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“Cheap” guns

Caleb talks about his journey to tacticool ninjadom and the cheap guns he had on the way. People tend to presume that it’s snobby or elitist to rag on cheap guns. He also offers up ‘cheap’ guns he likes.

Thankfully, I never had to go through that. When I turned 21, I went right out and bought myself my first handgun. I bought a used Smith and Wesson 6904. I was proud of myself. And I showed it to my dad. He handled it a bit. Then looked at me and said take it back and get your money back. He went to his closet, grabbed a Sig Sauer P228 and handed it to me. Told me it was mine, to take the S&W back and give him whatever money I got back for it.

He explained to me not to skimp on a gun. And that I didn’t need the safeties and what not. And he’d rather give me one of his. So, I was introduced to gun snobbery early. I carried Sigs for years, having several different models. I don’t have any any more since I went to Glocks a few years back because my wife couldn’t pull the DA trigger on the Sig.

And dad has his Sig back now.

30 Responses to ““Cheap” guns”

  1. Lazy Bike Commuter Says:

    I got lucky with my cheap gun. Picked up a Makarov for $180 a week after I turned 21 and it hasn’t failed me yet. Cheap, yes. Bad, no.

    Now the wife and I are expanding our collections with higher quality–her cheap and good gun was a police turn-in S&W 10-6, her new one is a 9mm XD(m). My new one is still cheap and good, being an RIA Tactical.

  2. The Duck Says:

    My first was a used Model 39, and being young and un informed (ok dumb) I carried it safety off, and cocked it on the way out of the holster, I didn’t like the double action trigger

  3. Weer'd Beard Says:

    While I agree with your dad on the 6904 you could have done a LOT worse.

    My first was my stainless S&W1911. Still have it, still love it…but it took me $150 in gunsmith bills and parts to un-fuck it from how Bubba left it at the gunshop.

    So yeah I have one of those too.

  4. Gerry Says:

    We seemed to have traveled the same path.
    Sig M-11/228 to Sig 239 to Glock 19.

    The only thing worse than crappy pistol is stuffing it with crappy ammo.

  5. Laughingdog Says:

    First gun was a G26, and I seriously can’t see how not wanting to buy anything less reliable than a Glock just to save $100 is being a snob.

    Trash talking a Hi Point is right there with trash talking a Yugo; it’s perfectly valid and completely appropriate. The fact that you can get a police trade-in Glock for about $350, which probably has at least 20K rounds to go before it even needs some new springs, just makes it even more appropriate.

  6. Hondo Says:

    Crappy ammo is the worst.

    I’ve gone from a 1911 to a Sig 239 to a Glock 19 and Glock 22.

  7. aczarnowski Says:

    My first was a used Springfield MilSpec 1911 at a gun show. I knew swat, but understood the 1911 platform was a classic and classics are classics for a reason. I also got lucky. It wasn’t screwed up by somebody before trading it out. It won’t run most hollow points but it’s never had a problem with FMJ.

    It’s a safe queen now since I discovered striker fired designs in 9×19.

  8. Bubblehead Les Says:

    According to the 1996 Gun Digest, my Smith 4043 with the Tritium Sights had an MSRP of around $775. Paid about $350 with all the accessories a few years back. Your 6904 had an MSRP of $614. And that was back in the day when a Dollar wasn’t a total piece of scrap paper.

    Please explain to me just how your Dad ever thought these would be “Cheap Guns?”

  9. Marq Says:

    Uncles father simply proved a point I learned 25 years ago working in a gun store. Most gun people are biased to what they think is an ideal platform, often to the total disregard of any other design.

    At the store I primarily instructed CCW classes and, when needed, worked behind the counter. More than once I watched an “after action sales commando” point to his hip with his idea of a perfect carry gun (in our store almost always a 1911 variant) and tell the customer anything less would get them killed. For the sales guy who practiced a lot and knew the piece inside and out it was a fine choice. For the little old lady, or newby shooter, said sales commando (and derision for firearms that were equally effective for said novice) did the customer a disservice. In reality, any quality firearm from a respected manufacturer, in an appropriate caliber, that the user shoots well, will get the job done.

