Best Handgun Under $400


March 8, 2009, 04:15 PM
I have a friend who is a newb to guns in general, but would like to get a handgun and have me teach him to be proficient with it. I'm thinking 9mm(or other with cheap ammo), but a 22 might also be of interest. He seems to really want an autoloader. I'm thinking 9mm because I can see him getting comfortable with it and wanting it for home defense. The issue is he is really setting a budget of $400. . .

So, in your opinion, what is the best handgun for under $400?

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March 8, 2009, 04:19 PM
S&W Sigma 9mm.

I don't care what others say, the gun goes bang every time and is a good gun for under $300.00

Yes the trigger is heavy, but that is not neccesarily a bad thing for a defense pistol.

That's my 2 cents. Good luck in your search.

Harve Curry
March 8, 2009, 04:23 PM
I don't beleive in a auto loader for a first handgun or long gun. To much to go wrong and to much to learn.

Plenty of excellent used S&W, Colt and Rugers double action revolvers out there in the -$400 catagory. Get one in 22 or a 38/357 and shoot light 38's in it.

March 8, 2009, 04:26 PM
Bersa Thunder .380 or 9mm. Fantastic gun, amazing trigger, compact, $300 leaving money for an extra mag and a few boxes of ammo provided you can find it.

March 8, 2009, 04:29 PM
+1 on Harve's comments. A lot of great used guns are available on the market at excellent prices that far outweigh some of the newer models selling for under the magic $400 mark listed here. Were it up to me, I'd head over to SOG and pick up a 1980s German police-issued Walther P5 for $379. These guns were often-carried, seldom-fired, and they are as good as anything you'll find on the market today at any price ... and are better than most of it.

March 8, 2009, 04:29 PM
I don't beleive in a auto loader for a first handgun or long gun. To much to go wrong and to much to learn.

We operate motor vehicles and digital devices with dozens if not hundreds of functions. To suggest that an autoloading handgun is overcomplicated for a new shooter is rather insulting. I have yet to teach someone who couldn't learn the manual of arms and basic jam clearing procedures in a matter of minutes. Same goes for field stripping the unit.

To the OP-

If he must go new, there are not a ton of options in the sub-$400 range that I would recommend. If he can do used, such fine weapons as the CZ-75 and S&W 5906 become available. You can even find the occasional Glock 17/19 or Beretta 92 in that price range.

Ed Ames
March 8, 2009, 04:30 PM
Probably the Browning Buck Mark or Ruger MkIII.

That said, the SW9VE Bill2e mentioned isn't bad. Stiff trigger but totally serviceable and plenty accurate.

March 8, 2009, 04:38 PM
I vote for the Ruger Mark I, II, III series. durable, accurate, and cheap to shoot for a newbie. They are a keeper for practice even after you get something bigger.

March 8, 2009, 04:55 PM
Colt Troopers are plentiful as well as Ruger Security Sixes.

March 8, 2009, 04:59 PM
I would go with a Bersa UC9. Great gun for under $400. Extra mag prices are high.

March 8, 2009, 05:23 PM
For less than $250 total, you can buy a slightly used Czech police CZ-82 in 9x18mm. Double-action or single-action, they come with a holster and two 12-round mags. Quality and reliability are both excellent and most places sell the ammo. Good self-defense loads are available from US manufacturers.

The only consideration is how sensitive to recoil is your friend. Like the Makarov pistols, the CZ-82 has a rather sharp recoil but certainly not heavy or too much to handle. Strip-down for cleaning is simple and easy.

March 8, 2009, 06:11 PM
S&W Sigma 9mm.

I don't care what others say, the gun goes bang every time and is a good gun for under $300.00

Yes the trigger is heavy, but that is not neccesarily a bad thing for a defense pistol.

That's my 2 cents. Good luck in your search.

I second this. It was my first gun and I still love the thing. Has never failed to fire anytime I've tried to make it go bang.

March 8, 2009, 06:21 PM
#1 Glock - I would say a new or used Glock. You probably have a wide selection if you look around, but they qualify for LE discount (Police, Fire, EMS, etc wide range that falls under those) they are mostly $398 new. Police Surplus Glocks are usually $349-379. A lot are Glock 22s (40cal). Some other dealers sale new glocks for as little as $429 (our cheapest local source) that is not much over your budget.

#2 Keltec P11 $279 Street price- Easy to carry but not as fun to shoot.

#3 Taurus M Pro $299-350 Street price - I have not shot one, but looks like a decent compromise between in size between a full size piece and a carry piece.

March 8, 2009, 06:53 PM
Ruger P95

March 8, 2009, 07:13 PM
Yes, Ruger P95.

