Sunday, January 4, 2015

A home-defense gun and ammo for $246 bucks?

This idea has actually evolved over the past couple of years since I began to write this blog post.  It originated with a young mother who was referred to me by a friend. She has two young children, a dead-beat husband who up and left her two years ago, lives in a small rented house in a rural area, and was the victim of a burglary while at work... one of two jobs she holds to make ends meet. She wanted to get a gun for home-defense and had two-hundred dollars to spend... what should or could she get?

Greg Ellifritz, over at Active Response Training, posted on Facebook about his experience with a concerned, young lady who had just bought a gun... a cheap gun that was all that she could afford.  He re-posted it on his blog, so take a look here before reading on.  Owning a firearm is not an inexpensive endeavor anymore. You can't walk into a Kmart anymore and pick up a rifle for $59.97.

So, with skipping a couple of meals, turning the heat down to sixty-four degrees in the winter, and skimping on a couple of other necessities for daily living... this young mother scraped up a little more than $200... she has $246 bucks to get the best home-defense gun and ammo she could afford to defend her home. I agonized over my advice for her, realizing that she was a new shooter, inexperienced, lived in a rural area that might also require dispatching a four-legged critter or two... and recommended she buy a Ruger 10/22... a plain, basic, blued .22LR rifle. A Hi-Point 9mm was a real consideration.

Wait a minute... you recommended a Ruger 10/22 for home-defense? Are you nuts? Well, let me ask you this question: You have $246  to bucks spend. That include gun, ammunition, and sales tax, transfer fees, shipping, etc. What would you recommend to a new shooter for home defense? What pistol, shotgun, or rifle - with ammo - would you recommend within that budget?

Over the years, I have witnessed new shooters... without any instruction beyond "don't shoot your eye out"... take a .22 rifle and hit targets at five to fifteen yards without any trouble. Now I'm not advocating handing a gun to a new shooter without any instruction, I'm just saying I've witnessed it. Pistols take more time to build accuracy skills for similar distances and purposes than a short rifle... and shotguns are a handful for many new shooters. Except for the recent "ammo shortage", .22LR is typically available for reasonable prices to practice with and keep on-hand.

You can find a basic, new Ruger 10/22 on sale for about $219 and occassionally for $199. So in Ohio, that would be about $235 with sales tax. Pick up a box of fifty decent (as in not Remington Thunderbolts or Winchester Wildcats) .22LR rounds for the remaining $11... and you're done... $246 bucks spent.

Truth be told, she bought the gun back at that time... and I gave her a box of CCI Mini-mags, cheap uLine safety glasses, some foam ear-plugs, and some free training with time at our local range. So, just setting aside our judgmental tendencies about her situation in life, why she might be there, or why she doesn't save to get a real gun... the true reality is... she has $246 bucks to spend and extra funds for ammunition, practice, or training are probably non-existent for the foreseeable future. Don't get all judgmental... it's reality for a lot of people.

OK, I know you'll ask why the Ruger over the Marlin 60 or 795, or the Remington 795, or the whatever... my personal experience with semi-auto .22 rifles is that the Ruger is the best overall considering reliability, quality, accessories, value, and company support. Or why the Ruger over a shotgun or pistol... well, what would YOU recommend?

Now, YOU have $246 buck to spend. Here is YOUR exercise in critical thinking for the day...

What would you recommend and why? Fire back in the comments below. The situation is:

  • You're recommending a home-defense gun for a new, inexperienced shooter desperately wanting to protect her family via her God-given and Second Amendment-protected rights.
  • She has $246 to spend... maximum, that includes the firearm, ammunition, sales tax, transfer fees, shipping, or any possible cost involved.
  • Your recommendation must be a recommendation that is able to be duplicated... no one-off, "found a used, mint Model 10 S&W revolver in great condition for $125" on the internet baloney. If new shooters can't find at least a half-dozen for that price, don't recommend it. 
  • Disregard the recent ammo shortages and current .22LR shortage in your decision (because it's cyclical and has subsided for most calibers except .22LR), but do figure on current ammunition costs to have enough ammunition to try a few shots with the gun and have it loaded for self-defense,,, let's say... fifty rounds.
Can it be done? Have we reached a point where we're just dead-meat because $246 just won't do it... or have we reached a point where if a Hi-Point 9mm and a rock were our only two options... our egos and tacti-cool, ninja crap would choose the rock over the Hi-Point 9mm?

What are your thoughts or recommendations... for... A home-defense gun and ammo for $246 bucks?


  1. I'd have to go the the H&R 20ga route...

    Similar $199 price most places. Ammo inexpensive and available.

    Just as good or better for pests and much more formidable for HD vs a .22.

    More recoil than the .22 admittedly, but my 5'4" GF shoots clays all day and doesn't seem too bothered.

  2. I am way more at the "beginning shooter with no money" end of the spectrum than an expert, and I agree with you 100%. Don't forget the bonus of low recoil with the 10/22, either. After years of scouting, I managed to pick up a used 20 gauge Mossberg for the same price you mentioned, but the recoil is significantly higher. Why not a 12 gauge? Well, nobody told me about "cheek weld" when I fired my first shotgun, and that was that. I imagine most people prefer not to shoot a gun that hurts.

