Cheapest handgun you would trust for defense...

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A self defense weapon, in all honesty, likely needs to shoot 1 magazine or cylinder's worth of ammo reliably, if/when the time comes. Accuracy- if it's a pistol, you should be able to point it at your assailant in the limited space you have. That's probably within 10 feet or so... you're getting into some risky territory for much beyond that. Extra mags etc- if you hit someone with several rounds of ammo and they don't go down, and they're close enough to attack you, a mag swap won't help you. A knife or axe at that point would be more use. Or a club; which is a reason I personally prefer a steel (or at least aluminum) frame. I want to be able to bash someone in the event I have to.

SD isn't clearing a building, or keeping a zombie hoard at bay.

All the extras are aesthetically pleasing, but won't be very useful.
Of course, it does. Deals on used guns notwithstanding. Cheap guns are made with cheap materials.

Not that expensive materials are any guaranty that that gun will work. The most expensive gun I ever

owned was a total piece of crap, and is thankfully gone. The cheaper ones are also gone.

I’m sorry but the fact that your Kel Tec has made it through a staggering 250 rounds is not inspiring me

to run out and pick one up. And your Taurus has a lifetime guarantee because it needs one.

I’m sorry, but it costs money to manufacture a quality firearm with quality materials. It just does.

I think you got me confused with someone else.

I don't own any Kel Tec's or Taurus'.

I get the feeling you're one of those folks that just has a minimum price point of what a "quality" gun should cost. "It doesn't have to $1,5k but it should be at least XYZ". And that's fine if you feel that way but I know from first hand experience, as I'm sure many other folks can attest, that that simply isn't true.

In today's world of major manufacturers polymer pistols that are so similarly designed, I'd love to hear your input on what makes a $600 gun so much better than a $300 gun. Speaking specifically in terms of reliability, since that is the topic at hand.
I don't have any .380s, but my brother has a Bersa.

It would be nice to see the price of .380acp drop to 9mm range, as there are some well-made guns in that caliber. My preference of the Mak caliber guns in a practical vein lies in the fact that they are comparable, and 9x18 can be found cheaper.

If you happen upon a stash of reasonably priced 380 ammo, I'd again recommend CDI ... they have been listing some Berettas (84s and 85s) for decent prices. These are worn, but by all accounts are nice guns.
My wife has a .380 (Browning BDA), I had a Glock 42 that I tried out for awhile and one of my sisters has a Bersa, so that would be great if there was inexpensive .380 ammo around finally as I'm forced to stock at least a little bit of it. It's just always been more expensive for whatever reason.

For as many .380's are out there you think that the ammo would be cheaper as I believe that it's the second most popular 9's. At least it's not as expensive as .32 ACP. Mother of Gawd that stuff is expensive.
The OP said he doesn't mind spending whatever it costs for a quality firearm, then he states that he feels a Markarov around $200 is quality in his opinion. I think I would agree, after I had put in new springs and maybe the magazines if they can be cleaned and re-sprung.

So, for the money, I think he wants to know what we think are quality.

I think to be quality in the "used market" it has to start out as quality in the "new market". I think that logic holds. So used service pistols that were acceptable to the service unit (military or police or security) are great to consider and should be refurbished accordingly.

I think CZ's and CZ clones are in that category. I think used Glocks, S&W revolvers, Browning Hi-Powers, etc., all fall into that category. For me, the blow back firearms that are in the same design/class of the Walther PPK series have too little capacity and are typically weaker than 9mm, so I don't consider them a home defense option but a carry option instead.

And I know the question wasn't directed at me, but what makes a $600.00 gun better than a $300.00 gun. It wouldn't be the price, but it would be the example of the guns. For instance, what would make a $600 CZ SP-01 better than a $300.00 S&W MP? For home defense I would say:
1) Magazine Capacity
2) Point-ability
3) Follow-up shoot ability
4) +P / NATO power ability
5) Feel and Balance

What makes a CZ worth more than a Tangfolio or other clone? I am not sure I can answer that. The CZ might not be any better.

Here is an interesting video:
Well, I think we can find something that we can trust for less than $1500.

Maybe a Smith & Wesson, or a XD, or a Glock, or a whatever. I think if you

look around you could even find a Sig cheaper than that.

There are a lot of guns at less than half of your price point, that most people

would think are quality firearms.

The point I was trying to make was not about a certain price point, but how those price points are relative. Your post helps me make that point. Your statement of "guns at less than half that" tells me you feel $700-750 is what it takes to buy a reliable gun. My EDC(S&W637) can be had for about half again that much NIB.($350). I doubt if one can get anything more reliable than a S&W J-Frame for SD. Now for about half that again, I bought both my sons a LCP last Christmas($199NIB) for BUGs. Both have been 100% reliable, eating any ammo fed to them. I have a good friend that owns a $170 Hi-Point .45. I also have a good friend that owns a Dan Wesson Valor. When all three of us are at the range, it's the $1500 gun that generally gets picky about ammo. So should one give trust because of cost or reliability? Does one equate trust in a SD firearm because of it's fit/finish quality or the fact it goes bang every tie the trigger is pulled?
And I know the question wasn't directed at me, but what makes a $600.00 gun better than a $300.00 gun. It wouldn't be the price, but it would be the example of the guns. For instance, what would make a $600 CZ SP-01 better than a $300.00 S&W MP? For home defense I would say:
1) Magazine Capacity
2) Point-ability
3) Follow-up shoot ability
4) +P / NATO power ability
5) Feel and Balance

The topic at hand is "Cheapest gun you would own for SD". To me that speaks pretty directly to reliability and proper function.

