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The RG23 is the quintessential cheap handgun and never had a good reputation. Many owners have claimed a lack of reliability, so I suspect that quality control wasn’t in the same class as the old Smith & Wesson revolvers. The rough trigger makes accuracy difficult, even for experienced shooters. The steel inserts in Zamak alloy construction are corrosion cells waiting to happen. The revolvers are so inexpensive, they are not economically worth repairing. They sold, in 1969, for 19.95.  The current price on the used market is around $50. But, they are guns . . .

They will put a hole in someone most of the time, if the shooter does their part. More importantly, they’re recognizable as being a real gun. That’s important because in the vast majority of defensive gun uses, the person holding the gun doesn’t have to pull the trigger. They just have to show that they’re willing to shoot. Most guns used defensively are used for deterrence, rather than to injure or kill.

That is precisely what happened with the RG23 in the photo above. From

When he came out they found the thief rummaging through his garage and all of their lawn equipment moved on the verge of being stolen.

That’s when Taylor grabbed his pistol and held the burglar up until police could get there.

“He was compliant with what I told him to do. But he was scared he was real scared,” said Taylor “He kept saying he didn’t move anything and I probably would have let him go if he didn’t just stop lying and then when I saw all my stuff pulled out and he was going to steal it, it kind of made me angry”

“Scared.” “Compliant.” Imparting the emotion to obtain the response is the major purpose of the defensive pistol in peacetime. Peaceful and responsible gun owners don’t want to shoot anyone. They want criminals to be scared so as to be compliant and deterred. In the worst case, they want to be able to stop crazy, drugged up, drunk, or reckless perpetrators who are not scared or compliant.

Fortunately, the cases when shooting is necessary are relatively rare. That’s why there are only about 1,000 to 1,500 cases of justifiable homicide every year in the United States. The FBI Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) only catches about 20% of those, about 300 a year, due to the way in which the UCR has cases reported and defined.

Even a cheap pistol is gun enough nearly all the time. I prefer tough, well made, accurate, easy-to-shoot, powerful, durable pistols. The market has told me that’s what most people prefer, too. But there’s a market and a purpose for cheap guns, too. And always will be.

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.
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  1. Nothing wrong with buying a cheap gun, unless you’re just being cheap a$$ and don’t want to admit it…

    I know people who buy new cars every two years, who eat out almost every night, and go on vacation three times a year, who, also, cringe at a $500 price tag on a gun…

    Which doesn’t make a lick of sense to me.

    If you are broke, then I totally get it. However, if you’re just being a cheap skate, which is fine, too, just admit you’re being a cheap skate.

    • Not to get off topic but when i first moved out on my own I used to eat out all the time. I mean nearly everyday.

      I stopped that and it was like winning a small lottery. It’s probably the biggest financial drain. Can buy a week’s worth of chicken for the price of a fast food meal.

      • Eating out is probably the single most financially wasteful thing people do.

        And the worst part about it is there are some who are in denial about it.

        I’ve literally had people tell me they eat out everyday because it is cheaper than buying groceries, which is clearly absurd.

        If you want to eat out, by all means; just call a spade, a spade.

        • When I was single, it was cheaper in regards to time, effort, and money to eat out than to cook for myself. There’s lots of things that are cheaper to do yourself but not worth the time to actually do it yourself, that’s why you hire someone else to do it.

        • There’s another bonus too, you know that your meal was prepared by someone who washed his hands after visiting the loo. Assuming you do wash your hands after visiting the loo.

        • Some people have no idea how to cook. Despite the abundance of cooking shows, foodie culture and the rest, there’s a wide swath of people that would be challenged to cook a scratch meal, let alone if you didn’t have a grocery store to get the food from.

        • To Omar:

          “When I was single, it was cheaper in regards to time…”



          No doubt.

          “… and money to eat out than to cook for myself.”

          Doubt it. Unless you just ate off the dollar menu at fast places every meal, everyday.

        • Mr. 308, it may be law or regulation to wash your hands, but as we often say here, laws are only for the law abiding. The various hepatitis outbreaks testify to this. I’m very scrupulous about washing hands before prepping family meals. Plus I know exactly what ingredients go into them. So for me, the only advantage of eating out is fun.

        • If you’re eating Wendy’s 4 for $4 meal every day, it’s certainly cheaper.
          If you’re eating Panera or anything where the total meal approaches $10-$15 per person, then probably not.

          I’m not going to delve into the healthy aspects of any of that though.

