Yeah, I’m exaggerating a little, but still. Shooting Illustrated just published a list of cheap handguns, and the contents thereof are about what you’d expect. I want to beat this drum just one more time.
Small-caliber handguns are useless as self-defense tools.
There; I’ve said it. And yes, I know, I know: having any gun is better than having no gun. Sort of. And yes I know too that women and older men sometimes have controllability issues with the larger-caliber handguns — my own Daughter carries a .380 ACP pistol — and let’s be honest: as a backup, the .380 gun will do simply because you can cram it in your pocket. But will that .380 Beretta Pico do anything for you in a life-and-death situation? Not as much as the 9mm Para Diamondback (also a cheap gun) can provide, and less still than (say) the .38 Spec/.357 Mag EAA Windicator or Taurus .357 Mag revolvers. (How long that Taurus snubbie will last when shooting the magnum loads is a topic for another time; my experience has not been good, although YMMV.)
So yeah, if you absolutely cannot afford to spend more than $300 on a handgun, then go ahead and get something from SI’s list of pistols. I just hope you’ll never regret your decision.
Remember that I’ve recently been agonizing over using a 9mm Browning High Power as a carry piece, and I’m still not convinced that I should use it as a substitute for my .45 ACP 1911 (especially as the lighter 185gr bullets seem to be doing the job)… but if I’m grudgingly going to concede that the 9mm (out of the BHP’s 4.5″ barrel) is just barely acceptable, it’s going to take a lot more convincing for me to accept the same ammo coming out of a shorty 2″ tube. Hell, I consider my .38+P Spec S&W 637 to be my backup piece, and that’s way more powerful than anything delivered by the little budget pistols listed in the article.
So to sum up: if you want a cheap, effective self-defense piece, then get a revolver — or alternatively, ignore the .380 ACP pistols for anything other than backup pieces. But we all knew that anyway.
Oh, and one last thing. The SI article opens with this line:
“In the past couple of years, soft demand for firearms in general has led to great deals for anyone looking to buy a gun.”
Perhaps it has. Just not on my planet.
Update: If you are looking for a new/different carry gun, see what sold the best (both new and secondhand) in 2018. (Note the positions of the BHP and 1911…)