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Best Affordable Full-Sized Pistols for Under $400

There are new guns entering the market all of the time, some good…some not so good.  And what if you’re not Mr. Moneybags?

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You don’t need McDuck’s gold to get a good pistol!

The question is how do you make your decision?  Unfortunately, newbies have to survive contact with gun snobs who will tell you what their favorite sidearm is, whether you ask or not, and then tell you that if you don’t have what they have you are probably going to get killed when the zombies come.  

If you are new to guns, you’ll want to review our Beginner’s Guide to Guns and brush up on the Four Rules of Gun Safety

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A major consideration is cost; it can even become the most powerful influence on the type of gun you will purchase.  In choosing a handgun there are several criteria that I believe are the most important.

  • Reliability- If you are considering your handgun for a nightstand gun anything less than 100% is unacceptable.
  • Accuracy- A self-defense pistol should be able to keep bullets in the 9 zone of a B 27 target.
  • Ergonomics- You won’t shoot a gun well if it doesn’t fit your hand.
  • Accessories – Aftermarket support is crucial for a good self-defense pistol.
  • Value- This can be the most important factor on the type of pistol you choose or even if you purchase a pistol at all.

Okay – now that we’ve established what I believe is the most important factors, I will present to you what I believe are some of the finest and most economical firearms on the market.

They are all full sized pistols and have barrels of at least 4 inches or more.  They have polymer frames and because of their size, they will be easier to shoot than a mid-sized or compact pistol.  

I will rate each category on a scale of 1-5 based on these criteria.  However, it is still up to you to determine what is best for you and not buddy the gun shop troll.

Best Full-Sized Pistols For Under $400

1. Canik TP9SA

Since this Turkish pistol made it to the US in 2014, it has been stirring up a lot of trouble for its competitors.  Initially, it was marketed as a Walther P99 knock off but it soon became apparent that Canik looked at hanging around in the US marketplace for a long time.  

Best Overall Rating
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Listening to the American people has allowed Canik to make adjustments to these handguns that make them a solid choice at any price.  There are tons of reviews of them on the internet but I will give you a brief rating of this pistol.

Reliability 5/5

Based on the opinion of people I trust, this gun seems rock solid when it comes to reliability.  Although I have never owned one, my friends give it thumbs up for its reliability.  I have heard of thousands of rounds without a failure.

Accuracy 4/5

My requirements for a defensive pistol is that it stays on a pie plate at 15 yards and this firearm will easily do that and then some.

Ergonomics 5/5

This gun feels good in the hand and it comes with two back straps to ensure that it is adjustable to fit the average to above average sized mitts.

Accessories 3/5

There is not that much product support for this model in the US market but that’s not a big issue because of the accessories that come with the gun itself (holster, back straps, holster, magazine loader and two magazines.  You can find holsters for the gun because some M&P magazines seem to fit it.  It has been said that it will accept some CZ sights.


This pistol is a gem.  With an MSRP of only 399 with a street price that is considerably less than that this gun is a prime choice for a new gun owner.  It’s a budget-priced handgun with above average build quality.

Overall rating 4.4/5

With an average of 4.4 out of 5 rating, this gun is an excellent choice.  What’s your take?

Readers' Ratings

4.96/5 (735)

Your Rating?

2. Polymer Witness

EAA has been importing this CZ variant in this country since the 1980’s.  The demand was fueled when Colonel Jeff Cooper declared the CZ75 a “wonder nine” but the American public was unable to legally purchase one.

EAA responded with the Witness pistol and it has had a lot of success in the United States.  The polymer Witness was introduced in 1997 and has been an excellent value.

I realize that striker fired guns are the rage right now but this is a precision weapon that can be purchased for a fraction of the cost of most polymer self-defense pistols

Reliability 5/5

This gun is very reliable.  I can remember a variant of this model going through the entire ESI firearms training course without one bobble.  To be noted, I saw a Glock and an S&W fail during

Accuracy 5/5

Built with the same type of frame as a CZ 75, I just knew this was going to be a winner.  I went to the range to wring out his Witness, which is in 10mm; the gun was literally the most accurate gun I have ever shot.  I literally fired two full magazines into a quarter at 15 yards.

