7 Cheap CCW Pistols – Deal Or Dud?

S&W M&P Shield – 9mm/.40 S&W

The M&P Shield 9mm is currently under investigation pending a potential fault in their safety switch for their previous generations.  That problem has been solved with more recent models but the lingering doubt remains over whether this is truly a reliable model.  In 9mm, the Shield has a standard capacity of 7 rounds – with extended mags capable of carrying 8.  The .40 S&W version carries 6.  It’s a direct competitor with Glock in terms of sales and widespread use.  With a base MSRP of $450, it’s a reasonably good deal.  Buying one used, however, can bring the price downwards of $350.

Kahr CM9 – 9mm

Kahr CM9

The Kahr CM9 is the lower end version of its better made PM9 cousins.  Made to the same exacting quality in terms of mechanics, it lacks the luster and shine of its pricier counterparts.  As a concealed carry pistol, though, who cares?  The only time you’ll see it is at the range or in a self-defense situation — and in both cases it performs admirably well.  Chambered in 9mm, it holds 6 rounds and features Double Action Only (DAO) operation.  The MSRP for these is $460 but it can easily be obtained used for less than $400.

Taurus PT-111 G2 – 9mm

Taurus 111G2 - 9mm

The cheaper competitor to the S&W M&P Shield and Walther PPS, the Taurus PT-111 G2 promises the world – but can it deliver?  Recently, Taurus had a massive recall on their pistols from a previous generation.  For concealed carriers, the two biggest fears are negligent discharges and failures to fire – two traits found in the prior generation.  As for the present generation, Taurus has a lot of proving to do before they get anybody’s stamp of approval.  Still, with an attractive MSRP of $300 – it’s definitely in the running with other pistols of its size and caliber.

Bersa Thunder .380

Bersa Thunder .380

The Bersa Thunder is a cheap, reliable concealed carry pistol at a pricepoint that almost anyone can afford.  With a retail MSRP of $350 for the base Bersa Thunder model, it still offers great accuracy and precision in a small package.  Standard, it holds 7 rounds of .380 with Single Action/Double Action trigger performance.

Hi-Point 916 – 9mm

Hi-Point 916

Hi-Point is ubiquitous for being the cheapest pistol on the block.  Even with the pricepoint, the pistol comes with a manufacturer’s guarantee for the lifetime of the pistol.  This is exemplified in the Hi-Point 916.  It comes with a standard 8-round magazine capacity and a high-impact polymer frame for less than $200.

Kel-Tec P-3AT – .380

Kel-Tec P-3AT

The Kel-Tec P-3AT is the original concealed carry frame for Kel-Tec’s other concealed carry pistol models such as the P-32, P-11, and PF-9.  With a standard capacity of 6 rounds and a base MSRP of $338, it certainly is a strong competitor for fiscally conservative concealed carriers.  It works off DAO operation, so the safety is a bit more robust than that found in striker-fire pistols.  Overall, it’s a great value for performance.

Ruger LCP – .380

Ruger LCP

For less than $300, you would be hard pressed to find a better budget-friendly, high-performance concealed carry pistol than the Ruger LCP.  Much like the Bersa Thunder and Kel-Tec, it only holds 6 rounds, is chambered in .380 and retails for less than $300 new.  More importantly, it has a long history of good performance and reliable customer reviews.

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  • Cyberats

    Where is the cheap part ? They all hover around the high price of a Glock 19 with none of the quality.

    • blanjm5

      I’ll take the shield over a Glock any day of the week. And that’s coming from a guy that carries a Glock 22 every day on the job.

      • Cyberats

        Not so experienced with pistols, what is the Shield ? I went with recommendation based on performance, it is bulky for concealed carry, a nice pocket PPK/Q would be a slimmer solution. But as far as recoil, only the 5″ barrel 1911 & 6 shooters are better for getting on target. The discussion was the high price offerings for small & low quality firearms.

