Budget Guns vs. Cheap Guns

In your quest for preparedness and survival in case of SHTF, undoubtedly one of the most important pieces of equipment you should have in your goody bag o’ buggin’ (a.k.a BOB, a.k.a bug out bag) is a firearm.

Realistically, this is a piece of equipment you should have on your EDC list. However, some people don’t want to carry a firearm on their person daily, yet do keep one in the home.

Guns are Expensive

There is a common misconception that you have to spend a fortune to get a good gun. In fact, this is not the case. There are several firearms makers out there who offer a quality product at an affordable price. But let’s not confuse a budget priced gun with a cheap gun. Yes, there is most definitely a difference.

A budget gun is a gun that, while offering high quality and performance, maintains a low price. A cheap gun is a gun that is priced low, even lower than a budget gun, and is an unreliable piece of metal best used for a paper weight.

In this article we will look at three of the most common calibers of handgun, and give an example of each in the budget price point and cheap. Let’s start with one of my favorite calibers, .357 magnum.

Budget .357 Magnum

There are several quality .357 magnum revolvers that fall into the budget category, all are serviceable weapons.

When compared to some of the bigger name brands that have been around for a long time, these budget guns come in at around half the price (or less). Yet, offer pretty much the same quality and performance.

One of my favorite gun makers is Taurus. While they have a few lines of handguns that I do not like, they have several that I like a lot.

I owned several Taurus handguns, and have loved them all. Taurus offers this .357 magnum revolver (pictured) at around $350 new.

Depending on in which store you are shopping and which model you select the prices can get higher, but this is a very serviceable weapon at this price point for comparison to a cheaper version.

You can opt for one of several models of .357 magnum with a Taurus revolver. They are offered in 2”, 4”, 6”, or 8” barrel lengths, in blued finish or low maintenance stainless steel.

Cheap Guns

The EAA (European American Armory) Windicator .357 magnum, while priced at around $300 (very close to the cost of a much higher quality Taurus handgun), is a cheap gun. There’s just no two ways about it.

They are offered in a poorly executed nickel finish that will eventually wear off, and be difficult to refinish to look good, or a blued version that looks like cheap paint.

They, as their name says, are made in a European country that doesn’t even ALLOW their citizens to carry firearms. Yet they want Americans to buy them. I honestly don’t see how they stay in business.

Only the uninformed and unknowledgeable would buy an EAA Windicator over a much higher quality budget revolver like a Taurus, Charter Arms, or Rossi. All three of which (in descending order) offer great firearms, and all reasonably priced.

You can spend just a few more dollars and get a great gun that will last a lifetime. As for the EAA? Well, it will let you down without a doubt. So spend that extra few bucks, it will most definitely worth it.

Budget Guns

Another common caliber that I like is the 9mm Luger (9x19mm). There are literally dozens of gun makers that offer 9mm semi automatic pistols. I have owned several (of course) Taurus 9mm handguns, I currently own only one.

But it’s a highly polished PT92 AFS model and I keep it put up and just play with it at the range and just kind of look at it sometimes. It’s a beautiful gun (I had two that matched for several years but I sold one). It’s too pretty of a gun for every day carry (EDC) and to let get beat up.

Instead, for that, I carried this Bersa Thunder Pro Ultra compact for several years. It’s put up right now, because I’ve been carrying this Taurus PT 845 high capacity .45 ACP (another good budget gun at under $400 for a 13 shot .45).

While the Bersa is a smaller compact gun and so has a shorter barrel, it’s still actually a very accurate weapon.

my sidearm

Mine has had about 5,000 rounds through it, at which point I thought maybe if I put a new barrel in it I could tighten my groups a little. I put a new Bersa barrel in it (which they serial matched for me), but to be honest, it seems like it made no difference.

That tells me that even with 5,000 rounds through it, the gun still shoots like new. That’s pretty good quality for a compact 9mm that holds 13 rounds and costs less than $400.

Cheap Gun

One of the biggest disasters in firearms ever perpetrated on mankind is a Jimenez. Made from cheap cast zinc (AKA pot metal), nothing about this cheap gun screams quality.

Holding only 6 rnds and usually jamming after firing only two (or one), even for being only $200, this gun is still not a good deal. Cheap metal, cheap flat black painted finish. I just can’t say enough negative things about this complete POS of a gun.

It would be best served as a paper weight or a skipping rock. Here’s a picture of one, so you know what it looks like and can be sure to NEVER BUY ONE. They really are just absolutely terrible excuses for firearms.

jimenez 9 mm

The company went out of business once but someone actually resurrected it. I cannot fathom why anyone would want to put their name behind a cheap gun like this, and just basically steal people’s money.

Budget Gun

We can’t talk about prepping or survival guns without mentioning a .22 LR handgun. This may well be one of the most popular calibers in America. It seems like everyone remembers getting their first gun, and it was usually a .22 LR caliber rifle.

Of course there are tons of .22 LR caliber handguns, some expensive, some cheap, and some budget priced. I’m going to mention two budget .22’s, one revolver and one semi auto. I’m mentioning both, because even though the semi auto is a budget gun, the revolver costs about half the price and yet it is still a serviceable weapon.

The semi automatic budget gun I’ll mention here is a Ruger Mark III target pistol. With a 10 round magazine and the grip designed so that most people feel like the gun was made for their hand when they hold it.

colt mark 3

With a base price or around $350, these guns are practically endlessly customizable but are great right out of the box. And with that Ruger quality you know the gun will last and last.

