From a First-time Buyer: Need Ideas for an Affordable Handgun


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Ryan in the House
October 5, 2012, 10:15 PM
THR,

I began a tangential discussion in this Ruger SR9 thread (http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?p=8440289#post8440289) about potential candidates for a first-time handgun purchase. Of course, the SR9c was among those candidates, but it was brought to my attention that I should consider the alternatives.

In short, I'm hoping to find an affordable and reliable handgun, preferably in a compact frame. Whether the gun is hammer- or striker-fired, steel or polymer frame, I'd like to consider all options, but I want to stay below the $600 price point. Out of all candidates, I've given the Bersa Thunder 380, CZ-83 in .380 ACP, and the Ruger SR9c the most consideration. The ideal gun for me would be one that is pleasant to shoot at the range, simple enough for a new owner to operate, and small enough to be considered for concealed carry. 9mm and .380 ACP are widely available in my area, but in case you're wondering, I do have a hard time locating 9x18 Makarov locally. Do you have any suggestions for a new shooter? Or can you offer some commentary, positive or negative, on the guns that I listed?

Thanks!

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ponchsox
October 5, 2012, 10:23 PM
.380 ACP is not a fun range shooter. It is actually quite snappier than 9mm. My suggestion is to look at the M&P Shield. I would recommend you find a range that you can rent the gun and try it before you buy. Good luck and let us know how you make out!

atblis
October 5, 2012, 10:44 PM
380 is most certainly not "snappier" than 9x19. It's a lighter bullet going slower. Skip the 380 ACP. It was a fad that's hopefully dying now. More and more super compact 9x19s are showing up.

Skip the 9x18. Only reason it has any sort of following is because of cheap guns. Makarovs used to be well under $200. Cz82s were cheap too. Both are okay guns, but not fantastic. No reason to even consider the 9x18 really.

9x19 is the answer. Guaranteed to find ammo for it. Widest selection of guns. Cheapest ammo. Pleasant to shoot. Proven performer.

Anyways, tons of 9x19 guns to pick from (can't recommend one over another as they're all very good). $600 gives you many choices.
Glock
Walther
SIG
Kahr
M&P
XD
Cz
etc. etc.

Ryan in the House
October 5, 2012, 10:50 PM
Atblis,

If we lowered my spending limit to $500, would I still have some good options? I'm not against spending good money for a good gun. However, if there are less expensive guns that are proven performers, I'd like to look into them. Thanks for your suggestions, guys!

atblis
October 5, 2012, 10:56 PM
Considering only new, or used too?

tomrkba
October 5, 2012, 10:58 PM
Download the catalog from cdnninvestments.com.

There are many guns under $600. Check out a gun show.

Ryan in the House
October 5, 2012, 10:59 PM
Good question. I'd prefer to buy a new-in-box handgun. I know prices will fluctuate, but in general, what kinds of models fit within that $500 range?

Arkansas Paul
October 5, 2012, 11:06 PM
For a new 9mm I would take a look at the Sig SP2022. I have it in .40 an it's awesome. $399 brand new.

Quoheleth
October 5, 2012, 11:11 PM
Agree with Atblis - the .380 just isn't a great choice mostly because of price-to-power ratio. You pay significantly more for a less powerful round compared to the 9mm Luger/Parabellum (same cartridge; two common names).

I think the SR9c is an outstanding choice. With the longer magazine and sleeve, you have a "commander" style gun (full-size magazine; short barrel) for the range; with the shorter mags, you have a good carry gun. Outstanding trigger and great ergonomics. If you like it and it's comfortable, dont be afraid of it. Should you have a problem, Ruger will make it right.

If you want a lower price gun, the Ruger P-series guns are all good choices. Bulkier and less svelte than the SR9c, they are solid shooters nonetheless.

Glocks, especially police trade ins, are relatively inexpensive and great guns, plenty of after-market support and just flat-out run. I'm not a Glock fan, but respect the gun.

Smith's M&P is a good choice, but might be pushing your $500 budget, unless you find a good used one. Their SD-series is supposed to be a good gun with good features. Their Sigma has a heavy trigger, but if you can master it you have a solid shooter.

Don't know if you can get a Springfield XD in that $500 price point or not. Watch used - you might find a surprise. Again, a solid gun. The XDm will probably be outside your budget but it doesn't hurt to try it!

The CZ lineup deserves a look-see. Lots of models to choose from. I love my CZ85.

Go to a large gun store and try out as many guns as the sales clerk will let you. If you can rent and shoot, that's a great way to make the next cut. With $500, and opening up to the used market, you have lots of choices.

Good luck, and have fun shopping.

