Top 20 Firearms Priced Under $1000 With Most Under $500

According as circumstances are favorable, one should modify one’s plans.” Sun Tsu

(For the sake of continuity all facts pertaining to ballistics are listed as links at the end of the article, and not within the article. I have not submitted my own testing results, simply because from experience, I have found people ignore my results if they go against what they believe. When it comes from someone else, eg., the FBI or some other organization, they believe it.)

Lists are always difficult, reasons are very simple. We all want what we have been told is best by people we trust or what we have grown up believing is best. My list is based entirely on firearms I have or currently own and use and have proven themselves to me entirely. My idea of having a firearm proven too me is simple, 500 to 1000 rounds with no hiccups. Minimum 200 rounds of my chosen SD ammunition, no hiccups.

Accuracy, sandbagged must be within hunting needs, eg, two inches at 100 yards for ALL rifles, 4-inch max for handguns at 25 yards, sandbagged. Lastly, shotguns, I do not use shotguns for numerous reasons*. As a result, even though I can suggest** two names that most will agree with, I will not include them on the list.

Agree or disagree, however, here is the list and I can honestly say, it is based entirely on personal experience as well as the experience of a close group of individuals. We run firearms, and we run them well. Reloading, shooting, etc., the people I surround myself with all are at the very top of their profession whichever that is. The list will be in three parts, rimfire firearms, rifles (including carbines) and handguns. So here is the list, without further ado.

Mossberg 702 Plinkster, like all rimfire guns, clean it well after shooting or every 200-300 rounds. Do so and you won’t have problems with it, 4lbs of lightweight accuracy and more importantly, accurate, reliable and less than $150.

Ruger SR22 handgun, reliable, accurate, and with all rimfire again, clean it well after shooting. I love my Walther P22s (threaded) however, they are not inexpensive. Ruger SR22s can be had for under $300 and many times used for under $200.

FegPa63, P64, Makarov 9×18 virtually any Eastern European 9×18 handgun, the round works well, it will work in self-defense, I use Hornady 9×18 critical duty, NOT other rounds, some are too hot, these are blowback handguns and surplus, not designed for the +p novelty rounds out there. Most can be had for right at $250, well worth every penny. I prefer the FEGPa63 and the P64.

Glock 19 or 17, denigrate the 9×19 with a solid defensive round all you want, sure BALL ammunition sucks, it sucks in everything! Modern self-defense ammunition makes the 9×19 round better than the .45 and virtually equal to the ,40 or .357 and does it at half the cost.

Gold Dot 115 or 124 grn, NOT 147 grn, too slow doesn’t penetrate well. Or the Hornady Critical DUTY 135 grn round. These rounds have been tested and approved for carry by the FBI which is switching to the Glock 19.

Accuracy folks is far more important than a near miss with a wide projectile. I can guarantee my Glock 19 will meet and equal or beat any other firearm out there in terms of reliability, accuracy and putting a target down.

Plus being 9×19 (not plus P never plus P) means even my 7-year-old daughter shoots it well! Pricing is $300 – $500 depending on used or not, and remember, unlike other firearms, used only means broken in on a Glock. I prefer buying used, after all, there are changes I make automatically too mine. Personal preferences and all.

Smith and Wesson M&P 9×19 runs great and costs between 350 and 500 depending on what you get with it. I  can also recommend the SW shield 2.0 you will want to put an Apex trigger in these guns otherwise…they run to really well.

Canik 55 TP9SF a new arrival to the scene, but at a price point of $350 brand new, you cannot miss this as a possibility. If you are prepping on a budget and new to firearms, THIS is the way to go. Reliability to date is amazing, accuracy very good and it comes new with spare mags, holster, etc., I mean whats not too like! Honestly, if I didn’t already have too many Glock 19s, I may have switched to these.

AR15 platforms, there are dozens of approaches, builders and several calibers. My suggestion, stick with what is most popular currently, 5.56 is what you want it chambered in, or .223 wylde. I would suggest 1/8 twist or 1/9 to start, these twist rates are good in between and allow you to shoot 55 through 77 grain accurately, the 1/9 is better with 55-62 grain, however, I continue to be able to out rounds on target easily at out too 500 yards with a nice 1/9 twist nitride barrel. If you go with 1/8 it truly is a solid twist rate, at 16” MINIMUM length, it is amazing.

Under 14” the 5.56 loses effective velocities. For personal defense, I prefer 55 grn ball ammo, again, per FBI testing it penetrates less than 12 gauge 00 buckshot in drywall. (see links) So here are the brand names I suggest, Palmetto State Armory, Delton, DiamondBack and Olympic Arms are all solid AR15 builders, they may need minor work as they are not as highly polished as a $1200 plus rifle.

