Sunday, March 10, 2013

Basic Budget Guns Part 2: Handguns

To continue the ongoing series (Part 1, Part 1.5, Part 1.75) today we will talk about handguns. To catch you up I recommend buying common model firearms from reputable and common manufacturers chambered in a common caliber. Also remember to consider the cost of fully equipping them when comparing and pricing guns.

The goal here is to get a basic gun that fits a tight budget but is still a good solid weapon to bet your life on. The distinction between this and the cheapest guns out there is significant.

While I do not have a clear price range in mind a loose goal of $350 (of course markets vary so these guns might be 4 and a quarter in LA or 300ish in Alabama) to $400 seems like a good mark. This is of course for the gun itself, though if you buy used a holster (and maybe extra mag) might get tossed into the deal.

For a one handgun solution I tend to favor compact pistols. A .38/.357mag *3 inch* J(small) or 3-4" K(medium) sized revolver is a really good option. I would recommend Smith and Wesson or Ruger or if those are not available a fairly new Taurus. Unless you know what you are doing (which is not the target audience of this series) an older Charter Arms, Rossi, Taurus, etc might very well be a lemon and only useful as a paperweight. Newer Smiths run out of this price range in a hurry but an older revolver like a Model 10 or 64 can be had in this price range. Rugers do pop up here also. Both will probably run a bit closer to $400 but they do not need mags.

The reason revolvers will come in the cheapest is because you do not need mags. Figuring $25-35 for most mags (not today, we'll get to that in a minute) and that IMO you want a bare minimum of 6 mags cost adds up fast.

For semi auto's the Kel Tech PF9 and Ruger LC 9 both seem like pretty decent contenders and are in our price range. They are towards the smaller end of guns I would be comfortable with for an everything handgun but they are readily available and take single stack mags which are still out there at sane prices. The really little .380's and 2" J frames are difficult guns to shoot well and not especially fun to shoot which means you are less likely to put in the time to learn to use them. This combination makes them less than ideal beginner guns.

Interestingly Iraq Vet8888/ Barry of Moss Gun and Pawn did a video on handguns under $350.

Won't disagree with anything they said but there are inherent compromises in basic budge guns. Compromises that are acceptable for one person might not be acceptable for another. If you are a bit less concerned about commonality of ammunition and parts the Bersa .380 is worth looking into. If you plan to buy all the ammo and parts you will every need with the gun then the Makarov is a fine option.

Note that I really haven't talked about  any double stack auto's. Glock pistols and in particular the Glock 19 (which would otherwise be my choice here) are relatively hard to find these days. You can get them but (excluding oddballs like .45GAP) they are running a bit more expensive than before firearmagedon. In my neck of the woods it will be very hard to touch a non oddball used Glock for under $550 with $600 probably being average. Most significantly the price of full capacity double stack mags that hold more than 10 rounds (especially Glock 9's)  is up considerably, though they are slowly trending down. Glock mags are running $43-45 in my neck of the woods and it's a sellers market. This is significantly up from the $25-28 pre panic prices. For a guy like me who wants to have 9-10 mags that is a big price difference. Between the higher price of the gun and mags I think the Glock 9mm is currently priced out of a "common man" budget. The same can be said for the other pistols that would normally be in this range. Smith and Wesson Sigma's and the old Ruger P series still offer good value if you can find mags at a sane price.

My basic budget handgun setup would be:
-handgun (duh)
-6 magazines for an auto/ some speedloaders for a revolver
-500 rounds of ammunition. In a perfect world you might have 500 rounds of JHP ammo and then some FMJ for plinking but if the budget is tight consider getting 100 rounds of JHP and the rest FMJ. If the budget is uuber tight just rock boring old ball ammo.
-decent holster that can be used for concealment
-belt stuff enough to comfortably hold said gun in holster

Personally I would be looking for a decent used revolver either a Smith and Wesson Model 10/64 .38 or a Ruger Security 6 .357 really whichever came up first.

Hope that helps somebody. Next chapter we will talk shotguns which will be short and easy.


LyndaKay said...

I'm still digesting this 4-part posting on handguns. So much info! Very informative. Hubby and I are learning a lot. And thanks to all follow up comments.

Ryan said...

LyndaKay, You are welcome. I am looking at doing 1 part a week for the next 3-4 weeks.

Anonymous said...

berrata 92 mas will fit taurus 92 if you open up the lock holes on the sid of the mags. you can get them surplus for around 10.00 each thats what i paid each for 7 mags $70.00

Anonymous said...

But you didn't mention speed loaders. Revolvers are slow enough to reload, so instead of mags, you will have to buy speed loaders. They will run from about 8.00 for std loaders to around 20.00 for competition loaders

Ryan said...

@7:26, If you are getting $10 Beretta 92 mags today please let us know where. I suspect a few people might want them.

@7:50, Reread the post.
"My basic budget handgun setup would be:
-handgun (duh)
-6 magazines for an auto/ some speedloaders for a revolver
-500 rounds of ammunition. (abbreviated)
-decent holster that can be used for concealment
-belt stuff enough to comfortably hold said gun in holster"

Speed loaders are good to have for sure. However the gun does still work without them, despite slower reloads. In this regard they are different than a semi auto without a mag. As such I place a bit less priority on them than mags.

2heavyb said...

I also suggest supplementing the speed loaders with speed/quick strips. Remember there are 5 or 6 round versions here too. I find its much easier to stash several reloads with these than with the relatively bulky speed loaders. Now don't misunderstand me I believe 2 speed loaders are the "ideal " minimum with extra "strips" after that.

Double Tapper said...

Save and get a handgun that FEELS good in your hands. Try as many as you can. Even at gunshow prices, you can get a Ruger or Smith revolver, stainless, in the $400 price range. Get it in .357 for max versatility. You don't need anything fancy. The Model 10, 66 or 686 are some of the best revolvers ever made. The Rugers a big rougher but workhorses. I dont' like playing the "one gun" or "one knife" game, but if I could only have one handgun limited by financial constraints, it would be a S&W 686 Stainless.

Ryan said...

2heavyb, Those are fine too. It's sort of a personal preference thing and at the end of the day 6 of 1 vs half a dozen of another.

Double Tapper, Not a bad idea at all. However the slight increase in price takes it a bit out of the most basic/ affordable but still quality category that I am shooting for in this series.

LyndaKay said...

Comparisons of handguns can be done by many aspects such as cost, size, features, but I agree with Double Tapper that it has to feel good in your hand. DH and I will be trying out as many of the ones mentioned and recommended here as we can. One gun will probably not "fit" us both, so a second handgun will be on our list.

Ryan said...

LyndaKay, Fit and ergonomics are important but intangible and inherently personal in nature. What is right for Bob might not be right for Jim who is the same size, etc.

'Pool guns' which are guns that will be used by multiple people need to be sized to the smallest person. In other words a hypothetical 6'5" 280 pound husband with bear paws for hands could shoot a small gripped revolver or single stack 9mm/ .380 but hypothetical 5'2" 120 pound wife with tiny hands could not shoot his huge Ruger Super Redhawk .44 Mag or full sized Glock 21 which is a double stack .45. The same could be said with a pool shotgun, rifle or .22.

Hubby might not like it but he can deal for awhile.

I do agree that a second, ideally compatible like a bigger .357 and a smaller .38, pistol will probably be on the short list.

Anonymous said...

I frequently see surplus USGI Beretta 92 mags for $10 to $20 on the equipment exchange of


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