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.
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.
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.
Best Inexpensive Handguns
The Sarsilmaz SAR 9 is underrated but is one of the best 9mm handguns on the modern market.
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.
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.
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.
Best Inexpensive Rifles
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.
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.
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.
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!