Every year, SHOT Show sees a lot of drool-worthy releases in the form of firearms that cost more than my first car. These aspirational arms are great, and I hope to get my hands on as many of them as possible eventually. But the truth is that my budget runs more domestic beer than imported champagne, so I always look for guns that aren’t going to break the bank but will work every time I need them to. This year brought a bumper crop of affordable rifles, shotguns, and handguns. Here are some of 2020’s best inexpensive firearms for the field or the range.
1. CVA Scout .410 Compact Shotgun
With the use of TSS shot becoming more commonplace, the scattergun market is seeing more turkey offerings in the sub-gauges. New from CVA is the Scout compact shotgun in .410. It wears a camo finish to help hide it from wary toms and has a choke specifically engineered to take advantage of TSS shot. The break-action is fitted with a rail that works with both Picatinny and Weaver-style bases so you can use your favorite optic, and an ambidextrous cocking spur means that it won’t get in the way. Because the shotgun is built on the same chassis as the Scout centerfire rifles, the excellent trigger has made its way over. The stock gives you about an inch of adjustment, so you can fit it to shooters of smaller stature as well as full-size hunters. CVA’s Crush Zone recoil pad easily eats up what little kick comes from the .410, making this a great choice for junior or recoil-adverse turkey hunters. $398; cva.com
2. Stoeger STR-9 Optics Ready
Last year Stoeger unveiled their first pistol—the duty-sized STR-9. The budget striker-fired 9mm quickly gained fans thanks to its no-nonsense, reliable design, and enhanced ergonomics. The new optics-ready version has a machined area atop the rear of the slide to accept any of four included mounting plates—allowing shooters to easily affix an optic of their choice. Three different backstrap options are included for a custom fit (a feature usually reserved for pistols costing twice as much), and the fore and aft slide serrations already make chambering a round while a red dot is mounted on the gun a breeze. An integrated rail, internal safety, reversible magazine release, and three-dot sight system add to the appeal for those who carry daily. Stoeger also recognized the wave of magazine size restrictions sweeping the country, and the STR-9 can now be purchased with lower-capacity, 10-round magazines. $399; stoeger.com
3. Cimarron Bad Boy 10mm Revolver
The Internet has unanimously declared that 10mm is the best millimeter. Such fame has driven the price of the round, and the guns chambered for it, skyward. However, there are still bargains to be found, and some are pretty innovative. Cimarron, known for their high-quality reproductions of Old West arms, has given the Single Action Army a new twist by chambering it in 10mm. The round has just enough of a lip to work in the gun’s six-shot cylinder without the need for moon clips or the like, so it can load through a standard SAA swing-out loading gate. The Bad Boy also has one major difference from the traditional pre-war Single Action Army silhouette: the ability to mount a Picatinny rail. Adding an optic atop the eight-inch barrel and loading up with hard cast bullets turns this wheel gun into a deer or hog hunter’s dream. $726, but expect street prices to be lower; cimarron-firearms.com
4. Taurus Defender 856
Taurus upgrades its budget revolver line with a 3-inch barrel for 2020. The existing pistols in the 856 line had 2-inch barrels, and shot like it. Taurus claims the bigger sight radius afforded by the longer barrel tightens groups considerably. The six-shot revolvers are chambered for .38 Special, and are rated for +P rounds. Despite the increased accuracy, don’t expect a precision trigger. One squeeze revealed the mushy feel that has become synonymous with Taurus. Several grip, sight, and finish options are available, including Hogue rubber grips, Cerakote treatments, and HIVIZ night sights. MSRP starts at $430; taurususa.com
5. Mossberg MC2c
At last year’s SHOT Show, Mossberg rolled out its first handgun in 100 years: the subcompact MC1sc. The budget handgun sold like gangbusters, so Mossberg decided to give shooters a larger version in 2020. The MC2c gains a longer barrel and larger grip over its predecessor, with increased magazine capacity too. Despite the larger frame, the MC2c conceals well enough to be a viable candidate for everyday carry. The new pistol also retains the easy takedown of the MC1sc, allowing users to field strip it without tools—or needing to pull the trigger. The trigger pull is excellent for a pistol in this price range, with the flat-faced trigger offering admirable take-up and reset. The MC2c ships with both a flush-fitting 13-round mag and an extended 15 rounder, which offers more grip surface. $490; mossberg.com.