Q

mdThanatos
October 5, 2012, 11:15 PM
I would recommend a full size for a new shooter and better yet a .22LR to get accustomed to shooting and learn the fundamentals and you will be able to shoot a lot more frequently to develop good habits. That said if you want a centerfire caliber to start 9x19 would be my recommendation for that and as I stated at the start I recommend a full size to make it easier to shoot, eliminating some of the recoil that a smaller frame might produce.

Proven performers:
Glock 17 or 19 (Both should around 500 used a little over 500 new)
Smith and Wesson M&P or the Sigma (yes it has a long heavy trigger but that can be fixed and if you can master that trigger then shorter lighter ones you will appreciate even more, under 500 for the Sigma under 600 for the M&P)
Ruger SR9 or P95(under 500 get a newer SR9 with the D shaped mag release though)
Stoeger Cougar (Really good one, under 500)
Sig 2022 (Another good one, under 500)
CZ 75B (Love this one, but you will have trouble locating one, should be under 500)
Beretta PX4 (under 600)

The prices I figured are my area and include taxes and applicable fees so consider them out the door prices.


9x19 will be cheaper than .380, at least it is where I live. Some on that list you will be able to get for under 500, others under 600.

atblis
October 5, 2012, 11:15 PM
Prices vary by region. Md is higher than other places.

Glock can be had <$500
M&P can be had <$500
SIG isn't going to happen for <$500, unless used
CZ, wow, just looked at prices. When did they become a $500+ gun. Not worth that much.
Ruger SR9C is < $500
Springfield XD should be <$500
Walther PPS or PPQ can be done for <$600, but probably not $500
The Steyrs may be of interest. They should be about $500.
I wouldn't gamble on a Taurus.
I would gamble on a Bersa. The BP9 is worth considering IMO and is easily <$500.

mdThanatos
October 5, 2012, 11:20 PM
The sig 2022 should be easily had for under 500 new even in MD, it isn't their top tier stuff but it is good none the less. I agree the original XD should be found for close to 500, forgot about that model since the focus is now on the XDm. Also check places like Gunbroker.com or budsgunshop.com to see if you can locate a dealer that can do the transfer for you, if that is an option. I am not sure on MD laws.

atblis
October 5, 2012, 11:23 PM
Forgot about Kahr. A little on the small side, but that means it'll be nicer to carry.

http://www.budsgunshop.com/catalog/product_info.php/cPath/21_51/products_id/18442

Handgun transfer is about $40 at the cheapest in Md.

Ryan in the House
October 5, 2012, 11:38 PM
A few weeks ago, I rented and tested a Bersa Thunder 380 at the range to get a feel for its grip and recoil. Now, I have no experience with differentiating between harsh and light recoil, but I can say that the Bersa was very easy for me to control. It was a joy to hold and shoot. I also fired my brother's gun, a factory-new Sig P2022 in .40 S&W, which was also a very smooth shooter. So, we spent an hour at the range and experienced little to no hand fatigue, though the Bersa may have caused a slight abrasion on the webbing of my shooting hand. Roughly how does the Glock 19, SR9c, and M&P Shield compare to the Bersa Thunder 380 in terms of recoil? Less recoil, or more?

Thanatos,

Maryland allows FFL-to-FFL transfers, and I don't know of any restrictions that would impede my ability to receive an online order for most conventional handguns as long as the capacity is below 20 rounds per magazine. There is a gun store about 45 minutes away from my house that will receive an FFL transfer for a $40 charge, which seems to be a consistent rate for my locality. So, online orders are a possibility. Of course, I'll scout the local market first.

MedWheeler
October 6, 2012, 12:21 AM
Ryan, I carried the Bersa as an EDC for about a year. It's substantially more enjoyable to spend time with at the range than is the Kel-Tec PF9 I'm currently carrying. I still own it. To sum up what I typically say about it: If you're looking for a solid, reliable performer chambered in an acceptable defensive cartridge that any responsible member of your household should be able to handle in a crisis, the Thunder 380, for the money, is hard to beat.
Now, that being said, there is the issue of .380ACP ammo being not only more expensive than is 9x19mm ammo but it also being less readily-available.
Bersa markets two decent 9x19 pistols here in the US: the Thunder 9 and the BP9CC. The former is essentially a bigger version of the 380, and the later is a polymer-framed, striker-fired unit.
If you haven't done so already, try perusing around here: www.best9mm.com. It's some reading material on guns in the sub-$600 range.

BCRider
October 6, 2012, 12:45 AM
Ryan, since you're posting here on THR I sort of assume that you are looking at shooting as a hobby and not only for self defense. As such you can be expected to shoot quite a few hundred rounds a month for fun and practice.

