Firearms

What’s the Cheapest Gun You Can Afford?

Turkish handguns

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.

After all, firearms are called upon to save the lives of good folks on a daily basis and we want a good gun if we purchase a cheap gun. Fortunately, this seems the golden age of good cheap guns.

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.

cheapest gun - knockabout
Knockabout guns are inexpensive but serve a real purpose. This is an Iver Johnson 20-gauge single barrel shotgun and a Marlin .22 rifle.

Cheap Rifles

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.

Marlin .22 - guns you can afford
This is an early model Marlin .22 in a Hunting Tactical stock. Old guns never die!

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.

Mossberg Blaze - cheapest gun you can afford
The Mossberg Blaze is not only affordable it is one fun gun you can afford.

Cheap Shotguns

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.

Winchester’s SXP
Winchester’s SXP is a shotgun full of features at a fair price.

Cheap AR-15s

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.

Aero AR-15 rifle - cheapest guns you can afford
The author’s Aero AR-15 rifle is second to none in his opinion. If you can afford an AR, try this one.

Cheap Revolvers

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.

Ruger Wrangler
The Ruger Wrangler is affordable and useful.

 

592 Tracker
Taurus offers real innovation with the affordable 692 Tracker. Note spare cylinder in 9mm. Another great option that’s fairly easy to afford.

Cheap Handguns

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.

CZ P-10
The optics-ready CZ P-10 sub-compact is the author’s favorite among optics-ready pistols.

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.

CZ P01
The CZ P-01 is a CZ 75 variant with excellent performance, among the best of the CZ handguns and one you’d be wise to afford.

Conclusion

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.

About the Author:

Wilburn Roberts

When Wilburn Roberts was a young peace officer, he adopted his present pen name at the suggestion of his chief, as some of the brass was leery of what he might write. This was also adopted out of respect for families of both victims and criminals. The pen name is the same and the man remains an outspoken proponent of using enough gun for the job.

He has been on the hit list of a well-known hate group, traveled in a dozen countries and written on many subjects, including investigating hate crimes and adopting the patrol carbine. He graduated second in his class with a degree in Police Science. It took him 20 years to work himself from Lieutenant to Sergeant and he calls it as he sees it.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (22)

  1. if you can’t afford a $600 pistol, hth can you afford the$1000 of centerfire ammo you’ll have to put thru it to stay good, after $1000 of training and $2000 worth of ammo to get good? you’d better stick to the $150 Phoenix Arms HP22. Forget the safety, it’s potmetal. The rear sight is loose, so get it close to zero, use a hammer and prick punch to lock it in place and then use blue loctite to finish the job. Consider getting the 5″ barrel as a spare, so you can shorten and thread it for a silencer. The 3″ one is the carry barrel, tho. Just learn to thumb cock it as you draw it. There’s YT vids about how to over come the mag safety, etc. Practice a lot, with airsoft if need be and realize that you’ll have to fire 3-4 rds in half a second, all at his nose, in order to reliably stop a man with a .22, especially from a short barreled pistol. Dont dream that you can do this beyond about 10 ft, when it’s for real. If you put in ear plugs ($12, “earvalve” type, carry them always) and use cover and a braced firing position, you might be able to brain a stationary man at 10 yds., under lethal stress. Most of the time, you need not fire, and MISSES have changed a lot of minds, too. 🙂 A .22 is lethal, after a few hours of days, by means of infection or blood loss. Going to the hospital with a gunshot wound will mean prison and the punks all know that. Keep your hand on your gun if you “smell a rat”. Put it in your armpit, arms folded and keep that side towards the threat. Practice raising that upper arm, shoving the gun out from under it cocking the hammer as you do so, and fire one handed, point shooting. This will work to 5-6 ft, for a chest hit.

  2. Price is kind of a relative thing. My first EDC was a Browning Hi-Power that I bought used in 1976 for $150. I carried it until 1991. If I still had it today it would be worth around $700 – $800. My second EDC was a S&W stainless model 60 5-shot .38 which I carried from 1991 till 2013. I bought it used for $195. I still own it, although it’s on loan to my granddaughter. Interestingly, it hasn’t appreciated nearly as much as the Hi-Power, but both are solid, high quality guns that, at one time were relatively inexpensive.

