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8 Quality Carry Guns for Under $400

by B. Gil Horman   |  September 17th, 2012 84

Times are tight. But in truth, that’s nothing new. A restricted shooting budget is a reality for some of us, if not all of us, at some point or another. Whether its college tuition, a new baby or a less-than-stellar pay grade at work, a skinny wallet may seem like an imposing barrier to obtaining a reliable defensive handgun. Sometimes folks think they have to settle for a cheap, possibly unreliable handgun until their luck changes. Fortunately, that’s not the case.

A variety of gun manufacturers provide affordable, yet reliable, carry gun options. They may not be the fanciest guns on the shelf, and some of them will not last through the thousands of rounds some of the more expensive guns can handle. However, the guns here will fill a pocket, purse or holster, and will provide personal protection at a reasonable price.

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  • EdgeGun

    So glad the Bersa Thunder made the top of this list! Reliability is one of, if not the most important quality in a handgun. I have never had a problem with this fine gun and though it wasn't mentioned, the Thunder "Plus" has a 15 round magazine – even better!

    • leadfoot

      I also own a Thunder Plus, and I gotta say it's such a pleasure to shoot – very accurate, with three-dot luminous green sights and a sweet trigger. I'd really never heard of Bersa before I bought this gun and I got it mostly because it was a great deal. It's probably the most pleasant surprise of any gun I've ever owned or fired. The only thing I would add is a rail for a laser sight, although that would detract from the Walther PPK look, but so what?! With a rail it would be perfect, IMHO!

    • 277Volt

      Bersas are very underrated. For the last two years I've carried a Thunder .45 UC and it's been a fantastic pistol. Everyone that shoots it loves it and I have two standing offers to buy mine if I decide to sell it.

    • David

      The new Springfield XDS is my concealed carry gun and I love it. Stopping power of 45 ACP in an easily concealable 5+1 handgun.

      • frank cline

        How much

  • steve in wis.

    what about the lc9 and taurus pt140pro?

  • Ryan Jones

    You forgot sccy industries cpx-1 & 2

    • rxm906

      have a 2 and only put a few hundred rounds thru it. had no problems. sometimes mag's will not seat properly with 10 rounds in them. great gun for great price.

    • Kenny – Tampa


    • Fred Bagley

      I've had my SCCY -CPX2 for about 2 months & havve been to yhe range weekly. What a sweet lil weapon for the price. I have not had 1 single problem. Yes u do have too seat the full mags with a lil pop, but I have other guns that I have to do the same with. This Gun should have been on the list. My Dad likes it better than his Kel-tech 9 tha he paid almost 70.00 bucks more for. Check them out, good lil gun's.

  • Vito

    Yes,the Bersa thunder and the Poly Judge are too GREAT firearms

  • guest666

    Thank You. I like the Bersa. I think I will buy one now. It is within my price range. Better than buying pawn shop junk at inflated prices. Done that already. thank You again.

    • broberts62

      A couple of local pawnshops are FFL dealers with very nice, new inventory. That's where I start when shopping for a gun because they have a better selection and prices are slightly more reasonable that traditional gunshops.

  • southtxcowboy

    I own the p95, very accurate and reliable have not had any problems!

  • buzz

    I carry a Ruger SP-101 357mag

  • RayC

    I carry the Ruger LC9 and I think it's the best carry gun out there by far!!!! A thin, light weight 9mm that is aa awesome gun to shot and it's super easy to break down and clean too. All this and it comes from a great company. I have had many carry guns and now I don't leave home without my Ruger LC9.

  • TPD

    I have been carrying the Kel-Tec P-40 for years now. It is right sized and in .40/caliber and 9 plus 1 it is a real stopper.

  • 762x51n8o

    Get a CZ-82, you can get them for $220. Awesome gun. Accurate, dependable, high-cap and cheap to shoot.

    • Tanstaafl2

      I got one back when they were on sale for $179. Got it because I love all mil-surp firearms (and because it's a CZ!). 9×18 Makarov isn't the most owerful of rounds, but it can be bought cheaply and the CZ-82 shoots like a dream

    • Rich

      The CZ 82 is a great gun, but I prefer my Polish p64. Mine has a great trigger and is fun to shoot.

    • emard

      I have one also. Very accurate and ammo is cheap, and in my opinion more powerful then 9mm or .38 cal.

  • Dadoo

    I have two guns that could have made this list. The first is the Rock island compact 1911 in .45 ACP. I've carried one for several years and it's a great gun at about 395.00.
    My other is the Windicator imported by EAA. a 6 round .357; steel frame, SA/DA revolver. Cost me 275.00 at a gun show. Accurate, dependable, and packs a punch.

