Review: Phoenix HP25A — Useful or Useless?

The pistol reviewed invites cliché. As long as it begins with “four” has been a strong motto for most of my handgunning life, but then I am a great believer in the .357 Magnum. The .22 LR is a fine recreational caliber, but the .25 ACP was designed purely for personal defense. The jacketed bullet and centerfire case are more reliable than the .22 rimfire with its heel-based bullet. A 50-grain FMJ bullet at 650 fps isn’t an impressive loading. But then, the best gun is the one you have with you, and this is a handgun that you may always have at hand—even though you may be in the unenviable position of being armed with a deadly weapon, yet still unable to defend yourself well. That being said, there has been a steady market for .25 ACP pistols for over 100 years, and the Phoenix HP25 fills that niche as well as any and better than most.

The pistol features good workmanship and proved reliable.
The pistol features good workmanship and proved reliable.

There is also a .22 caliber version, which I have extensive experience with. That is a neat little pistol that is a lot of fun to fire. It hardly ever ties up and offers good accuracy for the size. The HP25A, then, should be similar in performance. The made in the USA HP25A is a single-action self-loading pistol with a compact design. The handle allows a full firing grip for most hands.

The pistol weighs a solid 20 ounces. That is more than many 9mm or .38 caliber hideout pistols. The HP25A features a three-inch vent ribbed barrel. The sights are excellent for a pocket pistol. There is an adjustable rear sight and a post front. These sights are much better than the usual fare in pocket guns. If you are counting on shot placement, then you need good sights. The pistol is about the right size to be called a .25 ACP target gun! Let’s clear the air first; the piece retails for less than $150, so keep this in perspective.

The pistol is devoid of sharp edges. The design is pleasing. The handgun is light, small, affordable and would be an ideal backup or last ditch handgun—even, dare I say, for those going armed in a non-permissive environment. I had a good friend, now retired, that went into the classroom every single day with an AMT Backup .380 under his shirt, later replaced with a Kel Tec .380. He told me that he wasn’t going to let the high school kids kill him.

The .25 ACP, far left, compared to the .22 LR and .32 ACP. It is no powerhouse!
The .25 ACP, far left, compared to the .22 LR and .32 ACP. It is no powerhouse!

Later, he remarked, he wasn’t going to let anyone kill his kids, so his feelings had mellowed. A good friend was a psychiatric nurse. She went to work every day with a Colt .25 automatic in a hand-sewn bra holster. She loved her patients but she was not going to let them kill her. (Three psychiatrists have been killed at Riker’s Island that I know of.) I worked an assignment in which I was legally armed but it was imperative that no one knew I was armed save for a client at the top of the rung. The direct bosses above me were some of the silliest men I have ever met, afraid of their own shadow, people of color, poor people, and those with poorly developed social skills.

Apparently, they were as afraid of me as the bad guys. They felt that cameras were the answer to everything and wasted thousands of dollars worth of hard earned money. I wore a snub nose .38 or a light 9mm in a Galco belly band. I can see someone on a very limited budget fitting the Phoenix into their plans. Many working cops carried .25 ACP pistols as a backup when I began police work. Others preferred the High Standard .22 Magnum derringer and later the mini revolver became popular. There was never a better cop than Tom Ferguson. He told me a beating heart is just a few inches behind the breast bone. Put the .25 there, he said, and it just may work. Tom owned and carried several Colt .25 ACP pistols.

There are a lot of features in the Phoenix for the money. There is even an undercut trigger guard and an enlarged magazine button. If you deploy this pistol be certain to spend sufficient time with the manual of arms. This is a reason I have stuck with the 1911 and double-action revolvers for so long. The manual of arms, once put into memory, isn’t difficult. With the HP25A we have two manual safeties. The safety located by the upper grip locks the slide and the trigger. With the safety off the magazine cannot be removed. The safety must be on to insert the magazine in the handgun.

The safety takes some getting used to. Be certain to thoroughly understand the safety functions.
The safety takes some getting used to. Be certain to thoroughly understand the safety functions.

The firing pin block is located on the rear sight. This is borrowed from the French M35A. Now, theoretically, you have to move the primary safety down and the firing pin safety up to make the pistol ready for firing. That is too much for me, too much for you, and for anyone else. Two safeties moving at different attitudes. There is no real reason to keep both on. The firing pin safety seems essential, as the gun may fire if it is dropped.

Keep the firing pin safety on and the trigger safety off would be my call, but then again, it is your hide. I generally would not carry a pistol chamber empty but then I don’t carry a .25 ACP either. However, the HP25 is a good candidate. Rack the slide and you are ready to fire. Be certain to study the manual of arms if you adopt this pistol. If carried with a round in the chamber, the hammer must be cocked before the piece is fired.

