August 22, 2022
Times are tough for many and money is scarce. Citizens who never dreamed of owning a firearm are now looking to arm themselves to protect not only their lives and liberties, but also their family and property. Many are “bargain hunting” today, due to the economy, even when it comes to handguns for personal protection. I understand, and to aid you in your quest I picked out five economical models to consider.
These models are not just economical, but rather they will serve the user well. They are reliable, have a good build quality and will have a long service life. Focal points will also be capacity, aftermarket support and customer support (in terms of warranty work, if need be). In addition to these five, I’ll also cover a sixth option, Police Trade-Ins. These six options will give you economical yet trustworthy options for protecting yourself and your family.
1. Canik TP9 Series
The Turkish Canik is no stranger to the U.S. firearm market. This Walther P99 clone is a striker-fired, polymer-framed double-stack that has a rather large following and fan base. Known to be a reliable and rather robust handgun with a great factory trigger, the Canik comes in at an attractive price point. Unlike other budget-minded options, the TP9 comes factory with two 18-round magazines, giving the user optimal and comparable capacity to other double-stack 9mm handguns on the market. The TP9 base model comes with Warren iron sights, with a "U" notch rear sight, giving the user a nice sight picture and considering the fact that the Warren sights are made from steel alloy, they are an 'upgrade' over their competitors and peers which use polymer iron sights.
The TP9 series offers nice iron sights, great capacity, match-grade hammer forged barrel, steel guide rod and great ergonomics. For varying hand sizes, it also offers varying back-strap options, allowing the handgun to be fitted to the user’s hands. I also like the coated internal components, this helps prevent corrosion or rust on components with prolonged exposure to elements and moisture (through sweat) from carry.
Being a Canik TP9SFx owner, I was disappointed in the Cerakote (or comparable finish) on the handgun’s slide. While even, it is extremely thin on the sharper edges of the slide, resulting in premature holster wear. The finish on the barrel is equally as "thin", giving noted and quick "slide rash" (the finish removal on the top of the breech from interaction with the slide). This is on what they consider their "top of the line" handgun as well, so it seems that either I received a poorly finished handgun that escaped quality control, or coating work is one of the weak points from the Turkish-based company.
The TP9 base model has an MSRP of $379.99, with a street price ranging between $350 and $375 for a new-in-box example. When shopping, it is quite easy to find a used TP9 with a rather low round count and in great shape for under the $300 mark, making it a steal for a budget minded handgun that checks all the important boxes. It is one of the better budget-minded offerings.
2. SAR Arms B6
The B6 and B6P handgun lines are produced in Turkey by SAR Arms and imported by SAR USA. This handgun is based on the iconic CZ-75 handgun and is ultimately a polymer-framed CZ-75 clone. The quality surpasses the price point, as both the barrel and slide are hammer forged, with quality internals. The handgun has good economics, accepts CZ-75 magazines and comes standard with a 16-round double-stack magazine. With an MSRP of $429.00, it is a bit expensive for what a person is receiving; but with a street price hovering around the $350 mark for a new handgun and gently used offerings falling into the $250 range, they are a hard to beat handgun for those on a budget.
The polymer frame has a nicely designed beavertail, which not only prevents 'hammer bite', but also allows the user to choke high on the grip, translating to better recoil control. I like the low-bore axis, which is practically identical to its CZ counterparts, again translating to optimal recoil control and fast follow-up shots. It has a good trigger in single-action and features good combat sights. Magazines are compatible with the CZ-75, making acquiring magazines an easy task. The factory-supplied magazine is produced by Mec-Gar, making it a quality OEM magazine.
The handgun only comes with one magazine, meaning that quick acquisition of spares is a must. If ordering or buying one of these, pick up a couple surplus CZ-75 magazines or new Mec-Gar's. The safety can be engaged without the hammer cocked. This may be confusing and will require additional training to not accidentally engage in a stressful situation. The double-action trigger pull is relatively smooth, but very heavy, which will require additional training and practice to master. While good, the sights are nothing special. They are simply fixed combat sights.
The SAR B6/B6P/B6C is overall a good handgun and a good shooter. It is easy to control, flat recoiling and very accurate. It is reliable, well made and will make the user a good overall, budget-minded handgun. It does have its negatives of course, but none of them impact reliability or function. It is a handgun that will require range time and the user to shoot the gun to become proficient. For the street price both new and used, the B6 line packs a lot of punch for the price.