  3. I can’t believe you didn’t mention the UGLIEST guns made…HiPoint.
    Got to be one of the ugliest brand ever however; they are cheap and they are reliable.
    You forgot KelTec and SCCY also.

  4. My pick for budget pistols are all made by Taurus. In 9mm or 40 caliber the G2C for around $200, the G3 for around $250 and the TH9 or TH40 for around $270. In 22lr the TX22 can’t be beat.

  5. Are you kidding? You completely ignored the Canik TP9 series of pistols. Reliable, accurate and very affordable. The One series can be found for under $300. I carry one, not because of the price but because it is the best shooting, accurate and reliable firearm I own.

  6. The first cheap carry gun I bought, was the Bersa Thunder 380, 8+1, $349. . Then I bought the Thunder 380 Plus, 15+1, for $359. . This is the one I prefer to carry. I recently boughta SCCY 380, 10+1, for $144, after a $25. rebate, from Classic Firearms. Bought it as a pocket gun. Came with three mags. Right now, some gun prices are falling. Buying used, can save money. Just make sure what ever you buy, ( new or used ) comes with a lifetime warranty. I also have a used,1993 Taurus model 64, 4″, 357 magnum, $259. . I have other revolvers, a Tiger GP 100, 6″, 357, and a Red Hawk 5.5″, 44 mag. Not cheap guns. The 44 mag., I bought as a Ruger demo/ blem, for $549. . Was like new. Had been shot at the factory. Very good deal.

  7. The Taurus G2S single stack and G2C double stack
    are almost the same firearm. Great self defense
    9mm. Dependable, easy to maintain, and fairly
    accurate. Both available locally to me for less than
    $200.00. With Taur lifetime warranty.

  8. You didn’t mention either the Taurus Milennium G2 or the Ruger SR 9C, which is out of production, but available for around 250$ still from many dealers. They are both good, solid guns with stellar reputations.

  9. Keltec builds absolute garbage weapons. I would rather throw rocks than buy a keltec. There is a great many better choices in handguns like a used ruger anything or the sccy brand guns. Hell, i would rather buy a (gulp) taurus over a keltec.

  10. I enthusiastically agree with Canik as a good inexpensive handgun. A paltry $309 gets the pistol, 2 mec-gar 18 shot mags nice rigid holster w/ paddle and belt attachments and other useful accessories. Mine is a TP9SA in desert sand. In thousands of rounds, I’ve had only one FTE, which I believe was a defect in the shell casing. Its as accurate now as when new. Even my granddaughters (12 and 15) have no trouble handling it, and putting shots on target. If you get a chance to fite one, take it. I’ve sold 5 other pistols because the Canik outperformed them all. In my opinion, its the best pistol I’ve ever fired.
    As always
    Carry on
    Forever 18 Bravo

  11. Why is there no mention of the Hi-Point line of inexpensive, (ugly as a mud fence) reliable handguns and rifles? These are the ultimate in cheap and dependable, and the warranty is incredible.

  12. I do not see any thing cheap about the rifle or shotgun. For a cheap shotgun the Mossberg Maveric 88 at about $ 190 is a good for the price.

    Who is going to put a $ 400 red dot on a cheap AR ?

    I would go with the Sport 2 by Remington or the Ruger AR for the AR type cheap rifle.

  13. I would like to say something about the Taurus g2 millennium. I purchased one about a year and some months ago. I’ve never had an issue with it and take it to the range twice a week and put 100-250 rounds through it every time I shoot. It has never jammed, never had any failure to feed issues, never stove pipes, not one issue nothing. It is just as reliable as my shield 9mm. I carry this gun as back up to my shield. I’ve put a 1000 rounds through it without cleaning it and it still didn’t have any issues. Great gun, I originally bought it for a plinker but now that I know how well it shoots it’s now my back up gun with 12 in the mag and one in the chamber! Taurus has come a long ways In the past year since the last junk guns they made..

