With the world gone weird lately, many are looking to add a pistol to their preparedness plan. However, the last couple of years has left many with a thin budget. Let us look at some of the choices for the best handgun under $300.
Why three hundred dollars? Well, that seems to be the threshold for getting a decent weapon, except for the choices we will go over. There are some good values, and there are a few turkeys, with a bunch in between.
There are quite a few new handguns available for less than $300. A quick search of Academy Sports brought up one-hundred twenty-seven offerings. Many are smaller framed semi-auto handguns designed for concealed carry, but there are also a couple of full-size choices. I will break them down here by type.
For less than $300 you can get a Heritage Rough Rider, North American Arms mini, or Ruger Wrangler single-action revolver. In Semi-auto offerings there is the Taurus PT-22 and TX-22, and the German Sport Guns (GSG) Firefly.
The Heritage Rough Rider is a reliable and proven weapon available with a multitude of barrel lengths, finishes, and grips. Some models are provided with a second cylinder in .22 Magnum to increase the versatility of this pistol. The Rough Rider makes a good camp or trail pistol, a modern-day kit gun.
The Ruger Wrangle is a direct competitor to the Rough Rider and is available in several frame colors. It is only available with a 4 5/8 inch barrel and fixed sights, but this has not seemed to hurt its popularity in my neck of the woods. Several of my coworkers have them and are very happy with the little revolvers.
The TX22 is a mid-sized pistol that gets good reviews for accuracy, while the Poly 22 is a little pocket rocket reminiscent of the Beretta Bobcat. The GSG Firefly is a rebranded Sig-Sauer Mosquito, a pistol known to be finicky about what ammunition it is fed. A coworker had a pair of Mosquitos, and they ran smoothly if loaded with CCI Mini-Mags.
First up on the centerfire list is a full-size model, the Rock Island Armory M200. This four-inch barreled .38 revolver lists for $250 and has a reputation as a reliable service weapon. Accuracy is typically three to five inches at 25yds, not match grade, but plenty accurate for defensive work, and the trigger is quite good. Not a bad weapon at all.
The second full-sized offering is a controversial one, the Hi-Point Pistol. Available in .45 ACP, .40 S&W, and 9mm, the Hi-Point is a large pistol with limited magazine capacity. Hi-Points are not slim pistols owing to the heavy slide required by the blowback action. I have met some individuals who use Hi-Points, and they claim excellent reliability as long as the magazines do not get damaged. Compact models are also available, and all retail sub-$200.
Taurus sells two 9mm pistols at this price point, the G2 and G3. The G2 and G2c are compact handguns designed for concealed carry. Two coworkers of mine rock them as their EDC and love them. Magazine capacity is 12+1. The G3 is very similar but holds 17+1 and has another 3/4 inch of barrel length, roughly the same size as the Glock 19 but cheaper.
Other models available for less than $300 include the excellent Ruger EC-9 and LCP, the Bersa Thunder, Bond Arms derringers, Diamondback DB9, and the SCCY CPX-2. Some users do not care for the grip on the SCCY or its long trigger stroke. The pistol can be picky about what it is fed but runs well with what it likes.
The used gun market is a game of chance for getting pistols under $300. Digging through Gunbroker will find differing offerings by the day. A quick check while writing shows 245 auctions under $250 ending tonight. With some patience, you can find well-used Taurus or Smith & Wesson revolvers, Ruger P89 and S&W Sigma Pistols, and numerous small-caliber autoloaders from Europe and Brazil built by CZ, FEG, and FIE.
One of my favorite imports to find is the FEG model 63 pistols. A Hungarian-made clone of the Walther PP, the FEG 63 is a stylish and accurate pistol found in .32 ACP, .380 ACP, and 9mm Makarov. Built with an alloy frame, these pistols have a two-tone look. The double-action trigger can be stiff, but the single-action pull is nice and light.
If you need a full-size weapon, the Ruger P85 is a tank of a pistol with a reputation for reliability and weight. These make a great truck or house pistol, and three generations of shooters won’t wear it out.
As for rimfire pistols, Ruger MK I pistols NEF/H&R revolvers, and High Standard revolvers are prevalent in good condition.
What to avoid
Some very atrocious pistols have been released onto the market over the years. Some are best left as curiosities or collectibles, and others make a good hammer. The handguns produced over the years by Jennings, Bryco, and Jiminez are prone to breaking, and many gunsmiths will not work on them. Stallard arms was the predecessor to Hi-Point and didn’t have all the bugs worked out. Rhom and RG produced inexpensive revolvers that are not known for their mechanical durability, and the Clerke 1st was a wretched little revolver that was known to break at the first use.
Pre-1900 pocket revolvers are cool to collect, but many do not lock the cylinder when firing and are not strong enough to handle modern ammunition. Most are not safe to use and should be kept only as display pieces.
It is not hard (at the moment) to find a good handgun for less than $300. A reliable weapon is always a sound investment, and the ones discussed here are financially within reach of almost anyone. So, what is the best handgun under $300? That is up to you. My picks are the Taurus G2c for a new pistol and the FEG 63 for a used one. Your preference may be different, and there are few wrong choices in the new market. Get to a store, handle the ones you can, and find one that fits your needs. Stay safe out there.