However, they are absolutely reliable and more importantly, the bottom side of all of these rifles can be found for between $500 and $700 apiece. (Magazines are simple, get Hexmag or Magpul magazines.)

I use palmetto state armory and Delton primarily even though I have owned and own DPMS, Smith and Wesson, Colt6920le and other higher end too highest end AR15s. I use palmetto state armory because they work extraordinarily well!

AK47 platforms specifically some of the better designed and implemented copies and or kit guns put together by arsenal and even palmetto state armory version runs well. I use these because I like having a larger caliber for hunting purposes – if need be. However. I will say that current pricing has AR15s running far less on average for better products than many current American put together or made AK47s. Again research them well and always think full testing for reliability before relying on them.

This category has a different approach, it is something many people do not consider. Hunting and shooting over 500 yards. Though there are thousands of people online especially who make wonderful claims regarding their prowess as a shooter, distances past 500 yards are not easy, and when you hit the 800 mark, things start getting REALLY fun. Personally, I have shot past 1000 yards only a few times, and while I am a very good shot from 0 through 500 yards with simple iron sights, past this is not easy.

My observations and experiences are much more refined in this area, leaving the last two spaces for un-scoped milsurp and scoped non milsurp. Iron sights at distance there are only three rifles I can honestly suggest, that meet the criteria as stated. Enfield .303 (I prefer the MkIV or III), Mauser 8mm K98, Swiss K31 in 7.5×55 (my personal favorite, and a rifle I have taken to 1100 yards four times now, with iron sights, amazingly very very nicely.

Each of these can be had for between $300 and $600 and should be looked at closely prior to purchase for signs of wear. (Side note my first rifle at 16 was a MkIV Enfield that I took jackrabbits at 400 to 600 yards regularly, quite fun when young, but the eyes go with age.)

Long distance rifles, non milsurp. Remington 700, Mossberg 100 ATR, Weatherby Vanguard are all wonderful rifles, I have owned them all and shot them all, and loved them all very much. The Vanguard was a sub MOA model, (not normal) and shot under an inch off of a bipod at 100 yards.

The Remington and Mossberg both shot very well also. Pricing ranges from $300 – $600 for these rifles. You can upgrade all of them as you go and get the money, however, an inexpensive Bushnell scope will get you on paper well for around $200 or less.

There you have my list, again, subjective, absolutely! But realistic, also ABSOLUTELY!

*Why dont I use a shotgun, this is an interesting question with a VERY simple answer. Here is my response. I have grade v spondylolisthesis (since I was 12- and yes I worked for over two decades full time with grade IV before it went to grade V), nerve damage down my left leg below the knee and in my right leg is permanent and severe.

When I am tired or in pain (which is daily, pain can be a friend) I drag my feet and eventually my legs simply stop working. Literally, I fall straight down several times a week. Weight is NOT an option, shotguns of equal weight. 10 shotgun shells weigh the same as 200 rounds of .22lr or 50 rounds of 5.56. Eating birds shot with a shotgun is a process filled with fun times and occasionally cleaning lead or steel shot out of your teeth. I can build a live trap for birds easily, that works and the parts are found growing around us.

As a self-defense weapon, it is NOT the “just aim at the general direction” that people like to say it is. Even from an 18” barrel the shot WILL not spread enough at defensive distances to allow that approach and honestly if you have children or animals, why would you want stray shots anyhow. So there you go. An AR is MUCH easier to shoot far more accurately, as is a solid 9mm handgun.

**If a shotgun you must have, Mossberg 500/ 590/88 (Maverick), Remington 870 – there easy, yes I’ve owned them, no I wouldn’t again simply because everything I have must have a use.

See the links below for statistical real information regarding ballistics.

Jesse Mathewson BSCJA

Jesse Mathewson

Arizona since 86', lifetime prepper, camper - criminal justice advanced degrees, numerous certifications, 1+ million rounds (shooting for decades), prior contractor, instructor, current volunteer, disabled, honest, father of two husband of one - all budget and prepared. Jesse Mathewson reviews because regular people need someone in their corner as well!

27 Responses

  1. JP in MT says:


    It’s nice when someone else likes the same guns you do. And having just spent the weekend as a vendor at a gun show, I can say most of your pricing is spot on.

    10/22’s are all the rage, but the Mossberg is lighter and a solid rifle for $75-100 cheaper.

