Not all budget guns are lemons, but you cannot guarantee the reliability of a handgun that costs less than a fancy steak meal. Should you take the risk with these sub-$200 pieces?
Keep reading for a more in-depth review of the most popular plinkers on the market!
In this article:
Buying Budget Guns | 9 Pros and Cons of Cheap Pieces
The Advantages of Using Budget Guns
1. Low Entry Barrier to Gun Ownership
Inexpensive handguns, pistols, and revolvers serve as a low entry barrier to gun ownership. Cheap 9mm subcompact pistols like the Taurus G2S sell for less than $170 in most gun stores. Even minimum-wage workers only need two to three days' worth of salary to afford this piece.
You can also check out second-hand gun shops for even cheaper options, although we wouldn't recommend buying used budget pistols. These pieces have likely surpassed their lifespan already.
2. Cheap, Accessible Weapon for Target Practice
There are dozens of cool, cheap guns to use for target practice. Explore the optics-ready handguns from Stoeger, Taurus, and Mossberg for accurate, enjoyable shooting sessions.
However, we encourage trying these pistols out yourself first—especially if you're buying guns on a budget. Otherwise, you might end up with a faulty piece with poor sights.
Also, don't expect every budget handgun to shoot accurately. Most cheaper pieces even require heavy modification and frequent cleaning to retain their accurate, precise shots.
If you enjoy knocking down cans on the weekends, then you definitely need at least one or two budget handguns. Despite their flaws, these handguns are the ideal plinkers.
Pistols below $200 to $300 are fun to use, very accessible, easily replaceable, and, of course, super cheap. Some shooters even treat them like disposable pieces.
Pro Tip: Use a spare rifle or handgun as your truck gun. Most budget handguns do not have the sufficient quality and power to take down large targets like bears or adult humans.
The Disadvantages of Using Budget Guns
4. Costly in the Long Run
While most budget pistols will set you back by no less than $200 to $300, they're not as cost-efficient as most newbies assume. Their short lifespan requires you to get a new one every few months or so.
Those who only carry their pistols around for security purposes could probably use the same cheap gun for about a year. However, weekend plinkers should expect to get a new one per month.
Also, most budget pistols sustain irreparable damages. Unlike high-end pieces from Smith & Wesson, Colt, or H&K, cheap brands break after just one or two malfunctions.
Sure, you can bring them to the shop, but the cost to repair these pieces would likely exceed the price of a new budget pistol altogether.
5. Overall Unreliability
If you have ever shot budget guns before, even for just a few rounds, then you probably have a good idea of their unreliability. Some super-cheap Taurus pieces even show defects fresh from the box.
To avoid disappointments, set your expectations right from the get-go. You would be hard-pressed to find inexpensive pistols that offer a smooth mechanism, so expect stiff cocking, tough trigger mechanisms, and inaccurate sights.
Pro Tip: Many budget handguns offer room for customization. However, we don't always recommend modifying cheap guns because add-ons do not always make a difference. Instead of buying mods, spend that money to buy a more reliable pistol.
6. Lack of Quality Control From Manufacturers
Do you know how gun manufacturers can reduce the prices of their products? The answer: by skimping on quality control.
Brands like Smith and Wesson or H&K have extensive quality control tests that probably cost millions per annum. Cheaper brands cannot afford this process.
The lack of quality control puts the manufacturer at risk of releasing faulty pieces. Not every budget gun would be a lemon but expect a few out of every 100 pieces to show some defect. If you plan to use these guns for self-defense, pray that you don't end up with the lemon.
7. Very Short Lifespan
Gun lifespans vary on a case-by-case basis, but most budget pistols only last a few hundred rounds. Although a handful of inexpensive guns miraculously reach 1,000 rounds, the average plinker doesn't shoot more than 500 rounds throughout its lifespan.
Keep track of how many times you've shot your budget gun. The last thing you would want is for your budget CCW to suddenly malfunction during an emergency.
8. Ill-Suited for CCW Applications
Can you use a budget pistol as your concealed carry weapon (CCW) of choice? Technically, yes. Most 9mm plinkers have a light, compact frame, which you can easily carry around wherever you go.
Should you use a budget pistol as your CCW? Most likely, no. While you can technically carry them as your CCW, their overall unreliable mechanism makes them a terrible piece for self-defense and protection.
9. Terrible Customer Support
Most shooters confidently buy budget pistols because they are under the impression that they can quickly return defective pieces whenever they want. Unfortunately, this is far from reality.
Often, gun manufacturers that produce cheap handguns have terrible customer service. These brands release so many lemons per batch that promptly addressing each complaint would make them lose significant profits. Buy budget pistols with the mindset that they're non-refundable.
Check out this video by the Honest Outlaw where they share their thoughts about budget guns:
Whether you choose to buy budget guns or not depends on one thing: your purpose. Plinkers who need an extra weekend gun can play around with these inexpensive pieces, but you might want to carry a more reliable weapon for CCW applications.
Try saving at least $400 to $500 so that you're not limited to the bottom-rack $100 budget pistols. Trust us—an extra hundred bucks is a small price for long-term security and reliability. Carrying a defective lemon would do more harm than good.
Do you own budget guns? Share your favorite inexpensive yet reliable pieces with us in the comments section below!
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