Champagne Taste On A Beer Budget

Affordable Alternatives For Gun Lovers

If you dig, there are some great affordable guns out there. The Rossi 92 lever-action and the
Rock Island Armory M200 .38 Spl. make an excellent pair for the trail.

Whether we fancy ourselves collectors, shooters, hunters or any combination of these, our typical answer to “How many guns do you need?” is “Just one more!” But with champagne taste on a beer budget, sometimes we have to get creative. I used to own a gun store and could take advantage of wholesaler specials, but those days are behind me. Now my gun buying options are limited to a fixed income and a need to justify every expenditure. As a result, I’ve become a connoisseur of guns made by companies able to produce quality products at prices easy for buyers to justify.

One company doing this well is Brazilian firearms manufacturer Rossi. I have several of their long guns and have owned a couple of their revolvers. I’m a fan of lever-action rifles made of wood and steel and Rossi makes some of the best. Take the Model 92, the one with the cool name “El Jefe.” I grew up around a vintage Winchester 92 in .32-20 with the barrel so worn you couldn’t hit a 5-gallon bucket from 40 yards away. The Rossi Model 92 I have now, however, is in fine condition. It’s a stainless steel .44 Mag. most often found riding in an overhead rack in my Jeep. It’s my “go to” rifle for anything big needing dispatching or sometimes just for when I want to play cowboy.

The Taurus Millennium G2 packs 12+1 rounds of 9mm and is priced under $300.

With this combination of .45 Colt and .410 ammo loaded, the Rossi Circuit Judge is a formidable defense gun.

Brothers In Arms

Rossi and Taurus, both South American companies with strong U.S. ties, work together on a variety of products. Sometimes it’s hard to know who made what. Another of my favorite long guns, the Circuit Judge, is distributed by Rossi, but made by Taurus. It’s an ingenious morph of the Taurus .45/.410 Judge revolver into a long gun’s body. Call it a shotgun, call it a .45 rifle, or call it both. I love mine and so does my wife. It’s her favorite by-the-backdoor gun for two- or four-legged varmints.

While I’m on the subject of Taurus, it’s time to mention the Millennium Pro semi-auto pistol. This handy little gun holds 12+1 rounds of 9mm or 10+1 rounds of .40 in a form factor about the size of the S&W Shield or Springfield XDs. It holds almost twice as many rounds and the dimensions are so close you can hardly tell the difference. The gun weighs in at 22 oz. and is frequently available for around $225. I’ve recommended these as carry guns to a lot of happy customers and have yet to hear a complaint. All Rossi and Taurus firearms come with a lifetime warranty.

While we are on the subject of Taurus, the company bought Heritage, the Florida company known for its single-action revolvers in .22, .22/.22Mag combo, .357 and .45 Colt. The .22s are available from time to time at under $150, and I can attest to the fact they stand up well. I’ve used one for years and have never had the slightest problem. This is a great plinking pistol and a great way to introduce youngsters to shooting sports.

The Rock Island Armory M206 snubbie in .38 Spl. was a pretty good shooter, and a great deal!

This offhand group at 15 yards speaks well of the Rock Island Armory M200 4″ revolver.

Barrels Of Fun

Let’s move to the other side of the world and take a look at Armscor, one of the most innovative companies in the gun business. The company has the Rock Island brand of firearms made in the Philippines and make some great 1911-pattern guns. Armscor’s pricing is very reasonable on all their firearms, but there are some particularly good bargains when you look at their revolver line. The M206 .38 Spl. “Snubbie” was a regular seller in my gun store, but I never tried one myself. When preparing for this article, I asked Armscor to send me an M206 and they also offered an M200, which is a .38 Spl. with a 4″ barrel. I’m glad they did!

The M206 Revolver reminds me a lot of the S&W Model 10 I grew up shooting. The M206 came with a checkered wood grip and a parkerized finish. It holds 6 rounds of .38 Spl. and weighs just under 26 oz. empty and 29 oz. loaded. The fixed sights are almost identical to the ones on my S&W, having a ramped front sight with a deep channel notch in the rear. The Rock Island is somewhat easier to cock than the Smith because its hammer spur is wider and flatter and has a lower angle.

Single-action trigger pull averaged 6.4 oz., which is more than the 4.3 oz. I measured on the Model 10 and the 3.2 oz. on my wife’s Ladysmith, but not enough extra pull to make a difference in real life. All three of those revolvers have a double-action trigger pull beyond the 12-oz. max on my gauge. I did my initial shooting of the M206 with the checkered wood grips but quickly changed to the combat polymer grips included in the case. This gun smacks of rugged construction, and street price is under $250.

The longer barreled M200 grabbed my attention immediately. It arrived with polymer grips on the gun and no wood grips in the case. The additional barrel length adds only 3 oz. to the weight. Why did this gun appeal to me so quickly? Street price is around $225 yet it’s well made with a tough finish which will stand up to abuse. Perfect for a tackle box, glove compartment or trail gun.

The Heritage single-action .22 is a great buy typically priced under $150.

Range Time

My son and I took the revolvers to the range along with some Armscor .38 Spl. ammunition the company sent me. We also brought along some Hornady and Remington defensive ammo and several boxes of ammo probably 30 years old or more from the back of my ammo closet. The M200 shot slightly left of point of aim, but the M206 was spot on. Just for fun I did a comparison between the Model 10 and the Model 206 at snubbie combat distance. It doesn’t group as tightly as my S&W, but at combat ranges there’s not enough difference to matter.

At the range, we ran into a couple we knew from our License to Carry course. They are in their 70s, transplants from New York to Texas, and just learning to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights. We asked if they wanted to try the revolvers and they readily agreed, telling us their Beretta PX4 was the only handgun they’d ever shot. We showed them how to operate the revolvers and turned them loose for a while. They totally enjoyed themselves and were able to keep the guns on target well enough to defend themselves.

Because these revolvers aren’t designed to win competition shoot-outs, we didn’t do any serious accuracy testing, but we did compare them at 10 feet, 15 feet and 15 yards — enough to determine we could keep all the rounds within the size of a pie plate at the farther distance. This is one of the delightful points about shooting a revolver — they are not particular about ammo. Would I depend on one of these revolvers for personal defense? Absolutely.

Needless to say, there are some great options out there for you — even if you are on a tight budget. From lever guns to semi-autos to wheelguns, these makers offer you some excellent choices to fit just about any need. Or even something you don’t need, just want!

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