Short on cash? You don't have to carry a Hi-Point.
(Not That There's Anything Wrong with That.)
When I mention military surplus, many gun owners either snort in derision or look at me like I’m speaking Swahili. Here’s today’s one-sentence rant: Unless you’re dead set on being a fashion victim, or you must have an ultralight carry gun, there is no reason whatsoever to spend big bucks to get a dependable, accurate, fun handgun.
You who are unafraid to break from the Glock herd, read on. If you don't see these guns locally, you can find them online at places like Classic Firearms, J&G Sales, AIM Surplus, Samco Global, and Southern Ohio Gun. Some of these will ship right to your door if you have a FFL 03 -- a Curios and Relics Federal Firearm License. This is a great thing to have which I will talk about in an upcoming post.
Here are a few surplus standouts that are definitely worth your consideration.
CZ-82 and CZ-83: Take a Czech
If you’re thinking of buying a 9mm or .380 pistol, these Czech-made lovelies should both be on your list. Former sidearms of the Czech military, they use the same polygonal rifling design as Glock pistols, and share the Glock’s reputation for accuracy. I have two CZ-82’s, and they are both capable of blowing out the bullseye with near-boring regularity. The native grips are not things of beauty, but they have a nice shape that my hand naturally falls into.
The CZ-82 is chambered in 9mm Makarov, which falls between .380 and 9mm Luger in size and power. While your local gun store might not have it all the time, 9mm Makarov is growing in popularity – it’s quite plentiful online and steel case is about the same price as brass 9mm Luger. The CZ-83, also 12+1, shoots .380, which is everywhere. Neither model is plas -- whoops, polymer, so they weigh a little more. But they’re accurate, durable and light on the wallet. How light? You can get either one for less than $300.
P-64: Poor, er, Thrifty Man's PPK
Think of the P-64 as the CZ-82’s shrimpy cousin from Poland. It’s chambered in 9mm Makarov as well, but it’s 6+1 and sized like a Walther PPK. With high build quality, a chrome-lined bore, nice ergos and a decocking safety, what’s not to like? People who carry one of these seldom want to carry anything else. The double-action pull requires considerable effort, but Wolff has a spring you can swap in for something like five bucks. Classic Arms has these with two magazines for $239.
TTC Tokarev: Semiautomatic for the People
I wouldn’t carry this with one in the pipe, but it's thin, inexpensive, accurate, it's loud and it shoots fireballs. All good. It looks a bit like a 1911, and for good reason, as it borrows from JB's design. The ones currently available are mostly from Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia. The first two are your best bet because the Yugoslavians just had to go with their own design, thereby limiting the interchangeability of parts. The TTC’s magazine holds seven of the formidable 7.62 x 25 round, which can waltz through I, II and IIa ballistic vests at 1450 fps or more. Check out the article in the always-excellent Tactical Gun Review for detailed numbers and comparisons. FMJ Ammo is around 40 cents a round, JHP is out there too. Price: Are you ready? Right around 200 bucks.
Walther P-1: High Quality, Low Marks (Get it? Like Deutsche Marks? Never Mind.)
You want to go old school 9mm? Really old school 9mm? Sorry, you can’t unless you want to spend a bunch of money, and today we’re talking value. That’s where the Walther P-1 comes in. It’s a Cold War, alloy-framed version of the iconic P-38 semi-Krautomatic, which is familiar to anyone who’s seen a war movie set in Europe, circa 1943. By all accounts, it’s accurate, but you have to know what you're doing. It’s full-size, so not the best for small-handed folk. It's a Walther, so the quality's there. If you wander through discussion forums you can find people saying they've heard about the alloy frames cracking, but finding one that's actually cracked is another story. I put it last on the list for a reason, but for fun at the range and for a classic look that few could tell from a P-38, it’s hard to beat. These are around for less than 350 bucks.
The 12+1 CZ-82's Glock-like polygonal rifling gives it excellent accuracy. It shoots a 9mm round. Oh, and it's less than $300.
The Polish P-64 is solid, dependable and eminently concealable. Its PPK-ish size means it fits nicely in the hand no matter your size.
If you like a huge muzzle flash and serious firepower with surprisingly mild recoil, the TTC Tokarev is the pistol for you. Thin and handy, it can be yours for around $200.
Look! A P-38 for 350 bucks! Not really. But for that price you can get the P-1, the Cold War alloy-frame version of the WWII icon. And from 10 feet away, no one will know the difference. Well, almost no one.