        • The Shield is a small CC gun from S&W w/3″ bbl. It is one of the slimmest guns out there at .95″. Only the Kel-Tec PF-9 and maybe a XDs are slimmer at .9″ inches and the PF-9 isn’t up to the standards Id like and the XDs is a bit too pricey,.. The shield shoots great, and has an OK trigger unless you get a Massachusetts model with a 10 lb trigger in it,..and you can have a 9+1 capacity in the mag with a mag-guts kit,.. Ill take the shield any day over the others with the exception of the Kahr CM 9. And I have all the guns I just mentioned…so I know them well….

          • Cyberats

            Ok, thanks for the review, will look up the S&W Shield then. Usually carry 2mags. so capacity should not be a problem.

          • franco Eldorado

            The shield I shot was accurate and reliable. Just a shade bigger than what I was looking for since I already had a glock 27. I ended up with the cm9 for pocket carry

      • 2ThinkN_Do2

        I have a Shield 40 and it’s not because it’s a 40 that I don’t like it so much; it’s just the whole package and the goofy extension on the extended mag that moves around except when in the gun. I like my M&P Compact 40 more than the Shield, feels better. I like the LCP best of this group, or the Kahr CM9 if I owned one, but I only have an MK40, love that gun.

    • DoWut

      You comment on the quality and the pricing … then ask what a S&W Shield is just below here.

      It is, literally, the first gun shown in the article. And if you aren’t experienced in pistols, how could you know price points and the quality in comparison to the Glock 19?

      • Cyberats

        Because I own a Glock 19, why are smaller pistols costing just as much as one ?
        They should be half the price. Capitalism unchecked is Fascism.

    • JamesJinSC

      I don’t know whose pricing they use but the pistols I own that are on this list are actually $50 – $125 cheaper than what they have posted.

      • Cyberats

        Post up the stores, do them a favor.

  • franco Eldorado

    I would stay away from a highpoint and the Tarus. I have had the keltec and it was a good gun for pocket carry or backup. The CM9 is probably the best built gun in the group. Is 9mm +P rated. Has a good trigger system similar in feel to a double action revolver. I would buy used and step up in quality. You get the benefit of someone else breaking it in. Many guns shops will warranty used guns and many mfg will too. I have never purchased a used gun that was a dudd but I have purchased more than one new one that was.

    • jack

      so you are the type who would stay away from say a ford because once you bought a ford that was bad>

      • franco Eldorado

        I could see how you would read that this way. I actually have a TCP that is a decent gun. I don’t carry it for primary protection though. Since this article was about using an inexpensive gun, I assumed that the target audience would be a first time buyer looking for a good defensive firearm. Given that, I think you would be better off buying a better quality gun on the used market. The highpoint is just down right ugly and the Tarus is known to have out of the box issues at a higher rate than others. If you can afford multiple guns and are able to risk buying one as a backup go for it.

  • Paul Franklin

    I will admit the Hi- Point is inexpensive and a bit heavy for an everyday CCW but it has provided me with a back up piece and performed well .

  • Paul Franklin

    I will admit the Hi- Point is inexpensive and a bit heavy for an everyday CCW but it has provided me with a back up piece and performed well .

  • Mike

    I personally carry a Sig Sauer P938 9mm in the summer and a Kimber 1911 Pro Carry II during the winter. I am a 1911 fanatic and the P938 is perfect for when I do carry or shoot my 1911’s because of the similarities and reliability. I do not care for plastic or DA only firearms.

  • Mike

    I personally carry a Sig Sauer P938 9mm in the summer and a Kimber 1911 Pro Carry II during the winter. I am a 1911 fanatic and the P938 is perfect for when I do carry or shoot my 1911’s because of the similarities and reliability. I do not care for plastic or DA only firearms.

  • 2ThinkN_Do2

    LCP can be fitted with a 7 round magazine now (Ruger made) great little carry piece, especially with the Ruger/Hogue rubber grip option. Sig P938 SAS with the optional Sig/Hogue rubber grip and extended mags are a very nice set-up for just over $6 bills; though there are less expensive models of the P938 as well. Another of my favorites though a bit costly, is the Kahr MK40, very accurate & reliable, might seem heavy since it’s steel, but it’s nice shooting smaller than many 9’s and in 40 cal. They also make an MK9 which is a little less punchy on the recoil.

