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"Wunderdogs" The Wonderful Underdogs


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From Left to Right: Ermox Defense X-Fire, AHSS/KOR FXS-9, Ranger Arms RA9 Defence01, EAA Girsan MC9, and Tisas PX-9 Gen 3 Tactical
From Left to Right: Ermox Defense X-Fire, AHSS/KOR FXS-9, Ranger Arms RA9 Defence01, EAA Girsan MC9, and Tisas PX-9 Gen 3 Tactical

As much as we can certainly aprecaite the finer things, there is most certainly a place for affordable options. Inexpensive guns can be great for a first-timer, training, or as that "just in case" that gets tucked away somewhere. We recently took five suprisingly affordable guns to the range to shoot them side by side and refresh our memories.


How can a gun be manufactured, shipped half way around the world, distributed, then sold for a profit and still cost less than many others? There a multiple possible answers. While we'll likely never know which blend produces what prices, my theories are that these budget-friendly blasters are the result of one or some of the following factors:

  • Lower production costs (labor, supplies, government subsidies, restrictions)

  • Business models built on low margin, high volume.

  • Weak branding in the US forcing a lower cost to ensure sales.

  • Reduced engineering costs by using expired patents or proven designs.

  • US Consumer sales supplimenting another sales channel which keeps the company running such as governmental or other international sales.

  • Consumer handguns not being the main product of the company.


What Should You consider when looking at an imported budget-friendly handgun? That depends somewhat on your intended application, but in a decade of reviewing handguns I've identified a few factors which you may want to consider before selecting one.

  • Magazines: Do they use a common and available pattern?

  • Holsters: You may need to experiment with holsters made for more-common models of a similar shape or contract a local holster maker for a custom solution.

  • Warranty/Parts: I have yet to break any of these models, but consider if they have a "_____ USA" pressence or a long track record of importation. For example Tisas USA, or that Girsan was once imported by Zenith, and is now imported by EAA. The Ranger Arms factory is owned by the same people that own the US importer Dickinson Arms.

By the numbers here's a chart comparing the five in this selection. Full specifications can be found on the corresponding review articles. The features listed here cover some of the differences between the two. As far as build quality, trigger feel, and other notes like that either see the corresponding article or that section of the vidoe below.

Make/Model

Magazine Pattern

Barrel Length

Weight

Optics Ready?

Approx. Retail Price

AHSS/KOR FXS-9



CZ-75

4.1"

25.5oz

No

Ermox Defense X-Fire



Glock 19

4"

28.87oz

Yes

EAA/Girsan MC 9


Sig P226?

?

?

Yes

Discontinued?

Ranger Arms RA9 Defence01



CZ-75

4.24"

29.45 (w/magazine)

No

Tisas Zigana PX-9 Gen 3 Tactical



Sig P226

5.1"

29.98oz

Yes


Alphabetized by manufacturer, here are some affordable pistols worth considering. A brief write up for each includes pricing updated as of the day this was written and link to the original full review. At the bottom of this article is a video which includes a brief tabletop talk as well as refreshed range impressions from both Teya and myself.


AHSS / KOR FXS-9

AHSS /  KOR FXS-9
AHSS / KOR FXS-9

The FXS-9 is visually one of the simplest looking of the five in this group. That plain exterior however hides a nice-shooting pistol. The sights are not photo lumniscent, but have a glowing-gree color that really grabs the eye. I found the grip shape to be unique in that it can accomodate both a more vertical "1911ish" hold and a deeper angled "Glock" hold depending on hand size.

This manufacturer is a relative newcommer to the US market, but after meeting with them at IWA Calssics 2024 in Germany I have faith that they will be around for a while. What we don't know is if US importation will continue.


