Owning firearms does not have to be an expensive affair. While there are many fine guns out there that will cost you a pretty penny, there are certainly other pieces that will get the job done without breaking the bank. If you are in dire need of a self-defense firearm and do not have much cash to work with, I have here a list of 10 firearms for this purpose. 

Of course, I must point out that market prices vary. Some retailers adhere to the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, but the prices you see here might not be the same when you visit your gun store. By the time you see this topic, chances are that certain brands or models are discontinued. In such a case, you might be able to find them used at a lower price. With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s dive right into it.

1. Century P64

This is a Cold War piece that was exported out of the old Eastern Bloc by the crates. The Polish P64 was designed in the 50s and saw service in the Polish army and police forces a decade later. Nowadays, it is being replaced by the WIST-94, but it still serves as a principal sidearm.  It is chambered in 9mm Makarov and you get 6 rounds in the magazine to work with. It can be operated in both double-action and single-action and it has a manual safety and a loaded chamber indicator. Your best bet of finding this pistol is at pawn shops.

Century P64

2. Kel-Tec P32

Kel-Tech advertised their P32 as the lightest .32 Auto pistol ever made. It weighs in at only 6.6 ounces when empty. It goes up to 9.5 ounces when you load it with its magazine that can hold 7 rounds. It is a hammerless auto that operates in double-action-only but does not have the second-strike capability. That means, any failure to fire requires you to re-actuate the slide. While the P32 is still in production today, its price is above the $250 mark, so I recommend you check a pawn shop or a gun show if you want to spend less than that.


3. Kel-Tec P11

This is another entry from Kel-Tech. The P11 is chambered in 9 mm and weighs in at 14 ounces when empty. It features an aluminum frame, a steel slide, a magazine that holds 10 rounds, and a double-action trigger. Unlike the P32, the P11 comes with a second-strike capability. Unfortunately, the P11 has been discontinued but you can still find it used in pawn shops and gun shows. for less than $250.


4. NAA 22LR

The North American Arms offers this derringer-style palm pistol chambered in .22 Long Rifle. You can get it with either a 1 and 1/8 inches of barrel or 1 and 5/8 inches. Either way, you get five .22 LR shots in the cylinder. The shorter barrel version weighs 4.6 ounces and the longer one is 0.2 ounces heavier at 4.8 ounces. These things only operate single-action. The only way to get your hands on them would be through pawn shops or gun shows.


5. RIA M200

Rock Island Armory offers the M200 for those who think the NAA .22LR is too small for their hands. The M200 is chambered in .38 Special and weighs 1.8 pounds when empty. The revolver has 6 rounds in the cylinder and you can roll in either double-action or single-action. You get 4 inches of barrel and a polymer grip with a Parkerized finish.

If you have some extra cash lying around, Rock Island Armory also has a snub nose version that has wooden grips, not to mention that it can be had in both standard and hammerless. There is also a matte nickel version, which also happens to be hammerless.

RIA M200

6. Cobra Arms Freedom .380

This is probably one of the most manufactured firearms in the United States today. As the name suggests, the gun is chambered in .380 ACP and is manufactured and assembled in the state of Utah. Cobra also throws in a lifetime warranty to sweeten the deal even further. This warranty transfers between owners. When empty, this pistol weighs just 24 ounces and you get 7 rounds in the magazine. The pistol can also be had in .32 ACP, which gives you another round in the magazine.

7. Century Zastava M88

This semi-auto pistol features a Browning-style slide and a spring-loaded magazine that can hold 8 rounds. Designed in 1987, the M88 saw use in the Serbian and Yugoslavian military at the end of the cold war. Eventually, it was replaced by pistols from the CZ 99 line. You get to pick from two versions. If you go for the base version, the M88, you have no external safety. That is only available on the M88A, which is located on the slide assembly. In terms of chambering, you usually find them in 9 mm but some are chambered in .40 Smith & Wesson.

Century Zastava M88

8. Chiappa M9-22

The M9-22 is basically a replica of Beretta’s M9, which is what the United States military has been using since the 1980s. But judging by the name, Chiappa made a few tweaks of their own when they pushed out this handgun. For one, it is chambered in .22. Similar to the M9, the M9-22 comes with a decocking lever that allows you to roll with a round to be chambered and the hammer safety let down. The first shot will be double-action whereas the following shots will be fired in single-action. You get 10 rounds to work with and you can get a tactical model that comes with black plastic grips and Novak-style fiber optic sights. The standard model features wooden grips and a windage-adjustable rear sight.

Chiappa M9-22

9. DoubleTap Pistol

As the name suggests, the DoubleTap is a two-shot derringer-style pistol. It is advertised as the lightest tactical pocket on the market, weighing in at only 13 ounces. The gun sits at 5/8 of an inch wide, making it an incredibly compact package that is tough to beat. Chambered in .45 ACP and 9 mm, you get two shots from the twin barrels. One concern some of you might have is whether you only get to have two shots in this thing. If that is the case, then it would not be a very useful gun. Luckily, in addition to those two shots in the double-barreled action, you have two more in the grip. This might surprise your attacker when you let out a third shot. At that point, who knows how many shots you actually have? The DoubleTap also has a double-action trigger with second-strike capability. The MSRP is definitely higher than $250, but if you shop around, you might find this bad boy going for far lower than that.

DoubleTap Pistol

10. Hi-Point C9

Hi-Point Firearms was founded in 1992 and they are all about creating reliable and affordable guns, at the cost of aesthetic and complexity in their design. While some consider the bland look and bells and whistles to be drawbacks, I do not complain when I look at the price tag. They produced many pistols and carbines that feature simple mechanisms. One such firearm is the Hi-Point C9. It is a semi-auto with a polymer frame with a large die-cast slide made from a zinc alloy.

Similar to other handguns, the C9 does not operate with a breech lock. Rather, it uses a sheer heft to hold the slide closed when you fire. This allows Hi-Point Firearms to trim the weight of the gun down to 29 ounces when empty. As the name suggests, the C9 is chambered in 9 mm and you can roll with either 8 or 10 rounds in the magazine.


Keep in mind that you are basically getting what you paid for. Unfortunately, these are probably your best options at that price point. They do not look as beautiful as their expensive counterparts, but you have to cut corners when you make guns this cheap. To be honest, I would rather have an ugly gun that is reliable than a beautiful gun that I’m not sure will go bang every time I pull the trigger.

If you are after cheap and reliable guns, I hope the list has been informative. Although I am quite certain that one of these guns would suit your needs, at least you walk away from this knowing exactly what you need in your firearm. If you do not mind, I highly recommend you buy used guns. They go for much lower than their retail price and most of them still work well. At this point, chances are that you cannot afford to be that picky, so prioritize reliability and performance over aesthetics and other unnecessary features. When you have a reliable self-defense gun, you can save up and get yourself a gun that you actually want.

Leave a comment