Some years ago, there was a murder case in Miami that Janet

Reno, then the State's Attorney for the county in question, had

ordered prosecuted (this was before Florida’s Castle Doctrine

Law). A woman named Mary Hopkin had killed her common

law husband, a man named James Yarolem. James was in his

forties. Mary was 63. Her life had been hard, and when she

found a younger man who convinced her he loved her, she

took him into her home. This did not turn out to be a wise

decision for Mary.

Mary worked. Jim didn't. He drank and smoked up all the

money she brought in. He abused her, with the classic

escalation. First, verbal derisiveness. Then the shove with the

palm. Then the slap of the open hand. Then the blow of the

closed fist. The time came when she confronted him and said, "Jim, you drink all my beer, and you smoke all my cigarettes, and you won't get a job, and ... I think it's time you left." Even then, being in the classic denial pattern of a battered significant other, she couldn't bring herself to say, "Oh, and by the way, you beat the crap out of me whenever you feel like it."

She didn't need to say it. Jim didn't handle her declaration well. He began to beat her with more vigor than he ever had before. She went to call the police, and Jim ripped the telephone out of the wall, wrapped the phone cord around her neck, and strangled her to unconsciousness. He left her for dead and went off to the nearest bar. When Mary awoke, she crawled — she couldn't walk on her arthritic and aging legs, she crawled to the nearest trailer to hers and when she got there blurted out, "Call the police."

He didn't listen. He smashed the door off its hinges and came at her, and she fired three shots. All three .22 bullets hit him. He turned and ran, got about 20 feet, and collapsed and died. To make a long story short, she was charged with murder.

She had no money. Mark Seiden, her attorney, took her case anyway. Mark was a former homicide cop for Metro-Dade before he became a lawyer. It was a short trial. The jury was quick, too: they took about two hours to acquit her of all charges.

What’s the point of this story?  Just this — Mary defended her life successfully and well, with an inexpensive pot metal revolver that most people wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole, and a .22 at that.

Am I then telling you by way of this tale to purchase the least expensive handgun you can find? Most certainly not, but I will tell you that there are a lot of good inexpensive guns in the marketplace, both new and used. What I want you to understand is this, spending a mortgage payment on a gun isn’t necessary to protect yourself.  In the $150.00 to $200.00 range there are tons of great older H&R revolvers chambered in .22, .32, and .38 out there at gun shops, gun shows, and pawn shops. For about the same price you can buy a new Hi-Point semiautomatic in .380ACP, 9MM, .40 S&W, or .45ACP. Now, if you decide the Hi-Point will do, understand that the gun weighs a ton. It looks and feels like a boat anchor, and has an unusual, but very manageable recoil impulse due to it’s weight and blow-back action design. That having been said, the beast, at least the example in my possession (the C9 - 9MM Compact), works every time you press the bang switch, and it’s extremely accurate to boot. You really can’t ask for more from a gun, unless looks, branding, and something that doesn’t feel like a bag of potatoes in a holster is on your short list. For about $250.00 or so, you can pick up a new SCCY CPX-1, or CPX-2 Gen 2, or a new Keltec PF-9, P-11, P3AT, or P32.

In the $300.00 to $400.00 range you’ve opened up a wide variety of guns that will serve you well and accomplish everything you need and want in a pocket, carry, or home defense handgun (or long gun, for that matter). There are any number of fine handguns from Ruger, Taurus, Keltec, Bersa, Kahr, Charter Arms, S&W, Rossi and several other firms, new and used, that can, and will, provide a dependable and useful home defense, or carry gun. Keep an eye out for Police trades as well. Used Glocks can be had in this catagory. Most of these guns only show some holster wear, but have been fired very little. Imported surplus guns from Europe and the Bloc Countries, such as the Makarov, Tokarev, or CZ come and go. For the most part they are not very pretty, but are sturdy, well made, and functional. The ammunition for these guns may not be what you’re used to hearing about (9x18, or 7.62x25), but it’s widely available and in current production. It’s important to mention here that you should purchase a handgun in a caliber you can afford to practice with. Once you cross the $500.00 threshold, you’re probably buying something you want, not something you need.

As always, any gun you buy, new or used, should be checked out with at least 200 rounds to ensure its reliability and function, regardless of its age, maker’s mark, or price. Some guns like, or dislike various brands of ammunition. You must know which bullet weight, shape, style, brand runs reliably in the gun you choose.

I have been buying, and collecting firearms for more than a half century, and have my share of beautiful and very expensive guns. I suppose the question should be, will a $1,500.00 Kimber, Colt, or Sig stop an attacker faster or better than a Hi-Point C9, or any of the other guns I’ve mentioned here? I think not... Stopped is stopped... Shot is shot... Dead is dead. Does buying a more expensive car make you a better driver? Of course not, so what makes you think buying a more expensive gun will make you a better shooter? If you can afford it, by all means go for it, but again, want and need are two completely different things. These expensive guns are beautiful, but you’re going to hate what they look like after a year of so of being banged around in daily carry. They will probably shoot a group one third the size of the less expensive guns discussed here at 25 yards, but if you’re engaging a bad guy at that distance, group size is going to be the least of your problems. Oh, and if you should ever have to use that beautiful gun in self defense, it will most probably be confiscated by the police as evidence, and you only have a 50/50 chance it will still be in the evidence locker when you try to retrieve it a year or so later (a lot of things, especially pretty, expensive things, seem to be misplaced on a regular basis when taken into evidence). The point is simple... You will probably be better served by two (preferably matching) $400 guns, than one $800 gun (same caliber, same magazines, same manual of arms).

I have been over this countless times in articles I’ve written over the years, and I’ll say it again. It will NEVER be the gun... It will AWAYS be the gunner. Shot placement and training is what stops attacks, not running your credit card over its limit buying the coolest, prettiest, sexiest gun you can find. Buy the best gun you can afford, but leave sufficient funds in the budget for training and lots of practice. Over the years, you’ll spend ten times the price of the gun on practice ammunition. Impress your friends with your skill and knowledge, not your shiny toys.

For what it’s worth, the only person you really have to impress is the bad guy you’re pointing your gun at, and I can promise you, he will not be the least bit interested in who made it, what caliber it is, or how much you paid for it.

One more time... Your money will always be better spent on training and practice, than on a gun to impress your friends.

SCCY - CPX1 or CPX2 - 9mm

Ruger GP100 -

.357 Mag./.38 Special

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Affordable Guns Are OK...

Ruger P95 - 9MM

Taurus 738 - .380ACP

Ruger SR22 - .22LR

Hi-Point C9 - 9MM

Bersa Thunder - .380ACP

and .22LR

Makarov - 9x18

H&R Revolver - .32 Long and .22LR

The cops arrived. When Jim came back Metro-Dade officers were there. They arrested him. When they dragged him away, the cops testified later, he was screaming "Mary, you f---in' bitch, I'll kill you for this!"

Very soon thereafter, he was out on bail and he came back to make good on his threat. By now, Mary was in terror of him, and had borrowed from her son, the cheapest revolver available, an RG-14 .22. The RG is the gun that Handgun Control Inc. was talking about when they railed on about "Saturday Night Specials." If you left it on a hot stove it might melt.

Jim pounded on the door like the big bad wolf. "Mary, let me in!" "Jim," she answered, "I know what you're going to do! I have a gun! I won't let you kill me! Go away! Don't make me shoot you!"

R.F. DeMott, CFI

If your self defense/carry gun is chambered in .22LR, I would urge you to load it only with 40 grain CCI Velocitors, or Aguila Interceptors for self defense.