Firearms

Protect Your Home for Less

Taurus 85PFS

Most individuals who buy firearms from us intend to use them for home or personal defense. More and more Americans are crossing the invisible line in deciding to exercise their Second Amendment right to own a firearm. With first-time gun ownership on the rise, it’s no surprise that many shoppers don’t want to dump two months worth of paychecks on their weapon of choice. Gun industry consumers are always searching for less expensive ways to fill their hands with firepower. Luckily for the consumer, technology is rapidly advancing manufacturing techniques. Unlike the old days of the Saturday Night Special, many entry-level firearms function perfectly well, especially when properly maintained. We thought we would highlight a few of our favorite low-cost defensive firearms we think function as advertised. Who knows, you might find something you can’t live without!

Mossberg 500

Mossberg 500
Mossberg 500

There are more variations of this shotgun than you can count. The Mossberg 500 is inexpensive, reliable and devastatingly powerful. A pump-action shotgun is one of the most popular choices for home defense—and with good reason. The 500’s modular design means the owner can swap out after market accessories freely. While I’m still a huge fan of the Remington 870’s smoother action, the Mossberg 500 gives an insane amount of reliability at a lower cost. Mossberg drills and taps the receivers of their 500s so you can easily add a rail for ghost rings or a red dot sight. Moreover, you can be sure that every round will chamber when you need it most. Watch your shoulder though, the lightweight aluminum receiver combined with 00 buckshot make a recipe for heavy-duty recoil. Some smaller framed shooters can’t handle the intense kick of a lightweight 12-gauge.

Maverick 88

Maverick 88
Maverick 88

Even though it’s basically a Mossberg 500, the Maverick 88 is worth mentioning as it is an even lower cost option for home defense. The Maverick 88 is a less costly manufactured, simplified version of the pump action, 12-gauge Mossberg 500 shotgun. Factory Maverick 88’s feature a black, synthetic-only stock and forearm, cylinder bore—although chokes are available—and cross-bolt safety. Most accessories are interchangeable with a Mossberg 500 except for the pump. While the 88 gives you fewer customization options, it is no less deadly to intruders. You will save between 60-100 dollars on today’s market by choosing a Maverick over a base model 500. However, the receiver on an 88 is not drilled and tapped for scope mounts; what you see is what you get.

Kel-Tec P-11

Kel Tec P11
Kel Tec P11

Kel-Tec made their name in the firearms world by producing low-cost handguns for the average shooter. They’re reliable, fun to shoot, and most importantly—really cheap. The double stack magazine holds 10 rounds while still maintaining a tiny size. It is one of the least expensive ways to get into a 9mm that will work for thousands of rounds. It won’t win any beauty contests, but who cares! The barrel is near the minimum length possible with a Browning tilting-barrel system of operation. Some of you are probably wondering why I chose the Kel-Tec P-11 over the Kel-Tec PF-9. Since this is a home defense article, I figured that concealability was less important than magazine capacity. Watch out for that trigger though—before you break it in, it will be like pulling a sled across a rock pile.

Taurus Model 85PFS

Taurus 85PFS
Taurus 85PFS

Nothing says reliability like a revolver. Don’t let that old school action fool you, this is a high tech piece of engineering. The ultra-light construction and ergonomic grips of the Taurus Model 85PFS are just as modern as a high-tech battle rifle. The durable construction allows you to load +P ammunition, which means far more powerful cartridge choices. However, with that perfect reliability comes a compromise. Many .38 Special revolvers only hold five rounds, so you’ll have to make them count. Still, at less than $300 and you have a gun you can use to defend your home, or take with you for concealed carry. I own two of these weapons and really enjoy shooting them. Hold on tight though, that +P ammo makes for a fairly jumpy ride.

Bersa Thunder .380

Bersa Thunder 380
Bersa Thunder 380

I like to call the Bersa Thunder .380 an underrated sleeper. We rarely, if ever have issues with the ones our customers purchase. I have personally fired one on several occasions and have to say it performs splendidly. The Thunder .380 has a light aluminum alloy frame that reduces weight for easier carry, yet the pistol retains enough mass (weight) to help tame recoil. The blowback, fixed-barrel design theoretically aids accuracy, and it appears the vast majority of Thunder .380 users report favorably on the issue. The nearly straight-in alignment of the chamber and the topmost cartridge in the magazine seems to be responsible for the Bersa’s reliable chambering and cycling. The frame features a long rearward tang over the grips, which effectively protects your thumb web from hammer-bite or slide-bite. Most importantly, when you pull the trigger, it goes bang. Even the gun snobs can’t argue with that.

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 (23)

  1. Taurus Judge with 6-1/2″ barrel. Laser sight so the bad guys know right where they are gonna start bleeding and a hand held tactical flashlight so I don’t have to point my pistol at something to see what or who it is. Yea, yea, yea… you can point near someone and light them up without aiming at them. But I prefer to have independent control of the two though.

