buying a ccw pistol

Surplus Handguns Can Yield A Great Gun For Less Money...Mostly

If there is a reliable way to get a great gun for not much money, surplus handguns are certainly a good way to do it...for the most part. Plenty of surplus guns are definitely reliable enough to be used as an everyday carry pistol. Many are also widely available enough for holsters to be made for them, so finding a holster and gun belt to carry one with is easily done.

Surplus Pistols From Various Militaries

military concealed carry pistols

One of the most popular varieties of surplus pistols are military handguns. Most common are the former Soviet Union. Unfortunately, the United States doesn't generally sell surplus guns to civilians, save those sold through the Civilian Marksmanship Program. However, the CMP basically only sells guns from World War II, so those looking for a cheap AR can forget it.

However, overlooking foreign origins can yield serious bargains.

The way the gun market worked behind the Iron Curtain is the Russians came out with a design and a cartridge, and Soviet satellite states would produce pistols chambering the round.

One common example is the Makarov pistol and 9mm Makarov (9x18mm) round. The Soviets derived it from (read: ripped off, but made some improvements to) the Walther PPK, so operation, maintenance and disassembly will be familiar to anyone familiar with the latter. Satellite state designs include the Polish PW-64, the Hungarian FEG PA-63 and the Czech CZ-82.

Another example is the TT-30 pistol and the 7.62mm pistol round. Other guns in this chambering are rare - one example is the CZ-52 - but the gun is still in production, as the Serbian arms maker Zastava makes TT-30 clones and derivatives. That said, the Tokarev round is a scorcher, with near .357 Magnum velocity in some loads.

There are others, but these are some of the most widely available. You may find the odd Walther P38 or even Luger, but expect to pay much more for those.

Many of the Cold War sidearms that were carried by the other side can be had for fairly little, though it depends on which model one looks at and its condition. Just like other collectables, certain things impact value. Makarov pistols made in Russia will fetch higher prices than Bulgarian Makarovs, which are more common. CZ-82 pistols can be hard to find, though the civilian variant - the CZ-83 chambered in .380 - was in production until the early 2000s and is much more common.

The Polish PW-64 and Hungarian FEG PA-63 are very common and usually go for very little indeed; prices of $200 or less are not uncommon in the least.

Keep An Eye Out For Police Surplus

police pistols for concealed carry

Every now and again, police departments have to get rid of stuff and that leads to police surplus. Unlike military surplus guns from the USSR, many of which are new, police surplus guns are used - though the degree of use varies from pistol to pistol.

Just like buying a police surplus car, you could get the performance bargain of the century or a total beater that needs more in parts than you paid for the thing in the first place.

What will determine which you end up getting if you purchase a surplus police pistol? Luck of the draw.

That said, when police departments pick a pistol to issue to officers, they usually choose a make and model with a long service life. Just like when replacing a squad car, the gun will likely be replaced before its service life is up as a matter of course.

However, don't expect anything too exotic. Police service guns will often be the usual suspects - common makes include Glock, S&W M&P, maybe a Beretta here and there. These guns are designed to last a lifetime or longer for the normal user, a used police gun should have more than enough life left in it for the typical owner.

Many gun stores and websites have stores of police trade-ins for very reasonable prices. Again, don't expect anything fancy, but if you're looking for a service-type pistol for a very reasonable price and don't mind buying used, you're not likely to find a better way of getting one.

What Can Go Wrong With Surplus Handguns

buying surplus handguns

Surplus handguns are a good way to get a gun you can shoot and carry for cheap that isn't a Hi-Point. Granted, there's nothing wrong with Hi-Point pistols...but some people just say no. Sort of like how some people say no to an inadequate gun belt.

However, there are a few things a person should take into consideration.

First, some surplus guns - especially those of Eastern European origin and of older designs - have a mechanical safety added to them for legal import and sale in the United States. Many older TT-30 pistols, for instance, had this modification. Modern TT-30 pistols, however, are manufactured with the safety catch.

Also, some of the Makarov family of pistols feature a decocking safety (much like Beretta pistols) wherein engaging the safety also decocks the pistol. Some older models lack a firing pin block or have a somewhat malfunctioning decocking mechanism; engaging it can discharge a chambered round. Thus, if you buy a pistol with this feature - such as a Makarov, PW-64 or PA-63 - have the pistol inspected by a gunsmith. It isn't a very common defect...but it has been known to happen. Many also lack a drop safety, so handle carefully.

As for used police pistols, there may be sufficient wear for replacement parts to be warranted. However, since used police pistols are (usually) very common models, replacement parts are cheap. A bit of smithing may also be involved, but it should be very inexpensive.

In either case, if you want a pistol for carry, plinking or home defense, surplus guns are a good way to get it done on the cheap.

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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