March 29, 2022
By Jeff John
For many people, price is a key aspect to any handgun purchase, and guns—like everything else—get more expensive every year. How low can you go? I looked around to find handguns with price tags under $300. Now, if you look on manufacturers’ websites you may see that a couple of my choices exceed that mark—at least by the suggested retail price. However, having worked in retail, I know many stores discount handguns anywhere from 10 to 15 percent off this price.
Of course, if any of these guns are hard to get, fewer discounts may be found, and prices certainly could have risen since I compiled this list. But if you need a gun on a tight budget, this is a good place to start. Guns are presented from least expensive to most expensive.
1. KelTec P17
It’s not the first choice for most defensive-minded handgunners, but the .22 Long Rifle has a long history of being used for just this purpose. KelTec’s P17 is a 16+1 .22 Long Rifle handgun that’s very compact at 6.7 inches overall with a 3.8-inch barrel threaded 1/2x28. Height is 5.3 inches, width is 1.2 inches, and weight is only 11.2 ounces. It has a fiber-optic front sight and adjustable rear sight, and the accessory rail underneath the frame allows the installation of lights and lasers. The safety and magazine release are on both sides, and the pistol comes with three magazines. $199, KelTecWeapons.com
2. Hi-Point C9
With a metal slide on a high-impact polymer frame, the Hi-Point C9 is an 8-shot (10-shot mags are available) 9mm rated for +P ammo with an overall length of 6.75” inches with a barrel length of 3.5 inches and a weight of 29 ounces.
The C9 has a last-round hold open, magazine disconnect safety and a thumb safety. Three-dot fully adjustable sights are included. The pistols are all built here in the USA of American-made parts. Standard finish is black powder coat, although many models are finished like the one shown here come with a hydro-dip finish for a little pizazz. It’s available with a variety of finishes and holster and security options. $199 base ($229 as shown); Hi-PointFirearms.com
3. North American Arms NAA-22LR
As mentioned above, .22s aren’t everyone’s first choice for a defensive gun, but low recoil and ultimate concealability do appeal to many. And concealability describes the NAA-22LR, a five-shot .22 Long Rifle. It sports a 1.13-inch barrel, overall length of 4 inches, a height of 2.38 inches, width of 0.88 inch, and a weight of 4.6 ounces. A fixed half-moon front sight and good-looking rosewood bird’s-head grips round out this mini revolver. $239, NorthAmericanArms.com
4. Rock Island Armory Model 200
If concealability is not the issue, check out the service-size Model 200, a six-shot .38 Special double-action/single-action revolver with 4-inch barrel. Overall length is 8.75 inches, height is 5.44 inches and weight 28.16 ounces. The all-steel revolver has a Parkerized finish and comes with oversize black polymer combat grips. The M200 has fixed sights with a ramp front and wide, fixed rear notch. $249, Armscor.com
5. Rock Island Armory Model 206
Better known for its affordable 1911 pistols, Rock Island Armory also makes an excellent 6-shot double-action .38 Special snubnose revolver, the M206. Overall length is 6.75 inches with a 2-inch barrel and shrouded ejector, a height of 4.09 inches and weight of 25.4 ounces. The all-steel revolver has a Parkerized finish and checkered wood grips. Sights include a fixed rear notch in the top strap and a fixed-blade front—a great combination for concealed carry and close-quarter use. $259, Armscor.com
6. Taurus G2s
The G2s is a 7+1 shot 9mm compact, single-action, striker-fired pistol with restrike capability. The overall length is still 6.3 inches with a 3.2-inch stainless steel barrel, but it’s shorter than the G2c at 4.8 inches and lighter at 20 ounces.
Plenty of safety features include a loaded chamber indicator, manual thumb safety, striker block and trigger safety. The G2s ships with two magazines. And there’s a stainless version selling for about $40 more, still under our $300 mark. $259, TaurusUSA.com
7. Taurus G2c
The Taurus G2c is a compact-size 12+1 9mm or more powerful 10+1 .40 S&W single-action, striker-fired semiautomatic with restrike capability. The overall length is 6.3 inches with a 3.2-inch stainless steel barrel, height of 5.1 inches, width of 1.2 inches and weight of 22 ounces. The matte-black slide is alloy steel, and sights include an adjustable rear and a fixed front. The frame is black polymer. A loaded chamber indicator, manual thumb safety, striker block and trigger safety are all present. The pistol ships with two magazines. $300, TaurusUSA.com
8. Ruger LCP
A pocket-size, hammer-fired, double-action-only .380 ACP with 2.75-inch barrel, the LCP holds 6+1 shots and is only 5.16 inches overall, 3.6 inches high and 0.82 inch wide. Weight is a mere 9.6 ounces.
The LCP features a through-hardened alloy steel slide and an alloy steel barrel over a glass-filled nylon frame that’s textured for a sure grip. Front and rear sights are integral with the slide and therefore can’t go out of adjustment. The gun comes with one magazine, and a finger-grip extension for the mag’s base pad is also provided. A stainless version is available for $30 more. $309, Ruger.com
9. North American Arms NAA-MM-M
A step up from the .22 LR, the .22 Magnum packs more of a defensive punch, and one of NAA’s Mini Masters is chambered for this cartridge—as well as a version that comes with both .22 LR and .22 Mag cylinders. The Mini-Masters have heavy, vented barrels, an unfluted cylinder with optional rear sight adjustable for elevation or fixed low profile ones. The NAA-MM-M Mini-Master has a four-inch barrel, a set of Marble Arms fixed sights and oversized grips. Overall length is 7.88 inches, a height of 3.69 inches, and weighs 10.8 oz. $315, NorthAmericanArms.com