    • 762x51n8o

      I had an EAA Windicator and it was terrible. I sent it back to get fixed, and it still didn't work, so I got rid of it. Every time I shot .357 the cylinder would lock up. My buddy, who talked me into getting it, had the same problem with his.

  • j. pontbriand

    I bought a kahr pm9 for 350.00 lightly used at my local dealer. so much better than any of the eight listed. while they are all fine carry guns, if you can get one of these for about half the original retail i think you are miles ahead of the game. of course i sound biased– i am after shooting hundreds of rounds thru this little cannon. it's got about as smooth a trigger as i think there is in this class. bottom line. if you have a trustworthy dealer and you can find something like this in like new condition. don't be afraid to buy used!!!

    • Feinwerk

      I like my Kahr CW40 (the cheap model). It works very well for me, although I reaize that some people do not like it. Some people do not like chocolate, either.

      • Joe

        The Kahr CW40 is a piece of junk! After purchasing the weapon, I had to send it back to Kahr twice because it failed to function. Finally, the establishment from whom I purchased the weapon made an exception to their policy and gave me a full refund.

  • Tanstaafl2

    I bought a "like new" condition Smith & Wesson SD-9VE at a pawn shop because it was only $220, and we've been looking for a 9mm so my son can shoot more affordably. The trigger on it was so terrible that we put the pistol,back in the safe after only one range session and will be trading it towards something better (he really likes my Glocks, so maybe a model 19 if we can find a used one for a decent price) at the next gun show.

    • Charles

      I bought a new SD9VE a couple of weeks ago and put 150 rounds thru it without a problem. You said you bought it used. Most of the info I have seen about most guns is going thru at least 200 rounds to break it in. Maybe it's not totally broken in yet, or maybe just needs more range time. I have large hands so maybe that is the difference. Personally I really like this gun although it is harder to cc. Just a thought

    • broberts62

      I have the S&W M and P full size 9mm and it feels great in the hand b/c it has adjustable backstraps and you can get them with a manual safety. For CCW – they make the M and P compact and the M and P Sheid, I've shot Glocks and they didn' t feel right in my hand. The M and P feels like is was made for our hand. I've seen prices of $475 online. Goodluck.

    • Ian

      Buying any gun at a pawn shop or used for that matter is iffy unless you can verify what “like new ” is. I use the S&W sd9-ve and like it very much for the price, which is the point of the article, it conceals well and shoots accurately, however if I am going to the range, I would surely choose a different pistol for a day of shooting targets. If you are going to buy used, you should look into learning how to spot preference issues or have a gun repairman buddy to go shopping with. It will save you money and hassle in the future.

  • Michigan Dave

    I have a Bersa Thunder 380 that has been nothing but problems and makes me wish lemon laws applied to handguns.
    Check around before you buy and talk to someone who works in a gun shop to see what they say about the Bersa. I did after buying the Bersa and found out you may get a good one or you may not, I did not.

    • emard

      I got a bad one also. A small spring keeps coming out.

    • fang_zamillion

      I love the feel of mine, it is amazingly accurate, etc. HOWEVER, it has never fired a full 7 rounds without stove piping once. Tried all kinds of ammo – gun is just totally undependable.

  • Dale

    Also remember a good used gun can be under $400.00. If you buy from a good dealer they usually will have a warrantee on top of the manufactures and will work with a customer to make them happy so they will bring in more business.

  • bhp9

    ln 1999 I narrowed down two pistols I wanted to buy. One was the very last of the real high quality Walther P88 compact guns and the other was one of the very first plasticky Walther P99 guns. I paid about 50 dollars less for the plasticky P99. 13 years later the plasticky p99 is worth only what I paid for it 13 years ago while the P88 is worth an astonishing 1,400 dollars, It would have been a 1,000 dollar gain over what I would have paid for it in 1999. Live and learn. I quite buying plasticky pistols, you cannot give them away when they are used.

  • ramosdavo

    I figure none of you or g&a have been to Puerto Rico!!!! None of the fire arms mentioned are under $400…….

    • Fred

      It looks like the writer used manufacturers suggested retail prices on this list. That price is usually a little on the high side, which means you'll actually pay a little (even a lot) less for that gun in a State side shop. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean some dealer's won't try to gouge you. You can go to sites like and see the exact same gun listed from $325 to $575 by different dealers. You just got to shop around.

  • bajazoni

    I have a friend who is a cop and he had a bersa thunder (until it was destroyed in a wild fire) he loved the gun, never any problems. He also loved the ergonomics and carried it as his back up. I was lucky enough to walk into a gun shop when another customer was looking at a used ruger P95 and the clerk said the price was $200! I couldn't hardly wait for him to leave as he didn't have the money then. It's very ugly but very reliable and rugged. Ican't believe my luck.