March 8, 2009, 07:38 PM
I don't beleive in a auto loader for a first handgun or long gun. To much to go wrong and to much to learn.

I really like my wheelguns, but an auto was my first handgun and I had no trouble whatsoever.

For a .22 - Ruger MK III.
For a 9mm - CZ 75B. I bought one new last year for $425. I don't know if they are still that inexpensive, though. And, I know $425 isn't "under $400" but a used one probably would be.

March 8, 2009, 07:45 PM
I am fond of the Smith and Wesson 410

March 8, 2009, 08:25 PM
RIA 1911A1 can still be found for about $399. With rising gun costs this probably won't be the case for long.

I also like my Ruger P95 except the thing is fat and has a mushy trigger. The Sigma is still a good deal if you can get past the trigger and the same goes for the Kel-Tecs.

Also check out the Bersa and Firestorm series of pistols and makarovs are still decent pistols although they are well over $200 now even for a beater.

March 8, 2009, 09:45 PM
I have a S&W 9VE, under $350. now. I paid $289. and got $50. rebate. It's a great gun. Very accurate if you are willing to adapt to the DAO trigger. Pull the dame thing, sqeeeeezzze is for 1911's! I'm serious, try pulling it just like a revolver, it works!

March 8, 2009, 10:20 PM
Is this gun going to be used for home protection only (not concealed carry)? If so, then I'd recommend a used pump shotgun over a handgun. You still have to aim a shotgun, but it is much easier to hit a BG with a long gun than a handgun. Used Remington 870s can be found for under $225, and used Mossberg 500s or Maverick 88s can be had for as little as $150. Very inexpensive, very reliable and a heck of a lot better at stopping an intruder than a puny handgun.

Yes, I like my S&W 686 loaded with 38+P at my bedside for quick access (I keep it in a GunVault - I've got a 2 yr old). But if I'm able, I'll be making my way to my closet to grab my 12 gauge. I feel much more confident in its ability to stop an attacker than my S&W, even if it were loaded with 357s. Nothing quite like hurtling nine 33 caliber lead balls at a BG with a single trigger pull.

That said, I agree with others who suggested a used S&W 9mm auto. Doesn't even have to be a Sigma, I've saw a ?5906? in ?9mm? recently for $199, though most I've seen are in the $250 range. I saw a used Glock 17 a few months back for $375, and a Ruger P95 for $350.

A semi auto will work for a beginner, but keep in mind that many a gun noob (and even some more experienced) have unloaded a semi auto "backwards" ... racking the slide then dropping the mag. Just be sure he knows in his sleep to do it the other way around!

In the end though, the 22 would be a very good place to start. My sister recently acquired a Ruger Mk II for $199. This way he can build solid shooting techniques without concern for recoil. On the other hand, for home protection my sister got a VERY sweet 4" S&W 681-3 in .357 Mag last year for only $350 ... and proceeded to shoot 2" groups at 7 yds in double action all day long with it! :cool:

March 8, 2009, 10:22 PM
bersa thunder .380 or walther p-22

both good guns, semi-auto (mag fed) and both can be carried easily if that is what he chooses to do...

March 9, 2009, 12:44 AM
#1 Ruger p95
#2 S&W sigma

Big Bill
March 9, 2009, 07:14 PM
Stoeger Cougar - IIRC they are $399 retail (new) and are a great buy. Here are the details. And, BTW, I know it's a more accurate gun (and better) than a S&W Sigma or a Ruger P95 - I've owned all three of them.

March 9, 2009, 07:27 PM
Simple answer. NONE!!!

March 9, 2009, 08:09 PM
I vote for a used revolver like a S&W model 10

March 9, 2009, 08:42 PM
if you can not afford a quality hand gun dont buy some cheap thing and regret it later

save more and get something decent........probably a revolver

something like this.............

Deer Hunter
March 9, 2009, 08:53 PM

March 9, 2009, 08:55 PM
I think you have seen that there are many guns for around $400 that can get you started so you can determine what your friend is looking for.

Ed Ames
March 9, 2009, 08:59 PM
I agree with what wep45 said... but will add that there are a number of quality firearms starting in the $300 new range, and much past
$600 is into diminishing returns for casual use. Not a waste of money maybe but a $1200 gun isn't going to offer four times the protection of a $300 gun.

I just got back from the range where I was blasting holes with my latest-gen PT145. $330ish nowadays gets you a 10+1 .45acp that, at typical SD ranges, put about 30 rounds through a single sub-2" hole right where it was aimed. I watched people doing much worse with more expensive guns...heck, I've done worse with more expensive guns.