While your 5 listings are worthwhile from an aesthetic or observational standpoint they have nothing to do with reliability.

So, is the CZ that much more reliable than the M&P? That is the question.
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For cheap, with great quality, shoots forever, with no hick-ups and sends out a screaming, put you down round, look no further than a quality Tokarev 7.62 x 25 - I have a few and prefer the Polish Version. Can be had in the $225 range and usually comes with two 8 round mags. Ammo is not too crazy, at about $20 / 24 for a box of 50.

The TT-33 in 7.62 (Polish is the best) (I have original Russian 1941) and Norinco Model 54 in 9mm, based on a Browning modified system, are both great for SD. Wanna 7.62 or a 9 ? Both have their + & - points.
CZ-82 has my support in the Mak category. P-64 is viable in SD, but kicks like a mule, which could be ignored in SD. The original Maks are over $300.
The Hi-Points are touted great for price. I've never owned a pistol, but I have a 9mm Carbine that is very functional for SD.
Looking only at handguns, and only ones I still own...

These I bought a long time ago and have had for many years:
Russian Makarov in 380 $89
FEG High Power clone 9mm $200
Taurus 689 357 magnum $200

These are more recent:
Beretta Model 84 380 $235
Charter Arms Undercoverette 32 magnum $235
Kel-Tec P3AT 380 $225
New England Firearms R73 32 magnum $150
Rossi 720 44 special $250
S&W "pre Model 10" 38 special $145
Star Super B 9mm $200

These I would not prefer due to caliber, but are better than sharp words and a sassy attitude:
S&W Hand Ejector 32 long $125
CZ70 32acp $225
Kel-Tec P32 32acp $125

There are probably a few more I am forgetting. The thing is, all of these go bang every time I pull the trigger. All of the ones in the top two categories chamber what I consider to be decent SD rounds. I have fired all of them at least a few hundred rounds. Some of them I have fired thousands (such as the Makarov). Some of them would not be my first choice - for instance the New England Firearms revolver was not a top-shelf firearm and I would not try to put thousands of rounds through it, but it has gone bang every time so far and fires a decent SD cartridge. Some of them, such as the Makarov, FEG High Power, Beretta, S&W "pre model 10" and Star Super B have and/or will last for as many rounds or longer than any of my more expensive firearms.

Some might scoff at the Rossi and Taurus, but those models are among the best those companies have ever made, and they have sold a whole lot of guns. In fact, the Taurus is my preferred HD firearm. I went shooting with a friend the other week and we were shooting at 7 yards. I fired 4 cylinders of ammunition and made the bullseye disappear. It was just gone. Every shot went into one big hole except for two fliers (which were my fault). The sights and trigger are excellent. I own Ruger, S&W, and Colt DA revolvers, and by chance this just happens to be the best-shooting one in my hands. If one of the others shot better for me, I would keep it loaded by my bed instead of the 689.

I also own firearms from other prominent manufacturers of which I don't happen to own inexpensive examples. The thing is, I have not found that the amount of money I pay for a handgun guarantees how reliable and effective it will be. As you can see, I own a lot of inexpensive firearms which are reliable and effective. I have also paid a lot more money for some which are no better, and sometimes worse.

In fact, here is a theoretical situation: I have listed 13 handguns which I paid not very much money for. Some would claim that because they were cheap,they aren't reliable. If it were possible, I would be willing to go to the LGS and let my friend there collect his 13 most expensive handguns. He could even field strip and clean them. Given good quality ammunition, I would be confident that all 13 of my firearms could shoot 100 rounds apiece with no malfunctions (if they malfunction, I fix them or get rid of them). I am guessing that the more expensive ones, being brand-new, would probably have some hiccups. In fact, I would not be at all surprised if there was an obvious lemon in the group that malfunctioned consistently and needed repair.

(Quite a rant, I know. :) )
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Ultimately, this is an exercise in imagination. Most of the acceptable SD rounds have been in service many, many years. These rounds will cause damage when it hits human flesh, whether it issues from a 5 day old Glock or a 100+ year old 1911. Until we start issuing phasers, the argument is basically about personal choice.

For the lower end of the budget, I'm more prone to trust a used, surplus weapon that went through some research and trials to get established, than a brand-new bargain gun aimed at undercutting the market. Old but good can be maintained and restored.
The thing is that's not the price point that's being discussed because the figure of $1500 wasn't mentioned in the OP.
Very true $1500 was the number buck460XVR used.
The point I was trying to make was not about a certain price point, but how those price points are relative. Your post helps me make that point. Your statement of "guns at less than half that" tells me you feel $700-750 is what it takes to buy a reliable gun.
The problem with reading between the lines is that there is nothing written there.
So.. what's the cheapest handgun you would trust?
Ok, to answer the OP's question. Its basically a tie. The two cheapest guns that I carried for any length of time. A Smith & Wesson 642 in 38spl. that I paid $400 NIB for. The cool thing is that you can still pick one up for about the same price. The other one was a Sig P239 in 9mm that I paid $402 NIB for. Probably not going to find another one for that price.

