Let’s face it: guns can be expensive, especially if you’re buying one brand new. However, you shouldn’t overlook used guns.
When it comes to used guns, there are two markets that sometimes get overlooked. Those are milsurp (military surplus) and law enforcement trade-ins. There are definite benefits to each of these. Milsurp stuff is usually built to last, so a used gun is no big deal. Plus, there’s often a lot of history there, too. LEO trade-ins are often carried a lot and shot little. This means they may look worse for wear, but internally, will almost be like new.
Let’s take a look at some good options in a variety of categories.
Concealed Carry Handguns
Smith & Wesson M&P
The S&W M&P is a very popular gun for concealed carry. Available in multiple calibers and both full-size and compact sizes, there’s bound to be one that you like. These are often seen as full-size LEO trade-ins in 9mm and .40 and can be had for $300 or even less.
The polymer-frame, short recoil operate, striker fired pistol was introduced in 2005 and has since become a favorite of LEO agencies and civilians alike.
What else is there to say about the Glock 19 that hasn’t already been said? A lot of police departments carry these guns and they often get traded in when upgrading to the next generation. There’s nothing wrong with the previous generations, they’re just not “new.” You can find them for $400 or so.
The Glock 19 is a reduced-size Glock 17 that Glock calls compact. It was released in 1988 and was intended primarily for military and law enforcement, but has since become a popular and reliable concealed carry firearm. Many think of it as the perfect balance between concealability and size, small enough to hide easily, not to small to shoot well by most people.
SIG Sauer P226
Another popular police gun is the SIG Sauer P226. Like the M&P, this is a popular gun for police departments that don’t carry Glocks. They will most often be seen in 9mm and .40 S&W and will run approximately $350.
The P226 is a full-sized service pistol that is the same basic design as the .45 ACP P220, but made for a higher-capacity, double stack magazine. The P226 was narrowly beat out in the U.S. military trials that saw the Beretta M9 replace the M1911A1 because of cost issues. It currently serves with LEO organizations and militaries worldwide.
Smith & Wesson Model 5906
The Smith & Wesson Model 5906 was a very popular gun with law enforcement departments over the past 20 years or so. This was a time when some departments didn’t yet trust the Glock. They’re solid, beefy pistols that you can usually find in the $350 range.
The 5906 was produced from 1989 to 1999 and was a double-stack, DA/SA 9mm pistol with a full stainless steel construction. It came with either a 10- or 15-round magazine. It was popular with law enforcement and some military units in the U.S. while in production, but was ultimately eclipsed by lighter, polymer framed models for duty carry.
If you’re the kind of person who’d rather carry a .45 over a 9mm, then the Glock 21 is a good option. You’ve got increased magazine capacity over a 1911, and it’s easier to field strip and clean, too. The ex-police guns can be had for $450.
The Glock 21 has a ligher slide compared to the Glock 20 in 10mm, to compensate for the lower-energy .45 ACP. The standard mag for the G21 is a staggered-column 13-rounder.
Smith & Wesson Model 64
Revolver lovers rejoice. There are still a variety of police departments that are just now getting rid of the last of their wheelguns. The Smith & Wesson Model 64 is very similar to the ever-popular Model 10; they’re both in .38 Special, but this one is stainless. You can pick one of these up for less than $400 most of the time.
The Model 64, a six-shot double-action revolver, was first produced in 1970 and is still in production today. It was only the second stainless steel revolver ever made by Smith & Wesson after the Model 60. It was especially popular with LEOs in high humidity states, as it was more corrosion resistant than blued revolvers.
Remington Model 11-87
Some people would prefer a semi-auto over a pump action. If that’s the case, Remington’s Model 11-87 is a great choice. It’s been trusted by countless law enforcement departments and can usually be found for approximately $400.
The semi-auto shotgun was first released by Remington in 1987 and was based on the popular Remington 1100. It’s gas operated with a self-compensating system allowing the gun to operate with a variety of loads, from light 2-3/4″ loads to 3″ Magnum sells without adjustment to the gas system. It is produced in 20 and 12 gauge with 3″ chambers. More recently, a Super Magnum version was released with a 3-1/2″ chamber.
Benelli M1 Super 90
Another semi-auto option with an added bonus is the Benelli M1 shotgun. In addition to the pistol grip, the forearm is specially molded to house a Surefire flashlight without needing extra mounting accessories. They’re a bit more pricey, coming in around $600, but it’s still a solid choice.
