I was recently approached by my Brother-In-Law who had begun to show some interest in shooting. He wanted to buy a good semiautomatic pistol that would be inexpensive, reliable, and something that he can continue to use as his skills grow. Given his budget of $400, there were only a few pistols that fit those requirements.
Probably the most well known budget pistol on the market right now is the Smith and Wesson Sigma. In the 9ve 9mm configuration, this pistol can be had for less than $300 with currently available rebates. That leaves $100 which can be used to buy 500 rounds of practice ammunition or accessories like additional magazines and holsters. Of course the Sigma is not without its drawbacks—the trigger pull has been rated as “poor” by a number of reviewers who claim that it is nothing more than a poorly executed Glock knock-off. We feel the Sigma is a fine pistol for its price point, it certainly is reliable, but better options are available for our $400 budget.
One of the most popular budget pistols is probably the Ruger P95. The P95 is well known as a utilitarian pistol. There’s nothing fancy about it, it works reliably, and it’s easily serviceable. It also met his requirements for having an abundance of accessories and holsters available. We also looked briefly at the Ruger SR9, but decided that like the Sigma, the trigger pull was just too hard and gritty. Additionally, accessories for it were not widely available enough to seriously consider this pistol.
Kel-Tec has a number of reliable and inexpensive pistols, one of which is their new PF9 model. The PF9 is a compact and very slim pistol, perfect for concealed carry. The PF9 is very slim, at less than an inch thick. Despite its small size, it still packs a wallop with a 7+1 capacity of 9mm cartridges. The action is DAO and the trigger pull, while long, is smooth and consistent. The PF9 is also very inexpensive: MSRP is around $300, and it can often be found less than that. It may however be too small to use in competitions like IDPA, which the brother-in-law has expressed an interest in participating in.
Taurus has established a name for themselves as a manufacturer of inexpensive clones. The Taurus PT-92 is a budget priced version of Beretta’s 92 model pistol. The MSRP of the PT-92 leaves it just out of our price range however. Taurus’s new 709 Slim on the other hand comes in just under the $400 wire. This new offering by Taurus is very much like the PF9, with a very slim single stack grip and overall lightweight construction. The Taurus 709 uses a trigger action that is based off of the Taurus 24/7. This unique trigger sets itself in single action mode when a round is chambered. After pulling the trigger, the action resets in a double action mode until another round is chambered, allowing for the trigger to be pulled twice in the case of a light strike or hard primer. The 709 Slim also has a Glock style trigger safety in addition to an external thumb safety. Like the PF9, the Taurus 709 is better suited for concealed carry, but isn’t quite suitable for IDPA style competitions.
Finally, we have the CZ line of pistols. The new P-07 is the CZ-75 based duty weapon now produced by CZ. It has a polymer frame and also has a decocker like the more recent CZ-85. The CZ P-07 can be found for just under $400, making it priced right for our $400 budget. The polymer frame however doesn’t quite have the ergonomics of the older CZ-75 models, and there is no way to change the grips. Still, it does have the same reliability and incredible accuracy of the older CZ-75 models.
Sadly, none of these pistols were favored by the Brother-In-Law. The polymer framed pistols kicked a bit too much for his liking. Being a new shooter, he favored the steel framed pistols for the easy recoil recovery. Though he really liked the Taurus PT-92, there was one more pistol that he tried that we haven’t mentioned yet, the CZ-75B. The CZ-75B is an all steel construction and has been one of the most popular police issue weapons in Europe pretty much since its debut in 1975. The CZ-75 borrows heavily from the Browning Hi Power and Sig 210, and is similar to the older Sig 220 models in its design. The CZ 75B has a smooth double action/single action trigger. The pistol can be carried in a 1911 style “cocked and locked” mode with the safety engaged, or with the hammer in a half-cocked position which requires the shooter to fire the first round using the double action trigger. The CZ-75 is a bit big and heavy for concealed carry, but the smooth ergonomic grips and abundance of accessories made it very appealing. It is also priced a bit more than our budget. But then, many fine used pistols are widely available on the market. After a bit of shopping around and hitting a few gun shows, we located a good CZ-75B that, while used, appeared to have been carefully maintained.
As we mentioned in our article on Budget Pistols: Buying Used, many fine firearms can be found for very good deals if you search around. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a good quality firearm. All of the pistols we discussed above have their advantages and disadvantages. If you’re looking for a good quality semiautomatic pistol without breaking the bank, all of these handguns are a good place to start.