Budget Handguns for the Hiking Trail

You don’t need to spend a fortune to get good reliable budget handguns that are going to last a long time and are already proven.

P-64 Military Surplus Pistol
Budget Handguns for the Hiking Trail

USA – -(Ammoland.com)- We have handguns for just about every purpose, size, caliber, and persuasion, but one area where a handgun does make a lot of sense is if you are out hiking or camping, especially if you plan on being away from civilization for awhile.

Despite all the technological advances, there are still quite a few places where cell phones don’t work, and you are hours away from help.

Having a reliable handgun with you should not only be a consideration, it should be second nature, but that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank finding something for the great outdoors.

Budget Handguns

A handgun for the trail doesn’t necessarily have to go by the same requirements as say something you would choose for concealed carry in a more urban setting. You are more likely to want to go with something that is practical, but also very rugged and extremely reliable that can take some punishment being out and about. While it sounds like that is going to cost you a lot of money, there are quite a few choices out there to be had for $400 or less.

I view budget handguns for the trail as part personal defense and part survival, so the choice of calibers might not be as orthodox or what some consider too popular. While someone might be thinking of bears, you are more likely to run into predators of the two-legged variety than anything else so don’t think you need to buy the largest cannon in the armory.

One of my favorite budget handguns and one that has gone with me on more than a few outdoor trips is my Makarov PM pistol. The Makarov PM is one of the most rugged military service handguns ever made. Chambered in 9x18mm, which gives a slight edge over the .380 but falls short of the 9mm Luger, the Makarov PM makes up for any shortcomings by being rugged and reliable.

To those not familiar with the Makarov PM, it was designed in the Soviet Union as a replacement for the Tokarev TT-33. It was inspired by the Walther PPK, but it was simplified and made with fewer parts. The Soviet military and police were first to use it, then the East Germans and Bulgarians also produced their copy, and then later the Chinese, but it was used all over the Soviet Union including Cuba and continues in service in Eastern Europe to this day.

Polish P-83 Compact Pistol , budget handguns
The Polish P-83 Compact Pistol is one of many excellent budget handguns.
Polish P-64 Surplus Pistol
Polish P-64 Surplus Pistol

The Makarov is a simple pistol with an eight round magazine and is all steel, no polymer to be found. While the Russian and East German versions tend to be a little more expensive, the Bulgarian PM is a very affordable budget handgun, commonly around $300 to $350. While the markings might be a bit different than the Russian and the finish not as nice as the East German, the gun is identical in every way, and the parts are completely interchangeable. Surplus flap holsters are also overly abundant and sometimes can even be purchased with the Makarov. While not the most conducive for concealed carry, they’re great for being on the trail and cost often around $10 or so.

Along the same lines as of the Makarov PM is another surplus pistol of the same caliber, the Polish P-64. Also inspired by the Walther PPK design, the P-64 was designed and built for the Polish Army and was introduced in 1965. A somewhat compact pistol slightly more than six inches in length, the P-64 is the same overall length as the Glock 43. Like the Makarov PM and the Walther PPK design, the P-64 is a double action/single action with a manual decocker on the left side. While there are some complaints about the double action trigger pull of the P-64, replacement springs that lighten it up are available from Wolff Gunsprings and others and are easy to replace. The P-64 is also all steel, and is also about as reliable as church on Sunday and can be had for around $250 or so at any given time, an excellent deal for the money laid out.

Nagant M1895 Revolver
Nagant M1895 Revolver

If revolvers are more your fancy and you like surplus, then the Nagant Model 1895 revolver is your ticket. As one can guess, the revolver was designed and put into service in 1895. Although known for its Russian service, the gun is of Belgian origin as was its creators, Leon and Emile Nagant who were well known to the Tsar’s military. The gun was pressed into Russian service and was chambered in 7.62x38mmR, which is a unique round. The bullet is seated below the mouth of the casing, which allows the casing itself to enter the forcing cone. This creates a gas seal which is completed when the gun is cocked, either in double or single action and the cylinder goes forward against the forcing cone. The Nagant M1895 is perhaps the only revolver that can be suppressed because the seal doesn’t allow any gas to escape, although that’s not a real consideration for someone looking for a handgun for the trail.

While some might not consider the round from the Nagant M1895 overly powerful, the fact that the cylinder holds seven rounds is a plus, and the 7.62x38mmR with a 97-grain bullet is advertised as having a muzzle velocity of 1,000 fps which falls in between the .32 ACP and the .32 H & R Magnum. While the Nagant’s trigger pull is known for being very tough in double action, it can be worked with, and the single action pull is usually very agreeable. At one time you could buy a Nagant M1895 for less than $200, but the prices are now creeping up to $300, which is still reasonably affordable since the revolvers are known for being very tough and extremely reliable. Most Nagant M1895 revolvers come with a flap holster, a cleaning rod, and a screwdriver. They served the Soviet Union in two World Wars and on through to Korea, and some ended up in Vietnam. Ammunition is commonly available and reloading the cartridge is not as hard as one would make it out to be.

