Concealed Carry

Best Inexpensive Firearms

simple tools revolver on orange target

When a firearm fails during one of my shooting classes, it is seldom because a shooter could not afford a better gun.

Usually, they were just too cheap to purchase one. On the other hand, a number of shooters have excelled with minimalistic firearms.

You should never sacrifice quality to save money, as this is false economy. The useful life of a good gun is measured in decades.

Just the same, quality firearms are not (usually) inexpensive.

With so many obligations these days, we need to save money when we can, and leave some for ammunition and accessories.

If you spend over $1,000, you are paying for fit, finish, a good trigger and other things, but there are less-expensive firearms that are perfectly reliable for self-protection.

When it comes to long guns, there are reliable guns that are downright cheap, just not as well finished and appointed.

Benefits of Less-Expensive Firearms

Let’s not talk about the wrong things when we are looking for an inexpensive firearm.

Finish isn’t that important. My guns are not safe queens, they are used and they get worn.

The Pythons and Les Baers have holster wear—no getting around it if you carry them. But so do the Heritage revolvers!

Once you reach a certain type of handgun — say the Springfield Loaded Model in a 1911— you don’t get a lot more practical accuracy as you spend a lot more money.

The average reliable handgun is a pretty good ordnance piece these days.

When you choose the really cheap guns, you may sacrifice something.

Magazines may cost more than the GLOCK, as an example, or be more difficult to find. Holsters may not be readily available.

A used Tokarev, normally a reliable handgun, may sound good until you try to find 7.62x25mm ammunition and spare magazines.

The GLOCK is still the baseline in choosing a handgun. The GLOCK is always a reliable handgun.

Do you get anything better for more money? Sure, you get better sights and a better trigger, maybe better handfit. If you pay less, you may get a bit less.

Today, inexpensive handguns, such as the Canik and SAR guns, are reliable. They are as reliable as much more expensive guns were a decade ago.

Self-defense should not be reserved for people of means. Just the same, look at the big picture.

Some of the less-expensive pistols are more difficult to master, and that means more ammunition and trips to the range.

Purchase the best firearm you can afford. However, it doesn’t have to be an expensive firearm.

Citadel 9mm 1911, magazine and SIG ammo inexpensive firearms
The Citadel 9mm has proven reliable in long-term use.

Best Inexpensive Handguns

The Sarsilmaz SAR 9 9mm handgun is among the better buys in a modern handgun.

This pistol has proven reliable and a good performer in personal-defense drills.

It offers the option of getting up to speed with a minimum expenditure of ammunition.

Not to the greatest proficiency possible, perhaps, but in times of shortage you will gain a reasonable ability to defend yourself.

These pistols are becoming standbys you can count on and make for great tools.

three semi-auto handguns on wood table
Left to right: Bersa, Honor Defense and Taurus 9mm pistols. These workmanlike handguns retail for less than $400.

Best Inexpensive Revolvers

It is good to have something in the pocket. Among the better choices in a short-barrel revolver is the Taurus 856.

This revolver, and the original Model 85 five-shooter, is an affordable revolver that offers good economy.

Those that practice will find it a formidable pocket revolver. Some of the small Taurus revolvers even feature a tritium front sight.

Taurus 856 double-action snub-nose revolver
Taurus offers reliable and effective double-action revolvers at a fair price.

Best Inexpensive 1911 Handguns

I have an aversion to the cheapest 1911 handguns. I feel a reliable GLOCK is better than a cheap 1911.

Perhaps the best all-around buy in a 1911 pistol is the Springfield Range Operator.

The fit is good and the finish, while not up to the standard of high-end Springfield pistols, is good.

These are reliable and accurate handguns.

A 1911 that I have enjoyed good results with is the Citadel, a Rock Island by another name, but with an upgraded finish.

Springfield 1911 pistol - inexpensive guns
Springfield offers first-class pistols that save the owner money by using a matte-type finish.

Best Inexpensive Rifles

A Ruger 10/22 is among the finest all-around rifles to be had at any price.

They are affordable, reliable, more accurate than most of us can shoot, and may be upgraded if necessary.

