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Why are handguns so much more expensive than long guns?

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Preacherman, Mar 2, 2006.

  1. Preacherman

    Preacherman Elder

    Dec 20, 2002
    Louisiana, USA
    This thread, discussing the overall price of firearms, got me thinking.

    Why is it that handguns in general cost so much more than long guns? After all, there are the same basic components in all firearms: a mechanism to contain cartridges and load and unload them, a firing mechanism, sights, etc. Long guns additionally contain much more metal, wood, plastic, etc. than handguns. Yet, the smaller handguns typically cost two to three times as much as the long guns!

    What possible reason can there be for this difference in price? It's not taxes or tariffs, as the same duties apply to any firearm. Sure, a semi-custom or custom handgun can cost a whole lot more, as there's a lot more labor involved: but the same applies to rifles (check out Robar, Brockman, etc. for custom prices on rifles!).

    Any ideas?
  2. carlrodd

    carlrodd Active Member

    Dec 20, 2005
    an issue of demand? don't most people that just want a 'gun' go and buy a handgun? just like fuel...people demand it and rely on it, so raise the price.
  3. Justin

    Justin Moderator Staff Member

    Dec 29, 2002
    Taking your question even further, it would seem that compact and subcompact handguns are more expensive than fullsize pistols. (Compare the price of a new Kahr or Rhorbaugh to a fullsize Glock or Kimber.)

    My guess is that it has more to do with demand than physical materials and design.
  4. Nightfall

    Nightfall Participating Member

    Feb 24, 2003
    Miniaturization means increased cost in most other things. Electronics, for example. Perhaps it has to do with the size? More parts designed to be crammed into a smaller space?
  5. Mulliga

    Mulliga Senior Member

    Jan 13, 2004
    Gainesville, Florida
    Which handguns? Which rifles/shotguns?

    Let's keep it restricted to manufacturers that make both, for example. Ruger handguns are somewhat plain, but built like tanks, and they are at or below the cost of Ruger rifles. CZ handguns certainly cost no more than their rifles. SIG's pistols are expensive, but their new 556 won't be cheap, either. Same with Kimber.

    I think there might be a trend, but not enough companies make both to really tell for sure.
  6. Creeping Incrementalism

    Creeping Incrementalism Active Member

    Sep 1, 2005
    S.F. Bay Area
    I'm sort of guessing here, but the machining involved in creating a handgun just looks a lot more difficult than with a long gun. I mean, when they take that block of metal, and then you see it later and all the intricate holes drilled into it, just looks like a more difficult operation than with a long gun, in general. Are stamped handguns even made?
  7. R.H. Lee

    R.H. Lee Mentor

    Jan 26, 2004
    There may also be other costs built into the manufacture of handguns that don't apply to long guns. Various states have onerous testing requirements for handgun sales-that costs. Also the contingent liability associated with handguns is no doubt greater than with long guns. Prices are not limited to direct manufacturing costs.
  8. poppy

    poppy Member

    Nov 18, 2005
    SW Ohio
    Say what? A plain Jane 10/22 semi-auto rifle is about $189 and a plain Jane MKIII pistol is $259. That is a huge price difference in my book. Why, I don't have a clue. poppy
  9. Optical Serenity

    Optical Serenity Active Member

    Jun 23, 2005
    Atlanta, GA
    I've always been annoyed at this myself. Of course, take a look at AR-15s, they are expensive too...SO I'd have to guess it has to do with demand. Seemed to me the price of everything went up suddenly after 9/11.
  10. Hawk

    Hawk Senior Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Grand Prairie, TX
    Alternative theory: Litigation compounded by inappropriate comparisons.

    The "ring of fire" was largely litigated out of existance 10 or so years ago. PBS hasn't yet done a hit piece on cheap long guns, so far as I know.

    Cheap long guns are benign. Cheap handguns are Saturday night specials.

    Still, just going with what's available in 2006:
    Handgun range - Highpoint 139.00 to Korth Custom 15,000.00
    Long gun range - NEF 150.00 to Beretta EELL 95,000.00

    Omitting custom stuff:
    Really, really nice handgun: P210, STI: Around 2,000.00
    Really, really nice shotgun: 10,000.00 and up, standard production
    Really, really nice rifle: R93, Dakota: Say 7,000.00

    Contrarian answer to "why are handguns more?": They're not.

    They are if one compares a P220 to a Savage 110. But if you stay with what can be found on SIGARMS site, you should be comparing the P220 with the R93 or possibly the Blaser F3 shotgun at 5 large.

    Military pattern: Beretta M9 more than the M4 carbine? Nope. M9 scoots under the Benelli M4 shotgun too.

    There's one in every crowd...sorry.
  11. Camp David

    Camp David member

    Sep 21, 2005
    I think part of the cost escalation is the fancy cases handgun manufacturers are selling their new guns in... my new Ruger that I recently bought came in one of those high-density plastic cases, virtually undestructable it bragged, along with a Master Lock(?) that I promptly gave to my son... Meanwile the shotgun that I bought last year came in a cheap carboard box...

