Choosing the perfect self defense carry weapon is a very personal choice. Before making a purchase, we always recommend heading to your local range and trying out some rentals.
Guns are a big investment for most shooters. They’re not cheap, you may need to use one in a life or death situation, and you also just expect something like new gun to work, and work well. Like any purchase, lots of shooters do a fair bit of research to find the best value in their price range. While there’s a lot of well made, affordably priced guns out there, unfortunately there’s also some very poor choices that every shooter should steer clear of. In this article we’ll look at some of the worst offenders.
The Cobra CA380
This little horror show can be found for around $100 from a number of online retailers. It’s in .380 caliber and the compact version holds 5 rounds in its magazine. Aside from the cheap price, there’s not a lot to inspire confidence for the new owner. It comes in a cardboard box with a single magazine. While it does have a lifetime warranty, many shooters have encountered metal shavings still in their factory new guns, apparently these guns go straight from milling to shipping without any kind of cleaning in between.
The magazine release is also at the heel of the grip. While this system is popular in Europe, and used on some very fine weapons, it doesn’t translate well to the Cobra. Removing a magazine requires forcefully pulling the magazine release lever back with one finger, while simultaneously pulling the magazine out of the grip with the other. While that may be fine to do at the target range, it’s not something you’ll want to do under the stress of defending your life!
This gun also is known for having a fair number of jams. Many shooters speak of failures to eject, and some find that making modifications to the ejector can help, but for a brand new factory gun to come out of the box with ejection problems isn’t something most shooters want to deal with. They want a gun that will just run, without monkeying around with modifications that should have been done at the factory.
The Jimenez Arms JA380
Like the Cobra CA380, the Jimenez JA380 is an extremely cheap, extremely ill fitting, and extremely basic in terms of a defensive pistol. The gun fires the .380 ACP round, but is so awkward in the hands that even this relatively small caliber feels like a magnum round when fired in the Jimenez. Many shooters mention failures to feed, failures to eject, and other complications with this gun, and the Jimenez design is based on an early extremely cheap and extremely poorly made gun, the Bryco-Jennings 380.
With its nearly non-existent sights, extremely difficult trigger pull, and nearly impossible to manipulate magazine release, the Jimenez fails to check a number of boxes as any sort of defensive pistol. Its small size and lack of ergonomic design also cause slide bite in a number of shooters, taking chunks of skin off of thumbs – not exactly a feature most people look for when shopping for a handgun.
The Hi-Point C9
If you’ve ever wanted to hold your gun like a gangster, the Hi-Point C9 will give you the chance just by its basic design. Part club, part boat anchor, the Hi-Point is about as ergonomic as a Dodo bird. Chambered in 9mm Luger, this pistol is a straight blowback, whereas most guns in this caliber are delayed blowback. A blowback gun relies on the sheer mass of the slide to keep the breech locked until chamber pressures drop sufficiently for the slide to move rearward, ejecting and chambering the next round. That means that the Hi-Point needs a massive slide, sitting atop a light, polymer frame. The resulting weight disparity makes the gun fall to the side, so you too can hold you gun like every stereotypical movie gang member.
The Hi-Point’s trigger pull is likewise abysmal, with no real reason why some trigger pulls have a lot of creep and others none. Many shooters also report that after a few hundred rounds their guns start to experience failures to feed and eject. To make matters even more interesting, you will need a punch and hammer to disassemble your Hi-Point, something the factory actually recommends you don’t try to do! While Hi-Point does offer a lifetime warranty on their guns, buying a gun with a proven track record of reliability is probably a much better use of your money.
USFA Zip 22 Plinker
There’s so much bad to say about this gun, it’s hard to know where to start. First, it’s extremely unsafe, requiring the shooter to cock the gun using a lever situated directly adjacent to the barrel. That means that the shooter’s hand will most likely be in front of a chambered round, not the safest design by any standard. The ergonomics are non-existent, and the gun itself is known for complicated stoppages, requiring all manner of acrobatic juggling to try and extricate the jammed round.
The Zip 22 was so bad that it actually bankrupted its manufacturer, USFA. Originally known for their high quality, yet affordable copies of Colt revolvers, USFA sold off all their revolver tooling in order to finance the jump into polymer firearms, with the Zip gun supposedly being their cash cow. It didn’t work out that way, and within a couple years, USFA shuttered and left this hideous gun as their legacy.
The Apache Pistol
Like most guns that try to do everything, this combination revolver, brass knuckles, and bayonet manufactured in France between about 1860 and 1870 did nothing well. The knife was wobbly and not able to inflict much damage, the gun barrel was folded back when carried, requiring the user to take their fingers out of the brass knuckles to prepare the gun for firing and the gun had no barrel, making it useless for anything other than shooting at a few feet.
While it’s doubtful anyone reading this would consider using an Apache for defense, it’s a metaphor for guns with lots of fancy gimmicks. There’re knives that go on modern pistols, there’s guns that fold up to the size of a credit card. Always remember, a gun is made to go bang. Extraneous stuff on it just gives you more to go wrong, more to lug around, and more to look ridiculous at the range with.
Hopefully the guns on this list will be a lesson for the new shooter. Don’t buy the first gun you can afford, do your research, put a few dollars more into your budget, and buy a gun that will do what you need – go bang every time, and be simple to operate in time of need.