3. Smith & Wesson SD9 VE
An American offering, from the legendary Smith & Wesson firearms company, the SD9 VE is somewhat a modern rendition of the SIGMA, with a lot of M&P 1.0 added in. This hodge-podge striker-fired handgun boasts a stainless steel slide and barrel, polymer frame, double-stack magazine and is likely one of the more physically attractive handguns on this list (and definitely more attractive than its predecessor). While somewhat 'plain jane' in comparison to the Canik TP9, this Smith and Wesson has the features where it counts.
The SD9 VE has good ergonomics, good overall capacity, great iron sights that are produced from steel alloy. The handgun has a good sight picture and a far superior trigger than its SIGMA predecessor. The trigger pull is highly reminiscent to a Shield 1.0 trigger pull. While not on level with the 2.0 M&P and their new trigger redesign, for a budget-friendly handgun, it is not bad.
The SD9 VE only comes with one magazine, as opposed to other offerings being supplied with two. Speaking of magazines, unfortunately like all other Smith & Wessons, factory magazines are quite expensive. Prices typically range from $35.00 on sale, all the way to $45.00 and above in severe political climates. It is a base model handgun, with few creature comforts. Do not expect a supremely outfitted or optioned handgun, this simply isn't it. It is somewhat the "base model Honda Civic" of American-made handguns.
Overall a good handgun, with great builds quality. Smith & Wesson puts it where it counts with this handgun. With no frills, the SD9 VE has all of its cost placed in consistency and reliability. Is it an M&P? Absolutely not, but it also doesn't come with the M&P price tag of mid $500.00 to low $600.00 either. Priced right, with an MSRP of $406.00, and a street price of $299.99 a person would be hard pressed to find a superior handgun, especially from a company with Smith & Wesson's reputation.
4. Beretta APX A1 Carry
Beretta is widely known for their hammer-fired handguns and their military contract for the 9mm M9 service pistol, but Beretta is also one of the oldest names in firearms history. Producing quality firearms and offering pinpoint accuracy, Beretta is a well-respected name with a large and dedicated following. The Beretta APX Carry was developed to be a compact carry gun but, with the growing popularity of red dot optics, Beretta felt it necessary to update it. Their APX A1 Carry is Red Dot Ready while maintaining a small footprint.
The APX A1 Carry is a striker-fired sub-compact. It offers the user a thin and lightweight pistol great for deep concealment. Offering the user 6+1 or 8+1 capacity, it sports equal capacity to its larger M&P Shield counterpart, while also offering front cocking serrations and optics cut, supporting many micro red dot sights. It is also smaller than Ruger’s EC9s and Springfield Armory’s XD Defend.
While small, the limited capacity may be a deal breaker for some users that want higher capacity such as offered by the P365 from SIG Sauer, or the GLOCK 43x with aftermarket magazines. While optics cut, the user will lose their rear sights when mounting an optic. I personally prefer redundancy, meaning the iron sights are a must first and foremost. For me, this makes the optics mounting system useless. On this, I would like to add that Beretta only had so much real estate in which to work with.
The APX A1 Carry is a good consideration for concealed carry and personal defense. While limited in capacity, it offers a small firearm and fits well into the 9mm micro pistol craze. It gives the user a lot of options and a comparable trigger to its more expensive peers. While the MSRP rivals that of other offerings at $449, the street price is $399, with Beretta offering a 2022 $100 rebate. This brings the APX A1 Carry into the sub $300 mark.
5. Ruger Security 9
Ruger semi-auto handguns, turn back time 30 to 35 years and ask any gun shop owner or writer about Sturm Ruger semi-autos. Ruger’s back then were split into two categories, their sleek semi-auto Mk. series of .22 LRs and their bulky P series. The "elephant in the room" would often be the rather large P85, P89 or P90 series of handguns. They were big, they were heavy, and they were bulky, but they were also the billy goat of the handgun world (as they ate everything). In the mid-1990s Ruger’s designs began to catch up to the evolving market. Fast forward to 2022, their Security 9 rivals the aesthetics of many higher-priced handguns.