Budget Revolver

The budget revolver I’d like to mention, is priced so low it seems like it’s a cheap gun. On the contrary, I have had a couple of these Heritage Arms revolvers and they are amazingly good little single action revolvers for the money. You can get one new with both .22 LR and .22 magnum cylinders for right around $200.

heritage arms revolver

Many people prefer the simplicity of a revolver over a semi automatic. With less moving parts, there are fewer things to break and wear. Not to mention, that being priced so low, it won’t break your heart if it gets beat up looking knocking around in your BOB.

Cheap Gun

A disaster along the lines of the Jimenez seems like would be impossible to occur twice in the same century. But unfortunately it has. This disaster is a Jennings .22. Again, like the Jimenez, I can’t say enough negative things about this gun. When you think of cheap, this is at the top of the list.

I don’t think they even make these any more, but you can usually find one of these POS for anywhere from $50 to about $100 used. But I’d save my money if I were you, because you will be nothing but disappointed with this little pocket junker.

In all seriousness, you’d probably do better to just throw the gun at the bad guy than try to shoot him with it. I have to admit I bout one of these used for $75 one time, just because I heard so much about what junk they were and I wanted to see if I could make one work.


The reason why was because I found a place that sold a really nice looking engraved slide for one, and so I thought if I could make the gun work it would be cool. I ended up throwing it in the garbage.

Here’s a video of a Jennings .22 blowing up in the shooters hand:

22 pistol explodes when i shoot

Parting Shot

Well, with 40 years of firearms experience, I have made a few suggestions for you. There are, of course, many more guns to choose from but I can’t address them all.

My best suggestion to anyone looking to buy an inexpensive, but quality firearm, is to do your research. Go online, and read the forums, and see what people are saying about a particular gun that you may be interested in. It can save you one big headache in the long run.

11 thoughts on “Budget Guns vs. Cheap Guns”

  1. good call on the ruger hand gun. quality and cheap ammo. the hi point hand gun and carbine are amazing value and great quality.

    1. I have a hi point 9mm. It is heavy, holds 2 few bullets, hard to conceal, BUT IT GOES BANG EVERY TIME! IS PRETTY ACCURATE AND FUN TO SHOOT!
      When I bought it, there was a guy picking up a custom 1911 45 (close to $2000). He told me he had 4 hi points 9mm. 1 for his car, 1 for his truck, 1 for his boat, and 1 for his 4 wheeler. HE WAS ALWAYS READY. (you don’t always carry a $2000 gun) If you loose it, it is not a great loss! $150?
      I have more expensive guns, (my carry gun) and others, but my old hi point is always loaded and ready. GOES BANG EVERY TIME!

  2. Funny thing is I have most of the budget guns mentioned except the cheap jiminez, I do have a couple of cheap guns very similar that aren’t in production anymore that are very similar they were made by Jennings and worked very well with an accuracy of about 15 feet, the only reason I hold on to them is they were my kids favorite guns to shoot when they were young and after selling a couple of guns and regretting it I don’t sell guns once I get them, they just go into the collection good or bad, used or not I just can’t bring myself to part with my guns, today I’m a lot more picky about what I buy

    1. I hear that. I wish I currently own all the guns I have ever owned over the years. A few are worth a fortune bow but they belong to others now. Thank you all for your positive feedback.

  3. george johnson

    I own the 6″ Taurus 357 and after two to three sets of shots the brass starts to stick in the cylinders pretty good. The metal isn’t right it heats and swells. Been shooting comparable S&W 357’s for decades and they never do this. I vote that Taurus while nice and accurate and solid is CHEAP not BUDGET. If the metal swells so easily I would expect that if you bore out the cylinders to make them not stick you;d be making it dangerously weak in the process too. Made in Brazil junk is cheap.

  4. If you think Taurus is a quality product I have to dismiss the rest of the article. Taurus is poor quality at best. I have owned three all purchased new. A PT145 cracked a frame at the range, and now Taurus has a recall on them. A PT1911 right out of the box was so bad, Taurus replaced it with another one. It too shot so poorly I sold it. Many tales from the gun club I belong to about Taurus being junk. The only thin worse than their products is their customer service.

    1. Hi Bob,

      I do agree that Taurus has has had quality issues in the past but if you look at other guns such as Rugers they have had issues as well.
      Google any of the high end guns and most of them have had some kind of issue sometime or an other. The Taurus’s that you mentioned were produced quite a while ago. If you look at the G2 series, they were one of the best sellers through 2018 and 2019. And now they have the G3 series and the ratings have been good. I own the Taurus 856 and the new G3c and so far no issues.

  5. A really budget good gun is the Canik PT9SA. It goes for around $340 and is ISO9000 certified. The trigger action is as good as guns costing $1000.

  6. I agree with most of what you said, but my EDC, whether revolver, or semi-auto are both expensive high quality firearms. Blessed enough to afford the very best. With over 65 years of firearms experience I found it funny that I did the same as you with a Jennings .22. I bought mine new for $79.00 and thought if it didn’t work out I could toss it and not be out a whole lot of money. Well let me tell you, after buying it and tearing it apart, completely cleaning it and giving the goodbye to rough edges and nicks, I gave it a light coat of aircraft cable teflon and put it to the test. 800-900 rounds later it still operates without one hiccup and is a lot of fun to shoot. Guess it’s all in the luck of the draw.

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