The Budget Shooter
By Chief Mike
I’d like to start this column by introducing myself and giving you a bit of background on me and the impetus for producing this ever continuing project. I am Chief Mike. I have 24 years of Police Service and have held every rank from Patrolman to Chief of Police. I have worked in the inner city, suburbs and small towns in that time. I have run the firearms training unit for a 300 person police department and have owned and shot a very very wide variety of firearms. I currently serve as a reserve Sheriff’s deputy and work full time in the private sector. I do appreciate the finer things but understand that we cannot always afford them.
I decided to bring you this column particularly because of the economic conditions over the last couple of years, and in doing so, realized this might be a great opportunity to re introduce you to great guns that now seem to go under the radar. The publisher chose me because he knows I’m frugal ( my wife calls it cheap) and decided he was tired of hearing about my deal of the week. He thought it better that I write about it to share these gems with the rest of the world. Many publications bring you reviews of firearms and gear that is the latest and greatest. The problem is that this stuff also costs a whole lot of money. I don’t get my guns for free from the manufacturers and neither do you. I actually pay for them out of pocket, while still having to feed my family and keep a roof over their heads. My hope is to present you with choices that allow you to shoot and be prepared but at bargain prices that the rest of us can afford.
I have nominally set $400 as the maximum price new or used for any firearm that we review here. We refuse to shoot junk. It’s no bargain if it falls apart on you. It is also no bargain if spare parts, service and accessories are not readily available at reasonable prices. We also hope to offer you shopping and buying strategies for guns, gear and ammo that will allow you to maximize your return on investment. The recent unpleasantness has taught me one thing. Only three things retain their value. Gold, Guns, and ammo. Everything else depreciates faster than a new Chevy.
To kickoff this column I’m starting with an urgent best buy situation. At this writing, many police departments are trading in their third generation Smith and Wesson pistols for newer models. These are some of the finest duty pistols ever produced. Most will be in either 9mm or .40 S&W. Everyone needs at least one truly good handgun and this is a rare opportunity to find one at well below market price. New these MSRP from Smith for between $600 and $900. They will come in several varieties and it is important to understand these. Guns beginning with 59xx will be double stack guns that hold 14 or 15 round magazines. They will be in blue or stainless with either steel or alloy frames. There are many variations from traditional DA/SA to DAO guns. Again, these will be designated by the last two numbers and Smith offers many cross references. If in doubt, examine it or ask the seller. They also offered lower end versions as the 915 and 910. These were blue alloy frame guns and the only differences were a bit less machining on the frame and they only had a safety/decocker on the left side of the slide for primarily right handed shooters. The 910 also had plastic sights and was shipped with a 10 round magazine vs. 15 rounds. The 910 is currently in production at this writing. The 915 was only produced in the year prior to the now defunct Assault Weapons ban. My guess is that Smith did not want to bother renaming the pistol in 2004. The 910 is now MSRP at $617 new. The internals of these and the reliability etc are the same as any third generation Smith and Wesson 59xx series gun. These are full sized duty pistols with 4” barrels.
The thing about police guns is that they get carried daily for years but shot very little. This means that while they might see some cosmetic wear, they are usually good solid pistols with a lifetime of service left in them. Right now is a Golden buying opportunity for any of you who want a premium pistol at a rock bottom price. Many surplus distributors are now selling Smith and Wesson police trade ins in the $300 to $350 price range. Depending on model, this represents a savings of 50 to 70 percent over the cost of a new one.
My test pistol, also now my daily carry, is an S&W model 915. I spotted it on the used shelf at a local retailer and after modest bargaining purchased it for $295 out the door. The pistol has minor bluing wear on the front edge of the slide. Otherwise it looked new. This model has good steel sights, a fantastic DA/SA trigger and proved as accurate as I remember any third generation Smith. It came with only one mag. Spare mags are a bit pricy new at $39.95 retail so a bit more shopping was in order.
I went online and on one of the major gun boards posted a Want to Trade / Want to buy ad. In about two days I was contacted by a fellow who had two spare mags but had long ago traded the pistol. He was however now a revolver aficionado and was having difficulty finding speed loaders. I checked my great big box of everything and found two speed loaders for his K frame. A deal was struck and $3 in shipping later I had my two spare mags. I found a used but perfect condition holster at another shop for $10. MSRP on the holster is $37 new.
Total investment = $308.00
Total value if purchased New today = $734
Total Savings over New = $426
This represents a fantastic bargain over buying new. The added benefit is that parts are still in production and factory service is easily available. Any Gander Mountain can provide factory authorized service. This is a first line Duty pistol from a premium name brand and offers you the ability to have the best without breaking the bank. That leaves a whole lot of room to buy ammo.
Gunney says,” Thanks for your contribution Chief Mike!”