March 10, 2009, 12:57 AM
Ruger P89 or P95 is what I'd look for. If you don't mind spending just a tad more a SR9 is what I'd go for. I've seen them for $409 at a gun show.

A buddy has a S&W Sigma and he likes it and I've never shot it but like the feel of it. I prefer the Rugers though. Not sure why but they just make quality guns.

March 10, 2009, 01:01 AM
Vote for a Taurus 24/7, can probly pick it up slightly used for that price.

then again, depends on what you are looking for and definition of "best". Best for target shooting? Pick up a buckmark or a sw 22a. Home defense? Why not pick up a revolver or a shotgun, or both. =P

March 10, 2009, 02:11 AM
S&W Sigma 9mm.
I friggin love my sigma. The ruger mk I, II, and III's are all good ones to learn on as well. Sig p6 9mm if you can find one, but I like my sigma better than my P6.

March 10, 2009, 02:19 AM
Ruger P95 or a pre-owned Smith & Wesson 3rd generation pistol (5903, 5906, etc)

Ala Dan
March 10, 2009, 06:42 AM
Another agreement with Harve, on an excellent recommendation~! ;)

March 10, 2009, 09:40 AM
I have a Ruger P95, $339 with 2 15 round mags NIB. It's an excellent gun.

March 10, 2009, 11:48 AM
used ruger police service six or speed six. they're tanks and should be in good shape used.

March 10, 2009, 12:38 PM
Bud's has discounted their M&P9 ( and M&P40 ( to $399.

March 10, 2009, 12:51 PM
A used Glock 17/19.

March 10, 2009, 01:20 PM
Fnp 9

Dr. Tad Hussein Winslow
March 10, 2009, 01:29 PM
nk, there is *no way* to answer that question until you tell us:

$400 NEW


$400 USED

Willing to buy used or not?

March 10, 2009, 07:45 PM
wow i love how alot of you guys just dissavow the entire point of the OP he said he wanted to teach a friend how to shoot handguns so NO he doesnt want a shotgun or rifle or a rocket launcher he wants a handgun secondly the man has made it clear that he wishes to own and learn on a semiautomatic pistol so stop with wheelguns are the bestest thing ever to learn on and obviously the price is non negotiable

if its gotta be new id say the Ruger P95 if you can go used theres alot of options out there
for home defence calibers theres the FN FNP-45

if he just wants to shoot then a browning buckmark or ruger MK3 will be good
ive heard good and bad about the SIG mosquito so idk but it should be under 400
thats about all i can think of

March 10, 2009, 08:09 PM
If you can find one: A Walther P-22 stripped down new w/ just one magazine. For some reason they are hard to find right now. I have looked for six months to find one in the 'Digital Camo' pattern, w/ no success. I found two in Black polymer & Stainless steel combo for $440.00 each, in the 3.4 inch barrel, which I felt was a bit high by about 25 - 30 percent. I purchased one, in solid black, 3.4 inch barrel w/ just one mag for $300. It is one sweet pistol. I have send 300-350 rounds down range with no malfunctions. That is very rare for a new pistol during the break-in period. I added the Walther-Laser sight, I am very much pleased w/ the set-up. It took a while to get the laser zeroed in, but it is on the money now.

This is my second Walther P22. Last Father's Day my Dad saw my first one and laid claim to it. It is a full size 5 inch barrel in OD Green polymer and black. It too is a good shooter. It is not set-up w/ the laser sight. I am sure when he gets a look at my new one he will want to add a laser sight to it as well.

Good luck.

March 10, 2009, 08:56 PM
If the OP's buddy wants a semiauto, he's not going to buy a shotgun or revolver no matter what some dudes on the Internet say. I was a new shooter not long ago, I would certainly recommend a 9mm, good all around and cheap. Plus why would a new guy want to buy used? Maybe he could find one, but would he even know what to look for? Be realistic, it'll probably be new.

So...doing a search over at buds for semi auto 9mm's, you really only have a few choices under $400. You'll probably have a FFL fee of course, so these may push a little over your mark. But here goes:

S&W Sigma
Ruger P89
Taurus 24/7
Ruger SR9

Of those, I've only shot the Ruger SR9. It's a fine gun and fits a lot of people. That'd be the first one I'd look at. The 24/7 has lots of good and bad press, but generally it seems well regarded. Never shot one, nor a P89. You've heard the other guys recommend their Sigmas, so take that FWIW. Any of them'll work fine. Again, if it were me, I'd do some searches on the SR9 and 24/7. I'd probably go for the SR9 if it were me. Good luck.