Firing impressions were good. I lubricated the pistol well and loaded with Winchester Western 50-grain FMJ. The cartridges were so old, they were headstamped Western, I also had on hand a small quantity of Remington UMC, equally old. Be certain to load the magazine properly and then tap the back of the magazine against a boot heel to seat the magazines after loading three or four cartridges then load the rest.

The pistols sights are well above average for a pocket gun.
The pistols sights are well above average for a pocket gun.

The trigger action is heavy and the break is abrupt. The Lyman electronic trigger pull gauge registered 7 pounds. I fired more than 50 cartridges in rapid fire. I fired at five to seven yards. I could get headshots at five yards, but it demanded attention to every detail. It wasn’t difficult to get eight rounds into the X ring quickly at close range. As for absolute accuracy, I leaned against the barricade and fired slowly at 7 yards and placed five of eight rounds into a single ragged hole. At 10-yard2, the group was three inches. The pistol is accurate enough to pop a rodent or snake a few feet away and save your life with proper shot placement. I will leave the final choice up to you.

I have not seen the .25 ACP in action but arrived just after the action and read a few reports. These tales have zero value, the only means of testing ammunition performance is by carefully firing into tissue simulant. These so called stopping power studies, if the results even exist, are no means of comparing loads, the factors involved are simply unpredictable. However, these tales are gleaned from police reports and give an indication of the results to be had from the .25 ACP.

In an attempted suicide, a fellow fired into his temple. The bullet skilled along the skull and gave him quite a hemorrhage and concussion. He put a wad of tissue to his head and walked to the party downstairs. Someone noticed he was bleeding as he collapsed. He lived but was somewhat affected. In another case a cab driver was assaulted by an armed robber. The cabbie saw his chance and when the rear door came between him and the robber the cabbie fired four rounds as quickly as possible from his .25 and ran. The robber ran as well and was never found. Probably home treated if he was hit at all.

Phoenix provides one quality all steel magazine. Note the big button magazine release.
Phoenix provides one quality all steel magazine. Note the big button magazine release.

In another case a peace officer was assaulted and could not reach his duty weapon. The .25 was drawn and the offender hit six times with little effect, but he surrendered. In another case, a man I personally knew was shot once in the side with a .25. This was among the toughest men I had known and a real scrapper. He was at least 280 pounds. Some fat but a lot of muscle. He staggered back a few feet and collapsed and spent six weeks in the hospital.

The final case shows the value of a pistol, any pistol, and seemed the ideal use for a .25. The father of a friend owned one pistol, a Colt 25. He was convinced this was all he needed. One night a burglar broke into his basement and was going through the contents. My friends father opened the inside door the basement to ask the party to leave. He was met with a string of curses and threats. A single .25 caliber round was discharged into a waste can. The burglar exited through a window frame, leaving behind broken glass and blood. The .25 ACP has been around a long time and isn’t likely to be going anywhere soon. The Phoenix HP25A is the most accurate .25 I have ever fired and seems reliable. It offers peace of mind and comfort for a small price.


What is your impression of the .25 ACP? Have you fired the Phoenix HP25A? What were your experiences with it? Share your answers in the comment section.


About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (27)

  1. I have a HP 22 and it is my favorite gun to shoot. However, you have to be careful and buy the right ammo. 1150 fps or below. This is relatively hard to come by and is kind of a pain to have to order it online.You seldom find it on sale at walmart! I have several other guns of varying caliber but really like shooting the Phoenix Arms. So if you like the gun buy and shoot it! Planning on getting the HP 25 because I really enjoy shooting the .22 version and will enjoy the reliability of the round and low recoil.

  2. Be advised that the open slide has two very thin sides .
    Go on line and read about the crack slides .

    I had the slide break of and hit me in the face luckily it was
    A .22. And it took out the sear before it hit me with a good wallop .

    Phoenix replaced the slide and sear for free and I sold the gun.
    You get what you pay for , pot metal gun are not a bargain and are not safe.

    1. NONSENSE !!!!!!!! Many Phoenix Arms owners have had up to 10,000 rounds through their firearm without any problems. You simply have to clean and lube it after each use and after extended storage periods, and adhere to the manufacturers recommendations.

    2. There was a time, early on, when there was a number of reports of the HP-22 having cracked slide issues. There has always been a statement in the owner’s guide saying to use only “standard” velocity ammunition. It was found that the vast majority of the cracked slides were the direct results of using “hyper-velocity” ammunition in .the 22LR firearms.