Ergonomics 4/5

The only reason this gun is getting this rating is that there is no provision to adjust the grip for people that hands don’t fit the Witness.  It does fit the average hand and if it feels good to you I would go for it.

Accessories 3/5

There is not a lot of options out there for the Witness.  You can find holsters and other accessories by looking at those companies that provide parts to the CZ 75, sometimes you can get lucky.

Value 5/5

Even though the Witness only comes with one magazine, that doesn’t stop this from being an amazing value.

Overall score 4.4/5

It shares the score of 4.4 with the Canik and is an excellent alternative to buying a striker fired guns, hey I like hammers.

3. S&W SD9VE

Everyone knows the big brother of the SD but few people realize the outstanding value this gun holds in its own right.  This value-priced pistol was introduced to the public in 2012.

Best Workhorse
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

The stepchild of the Sigma the SD corrected every issue that its parent had.  The SD is a pistol that sits in the hand comfortably and just plain work.  When I purchase one it was the butt of many jokes on the internet but now I believe the public recognizes it for the value that it is.

The SD is the same size as the heralded Glock 19.  It is a very light shooting alternative to the more expensive firearms.

Reliability 5/5

The SD I owned had gone through many boxes of practice and self-defense ammo without so much as a hiccup.

Accuracy 4/5

This gun has good accuracy.  It is a soft shooting pistol that will serve its owner for many years.

Ergonomics 4/5

There is no ability to adjust the grip for different users but this gun sits low in the hand and the grip angle feels so good.

Accessories 2/5

There are not a lot of accessories for this pistol.  The ones that are available actually developed for the big brother the M&P.  There are some holsters available for purchase that claim they are able to fit the SD but most will fit the generic Uncle Mikes types of Cordura holsters.  If you select this one, I would have my holster custom made.

Value 5/5

The SD is the king of value.  It is a nice solid gun with good customer support.  

Overall rating 3.8/5

With the ability to switch out the polymer sights it came with to get the M&P sights or the steel guide rods.  This gun is a winner with the rebate you could probably buy two of these without breaking the bank.  I give it a 3.8.  If you purchase this pistol it will provide you with great service over many years.

4. Ruger American

The Ruger American is the biggest value in the country when it comes to a full-sized service pistol.  Designed to compete in the latest battery of tests for the new US military contract it has features that no other pistol has on the market.

Most Versatile
at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

After it lost in the trials, the gun made it to the market in 2015 and it never looked back.  Just putting this gun in your hands you can feel the quality.  

In Ruger tradition, it is an incredible value.  It features a heavier frame, low recoil barrel cam system, and authentic Novak sights.

Reliability 5/5

The Ruger is indeed a remarkable firearm.  I have run over a 1000 rounds through it so far without one failure to eject or failure to fire.  I give it 5/5 for its monotonous habit of always working.

Accuracy  5/5

For me the Ruger American is very accurate.  It points well and its weight ensures that you are able to stay on target.  I use a deck of cards with my targets to make both my students and myself focus I can shoot with my American 2” groups at 15 yards and that is excellent for me.  It has a very good trigger that breaks in the neighborhood of 6 lbs.  and it is not too light not too but just right.

Ergonomics 5/5

I have heard many people say that they have had issues with the frame pressing into the web of their hand when they shoot but that was not my experience.  Ruger also made the pistol completely ambidextrous so lefties can use this pistol without having to adjust.  When you also consider that they have interchangeable backstraps, you can see that they thought of it all.

Accessories 1/5

If there is anywhere that this pistol needs assistance it would be in market support.  Being relatively new, there are not that many parts out there for this pistol.  You are somewhat limited to generic holsters and other parts but as the gun becomes more popular I am convinced that this will change.

Value 5/5

This is where the Ruger shines.  With an MSRP of 579 but a street retail of 339, this is one of the most economical modern combat pistols available to the public.  The Ruger comes in a hard case with 2 magazines (17 rd. Teflon coated), 2 interchangeable back straps, a wrench and a lock.