The M1 Super 90 is a semi-auto shotgun with Benelli’s proprietary recoil system, known to be rugged and easy to maintain. It’s an inertia gun, menaing it works best with heavier loads and has to be held firmly to the shoulder to cycle reliably. Keep your eyes out for the shotgun’s successors, the M2, M3, and M4 models.
Mossberg Model 590
The Mossberg 590 is similar to their iconic 500 pump shotgun, but these ex-police guns feature a heat shield and a SpeedFeed stock that holds another shell right in the side of the buttstock. Best of all is the price: you can find them around $300.
The biggest difference between the 590 and 500 is the magazine tube design. The 500’s mag tube is closed at the muzzle end and the barrel is held in place by a bolt that threads into a hole in the end of the mag tube.
590 magazine tubes are designed to be opened at the muzzle end and the barrels have a ring that fits around the tub and is then held in place by a cap nut on the end. It’s also the easiest way to tell the difference at a glance. The 500’s design makes for easier barrel changes, while the 590’s design is easier to clean and maintain.
Remington’s classic 870 pump shotgun rides in plenty of squad cars. One that’s done making its rounds in a Crown Vic will go great in your closet. You can usually pick one up for $500 or less.
If you find one, the Police Magnum version features a stronger sear spring than a standard 870, carrier latch spring, and a forged steel extractor. It also has a 3″ chamber and a blued or Parkerized steel finish. You’ll find them with walnut or synthetic stocks fitted with sling mounts. The walnut stocks on the Police models lack the checkering found on Express and Wingmaster models. They’ll be found with 18-inch or 20-inch barrels.
Mossberg Model 500
Just as popular as the Remington 870, Mossberg’s 500 might be your preferred choice if you’re looking for a gun with a top-mounted safety, which makes it ambidextrous if you’ve got some southpaws in the family. They can be had for $500 or less.
Since its release in 1960, literally hundreds of thousands of Model 500s have been produced in an array of configurations. You’ll often find surplus models with synthetic stocks and extended magazine tubes as well as attachment points for accessories and slings. Though the gun is made with 20 gauge and .410 bore, you’ll most often find surplus models in 12 gauge.
Winchester Model 1897
OK, so it may not be the most practical home defense gun if you buy this old school pump shotgun with 28” or 30” barrels, but if you get a “trench” model with a 20” barrel, it becomes a much more viable option. That said, an original one will be costly – sometimes $2,000 or more – so perhaps it’s best used as a collector.
This pump gun has an external hammer, which you just don’t see on most pump shotguns, and was an evolution of the Model 1893 designed by John Browning. Between 1897 and 1957, over 1 million of these shotguns were made in numerous barrel lengths and grades, chambered in 12 and 16 gauge, and as solid frame models or takedown models. Special barrels could be ordered as short as 20 inches, and as long as 36 inches.
Long(er) Range Rifles
The iconic M1 Garand is a great milsurp gun packed to the gills with history. Chambered in .30-06, it’ll go the distance, too. Prices are going up on these, but you can still get one from the CMP for as little as $650.
Swiss Schmidt Rubin K31
With a unique straight-pull bolt-action design, the Karabiner Model 1931 (K31) is a fantastic piece of Swiss engineering. Chambered in 7.5x55mm Swiss, they’re perfectly suited for longer range shooting. These generally start around $700 and go up from there.
Made from 1933 until 1958, the K31 is a magazine-fed bolt gun and was standard issue for the Swiss armed forces throughout its production run and remained in service until the 1970s. It has a 6 round detachable magazine that can also be loaded with a charger from the top of the receiver.
This is an absolute no-brainer if you’re in the market for milsurp guns. Plenty of WWII snipers can attest to the gun being perfect for long-range shots. These are going up in price, but if you’re patient, you can still find them around $300.
Finnish M39 (Mosin Copy)
Adopted in 1939 (hence the ‘M39’ designation), these were basically just Finnish Mosin-Nagants. Some of them can even be found with re-used Russian hex receivers. They can be found around $600.
The Lee-Enfield rifles were British workhorses. They served the British and colonial soldiers in one form or another from 1895 until 1957. These guns have been there and done that and can continue to go and do for you for around $550.
