Best Affordable 9mm Pistols: The Top Budget Semi-Automatic Handguns
Looking for an affordable 9mm handgun? I was too, and my search took me down a rabbit hole of buying, borrowing, and otherwise testing every cheap 9mm I could get my hands one.
There are…a lot.
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I tested almost 30 guns for this article. Long hours at the range, shooting free ammo and saving the receipts to write off on my taxes. The horror.
Of course, it wasn’t all roses, I did have some serious consideration to give to an awful lot of guns.
Some of the most popular firearms on the planet are 9mm handguns. It seems like just about every gun owner has one, and it feels like no gun collection is complete without one. And one of the best things about them is how cheap they are to buy, and how cheap they are to shoot.
If you’re looking for an affordable 9mm, this list should give you the best options for picking one up that’s not only cheap, but reliable, accurate, and pleasant to shoot.
Let’s talk about why these guns are so good.
Cheap But Not Cheaply Made
At the risk of sounding like an old man, back in my day, cheap guns were just bad. I grew up hearing anything under $300 called “a Saturday night special” and if you wanted something guaranteed to be reliable, you were spending $550 at least.
These days, with all the new-fangled manufacturing and 3D-aided design, gun prices have fallen through the floor (there are some political and other reasons for that too of course). The good news is that this means there are a variety of reliable and affordable 9mm firearms available for prices that would have been laughable ten years or so ago.
Advances in CNC machining, metal injection molding, and even the old-school casting of parts like we’re making cannons to fight the Redcoats have all greatly increased the speed and ease with which companies can make these parts, which helps bring prices down as well.
Also, ask any machinist about how much easier it is to achieve high levels of precision in both design and the actual machining of parts versus two decades ago. Ask them how much lost material they have to deal with, and how many unsalvageable parts.
Personally, I can tell you it’s an awfully exciting time to be a machinist.
All of this translates into better guns at all price ranges, with some really insanely good high-end guns that not only cost but are actually worth several thousand dollars, and some equally impressive (for the price) guns in the lower price brackets as well.
Some of the most reliable guns I’ve tested this year have been some of the cheapest, which…has been a huge surprise to be sure, but a welcome one.
Convinced? Let’s look at some of the best options for those looking for an affordable 9mm handgun that won’t break the bank.
1. Glock/M&P Police Trade In
This first entry is kind of a cop out (get it) but I’d be remiss if I didn’t recommend anyone looking for a high-quality handgun to check out police trade-ins and auctions. Police sidearms are carried a lot, and holstered and un-holstered frequently, so they get a lot of finish wear, but they aren’t actually fired nearly as much as you’d think.
This means they don’t command a huge price on the secondary market but are still internally relatively free of wear and tear.
I’ve seen relatively new Glocks and M&P’s, both phenomenally reliable and robust guns, on the used market for about 30% less than guns with a lot more rounds down the barrel, simply because of the holster wear making the gun look beat up.
The reality is, these guns can keep on trucking for years and thousands of rounds, even though there might be a little bit of the finish worn off.
On a budget gun that’s meant to be used, that’s not a big deal. I’d say finish wear and scratches aren’t a big deal in any case unless we’re talking about a truly unique piece like an antique or something with either commemorative or sentimental value.
A little finish wear never hurt anybody, is all I’m saying. What, are you afraid people will think you actually use your guns?
This makes the police trade-in market an excellent resource for anyone looking to pick up an affordable 9mm handgun (the most common police sidearm) on the cheap. Best of all, parts for these guns are also plentiful and cheap, so you can upgrade or replace anything you want, and still save hundreds of dollars.
2. Ruger Security-9
Anyone familiar with Ruger is probably not surprised to see that they have not one, but two entries on this list.
The Security-9 is one of their newest budget-friendly options, and it has already gathered a loyal following.
I actually own a Ruger Security 9 myself, bought and paid for with my own money, and it’s one of my favorite handguns in this price range.
It’s a 15+1 capacity gun sized in the same general spec as the Glock 19, and like Gaston’s Greatest Hit, it’s aimed at the defensive and carry markets.