Overall rating 4.2/5

With an overall rating of 4.2, the Ruger is an exceptional value with its ambidextrous features, steel Novak sights,  interchangeable backstraps, removable chassis and special recoil reducing cam along with a bargain basement price I believe it’s the best deal out there right now.

5. Walther Creed

The Creed looks like the illegitimate child of a PPX and a PPQ.  Several years ago, I owned a PPX.  It looked blocky and there were plenty of jokes about how similar it looked a highpoint but there was no mistaking the Walther quality and craftsmanship.

at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

When the gun got into your hands that’s where it shined.  The gun did ok but there were some complaints.  Walther did their best to address these complaints and the result is the Creed.

The Creed is hammer fired which makes it unique as a polymer pistol but it has a very smooth trigger pull that comes in around 6 lbs. but feels lighter.   

Reliability 5/5

With Walther’s craftsmanship evident, it’s no surprise that this pistol is reliable.  In the time period that I had mine, it never malfunctioned and I trusted it with my life.

Accuracy 3/5

While it wasn’t the best performer in my hands, it certainly has enough accuracy to be an excellent nightstand gun and large enough to make shooting several hundred round fatigue free.

Ergonomics 3/5

It fit my hand fine but that crazy little hump on the back strap is not for everyone.  Also without provisions to adjust the grip or its angle it is a roll of the dice for the new buyer.

Accessories 1/5

As of this moment, there aren’t any accessories that I can think of for this gun.  There are a few companies like DeSantis and Alien gear that make holsters for this pistol.  Also because the demand is increasing, you can be sure that there are manufacturers looking at how they can provide parts for this pistol.

Value 5/5

With an MSRP of 399 and a street price which is actually around 339, this gun is priced to move.  Who would have thought that you could get Walther quality for less than 400?

Overall rating 3.4/5

The Walther Creed is an excellent firearm for a new owner, don’t let the rating of 3.4 fool you.  It has the quality of a much more expensive pistol and very decent accuracy.  Also for people that like hammers, it’s one of the few options available on the market.  If you only have the finances to get one gun this would be an excellent choice.

Honorable Mention

6. Taurus G2C

Okay, technically this isn’t a full-sized gun. But it is a great option for CCW and HD.

If you’re really on a budget then you need to give the Taurus G2C a close look! It’s about the size of a Sig P365, it’s double-stack 12+1, and it is VERY reliable.

Johnny did a complete hands-on review and video of it and gave it a raving good rating!

Reliability: 5/5

I’ve seen other reviewers have some minimal trouble from the G2C, but my sample size of one is a friggen’ TANK. It’s unstoppable.

Ergonomics: 4/5

I wish I could grip a little higher on the frame, but the texture is great and the angle is fine. The safety lever is as well-placed as any gun on the market.

Accuracy: 4/5

That crunchy trigger will do you no favors at the range, but overall the accuracy is fine. You can put shots on a torso target no sweat.

Customization: 2/5

Add whatever light you want to the rail, but the options get thin after that.

Value: 5/5

A reliable concealed carry pistol under $250? Name me a better value.

Overall: 4/5


I am encouraged by what I see taking place in the firearms industry.  There is a trend of developing new designs that are more user-friendly, which appeals to the average person.

The new standard of a defensive pistol is lighter, simpler, more rugged and accurate than the firearms of my past.  The market dictates that they be economical because of the competition.  This is all good news for the new firearm owner and particularly so for those that are interested in a good service pistol for home defense or even for competition.

The list of guns in the previous paragraphs all have one particular thing in common and that is that they are all reliable.  Throw in the fact that they cost under 400 and they all are gems.

My suggestion is that if you are serious about choosing a full sized pistol for defense, it would be in your best interest to go to your nearest firearm retailer and handle these pistols.

Go to a local range and rent one because that is the only way you will find out what works for you.  Until next time always remember to check your six.

Read up on other great pistols in our Best Pistols for Beginners & Home Defense.

Have one of these already? Have another good pistol to add to the list? Let me know in the comments! Then check out our Best CCW Guns Under $400.