    We went from the Walther P22 to the Ruger SR22 because the grip is a little thicker and fits our hands better.

    My Glock is a new 19X; G17 frame with a G19 slide. Still ringing it out, but it really fits may hand well.

    I advise people to avoid the S&W Sport-series AR15 rifles. They are their cheap, entry level rifle and have shown a few flaws. Their other AR’s seem to be okay.

    Remington 700’s fit me out of the box so that’s what I look for, but old Ruger 77’s (not the Mark II) are a real piece of iron! Heavy (especially the RS model) but with their adjustable trigger, a virtually indestructible rifle with adequate accuracy.

    Mossberg 88 (20″ with 9-shot tube) shotguns could be had for $250-280 new this weekend. A marine coat 590 was asking $500. For most people that want a home defense shotgun, this is what I recommend.

    I have very little experience with the 9×18 pistols. I’ve handled a few and like the feel. If I were to choose one, I would look at the CZ version in .380 ACP because of ammo.

    One thing to consider with any weapon is the cost of accessories. I like the M&P 9mm, but magazines were $40 and I could get Glock factory mags for $20. Holster selection is massive with a Glock, okay with a S&W, but others can be a challenge. Stay away for the cheap nylon ones with a snap down strap! And if you buy a cheap scope, because that is what you can afford now, okay, but plan on upgrading, as most do not last in the field.

    Anyway, that’s my opinions, and worth every penny I charge for them.

  2. Zulu 3-6 says:

    JP in MT and Jesse,

    I’ve got a S&W M&P-15. So far it has been very reliable and is capable of as tight of groups as I can shoot these days. Magpul G3 mags.

    My favorite pistols have been Sig Sauer P226 and P228 in 9mm. I carried a P226 as a duty gun for years and put easily in excess of 15,000 rounds through it without a hiccup, not even a magazine issue either. Sadly, I had to give it up when I retired. No Sig on my department ever malfunctioned on the range or on the street. They converted to P220 .45 cal after I retired, but eventually went to a P229 40cal because the troops didn’t like the small mag capacity or recoil of the P220. Now they’re back to the good old P226 9mm.

    My union (police supervisors) bought each member a P228 9mm in 1991, for which we had to pay a minimal $50 fee to keep it. That has been my off-duty and concealed carry ever since. I also used it in when in the detective bureau. It has had close to 10,000 rounds through it, also with no issues of any sort. Factory mags, but worth the price.

    I know Sigs are expensive, but I am very happy with the dependability, feel, and accuracy.

    I have other handguns, including a Walther PPK/S .380, and an S&W Mod 686 .357. Both have been reliable and good shooters. At least the Walther became a reliable gun after I swapped the recoil spring out for something a little better.

    I also have a Colt 9mm carbine, which has been a good shooter, but I don’t use it much. I have some other rifles which I don’t use, an M-1 carbine, a Mauser 98k (made in 1937), and a Martini-Henry Mk IV 45-70 (with a sergeant’s sword bayonet).

    My only shotgun is a Remington 870, 12ga, which has been tricked out as a tactical gun, although I have a long barrel for it in case I need to do bird hunting. I used an 870 all through my police career, so I am happy with it’s reliability.

    • Zulu 3-6 says:

      I forgot to mention my HK-91 battle rifle in 7.62mm NATO. Factory mags in steel and aluminum. This is a West German made weapon. I bought it new before the ban.

      While designed primarily to shoot people, this rifle can also hunt game needing a bigger bullet than an AR platform rifle can easily take down.

      In the past, it has been a very accurate rifle, but is overdue for a re-zero. That is coming up in a week or so. This is my AT&T rifle, “reach out and touch someone.” I don’t have optics for it, but I can shoot iron sights quite well.

      The main problem I have with this rifle is the need for a special tool to adjust the barrel rear sights. Otherwise, this is a nice rifle.

      • Thor1 says:

        Z36, the guy getting shot isn’t going to care if you had optics or not…..LOL

        I thought you had 2 adjustment tools now.

        • Zulu 3-6 says:

          Thor 1,

          Most very true. And I have a bayonet for it too. After all, in the Marines, if you shoot somebody, you get extra credit for stabbing the bullet hole too. 🙂

          Yep, two sight tools now.

    • Jesse Mathewson says:

      Zulu, this is good! *that the sigs had no problems* while I have not had the same experience I understand sticking with what is reliable and functional for you!

  3. Thor1 says:

    Everyone age and eligible, should have:

    1) a handgun (first) because you can carry it concealed. I prefer a Glock in 9mm or 40cal because of ammo availability as well as parts. They are accurate, durable and affordable.