  3. It's a tough spot to be in. $250 doesn't get you much, that's true. The only other firearm I could recommend in good conscience would be a bargain basement Mossberg 500 youth 20ga. In the end though, the 10/22 is a solid rifle and, while I'd feel quite undergunned in a gunfight, I wouldn't feel entirely helpless. .22 is no kind of self defense round but push comes to shove it beats threats to call the police.

  4. You'll get no argument from me. When my mother wanted a home defense gun, I took her to the gun show. We spent hours looking at and handling everything. She came home with a Ruger 10/22 because that was what she was comfortable with even though she was in a position to afford and train with anything else.

  5. As I told my wife when she bought her first handgun, "a .22 is better than a sharp stick." She has since upgraded to a 9mm, and perhaps your friend will do the same in time.

    Well done, sir, well done.

  6. Several options might be on the table for the budget of $240 to $250. For about $140 or so, you can get a Hipoint CF380. I know that Hipoint has gotten a bad rep as a 'junk' gun, but I think that bad rep is more the creation of gun snobs than the actual product being bad. I have a C9 that runs great. None of the complaints I have seen on the internet happen to my Hipoint. It feeds reliably, fires every time, and my girlfriend can use it with no problems at all. Yes, it is ugly and heavy, but it gets the job done. Price would leave almost $100 open for transfer fees, ammo, and a trip to the range.
    The Hipoint C9 by the way, can often be found for $200 or less. That's a great price for a 9mm. All Hipoint arms come with a lifetime warranty, no questions asked. First owner, or fifth, if it breaks, they will fix it, and often send you back a new mag for your trouble.
    For about the same price of $140, maybe even less, the Mossberg 702 Plinkster is a viable alternative to the Ruger 10/22, for less money. It is lighter, and the box magazine might be easier to load. If you live in a state that allows it, 25 round magazines are available.
    I might also included the Phoenix Arms HP22 Rangemaster Deluxe kit. They can be had for about $150. The drawback of the HP22 is that it has an over blown system of safeties, but with kids in the house, that might be a good thing. The Rangemaster kit comes with everything you need except ammo. Packed in a lockable hard case, with 2 barrels, cleaning rod, patches, 2 mags, and cleaner and bore brush. This is also available in .25 caliber, which may be easier to find at this time. It is fairly well reviewed, but I have not used it myself yet.
    The advantage of the pistols is that if you live in a state that allows it, you can always apply for a carry permit, and then your personal defense weapon can go with you.
    All of these options leave room in the budget for a good bit of ammo and a range trip to familiarize yourself with your new firearm.

    1. The Phoenix Arms 22 is the only place I'd disagree with you. Brand new, out of the box, it threw powder, grease and fire directly into my face. I thought "hmm...maybe excess packing grease (cosmoline or something)" so I disassembled it and gave a thorough cleaning. Back to the range annnnd SPLAT! Hot powder and lead in my face. That's at arms length and I'm a big dude. It's just a piss-poor design.
      What I'm getting at, is that if you give this scenario to a new shooter on a budget, they'll likely give up shooting, or get thrmselves killed. There's plenty of good, low cost 22s on the market, and lots of affordable shotguns out there. Phoenix has a cool logo and not much else.

    2. Wow...very interesting. I had not heard of the Phoenix doing this before. I don't have any personal experience with this firearm. I did consider buying one. I made that recommendation based on my research... customer reviews on Buds Guns, YouTube videos, etc. The biggest concern I have seen is the multiple, overlapping safety systems. I am disappointed to hear that, because it is such a neat looking gun, and the kit is such a neat little package.
      I hope you sent it in for repairs, and that Phoenix has fixed it or replaced it. Sounds to me like something is not fitting right in the chamber and or barrel. Just like cars, occasionally, a lemon gets down the assembly line, and sold to the public. That can happen with a Sig, Glock, or other high end pistol.
      I agree that a gun that doesn't function well or is unreliable is far more dangerous to the shooter than the target. Especially a new shooter who is unprepared for mis-feeds, failure to fire and failure to ejects.

    3. I have to go to bat for the phoenix. I own 2, have shot at least 4, and have recommended them to 3 family members who have all had a good experience with theirs. First poster, your experience is relevant but I have to add my positive review. I often get powder blowback whenever is use remington golden bullets. I hate them and avoid them except when that's all I can find. I shot 10 rounds of GBs today in a bolt rifle and one blewback on me just to remind me how bad they are.

      The extra mag and lockable case are nice on the phoenix kit but the extra barrel is not needed as the guns are accurate as is. The extra safeties are super easy to mod if you don't like them.

  7. A .22 self-loading rifle is probably the easiest gun for a complete novice to make rapid multiple hits on target with.

  8. I did with a 10/22 for a few years, and didn't feel under-armed. What I liked about it was that I could leave it accessible (action locked open, chamber empty) within reach of the door even with a 6-year-old in the house, by keeping the magazine on my person.

    Once it was in hand, getting into shooting shape took about one second.