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19 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar

    I shot the sheriff, but I didn't shoot the deputy

    June 20, 2021 2:52 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    I would’ve removed the EAA Poly Witness from the list and inserted any of the line of Tristar Canik-built 9mm pistols. Made in the very same Turkish factory as the Canik TP9, they are more durable with their all metal frames and just and better built pistols than the Poly Witness (better looking too). The C100/S120 resemble the classic CZ75 B/BD and compact pistols. The T100/T120 are a little lighter with their alloy frames and are well built clones of the IMI/IWI Jericho and the Magnum Research Baby Eagle. And the P100/P120 (I own the 120) are rock solid versions of the CZ-75 SP-01 compact and tactical models and have solid, all-steel frames in addition to having almost non-existent recoil. Any of these pistols can be had from $350 - a little over $400.

    June 22, 2020 9:08 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    I think you've got a great list. I've shot most of these and own the EAA (Tanfoglio) Witness in two flavors, one a steel chunk in compact form manufactured in 1991 and procured at an auction which is unstoppable and soft recoiling due to its anvil-like weight, and another modern polymer duty-sized one. Both perform brilliantly. Accepting that prices do go up and down over time, a few honorable mentions I 'd include the Ruger Security-9 (selling for around $300-$319 and it's reasonably accurate with a pretty decent trigger), the SARS CZ-clones (good guns, nice price point... the B6 -- already mentioned -- and CM9 for instance), the Ruger SR series which are running around $350 now and sometimes cheaper and even the Taurus 82 security revolver if you want to put a full-sized wheel gun on the list. Again, some of these may run afoul of the $400 rule depending on how you price them.

    September 24, 2019 10:19 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      Carried the older solid steel frame Witness for years chambered in.40s&w; even hunted with it. That gun is a straight up tack driver and built like a tank. Never had a FTF out of it. Only downsides of it was the weight; which eventually led me to trade in for a polymer gun, and the extreme lack of accessories. Still miss it.

      October 8, 2019 12:03 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    I have shot two SD9VEs and the trigger designer can get a job at a cereal company; if my morning flakes had as much crunch as that trigger, it'd be a feat of food engineering.

    I agree wholly with your assessment of the Taurus G2C and its trigger (shot one of those, was kind of meh, but for the price, it was certainly good enough and never failed to go boom). But the SD9VEs trigger (in my sample size of two) made the gun absolutely awful to shoot. I think it's an oversight to point out the Taurus's awful bang switch and not mention the S&W's (unless a larger sample size or your own experience proves that wrong). Both my brother and a co-worker had the S&W and both were sold due to trigger woes. I put a few mags downrange in both and I confess to liking to trigger on a Taurus PT709 Slim (also a travesty) better.

    September 24, 2019 8:07 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      David, PPT Editor

      The stock SD9VE trigger is truly a travesty of gunsmithing, I have an APEX trigger in mine that really helped out. It's slightly better than a standard Glock trigger, to me, and even with the upgrade still cost me almost $200 less than a standard Glock 19. In that light, it's a decent option. Especially if you live in a ban state like California where you have very limited budget options.

      September 24, 2019 10:33 am
      • Commenter Avatar

        Excellent comment about the APEX trigger and good info, David.

        September 24, 2019 12:29 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Dr Don

    I recently bought a full size SAR B6. Basically the same as the EAA polymer witness, made by Sarsilmaz. I had a TZ 75 years ago and my brother has a CZ-75, and for all practical purposes this gun is right there with them. I also got two 17 rd. mags and a case, for just $268 plus the inevitable fees and taxes. With a rubber grip sleeve, the gun handles great.

    May 16, 2019 5:29 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    There are more GREAT quality, economical pistols out there today than you can shake a stick at; the biggest problem is 'WHICH ONE'? My solution is to buy SEVERAL.....

    February 23, 2019 4:58 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      David, PPT Editor

      That is always the best solution!

      February 23, 2019 2:54 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Bryan Snyder

    Where is the one pistol to rule this list?...the CZ P-09...

    November 8, 2018 5:34 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Connor H

    You should note in your article that the EAA Witness can be easily converted to a wide range of calibers. 9mm, .40, .45, 10mm, even .38 super. Pretty sad that Tanfoglio managed that, and decades later Sig couldn’t get it right (.45 chassis not compatible with other calibers, and no 10mm). Major selling point. I have one with assemblies for all of the above but 9 and 38 super.