March 10, 2009, 09:27 PM
Probably new. . .my friend was kind of hesitant when I suggested the used Glock or XD.

March 10, 2009, 09:29 PM
Ruger SP101. Shoot light loads with 38, 38 SP or .38 +P when you not up to speed. Then transition to .357 once your confidence is up and you want to impress your girl. $350 to $399 depending where you are located. You can have fun with it.

March 11, 2009, 12:18 AM
I would suggest that both the Ruger P-series and Taurus P-series and 24/7s are excellent, rugged, reliable guns generally under $400. I have not shot a SW Sigma but have heard good reports on them as well. I do own a P89 and a PT-145 and they are excellent values for the money. Contrary to some opinions, you absolutely DO NOT have to spend a fortune to get a good, reliable semi-auto pistol.

March 11, 2009, 01:29 AM
I'm sorry to say you probably won't find anything you should risk your life on in a semi-auto for under $400. (I should say nothing I can think of, there might be something) Just remember one thing, when it comes to handguns you usually get what you pay for. Don't buy a cheap gun because then you own a cheap gun. I'm not telling you not to buy an inexpensive gun, just not a cheap one.

A good self defense handgun must be totally reliable. That's hard to achieve with a cheap gun. A good used gun can be bought for a fair price, that's not a cheap gun, it's inexpensive.

March 11, 2009, 01:43 AM
I'm sorry to say you probably won't find anything you should risk your life on in a semi-auto for under $400. (I should say nothing I can think of, there might be something)
After the rebate, I paid exactly $300 out the door for a new S&W Sigma 9VE and I couldn't be happier with it. Functions perfectly so far after ~3000 rounds and it is accurate. It is my primary carry weapon and I am more than comfortable with it. I think S&W has a good reputaion with quality. Rugers fit the bill as well. I can't recommend buying a gun just because it is inexpensive because a lot of them are indeed sub-par, but there are good ones out there. I trust my life with a Smiths and Rugers every day, as do many others. ArchAngelCD, I agree with everything esle in your post:D

March 11, 2009, 10:16 PM
More votes for both the Taurus 24/7 PRO and the Ruger P95.

March 11, 2009, 10:52 PM
The Kel-Tec P11 is a best bang for your buck at just under $300 NEW. If he can master it's trigger and get good groups, he can shoot anything lol

March 11, 2009, 11:40 PM
Another vote for Smith 10. If it has to be an auto loader, I'd recommend the East German Makarov.

March 12, 2009, 02:04 AM
Remember, he said he wanted a "NEW" gun. There are MANY good used handguns that can be had for under $400.

March 12, 2009, 08:50 AM
If the goal is just to learn to shoot, start with a .22lr. I recommend a used Ruger MkII or a Browning Buckmark. They're accurate, reliable and reasonably priced.

If you need it for self-defense too, a medium frame .357 Magnum/.38 Special revolver or a 9x19mm medium to full size semi-auto are best. S&W Model 15 or Model 19 revolvers, or Ruger GP100 revolvers work very well. Recently, there have been a bunch of used ex-German police 9x19mm SIGs for sale at reasonable prices. Ex-police Glock 17s and Glock 19s are usually available at good prices.

March 12, 2009, 09:07 AM
I agree with Bill and Stonecutter The S&W Sigma is way under rated. I've noticed a lot of people here like to bash the Sigmas but for a first defensive pistol they are hard to beat.

March 12, 2009, 09:54 AM
I personally like the Ruger P95 or P89 if you can find them they both sell for under $400. Police trades arent a bad choice either, you can find Glock 17s or S&W 5906 for under $400.

March 14, 2009, 01:25 AM
About the Sigma, the first generation Sigmas were terrible. The current Sigma pistols are much better.

March 14, 2009, 07:40 AM
I am seeing a lot of recommendations for the S&W sigma. Personally, I didn't like it when I fired it, so if he gets a chance I would go to a range that rented guns out so he could try a few and see what fits before he buys.

Hoot Gibson
March 14, 2009, 08:07 AM
Nothing wrong with a Taurus 85 .38 steel 2" can be picked up for $320 off the shelf(registration required), and from a private dealer at a gun show(no Registration papers, no problems) for about $350.

I know it's not an auto loader, but auto for his first gun?

March 16, 2009, 12:15 PM
For a new gun, i would also say the S&W Sigma 9.
It was my first gun, and it takes a while to get used to the trigger, but after 500 or so rounds, you'll be shooting 3 in. groups at 15 yds. its a great gun, never had any mishaps yet, and its super easy to clean and disassemble.

March 16, 2009, 01:13 PM
Ruger P95 in black; still $300 in most stores and darn near unbreakable.

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