I still have both of these guns and would carry them today if needed. The 642 is pretty loose and sprays a bit when you fire it. The slide on the Sig is also loose and you can see it move when you pull the trigger. But it still shoots very good. Again, if I needed to, I would be comfortable carrying either.

To the Kel Tec and other inexpensive gun fans, I am sorry. I don’t understand you, but it is not for me to criticize or judge you. I apologize If anything I said ticks you off.
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To the Kel Tec and other inexpensive gun fans, I am sorry. I don’t understand you, but it is not for me to criticize or judge you. I apologize If anything I said ticks you off.
My personal response is to the least expensive gun I would trust, not the one I would want. For me to trust a gun, it has to function, and chamber an acceptable caliber.

I don't like Glocks, I don't want a Glock. I would trust one, if I knew it was reliable. Going on reputation, I would expect it to be. I'd need to put a few hundred rds down the pipe to feel sure.

Based on my experience with Eastern Bloc (9x18) guns, I would expect a Makarov or CZ 82 to function. I would want to check a "new" one a few mags to be sure, but the ones I own have been good to go.
Also based on my personal experience with my "ugly gun" CZ 99, I now trust that. Mine has fed anything I put through it, and shoots tight groups to point of aim. At $195 within the past year, it's the cheapest recent purchase I have made, by a slight margin over a hi-cap Mak, and it further has the benefit of a more potent round and higher capacity.

My order of preference would be my:
  1. CZ 75
  2. Beretta 92FS
  3. S&W 915
I own a few others that I wouldn't hesitate to use in need, but those are my favorites. In fact, every gun I own in a centerfire cartridge, I've put enough ammo through them without hiccups, that I would feel comfortably armed, and not fear a failure.
i'm looking at the high point c9 in woodland camo as I really like the looks of this pistol plus you can get 9mm ammo for $160 per thousand rounds heck that's cheap enough for me!! :)
A Rossi 877 .357 mag is usually on hand. When I bought it, I paid $200. and gave it a good cleaning.
Transfer and grips add another $50. I trust it in a pinch.
Always shoots and I practice with it the most.
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I bought a Polish P64 about a month ago, and really like it. Except for the 9mm Mak round. It's easily concealed and shoots well. It was $209; which makes it the cheapest pistol that I own.
Either my Bulgarian Makarov, or my Polish P-83 Wanad. Both are excellent, and I carry the P-83 sometimes.
There are lots of guns under 3 bills that are reliable. Pocket guns include Taurus tcp, Ruger lcp, kel-tec p3at, and others. 9mm compact include Taurus pt111 g2 (see full30 review by mrgunsngear), ruger lc9s on sale, kel-tec pf9 and p-11, and Kahr value series if you wait for a sale.

I have owned several Taurus and Kel-tecs over the years. I did have to send one kel-tec back, and my father had to send a Taurus back for repair. Both were repaired and came back fully functional. I do currently have a Kahr giving me fits...
Much of this is personal economics. For an immediate defensive handgun, right now:

$ <= 100 - used high point?
$ <= 200 - LCP
$ <= 300 - Surplus Mak, etc, or a beater but functional S&W model 10
$ <= 400 - plenty of quality LNIB available,
I'd say there are a tremendous amount and variety of good guns at or right below the $300 mark. That's the limit I set, in part to keep my collecting reasonably affordable, in part for the hunt to score them at that price. At that price, I have landed a Beretta 92FS, a CZ 75, a fullsize 1911 in 45acp in like new condition, as well as others like 3rd Gen S&Ws and a Star M30. It takes a little time and effort, but it can be done; and for me that's more satisfying than paying sticker price for the latest wonder gun. Gives me a lot of variety at the range, plenty of unique designs to admire, and none are "less" than a more expensive gun in anything but price and someone's individual tastes. My CZ 75 is a natural shooter for me, the Beretta is very smooth and slick, the S&Ws function flawlessly, the Star is a massively durable pistol, etc. They all shoot great and I wouldn't hesitate to trust my life to any of them.
Taurus 800 series (809 9mm, 840 40sw, 845 .45acp)

this 809 can be found for 250-290 NEW

and this is the 845 SS,
I spent $200 on an FEG hi-power new in the 90's. It was inexpensive then, never cheap. I've swapped the springs, ungraded the safety to a C&S extended one, removed the mag disconnector. Broken one extractor. Still my go-to piece.

East bloc surplus was a great buy at one time. Lots of Israeli surplus hi-powers on the market right now, some very good deals if you are willing to get one with beat up finish and have it redone. FEG clones (not all are BHP compatible there are a number of threads on that you can look up) are showing up on gunbroker as well.

In new pistols, the discontinued Ruger SR series looks great to me. I've seen several 40 cal versions close to $300.
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