  2. The H&R Pardner Protector is a stronger and better finished shotgun than the Maverick 88. As a Remington company, the H&R is a clone of the 870, but with a more durable phosphate finish than simple bluing. The receiver is drilled and tapped for an optic. At under $200, it less expensive than the Maverick too. Most, if not all accessories that fit the 870 will fit the H&R as well.

  3. AK47 and my sig sits by my bed.. I would take the sig and hand my wife the ak if we heard anything in the middle of the night..

  4. I have a Mossberg 500 police leaning against the wall,next to the bed.It’s been there for years.One thing alot of people forget to do is,put a GOOD light on your weapon of choice.You may not have time to get up and turn a house light on.Not only that,in the middle of the night,if you saw the bright,white light,and heard the “clack-clack”,I think soiling yourself would automatically come next.

  5. I’ve had a Mossberg 12 ga pump for over 25 yrs. Never had a problem. Came with a 28″ barrel and 3 chokes for ducks & geese. I bought a 18″ riot barrel for home defense. Loaded with 3″ magnum steel BB loads at distances found inside most homes… it has a devestating impact. As for handguns, a good used Glock in any caliber is a far better purchase than a cheaper handgun in any caliber bought new.

  6. I carry a S&W .380 Bodyguard. The built in laser is handy. It does produce a fair amount of recoil since it is a small gun. I don’t know that I would recommend it as a gun for home defense, but it has a niche in the concealed carry market. In around 200 rounds of shooting Winchester ammo I believe I have only had one stovepipe type failure to eject.

  7. My house may not be huge but, it is big enough at around 4Ksf. I don’t know of any of the “cheapies” that I own that I can’t get on paper at a distance that meets or exceeds distances I might need to shoot within my house for protection. Being able to cover a 3-shot group with a coin of any denomination, at any range, just isn’t a requirement for home defense. Reliability is another matter. When you pull the trigger it better go bang. If it is more than a single-shot it better be able to chamber the next round. None of the firearms I choose for home protection or carry gets used for same unless I have killed a lot of paper with it first.

  8. For CTD:
    Be careful never to use the phrase “our 2nd Amendment Right” to keep and bear arms.
    Our right to carry does NOT come from the Constitution or its amendments. It is a God-given, natural, unalienable right! The 2nd Amendment merely “protects” that right from infringement by our government.
    If we help support the false notion that the right comes from law, then the corollary is also true… that right can then be taken away by law.
    We had the right long before America was established as a nation and we will always have it… no matter what any politicians say or do. No law can take that away from us… ever!

  9. Enjoyed the article. Of the weapons mentioned I own a Maverick 88 that I bought more than 20 yrs ago. Great gun! It is not, as you mentioned, drilled and tapped for scope. But with a simple after-market “B-square” add-on you can mount the scope of your choice for deer hunting. And I does indeed excel at home defense! Very versatile. I also own one of the Bersa .380 Thunders, never noticed the “sharp edges” someone mentioned here. Anoher great and highly underrated weapon. My wife, my sister, and both my sons have fired this gun with no problems and love it! Mostly it rides in the hip pocket of my Levi’s. Rarely leave home without it. It’s especially easy to clean and maintain. Only wish they made a stainless model.

  10. I HAD a PF-9. It went bang every time but you just couldn’t be sure where the round was gonna hit. The “adjustable” rear site might as well not been there. The trigger pull was horrible and it had casting lines in the center of the grip and trigger that I had to smooth to make the gun comfortable to grip. For a 9mm, it kicked pretty bad too. I think it was mostly due to its light weight. It’s size made carrying really easy. Front pocket or cargo pocket all the time. I love my XDs and Mossburg 500 though.

  11. I love my Kel-Tec P-11. Very concealable. Very accurate at critical distances. It likes my own loads better than commercial stuff, but still not bad with the commercial loads. It’s my everyday carry weapon.

  12. My dad picked up a Ruger LC9 recently, compact and good shooting, but some people tend to pull/jerk with double action only.

  13. I have a Mossberg 500 and agree completely. But my wife has a Bersa .380 that she won’t shoot (or carry) for two reasons. It has far too many “sharp” edges that make purse carry unadviseable. Worse, when she shoots it, it really punishes her hand. Yes, it’s cheap, but often you do get what you pay for. It has become a gun safe decoration and is never used. BTW, her current primary is a Ruger SP101 .38SP/.357 using .38SP +P+ ammo for defense (.357 is too much for her). I had the trigger lightened and she loves shooting it.

    Finally, I agree with Sivispace about Glocks. I carry a 10 year old Glock 17 and would never part with it.

  14. As with many things, to a certain extent, one get’s what one pays for in firearms. Some of the bargain basement guns will not reliably feed hollow point ammunition. Some suffer from accuracy issues. I have found that Glock is the perfect compromise between cost, reliability and accuracy.

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