The Ruger Security 9 is what I like to refer to as a "mid-full sized" handgun, as it falls somewhere between a compact and duty sized semi-auto (much like the GLOCK 19). The Security 9 offers a respectful 15-round capacity, constructed from durable stainless steel and has nice factory iron sights. I like the LCP style of internal hammer, as it is somewhat a 'hybrid' and offers the positives between a more traditional hammer-fired handgun and a striker-fired handgun.
While nicely built, the ergonomics could be better. It does not feature interchangeable backstraps, so tailoring the fit and feel of the handgun isn't possible.
Well-constructed, nicely outfitted with two magazines from the factory the Ruger Security 9 is sized perfectly for concealed carry and home defense. The Security 9 is a nice choice overall. That said, I do feel the Security 9 is somewhat 'dated' compared to some of recently released competitors. Overall though, for a $399 MSRP and $349-$379 price tag, it is a hard-to-beat offering.
6. Police Trade-Ins
Unfortunately, with the market as is, the ability to find "good deals" on Police trade-in handguns has become a bit slim. The majority of trade-in handguns will be chambered in the 'misfit caliber', the .40 S&W. While it has fallen from grace, the effectiveness of it as a duty caliber cannot be overlooked. That said, it equally can't be discounted that many .40 S&W police trade-ins will fall under the $350 mark. Take for instance a "good to very good" shape Smith & Wesson M&P 1.0 police trade-in. This will fall in the $299 to $329 range, making it ultimately the same price as the SD9 VE. Keep in mind, many police trade-in handguns will feature Tritium night sights with typically plenty of life left.
Police trade-in handguns are typically proven handgun designs that are robust, reliable, accurate, well-made and offer optimal capacity. They typically will feature capacity exceeding 12 rounds, with standard capacity magazines ranging from 15 to 20 rounds. Most trade-in handguns will feature night sights, meaning that on handguns such as GLOCKs or H&Ks, they will replace the polymer sights with steel alloy. This means a far superior construction on the iron sights. Police trade-in handguns are typically quality handguns, from reputable companies such as: Smith & Wesson, SIG Sauer, GLOCK, Hecker and Koch, exc. Oftentimes, trade-in handguns are well maintained mechanically, meaning optimal reliability and a long service life.
Police trade-in handguns typically will feature holster rash, scrapes, scratches and finish wear. Often times though, this wear is simply cosmetic and doesn't have an adverse effect on the mechanics or function. Unfortunately, due to political and economic unrest, the trade-in markets for inexpensive handguns are severely limited, as is the dwindling surplus market. This means minimal selections of brands and a thorough search to find them. Typically, trade-in handguns only come with one magazine, meaning the purchasing party will have to acquire more magazines. This can add substantial expense in some cases, rendering the positives of the purchase somewhat void.
The market of sub $300 GLOCK 22, 23, 27 or 35 handguns have practically dried up, as with sub $350 SIG Sauer P226s in .357 SIG and .40 S&W, or the mirrored priced USP in .40 S&W. This typically leaves the M&P 1.0 .40 S&W as the "trade-in deal", due to the mass adoption of the 9mm and the introduction of the 2.0 M&P line. These are still great handguns, with lots of life and chambered in a capable duty cartridge, coupled with great capacity. This would make a stellar defensive handgun for home protection and will also pull double-duty as a quality choice for carry as well. This would likely be my personal choice first and foremost.
Other notable avenues that are practically overlooked would be pawn shops. Other quality budget handguns would be K-frame Smith & Wesson revolvers, such as retired police Model 10s or Model 64s. These .38 Special wheel guns can typically be found in good mechanical shape for roughly the $300 mark. They lack in capacity, but are reliable, accurate and well-made firearms. They are easy to shoot, learn, train around and feature light recoil, even with +P ammunition.
These are simply my choices and ones that will function and have a track record of working. Many of these handguns are found on the used market and that is okay. A quality used Canik TP9 in the hand is far more valuable than the pistol you cannot afford. The right to keep and bear arms for self-defense is the right of every American Citizen. These arms keep us free and keep the criminals hiding in fear. The more responsible Americans armed, the lower the crime rate and the more peaceful our streets and cities will be.
If you have any thoughts or comments on this article, we’d love to hear them. Email us at FirearmsNews@Outdoorsg.com.
About the Author
Michelle Hamilton has a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice/Homeland Security, is a serious student of wound ballistics, military history, small arms design and manufacturing and is a competitive shooter.