MBS95 bullpup stock, HTA engineers built their solution to this limitation right into the stock. The magazine well is actually quite wide, featuring a single-stack sleeve inside.
The sleeve provides full-length support to the skinny 10-rounder, but can be removed to accommodate an anticipated double-stack, single-feed magazine based on HTA's own design. Once about 10,000 units of High Tower Armory MBS95 bullpup stock are sold, HTA will have the capital available to invest in the mold necessary to manufacture 25-30 round magazines.
Both the original carbine safety lever on the left of the receiver and the additional P90-style rotary safety under the trigger have to be off for the carbine to fire. Since the original lever is on the side of the body and may be activated by accident when slung, I, like most users I'd imagine, want to pin it in the off position and rely on the trigger block. The trigger mechanism is unconventional, using a spring-loaded wide trigger shoe over the trigger blade. This setup provides a long, soft take-up before a nice, smooth release. It's an excellent design for accuracy.
The learning curve comes in rapid fire, as there's no perceptible reset at any point. The trigger has to be released almost all the way forward like on double-action revolvers. Thanks to the wide front surface, the trigger pull feels light without actually being too light for field use. With the neutral balance of the carbine and the smooth trigger pull, all test shooters were easily able to ring 6-inch gong at 50 yards from a standing position, a feat that would have been rather more trying with a conventionally stocked firearm.
The bolt locks back on an empty magazine. For administrative clearing, the charging handle can be locked up into the receiver. The proximity of the charging handle to the side rails on the High Tower Armory MBS95 bullpup stock makes me wish the company had extended the top Picatinny rail all the way to the front instead of having a sloped front in the manner of the CZ-USA Scorpion EVO. Moving the top and side rails forward would have both extended the sight radius and reduced potential interference with mounted accessories. The designers expect that most users would use left-side charging handle and right-side rail only. Dropping the bolt from locked position is done with the charging handle only.
The High Tower Armory MBS95 bullpup stock is unusual in that it has both a conventional trigger guard and a full handguard. While the handguard is removable (I took it off because of its odd look), it turned out to work very well for firing from supported positions. It also contains a forward slot for a nylon sling and acts as protection for fingers on a shooter's strong hand. With the straight-line configuration, this stock effectively eliminates muzzle rise, a minor benefit in .380 ACP and 9 mm carbines. However, this feature becomes a significant benefit with larger calibers like the .45 ACP or 10 mm. Other benefits of the handguard include extensive mounting surfaces, which increase flexibility while overall weight remains almost the same.
The price of the High Tower Armory MBS95 bullpup stock is expected to be in the mid-$200s. However, like a good optic on an accurate rifle, this accessory improves the performance of the base Hi-Point carbine by great enough margin to justify the purchase. All controls were easy to use with gloves on but also not abrasive on bare hands. The improvement in handling alone makes the swap worthwhile, and the greatly eased maintenance cinches the deal. Large-scale availability is expected around the time of the 2018 NRA Annual Meetings in early May 2018. You can track production updates on High Tower Armory news page.