We live in a time when handguns may be priced the most reasonably in more than 100 years. However, ammunition prices are volatile and the sources always seem subject to regulation and shortages of certain types.
We looked at the market to see where a shooter could get the most savings in the quest for ammunition, and came up with seven pistols that deliver the least expensive bullets.
1. Ruger Mk 3
The list has to start with a 22. It is the cheapest pistol round on the market, and many fundamentals of pistol shooting can be practiced with a 22 trainer like the Ruger, or if you prefer a Browning, Smith & Wesson, Walther, Sig or Chiappa. Anything that gets you to the range to practice sight alignment, sight picture and making smaller groups in your target can be achieved with a quality 22 pistol.
Yeah, we know. It may be as cheap as 5 cents a round when you can find it, but the problem is finding it. Supply is improving. Stock up when you can, but don’t hoard it to make a profit on the secondary if you can help it.
2. Glock 17/19
There are other pistols out there in this caliber. On the low end you have the Hi-Points and S&W Sigmas and, of course, you can spend the price of a used car on an authentic Sig Sauer P210 made in Switzerland. We just find the Glock platform to be a good middle-of-the-road pistol that fits the needs of most shooters.
By far, the most affordable center-fire pistol round has to be the 9mm Luger. Whether it is military surplus ammunition, Winchester White Box, or remanufactured ammo, 9mm is here to stay, and prices are reflecting this. We have seen it as cheap as $13 for a box of 100 recently.
3. TT-30 Romanian Tokarev
This may be one of the best deals out there for an inexpensive pistol and ammunition combination. Obviously, there are other flavors of this pistol from Yugoslavia, Russia and China, but supply on these variants has been limited the past few years. In the same caliber, you can also find the CZ-52. Some of these pistols come with a 9mm conversion kit or can be converted via barrel swapping.
They are all chambered in 7.62X 25 Tokarev, a bottlenecked military pistol cartridge that can still be had reasonably cheap, particularly if you find surplus ammo, but new rounds are made by Sellier & Bellot and Prvi Partizan, among others.
4. Glock 22/23
40 S&W may seem to be on the decline, which means you can stock up on ammunition, components and magazines for your favorite 40 S&W handgun. We mentioned the Glock models, but you can find excellent pistols made by Steyr, HK, SIG, Beretta, Springfield and Smith & Wesson in this caliber.
As more police departments adopt 9mm, we expect to see savings on handguns as well as over runs of ammunition in the near future.
Bulk ammunition prices and remanufactured ammunition will yield the biggest savings. It is currently averaging about 18 cents a round.
Although its popularity has declined a bit in the past decade, the various Makarov pistols make excellent handguns when it comes to inexpensive ammunition. The 9X18 Makarov round is 1mm longer than a 380 and 1mm shorter than a 9mm Luger. It uses a larger diameter bullet (.365″) than the aforementioned rounds. Our favorite pistol in this caliber is an East German Makarov that we picked up when imports were in their heyday. Now they have become collector’s items along with the original Russian military pistols.
You don’t need to find a rather pricey Russian or East German Military Makarov, either. The round has been used in the FEG PA-63, SMC-918, P-64, P-83, grand Power P9M and the CZ82. While not as cheap as 9mm Luger, it is often cheaper than 380 ACP.
It is currently averaging about 18 to 19 cents a round.
6. S&W Model 64
There are, of course, hordes of revolvers chambered in 38 Special and even a few semiautomatic handguns (S&W M52 and AMU 1911’s converted to the HBWC only bullet type), but we recommend this particular revolver, as they tend to be found on the used market and they are very well made and accurate firearms. You can also go with your favorite 357 Magnum revolver and shoot the cheaper 38 Special, as well.
Some may balk at the price of the ammunition in certain areas (we faced sticker shock more than a few times recently), but the beauty of the low cost is there for hand loaders.
If you are a beginning hand loader, it is the easiest pistol case to work with, and using an HBWC (hollow-based wad cutter) bullet in your loads saves money on powder and makes for an accurate round. Always remember: The point of target shooting and practice is to make you a better shot, not just to make noise!
7. Medusa M47
For number 7 on this list we threw in a model that will be hard to find, as it has been out of production for quite some time: the Medusa Model 47 Revolver.
Phillips & Rodgers launched the Medusa in 1996, and the revolver had two unique characteristics: it could chamber any 9mm diameter bullet between .355″ and .357″ in diameter, and the barrel’s rifling was cut with nine lands and grooves. We suspect this type of rifling was necessary due to the wide variety of ammunition types that could be fired from the Medusa.
If you find a secondhand one, then make sure the inserts are included. A shooter can fire 357 Magnum, 38 Special, 9mm Largo, 9mm Luger, 9X21mm, 380 ACP, 38 S&W, 38 Super, 38 Colt, etc.
The manufacturer advised 25 calibers, but in theory inserts can be made to accommodate over 100 as long as the diameter of the projectile is smaller than the bore diameter. Accuracy will suffer in that regard, so we advise to stick with the original 25 listed in company literature.
That’s our list, and chances are that you already may have a few of these calibers ready to go. If you are a devoted 45 ACP or 44 Magnum fan, that’s good, we love them, too, but for this list we concentrated on handguns that are simply cheaper to shoot.
What is your favorite gun with cheap ammo? Share your advice in the section below: