When I began working up this assignment I did not look in the media or around the gun shops, but as I usually do, I took my own counsel. What would qualify a firearm as underrated?
A firearm that provides good service, is reliable and worth its cost, but isn’t very expensive are among the criteria.
There are underrated firearms that are great guns and have a number of strong adherents, but are not universally acclaimed.
Perhaps the Colt Single Action Army may be one. Others are popular simply because they are cheap, but that doesn’t mean they are underrated, everyone pretty well knows where they stand with them.
Rather, I chose firearms that are in daily use by many shooters and provide them good service. Some are purchased by those on a budget.
After using the underrated firearms in question, they realize that they made that uncommon purchase worth more than its price.
As an example, some have purchased the Savage 110 rifle based on economy and felt it was good enough for the job. After using the rifle, they became Savage fans for life.
That is the kind of thing we are looking for. I am certain there are other firearms that would fit the list, and I look forward to hearing from you!
1. Beretta Tomcat
The Tomcat was purchased grudgingly I admit. At the time, I was in an assignment that demanded the appearance of being unarmed. I looked toward the smallest possible footprint.
The Beretta was chosen based on its reliability. Not many pocket guns have the measure of reliability the Tomcat has earned.
Next, the safety features. The Beretta is easy to load without racking the slide, simply tip the barrel up and load a cartridge into the chamber.
There is a positive safety on the frame that may be operated in a natural movement. When you carry the piece in an area normally reserved for a truss, safety is important.
The trigger action is well suited to a pocket gun. The trigger guard is wide enough to offer plenty of finger leverage. The double-action first shot isn’t difficult to pull off accurately — at close range.
In single-action fire, the pistol is surprisingly accurate. You may stay on a man-sized target at 15 yards and home every Hornady XTP into the X ring.
Headshots are not difficult at seven yards. Rodents and dangerous snakes at a few paces are easy game.
The Beretta isn’t my first choice for concealed carry, but it is a frequent backup and one I trust. Accuracy and reliability make it more versatile than most.
2. Bersa Thunder .380 ACP
The Bersa is often called a Walther clone. It isn’t. As the exposed drawbar indicates, the Bersa Thunder is more of a Beretta clone. The action is smoother than the Walther and equal to the Beretta.
The Bersa is a surprisingly reliable and accurate handgun. I often recommend it to those on a budget. I have no reservations concerning Bersa reliability.
The finish is sometimes prone to early wear. My pistol has been carried for many months in a Gold Star IWB holster. This holster offers an excellent range of adjustment.
The Bersa disappears under a sport shirt. The pistol is roughly as accurate as most subcompact 9mm handguns. It is accurate enough to make practice enjoyable.
If I were limited to the .380 ACP cartridge, this would be my top choice, and it is the only .380 ACP pistol I currently own. This one is loaded with Hornady Critical Defense.
3. Charter Arms Undercover .38 Special
I have kept a snubnose .38 as a backup and backed the pocket revolver for many years.
When Charter Arms introduced the Undercover .38 during the Vietnam War, good quality handguns were difficult to find.
The Charter has continued to arm Americans on a budget and arm them well. The example illustrated is a blue steel version with walnut grips, the original version and still my favorite.
The pistol features a steel frame, kind of a steel skeleton surrounded by aluminum. A transfer bar ensures the revolver is safe to carry fully loaded.
The Charter is light, reliable, powerful enough for defense use, offers a smooth action and good sights.
If you need a backup revolver or a .38 Special on a budget, the Charter Undercover should fit your budget. This one is loaded with Hornady Critical Defense.
The Undercover ranks high on the list of underrated firearms.
4. Colt Series 80 Government Model .45 ACP
The Colt Government Model underrated? Yes, actually it is.
In this day of cheap, under-performing 1911s and terribly expensive, super-accurate 1911 pistols, the middle of the road 1911 handguns in the eight to nine-hundred dollar range don’t get the attention they should.
The Colt Government Model Series 80 is a great all-around 1911. The pistol has a well-earned reputation for reliability.
The trigger action is smooth and reliable, if not the lightest that is still well suited to personal defense.
The pistol will put five of Hornady’s new subsonic .45 ACP 230-grain XTP load into less than three inches at 25 yards. That is good performance.
Another way in which this handgun is underrated is the modern revisionist history and faulty science of ‘all calibers are the same.’ This is a shaky bandwagon to jump on.
A generation ago, the popular press gave us unverifiable and unrepeatable ‘stopping power’ studies and ridiculous goat shooting tests that were regarded as a hoax by professionals.
The .45 ACP is a great choice for those willing to master the handgun.
5. Savage 110
As originally envisioned, the Savage 110’s famous barrel-nut assembly was intended to offer a less expensive means of fitting the barrel to the frame. A happy byproduct was enhanced accuracy potential.
The Savage 110 has earned a reputation for excellent accuracy potential, reliability and affordability. The modern Savage 110 Apex Storm offers excellent features.
The stock offers considerable adjustment and the supplied Vortex scope is a credible and effective optic. I like the Savage 110 very much.
6. Thompson/Center R22
The Thompson/Center R22 is sometimes called a Ruger 10/22 clone. In some ways it is, but unlike most clones, this isn’t a cheaper version meant to sell for less money.
The R22 is a first-class rifle with many improvements. It is supplied with a Magpul stock, fast to acquire and accurate peep sights, and a magazine that holds open on the last shot.
The rifle accepts 10, 15 and 25-round Ruger 10/22 magazines. Reliability and accuracy have been excellent. This is my to-go rifle and one of my favorite .22-caliber firearms of all time.