  3. Keep in mind that any gelatin test is a controlled experiment conducted under controlled conditions! The results are “controlled” results! They may be highly informative as to what happens under controlled conditions, but when compared to actual gunshot statistics, they have little correlation.

    Any test medium that is used that is not an actual “human body” is a laboratory experiment. It may be consistent and it may lead to consistent statistical results, but IT IS NOT A HUMAN BODY! No amount of laboratory testing will positively match the results obtained from “uncontrolled” actual shooting incidents on human flesh and bones!

    Gelatin tests are useful for controlled statistical comparison, but they are not actual historical results obtained from uncontrolled “real life incidents and situations”. Using laboratory tests under controlled conditions would be like trying to compare theoretical political and economic systems of government without considering actual “Historical Fact”! It just won’t match!

  4. The .25 may have it’s place, but…I’ve been involved in healthcare for a shade over 30 years and while working in the ER…we had a guy come in, Code 3, who had been shot 5 times with a .25. ALL 5 shots were over the heart and, per police report, had been fired from approximately 1 meter. The guy got off the stretcher and walked into the ER. He wound up being a ‘treat and street’. This guy was not all that big, either. Convinced me that the .25 was not a caliber for defense. Oh, and he beat the crap out of the guy who shot him…’after’ he had been shot.

  5. I would rather have this little .25 than a sharp stick but, as long as I can hide a Glock 19 with an additional magazine, with a +2 floor plate (32 rounds of 9mm), while wearing shorts and a t-shirt, I’m going to keep on keeping on. This info is good to know though.

  6. I have a 1926 Colt .25 that belonged to my grandfather that is in near new condition. I am curious as to anyone having experience with the Winchester Ammo that has a hollowed out nose in the projective and a bal placed within the hollowed out place. The last time I saw them a couple years ago they were about $45. per box locally when ordered (Wv). Any current sources or thoughts on it practicality.

  7. For a different – and useful, I think – take on testing vs. life experience, I recommend you read the article by Greg Ellifritz of Active Response Training titled “An Alternate Look at Handgun Stopping Power.”
    It is based on over 1700 actual shootings in a variety of situations. If you are impatient, you can watch the YouTube video summarizing the report. It is found here:
    While it does NOT prove that testing in ballistic gel is a myth or anything like it, it gives some real world results that a true believer in ballistic gel testing might find surprising.

    1. Sound like more of the SANOW and MARSHALL junk science. Such a article is highly suspect and the proof of it is less than the standards for a small town traffic court. After more than twenty years police experience I find such so called studies laughable and junk science at best, good faction at worst.
      Of course gelation testing isn’t going to be proven a myth it is reliable, repeatable and verifiable. Don’t be caught up in this rubbish

  8. I use the bottom of the magazine to push the takedown lever forward, as it is really hard to get enough grip with the bare fingers. I also use the back of the mag to simulate the barrel as I reassemble the slide. This keeps the recoil spring from popping out as you compress it. I have the 22LR version and put a piece of paperclip under the magazine safety so it can be fired during a mag change and filed the trigger safety to enlarge the curved portion. This now allows the mag to be dropped with the safety off like any other gun. Can’t be beat for the money.

  9. I just bought the Phoenix HP25 this week. I was hitting steel targets at 25 yards after a little practice. I agree the safeties are too much (but I plan to fix them). I bought the extended grip magazine, which improves handling. It is a great size for discreet carrying.

    On the other hand, I still have not been able field strip the gun. The takedown lever/slide will not budge even after shooting 70 rounds.

  10. I’ve been carrying a PSP-25 for over 20 years. I’ve never had to use it, but the tiny size is a must for certain clothing in my locale’s warm climate. (My normal carry gun is a Ruger LCPII in .380.)

    With regard to effectiveness, the author does not discuss any bullet besides FMJ. Speer Gold-Dot makes an excellent 35-gr hollow point round that cycles well and presumably offers better ballistics. I have had problems with Hornady’s HP offering in .25 caliber.

  11. There is a YouTube vid on disabling one of the safeties on the Phoenix HP guns. You have to trim a thin metal part. Use tin snips and it is easy. But an extra of the part for a few dollars – worth it. Once that is done it is a really cool gun that can go from short to longer barrel.

  12. This is completely useless gun IMO. Why on earth would someone carry a 20 oz gun that shoots such a wimpy cartridge? If you are recoil sensitive there are .38’s and 9mm that weigh same or less.

  13. I have a pocket .25 but would only use it in very close proximity shoots. I would prefer the .22 loaded with CCI Stinger HP’s. I do like the size of this little pistol. I also can relate a situation of death at the hands of a .25. The man was shot once in the throat, cut the artery and bled out. Another incident happened when I was still in High School. A man threatened the man he caught with his wife and eventually a fight ensued. The aggressor shot the woman’s lover but ended up dead because the guy beat him to death with a tire iron, even after having been shot with the .25.