Design-wise, it’s basically a scaled-up version of Ruger’s incredibly popular (and reliable) LCP II. It features a safety blade inset in the trigger, three-dot sights, and a glass-filled nylon frame.
The trigger is actually very good, and frankly much better than. I expected it to be. It’s a little spongy, and the reset is a bit long, but we’re talking budget pistols here, not high-end competition guns.
In that light, the Security-9 deserves high praise indeed. With a street price of $300 for a gun that has been just as reliable as my Glocks and CZs, I think the Security-9 is one of the best defensive guns to come out in the past few years.
I have just over 1200 rounds through mine, and I’ve tested it with a variety of self-defense ammo, and in all that shooting, I’ve only grown more confident in my ability to defend life and liberty with this affordable 9mm.
3. Ruger EC9s
If you’re a Ruger fan, but you’re looking for something cheaper or smaller, the Ruger EC9s may be just the ticket.
The EC9s is a budget version of Ruger’s immensely popular LC9s, which could also have gone on this list, but I really didn’t want to make this a list of all Ruger products, though I probably could have.
Like the LC9s, the LCP II, and the Security-9, the EC9s uses a glass-filled nylon frame with a steel slide, and it has the same safety-bladed trigger. This super budget-friendly model is designed to compete with other similarly-priced subcompact 9mms like the SCCY CPX1 and CPX2.
It has a 7+1 capacity, a surprisingly shootable trigger, and a 3.12” barrel. It’s also available in about a dozen colors, so you can accessorize however you like with them. Maybe get a different color for each day of the week, or to match your favorite shirt.
To save costs, Ruger has put in some simple milled sights which are…fine. Not great, but for a street price of about $220, they’re fine. This is a “get off me” gun, a subcompact 9mm, not a target-grade competition gun. We’re out to put holes in a guy coming at us with a knife, not snipe a bank robber from two blocks away.
For defensive uses, the sights work fine, and I was able to be combat accurate with them out to 25 yards. Trying to hit steel at 50 yards was fun, and I managed a few hits out of every mag, but not really repeatable. Of course, it’s also not really the point.
The point is to have a small, pocketable, affordable 9mm that you can easily put in the glovebox or drop in a pants pocket and have ready in case you need to defend yourself. For those purposes, the EC9s is more than adequate and is a great choice for anyone looking for a subcompact 9mm that won’t really dent their checking account balance.
4. Canik TP9SFx
Canik has been one of the most popular budget-friendly competition pistol brands for a while now, and just about every sub-$500 handgun I see at USPSA matches is invariably a Canik. And those shooters don’t do badly at all.
Well, if they do it isn’t the gun’s fault.
My philosophy for competition guns is that you should have a gun that shoots better than you do. That’s not meant to be some mystical Gun-Fu stuff, that just means you should have a gun that isn’t going to hold you back, and that leaves you room to improve.
If you’re on a budget, that can be difficult. Fortunately, Canik is there to help you.
The entire TP9 series, but especially the SFx, is built around the idea of affordable performance, and they really do live up to the hype. Which makes sense as the TP9 series is basically a clone of the Walther PPQ, a much more expensive gun. The PPQ is certainly nicer, but if you’re ballin on a budget, the TP9 is a more than acceptable substitute.
The TP9SFx, in particular, is a close approximation of the PPQ Q5 Match. It comes with a lightened slide, fiber-optic sights, two 20-round mags, a match-grade barrel, a pretty excellent trigger, a tennifer (Glock-style) finish, and it’s already milled for an optic in case you want to carry optics or build a home defense gun.
The SFx and the PPQ it’s based on are both hefty, and while they aren’t something you’ll want to carry, they’ll both do great in a home defense role as well.
Of course, the SFx is absolutely reliable with defensive ammo, and the only problems I’ve had were with some super light competition loads that were loaded specifically for minimal recoil. These issues started showing up after I threw a Trijicon RMR on the slide, which increased the weight and generally made those light loads cycle less reliably.