    Also, the SDVE trigger is still kinda terrible. It’s not as bad as the Sigma, but it makes an original (non-M2) M&P trigger seem amazing... thought that should be pointed out as well. Still a worthwhile gun, but folks should be aware of the very heavy pull weight.

    July 11, 2018 7:46 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    Ive just recently been reading up on solid, affordable home defense handguns, in terms of recently, im talking within the hour.. ill admit ive always just been a hunter, varoius shot guns, 22 caliber rifles, own 2 22 rifles, 4 shotguns, and a muzzeloader.. have had a basically sheltered lower middle class, to i guess whatever class im in now, 2 working parents, scrape by, work hard, sacrafice, hopefully girls grow up and realize we didnt have alot, but wernt aware of it like me.. mainly never had a handgun for economical reasons, plus never really felt necessarry.. until just literally hours ago, some wako, ill just stop at that, decided to threaten my daughter, 13.. Thru social site, her friends use, and had our address, really scared her, told her, her moms name, etc.., then of course more tgreats to solicit nudes.. i know the worlds a ugly place, and dangerous, but not at 13 i didnt, and now of course my 11 year old daughter, with mom and big sis worried, scared, to smart to fool, already aware of dangers, school shootings, and almost daily aware thru some form of media, and i guess ive had no choice but to instead of shielding them from the truths, to not worry, just have fun, i may have scared them the most, cause horrible things they have heard, warnings of terrible things that can happen, ive had no choice, but admit the realities that we live in, even with tears in there eyes, saying not here, or just hours ago, to a cracking voice asking me, he cant hurt mom.. he cant come here, i couldnt tell her not to worry, its not fair, beatiful young girls, all my life my main concern was basically for them not worry, to not be scared, it going to be ok, no matter what.. explained that some ppl, sic pll, do what they did to try and take advantage of u not understanding the game they play, scare u into doing things, not all kids tell their parents, cause they worry that they will do what they threaten.. thankfully, not to this extreme, conversations have revovled around only trusting us, come to us, talk to us.. witch made it even worse for her when she asks me if its ok, if he wont come here, and i cant just say no.. i doubt it, and i dont blame u, but i guess u neex to know, and i have to understand myself, no gurantees.. i typed this long message, for one i guess to help me process my anger, cause i was pissed, to maybe wajen another person up by reading this, or being told about it, its comfy feeling safe, and im just glad im disturbed, thankfully not devastated, cause reality is, another person, kid, parent, etc. Didnt get the chance to.only be scared, nothing wrong with being scared, afraid thats a way of life that many ppl we take for granted.. i have nothing to go on, no directions to tell me what to tell my kids, wife, etc., they look to me, ask me what we are going to do, only thing i could think of, i told them no more white lies, no more 9 lives, we can worry, and at times we need to be scared, but were just going to prepare, not prepping, or going all in, but have to get a handgun, and it sucks, cause they need to grow up faster than i hoped.. bottom line, i really think i need a full sized from what i read, 9mm, but i cant be here if they need it and im not, they will be trained, not long term, but professionally, rarely ever alone, so my wife or me will be here, Canik Tp9sa seem like a goid fit for a female non gun user, and novice handgun user in myself?

    March 2, 2018 6:53 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    My God, who on earth proof read this essay????

    February 27, 2018 8:57 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    Absolutely love my Ruger American...so much so I bought a companion Compact version recently as well

    February 27, 2018 8:48 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Mark Wynn

    Thanks for another useful review ....

    February 26, 2018 11:54 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    They are ALL good; lotsa 'bang for your buck' out there; there is NO REASON every able bodied eligible person should not be armed. You may be glad you are.

    February 23, 2018 1:14 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Joe L

    If you've got a little more to spend on the handgun, you can't got wrong with the SIG Pro SP2022. It was recently increased in price, so its no longer in the sub-$400 range, but you can sometimes find one on sale for $420.

    February 23, 2018 9:45 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Connor H

      I second this, spectacular gun, basically a polymer framed P229, but with a better trigger and half the price (literally; P229s are way overpriced).

      July 11, 2018 7:49 pm
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