Of the 400+ gun reviews, broken into 27 playlists on our YouTube channel, the most popular by far as always been our, "Affordable Options" list. That makes a lot of sense. Finances aren't always great, and getting into handguns isn't cheap. Why not take a look at something that saves a few bucks. In this article we'll dive into what makes that list, why, and take a look at current pricing.
What makes a handgun, "affordable". Affordable is of course a relative term. What a person is willing to spend, and what is priced reasonably. Those are two separate factors. The first depends on your own fiscal situation and attitude, the latter on how much or how little profit margin the company wants to wrap into the final cost to you.
Some guns cost little to make. There are many things that influence the cost to produce, but some major ones that can help drive price down are:
Inexpensive materials: Steel costs more to acquire and work with than aluminum, and aluminum more than polymer. Handguns that use less steel and more of the other materials cost less to make, and so can have a lower price. This is also a factor in why hammer-fired guns typically cost more than striker-fired guns. There are roughly 34 parts to a Glock-pattern pistol, but 52 parts to a 1911-pattern gun. Guess which one costs less to make.
High-Volume/Long Production Runs: Making anything requires tooling and production setup. The longer/more that setup produces the lower the setup cost prorates per item created. For we the consumers, that means the more of something a company has sold/longer it's been on the market the lower the price can be. There are of course exceptions if the company wants to increase profit more than lower the price.
Reduced R&D: "Clones," and guns heavily inspired by others save the company research and development costs. This is one reason why Italian, Philippine, and Turkish copies of famous guns can cost less. If a patent is expired then all a new company has to do is make sure they don't copy something too closely (and risk a law suit), but generally the hard part has been done for them. This is also a reason why we see few lower-priced handguns have any innovation or use an action type other than the inexpensive, simple, and proven modified Browning action (think Glock).
Shared Parts: If a company can fit the same barrel, recoil assembly, and internal parts in multiple models that's less R&D and less tooling they have to worry about. Once again Glock remains a great example here as they've made minimal changes over decades of production. The retail price on a Glock may not be in the "affordable" realm, but the production cost certainly must be.
Loss Leaders: This is a rare one, and finding it often depends on patience and keeping an eye on the market, but some companies will sell certain products at a loss to clear out inventory or help get the brand noticed by more people. A year or so before Remington went bankrupt they sold the all-metal, unique-action R51 pistol for just $250!
"Inexpensive" does always mean "cheap". As you can see from the list above there are lots of ways that a handguns can be priced more affordably without it necessarily being of low quality. There's also room in the market for those who don't need the ultimate gun and don't mind knowing their pistol won't last 50,000 rounds. Few people shoot that much, and those who can afford to these days can likely also afford to replace their gun once it's warn out.
In the age of the internet few companies can survive selling garbage products. If a company or product has been around for a while chances are pretty good that their products aren't garbage. With European companies look for the "CIP" proofing stamp. Not all of them have it, but those who have have been proofed by an international agreement of standards. For US companies take a look at the warranty. If you're good at seeing through BS you can also venture into the forums, just beware that more times than not, the crisis and complaints I've seen have been the results of misuse and ignorance. Read the owner's manual!
Enough Talk! Show me the guns!
Sorted by price, below are some that are worth looking into, their tabletop video, range video, and pricing from reputable sellers if found. Pricing as of 21APR22, check links for today's price.
$239 - SCCY DVG 1: Tabletop Video and Range Video. SCCY's first striker-fired pistol. It's not going to win any competitions unless that's for ultra-affordable and American made subcompact pistol. The RD version pictured includes a red dot.
Listed, but out of stock at Palmetto State Armory
From $289.99 at Grabagun
from $276.99 on Grabagun
from $271.99 on Guns.com
From $299.99 on Grabagun
From $299.99 at Guns.com
$300 - Taurus GX4: Tabletop Video and Range Video Follow Up. Despite our issues with an early production model, the least expensive and most pleasant-to-shoot micro compact. Pictured with an aftermarket ported barrel by Lakeline, LLC
From $299.99 at Grabagun
From $315.99 at Guns.com
$315 - EAA Girsan MC9: Tabletop Video and Range Video. Another that might be large for carry, but great for home defense and range use. Pictured with the included Perry red dot with integrated rear sight.
From $354.99 at Grabagun
$365 - SDS Imports Tisas PX9 Gen 3: Tabletop Video and Range Video. An absolute gem of a bargain pistol, perhaps large for carry, but excellent for the range. Pictured with an aftermarket Trijicon RMR which the slide comes cut for.
$380 - Canik TP9 SF Elite: Range Video. The sportier of the basic TP9 models.
from $403.99 at Grabagun
Available without the optic for $299.99 at Palmetto State Armory
with optic from $426.99 at Grabagun
from $395.99 at Guns.com
From $428.99 at Grabagun
From $408.99 at Guns.com
From $429.99 at Grabagun
Possibly non-optics ready from $400 on Guns.com
I'm betting some of you have already tried some of these guns, if so let us know which gun and what your thoughts and experience was in the comment below. There are plenty more in the Affordable Options playlist, this list was shortened to the better options of that group.