The Keefe Report: More Affordable Guns

posted on December 14, 2018

Judging from the research I have been doing for the February American Rifleman cover story, new, serviceable guns are more affordable than, perhaps, ever. Not to be a spoiler for the February issue, but I was intrigued by the concept of the Taurus Spectrum. While the use of multi-colored panels is the reason most paid attention to the little .380 ACP when introduced, its beauty is more than skin-deep—and all the colors are finally available. As of this writing, the basic black gun was $269.99 at Cabela’s. And it is not alone in that price range.

Some of the best advice I received years ago was to buy what you like and buy the best gun you can afford. That was when I started collecting Lee-Enfield rifles, pertaining to rarity and condition as opposed to functionality, but I think that concept applies to handguns, bolt-action rifles and semi-automatic rifles used for personal protection, recreational shooting or hunting, as well. 

It turns out that if you are looking for a carry gun to protect your life or that of your loved ones, there are quite a few options under $300. This has become a very competitive space, one based on high production volume and guns engineered from the start for affordable manufacture. Is this a sign of the end times? No, absolutely not. It is simply evidence of vibrant competition in a bustling market. If you shop right, for less than $300 you can find carry guns in .380 ACP or 9 mm Luger from Beretta, Bersa, Diamondback Firearms, Kahr, Kel-Tec, Remington, Ruger, S&W, SCCY and Taurus. There are also Charter Arms and EAA Windicator revolvers under $300. Of course, there are quite a few Hi-Points well below that price. Say what you will about the lines or unconventional construction of the Hi-Points, but every one I have tested seemed to work just fine.

I might point out that the basis of January's American Rifleman cover story, “More Horses Under The Hood: Ruger’s Magnum  Precision” by Managing Editor Kelly Young, started with Ruger’s attempts to make a more affordable rifle than the Model 77. In case you missed it, Editorial Director John Zent’s story on the evolution of the Model 77 was simply an outstanding treatment of a half-century of one of my favorite rifles. The result of the search for a new design based on speedy and economical manufacture has resulted in an accurate rifle at an accessible price. That same action is employed in the Ruger Precision Rifle.

Ruger Precision Rifle Magnum

Ruger has successfully focused on making the guns that people are most interested in buying. It broke my heart to walk through the Newport, N.H., factory and see the cell that builds the Ruger No. 1 single-shot in hibernation. Some parts were there, some tools were there, but there were no workers on that day. No, they were building Ruger American Rifles. Odds are the same folks are putting together Ruger Precision Rifles in magnum calibers. While the suggested retail price for the .338 Lapua Mag. is $2,099, the new gun comes in well below comparable chassis-style rifles from other makers. 

Another far more “affordable” gun in this issue compared to its predecessor is the made-in-America SIG Sauer P210 Target evaluated by Field Editor Wiley Clapp. Re-designing the locking system, using CNC machines, changing the finish and a few other differences—including American rather than German labor—has resulted in a pricey classic being, well, less pricey. In 1986, a P210-1 cost $1,917 from SIGARMs. Today, that would be the equivalent of $4,415.38. The new gun has a sticker price of $1,699.

Maybe this affordability thing applies beyond polymer pistols and bargain bolt-actions.

Additional Reading:
The Keefe Report: The Incredible, Flexible, Affordable AR  
The Keefe Report: Affordable Bolt-Action Rifles


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