5 Durable ‘Budget Pistols’ That Won’t Ever Jam

A few years ago when one said the words “cheap” and “handgun” in the same sentence, you were obviously talking about a Jennings, a Hi-Point or an AMT. To be fair, AMT makes a great little concealed carry handgun, albeit mostly in .380. Hi-Point’s firearms are functional but unattractive. Jennings — I can always count on a Jennings. That is, I can always count on a Jennings to jam on every single magazine.

Cheap pistols have come a long way over the past couple of decades. Foreign and domestic manufactures have really put the effort into producing cost-efficient and highly reliable handguns for the masses.

Not everyone can spend the coinage it takes to buy a nice Kimber 1911, a SIG or even a Glock. Granted, I carry a Glock and swear by them along with my S&Ws and Colts, but there are some newer handguns, mostly imports along with two offerings from Smith and Wesson, that should make us all take a double look.

And while the cheapest handgun is about $100 more than a Hi-Point, it is worth saving up a bit more so one does not have to carry that awkward brick that Hi-Point produces.

1. Smith and Wesson SD9/40.


Smith and Wesson designed and built an excellent Glock, er, handgun when it came out with the SD9/40. Truth is the SD9/40 is constructed so similarly to a Glock handgun, breaks down and handles just like a Glock, you would think you were firing a Glock. In fact, I compared an SD9 side by side with my Glock 19, and but for the trigger and a few other design differences, the SD is a Glock with a Smith and Wesson stamp on it.

A close friend of mine traded a beat-up dirt bike for one, and we took it to the range. The guy he traded it with had only run a box of FMJs through the handgun and it looked brand new. We fired close to 300 rounds through it without a single failure. Those rounds included nasty Russian steel ammo, FMJs, JHPs, aluminum – and everything fed.

Price: Around $320

2. Rock Island GI Model 1911.


After battling Moro tribesmen in the Philippines, the US Military realized it needed a stouter handgun as opposed to the .38 revolvers. The result, to make a long story short, was the adaption of the .45ACP cartridge and the M1911 handgun. Now, you can’t get much more iconic in an American handgun than a 1911. Today, some of the best entry-level 1911s come from, surprise, the Philippines. The same country that brought about its development is now sending thousands of 1911 handguns to our shores for civilian shooters to enjoy.

Rock Island’s 1911 GI model is sure not going to be voted the most beautiful 1911 of the year, but it is built to be functional. And functional it is. I have shot everything from simple FMJs to Golden Sabers through these handguns and have had almost no issues, besides the break in period. Accuracy is acceptable for a GI model, and the price can’t be beat for an entry-level 1911.

Price: $450

3. Grand Power P1 Mk7.


Imported by Century Arms International, the Grand Power P1 Mk7 is made in Slovakia, and is the shorter version of the standard sidearm of the Slovakian military. The Grand Power has high marks for accuracy and reliability. After all, it is a current standard sidearm, and has a mean rounds-before-failure of 20,000. It is a bit heavier than most handguns out there, but it is well put together and affordable.

I have seen these guns shoot in access of 500 rounds, with no failure. In fact I have never seen these things fail.

Price: $399

4. Canik TP-9SA 9mm4

Die-hard James Bond fans will remember that in the mid-90s, Pierce Brosnan’s Bond retired the character’s iconic Walther PPK. The replacement for the classic-but-underpowered PPK for Bond was the new Walther P99, a polymer pistol. The P99 is a great handgun, employing the NATO 9mm cartridge. It even has a de-cocker for people who like those sort of things. The nation of Turkey liked the handgun so much, it adopted it and started producing it for its military. Century Arms today imports these guns and sells them for cheap.

The Canik is a great little gun and is very reliable. They are starting to develop quite a following here in the States, and it is well-deserved. Century now offers magazines and accessories for these great handguns.

Price: Around $300

5. Smith and Wesson M&P Shield 9mm.


My wife carries one of these for her daily carry. The M&P shield is a great little carry gun with excellent reliability. It is ideal for women and smaller-framed shooters. I have yet to see one have a failure to feed or eject, and build quality is excellent.

Price: Around $369