Listed below are some of the best pistols you can buy at a dealer for $400 or less. We did not list all of the small pocket pistols, even though they will work for a house gun.
For home defense, try to stay with the most popular calibers that will do the job. The ability to find ammunition at reasonable prices is important. We are sure we missed some.
Best Low-Cost Pistols Under $350
Arcus 98 HP Clone
$320-$350 from a dealer
The 9mm Bulgarian Arcus 98 is an overbuilt replica of the FN Hi-Power, except it is DA/SA instead of an only single action. Most Hi-Power parts and accessories will work with some minor modifications. The Arcus 98 fit and finish compare well to premium pistols. 15 round magazine capacity. Mec-Gar Browning Hi-Power mags work great! Arcus 94 is the same but in a single action.
American Tactical Pistols
$320-$400 from a dealer
ATI (American Tactical Imports) is the importer of the high-quality Tisas pistols made in Turkey. The models CS9, CS40, and C45 look like a modded Sig (as pictured). The ATI model AT92 is a copy of the Beretta 92. The ATI HP9 is a clone of the Browning Hi-Power. The FX45 1911 is patterned after the M1911-A1 45 ACP service pistols. The model MS380 looks like the Beretta 380. It looks like ATI has picked the right Tisas pistols to market, plus the prices are very cheap.
Bersa Thunder 380
$250-$280 from a dealer
The Bersa Thunder 380 is one of the most popular .380 pistols. This same frame design is also available in low recoil 32 ACP and 22LR calibers. Great for women and new shooters. The Bersa pistols have a full lifetime warranty and are known to be some of the most trouble-free guns made. The Bersa 22 model is ammo picky, so only use hypervelocity cartridges such as CCI Velocitor, Remington Viper, or Aguilla Super Max.
$140-$190 from a dealer
Hi-Point pistols are available in .380, 9mm, 40 S&W;, and 45 ACP. These pistols have a good quality reputation and come with a lifetime warranty. The 380 and 9mm are compact pistols. The 40 S&W; and 45 ACP are full-sized. Hi-Point uses a simple blowback operation and manual safety. Because of the affordable prices, Hi-Point pistols are very popular for home protection. I have owned the Hi-Point 45 ACP for several years and never had a misfire or ammo jam. They are not pretty, but always go bang when you pull the trigger. Made in Dayton Ohio USA.
Jimenez JA-Nine 9mm Luger
Haggle Price $170-$200
Made in Nevada USA! The Jimenez JA-Nine is the best survivor of the cheap Saturday night specials from the 1980s. The frame is made of mystery alloy and the rest is steel. The reliability is outstanding; and they always go bang when you pull the trigger. Each Jimenez JA-Nine pistol includes two 12 round magazines. Great pistol for those on a tight budget. There is also 380 ACP (JA-.380) and 32 ACP (JA-32) versions you can get for around $150. The Jimenez JA-NIne comes with a lifetime warranty.
Kel-Tec P11 9mm
$280-$310 from a dealer
Since the Kel-Tec P11 has a 10 round magazine, it would make a good nightstand gun as well as a concealed carry pistol. The P11 has been in production for a long time, so any problems from the past have been worked out. At only 14 ounces, the P11 does kick like a mule. Because of the size, you can carry it in a jacket pocket, or keep it in your fishing tackle box. The green version is cool.
Kel-Tec PMR-30 22 WMR
$330-$360 from a dealer
A 22 magnum needs a 4-inch barrel to build the velocity to be effective. The Kel-Tec PMR-30 has a 4.3-inch barrel, and 30 round magazine so you know it will do the job. It is about time a company filled the grip with as much rimfire ammo that would fit! This 22 mag pistol would be so much fun at the range. At only 14 ounces empty, the PMR-30 is no hog either. The PMR-30 is so wicked looking. I want one!
Phoenix Arms HP22
$130-$160 from a dealer
A 22 pistol is not the best choice for home defense. However, if you unload the whole magazine, it is about as effective as a shotgun! We listed the Phoenix Arms HP22 because they have a good reliability reputation and they are cheap. Plus the HP22 is fun to shoot! The HP22 is the ultimate survival weapon for your bug-out bag! You can also get a 5-inch range barrel for only $45 if you want to go small game hunting. As with any 22 semi-auto, use high-quality ammo such as CCI Mini-mags. 11 round capacity. The HP22 comes with a factory lifetime warranty. Also available in 25 ACP.