Ermox Defense X-Fire

Ermox Defense X-Fire w/ Primary Arms Classic Series Dot
Ermox Defense X-Fire w/ Primary Arms Classic Series Dot

The Ermox Defense X-Fire swings the other direction on visuals. This newcomer was quickly mislabeled by many as a Glock Clone yet only uses the barrel and magazine from a Glock 19, the rest of it is all unique. Full-length guide rails and an aluminum frame give this affordable gun a feel of luxury, but the price says "bargain bin". Our early sample had a trigger a bit heavier than I expected, and the breadth of the tang might make this uncomfortable for smaller-handed shooters, but the X-Fire otherwise has a feature set and build quality you'd be hard-pressed to match at this price. We also met with Ermox at IWA Classics 2024 in Germany and were impressed with their full line which includes some doublestack 1911s and many other firearms. As with all imports, making sure the importer sticks with them is the challenge. Equipped in this photo and in the video below is the budget-appropriate Primary Arms Classic Series Red Dot ($149.99)


EAA/Girsan MC 9

EAA Girsan MC 9
EAA Girsan MC 9

EAA / Girsan M C9 is one of the older models in this collection. It was included due to the recent blast of "MC 9 Disruptor" models that have been in the media which appear to be this same model, but with a threaded barrel and camoflage paint job. Unfortunately, when I went to dig up the spcs and pricing it appears that the original MC 9 has been discontinued. My original review of it goes back years before this website started and so there is no article to refer to either, but the gun still serves as a point of perspective in this roundup. Girsan has been in the US for many years as has the current importer EAA. That should give us a sense of security with GIrsan products.


Ranger Arms RA9 Defence01

Ranger Arms RA9 Defence01
Ranger Arms RA9 Defence01

Ranger Arms RA9 Defence01 is a newcomer to the US market, but the factory is owned by the same folks that own importer Dickinson Arms, so we have good reason to believe this brand will be here to stay. The Ranger Arms uses a "monoblock" steel internal chassis to support all firing mechanism parts much int he way Grand Power does. This lends to longevity and a more precise and consistent trigger feel like one would expect from a metal-framed pistol. Dual-spring recoil assembly and that chassis heft help soak up recoil for a very pleasant shooting experience.


Tisas Ziagana PX-9 Gen 3 Tactical

Tisas Ziagana PX-9 Gen 3 Tactical
Tisas Ziagana PX-9 Gen 3 Tactical

Tisas is probably the most recognized of the brands in this bunch and has gone as far as establishing a "Tisas USA"to contrete their pressence. The PX-9 Gen 3 included many great upgrades from the 2nd generation.While this gun doesn't call to me in any particular way, it is so easy and comfortable to shoot that it's hard to put down. While other guns call on me to engage my "shooting" mode, the Px-9 just comfortably sits in my hand and does what it needs to do.


More Recent all-in-one Tabletop and Range Video


Each of these guns represent a good value in my opinion, and I think could make for a good option as a first gun, house gun, fun gun, or "truck" gun. Even with the library of handguns I own I still appreciate a good "budget blaster" to have fun with or use with a friend without concern about wear and tear.

Additionally, as we've seen with Canik, some of these have a chance at going up significantly in price and feature sets with future models and it's fun to get in on the ground floor.

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I really like my AHSS .. and after watching this re-review.. I can see why .. it has much less recoil impluse than any of the guns reviewed.. The AHSS has proven to be a extremely dependable pistol .. and using CZ-75 magizines is huge plus ..I was looking to purchas a Girsan MC-9 at a very good price last week .. but I couldn’t find mags anywhere.. and from what I understand they made a mistake in making them proprietary

Thanks for this review

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I had problems with some ammo striking the bottom of my feed ramp on my ATI FXS-9. When I pushed up on my Mec Gar CZ 75 magazines it would load. I ended up buying some KCI CZ 75 magazines and it corrected my problem. They fit tighter. No up and down movement and they are also less expensive and also made in Italy. I also polished my feed ramp. It is a sweet shooting pistol.

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elsullo2
elsullo2
May 24

Great and detailed shooting comparison, fair to each one! I love watching you two bounce ideas off of each other. And YES it is amazing how many inexpensive good guns are available nowadays.....................elsullo

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Alan Carr
Alan Carr
May 23

You show in the chart a Sig P226 simularity. But do these have decocker’s I will admit I haven’t watched the videos yet but that’s the next thing on my list. Thanks for the write up. Sorry. Just realized you ment Mag compatibility.

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