  • Robert

    One problem I have is expensive ammo. Compared to ammo most firearms are cheap. The .380 is expensive when compared to 9mm luger, and if you shop around for a Smith and Wesson 915 I'm sure you can find one in very nice condition like I did for about 350.oo. I paid 315.oo for mine and I can hit coke cans with it at 50 yards. I have about 1000 rounds through it and thats about 120.00 in ammo over the counter fmj. I do reload but only for my 44. and 45. and .223 caliber firearms. 9mm cases are small and with bullet prices and my time, its cheaper to buy OTC rather than fumble around reloading 9mm much less .380. Looking at prices on comparable ammo, .380 is about 1/3 higher in cost than 9mm.

  • John Sprague

    I'm not an expert on handgun brands and models. Please at least identify the weapons.

    • Chris Barker

      Hover your mouse over the pic and the name, description, and a good article appear on the right of each picture.

  • Chris

    I can't believe you put the FMK on the list. The trigger pull is beyond terrible, the finish (is it even bluing? it looks like cheap paint) starts wearing off almost immediately, and the engraving starts to rust pretty quickly too.

  • Jonathon

    This article is biased. You forget the mention of Taurus Slim series, PT709/PT740 (Never even owned them. Sub-$400 and have great reputation.). You REALLY messed up on the missed Kahr C-Series pistols!!! CW9 EDC right here, 0 failures. It's my fourth Kahr, too. CW40, PM9 Crimson Trace, P40 Covert, CW9. 0 Failures out of any of them, you just can't go wrong with them. And the trigger pounds the snot out of the PF-9.

  • Jonathon

    Oh. And WHAT ABOUT THE BP9CC BY BERSA?!?!?!?!!?!?!?

    Christ -_-

  • southtxcowboy

    I own the p95 and the 45acp both guns shoot good and accurately great guns no complaints.

    • Graham

      I recently bought the P95 on a whim when my wife and I were in the store to buy her a LCP. I never owned a 9mm before but I was always envious of the availability and cost of the ammo. I have put about 1300 rounds through it in just a couple of weeks and absolutely love it. No malfunctions and very good accuracy. I bought my Ruger P90 close to 18 years ago. It was my first handgun. I can't be sure exactly how many rounds I have put through it but has to be easily over 23,000 and that is a very conservative number. It has been as reliable as I could hope. In all that time I have had very few malfunctions. Needless to say if the P95 holds up like the P90 it will be the best $429.00 (I like brushed stainless) I have spent since I got the my old P90.

  • Captain Steel

    I'd have included the Kahr Arms CW9 which retails around $400…super value in my opinion and made in America.

  • Sami

    I bought a Kel-Tec PF-9 from a local dealer. It was slightly used in its box and accessories including 2 magazines.
    I used it only at shooting range and was very happy for the results. It is light and accurate. I paid only $250 for the whole package.

  • Ross Walters

    Put a brick in your pocket and walk around all day with it in your pocket. That's a Ruger P95 in a nutshell.

    A Charter Arms .38 or a S&W .38 that sells for $379 every day at several online stores. Kind of a no-brainer. I carry my 642 OWB when the weather permits a jacket and love carrying it but hate shooting it…kicks like a mule.

    I checked out that Bersa at the LGS and it IS nice and was selling for $239 on sale but too bad I was broke at the time.
    I've done a lot of dumb things but passing that up ranks high.

    My favorite carry pistol to-date is the Taurus Millenium Pro. 12 rounds, slim profile, absolutely reliable and it packs a wallop.

    • Gordon

      I also have a Millenium Pro. Good pistol

  • firearmadvisor

    All these guns are great; but practice is key.

  • Josh McMullin

    I like the Bersa. I have heard other reviews on it and everyone i talk to says its a great gun and i am thinking about buying it.

    • howard

      i have had two Bersa's and I do not have any trouble with them. heavy but dependable.

  • Steve

    I owned a Bersa Thunder Pro 9mm and loved it, now have a Bersa 380 and very pleased with it also. You can't beat these two for reliability, accuracy and handling for the price! Getting another 9mm soon.

  • Rich

    The Tunder 380 is a great gun! As alot more features than guns in it's price range. So far, it has been the best value of the guns that I have purchased!

  • Rich

    Not impressed with the Ruger LCP. Hard to control, trigger is too tight & front sight becomes a blur. Glad I tried it before buying!

  • Paul

    I had an LCP, loved the size, didn't like the handling and the wife couldn't use it. Also had the Bersa Thunder. It was a fine gun for the price. It was much easier to handle than the LCP. The cost of ammo was a deterrent. I had one Pro-mag magazine for the Bersa and it didn't function well at all. I currently have two Charter Arms (vintage). They are very good for the money. Worst problem – stacking trigger pull, otherwise always reliable. As a huge Ruger fan I would save a little longer and get an LC9 or even better an SR9c (when they are on sale). These two guns make up about 95% of my carry time. They always go 'bang'.