There are many excellent budget handguns out there that will work well for carrying on the trail that all cost under $400. You can pick up a Beretta 92S, a Star Model BM, a Polish P-83 or even a CZ-70 and they will all do the trick.

You don’t need to spend a fortune to get good reliable budget handguns that are going to last a long time and are already proven. You might have to look past the urge to buy a new gun though, but having owned many surplus guns over the years, I can tell you that most, while not overly attractive will get the job done and will do it well.


David LaPell
David LaPell

About David LaPell

David LaPell has been a Corrections Officer with the local Sheriff's Department for thirteen years. A collector of antique and vintage firearms for over twenty years and an avid hunter. David has been writing articles about firearms, hunting and western history for ten years. In addition to having a passion for vintage guns, he is also a fan of old trucks and has written articles on those as well.

  • 27 thoughts on “Budget Handguns for the Hiking Trail

    1. Life is too short to carry cheap guns. My walking gun is a Glock 20SF. There is nothing around here it won’t kill. I paid less than $600 for it new and it will last a lifetime. So if I live 10 years, that’s less that 17 cents a day. Skip a candy bar, soda or cigarette a day and buy something nice. My S&W 629 cost less that 20 cents a day. A lot of the guys around here drink beer every day and buy cheap used guns. They are beer guys not gun guys.

    2. A couple of thoughts: It has been a number of decades since I spent any time in the “woods.” Were I to return to traversing the wilds I would either take my G20 with three mags or one of my 357 Mag revolvers. I would also attach a lanyard to the gun (easy with the Glock). My eldest son has visited my old wilderness stomping grounds in Alaska several times and is returning in the near future and he took his G20 with him each time. When I was there, back when, I carried a 357 or a 44 mag after I got them and before that just carried a 22 revolver and a 12 guage single shot. The subject brings back many good memories.

    3. Yup rok noticed that too. Plus. He mentions the TT-33 as an aside ;where in its .30. Chambering I think it would be a good trail gun. I have a friend who has one and he likes it a lot! There are also 9×19 Chinese copies out there for you parabellum fans. Me ,I’ll just stick with my 10 mm for my trail ,camping gun.

    4. Some call it an ugly gun (somehow, a Glock isn’t all that “sexy” to me, but just my opinion). I bought my first gun for protection and trips to the range. I wanted reliability- something that would take punishment and still do what it was supposed to do- go BANG. I didn’t have $400 or more for a firearm, so I bought a Hi-Point in 9mm. You may not think it’s a pretty gun, but it does what a gun is supposed to do, takes all the shit you can throw at it and still work, and is guaranteed for life- just send it back to Hi-Point and they’ll make it like new again. A plus- it works fine with just about any ammo I can find.

    5. A hiking pistol is a HIGHLY personal choice. It should be one simple enough to use under stress, controllable, and not so large and heavy that you need to be Superman to carry it long distances. I highly recommend a chest rig for carry as well. When it is really needed, an accurate shot will be much more valuable than a sweet looking 50AE that has the safety still on when pulled from the holster. My hiking guns don’t have safeties for this reason. My preference is my G17 or my 4” S&W 357 depending on terrain and location. I have tried carrying a 6” stainless 44 magnum plus a couple speed loaders. I would rather have a little less power and free up the weight for other gear.

    6. Ya’ll snicker and laugh and swear you’d never own one .
      Well ! I have . Hi point cheap, functional , reliable .
      They eat most any brand ammo out there. With no hic-ups.
      New in 380 – 45 for $245 or less, you can throw one in a
      backpack and not care if it gets scratched wet or dirty.
      Mine fired perfectly covered in mud from a tumble I took.
      Shoot .. if all else fails hit whatever with it ( their heavy)
      or use it for a hammer. But if it gets lost you won’t cry or,
      lose a night of sleep over it. Go ahead and Laugh but ,
      You Glock only guy’s $hit when some guy at the range out
      shoots you with one. That’s the point he’s trying to make !

      1. @mdv, Your right Marc, I do like my Glock’s, but that’s not the only hand guns I own. I also have S&W wheel guns, and a nice Colt wheel gun, and several older relics. Some have gotten muddy, dirty, greasy, and wet, but they all clean up just fine after a quick blow dry to dry the water, then the cleaning begins, with a generous amount of lube to follow. For me the price of the pistol\revolver is irrelevant. If it was a $200.00 or $1500.00 It would bother me to lose one, but a high-point? I would not own one, there just to damned ugly, but as you say, they might make a nice tool of some sort if you didn’t have to look at it. lol

    7. Why would you want to carry a handgun in a caliber that is not readily available at your local Walmart or LGS? What is wrong with a good ol’ S&W Model 10 in 38 Special? They can be found for less than $300 in most pawn shops and local classified ads. If you have a problem with one S&W will fix it for free or a small fee. If you Mak dies I guess you just buy another.

