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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Eric Eichenberger is an avid outdoorsman, skilled marksman, and former certified range officer and instructor with nearly 40 years experience handling and repairing firearms.
A skilled craftsman with a strong love for working with his hands, Eric spent 20 years as a carpenter and custom woodworker in high end homes. As a gold and silversmith he has created hundreds of pieces of jewelry over the years using the lost wax casting method.
The grandson of humble country folk, he was raised with the “do it yourself” mentality and so is accustomed to coming up with unique solutions to problems utilizing materials at hand.