Based on that you will certainly want to look at not only the cost of the gun but also very strongly the cost of the ammo. And last I knew 9mm is the least costly ammo aside from .22 that is out there. So you would do well to consider a gun that uses 9mm as a cost cutting consideration that is far more important than the cost of the gun itself.

As an example my own first handgun was a 9mm gun. A CZ Shadow as it happens. Up here gun stuff costs a lot more than in the US. I paid $850 for my Shadow. And at about $300/1K for ammo I shot the cost of the gun in around the first 8 months of ownership. In the last 4 years since I got into the shooting sports I've likely shot 5 to 6 times the cost of the gun through the barrel despite getting into reloading to hold costs down about a year and a half into the sport.

So all in all if you will shoot for fun or enter competitions then I strongly suggest you consider the cost of ammo as well as the cost of the gun. Or get into reloading. In which case .380 won't cost you any more than 9mm. Well... other than 9mm brass is infinetly easier to get for free. Around here I can get it in bundles just by cleaning the ranges.

ApplePie
October 6, 2012, 12:58 AM
I would certainly get a 9mm, not a 380. 9mm ammo is cheaper than 380 and a better defense round.

The Glock 19 is one of the most popular pistols made, and for good reason. Very reliable and durable, compact and light yet easy to shoot accurately, and costs between $499 and $550 for a Generation 3 model, depending on who you buy it from. They are easy to find everywhere. It also retains it's value if you ever want to sell it later. Highly recommended.

Ryan in the House
October 6, 2012, 01:14 AM
These are some very solid recommendations. I'll keep every one of them in mind as I begin the long-awaited search. Needless to say, I'm happy to receive a kind reception at the forum; I've spoken with a few self-described "gun nuts" over the years who were mainly interested in inflating their own egos. But you fellows at THR are forthright and sincere.

BCRider, you're absolutely correct in assuming that this gun will be used primarily as a range gun. I intend to shoot once or twice a month until I'm comfortable enough with my firearm to join a private shooter's club, at which point I'll get better economic mileage out of an annual membership fee than a recurring fee paid for every hour of shooting time at the range. I'd presume that most of you either belong to a private club and reap the benefits of unlimited range use, or own several acres and have set up your own shooting gallery with steel and paper targets. Either arrangement sounds like damn good fun, but I'm not there yet! Nonetheless, your suggestions will bring me closer to making an informed purchase my first time out. Thanks!

ponchsox
October 6, 2012, 08:51 AM
Atlbis, my comment about .380 ACP being snappier is the felt recoil in subcompact mouse guns like an LCP vs 9mm. I'm aware it's a smaller and slower round. I own both. This is why a .380 is not a range gun. The triggers are usually horrible and they aren't fun shooters. They are what they are, a small CCW pocket pistol. The M&P Shield 9mm is comfortable to shoot, is ideal for IWB CCW, and is less than $500. The M&P9c is just slightly larger and offers 12+1 or even a full size magazine with adapter. Very versatile.

If you want a full size 9mm, take a look at the Walther PPQ. IMO the best stock polymer 9mm on the market right now for trigger and ergos.

beatledog7
October 6, 2012, 09:03 AM
Ryan,

Do not summarily dismiss .380 for carry. Those little 90-95gr slugs have been doing the job for decades.

The key to a defensive handgun is that you, Ryan, the guy shooting it, not anyone else, can put rounds where you mean for them to go. If something chambered in .380 is what helps you do that best, then that is your defensive handgun, and .380 is your round.

That said, modern 9mm guns are smaller and lighter than the guns of even 15 years ago. There are excellent choices in 9mm if that's what you can shoot well. So try a bunch, as many as you can affordably, and see what works for you. There's no way around the fact that 9mm carries more punch than .380, but with that punch comes more recoil given the same size and weight platform. It's simple physics.

Ideal range gun ≠ ideal concealed carry gun.

Tophatter
October 6, 2012, 09:16 AM
Out of idle curiosity, if this is primarily going to be a range gun, why the desire for something compact like a Shield?

JTQ
October 6, 2012, 10:14 AM
Out of idle curiosity, if this is primarily going to be a range gun, why the desire for something compact like a Shield?
I agree, and why the desire for the SR9C and the fixation on .380 pistols. Most small pistols are not usually as pleasant to shoot as a "duty" size pistol regardless of the caliber.

There are bunches of good 9MM pistols in the $500 price range. You almost need to make an effort to pick a bad one. I don't own any polymer pistols, but in general, they are hard to beat for price and performance.