6. Stevens 555 Trap
You probably don’t think budget when you think of dedicated trap guns, but the Stevens 555 Trap manages to fall into both categories. This single-barrel trap specialist is built on the same lightweight aluminum receiver as the double guns in the Stevens line so you can bust clays all day without getting fatigued. Because it is designed for shooting clays rather than hunting, the 555 Trap features a manual tang safety and an extractor in lieu of hull-tossing ejectors. Like sporting guns costing much more, the Turkish-walnut stock has an adjustable comb that allows for a precision fit. Though the checkering is machine cut, it affords plenty of purchase, and the chrome-lined barrel is fitted with a raised, ventilated rib with a bead. Compact and full-size models are available in both 12- and 20-gauge built on gauge-specific receivers. Three chokes are included with purchase. $689; savagearms.com.
7. Altor Pistol
This single-shot offering from Altor is a bit of a head scratcher, but it definitely fits within the budget parameters of this list. This striker-fired single shot bears more than a passing resemblance to the Deer gun distributed to our allies by the CIA during the Vietnam War, but it has a different firing mechanism. I’m hard-pressed to find any meaningful self-defense use for the Altor, but it could prove useful in a survival situation. The price is low enough that you can stash a couple in a bush plane or go-bag just in case the need arises, and the inner workings are simple enough that they can be completely rebuilt with a Leatherman if necessary. The little single-shot could also be useful on a trap line, or as part of a traveling veterinarian’s kit. Two calibers are currently available: .380 ACP and 9mm Luger. $119 in .380, $129 in 9mm; altorcorp.com
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8. ATI MILSPORT AR .450 Bushmaster
Straight wall cartridges have been rapidly gaining favor with hunters. In many states, these rounds are allowing hunters to use centerfire rifles in areas that traditionally required shotgun slugs during deer season. Modern sporting rifles are also gaining momentum in the hunting community, so it makes sense that we are starting to see a marriage of the two. Big-bore AR-style rifles typically carry large price tags, but the ATI MILSPORT AR in .450 Bushmaster isn’t one of them. This thumper of a round, based on a cut-down .284 Winchester case, is ideal for deer and hogs at moderate ranges, with the big pill providing lots of stopping power. The gas system soaks up some felt recoil, but you won’t mistake it for a 5.56. A full-length Picatinny rail gives you plenty of options to mount optics, and a Keymod free-floating handguard lets you attach lights if chasing bacon after dark is your thing. $699; americantactical.us
9. Bond Arms Grizzly
If you’re looking for a tackle box gun, look no further than the Bond Arms Grizzly. Texas-based Bond Arms has been making double-barreled derringers with as much pizzazz as function in a variety of calibers since 1995. To keep costs down on the Roughneck series, Bond omitted the lengthy polishing process they usually use in favor of a bead-blasted finish. They took this approach with the new Grizzly, a stainless derringer with the same rebounding hammer, retracting firing pins, and cross-bolt safety found on all Bond firearms. To take the look up a notch, they also added rosewood grips with an engraved bear motif and included an embossed leather sheath that works well in a pocket or on a belt. Chambered in .45 LC/.410, the Grizzly is an excellent choice as a last line of defense in snake country. $377; bondarms.com
10. Palmetto State Armory PS9 Dagger
Palmetto State Armory (PSA) is known for their low-priced AR and AK parts, but they hope to make inroads into the polymer pistol market with their new 9mm Glock clone, the PS9 Dagger. PSA definitely wasn’t looking to reinvent the wheel with this one. They stayed so close to Gaston’s winning formula that many factory Glock Gen 3 parts can interchange with the Dagger, including the trigger group and magazine. They did make some improvements; notably, they opted for metal sights instead of the plastic ones on the original, the stippling on the grip provides more purchase, and the PS9 has striations on the front of the slide. An undercut trigger guard also gives your hands more real estate, and allows for a higher grip. The price is very friendly, with base models starting at only $300, and adding a slide cut for an optic, a threaded barrel, and suppressor-height sights only bumps the price up $50. $299; palmettostatearmory.com