        • “There’s lots of things that are cheaper to do yourself but not worth the time to actually do it yourself, that’s why you hire someone else to do it.”

          That’s just silly. Tell me how much you suffer tossing a whole chicken into a crock pot and sprinkling lemon pepper on it in the morning before going to work, then opening a can of peas when you get home. You’ve probably wasted 30-45 seconds by now. And you have 2 yummy dinners. Eating out is throwing money away. I know, I do it all the time, nicest restaurants I can find, sometimes aboard ships! And I overtip. But that does not change the fact that it’s a waste of money. I can afford to do that, and still buy ammo, so life is good.

        • Well perhaps if you insist on shopping at Whole Foods, don’t plan well and let food spoil, etc which I see a lot of people do then it can get pretty close…

        • When I was going to college I would go to the DQ across the street and order a value burger (sometimes two!), a small fry and a water two times a day. $6-7/day

          If my mom gave me any money then I’d go to the store and buy all kinds of microwavable food, a case of pop, a gallon of milk (that sometimes ruined) orange juice, and all kinds of other snacks. $50-70/week

          I ate everything thing that I bought in a week.

          Long story short, it was MUCH cheaper to eat out for me. I ate less and it was shitty food (usually either way) but it was cheaper to eat out.

        • Omer baker
          “not worth the time to actually do it yourself”???
          Just how much work is it to open a can of chili or beef stew? Or boil water and drop in some Ramen noodles? Yeah its awful hard, turning on the tap, holding a kettle for a minute, cutting through all that plastic….
          Much easier to have a filthy homeless person who hasn’t washed his hands in a year stuff your wormburger into a bag……

    • From my experience, people don’t buy $500 guns not strictly because they’re penny-pinches, but because they aren’t gun people. They’re not going to the range every week. They’re not aware of every type of gun that’s available on the market. They couldn’t tell you the difference between 9mm and .45 ACP. They just know “gun”.
      And to add on top of that, most local DGUs that I’ve tracked involved cheap 9mms that were only fired once at the perp which was enough to resolve the situation.

      • I suppose I’m just not that way, so my mind has difficultly getting around it. I don’t make life changing choices without doing research first.

        And going from no gun to one gun is a huge step… Yuge!

        • You’re right. You’re not that way. Because you’re an individual. And everyone is different. Not everyone views getting a gun as a “life-changing event”. Some just see it as buying another product and that’s it. You’re obviously a “gun person” because you’re here on this blog. Maybe it’s hard to see a mentality that doesn’t involve being invested in “gun culture” but believe me, it exists.

  2. Cheep-o is better than zee-ro when it comes to guns. That’s why Hi Points and JA’s will always have their niche and their purpose. It’s been said here before that economic status has no impact on the right and ability to self-defense. I’m lucky enough to be able to afford nicer guns (nicer than HP’s and JA’s anyway), but even if I couldn’t, and a cheapo was the best I could do, I’ll gladly take it.

    • As I’ve said a number of times, I am very glad those companies are out there since I want all law-abiding* people armed, but I’m also glad I can afford something better.

      *I refer here to those who abide by malum in se laws, not the much smaller (probably empty) class of people who’ve never committed an act that should not be illegal, but (surprise!) is actually a felony.

  3. Better than a rock, not going to give it much more than that. As Bacardi once said in this case it just happens to get the job done.

  4. Craftsman is good, Snap-On is nice, Beta is jewelry, but Harbor Freight will get the job done if it’s all you can afford. .

    • Well these days I’ll take Harbor Freight over Craftsmen, at least they’ll replace broken stuff in store, not some mail in process…

      • Egads. When did that happen? I’ve had them replace a couple of gear mechs in ratchets around last year. Done in store by the one old-schooler who knew how. You have to mail stuff now?

        I know Sears has been dying for a decade, but I thought the one thing that would survive was Craftsman.

  5. If you can’t rely on it to go bang the first time, you might as well use a race starting pistol.

    • Nice to go bang when you want or need it to, but if the primary reason for a pistol is deterrence then anything will do. Dillinger broke out of jail with a crudely shaped bar of soap painted with black shoe polish. And an awful lot of stop & robs go down with BB guns or Airsoft replicas. If someone calls your bluff you are screwed, but most times brandishing gets the job done.

  6. My first pistol was a Raven Arms .25ACP. Don’t remember what I paid for it, but I was making $75.00 per week as an assistant manager of a movie theater, so it couldn’t have been much. I carried that pistol every day in Dayton, Ohio and luckily never had to put it to the test.