  14. I have to say, the Taurus G2C could be thrown in this group as well. Has a ton of great features and is a very accurate gun. Some people complain about the trigger but the more I use it, the more I love it. It has great ergonomics and with a 12+1 capacity in 9mm, it makes for a relatively cheap gun that’s pretty reliable. I got mine for $200 and have about 1,000 rounds through it without a single problem. It’s my go-to for everything pistol now. Even over my Glocks, Sigs and S&Ws. Absolutely think the G2C’s developing following is 100% justified.

  15. no mention of High point firearms ?? talk about cheap,, and from my experience they are reliable and have a 100% lifetime warranty. if you need a replacement part,, all you need to do is call and a part will be sent no charge. great for in a boat, under the seat, or in your old pickup.. i have had 3 and all function and shoot very well for the price.

  16. I only think I have three rifles and 2 pistols that I purchased new. Everything else has been used. I love auctions: three years ago I saw several ugly Hi-Point pistols and no one was bidding on them. So I stuck my name in the hat with a high bid of $50 on 3-45’s, a C-9 in 9mm, and a 380. I also bid on a Ruger P 94 in .40. Three days later I found that I had won the auction for all of them. The C-9 was new and came in new box with instructions, the 45’s all shoot and are pretty accurate. If the .380 is not new, it’s never been fired more than a few rounds, the Ruger has been fired a lot but still works perfectly. Total expenditure for the 6 pistols was $310. Of course i had to pay FFL transfer fees. The Hi-Points are ugly, but they go bang when you pull the triggers, and i thought I wouldn’t like the recoil of a .45, but these are OK. I hit the target every time. I have lots of .22’s: 3 marlin 60’s, a marlin bolt 22 magnum, a couple of pumps, couple of pump 12 gauge shotguns. All used. I love shooting them.

  17. My go-to cheap gun for pests and plinking is a single shot Remington I bought at a gun show for $20. I added a replacement bolt handle, garage sale $5 2x scope and I probably have about $40 in it total. Very accurate and very cheap. I had originally bought it for one of my step grandchildren, but decided to keep it for myself instead. They wouldn’t appreciate it anyway.

  18. I noticed that you did not refer to used guns and the article may have only been referencing new cheap reliable guns. However, I’ve found that used guns of good quality can be found at gun stores, pawn shops, and gun shows for fair prices that still provide the reliability and quality needed for their purpose. I am a utility type gun owner. I never look for pretty guns as their beauty is useless to me. I am hard on my guns as I am in the field a lot be it duck hunting, deer hunting, target practicing or what have you. A great cheap used utility gun that I bought years ago was a Stoger 12 gauge upland side by side double barrel. This gun has been rained on, submerged in beaver ponds, used at sporting clay events, was my go to for the dove field and more. I had the barrels dipped to knock the shine off of them and this gun is still a go to for many of my field trips. Proper care after a hard day afield has made this gun last a long time. Another great utility shotgun that is cheap especially used is the tried and true Remington 870. At one time I had five of these guns because I found them so useful. As for the .22 rifles, I have several of the Marlin .22 rifles from bolt guns to the Model 60. The Model 60 that I started with for Squirrel hunting with my friends, I purchased new from K-Mart back in the early 80’s for $60. I currently own two of the Model 60’s, but I also own two Ruger 10/22’s be it that these are a bit more expensive. Another good Marlin is the popular 30-30. The new ones are not exactly cheap, but you can find a used one at a reasonable price from time to time. The new Ruger American bolt action rifles are on the cheaper side and with their aluminum block bedding and free floated barrel provide great accuracy for a cheap price. As for building AR15’s I’m finding that now I can purchase complete rifles cheaper than I can build one for. I’ve seen them new and less than $500 at gun shows. Also buying a complete upper and a complete lower can save you money too getting you a complete gun, in the caliber you want, for less than $500. As for pistols, I find that there is a lot of the old Ruger P series on the used gun market that make great home defense guns. They are reliable and are battle tanks of the hand gun world. The most common range of the P series is the P89 – P95. I have four of these currently with two being 9mm, a .40, and a .45. The next one I purchase will be a P95 DC in 9mm to finish out my collection and I will not pay more than $300 for it. As motioned I know the article may have been focusing on new cheap guns, but felt the used market still offers good quality products for someone that may be on a budget.

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