Get more bang for your buck by shopping smart

Smarter Gun Shopping

When you're looking for a new shooting iron, choosing which gun to buy can be a doozy. First, there are the conventional choices that nearly everyone makes, but then there are the smarter choices.

Then there are guns people buy because of collector interest, like curio and relic guns. There are even smart alternatives to be made there as well.

Just like with anything else, there are sound choices and then there are shrewd choices. With a bit of knowledge, you can find out how to get more of what you want or get something better.

First Step In Smarter Gun Shopping Is Knowing What You Want

know what you want from your carry weapon

The first thing you need to figure out is what you want in a gun, as that's the key to smart gun shopping and indeed for nearly any good of any kind. What you can then figure out is how to get what you want for less.

By way of a metaphor, let's say you wanted a Shelby car of some sort, but wanted a sports car instead of a Shelby Mustang. Let's say you had an eye on a 289 Shelby Cobra, the iconic roadster. They're iconic but wickedly expensive (house money) as a result. However, if you wanted to get into a Shelby for less, you could buy a Sunbeam Tiger instead. The Tiger is a Sunbeam Alpine - a British sports car from the 60s - that Shelby likewise stuffed a Ford 289 into and tuned up. A good example will go for drastically less (BMW 5-series money instead of BMW M5 money) arguably looks better (the Sunbeam Alpine is a more understated than the Cobra but very classy) and will be far more comfortable.

If someone wanted a vintage Caroll Shelby car, the Cobra is a classic - THE classic, in fact - but a Sunbeam Tiger is a smarter buy. It's cheaper to buy, holds value well and is actually more practical; they even come with a soft-top you can put up if it rains. You'll spend less and will probably enjoy it more in the end.

You can do the same thing with guns, whether it's your first gun or your tenth. In fact, you can do that with both vintage and modern firearms for any purpose that you can imagine. Want a concealed carry gun? There are smarter buys out there. A nightstand pistol? Likewise. A vintage rifle? Oh boy, are there some killer deals out there if you know what to look for.

Balance Features With Track Record And Price

Balance features with price

Once you've determined the type of gun you're interested in, then you narrow your search down to the applicable models. At that point, compare pricing but also look for track records and reviews. While a review won't tell you exactly how you're going to react or how the gun will feel to you, you will get a general idea of what it's going to be like to live with.

For instance, waterfowlers love the Benelli Super Black Eagle, the inertia-driven semi-auto shotgun. The SBE (currently in its third generation) is arguably the finest shotgun of its kind, but has a price tag to match, commanding about $1500 in stores, plus or minus a bit. However, Stoeger - a Turkish gun company under the Benelli/Beretta corporate umbrella - makes inertia-driven semi-autos with similar specs to the SBE (specifically the M3020, M3000 and M3500) with half the price tag and also takes the same chokes!

You get a gun with similar features for half the cash. Granted, the Stoegers are a touch less refined, but owners and reviewers have found Stoegers to be one heck of a working shotgun for a comparative bargain.

Another good tip is to watch online retailers. You have to be careful, as shipping plus the transfer fee can easily wipe out any perceived savings, but you can save a good amount of money that way.

Let's dive in with some other good examples of some smart shopping for guns.

The M&P Shield Is Great...But You May Be Able To Do Better

The M&P shield is a good CCW, but can you do better?

One of the most popular CCW pistols in living memory is the Smith and Wesson M&P Shield. They're easy to conceal and carry, shoot better than the small size would suggest and are in darn near every gun store. Great buy, right?

Sure it is! However, the Shield has a few imperfections. The trigger isn't bad, but it has a little grit and creep, and - typical to most striker guns - feels a bit numb. The ergonomics are good, certainly better than Glocks (for many people) but, like anything else, could be a bit better.

A person could consider the Walther PPS M2. The specs are broadly the same as the Shield, but you get Walther's striker trigger (widely considered the best of all striker guns) and ergonomics (ditto) and they can be found for less than the Shield in a good number of gun stores.

Get Two Sig SP2022s For The Price Of One Sig P229

You can get two SP2022's for the price of one P229

Want a big Sig that you could conceal and carry? Typically that means a P229. However, you might want to consider the SP2022 instead.

The P229 is rather popular as a concealed carry gun, even if it is a bit big (it's a brick) for that task. After all, it has a track record as a service pistol with police and military units. It's smaller than the P226 (marginally) and it has Sig's DA/SA controls, widely considered the best for a double action pistol. However, the Sig premium applies as MSRP is about $1,000.

The Sig Sauer SP2022 has the same dimensions, firing system and capacity. The frame is polymer rather than steel, which actually makes it a little lighter. It also has a great track record as a service gun, and can be found in many stores for less than $500.

In other words, you get broadly the same gun for half the money.

Bargains Are Great When Gun Shopping...But Get What You Like

Bargains are great, but get what you like

These are just a few examples of bargains that can be if gun shopping, among many hundreds and thousands of examples. Plenty are out there, easily discovered if you do a little bit of research. Reading blogs on gunbelt websites are pretty good places to start; we hear those guys are pretty good.

Other good ways to save on buying a gun is to buy a used gun, either from a private sale, gun shop that sells them, police trade-in or perhaps a pawnshop. Some gun makers even have a certified pre-owned program.

But with that said, there's more to buying a gun than just the amount of money you spend. Some people absolutely adore pistols that they spent $300 on, and hate guns they blew more than $1000 on. (Go to a used gun shop, and you'll see scads of barely-used magnum revolvers.) Some people hate their cheap .380 mouse gun but dote on their semi-custom hunting rifle. Ultimately, you should get what you like.

The gun that feels best to you and shoots best for you is the one you'll want to carry and use, and that's the one you should get, whatever it is. However, getting a great gun for you at a bargain is even better.

Sam Hoober 

About The Author


Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.

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