Recently, the topic of cheap guns came up and led to some spirited discussion. I took a hard look at the firearms I use often and also a few new introductions, looking for the best value. The goal was to find the best performance for the least outlay.
The firearms were to be knockabout types, rifles, shotguns or pistols that offer a lot of bang for the buck (and which don’t represent a significant loss if dinged or scratched). I don’t intentionally abuse any tool, but some get a lot of hard use.
The firearm should be ready to take game or drop a pest or varmint if need be after having a bad day. The least-expensive firearm, sure, but we cannot afford to use a cheap rifle that may not perform.
I was looking for a robust design that would fill more than one role and meet the demands of outdoor life. The cheapest gun may not be the best gun, but in this case, affordable guns stepped up to the plate with a lot to offer.
One of the first to come to mind is the Marlin 60 .22 caliber rifle. The Marlin is available in a number of configurations, from the traditional wood-stocked rifle to the Papoose version. (Examples with a removable box magazine and stainless steel variations.)
Whatever the exact model number, they are built on the reliability and success of the original Model 60. My personal example has fired thousands of rounds without a problem and with minimal maintenance.
Accuracy is good with the rifle exhibiting a group of less than two inches at 25 yards on-demand with the Fiocchi high-velocity hollowpoints. This rifle cannot be faulted. Another rifle I use often is the modern Mossberg Blaze .22 caliber automatic rifle.
This featherweight tips the scales at 3.5 pounds. It is light enough for both backpack carry and to use as a camp gun. If need be, its 25-round magazine makes the Blaze a formidable home defender for those on a budget. The rifle isn’t expensive, but it works.
Shotguns are a good buy for those interested in a formidable home defense firearm. A reliable pump-action shotgun may be obtained for a fraction of the price of an equal-quality rifle or handgun. But the shotgun offers superior wound ballistics and real versatility.
Among the best buys when options and usefulness are considered is the Winchester SXP. My version is the SXP Defender. Building on the reputation of the Winchester 1200 Speed Pump (long out of production), the SXP features:
- A rotating, locking bolt with robust lugs
- A chrome finish for resistance to the elements and harsh conditions
- A rail for mounting a red dot sight
- Invector choke tubes
It is unusual to see an 18-inch barrel shotgun with choke tubes. This gives the user the option of using turkey chokes and others, in addition to the cylinder bore choke supplied. The SXP is reliable and handles well. Load it with Fiocchi’s double-ought buckshot and relax.
In AR rifles, the field is broad and the choices confusing in their depth. The AR-15 may be purchased as cheaply as you wish or you may pay as much as you wish—there are so many variations. A viable option is to build your own.
Among my favorite rifles is the example illustrated below. This rifle was built using an Aero Precision upper and lower receiver, and top quality parts from CheaperThanDirt.com.
Add a Romeo Seven red dot and a stack of magazines and you are ready for hunting varmints or deer-sized game simply by switching the load—or home defense with the appropriate load. The rifle is affordable and the sum of its parts makes for real quality.
Quality revolvers demand hand-fitting in the action and the barrel/cylinder gap must be properly set for good accuracy. Modern CNC machinery makes for consistent manufacture and good accuracy potential.
The Ruger Wrangler is among the more affordable .22 caliber revolvers, but a good field gun and an outstanding trainer. A good choice in .357 Magnum revolvers is the Taurus Tracker 692. This is a version with dual cylinders, one in .357 Magnum and the other in 9mm.
With a wide range of loads (from shotshell to heavy hunting) available in one handgun, the 692 is a sensation and among the most versatile revolvers in my working battery. It is also a fun gun that is accurate, easy to use and light enough for constant carry.
The CZ-75 is a classic 9mm handgun that has been around a long time. This pistol isn’t exactly cheap, but compared to many handguns, it is affordable. The CZ’s accuracy and reliability are second to none, regardless of price.
You cannot go wrong with a CZ variant for concealed carry and home defense. An affordable option in the modern polymer-frame striker-fired class is the CZ P-10. This handgun is earning a reputation for world-class reliability and surprising accuracy.
This is my favorite polymer-frame handgun and the P-10 C is my top choice. In truly-inexpensive-but-reliable self-loaders, the list is short. Among the best buys is the proven Kel-Tec PF-9. It offers a lot of value for the money and plenty of power in a compact package.
The Bersa .380 ACP pistols are renowned for reliability, value for the money and accuracy. The Bersa makes a reasonable choice for home defense for those on a budget, and for the recoil-shy. (And that is a lot of occasional shooters.)
A make that has earned a good reputation in a short period of time is Canik. These Turkish-made handguns are a good buy, with reliability predicated upon the proven designs they clone.
Among my favorites are the Canik versions of the CZ double-action first-shot pistols. Stoeger also offers inexpensive versions of the Beretta Cougar built in Turkey.
Budget guns often represent a compromise. They may not have the nicer finish oiled wood and high gloss of more expensive firearms, and they may not have as many features. But they should be reliable and useful.
These few examples show that there is a lot of bang for the buck in the world of modern-and-cheap-but-effective firearms.
What’s the cheapest gun you can afford? Let us know in the comments below.