I get asked all the time for handgun recommendations. Usually the questions come from people that have no idea what they want or need. They want a gun that can do it all. The home defense, carry, apocalypse, freedom handgun that shoots magical bad buy incapacitating non-lethal bullets. So I give some advice, some of which has been previously shared on this blog. Then the real question comes, “How much do those cost.” My usual retort of, “How much is your life worth?” seems rather off-putting so I’ve decided to come up with a list of budget handguns that I would recommend. These are three handguns that I have had experience with and would have no problems using in a defensive situation.
In order to make the cut the handgun has to be reliable, backed by and established company with a good warranty, be able to fill many roles and be under $400. These are handguns that I have owned but for one reason or another just haven’t liked. My budget allows me to be able to afford things that I also “like” to shoot rather than just a defensive tool. Again this is MY budget handgun list based upon pistols that I have owned and I would not hesitate to recommend to anyone looking for an inexpensive quality handgun.
3. Kel Tec P-11
Kel Tec is an interesting firearms company. They make reasonably priced firearms that aren’t like anything else on the market. Usually when a company is making budget firearms they are copying old designs. Not so with Kel Tec. I owned a P-11 when I was first starting to get into firearm ownership. At the time I was, like most early firearm owners, mostly concerned about budget. I was happy with the P-11 during the time I owned it. I cannot recall having any trouble with it. What I do remember is not being able to hit anything with it because I didn’t want to take the time to truly learn the double action trigger. I had just purchased my first 1911. At the time I was going to be a 1911 fanatic for life and the P-11 couldn’t go fast enough. See Kel Tec’s website for details. The P-11 ends up at #3 because of the lack of capacity. It would make a great carry gun, but in another defense scenario I think there are better options with higher round counts.
2. Sig Sauer SP2022
Normally there is no way that this handgun would make the budget list and I’m sure that if you have had any experience with Sigs you’re wondering how it’s on this list for less than $400. Well, Palmetto State Armory has it on sale right now for $390 and it comes in stainless with night sights and a holster. Normally a $700 handgun. Crazy. I know.
I actually owned the predecessor for the SP2022, the P2340. This was during my 40 S&W days. It was a great shooter. I preferred the SA/DA trigger to DA only. I remember trying to make this handgun malfunction and was unable to. I’m talking dirt in the magazines. Not cleaning it for 1000’s of rounds. Limp wristing. It just ate everything. Sig has a reputation for reliability, one that they’ve earned, and the P2340 lived up to that reputation. I’m confident that the SP2022 will as well. Get it in 9mm though. The SP2022 tips the scales a little high for carry use. It holds 15+1, so capacity is there. I’m just not a fan of the SA/DA trigger. I feel like if this were my only handgun it would be lacking.
1. Smith and Wesson SD9VE
I know some are going to scoff at the fact that I placed this ahead of the Sig. This was a handgun that I almost kept. The only reason I sold it was because I didn’t have a role for it. Don’t get me wrong, I love collecting firearms but usually handguns have to have a role, a purpose, to be in my collection. I just couldn’t imagine a scenario where I would chose it over another. My ownership of the SD9VE was recent. I purchased it form a friend that was upgrading to a higher quality handgun (a S&W M&P actually). MSRP for it is $389 and he sold it to me for $300. I wanted to hate it in all of it’s cheap stamped metal, polymer sights glory. I just couldn’t. It ate crappy Russian steel cased ammo like it needed it.
The only fault I could find with the SD9VE was the trigger. Mine broke at a whopping 11lbs. It was gritty like cheap airport toilet paper. It was by far the worst trigger I have ever shot. I was contemplating putting an Apex kit in it but I had to talk myself out of it. I couldn’t keep it. It would just sit in the safe and I would never use it. So I sold it to someone that needed it more than me. The SD9VE hits all of my major requirements for a defensive handgun. It’s striker fired, polymer, light weight, and high capacity. It will fill any role for a handgun, I would just recommend smoothing out that trigger.
Honorable Mention: Ruger P95/85
No longer in production but can be had for a great price. All of the things I don’t like about a defensive handgun. SA/DA, external safety, crappy trigger, tiny mag release, too big in my hands, etc… Not to mention it’s ugly as sin, but it always worked. You could do much worse for a handgun.
Did I swing and miss on any of these? Let me know! Leave a comment or send me an email. I would love to hear of your budget handguns.