Cheap Life Insurance — The Rumorings of Ol’ Bob

By Bob Campbell published on in Concealed Carry, Firearms, General

There are times when I am amazed at how lucky I am to test and own some of the finest firearms ever manufactured. I admit that sometimes the newest variation of the theme (a different finish or new sights) isn’t quite as exciting as a fresh start, but there are few genuinely new things under the sun.

SIG Sauer and Glock pistols

SIG, top, Glock, bottom. Either choice will yield a fist full of reliability.

I remember as if it were yesterday. A time when each handgun had to have a well defined chore, or I could not give it house room. Back then, the good guns I owned could be counted on the fingers of one hand. I was a lucky man to have had that handful. I do not forget the good guns that had to be sold to fill some need. Family is a million times more important than firearms after all, but now my sons are grown and I can really keep the good guns!

There have always been more cheap guns than good guns, and the same is true today. Likewise, there have always been very few inexpensive but good guns. Sometimes when looking over the choices in handguns the heavy hitter may say, ‘What is your life worth after all?’ This is true enough but life is what it is and many of us cannot afford an expensive firearm despite our best intentions.

As an example, I consider the 1911 handgun, in quality examples, the finest fighting handgun ever made. First quality 1911 handguns, beginning with Springfield and Colt, are not inexpensive. However, a Glock that always works—a Glock that doesn’t work would be exceptional—is better than a cheap 1911. By the same token, modern Smith and Wesson revolvers are the best revolvers Smith and Wesson has ever made—as far as reliability and accuracy. The tolerances are amazing.

Honor Defense Honor Guard pistol

The Honor Defense Honor Guard shows innovation does exist and it is a first class performer.

For someone who purchased his first Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum for less than $150, sticker shock is real. Ruger revolvers always work. Perhaps saving for many months for a dream gun is the American way. Laying a gun away, patiently paying on it, and finally paying the layaway ticket off at the gun shop is as close to pregnancy and childbirth as a man may come. But when you need a gun right now, well, you need a gun right now.

So what is your life worth? Your life is priceless. The life of your family more so. The preservation of life is worth the best gun you can afford. You have to consider the price against the piggy bank. But you cannot spend it all on the handgun—ammunition is important. You should spend an amount equal to the price of the handgun in mastering the pistol. Otherwise, you might as well get that cheap gun because you will not be well armed with a handgun you have not mastered.

By the same token, formless fabric holsters are acceptable at the range, but unsuited for daily use. A good quality holster must be chosen. Galco offers real quality for a fair price. As for handguns, the Glock always works—letting you concentrate on marksmanship. The Springfield Range Officer Operator gets real performance into the hands of those who previously could not afford it, at the price of a parkerized finish versus bright blue or stainless. I can accept that. The Springfield is a precision instrument that will compliment a trained user.

Old Walther pistol

This Walther was once the definition of quality, but it is just too old, and it sent its extractor into orbit.

Among my students, and not just the young ones, I see what appears to be an inability to discern quality. Some handguns are cheap and made to sell. They are copies of good, solid designs but done so cheaply the advantage of the original are lost. The Glock copies nothing, and it is affordable. The CZ 75 is affordable and so are the Remington 1911 and Springfield Mil Spec. These handguns are made to save your life and will do so if you do your part.

After many years of hard work and saving, I am able to afford a few top quality firearms. After years of training and practice, I am able to fire the handgun to its potential. You have to decide if the features or quality of the parts are worth the expensive, will you aspire to master the piece or simply leave it in the safe? Will quality fitting and finish make a difference when the chips are down? It depends on the end user.

If you choose a high-end pistol, learn to detail strip, maintain, and lubricate the piece. Reliability isn’t an option and must be maintained. Accuracy is less important; most any quality handgun will put five shots into four inches at 25 yards. That is enough to save your life, and a standard very few shooters are capable of even off a solid bench rest.

Galco Carry Lite holster with revolver inside

Note the excellent reinforced stitching of the Galco Carry Lite.

There are handguns that will hold a two-inch group at the same distance, but they are not common and neither is the pistol shot that brings out the best in these handguns. And they will not exhibit such accuracy with cheap ammunition. When someone asks what your life is worth, there is only one answer. You life is worth whatever it takes to preserve it. When a member of our protein-fed ex-con criminal class attempts to usurp the prerogative of God and take your life, you should have the best tools in hand you can afford.