    8. Fifty-five years of working, living, hiking, camping, horseback riding throughout the mountain west, from the Sierra Nevada to the Cascades, Northern and Central Rockies and the Great Basin, and never felt at all under-gunned with a single action .22 revolver. Nowadays I carry a .327Federal Magnum, but only because it’s in a .22 frame, and it is extremely reloadable and versatile.

    9. Yep. I’d prefer a 6-shot reliable revolver in .357 over a 7 or 8 shot 9mm for Trail Work. If it’s wildlife, the magnum is WAYMO better’n the 9mm, IMO. And you’ll never get off more than a couple rounds in a bad wildlife situation, anyway, most likely? This hopefully won’t be a ‘firefight’ with urban thugs where you might want a dozen founds to throw around….?

    10. Trail hiking, hunting back up, I carry a 3″ Rossi in 44 mag. I will carry this gun ccw with Hornady 44 spl. This is more than enough to stop most any urban threat. Woods threat 44 mag will stop mose everything as long as you don’t shoot it in the foot!
      Revolvers don’t fail often!

    11. Well for one, it would depend on where and what trail I was going on, but I would not have a problem bringing my Bulgarian mak, or my tokarev t-33 7.62×25 that I use 86gr. production ammo in that’s a little on the hot side, but has pretty good power for a comfortable amount of protection, and both are in pretty good shape, and good shooters, and like you say if I lost one, or both in a lake or river, I would be out about two hundred on one, and just north of two hundred on the other, but I don’t plan on losing either one. Now if I was going on a trail that had things that have no problem swatting you down with one swipe and having you for dinner, like a grizzly, or mountain lion, or whatever, I would for sure have my S&W500 holstered across my chest, with another pair of eyes in the back of my head. I always carry one of my Glocks in whatever caliber only for the amount of ammo you could throw if needed, on a trail .45. should do it.

    12. I guess opening the article with a picture of $1,000+ gun, makes the others seem more desirable. I tend to go with the consensus here that you take what you can shoot….& already own. If you feel the need for a “trail gun” & your 9mm or .45 doesn’t feel adequate, maybe you should just walk the track…although, a Taurus .44 magnum can be had for around $400. Wonder why he didn’t mention them?

    13. Tokarev TT-33 / Zastava TTC would be better than a Makarov because of the high power 7.62×25 round, and the TTC being about $200 U.S. The Makarov might be a little more concealable and lighter, but since it caries no more rounds and those it does are 1/2 the power of the 7.62×25 it’s a matter of personal choice, carry a gun that can penetrate a bear’s skull, or one that bounces off.. For 2 legged predators, the Makarov is a better choice.

    14. Taurus PT111 G2 can be had for under $250 almost anywhere. While I’m not a huge Taurus fan (haven’t owned one since the original PT111), I would get one of these based on the price and many many reputable reviews on it’s reliability. It also holds 12 rounds of 9mm. If you need something with more power; PT140, usually the same price.

      I carry a CZ P-09 in 40 S&W in the woods. Likely good against any four-legged or two-legged attackers where I live. Those can be had for under $400 (only in .40) if you keep watch online. The 9’s are more expensive usually.

    15. Here I thought this would be a fun discussion only to see the oddest suggestions for trail guns that would likely be my last choices.
      I tend to go with KISS. Keep it simple stupid. Take what you are comfortable with because a crazed woodland creature is going to move faster at you and present a much smaller target for you to hit than a human.

    16. While not as sarcastic as a Jack, (bad form, My Friend) I agree with his sentiments. Trail guns are simply edc guns that get to go hiking. Given the threat (bears? Cougars? homocidal hillbilly’s?), bigger is better. Further, finding ammo for your cherished m1895 in the Walmart in Dubois, Wyoming might be tough. IMHO, reliable gun in a biggest you can accurately shoot caliber is always the best choice. If you need cheap, by used or HiPoint. It’s your life…
      Thanks

      1. I was wondering if there really was people that actually bought hi-point pistols.
        Now that’s one that would not be my first choice, but a sharp rock tied to a stick
        comes to mind. jus sayin, imo.

        1. Of course there are. They are a big seller here in East Texas. A few of my neighbors have them and they tell me that the quality has improved over the last several years. When they come over to shoot, the guns perform pretty good. I guess it’s like the Makarov or m1895 argument: the gun you have is better than the gun you wish you had…until you walk into Walmart looking for 7.62x38R ammo.

    17. The author goes for what can be considered sort of old day exotics, collectable flap holsters and his photo exhibits a yearning for this type of thing. That’s fine but let’s get real! While low cost (not cheap) a 9mm or .45 ACP Hi-Point and a new (I saw at SHOT Show) 10 mm is incredibly reliable, tough, accurate and $200. If you bang it in the rocks, drop it in a stream, you wont cry because your pretty little exotic toy caliber Czech or Russian semi or $1,200 Kimber got scratched or wet. Sure I will follow his recommendation because I really want to carry an old $200-$300 1895 Russian revolver for a trail gun should I need to gun fight a bear or lion.

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