There are lots of cheap (or inexpensive, if you prefer) handguns, but only so many you’d actually want to have in your safe, glove box, car safe…wherever you store it. Or, for that matter, your concealed carry holster. Granted, that involves some qualifications.
What constitutes a “cheap” handgun? Materials could be a good starting point – a lot of striker-fired pistols have a certain feel to the grip and frame that is, shall we say, less than premium – but for the most part we’re talking about price point here.
Pricing, of course, is relative. What’s affordable for you may not be affordable for me. And you can spend about $350 and get a semi-automatic pistol that will run just as well as one that costs almost double that amount. Then again, some $450 handguns are a bargain with the features they come with, so price points are not always what you’d think.
Additionally, you can easily spend less than $350 and get a serviceable handgun. What’s not necessarily as easy is to get a handgun you’d actually want. Hi-Point gets little love from most people… though there are a good number of owners who report their Hi-Point run better than guns from names that are much more highly regarded. The same can be said of Kel-Tec.
That said, what are some cheap handguns that almost anyone would be happy to have? Here are seven examples, with some qualifiers.
First, police surplus pistols deserve mention as a sort of catch-all here, as decent police surplus models are (often) affordable handguns that have been rode hard, put away yet (and look the part), but will usually be in fine working order mechanically. Mostly you’ll find modern semi-automatic pistols, but the odd revolver thrown in there too, from time to time.
Beretta 92 pistols are quite easily found as police surplus, as the 92FS is one of the most popular duty pistols worldwide. You’ll also find quite a selection of GLOCK, Smith & Wesson and SIG Sauer pistols as well. That said, the GLOCK, Smigh and SIG pistols will typically be .40 S&W models…but not always.
There are also a great many police surplus Model 10 .38 special revolvers, and you may find the odd Model 13 (same gun but in .357 Magnum) Model 19 or Model 66.
You aren’t going to find any surplus Colt Pythons, so forget it.
Surplus police pistols aren’t always the best concealed carry guns, though you will find a good number of GLOCK 23 and 19 pistols, Sig P229s, a few P228s and so on. For most, expect to spend $400 or less, but you can plan to part with a little more for the SIGs.
Without doubt, one of the most popular cheap handguns is the Taurus PT111 G2, which has recently been rebranded the G2C. (The “C” is for “Compact.”) A lot more people than you’d think are carrying one. Don’t let Taurus’s reputation for spotty quality control fool you. The G2C is a very affordable option for both concealed carry and home defense, available for around $300 at Cabela’s and Brownells.
For those looking for a single-action .45 ACP, look no further than Rock Island Armory. The word has been out for some time that they offer a lot of bang for the buck. Is their fit and finish always the best? Maybe not, but it’s better than Colt pistols were back in the day.
The GI series is bare-bones but can be had for a song, going for under $500 in most stores. If you want a GI-spec(ish) 1911 or a project gun that you can get into for not much money, it doesn’t get much better. And the options don’t end there; you can find an RIA in 9mm, 10mm, even in .22 TCM and .380.
The 1911 crowd is also well-served by the Remington R1 1911. The base model pistol is often found for far less than its MSRP (which is $779) would suggest. Scoring one for around $550 is very easily done. It’s also American-made, rather than being Filipino in origin, for those who care about such things. Fitment on Big Green’s 1911s is as good as some guns costing double the price and they are silly accurate for a bare-bones gun… and they don’t come with those awful GI sights.
If a .22 LR pistol is what you want, a lot of people consider the Browning Buckmark to be one of the best you can get. The cheapest among them starts under $400 ($389 MSRP) but can often be found for around $300 and under in most stores. The Ruger Mark IV also deserves a mention here, as they can usually be found for about the same price and are one of the .22 long rifle pistols by which others are judged.
The Ruger LC/EC series certainly warrants mention as well. Basically every example can be had for less than $400; less than $300 is easily done. You have your choice of .380 or 9mm pistols, though the latter will be a little larger. While the .380 ACP models can be a had for a little less, it’s recommended that you select the striker-fired versions rather than the DAO models.
The last (but certainly not least) cheap handgun that’s well worth the price of admission? The Smith & Wesson M&P Shield. Sourcing one for less than $350 is easily done. As far as concealed carry goes, it’s one of the most popular guns for that purpose in production to date. Accurate, reliable, and far easier on the shooter than its small size would suggest… what more could you ask for?
You’ll no doubt have lots of other cheap handguns that you like better than those in this group. Sound off in the comments!