Tag Archives: Gun review

My Top Three Budget Handguns

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 P-11-Photo Credit
Kel Tec P-11-Photo Credit

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

Sig Sauer SP2022-Photo Credit
Sig Sauer SP2022-Photo Credit

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

My Top Budget Handgun the S&W SD9VE-Photo Credit
My Top Budget Handgun the S&W SD9VE-Photo Credit

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.

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The M&P Shield Post Range Report

I finally had the opportunity to take the little Shield out to the range. I have to say I’m quite impressed. Unfortunately the pictures that I took didn’t turn out too well, but I’ll attempt this blog anyways. I’ve already talked about the Shield in unboxing and a comparison to the Springfield XDs-45 here.

Like all M&Ps it just feels right in my hand. The texturing is enough to be able to handle the recoil but not too aggressive to become painful like when shooting the XD-s. Recoil is minimal despite it size. I thought that the high bore axis might lead to some squirlyness, but it handled quite well. Double taps and rapid fire were easy to keep in good groups for defensive purposes. At longer ranges the Shield is adequately accurate. With factory reloads I was able to produce a nice 5″ group offhand.

My new carry gun and ammo. M&P Shield and Federal HST
My new carry gun and ammo. M&P Shield and Federal HST

I am happy to report that reliability was 100% as expected. It ran about 100 FMJs to warm it up and then tried a couple of defensive rounds. On hand I had some Hornady Critical Defense 115gr, Federal HdraShocks 124gr, Federal HST 124gr, Ranger T-Series 147gr and Fiocchi 115gr hollow points, all of which ran flawless. I will probably be carrying the HSTs. I am also happy to report that the safety wasn’t an issue and I don’t think it will be.

One of the pleasures of shooting the M&P is the trigger. It’s like getting my XDs-45 all over again. The trigger breaks at a good weight, just over 6 lbs. It is smooth and unlike my full size M&P has a great reset. For such a little gun it’s a pleasure to shoot. My only gripe right now is the lack of availability of magazines. It looks like I’m going to have to spend some time this weekend making a holster for it.

For a review of the Shield that is better than anything I could come up with watch this. Man can that old guy shoot. I can only hope to spend my retirement days reviewing firearms at my private range… I digress, please feel free to comment if you have any questions on the Shield.

Springfield XDs vs M&P Shield

My XDs going to be gone tomorrow. Feels ike the end of an era.
My XDs is gone tomorrow. Feels like the end of an era.

It’s always an exciting day when I get a new firearm. The urge to go out and test it is really the only thing that runs through my mind until I can satisfy it. It’s also a sad day for me today because I’m losing a member of my collection. As I stated in my last post, I am changing my concealed carry setup. When I received my XDs back from the recall the trigger wasn’t the same as before and it had lost one of the qualities that I loved about it. I had been contemplating moving completely to a 9mm anyways (my main carry is a Glock 19). So I put the XDs up for sale. It was easy to sell since I had a bunch of accouterments that I basically threw in for free. This freed up the funds to purchase the 9mm replacement. Luckily I don’t have to hand over the XDs until tomorrow so that gave me the opportunity to do a comparison.

M&P Shield-Photo Credit
M&P Shield-Photo Credit

I decided to go with the Smith and Wesson M&P Shield. There are several reasons why. To me the Springfield and the M&P are in the same category. Both are highly reliable, similarly sized, striker fired, quality handguns. You really can’t go wrong with either. What it really boils down to is features. It just so happens that my decision was made on price since I really couldn’t decide. The military discount that Smith and Wesson offers is pretty incredible.

XDs vs. the M&P Shield
XDs (left) vs. the M&P Shield (right). Size is almost identical.

There are several other handguns in this same “class” that were not considered for one reason or the other. The Ruger LC9 has a double action only trigger that I absolutely hate. The post recall XDs is bad enough… The Remmington R51, the new kid on the block, has had some serious quality control issues. I kind of loved the idea of the R51 but after reading more about it I don’t think I could ever buy one. The Beretta Nano is just, well… I don’t like the lack of external controls, but that could be a good thing. I’ve owned Khars and again double action trigger. I’ve never been a fan of Whalter’s. Some people love them, I just, meh. Other contenders were either prohibitively expensive, not a proven brand, or had one of the afore mentioned gripes. This left me with the M&P and the XDs9.

Looking at them both it’s easy to see that they are quality handguns. Most parts, like the slide rails and slide release, are machined rather then stamped (here’s looking at you Glock…). I’ll break it down by what I consider the important categories.

  1. Size-It’s a tie. They are almost Identical.
  2. Aesthetics-I have to give this one to the M&P. The XDs looks like the chunky ugly friend.
  3. Trigger-You can probably guess where the vote goes here. M&P.
  4. Trigger Reset-Tie. Both are audible and tactile without being obnoxious like my Glock.
  5. Safeties-The XDs. Both have trigger safeties but I much prefer the XDs palm safety to the M&P manual safety. I need to see if I can get that thing removed.
  6. Sights-XDs. A front fiber optic sight standard? What? The sights on the M&P are standard three dot. Not bad just nothing to write home about.
  7. Adjustability-XDs. Interchangeable back straps. Luckily the M&P fits my hand quite nicely but it could be a problem for someone with larger hands.
  8. Caliber-XDs. A pocket .45 wins hands down. However, I don’t feel underpowered with the 9mm. Don’t get me started on the M&P in a 40. I’ve shot one and it was one of the worst shooting experiences of my life.
  9. Capacity-Technically a tie since the XDs is also offered in a 9mm and the standard magazines are both 7 rounds. The XDs does offer a 9 rounder but the M&P only offers an 8.
  10. Ease of Takedown-Tie. They both takedown in exactly the same way.
  11. Cost-M&P. With my military discount it was just over $300. The XDs with a military discount is still about $450. Add about $100 to both for consumer prices.
  12. Comfort-M&P. Holding it is just like it’s big brother, which I feel is the most comfortable handgun ever. It has enough grip without being obtuse like the checkering on the XDs. The checkering on the XDs works well but feels a little to aggressive.
XDs left)
XDs (left) M&P (right). Looks like I need to clean off that end plate before I give it away.

I will update this blog when I get it out to the range. I’ve shot one before and loved it and I don’t feel like that it going to change. It’s unfortunate I won’t be able to do a side by side shooting. I don’t feel like this would be an accurate representation since the calibers are so different. What I would like to see, however, is how much the slightly higher bore axis effects the Shield.

Did I miss anything? Please feel free to email or comment.