Switching to some minor power factor loads, I had no problems, and I don’t think you will either.
If you’re looking to get into competition shooting on a budget or just any affordable 9mm, this is the one to get. I absolutely love that Canik has brought this thing to market for around $400 (though Walther probably hates it).
5. Taurus G2C
I know what you’re thinking. “A Taurus? Really?”
But before you leave, I need you to understand that I get it. I do. I was extremely hesitant to even consider a Taurus for this list, even one I didn’t have to shell out my own money for. But the Taurus G2C does not disappoint.
But, my local range owner and buddy Darren basically insisted that I try one when I told him what I was working on, and he’s the only person I know (other than some pro shooters and special forces folks) who shoots more than me, so I had to at least try the damn thing.
And I’m glad I did.
I don’t know what black magic/voodoo/corporate espionage Taurus has done to obtain the G2C and G2S designs, but both of these guns just…work. Despite only costing a few hundred dollars, and despite carrying the Taurus name, they really do shoot well, and reliably.
They look nice too, which is always up in the air with Taurus, as the Brazilian gunmaker seems to have an eclectic design sensibility, to say the least. These look nice, with clean lines and they aren’t overly Hi-Point-esque which is always good.
The G2C is the compact version, and the G2S is the subcompact version. The compact has a 12+1 capacity, and the subcompact has a 7+1 capacity. Both have a short 3.25” barrel so they’re easy to conceal if you’re looking for a carry gun.
They both have a manual safety which I don’t love for a CCW, but it’s something I can get over, and I know some people like them. The trigger isn’t the best, but it’s good enough for combat-accurate shooting.
Overall, I’d say if you’re on an extreme budget, this is the option to go with. I frequently see these things on sale for $180+ shipping or less.
6. IWI Masada
If you haven’t heard of the Israeli Weapon Industries Masada, don’t worry. This is a new gun for 2019, but boy oh boy, has it already impressed a lot of people.
It’s a Glock 19-esque form factor gun but honestly…I prefer it over my G19. If you’ve read anything else of mine, you know I have carried a Glock 19 for almost half a decade now, so when I say that I like the Masada more.
The trigger is better, though it does have a long reset. The grip is better. The gun is just as accurate and reliable, and it’s ready for a red dot out of the box. It has a super low bore axis making it a very controllable, soft-shooting gun, and the gun is sized perfectly for both duty or carry use.
Oh, and the damn thing is only $400, definitely an affordable 9mm handgun. I’ve seen it as low as $345 on sale. It almost sounds too good to be true, and that’s definitely what I thought at first.
IWI doesn’t make anything that doesn’t run and run and run forever, but I still wanted to test it out. So that’s what I did.
1400 rounds later, I’m absolutely flabbergasted. Don’t get me wrong, I expected this gun to be good, and reliable. I did not expect it to blow guns that cost twice as much out of the water.
I have not cleaned this gun. Other than an out-of-the-box wipedown and oiling, I have not done anything to maintain this gun. I have dropped this gun in sand (on purpose). I have fed this gun every possible type of ammo I can get my hands on, from the cheapest steel-cased ammo to some expensive Sci-fi injection-molded space bullets to the most popular carry and defensive ammo.
I have had precisely zero malfunctions. This gun is filthy. This gun has been abused. This gun has already given me more than my money’s worth.
And it’s still running just as well as it was the first time I shot it. I haven’t quite put it into my carry rotation yet, but this might be the one that knocks the Glock 19 off its pedestal, for me at least. And for $400, I have absolutely been floored by the damn thing.
Modern firearms don’t have to be expensive to be reliable, high-quality tools. There are a number of great and affordable 9mm handguns out there that won’t break the bank, but these are the best of the best.
These guns are all reliable and are some of the best values for your hard-earned dollars in the firearms industry. I have shot them all extensively, and I have a special place in my heart and my gun safe for each of them.
Except the Masada. I’m still carrying that one…it doesn’t ever go in the safe.