    That said, there is an absolute barrier from what I consider to be a cheap gun (RG, Jennings, Lorcin, Hi Point, etc) and one that is simply not your preference. It is okay to be a gun snob (we all are to one extent or another) so long as you admit it to yourself and recognize that what you like may not be ideal for that novice asking for your help in selecting the tool they will rely on to get them out of an alley some day.

  10. 4strokes Says:

    Wow, Daddy Unc was a snob… While Gen 3 Smiths may never have their own episode of Gun Stories, with a little love to the trigger mechanism they hold their own with most DA/SA pistols out there. Before Glock Perfection, these guns populated more Police stations than anything else (even the Secret Service carried them).

  11. Butch Cassidy Says:

    The 6904 is one of my absolute favorite handguns. It is dead-nuts reliable, the trigger is smooth, fits my hands beautifully, is every bit as accurate as any other combat handgun in the safe, and has perfectly respectable sights. If my G23 and Beretta 96 disappeared in the night, I would toss it on my hip in a heartbeat with no hurry to get another 40.

    Now for the heresy: I would carry any metal-framed Smith autoloader over a Sig. The Teutonic wonder-guns and I do not get along in the least.

  12. mikee Says:

    I asked my almost 18 year old daughter which of my handguns she would like, and she chose a 1980’s Model 10 Smith & Wesson 38 SPL police turn-in. I bought it about a decade earlier mostly because I wanted to try my hand at re-bluing and there was no way I could decrease the value of this revolver as my first project.

    She cited the retro styling, the simplicity of revolver operation, and the detail that with her small hands she shot it better than a Glock or Colt autopistol. This old revolver is now hers.

  13. MAJ Mike Says:

    My first “cheap” gun was a M1911A1. Paid $75 for it back in 1971. Another “cheap” gun was my AR-15. Paid $389 for it in 1978. Live long enough and any gun qualifies as cheap.

  14. Molon Labe Says:

    I normally carry my Bulgarian Makarov ($175).

    If I’m feeling snobby, I carry my East German Makarov ($325).

    I used to be a 1911 snob (and still am to some degree) but a recent opportunity to snag a police turn-in Sig SP 2340 for $200 changed my views a bit about tupperware guns.

    Bottom line, I’ll show love to anything that I can shoot well and goes boom when i want it to.

  15. Kirk Parker Says:

    What in the world is wrong with a 6904?

  16. Chris Says:

    First handgun was an H&K USP Compact… didn’t like it.

    I traded it for a P239.

    I’ve been a Sig fan ever since.

    Now I run a P245, a P238, and a P220 Elite.

    I’d say buy the best gun you can afford.

  17. Dave R. Says:

    The bias I bring is I’ve been flat-out broke at times in my life. Though I went straight to a Glock when I bought a handgun, I sympathize with people not able to do even that much. So for quite a while I’d see “buy a high end gun, buy a high end holster, buy a high end belt” and think, well thanks for nothing, and eff you too. It simply wasn’t an immediate option. So it’s nice to see some useful recommendations if you are on a budget.

  18. DirtCrashr Says:

    You have a way-cool Dad!! My Dad is religiously anti-gun, but Grandpa (Mom’s Dad, the Scandanavian-side) was not, so there was some relief but nobody gave me anything…

  19. Mike V. Says:

    I teach handgun carry permit classes. While I wouldn’t take one to a high round count class, I’ve had several High Point pistols come through my classes. They have all worked fine (but they are an UGLY piece of metal). My 1st pistol was a Gen 3 Colt Detective, 2nd was a Python (which I still have), and I have a Sig P226 which I bought new in 1985 that has about 18k rounds through it (only part changed was the trigger rebound spring). It has been to Thunder Ranch, Lou Awerbuck Classes, and still like it better than any pistol I have.

  20. Critter Says:

    Tokarev TT-33 in 7.62x25mm, S&W mod 10 and mod 642 in .38 spl, Colt Army Special in .32-20, Charter Arms Bulldog in .44 spl.

    I carry a Glock 23 for serious purposes and the 642 when pocket carry is called for. Also a S&W 29 .44 mag in the woods.