    As soon as I was promoted to Manager ($150.00 per week!) I upgraded to an S&W Model 29.

      • A friend who managed another theater was counting the take one night when the front door (glass) was smashed in. He went to investigate, confronted the intruder with his Raven .25, and was waylaid by the intruder’s partner. They relieved him of his pistol and shot him twice before exiting with nothing to show for their trouble except the cheep gun. Jim was hit twice, spent some time in the hospital, then joined the Cincinnati police department where he worked until retirement.

        Shortly after this incident I was promoted to manager of the same theater where he had been shot so I retired my .25 ACP and upgraded to a nice .357.

  7. Now add a $1,000 gun tax on top of the price and you see how the comparison to the poll taxes works. It is an underhanded way to deprive the poor of a natural/civil right. John Lott makes this point all the time.

  8. it is not a question of economic status, it is a question of ” What is your life worth?.” Anyone willing to gamble with their life on weather or not the gun will go off every time, (Ammo discussion due here as well ), is ill informed and poorly guided.

  9. I worked scores of shootings in the projects during the 70s-80s where the RG in 38 or 32 were the weapons of choice. That and the Clerke 1st was all you saw back then. Around the mid 80s the high capacity 9mm came into favor with the emergence of gangs. The RGs and Clerkes were cheap junk, but would definitely make you dead.

      • In an earlier day it would have–and didn’t it take out someone besides the Pres?

        • Several people were wounded in the attack, including a Secret Service agent. Another of the wounded was none other than James Brady.

        • Brady finally died and they now say that he wasn’t wounded but it was just delayed murder. He lived like 25 years with that extra .22 hole in the head. But it was a head pretty full of holes already anyway…

  10. I have one with hundreds of rounds through it. It’s deadly accurate in single action, with a 3 inch barrel. It was cheap to shoot too, until 22lr became scarce in 2013.

    Double action is a little spotty with the factory spring, but you can get a heavier spring for about 15 bucks.

  11. I had a former friend that had one of these, and to say that my cheap gun ( J22) function better than his RB-23. It used 22shorts, mind 22LR, is saying a lot. Mine jammed over other round, his had light strikes on entire cylinders. These are basically starter pistols, not defensive guns.

  12. In my early carry years. I felt almost secure carrying my wunnful Davis 380 “duck” gun. All of $65 new. I thought for the most part it would go bang at the time at least once. It didn’t when needed. Then with my increasingly vast gun knowledge. I moved up to a Taurus 85CH for $200. Was pretty sure that would go bang once?? Didn’t know at the time shooting a few +Ps would bind up the cylinder. Again when almost needed. Next up was a Star FireStar $300 Jam O matic. Get my progression here. Said the heck with it and blew the then princely sum of $600 for a Hi-Power. My favorite gun to this day. Cheap and feeling secure don’t always go hand and hand. Real gun or not. One should never skimp on a device meant to save your life. Even if it means a few less Big Macs for lunch for a few months.

    • You’ve gotta tell me more about your Firestar! I’ve got a 9mm M43 and it is rock solid and reliable.

      Awful trigger but otherwise I love it.

      • My Fire Star was one of the 1st guns back in 92,93 or so out in 40S&W. The 9mm may have been a better gun?? Mine just never worked right. It was OK slow deliberate firing say in a range setting. But I couldn’t do a double tap most of the time. I almost got kicked off the firing line of a defensive course I was taking with it. Jammed left and right. Mostly double feeds. Don’t know. 1st and last time Ive ever used BIazer aluminum. Also had my 1 and only ND, AD call it what you want. Took a chunk of the palm of my left hand off. As you know the gun is a lot like todays Sig P238,938 family. You can unload it cocked and locked with the safety on. Being 1911 stylish. I carried it cocked and locked. After a long day. Get home take the holster off. Drop the mag, grab the slide by the muzzle end to unload the round in the chamber, pull the slide back rather briskly…………BANG. Muzzle blast got me. Turns out the firing pin safety wasn’t working. Firing pin was stuck in the out position!!! Sort of a slam fire thing. God only knows how long I was walking around with the firing pin resting on a live round. Anyway gun went back to CS, repaired and I traded it in the same day I got it back. Still have a slight indentation in my hand where I guess you can say I shot myself.

        • Ahh, I see. I read that some folks have had trouble with the .40, but it’s a mixed bag so perhaps your early example was not as it should have been,

          Sad that it went so badly for you. I shamelessly pimp the 30M to anyone in need of an inexpensive gun that does what it’s supposed to do. I know, no parts, no support. To me the price/value math works. I can always grab another foe nice dinner money if one of mine breaks.