  • Malik Corby

    I could invest in an overrated HTML but this can be a great addition to assure myself there wouldn't be any stray people on my backyard.

  • broberts62

    S&W M and P Compact or Shield should have made list.

  • KeithWM

    For that price, I nominate my Ruger SP101 in 327 Federal Magnum. I just bought one used but never fired for $399. In the case with all the paperwork, etc. Accurate, powerful with no more recoil or noise than a 38 special (which I also have).

  • Dan McNally

    While not a new pistol, we are talking affordability, here, and the CZ-82, in 9mm Makarov, selling for around $200 with a spare mag, is, to my mind, the best bargain out there for a carry pistol.

  • joe

    all this are good pistols but i carry a taurus pt24/7 in a 45 and it is a very reliable handgun and also around 400. holds 12 in mag. 1 in barrel a shots very close pattern.

  • keith stroup

    I like my new Taurus slim it was only 349.00 great to shoot, easy to conceal

  • Sarah Bult

    I’ve got the Bersa Thunder .380 cc. Love it. Only thing I don’t like is that I can’t get all three fingers on the grip. Quick fix, though – just put an order in to and for $20 I’m getting the extended grips just in time for my CC class!

    • Steve Kittel

      The CC versions do tend to be smaller than the regular Bersa Thunder models. I owned a Bersa Thunder .32acp (same size as the 380) and it fit and shot well. I liked it better than the CC versions. The barrel is part of the frame, which makes it very accurate. It is also all metal frame. Basically, it’s a Walther PPK replica. I did have a hard time finding any mags for it, except directly from the manufacturer…but that could be because the 32acp model wasnt imported to the US that much.

  • Arthur Rouse

    All these are good guns for carry. I like Taurus P95. It is semi-automatic
    9 mm, small carry pistol, good-looking accurate and precise. Wonderful buy at a
    low price. I have already heard about this gun from one of the blog post of (
    and really best option for affordable. I am planning to buy one.

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  • yuigyigyi

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  • Zach Horne

    No Ruger LC9? Come on man! :)

  • Herb

    I own the first two on the list and I love them.

  • 2War Abn Vet

    A bit of additional information would have been useful.

  • Alex Sarosi

    Stupid slide show is bugged

    -A pissed off gun nut

  • ross

    I’ve had 2 Bersa Thunder .380s. I like them. The first one broke while my daughter was learning how to shoot with it at the range. Cracked frame. Bersa replaced it for free with their lifetime warranty. The replacement has been fine so far. I have the Bersa rubber grips that make it very comfortable to hold and fire. I also have a CZ 75 P-01 9mm. I love that gun but it is more than $400 and not really good for CC.

    • fang_zamillion

      If mine could make it through a magazine full of ammo without stove piping, I’d love it. Feels good, great shooter, but utterly undependable.

  • fang_zamillion

    I own a Bersa .380. I love the feel of it, it is surprisingly accurate, and, overall, it is quite pleasant to shoot. PROBLEM: It has never fired a full magazine with any ammo without stove piping one round. It’s a really nice gun – IF it worked. Totally undependable.

  • A

    The person that designed the shit layout for the list deserves to be fired. It doesn’t work on chrome at all.

    • KP

      Use something else.

    • rocketdan

      Doesn’t work on Firefox 24.0 either.

  • wes

    I carry the Bersa Thunder 380. The Bersa is a awesome reliable affordable gun. I have never had a jam, never..

  • Buck

    Have Bersa Thunder 380 and love everything about it but the fact that it cannot trusted to not stovepipe sometimes even on the first round



  • Survival Prepper Joe

    $400 sets the spending bar kind of high for lots of folks.

    $200 or under is better. :)

    Highpoint’s are U.G.L.Y., but accurate, reliable, and have several calibers available NEW for under $200.

    Two other routes to stay under the $200 mark: military surplus (yes — they’re not only for AKs ;-) ) and group buys can sometimes shave a few bucks off.

    In a disaster/chaos scenario you’ll want more than just a handgun, though. You don’t want someone with a .22 rifle sitting 150 yards from your front door pinning you and your family down.

    I put together an article covering the top 3 budget guns for a shtf scenario you can check out. Includes a video.


  • sean

    The ruger p series is the best affordable pistol you can buy. Ive own one for about 20yrs, atleast 20k rounds through it. No hicups, jams, nothing. Ive dropped it in the sand, mud and dirt. Ive shot premium ammo, reloads, and dirty cheap ammo through it. I’d carry that pistol to war. Ruger man for life.

  • timelordriversong

    You and I have different views on affordability, anything over $100 is overpriced and not affordable to most people.

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