They make good trainers and tools for beginning shooters. There really isn’t anything quite like them.

They will serve for home defense and for taking small game.

The humble Rossi RS22 has proven reliable, accurate enough for most chores, and a friendly rifle to use.

Savage offers a number of affordable, reliable and useful bolt-action rifles. Among these is my personal Model 12 Scout.

This 10-shot .308 Winchester rifle has proven more than accurate enough for tactical, defensive or hunting uses to 100 yards or more, and has never failed to feed, chamber, fire or eject.

Mossberg offers a similar rifle that is very affordable. These are excellent all-around go-anywhere, do-anything rifles.

Rossi RS22 Rifle
The Rossi RS22 is among the best buys in the country!

Best Inexpensive Shotguns

The bottom line: a shotgun hits harder than any handgun regardless of price.

You may spend a couple of hundred dollars on a shotgun and have a firearm that is easier to handle quickly and get hits with than any handgun.

The effect of a single round of shotgun buckshot is proven effective. The humble Rock Island Traditional shotgun is affordable at under $100 retail.

It works well, is light enough to carry around hiking, and even features a folding sight for slug use.

For more money you get a reliable pump-action shotgun, and several are available.

There are also reliable self-loading shotguns that are affordable at less than $400.

These shotguns are among the most formidable of home-defense firearms, regardless of price.

bird's head H&R shotgun simple tools inexpensive firearms
The H&R Honcho is a formidable firearm.

What About Used Guns?

As a rule, I don’t like to recommend used guns. The problem is we don’t know how they have been stored and maintained.

Used guns are better left to more experienced shooters who know how to spot potential problems.

Just the same, if you have a family heirloom left to you, there is no reason not to put it on the front line.

A used gun is better than no gun, and a used Smith and Wesson revolver is a reliable and effective instrument.

So are the many single-shot shotguns that go begging in the pawn shops. Load fresh shotgun shells and practice.

The instinctive fit and feel of the shotgun are a great advantage and make them great tools.

single-shot shotgun simple tools inexpensive firearms
This old single-shot 20-gauge shotgun is a useful all-around firearm.

Conclusion: Inexpensive Firearms

When it comes to personal defense and hunting, you must rely on personal experience and skill, not the firearm.

Good work may be done with fairly inexpensive firearms.

What are some of your favorite inexpensive guns? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.


Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Handloader
Rifle Magazine
Handguns
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns



Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
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 (16)

  1. Carl Stevens,
    I do believe when he mentioned Heirloom, he meant the .22LR or .22 WMR revolvers. They are about $160.00.

    I would agree with much, although I would put the 1911 more at the top, and a Browning Hi-Power. Nothing wrong with a Makarov, or even a TT-33, and ammo is not that difficult (well, except now, and it seems ALL ammo is in short supply) and holsters are available.

    Taurus, Rock Island, and even Metro Arms, plus Charter are all reliable and on the less expansive end of the spectrum.

  2. Good article.
    The only thing I would disagree with is using an heirloom firearm for self defense.
    God forbid, if you have to use a firearm in a self defense, depending on where you live you will have to surrender your firearm. You don’t want your Grandfather’s old double barrel, that means the world to you, sitting in an evidence room for God knows how long, under sometimes dubious conditions with no care. And sometimes, maybe, or maybe not, you’ll get it back.

  3. Good article.

    There is nothing wrong with inexpensive guns . . . as long as they work. In the many years I have enjoyed guns, carried them for EDC in the US, and carried them on assignments in some of the nicer places around the world I have used all sorts of guns of every conceivable level of cost and quality. Colt M4s are excellent as are Kimber 1911s, but so have been Iraqi made FNs and AKs as well as well-used Browning High Powers. By the same token, I was once issued a Bushmaster SBR that wouldn’t shoot more than one round without a stoppage.

    My wife and I carry Taurus G2c’s for EDC and I keep a Jericho in the truck whenever we go out. Glocks? You can never go wrong with a Glock as long as you are smart enough not to shoot yourself with it. I’ve managed to safely carry a Glock for the past 20 years, so I know it’s possible. I also love my SAR and my wife and I both love shooting our ATN 1911’s.