You can't go wrong with a Glock 17 or 19, S&W M&P, Springfield XD, Sig P2022, Ruger SR9 or P95, CZ P-07 or 75B Phantom, Beretta PX4, FN (P or X or whatever they are now), etc. Any of these should be within $100 either side of your $500 price point. Go to a store or gun show and handle them, or if you can find a place to shoot them try them out. All should work well and these company's will all stand behind their products if anything goes wrong.

CharlieDeltaJuliet
October 6, 2012, 10:57 AM
If I even hear affordable and handgun, my thought point straight to Ruger. Please do not think I am calling them cheap, I love Rugers. I compare the functionality of my Rugers to my Sig's or HK...etc. when most think of Rugers they think of value and reliability. So I would say stay with Ruger reguardless. Any choice from that will be a good one. I have yet to find a Ruger that doesn't shoot good. While a .380 is not my first choice it is a good caliber for protection.

hentown
October 6, 2012, 11:23 AM
Glock 19 or 26!!!

Jim PHL
October 6, 2012, 12:06 PM
I'm a Smith & Wesson fan. For new I'd recommend the M&P9c or Shield either at right around or just a little over $400. If used a "3rd Generation" like a 3913/3953 or 6906/6946 in the $300-$350 range. All of these are 9mm and have the advantage of being small and light enough for carry while still being big and heavy enough for lots of range time.

Lots of good choices mentioned in this thread. Generally speaking most new in the box 9mm autos out there these days will be acceptably reliable and accurate. What someone else likes you might not, what you like they might not...doesn't make either of you right or wrong, just a chocolate and vanilla thing.

Try to handle and shoot as many as possible before you buy. Try to find a range that will let you rent or borrow some different options. You can reach out here or on other forums to other members who may be near you geographically and willing to meet you at a range and let you shoot what they have.

Good luck in your search and be safe.

Furncliff
October 6, 2012, 12:29 PM
You have been given good advise above. I have only one thing to add. Buy a .22LR handgun first. You'll get a lot of meaningful practice with cheap ammo with a .22, position, grip, sight picture, etc. Quality rimfire handguns are not expensive and you'll find yourself using it a bunch in the future (I've acquired six over the years and I shoot them a lot). If you take a friend to the range you'll have a gun to lend if need be. When you do buy a CF pistol you will be way ahead of the learning curve.

One recommendation that kills two birds ... CZ75b with the Kadet conversion (.22LR).
http://i125.photobucket.com/albums/p68/Indy_Guy_77/CZ-75B/P5130050.jpg

I have one of these set ups and it is for sure slick. Accurate and reliable with either the 9mm or the ,22 upper. All steel makes it fun to shoot, quality build. Takes 15 seconds to make the swap.

Florida Cracker
October 6, 2012, 12:36 PM
The Ruger P95 is a fine choice in the sub-$400 range leaving money for spare magazines.

smalls
October 6, 2012, 12:39 PM
Out of idle curiosity, if this is primarily going to be a range gun, why the desire for something compact like a Shield?

From the OP:
The ideal gun for me would be one that is pleasant to shoot at the range, simple enough for a new owner to operate, and small enough to be considered for concealed carry

Emphasis added by me.

OP, $600 pretty much gives you the option of most of the popular compact carrying pistols, like XD's, Glocks, M&P's, and the like.

So, now that you have a spending limit, go to the range. Look at what's available for your price range, and feel them all. Pick the ones that feel the best, then go shoot them. After all that, pick the one you shoot best.

And just my opinion, but there is no need for the .380 anymore. We've got guns just as small in 9mm, with 9mm performing better. And have you seen the price of .380 lately? But, I'd stay away from the mouse guns, anyway. They're not fun to shoot, and hard to learn proper shooting techniques with.

Walt Sherrill
October 6, 2012, 12:46 PM
Maryland allows FFL-to-FFL transfers, and I don't know of any restrictions that would impede my ability to receive an online order for most conventional handguns as long as the capacity is below 20 rounds per magazine.


If it's being sent to a local FFL, you're right. The local FFL will do the steps needed on your end to make sure the transfer complies with both federal and state regulations.

Do you need a purchase permit to by a handgun in Maryland? In some states, handguns are treated differently than long guns.
The transfer of any gun shipped in interstate commerce is controlled by Federal Regulations. If the ownership of the gun is being changed with the transfer, the receiving person MUST be a FFL who will assure that the gun is transferred to the new owner in compliance with the state's firearm regulations
In-state, state law controls the transfer, and it may be simpler. In my state (NC) the transfer or sale of a handgun between individual residents of the state requires that the buyer have either a pistol purchase permit or a concealed handgun permit -- otherwise the transfer must be through a local FFL.