    And no dead kids (or others).

    Imagine that.


  10. You could pick up a beat up 20 gauge single shot at a pawn shot for $75 bucks (I have seen it), Take the rest of the money to a range and buy a few boxes of shells and get some instructions.

    Other than that, I think a 22 LR is a great home defense option. I carry a browning buckmark on me all the time for farm and defense use.

  11. My sister asked me to help a friend of hers buy a self defense weapon. The woman wanted a pistol, so we went shopping.

    The woman put her hands on a Bersa .380. It fit her hands perfectly.

    The final cost for the new pistol was $225 including tax.

    I then took the woman to the range and provided the ammo (both FMJ and JHP).

    The woman shot like an expert after only a few minutes of preliminary marksmanship instruction and a short block on safety.

    She left the range competent and confident in all the fundamentals of safety and marksmanship.

    Women often make better students than impatient males.

  12. Hi Point 40 SW handgun. 150 bucks . Nearly indestructible.

  13. The Stevens 320 Pump Action Shotgun is only $190 on, $10 shipping, roughly $25 FFL and $13-$16 for a box of buckshot. The rest would go to tax, so while it is tight it is doable.

  14. I would, and actually did after 9/11 , go with a hi point 45. Got it for around 125 fees and all and bought a few boxes of ammo to practice with. Since then I've been lucky enough to step up to a few other handguns and rifles, but at that time I did what I had to in order to feel safe. I would NEVER recommend ANY 22lr as a self defense weapon!

  15. P64 in 9x18 makarov. Jg sales has them for 199, for 246 you can get an extra mag and 100 rounds of ammo. The 10/22 is still a good option, most people say 22 lr is a terrible SD round but more people have been stopped by 22 by civilians in an SD situation than any other caliber.

    1. I agree with you about the .22 getting a bad name. I am so tired of some of these guys knocking the .22 for not having enough stopping or knockdown power. I promise you that none of the internet commandos will be willing to stand in front of a .22 and take one to the face, heart, gut, or throat any more than they would a 9mm, or .45 cal.
      It can do the job very effectively, especially when shots are placed well at close range. Even at 1/4 mile distance, .22 rounds can pierce 1/2 inch plywood, which is about the same density as a human skull. (See YouTube video by iraqiveteran888 to see results)

  16. You can get a Rossi 410 snake charmer for $180 ( 410 is not as cheap as 12ga, a shotgun is still a good idea if you only have ONE gun.

  17. There are several 20 gauge and 410 shotguns from H&R and New England Firearms available on Buds Guns/Cheaper than Dirt/Gunbroker etc, for under $200. It is close to $246 total after shipping, transfer fee, and some ammo, but it can be done + or - a few bucks. Now if you are brave enough and have some skills and tools, cut the barrel down to 19 inches (18 is the legal limit...keep the extra inch to ensure it remains legal) The shorter length will make it easier to maneuver in tight areas like hallways, stairways, and around corners. Shorter length also helps keep the barrel out of reach of an intruder that might be willing to try to grab for it.
    For a few dollars more, you can add a clamp-on flashlight mount (about $20 for the mount/$15 for a light) and a cheap shell carrier (about $7 at Walmart) to tote a few extra rounds. Now you have a nice home defense shotgun without the big kick of a 12 guage, and with the two extra add-ons, still well under $300 total.

  18. A single-shot firearm? For a new, and minimally trained, shooter? How well do you think she will do reloading under stress? Think it through, people. With a 10-22 she has 9 additional chances to stop an intruder, plus very little recoil. And people do miss their targets, with shotguns, all the time. They're called "hunters".

    All she really needs at this time are some extra mags. I'll send her one myself, thru the blog, if she wants.

    The 10-22 was the best call for her.

  19. Until .22 ammo becomes available st wally world or the LGS, the idea of a 10-22 it not a great one.

    High-points are great starter guns. The 9s and 380s have zip for recoil.
    The 40s and 45s are a bit big for most female hands.

  20. Not only is a 10/22 a great starter gun , it is my first choice as a survival weapon.
    no other magazine fed rifle gives the utter reliability of the 10/22.
    Great choice sir !

  21. The 10/22 will do if the shooter will do. But I do hope the lady has a source of ammunition, rimfire prices are still very high.

    The single shot 20 gauge is definitely a good choice as well. Very simple to operate and very intimidating to anyone in front of that muzzle - definitely tells the intruder LEAVE ME ALONE! Which is the ultimate goal any way.

    It was a good cooice though. The Youth model in particular for shorter statured adults also has a shorter 16" barrel as well as shorter stock.

  22. I think a 10/22 with something like CCI stingers is a good choice for inside a small house. If you teach her to shoot it decently Stats show a 22L will stop an attack with an average of 2 well placed shots. Less recoil would make better shot placement ect. This is for a small house not Afghanistan. As a vet i would be comfortable with it under those situations.

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  24. 16 inch stainless 10/22 with aimpoint sight and 20/30 round mag will do the deed. Very accurate and easy to shoot. If that is all I had for a HD weapon, I wouldn't be to bad off!! The key is practice and .22 lr practice is easy!!!