Budget-Friendly Handguns

what’s $500 buy you these days?

Over the last 10 years, firearms manufacturing has not only improved in terms of quality and efficiency, it’s resulted in more and better handguns. Decently priced, too! Take note, though: Just because they’re less than super expensive (all here are less than $500 with the exception of one) doesn’t mean they’re less capable. In fact, these budget-friendly handguns are decent shooters, reliable, with holsters and other accessories abounding online and in stores. On a budget? Don’t let this stop you from protecting your family or shooting for enjoyment!

Walther Handgun

Walther’s PPS M2 remains on my list of favorite budget-friendly guns, mainly due to its impeccable reliability and accuracy. The PPS M2 resides in the “slim nine” category and carries superbly at 1 o’clock, or appendix. Factory sights are big, white and bright and the gun is perfectly balanced regardless of whether you’re carrying the shorter 6+1 magazine or the longer 7+1 magazine. Only 21.1 oz. in weight. $469. https://www.waltherarms.com

FMK handgun

FMK set its sights on the GLOCK 19, or so we all gathered from the 9C1 G2’s compact polymer-framed, double-stack 9mm goodness. It’s GLOCK 19 sized, too, but with some interesting tweaks like a superb rubber backstrap and a DA trigger pulling easier/lighter/better than the Austrian Wundernine. On the range, it’s never failed. Carried concealed, its 15 rounds are a force to be reckoned with. $349. www.fmkfirearms.com

Smith & Wesson Handgun

It seems 9mm S&W Shields abound but the Compact .45 ACP version demands a look. Equipped with a thumb safety and carrying 6+1 or 7+1 rounds on board, the Compact is well equipped and yet not that much larger or heavier than its 9mm sibling. But size aside, the Compact .45 is a great shooter — easy to aim and control thanks to its aggressively textured Talon Stocks that I installed. $479. https://www.smith-wesson.com

Charter Arms

Charter Arms snubbies have long enjoyed a reputation as reliable and affordable carry or backup guns. And guess what — they remain so today. Available in several configurations, the Black Concealed carries five rounds of .38 Special and weighs only 12 oz. With a heavy but smooth double-action stroke and plenty of holster options, this is an ideal backup gun you can carry comfortably all day. $419. https://www.charterfirearms.com

Honor Defense Handgun

A relative newcomer to the slim nine category, Honor Defense pistols are available in several configurations, including a model with an integrated standoff, allowing the gun to continue to cycle reliably even if pressed directly against a target. Its two magazines are 7+1 and 8+1 and the gun handles +P rounds all day long. Slim and well-balanced, the Honor Guard is very easy to shoot and very accurate. $410. https://www.honordefense.com

Kel Tec

Long the darling of the concealed carry crowd, Kel-Tec’s P3AT takes the idea of minimalist to an extreme. The gun weighs 8.3 oz., measures 5.2″ in length, 3.5″ in height and is only 0.77″ wide. With 6+1 rounds of .380 ACP, you’re pretty much equipped to put up a short fight and get outta Dodge. The P3AT is best in a pocket holster but you can attach a steel clip to it for a unique carry option. $338. https://www.keltecweapons.com


The American Classic Compact Commander breaches my $500 limit but I still consider it budget friendly. After all, it’s a great 1911 for a retail price less than $600 if you search around. You know the main features of a 1911 so I’ll point out just a couple favorites here: 8+1 of .45 ACP in a compact gun and those great-looking hardwood grip panels. At 32.2 oz., it’s relatively heavy, but shooting it and carrying is a joy so the weight is excused. $571. www.americanclassic.eagleimportsinc.com


Here’s arguably the best value you can find in a handgun. Granted, Ruger’s compact pistol lineup is impressive and there are guns even newer than the LC9s. But the LC9s has proven to be such a reliable, accurate and easy-to-carry handgun, with tons of holsters and accessories available, it’s difficult to let it go. Lightweight and easy to shoot, the LC9s’ only shortcoming is its stock sights (too small). But you’d replace them anyway. Around $300. https://www.ruger.com


For a bit of pocket power, Remington has upgraded the RM380. The new RM380 Executive in .380 ACP offers an all-metal construction but is a lightweight at 12.2 oz. A DAO trigger, ambi-mag release, checkered front strap, beavertail and replaceable grip panels round out this 6+1 carry option idea. $405. https://www.remington.com

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