11. Savage Mark II Minimalist
This year Savage reimagined their Mark II bolt-action by placing it in a minimalist stock created by Boyd’s. By removing unnecessary chunks of the laminate, they’ve gotten the weight down to about 5½ pounds—light enough to trudge through the squirrel woods all day. The Mark II still has the AccuTrigger we’ve all come to love, which is user-adjustable to break between 2½ and 6 pounds with no creep. The button-rifled sporter-contour barrel is also threaded, should you decide to use a suppressor or muzzle device. For convenience, it feeds from a 10-round detachable magazine, which makes loading and unloading a breeze. The action and barrel are coated in a matte black finish, and two stock colors are available: brown and green. Weaver-style bases make the addition of any optic easy. $539, savagearms.com
12. Charles Daly 601 Shotgun
Despite their low price, Charles Daly shotguns are loved by those who use them. For 2020, Charles Daly released a new line of gas-operated semi-autos in 12 and 20 gauge. Straddling the line between low price and quality finish is the 601, a 12-gauge that’s well suited to the field but would also fit in with fancier guns at the club. The aluminum receiver sports a classic humpback look, and keeps weight down while digesting both 2¾- and 3-inch shells. The wood is better than expected at this price, and it features a pleasing machine-cut textured grip and forend that look and feel good. The muzzle is threaded in the Beretta/Benelli Mobil Choke pattern so there are plenty of aftermarket options, and the gun ships with improved cylinder, modified, and full choke tubes. $339, charlesdaly.com.
13. Marlin Model 60 150th Anniversary Edition
Marlin turned 150 this year, and to celebrate they are releasing commemorative editions of some of their favorite firearms. The one I’m most excited about is the Model 60, one of history’s best-selling .22 semi-autos with over 10 million purchased during a 60-year run. The Anniversary Edition retains all of the features of the original like the 14-shot tubular magazine and bolt hold-open on the last shot. The gun also gains a special serial number, a black walnut stock, and a medallion in the butt to signify the birthday while adding a touch of class. Another great thing about shooting a Model 60 is that many magazine-capacity laws specifically bypass tube magazines so you can load up and plink to your heart’s content. It’s not the cheapest rimfire on the market, but it’s a chance to own a piece of history at an affordable price. $399; marlinfirearms.com
14. Stoeger P3000 Freedom Series Supreme
If you need a home-defense gun that isn’t going to break the bank, take a good look at the Stoeger P3000 Freedom Series Supreme. This pump-action 12-gauge features a folding stock that makes covert storage and navigating the tight confines of a residential hallway easy, while offering support when needed. The six-position buttstock has an adjustable cheek rest for a custom fit, and the gun can pull double-duty on turkeys (check magazine capacity laws for hunting in your area). The extended magazine tube holds up to seven rounds, for a total capacity of eight. Ghost-ring sights allow for rapid target acquisition and make hitting with buckshot or slugs easier at even longer ranges. $469; stoegerindustries.com
15. CZ Bobwhite G2 All Terrain
CZ is likely to upset many traditionalists by finishing a double-trigger side-by-side in an olive drab ceramic coating, but they did it anyway. Built for life in the marsh or hunting the uplands in any weather, CZ’s new All Terrain shotguns have a protective Cerakote finish over any exposed metal—even the screw heads. But perhaps the most innovative feature is the patent-pending magnetic chamber. A pair of small but powerful magnets set in the extractor claws hold on to the steel head that’s hidden behind the brass on almost every shotgun shell, no matter what position the gun is in. This means you don’t need to point your barrels downward to reload, or worry about shells dropping from the chamber to the ground. The Bobwhite G2 is fitted with an English-style straight grip and 28-inch barrels. Twelve- and 20-gauge guns are built on gauge-specific frames. MSRP $828; cz-usa.com