Rock Island Armory 1911A1 45 ACP
$380-$410 from a dealer
The RIA 1911 is a very good copy of the M1911-A1 army service pistol. Rock Island makes some of the best 1911 pistols on the market. The price is good too! There are so many goodies available to turn a 1911 pistol into a hotrod. You can also spend $55 more and get the RIA Tactical version that is already a hotrod. I own the Tactical version and it shoots as good as a $1200 Dan Wesson! Eight round magazine capacity. Caution: Dealers think they can get away with really jacking up the price on RIA 1911 pistols. Shop smart! Also, see the ATI FX45.
Ruger P95 9mm
$300-$330 from a dealer
I would bet that the P95 is one of the most popular nightstand guns. The P95 is a very reliable pistol with 15 round magazine capacity. You can get the Ruger P95 with stainless or blued slide finish. The frame has a built-in rail so you can add a laser if you want. I have known some police officers that carry this pistol and just love it. The trigger is a little mushy, but a good shooter. If you shop around, you may find the Ruger SR9 and SR40 pistols under $400.
9mm Luger $230-$290 from a dealer
Weight: 15.0 oz., Barrel: 3.1″, Capacity: 10+1 rounds
The early models had some issues. The new generation 2 models are reliable as a claw hammer. Smooth double-action trigger. Also, see the CPX-1 model with a manual safety. SCCY Firearms carry a lifetime warranty that stays with the gun, not with the owner. Made in the USA. Great as a nightstand gun or concealed carry.
Stoeger Cougar 8000
$380-$410 from a dealer
This gun was called the Beretta Cougar, then production was moved to Turkey. The Stoeger Cougar uses the rotating barrel design to improve accuracy and reduce recoil. The 9mm version only kicks like a 380 ACP! This is a metal-framed handgun and built very tight. Very accurate for a short barrel gun. Also available in 40 S&W; and 45 ACP.
Smith & Wesson SW9VE Sigma
$300-$330 from a dealer
I bought a 9mm Sigma for my wife. The trigger pull was so hard for her, she couldn’t hit the side of a barn with it! This is still one of Smith’s best selling pistols. If you can live with the 10-pound DAO trigger, it is a very nice quality gun. I never hear of anyone having problems. Reliable as a claw hammer! Some police and the border patrol have used the Sigma, so the heavy trigger pull might be fine for them. The Sigma is also available in 40 calibers. Look for rebates!
Smith & Wesson SD9
$370-$400 from a dealer
The SD9 is a much better pistol than the Sigma. The trigger feels twice as good! Of course, it cost $75 more too. S&W; markets this pistol as a personal defense weapon, so it might be just what you are looking for. At only 23 ounces, it would work great for concealed carry too. This is a new handgun, so prices should come down when the excitement fades. Also available in 40 caliber (SD40).
Taurus Millennium Pro .40 S&W
$340-$370 from a dealer
The PT 140 is a medium frame, a semi-auto pistol that has a checkered polymer frame. It has a 3.25-inch barrel and incorporates the Heinie 2-dot Straight Eight sight system for great functionality and dependability. PT 140 features include a loaded chamber indicator, recessed magazine, and a 3-position safety. Taurus has an unlimited lifetime repair policy. Also available in 9mm (PT 111), and 45 ACP (PT 145). At only 19 ounces, the Millennium Pro is great for concealed carry.
Taurus PT 809 9mm
$360-$390 from a dealer
I can’t believe this pistol is priced so cheaply! The PT 809 is one of the best pistols you can get for under $400. A nice feature is you can swap out backstraps to make it fit your hand better. The PT 809 will fool you into thinking it is a metal frame handgun. It feels that solid! SA trigger pull is right at 5.5 pounds and very crisp. Also available in 45 ACP (PT 845). Also, check out the Taurus 24/7 G2 pistols as they are very similar.