        • Ahh I did hear bad things about firing pin failures in the very early ones. No problems with mine yet, and no reliability issues either (but I don’t shoot Tula anymore, so it might not like that).

          I’d love to get a Model 28/3x. I’ve seen a Model 31P in that glorious Starvel finish that I would do unspeakable things for.

  13. If someone is an immediate deadly threat, just how wise is it to try the deterrent effect of a gun rather than go right to the incapacitating (of the bad guy) function?

  14. “That’s why there are only about 1,000 to 1,500 cases of justifiable homicide every year in the United States” – Just curious – according to whom?

  15. Yup. Have a gun. Although my actual 1st gun I bought was a 1890’s nickel plated revolver 32 (H&R?)that he said he fired once at 10feet and missed the target…I paid him $25 and sold it to a guy I knew at a gun show(after I determined it wasn’t priceless). But I bet it would scare some azzwhole.

  16. For many, the pursuit of perfection prevents anything, even the ‘good enough’, from happening.

  17. Around the world, and for over a century now, the lupara (chopped down pistol shotgun) has been the poor man’s go to gun for crime and legitimate defense. Simple, reliable, cheap, and deadly thus why the National Firearms Act of 1934 went after them.

  18. I picked up a “broken” RG-42 in .25acp at a gun show for $35 last month. Turns out the pistol is just notoriously un-intuitive to take down/reassemble, and the guy I bought it from was an older fella who obviously didn’t immediately think “google it” like I did. Put it back together, shoots well. I wouldn’t bet my life on it, but it does slip easily into a pocket and so far has been 100% reliable. Then again, I only put 10rnds through it, as .25 isn’t exactly everywhere. Makes a nice range toy/conversation piece.

    In case you are wondering, my actual carry pistol is an S&W Shield 9mm. Much more reliable, much more common ammo, not much bigger.

  19. My cheap Bersa Thunder 380 will do the job if necessary. Reliable and will probably last for a long time even after putting hundreds of rounds down range.

  20. My wife’s grandmother had a RG23. We inherited it and after firing it one time we decided to clean it and put it away. At some point we will disable it and put it in a shadowbox. It’s one of the only things that my wife has from her grandmother. It may only be worth $50, but it’s priceless to my wife.

  21. Cheap guns? Back in the day I carried a Davis D-32 derringer as a back up. It rode in my left front pocket. I picked up six .32 Glaser fragmenting rounds for it because I believed their hype,and thought that they were effective rounds. I’ve put about 25 rounds of Winchester ball through the Davis. I didn’t shoot the Glasers at $2.00 a round. It went bang every time I pulled the trigger and hit the target at conversational distances. I still have the gun, the Glasers and half a box of Winchester .32 ACP although I haven’t shot it in 20 years. At the time I was carrying a Smith 686 as my duty pistol which was a pretty nice pistol. I still have the 686 and if I had to go back to a wheel gun I wouldn’t feel poorly armed. I’ll admit that the Davis was a POS but it worked and it made me feel a little more confident.

  22. Upon moving in to a really bad neighborhood while attending college the need for something larger than the Ruger MKII my father had given me was impressed upon me in just a couple days.

    I borrowed some money from dear old dad and picked up a Star BM and a box of 9mm for $212.81 after tax. Still got the receipt and the gun. Nice little pistol really, too bad parts are so hard to find these days.

    So began my habit of buying quality guns at low prices. New or gently used, doesn’t matter but the only gun I’ve ever paid “full price” for was my USP and 75% of my firearms were NIB when purchased.

  23. There are people so destitute that the cheap gun is all they can afford but most people who do buy cheap guns are just “Cheap People” they do not realize that the cheap products they buy will often fail them when they need them most or if they do work they do not perform to the level that was expected. At that point the “cheap person” then realizes he has wasted his money and then he must spend some more money to buy something of quality which by that time may no longer be in production or the price now has skyrocketed to astronomical levels. So therefore he has lost financially not once but twice.

    All this reminds me of the back woods Moron who buys a low priced military rifle and then decides to turn it into something it was never meant to be which is a sporter. He then ends up spending way more money than if he would have just went out and bought a used or even new sporting rifle. The cost of the conversion is never recouped in a sale, the collector value is destroyed and the value of the gun is immediately cut in half so he ends up losing not once but three times financially. Like a true Conservative he tried to save a penny and ended up losing a fortune.

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