The Enfield is a bolt action, magazine-fed rifle with a remarkable service history. It was the primary firearm used by the military forced of the British Empire and Commonwealth from 1895 until 1957. The WWI versions are often referred to as SMLE, which is short for “Short, Magazine Lee-Enfield,” a truncated version that was easier to maneuver in trench warfare.
It had a 10-round box magazine loaded with .303 British cartridges manually from the top of the receiver either manually or with a five-round charger.
This bolt action .30-06 rifle is an iconic piece of early 20th century US military history. It helped our doughboys turn the tide of WWI and was still in use in one form or another during WWII, Korea, and even Vietnam. Prices are rising, but these classic American guns can be had for $850 and up.
The M1903 has a five-round magazine was officially adopted as the U.S. military rifle in 1903 and first saw service in WWI. It was replaced as the standard infantry rifle by the semi-auto M1 Garand beginning in 1936, but it remained in service through further conflicts, often paired with a scope and used as a sniper rifle. The military still uses the M1903 as a drill rifle.
Fun Range Guns
The SKS has been a favorite of milsurp collectors for years. Its full name is Samozaryadny Karabin sistemy Simonova, 1945, which often gets shortened to SKS-45 or just SKS. The gun has been made in a variety of different countries, including China, where it’s known as the Type 56. With some searching, they can still be found for less than $300.
The SKS is a Soviet carbine chambered for the 7.62x39mm round and was designed in 1943. It was manufactured at Tula Arsenal from 1945 to 1958 and at Izhevsk Arsenal in 1953 and 54. All in all, about 2.7 million SKS carbines were produced. It was dropped as the primary Soviet firearm in the early 1950s and replaced with the AK-47, though it remained in service for decades.
So named because it looks like someone shrunk an M14, this rifle has been used by plenty of police agencies – and some militaries – throughout the world. The guns are quite versatile and can be customized with ease by swapping out stocks if you so choose. These will run you $600 or so.
The Mini-14 is a lightweight semi-automatic rifle made by Sturm, Ruger & Co. and introduced in 1973 for use by military personnel, law enforcement, and civilians. It is chambered in .223/5.56 and has been produced in a number of variants, including the Range Rifle, the Mini-14 GB, which was designed specifically for military and LEO use, and the Mini Thirty, which is chambered in 7.62NATO/.308 Win.
Chambered in .32 ACP, the CZ-50 is an all-steel pistol that holds 8 rounds. Made in Czechoslovakia, it’s a double-action design that lent a lot of features to its successor, the CZ-70, which is also a good gun to pick up. You can snag either one for less than $250 if you look around.
The Czech made double-action, semi-automatic pistol was made between 1940 and 1970.
The CZ-82 is chambered in 9x18mm and holds 12 rounds in the magazine. Their barrels are unique in that they have polygonal rifling instead of the standard lands and grooves. Despite its unusual appearance, the rifling makes it very accurate. You can find them for $300.
M57 Tokarev (TT-33)
These neat little pistols are chambered for the 7.62×25 cartridge. Don’t let the small cartridge fool you – it’s a really powerful little round! The M57 variant is made in Yugoslavia and can be found as C&R eligible and newer ones that need to go through an FFL. These guns can be had for a little over $200.
Beretta Model 1951
If you’re a fan of the current Beretta 92-series, then you’ll want to pick up a Model 1951. This pistol is the grandaddy of those guns. You can find them for less than $400.
The M1951 was a 9mm semi-auto pistol made in the early 1950s and was made for military use. It was adopted by the Italian Armed Forces as the Modello 1951 and was in production until about 1980. While it looks quite a bit like its Model 92 predecessors, it only had an 8 round capacity vs the M9’s 15 rounds.
But if you don’t want to go that old school, you can certainly find surplus Beretta M9 pistols now that it is being replaced by the SIG Sauer M17. They’re a little big for concealed carry and some are in pretty bad shape, but they can still make a fine 9mm lead slinger for the range.
The Beretta M9, the U.S. military designation for the Beretta 92F was adopted as the new service pistol in 1985 after winning a controversial trial to replace the M1911A1 as the nation’s primary sidearm. It narrowly defeated the SIG Sauer P226 for cost reasons.
Despite having a similar name to the Garand (both M1), they have little in common. Chambered in .30 Carbine, the gun was used widely in WWII and is popular in the milsurp collecting world. These can run you around $1,000.