There is a gun store about 45 minutes away from my house that will receive an FFL transfer for a $40 charge, which seems to be a consistent rate for my locality. So, online orders are a possibility. Of course, I'll scout the local market first.

Talk to the shipper (seller) and the FFL you want to receive the gun, so that you've got all of your ducks in a row. It can go pretty smoothly.

JTQ
October 6, 2012, 12:54 PM
From the OP:
The ideal gun for me would be one that is pleasant to shoot at the range, simple enough for a new owner to operate, and small enough to be considered for concealed carry
smalls wrote,
Emphasis added by me.
I would reference all the guys on the forum concealed carrying a full-size 1911 or specifically guys like Shipwreck and his Beretta 92/M9 frequently pictured in a Comp-Tac IWB holster or Armoredman wearing his CZ SP-01 Phantom in a High Noon "Down Under".

If it is to be used primarily as the OP stated...

The ideal gun for me would be one that is pleasant to shoot at the range, simple enough for a new owner to operate, and small enough to be considered for concealed carry.
In this case the emphasis is added by me, I'd go with what you'd most likely be doing more of, which sounds to me like "pleasant to shoot at the range", rather than primarily a concealed carry weapon.

MachIVshooter
October 6, 2012, 01:32 PM
If we lowered my spending limit to $500, would I still have some good options?

A very large percentage of standard handguns fall into the $500-$600 range, so yes, saying under $500 will limit your options significantly.

Since you mentioned smaller guns, I'm assuming carry is a factor. I'd give a hard look at the M&P Compact or M&P Shield.

Tophatter
October 6, 2012, 01:46 PM
I carry a P30. Todd Green carried an HK45 for something like eight months. If it's for occasional carry, and it was my money, I wouldn't worry overly much about getting a compact.

tomrkba
October 6, 2012, 01:48 PM
A compact handgun is NOT a good idea if you are learning to shoot a handgun. Buy something that fills your hand. You must be able to place your finger on the trigger in the correct location and have air between your finger and frame at all times. The barrel should be at least four inches long so there is some distance between the sights. The slide or hammer (if it has one) should never touch your hand.

You may find that 9x19mm is a good caliber. It is very controllable with moderate recoil and suitable for self-defense, action shooting, range use and so on. You can buy lower quality steel cased ammunition from Tula for significant savings (you should still buy high quality jacketed hollow point ammunition for defense).

If you have no idea what to buy, I recommend finding a local shooting instructor. Find one that teaches self-defense oriented shooting. All the skills you will learn are applicable to general shooting. Tell the instructor you are looking for a gun and have no idea what you want or need. Any worthwhile instructor will have a variety of quality handguns available for you to try.

Titusdrake
October 6, 2012, 01:59 PM
new 9 mm, under $600? the Glock 19. this is a no brainer

atblis
October 6, 2012, 02:11 PM
Do you need a purchase permit to by a handgun in Maryland? In some states, handguns are treated differently than long guns.
Maryland requires you to watch an online handgun safety course for which you get a certification. It's not a big deal. It's free, and you print the certificate yourself. The content was surprisingly correct and pertinent. Maryland government is a joke, so that made it even that much more surprising.

http://www.mdgunsafety.com/

BCRider
October 6, 2012, 05:29 PM
Ryan, one more idea to add to the confusion... :D

I found that standing in one spot and perforating paper gets old pretty quickly once the "new gun smell" wears off. So another thought to keep in mind when you're shopping is to check the IPSC and IDPA lists of acceptable guns and if at all practical for your needs pick one which suits one or more of these competitive options. And one which you can easily find suitable holsters and extra mags to make up a package. That way you'll be ready for when the time comes.

A saying I generally spout off to new handgun buyers is "If your first handgun is not a .22 then your second one darn well should be". A .22 is cheap to feed and with the low recoil you can use it for a lot of corrective drills to aid in beating any sort of flinching issues you get from the center fire gun as well as being able to practice a lot of shooting skills where recoil isn't a contributing factor. Drills such as draw, extend, sight and fire the first shot with both speed and accuracy. For such drills it simply doesn't mattre that it's a .22. And if, like many of us, you find you develop a healty flinch some time alternating between a .22 and the center fire gun will do much to get you past the flinching issues. And best of all they are CHEAP to feed them.

Claude Clay
October 6, 2012, 05:39 PM
another vote for the Shield

its become my goto gun and most liked by NRA class students.
though not the lightest in its class it has the least perceived recoil
and a range session of 100 rounds does not stress your hand.

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