    In the end, buy. train with and carry a gun that works well for you. That you can shoot accurately, manage and deal with and you will never go wrong.

  4. No mention of Canik? The TP9SF line can be entered with $300-$350 and easily outshoot Taurus’ spongy trigger, safer than honor guards flawed ‘if you drop it, it’ll pop it’ design and look waaay better than bersa. They are selling competition grade firearms for $400. Personal defense models at 300 or so and combat models for 6-7.

  5. The best gun I’ve ever had that I regret selling was the RDA security 6 ruger combat revolver in 357mag. Never found another one?! I only paid 100$ brand new. It shot like a dream with a 3.5in barrel 😋 If I ever get another ill keep forever!!

  6. My wife purchased a SCCY CPX-2 for EDC, it’s reliable and quite affordable. The only thing that I do not like about it is that it has a pin which must be removed with a screwdriver in order to disassemble for cleaning — but in reality, it does not impair it’s reliability or use it’s just that the other pistols (that cost much more $$$) have better takedown mechanisms.

  7. On a bang for the buck basis for a new handgun, I would put my Charter Arms Mag Pug XL in .41 Rem magnum up against anything. Best part is it drops into a front pocket on my Jean’s, making it a four seasons concealed carry monster.

  8. being of the age and stature that comes with being a life long hunter I have had guns that were good cheap ones and costly Junkers, by far the best auto hand gun ever made was the rugger p90. (45 auto) absolutely above and beyond all my expectations for an auto- shoots in all conditions- cleaning it is almost bad for it. I have four of them all parts are interchangeable,( I do not know why they quit making them) I do think if you are going to shoot an auto for self defense a pistol with a hammer and double action is by far the safest. I began buying ruggers when all the rest went to china. Still today one of if not the best weapons makers, rifles and hand guns, and still reasonably priced.

  9. I purchased a heritage rough rider 22 I think it’s a great gun for the price when I go to the range I usually bring a shot gun and a smith and Wesson 40 so I use the heritage to kind of slow my pace down because it loads slow and shoots slot one shot at a time it flies me down

  10. I am a Marine and retired metro Atlanta cop, and after working the mean streets for many years, I can assure you that “cheap” guns will handle a task just as effectively as expensive guns. Back in the 90’s there was a time where I handled a shooting every single day just in the beat I covered, and a lot ended up as fatalities. It was a very bad time back then (literally a war on the streets) and I remember, while at the scene of one of those incidents, another officer told me that he thought cheap guns should be banned. My response was that “poor people have just as much right to defend themselves as anyone else” and I still stand by that today. A LOT of those shootings were self defense shootings or “mutual combat” where one party HAD no choice but to defend themselves against gunfire.
    Based on my experiences I can guarantee you that:
    >a shotgun is more deadly than any other weapon. The saying “You cant reattach a bloody mist” holds true, and I have seen with my own eyes that BB shot is even more devastating than any buckshot round ever made.
    >a 9mm is a 38 special in semiautomatic form and shoots a lighter projectile faster, but they malfunction. I still cant get the vision of the dead shop owner laying on the floor with a 9mm handgun in his hand with a “stove pipe”. His gun jammed and let him down when he needed it most. The bad guys didn’t, and the poor shop owner paid the ultimate price.
    >a revolver works every single time. A 38 spl is deadly at close range. A 357 magnum is deadlier. A 44 magnum works better loaded with 44 spl rounds for personal defense.
    >a .22 rimfire to the chest or head is just as deadly as any 9mm or 38 spl. Ive seen this personally.
    any rifle is better than any handgun at longer distances, and a 7.62 x 39 is basically a 30-30 in automatic form shooting a lighter projectile is deadly.
    >the firearm you dont have with you when you need it most is useless. Thats why lightweight and easy to carry every day is always a good thing.
    >the firearm that malfunctions when you need it most is useless. Thats why a person is foolish to save a buck when your very life is at stake.