    2) a battle rifle, AR,AK or other variant.

    3) a shotgun, these are usually cheaper then the first 2, but have multiple uses from hunting to defense.

    4) a long range hunting rifle. Get a common round, 30-06, .308,300WM

    5) last but not least a good 22 rifle. The 10/22 is my favorite but there are a lot of good ones out there. Marlin,Winchester in bolt ,semi, pump or lever. Small game and even defense.

    Spot on Jesse

  4. Mike says:

    As a Canik owner, a TP9SF and TP9SFX….awesome and accurate pistols.

    • Jesse Mathewson says:

      Mike. Agreed! Best part is they are extremely reliable all of mine have easily passed the 1000 round test benchmark flawlessly

      • Mike says:

        Same here! Also running Glocks, CZ’s, 1911’s, and Kahrs…for pistols of course. AR’s, PTR 91’s, AK’s, Remington’s…a few newly approved SBRs etc. Going to start officially gunsmithing company in JAN 2019.

  5. To Cor says:

    +1 on the PA63 with Hornady 9×18 critical duty rounds for concealed carry. Had one for 20+ years. Carried a SIG P228 as my duty weapon for years and bought one to keep before I retired. Definitely a nice weapon and works for concealed carry as well. Still have my Colt Series 70 government model .45 that my father bought me when I was commissioned as a 2LT.

    • Jesse Mathewson says:

      To Cor. I did swap hammer and recoil springs…and have had no issues gun related. Wish other defensive ammo was available for them as well but this one works for now

  6. larry says:

    Dear Sir—I enjoy your comments—the only problem is that a person has to be a firearms expert to understand your info. People like me can’t understand most of what you say! Please don’t be offended–I mean no disrespect.

    • Jesse Mathewson says:

      Larry. I want solid critical feedback, and strive to improve with each article. It’s a balancing act, what would you suggest for improvements? I am open to any solid suggestions !

    • Zulu 3-6 says:


      It’s kind of hard to accurately discuss the ins and outs of firearms without being a bit technical.

      Don’t hesitate to ask questions of any of us if we write something beyond your expertise. Most of us have been around firearms much of our lives and/or have used them as part of our jobs. So we talk shop as it were.

  7. Mechanic says:

    Jesse always enjoy your articles. Thanks.

  8. Bwhntr63 says:


    I read with amusement your fondness for the Swiss K31, which thru one of my customers who is a WW1 and 2 rifle freak ( he has over 200 bolt action rifles alone of various makes nd calibers ) I recently acquired. Perfect bore on it, and if my 63 year old eyes were sharper could shoot better than the 3 inch groups I get at a hundred yards. Have a hard time picking up that front sight doggone it. But I love the thing.

    Agree on the Glock 19 and S&W M&P, own both. But I admit I like my shotguns, but probably would not grab them first if the SHTF. They are fun to hunt with and play with though.

  9. Cndnate says:

    Would like to see the savage in 308 mentioned as very accurate shooter and cheaper than the rem 700 , stay away from the axis models and their lower carbon barrels (still accurate)

    Otherwise agree on all the above and nicely done article jesse!
    Did you get that handload info I sent you?

  10. Greg M. says:

    Jesse, Another good article, thanks for sharing your expertise and opinions on firearms. While I don’t know about all the weapons you espouse, I honor your opinion as you seem to have a huge amount of experience and knowledge. I have the Mossberg 702 .22 rifle and I think it is a great little firearm. Have taken many squirrels and rabbits with that plinkster. I have put many rounds downrange with the Glock 19 and truly enjoy firing that pistol. I also like the Beretta 92FS very much altho I understand lots of people don’t care for it much. I was a little surprised you did not mention Savage Arms for longer distance shooting, but again, I understand many don’t care for that company. I have one in .308 and it shoots very well for me. Again, thanks for a great article.

    • Thor1 says:

      Greg M never liked the Beretta 92, too much trigger pull.

      Savage makes a good bang for the buck rifle and a good trigger.

      • Greg M. says:

        Thor1, To each his or her own. I have shot many 1000’s of rounds through the Beretta 92 and it works for me. That is what really counts, does it work for YOU? I always like .45 caliber (intellectually) but the variety of pistols using .45 I’ve shot always bucked like a mule in my hand. Never really worked. Plenty of firearms out there that work for somebody, but not everybody. What is your pistol of choice?
        I agree about Savage. I’ve shot out to 500 meters with my .308 and had fairly good success. My eyes aren’t what they used to be so unless it was life and death, probably won’t be shooting at those distances any more.