Budget Self Defense HandgunsWhen you look at gun publications you’ll often see beautiful handguns on the cover, and often the best articles cover high-quality and high-priced guns. It makes sense because there are more interesting things to say about handguns that are built by talented artisans. But as the economy continues to falter and more people need self-defense handguns, we need to go back to the basics and identify budget guns that can save lives in self-defense situations. This article will focus on the criteria for budget guns and offer some budget guns for further research. My goal is to identify budget guns that are first and foremost reliable and then combat accurate. I’ll explain why I offer only to key requirements for good quality budget guns. Budget guns come at a lower price for a reason. It’s unrealistic to expect a budget handgun to look and feel the same as a Wilson Combat or Les Baer. It is, however, possible to find handguns that will be able to keep you safe by offering reliability and combat accuracy. Before proceeding to explain these, let me be clear and state that the term budget guns does not equate to the El-Cheapo special. A cheap gun is often unreliable and, therefore, carrying it is worse than carrying nothing, since the cheap gun will offer a false sense of security and then fail you when you call on it to save your life. Budget guns are basic self-defense handguns that lack some features and are often not very pretty. With that clarification out of the way, let’s look at the main requirements for a good quality budget gun. A self-defense handgun must be reliable. It must go bang whenever you pull the trigger. This is a basic, non-negotiable requirement. Then, it must also be combat accurate, which means that it needs to hit a human sized target from touching distance to 25 yards. This means that you are not looking for 1″ or 1.5″ groups at 25 yards. It means that you need a decent trigger and decent sights. If a budget gun meets these two requirements, it’s good enough and we’ll look at what that means next. When you buy a budget handgun you are making trade-offs. You are giving up anything that isn’t essential to basic self-defense needs. This means that when you seek the budget gun some features will become explicit non-goals. Understanding this is important for avoiding the constant seek and not find merry-go-round. Know what you need and know what you don’t have to have.

e. For example, night sights are great but you can do without them. If money becomes available later, you can upgrade, but a budget gun with decent sights is good enough. Aesthetics are explicit non-goals since an ugly gun will save your life better than the pretty one that you can’t afford but are still “saving” for. A budget gun needs to be combat accurate. And as to groups that you frankly won’t be able to shoot anyway (like 1.5” at 50 yards), those are explicit non-goals too. By making a list such as this, you’ll end up with a minimal set of requirements that will make shopping for your budget gun easier. I’ll offer a list to get you going. As always research each gun to see if it meets your needs. My first choice for a budget gun is the basic Springfield XD in 9mm or 45 ACP. No need to get it with night sights or any two-tone or any other option above the most basic. It is a good gun that will keep you safe on a budget. My second choice will be a revolver. The Ruger LCR is a great choice for a low cost pocket gun. The 5 rounds of 38 special will offer stopping power with the right ammo and rock solid reliability. If you want something bigger and stronger, the Ruger GP 100 in 357 Magnum comes to mind. I have had mine for a long time and despite having shot thousands of rounds, it is as good today as it was when I bought it. Other semi-automatics that are good, reliable and within a budget include the Glock (one of the older generations), S&W Sigma and semi-automatics from FNH. These are all good guns that will fulfill the two main requirements without stressing your bank account. Keep in mind that a gun that’s there when you need it, even an ugly gun, is far better than the pretty one you saw on some website but couldn’t afford. Since you’ll probably own more than one gun in years to come, set an achievable bar for your first budget gun and be in a position to protect yourself sooner rather than later. Until next time, stay safe by staying alert.


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  1. by vincent1 | May 12, 2011 , 9:21 pm

    while i like your theroy on this one, i dont agree with your choices. the firearms you listed are not budget guns. they may not cost the same as a kimber, but they are far from budget. try looking at taurus, or charter arms. there are also others out there that are in the same price range. these guns are just as reliable as the other. i have had problems with my xd9, as well as my model 92 taurus. both have been repaired and work perfectly today. my gp100 has never given me an issue that wasnt a fault of my own (dirty ammo caused issues). personally i carry a pt111 9mm taurus today, and its better then my xd-9 and almost $200 cheaper.

  2. by myname | May 16, 2011 , 1:32 am

    I have a Taurus 709 and love it. It eats everything I feed it, including functioning perfectly with the CCI Snakeshot shells. I feel like it was a great bargain at ~$360. Now the downside. It had to take a free trip to Taurus customer service about a year ago when I first got it, to have the ejector replaced. They do pay for overnight FedEx both ways and the turn around time was 3 weeks. Since then it has functioned great. I don’t even think of it as a cheap budget handgun. I think of it as a great carry piece. And the fact it cycles reliably with snakeshot is a big plus to me. Saves me from having to have a revolver for hiking and hunting.
    And for what it is worth, my wife has a 738 Taurus with the same experience. Trip to Taurus and it works great. Obviously it isn’t a great thing that these guns need after sale work. But I couldn’t help noticing all the bitching that goes on about Kahr problems and those guns are twice as much.

  3. by How to Find 380 ACP Ammo | PerfectUnion.com | May 18, 2011 , 11:17 pm

    […] to sell at an unprecedented rate, so does the 380 ACP ammo that feeds them. Folks end up with self-defense handguns they can’t use. This article will help you find what you need. We’ll share our sources […]

  4. by JRedHorse | December 1, 2013 , 9:04 pm

    I’ve had a Taurus 24/7 pro-C and have never had an issue in the 2 years I’ve owned it and with 2000+ rounds through it, it cost me $450 new and has many details that more expensive semi-autos at higher price ranges do not offer.

    I also have a no frills Heritage Arms 6 shot revolver ($325 new) that is simple and inexpensive that never fails.

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