Five Handguns for Sale Under $300
Though you can’t put a price on your life or the life of your loved ones, it’s completely understandable that budget restrictions and fixed incomes may limit your ability to purchase the gun of your dreams. As someone who advocates personal safety, personal perseverance and strongly stands up for all Americans’ right to defend themselves, I’d much rather see you purchase something rather than nothing. You don’t have to go without a means of protection just because you can’t afford the best of the best.
Sometimes the “best of the best” isn’t necessarily so anyway. What’s in a name? Sometimes it is the definition of high quality and sometimes it’s purely brand recognition. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. For example, I couldn’t get a $700 Kimber Solo to shoot through an entire magazine without malfunctioning, while I know people who can’t get their $200 Hi-Point to mess up once.
Are there good handguns for sale under $300? You bet there are! And you don’t have to sacrifice name brand and reputation to get it either.
A lot goes into choosing a new gun—shootability (how it fits, feels and shoots for you), price, reliability, purpose and availability (in that order) is how I chose. Notice how price is number two on my list? Price is a huge consideration when I’m gun shopping. I can justify eating cheaply for a couple of weeks to my family, but I can’t exactly make them live without lights. I have owned everything from a free Jennings .25 ACP to a brand-new $1,000 Kimber. Was the Jennings crap? Absolutely! But I’ve also owned a Smith & Wesson that I didn’t hang on to for very long. The price of the gun isn’t always going to reflect how much you’re going to love or hate it.
I’ve worked in the firearms industry for nearly 15 years and have had the chance to try a lot of different guns and meet a lot of people who have also tried a lot of different guns. Everyone I know who collects guns have purchased at least one cheap gun with varying results from deep regret to “I’m never selling this one!”
Writer’s Disclaimer: Guns are like cars. For example, three of your friends swear by Toyota. You go buy one because of their glowing reviews and you end up with a lemon. Always, always, always take the gun you are looking at for a test run before committing. What works for me, my friends, your friends, your spouse, the guy behind the gun counter…won’t necessarily work for you.
Smith & Wesson SD40 VE
The Smith & Wesson SD-series in .40 S&W or 9mm is one of, if not the most, reliable semiautos in the budget gun category. As one of my close buddies, who also works in the industry, says, “it’s one of the cheaper ones that work!” The SD is the modern version of S&W’s first polymer-framed handgun—the Sigma. The Sigma was released in 1994 to directly compete with the GLOCK 19. The original Sigma is so like the GLOCK, that GLOCK sued Smith & Wesson for patent infringement. (The two settled out of court.) Like the Sigma, the SD series are striker-fired with a double-action trigger and have double-stack magazines. The S&W SD VE series have polymer frames, stainless steel barrels and a textured ergonomic grip. Both the .40 and 9 have a 4-inch barrel. The .40 S&W holds 14 rounds, and the 9mm holds 16 rounds. These guns shoot reliably, accurately and consistently. Some complain about its long, heavy trigger pull, but it doesn’t have an external manual safety, so if you carry it, you’ll appreciate the added level of safety. If you absolutely hate the trigger, as some do, you can upgrade with the Apex Tactical spring kit and/or trigger. The MSRP is $389, but I’ve seen them listed street price for less than $300. You’ll feel like you’ve gotten a steal when you spend that kind of money on a reliable, reputable Smith & Wesson.
Good for: home defense, truck gun, recreational/target shooting
SCCY CPX-2 and CPX-1
The SCCY CPX 9mm concealed carry gun comes in two models—with or without a manual safety. The MSRP on these guns is amazingly low, especially for a firearm that is 100% made in-house in America. MSRP is less than $300 and I’ve seen them listed for as low as $225. The CPX-1 and CPX-2 start with a polymer frame and solid steel bar stock milled in Florida. Only some springs aren’t made in-house at SCCY. They have a 3.1-inch barrel, are snag-free for concealed carry and weigh a light 15 ounces. Both models hold a 10-round magazine. The trigger is long and extremely heavy at 9 lbs. and is described as “ridiculous” by two owners of SCCY who work at Firefield. However, the trigger is smooth and breaks consistently. The slide is also easy to rack and moves smoothly. Firefield’s social media manager boasts about his SCCY CPX-1: “It comes with a transferable/no questions asked lifetime warranty and mine has jammed only once with over 500 rounds through it.”
Good for: conceal carry, backup gun
Armscor M200 Revolver
For those who prefer a revolver for home defense or are looking for a good truck gun, the Armscor M200 .38 Special revolver deserves a look. The MSRP is only $275 and I’ve seen them as low as $210. The one I have experience with was bought used for even less than that! I’m not going to lie, this is a no-frills revolver. It has a Parkerized finish and a wide rubber grip. It’s as basic as they come, but this gun is a beast. The four-inch barrel makes it a bit cumbersome to carry, but it works reliably and stays on target, even with the heavy, long trigger pull. I highly recommend the M200 for first timers or for those who want a home protection gun but don’t necessarily have an interest in regularly target shooting. For that reason—the comfortable grip, manageable recoil and accuracy make this revolver perfect for home defense.
Good for: home defense, target shooting, truck gun
Bersa Thunder .380
The Bersa Thunder .380 semiauto has been a popular concealed carry model for years. Its variety of different finishes appeals to a wide audience and its design and construction make it super accurate, as well as easy to handle. The Bersa .380 holds 8 rounds, has a 3.5-inch barrel, is 6.6 inches long and weighs 20 ounces. Its slightly larger than many popular .380 subcompact or pocket guns, but the combination of size and heft help make recoil more than manageable. It operates on a blowback, fixed-barrel design. The micro-polished bore with deep rifling increases accuracy. The alloy frame and steel slide with polymer grip make the Bersa fun to shoot and even inexperienced shooters will do well firing it. I helped a friend break in her Bersa Thunder and found it to be one of the more accurate right-out-of-the-box firearms I’ve ever reviewed. A Firefield employee says he’s had his Bersa Thunder .380 for eight years without issue. He says, “It has a pretty style, it’s simple to break down, it’s light and pocketable.”
Good for: concealed carry, starter pistol
Though Walther and Kel-Tec came first, the Ruger LCP is credited for bringing back the now-popular .380 ACP. Ruger’s timing was impeccable when it released the LCP. More people than ever were buying guns and interested in getting carry permits—especially women. A subcompact, lightweight, comfortable to carry gun from a reputable company with an affordable price tag to boot? People were all over it! I remember at the time, salespeople and marketing were really hard selling the Ruger LCP to women. The marketing worked, and I know plenty of girls who purchased one. It is a hammer-fired, locked breech, recoil-operated .380 ACP with a polymer frame, 2.75-inch barrel, weighing only 9.6 ounces empty. The sights are crude, it has a long trigger pull—as is expected of a gun like this without an external safety—and it’s pretty snappy—yet, it has a no-snag design and is an extremely easy and comfortable gun to carry. The trigger is average—better than many guns in this class, but not half as good as the 1911-style micro .380s or even a GLOCK 42 or 43. The Ruger LCP does the job its designed to do—shoots accurately enough at self-defense distances. This is a good gun to get your feet wet when you first begin to conceal carry while saving for something a little fancier.
Good for: concealed carry, backup gun
When searching for a cheap gun, you’ll find junk to fantastic to everything in between. The most important part about buying a new gun is that YOU like it and feel confident in its ability to work when you need it most, regardless if it’s a customized STI International 1911 or a Cerakoted Camo Hi-Point carbine. Fortunately, there are plenty of affordable firearms that retail for less than $400 and $300 out there that you can rely on.