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If you’re on a budget or otherwise conscious of cost, you’re probably wondering whether you should settle for a cheap gun? That depends — do you need it for self-defense? If so, you don’t need the most expensive weapon on the shelf, but you also can’t afford to skimp on quality.
Why Think About Cheap?
Self-defense is the primary reason that people cite for purchasing or owning a firearm.
Those who own firearms and shoot are, on average, hard-working Americans with bills to pay — consequently, they need to be conscientious regarding discretionary spending.
Many gun owners have to spend time searching for the best type of weapon that they can afford, which can be a time-consuming process.
“Cheap” has several connotations. One is “low quality.” A firearm that is cheaply made, whether a handgun, rifle, or shotgun, may not be as reliable, durable, or accurate as firearms of higher quality. These guns may be manufactured to more exacting standards, closer tolerances, or from better materials.
As a curiosity or for recreational shooting, a cheaply made firearm may be worth it — provided, of course, that it’s safe to fire. You’re not relying on it to save your life or put food on the table. All it needs to do is lay on a shelf or punch holes in a paper target and the occasional glass bottle.
However, for serious work — self-defense or duty — you can’t afford to settle for cheap in this sense. But what about cheap in the second sense — i.e., inexpensive or affordable? The answer is it depends. First, whether a gun is expensive or not depends, in part, on your own budgetary constraints, but taking it to mean broadly affordable, there are excellent weapons that fit this category.
The expression “you get what you pay for” can be true to an extent. However, by the same token, a high price is no guarantee of the quality of a firearm’s craftsmanship or its functional reliability.
Some excellent examples of affordably priced, reliable firearms are Glock, the Smith & Wesson M&P series of handguns, and Springfield XD pistols.
If the pistols that these companies manufacture are still too expensive for your budget, you may consider Ruger. Many of Ruger’s offerings are budget-friendly weapons suitable for defensive applications.
Handguns aren’t the only type of weapon that this question applies to. Shotguns are, often, less expensive than pistols and revolvers. Reputable manufacturers, such as Mossberg, produce budget variants of its popular models.
An example is the Maverick 88 — a budget 500. This weapon will still serve as an effective and reliable home-defense weapon, despite the comparatively low price.
For semi-automatic rifles and carbines, the least expensive parts and assemblies can reflect poor quality control or inconsistent tolerances. It depends on the manufacturer — do your homework.
Reasons to Buy a Cheap Gun
Should you have to defend yourself, your gun may be confiscated — rightly or wrongly — by the authorities. One of the advantages of choosing a low-cost firearm for self-defense is that, if your gun’s fate is to be the permanent guest of a police evidence locker, you won’t be out of pocket more than a couple of hundred bucks (or less).
Many newcomers to the firearms market offer option-rich weapons at relatively low prices, and it’s worth considering these products. That may be their way of getting their foot in the door.
One of the most important reasons to consider buying a cheap gun provided it’s still a quality model, is that you can allocate more of your resources to range practice and accessories. Ammunition is not as cheap as it used to be, and dry firing will only take you so far.
If you can buy more ammunition for range practice to familiarize yourself with the gun, break it in (if necessary), and ensure that your skills don’t diminish, that’s worth it. You also shouldn’t neglect spare magazines, a good holster, a good gun belt (for waistband carry), and cleaning/maintenance equipment.
You should always take firearms reviews online and in print with a grain of salt. How a firearm performs under ideal conditions with high-quality ammunition on a sterile firing range doesn’t necessarily reflect how it will perform under adverse conditions.
You should also consider that reviews are often of a single sample. It’s rare to have a reviewer test and evaluate several pistols of the same make and model to determine the manufacturer’s quality control.
The aforementioned sample size of a professional firearm review is why the manufacturer’s quality control is so important. You may get a better idea from consulting with people who own firearms produced by a particular company or scouring the internet for user reviews. Bear in mind, however, that brand loyalty, sometimes to the point of blind faith, is not unheard of among gun communities.
If you browse gun shows and online auctions for used guns, you can find a treasure trove of reasonably priced and discontinued firearms, many of which have been beautifully preserved by their owners.
Used guns are one of the best sources of “cheap” guns in the affordable sense, including many major name brands. You should be aware of what to look for when buying a used gun and how to inspect these weapons to determine their condition and functionality.
The question of whether cheap guns are worth it depends on what “cheap” means to you and what you need the gun for. If by “cheap” you mean “cheaply made,” the answer is generally no. If by cheap you mean inexpensive, the answer is yes if the gun’s quality can be independently verified.
Inexpensive firearms can be highly reliable, accurate, and durable. At the same time, expensive is not synonymous with quality. There are prohibitively expensive firearms that are only suited to being showpieces. You’ll need to investigate the make and model that you have your eye on to see how well it fairs on the market.
Cheap guns can be worth it if they are quality weapons. Cheap doesn’t necessarily mean low quality — it can simply mean affordable. You’ll have to determine through research and experimentation whether a cheap gun is the best choice for you.