  21. Beaumont Says:

    My first centerfire handgun was Granddad’s I-frame S&W .32SWL, & I actually carried it for a while since I couldn’t afford anything else. Followed by a Model 10, a Colt 1911 I paid $300 for, a Rossi .44Spec, a Glock 23, a S&W 686, and an XD .45. I still have all of them (except the Glock) and all of them will accomplish their intended purpose. Even the .32SWL has some oomph when wadcutters are used.

  22. chaburchak Says:

    I’ve owned a few Glocks over the years, and a sweet S&W revolver or two. But whenever times got tight and I needed money, I knew those guns were actually worth something and I’d invariably end up selling them for more pressing concerns (like bill-paying and food). That’s the good thing about cheaper guns like my Keltec — I know I won’t get much out of it, so why bother… 🙂

  23. ok Says:

    My first was a Beretta 92FC, bought it at a small local sporting goods store, while on leave. Wanted the full size, seeing it was the standard issue side arm of the military. But they didn’t have one in stock.

    Wasn’t stupid in the choice of gun, just stupid in the price I paid. Research back then meant actually going to other dealers who were very few and far between in my home area. Late 80’s. It makes me a little sick thinking how much I paid for my ignorance. But I still have it, who knows how many rounds been down the pipe. And it still cycles like greased glass and is accurate as all get out. Live and learn, plus thank gods for the interwebtubes. Makes savvy shoppers out of all of us.

  24. Tam Says:

    Somebody trash talking a Third Gen S&W autochucker is a little suspect as a fount of gun wisdom in my book. Just sayin’. 😉

  25. Gnarly Sheen Says:

    Obviously the best gun is a [my brand] [my gun] and buying a [your brand] [your gun] is stupid and will get you killed when the elephant goes up.


  26. MAJ Mike Says:

    @Gnarly Sheen — exactly!!!

    Get the best you can afford and become completely skilled with it. A Ruger Mark II is very deadly in the hands of a skilled shooter.

  27. Jim S Says:

    I find it good to have a couple “cheap guns” around. I like military surplus guns because they’re f*$&ing rugged. If I ever come up with a hammer missing and need to drive some nails, I have a couple pistols (in the sub $200 range, that could do that job and work fine.
    My PA63 Makarov is actually going to someone who is on a shoestring budget but wants a pistol to train with. My tokarov is doing the same thing now. These are all indefinite loans so the person can find out what they like in a pistol, what they don’t like, and if they become attached to them, I’m not displeased selling them.
    Having a reliable handgun is the first step (not just having a gun…I’ve got a Jennings that makes a good single shot) Beyond that, everything else relies upon the skill of the shooter to place shots.

    I wouldn’t recommend that a cheap surplus gun be the only pistol that a person owns (my first was Glock 23) But for a person to start out, why not?

  28. clamp Says:

    When I was 14 or 15 I saved up $90 and my dad drove me out to Rockett, Texas to the Rockett Pistol Parlor, which was one end of owner’s single wide mobile home. We left with a Davis P-380, which still rests tucked away in my safe, unfired for at least a decade.

    Once I got a job sacking groceries at Winn-Dixie when I was 15, I saved up $274 and had dad buy me a Ruger Blackhawk in .357 Mag with a 4 5/8 inch barrel. It was the “nicest” .357 I could buy the fastest.

    During the first or second year of my enlistment in the Marines, I traded in the Ruger for a Glock 22, which I have since traded for a 1991 W. German, Nickel Plated Sig Sauer P220.

    All that being said, there is a Kahr PM9 in my computer bag and a KelTec P3AT in my pocket. 19 years later, all those guns (plus a bunch more) and I have yet to have to shoot anyone. Seems the argument is largely academic.

  29. SayUncle Says:

    Somebody trash talking a Third Gen S&W autochucker is a little suspect as a fount of gun wisdom in my book.

    His guns at that point were all duty weapons. So, he was partial to sigs since that’s what he carried.

    I tend to value his opinion since he’s been in and survived more gunfights than, at a guess, my entire readership.

  30. Bryan S. Says:

    My first gun was a cheap Ruger Police Service Six, worked on by and old bored gunsmith. It was at a big box store, and he didnt get much more to do than pulling stuck chokes and the occasional sight install.

    So he polished, cleaned up, adjusted sights and worked the trigger crisp and butter smooth.

    Cost me $250 in 2002.