Most that have showed up at my training classes with a defective poor quality handgun could have afforded better, they were simply cheap. Like the contractor that purchased a $229 dollar revolver on sale at a chain store, or the pastor that purchased a 20-year-old Llama 1911. The revolver action locked up during class. The Llama was wet with lubricant and firing hardball ammo and did not make it through a magazine without a jam. Buy cheap buy twice—if you get a second chance.

What make and model of “life insurance” do you keep for self-defense? Share your answer in the comment section.


Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.

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Comments (45)

  • Zach


    I think the one thing that wasn’t discussed that really needed to be, is size and ease of carry. I grew up, learned to shoot in, and had my first concealed carry permit in South Florida (Palm Beach Gardens area). When most of the year is 90+ degrees temperature and high humidity, you aren’t going to be able to comfortably conceal anything very large while staying comfortable.

    It may be a reliable gun, shoots great, shoots straight, but if you leave it home because it’s too hot to carry it won’t help you at all. That’s why I carried a basic Kel-tec P3-AT in a sneaky pete holster for many years until I moved to cooler weather.


    • Dragon


      I appreciate your comments, Zach, as regards carrying concealed in an area that has predominantly warm to hot temperatures. That said, though, as a resident of Central Texas where summertime temperatures are usually in the 90s and even higher, I have not had any great difficulty with concealed carry of full sized handguns. Of course it may have something to do with my age and station in life…..I am 76 years old and have been fully retired for over ten years, but even prior to my retirement I found concealed carry to be pretty simple. My usual mode of dress is boots, jeans, and whatever shirt I wear with the tails out. Dressing thus, I have no difficulty carrying a full sized pistol in an OWB holster, a large folding knife, a flashlight, two extra magazines for my full sized pistol, an extra magazine for my back-up pistol, a small multitool, and a cell phone pouch. All of these items are routinely carried on a strong 1.5 inch “gun belt”, while the back-up pistol is in my right front pocket. I have been carrying in this manner for a long time, and have had no difficulty with “exposure” or relative comfort.


    • JC


      As a resident of North Texas and facing similar weather as Dragon, we both carry daily in similar fashion and preparedness without hesitation or discomfort. Better prepared than regretful.

      Maybe it’s a Texas thing!


  • Michael Van Dussen


    Anyone looking for a quality and affordable gun should check out the Canik TP9SF MSRP 400.00 I know some people will be outraged when I say this, I own a Glock 17 and M&P Shield, the Canik TP9SF is a much better gun out of the box. You would have to put aftermarket barrel and triggers to have a Glock or M&P perform as well as the Canik. The Canik TP9SF comes with a match grade barrel and a amazing trigger.


    • G-Man


      @ Michael Van Dussen,

      I 100% agree with you, and am qualified to do so because I own one of each of the guns you’ve just listed as a comparison. I even recently wrote a bit about how favorable the Caniks are in a past comment under another CTD article about Caniks.

      These Caniks pass NATO accuracy standards and are manufactured in an ISO 9000 series certified facility for military and law enforcement use. They are found to be extraordinarily superior firearms at an exceptionally low price because the company wants to build a strong and long-term reputation in the industry.

      Eventually these firearms will command a much higher price and folks will regret not having gobbled them up while they could still be had for around $325.


  • Archangel


    My Philippine made 1911 in 45 ACP that cost $299 works perfectly.
    My Philippine made 1911 in 9mm that cost $349 works perfectly.
    My Iver Johnson 55-SA revolver in 38 S&W that cost under $100 even works.


  • Dan


    I have a Rossi 2in. 357 that is the first defense handgun I bought. I have since upgarded but that Rossi still works great and I trust it and still carry it on occasion…cost was way under S&W wheel guns too. Most of my practice is with higher capacity pistols now, but the Rossi still gets occasional range time…great starter gun and fun to shoot..


  • Darrell


    I sometimes ask people how much is your life worth in the shop, but I may start reminding folks to practice as well. Typically I shoot at least once a month at the range and try to hit an IDPA match once a month or so.

    Practice. Practice. Practice. My shooting skills are good, but my times are slow (I am getting better).