    Packaging Preacherman!
  12. f4t9r

    f4t9r Senior Member

    May 27, 2005
    in general ,if you can not hunt with it its more $$$$
  13. UberPhLuBB

    UberPhLuBB Member

    Jun 4, 2004
    I imagine it has alot to do with tolerance. A handgun will be expected to have a consistent point of impact, yet has a much shorter barrel than a long gun. The barrel is also usually not secured to the frame like it is with a long gun.

    While autoloading handguns don't necessarily have more moving parts, and do have far less metal, I think the wear points and smaller parts need to withstand the battering the slide gives them. A rifle's bolt isn't as key to accuracy as a handgun barrel tightly locking into battery after thousands of rounds. Revolvers, by comparison, are much cheaper because they have less moving parts and don't have to deal with as many stresses.
  14. wally

    wally Elder

    Jan 2, 2004
    Houston, Tx
    I don't see it at all. Other than the bottom of the line bolt actions, lever guns and pump shotguns at WalMart and other large retailers, most long guns cost as much or more than an HK USP. Lots of decent handguns at about the same price as the Romanian AKs which are basically used guns.

  15. MechAg94

    MechAg94 Senior Member

    Apr 17, 2005
    I don't know about a Mark III Ruger .22 pistol, but a Mark II has more different little parts than a 10/22 does in a tight space. At least, that is what I remember when I took my 22/45 apart.

    Also, how many manual bolt action handguns are there out there? How much do small caliber Thompson contenders go for? If you look at steel semi-auto rifles versus common steel semi-auto handguns, semi-auto rifles generally cost more all else being equal. A PTR-91 costs more than your average 1911. I think makers like Glock use a lot of plastic and mass production to get their costs down.

    As far as compact handguns, I think there is a redesign cost and lower demand that increases the unit price.
  16. pete f

    pete f Participating Member

    Dec 7, 2004
    Demand. markup.

    When you go searching out the costs of some of these gov't contracts you find Glock and Sig selling for the same as S&W Sigma.s that is under 300 bucks with mags, case, holster and parts.

    Same is true when you dig up the basis prices for m4's and so on, last one of the those I saw was a Bushie contract that worked out to under $4oo per with six mags and spares.

    Of course with Sigs and Glocks they have to pay those product placement fees for all the TV and Movie roles they play. I have heard that putting a glock in a TV show is a 10k check from Glock. Someone said that Tom Cruise using a SIG in Collateral was a 50K check to Tom and they paid for all his training and supplied weaps to the entire production.

    mostly tho it is just markup. you will pay it so they will charge that much.
  17. stevekl

    stevekl Member

    Jul 31, 2004
    Richmond, VA
    99% of the time, a handgun is much more mechanicaly complex than a rifle or shotgun.

    Off the top of my head, I can't think of any rifle or shotgun that mas more small moving parts than a pistol, or even a revolver. Revolvers are pretty complicated weapons, remember. Even more complicated than pistols sometimes.
  18. gringobaba

    gringobaba New Member

    Feb 5, 2006
    Complexity - automatics have to function, revolvers have to have a bunch of carefully machined chambers. Bolt actions, especially .22's, are simple. Most rifle barrels are concentric and threaded or pinned for attachment. Automatic barrels have to have hoods and locking lugs machined.

    Responsability - police and non-police alike depend on handguns for their lives. Rifles are sporting goods for most of us.

    Real estate - there are many more pistol ranges than rifle ranges, and much more pistol shooting by consequence.

    Demand - needs no explanation to any graduate of Econ 101.
  19. JohnBT

    JohnBT Elder

    Dec 26, 2002
    Richmond, Virginia
    I'd guess sales volume is a major contributor. It costs a fortune to make the first one and you have to sell a bunch to cover your overhead before the profits start rolling in. The cost per unit to design and tool up (and advertise, etc.) is less if you sell a 100,000 a year than if you only sell 40,000 or so like Kimber. Spreading design and set-up costs over a few thousand like Rohrbaugh must really drive the price up. John

    Looks like they sell more long guns for the most part.


    The top three handgun manufacturers for 1999, and the percentage of change from 1998, were:

    * Ruger: 312,731 (+11%),

    * Smith & Wesson: 279,435 (+2%) and

    * Beretta: 117,684 (+6%).

    The top three rifle producers in 1999 were:

    * Ruger: 428,329 (+28%),

    * Marlin: 301,874 (-1%) and

    * Remington: 252,776 (+8%).

    The top three shotgun companies in 1999 were:

    * Remington: 364,354 (+8%),

    * Mossberg: 329,829 (+2%) and

    * H&R 1871: 187,562 (-8%).
  20. Moondoggie

    Moondoggie Active Member

    Aug 22, 2004
    Small Town, Nebraska
    On the other hand, look at the price of a trap/skeet shotgun....you can easily spend thousands on a single shot smooth bore/OU scattergun.

    I've never understood that.

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