  14. I own 2 Phoenix Arms HP25’s. I don’t have much of substance to add to the article- the HP25 is everything mentioned and more: Extremely accurate at ranges within seven yards, reliable as any pistol on the market and fit and finish is very good for the price point. The accuracy is attributed to the truly good sights (adjustable rear sight in a
    $150. Gun!) and a grip suitable to the average male. I will add Phoenix Arms has excellent customer service as well. Questions are addressed quickly and clearly and should you have to return a unit, no problem. They back their products 100%. Several years ago I had bought my first one and had an issue with the gun occasionally not going into full battery. It was repaired and turned around in about three weeks. The issue was a result of a very small sliver of brass lodged in the headspace that I couldn’t see.

  15. I have an older Phoenix Raven, .25ACP. I love that lil thing. Surprisingly accurate, reliable, loud as hell, and VERY easy to conceal. I’ve had this conversation many times, its still 6+1, 1/4″ burning holes in whatever you’re shooting at. Along with the volume of the report, it has been a very good CCW. Only actually pulled it once, emptied it and totally cleared the area. Seems that gunfire, is gunfire. Most people wont try to determine what caliber weapon is being fired, they just want to be AWAY from it. It squelched quite a large bar fight, without hurting a soul. If you ask me….a perfect deployment. Just dont expect to swap out magazines with any speed. Its clumsy to say the least. If you can’t do the job with 7 shots, choose another weapon. I will own mine till I die.

    As always
    Carry on

  16. I have a Raven hp25 that I carry if I’m just running to the store if I don’t want to holster up my 1911 or my versa thunder. I consider it a shoot and retreat weapon. Most bad guys will scatter if you start shooting giving me time to retreat because they’re not expecting for a victim to open up on them.

  17. A friend of mine bought one of these when we went to a local gun show.

    The Phoenix Pistol is the biggest piece of crap next to a HiPoint I’ve ever seen used before. The fact that it’s made in California should’ve been a clue to him. But nope, he had to by a cheap 25 ACP just because he wanted one.

  18. mine is the hp22 lr which never had an issue to fire and cycle. i have 5 of these phoenix hp22a’sve it. i do own a Jennings 25 acp, which i love also. these under rated firearms are very good quality, never failed to shoot or cycle.
    i have 5 of these hp22’s one in each vehicle i own, so all of the family is protected, we all have ccw’s yet not always carry one on us, like at work etc. i even have a 5″ barrel for target practice. great firearm to own. i call them my summer carry guns.
    i may wish the caliber had a bit more ummph, tho like any caliber it is about shot placement.

  19. If I ever considered shooting a 22 caliber pistol for protection, I’d prefer the barrel to be 2 inches longer & chambered for the 22 WMR. However I doubt we’ll ever see that manufactured.
    Kel-Tec makes one in 22LR that has a capacity of 33 rounds. I’d think if the demand was there, with modifications, they might chamber it for for 22 WMR. They’re shipping 500 a week with the 22 LR cartridge.

  20. While the 25ACP is not the most desirable caliber, it is functional and viable. It has roughly the same power at close range as the 22LR but is far more due to it being a centerfire cartridge. While I have heard many tales about the .25ACPs failures, my only personal knowledge concerning this round was during my time with the Los Angeles Sherriffs Dept. There was an incident involving 2 “Gang-bangers” where one was shot in the chest at a very close range and expired immediately on the spot.

    I have both the HP-22 and the HP-25A. The HP-22 I have had for over 20 years and have fired probably at least 5,000 rounds through it. Other than a rare “FTE”, I have only had one mechanical failure since I purchased the weapon. That was a broken firing pin spring after more than 4,000 rounds. I contacted Phoenix and was immediately shipped a new spring. It has not failed me since.

    As for the HP-25A, I have only put about 500 rounds through it but have never encountered a firing or mechanical problem. I have tried various brands of both 35gr HP and 50 gr solid rounds without a problem. The 35gr I would not recommend for personal defense as it has very low penetration. The 50 gr is the better choice. Though it doesn’t have the expansion capability, the penetration is much greater. Recently, I have been hand-loading some 25ACP rounds with 55gr cast lead HP bullets. So far my testing has shown good promise.

    While the Phoenix HP-25A is not in the same class as a Berretta, neither is the price! The Phoenix HP-25A is a good choice for someone that is extremely “recoil sensitive” and wants the functional reliability of this caliber.

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