    In the past I’ve mostly carried 1911’s, CZ75’s, Sig 226’s, and even an old Hi-Power on occasion. Lately I’ve been carrying a Walther PPQ in 9mm. I like that gun so much I bought 2 of them, and I talked my sister into buying one as well. NEXT PURCHASE: SIG 320.

    I know the author personally and consider him a good friend of mine. He comes into my shop at least once and week and we talk guns, and drink coffee. He’s a good guy and has a wealth of information to share.

    Bottom line on carrying: Have a good quality gun, and practice. If that gun saves your life when you need the police can have it as far as I’m concerned and I’ll buy or build another one that looks just like it.


  • William Butler


    I love the S&W model 10 38 special police departments carried them for years mine is a police trade in bought years ago for 150 dollars goes bang every time you squeeze the trigger. Simple to run malfunctions if you squeeze the trigger and it goes click no tap and rack drills squeeze again. Can’t find them for 150 any more but with a little searching still cheaper than a used glock. Leaves more money for training ammo and simpler malfunction drills.


  • Conan Bolonan


    Since I don’t speak mall ninja and the previous comments are of, by and for mall ninjas, presenting logic or facts is as pointless as convincing a race gun fanboy that a Charter Arms.38 revolver is more relevant in the hand than a Cabot in the Safe.




    I retired from being a sworn officer 5 years ago. Since, I have worked casino security, Indian Reservation Public Safety, Hospital Security, and part time in a gun shop. Two things many new shooters want. 1. a pistol for home defense, 2. a cheap one. I have asked the question, “what’s your life worth?”. Not to sell the expensive gun, but to guide them in a direction of a gun that shoots when you need it to, and both spouses can master.

    I was not a firearm expert when I retired and am not one now. But like any sport or hobby you want to pursue, you have to learn basics and practice. Luckily while working in a gun shop our employee discount was awesome.

    I trust my CZ’s (use for police qualifiers) E.E.A.’s, Beretta’s, Glocks, and almost all of my S&W’s. I love my Shield 9. But in KALIFORNISTAN the only S&W auto’s civilians can buy are Shields and SD’s. I bought an SD so I could form my own opinion of the gun. It is very finicky about ammo, trigger pull is crap. I changed trigger and trigger springs, and recoil spring. It only likes factory new ammo but not without issue. I took a $400.00 gun and spent more than a new Glock on higher quality parts to make it shoot almost as good as a Glock, but not quite. I use it for training, good for failure drills. All of my Glocks are much more consistant and affordable. My wife has an M&P 9 we got when we still could, 100% shooter.

    Shop around, only consider customer reviews of people that have fired the gun, and ones with follow up after rigorous shooting. An ugly or pretty gun doesn’t matter to the bad guy looking at the business end.

    I even have an ugly S.A.M.I. 1911 I added a few simple parts to upgrade that I would consider a ‘go to’ gun.

    The S&W SD (Glock sued S&W for patent infringements and won) and 1911-22 cal are for play only, NOT ‘GO TO’ GUNS. My life is worth more than the ability of those guns to defend it.


  • Martin


    I have heard that Glocks are tough and reliable. I have shot only a couple at the range and didn’t like either (one 9mm, one .40 S&W). They may be tough, but of the few police car cam videos I’ve seen in two instances there was handgun jams, both Glocks. Both cleared after some messing with the weapons, but it put the officers in jeopardy during a gun battle. I have a Ruger P95 that has 6,000+ round though it with out a failure. I also had a Beretta PX4 in .45 with about 2000 rounds through it. An amazing shooter. Shooting the Ruger after shooting the Beretta, I noticed the slide slap on the Ruger. So, there is some wear happening. Still, I trust the gun that has gone bang every time I asked it to. I sold the Beretta to find something concealable (I’m a small guy) but haven’t found anything I like that fit. Would like to see something on concealability of different quality handguns. I’m not loc


  • PBRdriver


    Thank you Dragon for your response. 9×19 is extremely popular, and with the developments in ammunition, it is a deadly round. Personally, I was raised firing 1911s, and love 45 cal. Started shooting at 6, in the days when schools had shooting clubs, and everyone had a rifle. 556 is an amazing round, and I can’t understand why anyone would limit themselves with 223. I have an affinity to Mosin Nagants, and with 762×54 being so reasonable, it is almost painless to go shooting. Being prepared is the key, and it looks like you are.


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