  11. Companies like Charter Arms and Kahr also make inexpensive guns that work better than most folks can shoot. IF a gun fits you. that is the first step to good shooting. Modern manufacturing technology and materials can create guns that would have require major hand fitting 20 years ago. Also look at the “grip adaptors” that are a standard feature on many pistols. Manufacturers now understand how important “fit” is for the average shooter.

    I have both the RUGER and HERITAGE single action .22 handguns. For the money, the Heritage is an ideal trainer for a first time handgun shooter. The Ruger is the .22 that will be handed down to the grandkids.

  12. I bought a Charles Daily 12 gauge pump 22 years ago for $200. It is still a reliable go to for small game and birds. My 13 year old uses it even though it kicks like a mule if you put any 3” or 3.5” in it.
    I have recently upgraded to a Beretta A400 extreme plus. I must say that this gun is well worth the $1,600 I spent. I can shoot an entire box of 3.5” shells without feeling a thing.
    If you are looking for home defense then by all means, don’t break the bank. If you are going to shoot a lot, you better spend the money.

  13. Over the years, I have purchased a number of used guns. Most of them have been resold and now, for one or two, there is regret in that sale. Back in the mid to late 70’s, I had a Model 59 Smith. It was a lot of fun to shoot. I needed some fast cash and I sold it. I had seller’s regret almost as soon as the money was gone.

    I have had a number of used revolvers and the only one there I regret selling is a Model 29-2 Smith with an 8 3/8″ barrel. Shot like a dream, but when I bought my brand new S&W 629 Classic Hunter (6″ full underlug barrel, non-fluted cylinder) my wife insisted that the older one had to go. I still have, and love, that Classic Hunter, but would like to find that 29-2 again.

    Not a concealed carry, but several decades ago, I had an opportunity to buy a Remington 721 in .270. The wood was rough and needed refinishing, (easy fix) but the barrel was almost pristine. With a good rest, that thing printed a group that was covered with a dime (only part of one hole showing) at 100 yds. I have killed more deer than I can counts with that thing. Years later I bought an old Romanian SKS for my daughter to use deer hunting. She turned out not to be a hunter so I have used it to take a number of deer. Have no complaints about it, at all.

    As far as new guns, I have a couple of 1911’s of which I was the first owner. The first was a build from scratch Caspian framed beauty that I carry whenever I am out in the woods and happen to get a chance to shoot a wild pig. (I keep hoping I will find one.) To tell you how long ago it was, I paid $250 for it and some friends thought that was too much. (It wasn’t.) It is also my #1 house gun. Other than the Crimson Trace grips, it reminds me of the weapon I carried almost 50 years ago as a medic on a SAR/Recon team someplace far, far away. The other is a Smith Pro-Series, their version of the Officer’s Model. That is an EDC if ever there was one.

    As far as shotguns, I bought a Mossberg 500 shotgun in 20 ga many years ago new from Walmart. The last time I asked at Walmart, they still carry them for less than $250. This is what my wife would use as a house gun. I have killed more birds than I can count with that gun. I got 20 ga because I can shoot more than a box of shells in a day and move my arm the next day. I am short of stature and small of frame. As I have gotten older, I do not have the tolerance for the 12. I have a 12, I just don’t shoot it. It is a double barreled Ithaca with Damascus barrels, made in 1906. I grew up hunting pheasant with that gun, using low brass shells. It has not been shot in probably 50 years. I got it from my father, family heirloom kind of thing.

    I have never spent a lot of money on any of my guns, other than the two Smiths I have. They were both new and well worth the price I paid, which I must say, I had shopped around and these were the best deal that I had found on either of them. Saved well over $100 on the .44 and $300 on the 1911. Still love them both.

  14. While not a new shooter, I have several firearms that were purchased used and at a great discount.
    To whit: S&W second and third generation automatics in 9mm and 45 acp.
    Originally these guns were very expensive but as the glock took over many police trade ins for pennies on the dollar.
    Awesome reliability, built like tanks.
    My 4566 WILL feed empty cases, just like the internet warriors claim.
    They are heavy compared to the polymer jobs and unfortunately magazines are getting difficult to find.
    Only problem I have with “cheap” guns is metallurgy. Usually they work but for how long??

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