August 23, 2020
Before we delve into this, recognize that market prices vary, and few retailers adhere to the manufacturer's suggested retail price. I've included the MSRP on each of these guns (when new), but I've also included a price point that I have seen online for these guns, which comes in below our $250 limit. Some of the brands/models listed may be discontinued. But it's possible to find them used at a pawn shop, at a gun show, or online such as GunBroker.
Without further ado, here are the 10 cheapest of the cheap handguns:
Cobra Arms Freedom .380 - $127*
At roughly $127, the Cobra Arms Freedom .380 was the least-expensive newly manufactured firearm in the US today. The pistol is wholly made and assembled in the USA (Utah), and each one comes with a lifetime warranty that follows the gun from owner to owner. When empty, the Cobra .380 weighs 24 ounces, and it has a magazine capacity of seven rounds. The Cobra is also available in .32 ACP, which gives a user another round for a total of eight. Tip: Do a search on GunBroker for "cobra .380" and you should find a few for sale.
Hi-Point C9 - $189 ($155)
Founded in 1992, Hi-Point Firearms was created with a sole focus on creating reliable, cheap guns, negating complexity and aesthetics in search of their design. This led to a line of pistols and carbines that use simple mechanisms to achieve economy and reliability. One such pistol is the Hi-Point C9, a semi-automatic with a polymer frame and a large die cast slide made from a zinc alloy. The pistol does not operate with a breech lock, like most other handguns. Instead, sheer heft is used to hold the slide closed throughout firing, giving the gun an empty weight of 29 ounces. The C9 is chambered in 9mm and can be used with an eight or 10 round magazine.
DoubleTap Pistol - $499 ($180)
The DoubleTap is a two-shot derringer-style pistol chambered in .45 ACP and 9mm. Touted as the "lightest tactical pocket pistol on the market," the DoubleTap weighs in at 13 ounces and is only 5/8 of an inch wide. In addition to the two shots contained in the double-barreled action, the grip of the pistol allows the user to carry two reload shots. The DoubleTap has a double-action trigger pull with second-strike capability. Price-wise, DoubleTap recommends about $500, but these two-shot derringers can be found for much, much less than that.
Chiappa M9-22 - $300 ($185)
The Chiappa M9-22 is designed as a .22-chambered replica of Beretta's M9, which has been the United States military's standard sidearm since the 1980s. Similar to its big brother, the M9-22 has a decocking lever that allows a round to be chambered and the hammer safely let down. The first shot is fired in double-action, with each succeeding round fired in single-action. The pistol comes with a 10-round magazine and is available in a tactical model with black plastic grips and novak-style fiber optic sights or the standard model with wooden grips and a windage-adjustable rear sight.
Century Zastava M88 - $250 ($200)
The Zastava M88 is a semi-automatic pistol with a Browning-style slide that holds eight rounds in a spring-loaded magazine. The pistol, designed in 1987, saw use in Serbian and Yugoslavian military and police forces at the end of the Cold War, until it was ultimately replaced by pistols from the CZ 99 family. The M88 comes in two versions: the M88 has no external safety, while the M88A has an external safety mounted to the slide assembly. The pistol is commonly found in 9mm but can also be found in .40 S&W, a chambering produced solely for the US market. Tip: Search on GunBroker for "Zastava M88." Should find a few for sale.
NAA 22LR - $209
Another manufacturer of small derringer-style palm pistols, North American Arms offers revolvers chambered in .22 Long Rifle. These pistols are offered with either a 1 and 5/8 length barrel or a 1 and 1/8 length barrel. Both have five shots in .22LR, and each weighs 4.8 and 4.6 ounces, respectively. The largest of the .22 revolvers is only 4.5 inches long and stands a little less than 2.5 inches high. They operate single-action only. Tip: These little revolvers can often be found at pawn shops and gun shows.
Century P64 - $211
Another leftover of the Cold War that was being shipped out of the old Eastern Bloc by the crateload is the Polish P64. These cheap guns were designed in the 1950s and entered service with both the Polish army and police forces in 1964. Today, it is being slowly phased out by the new WIST-94, but continues to serve as a principal sidearm. The pistol is chambered in 9mm Makarov and has a magazine capacity of six rounds. It can be fired in both double-action and single-action, features a loaded chamber indicator, and a manual safety that allows the pistol to be loaded even when engaged. Tip: Pawn shops and gun shows probably offer the best odds for finding one of these pistols.
Kel-Tec P32 - $325.45 ($230)
The Kel-Tec P32's claim to fame is that it's the lightest .32 Auto pistol ever made, weighing in at 6.6 ounces empty. When loaded with a seven-round magazine, these cheap guns weigh in at just under 9.5 ounces. The P32 is a hammerless auto that fires in double-action only. This pistol does not have second-strike capability, though, so any failure to fire would necessitate re-actuating the slide. Note: These are still in production today, but the price has gone up above $250. Once in a while, you find one at a pawn shop or gun show in the $250 range.
RIA M200 .38 - $270 ($232)
For those who love cheap revolvers but find the NAA .22LR to be a bit small, Rock Island Armory offers the M200 in .38 Special. Weighing in at 1.8 pounds empty, this wheelgun fires six rounds and operates in either double-action or single-action. The pistol features a 4-inch barrel, combat polymer grip and a parkerized finish. For those willing to shell out a few more bucks, RIA also offers a snubnose version with wood grips in both standard and hammerless. Above those, the company offers a matte nickel version that is also hammerless. Note: These are still produced today but now have an MSRP of $275. You can still get them in various places at the $250 mark.
Kel-Tec P11 - $347.27 ($249)
For the second time and barely under our budget, Kel-Tec makes an appearance on this list with their P11, chambered in 9mm. Aluminum-framed with a steel slide, the pistol weighs in at 14 ounces unloaded and weighs 20 ounces with a full 10 round magazine inserted. The P11 operates double-action only and, unlike its .32 Auto brother, does come with second-strike capability. Note: The Kel-Tec P11 has been discontinued, but they can be found in used condition on places like GunBroker, and still under the $250 mark.
Original Publish Date Sept. 23, 2015 - These numbers are what I observed as of our publish date, but readers might find something more or less than what is listed here. Handguns Magazine makes no promises of pricing availability. This article is only intended to give readers a general idea of what firearms are potentially available in this price range.
Updated August 23, 2021