  • Bdpenn

    I just wished you had used “inexpensive” vice cheap. Cheap makes me feel invaluable or borderline trash.
    Once as a kid in order to attend an event I needed a pair of tennis shoes. My mom scraped enough to buy a pair at the 5 & 10. To me they were the best shoes in the world. I was proud of those shoes and I loved my mother. There was never anything “cheap” about us or in our house.

  • Jim

    The Ruger SR9C is a great little gun and I would highly recommend it!

    • Jarhead6541

      I’ll second that. Not a single issue with mine…accurate, ergonomic and has a great trigger.
      Not to mention it’s also very pretty.

  • Thomas Abbott

    I am a super fan of my 1911 Kimber Custom target II, but it’s
    way too heavy to carry. My first small CC was a S&W bodyguard with the impossible to reach laser button. Carried it in an inside the waist band holster. Then I bought the Ruger LCP, stuck a Crimson Trace grip activated laser, and a Techna Clip on it. I love this CCW so much I got one for my wife. No holster needed with the Techna Clip, The bullets hit where the laser is pointed, and the gun is light enough to wear
    with a swimming suit. (covered with a T-shirt).

    Fred Myer sells them 10% off on o’l fogy day (first Tuesday of the month,
    and gives a 10% discount to military members… Active and retired on Thursdays

    Would love to see an article on the Sig P238 SAS…please,

  • RMD

    I was really surprised to see the Bersa Thunder listed here. Very accurate, easily concealed. Great weapon that does not receive enough recognition.

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  • D. Guardian

    …the Bersa CC .380…capacity is 8+1 not 7….

    • JamesJinSC

      Standard Bersa Thunder is 7+1. I own 2. They also make a 15+1 model.

  • Shawn Primus

    On the Taurus, the Millennium G2 that is being sold most places right now is the Second Generation model and doesn’t suffer from the same issues as the previous generation when it comes to ADs. This gun can be found just about anywhere for around $200 after rebate or less. I have this gun and I really like it. I’m still getting the hang of the trigger after a couple range trips but it is accurate when you take your time. After a few more trips I should be proficient with it and I think it’s a damn good gun for the money.

    That said, the PT-709 Slim (also a very good gun) would have been a better fit with the rest of these guns. Standard it’s 7+1 in 9mm as it is a single stack versus 12+1 double stack on the PT111. The PT-709 is low-profile and Pearce makes grip extensions if you don’t like to leave your pinkie hanging.

  • Yankee Marshal

    S&W Shield = Best of the bunch
    Kahr CW9 = Close second with the best trigger
    Ruger LCP = Good for what it is (which is not much)
    Taurus PT-111 = Dubious quality
    Bersa Thunder = Pot metal nightmare
    Hi-Point 916 = Good option only if your gunshop accepts food stamps
    Kel-Tec P-3AT = I just threw up in my mouth

    • JamesJinSC

      You are a genuine idiot, congrats!

      • Yankee Marshal

        Awwwww….somebody owns a Kel-Tec. So much butthurt over such a horrible gun.

  • Jmok

    I use a SCCY cpx-2. It is completely American made and assembledThe trigger is heavy at 8 pounds, but it is very reliable and only costs around 250.00.

  • J R

    The Ruger LC9 is also a very accurate and reliable carry weapon with an exceptional track record!

  • CrossEyedJack

    CM9 is my top choice for all compact semi’s regardless of the price. Basically a PM9. I love the Trigger. My other choice is a Ruger LCR .357 mag. One the best dbl action triggers out of the box you will find.

    For you guys that think .40 far superior to 9mm, I won’t argue. There is the CM40.

    I’d also recommend the Taurus PT709 slim. My local Gun shop/range has 3 for rental, that are free for range members. They one the cheapest rentals so they get a ton of abuse. I shoot it a lot, it’s nice pistol and no mag disconnect.

    Of course there is the Kel-Tec PF9 / P11 and Ruger LC9.

    For a little more Kahr is the way to go. You get a high Quality pistol at a budget price.

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