There is a Place for Cheap Guns

DunnBy Robert Dunn 
AGI and GunTech Video Producer, 
AGI Pro Course Graduate, GCA Charter Member

I would like to write about cheap guns in this article. What do I mean when I say, “Cheap Guns”? I could mean that they are cheaply priced, meaning a good value, or I might be saying that it is a cheap piece of crap… or both! Some folks are lucky enough to be able to say that they would have nothing to do with a cheap gun. Well, I would bet that most of the people that own cheap guns would love to be able to have the same attitude.

OG1The fact is is that many people can’t afford to buy a quality gun, so they at least have the option of owning something better than a kitchen knife and a baseball bat to defend themselves with. I will admit that when using certain models of firearms, it would be a good idea to hang onto the knife as a backup anyway! I, on the other hand, am a freak of nature and love cheap guns because they are so cheap! They are interesting, designed to be simple and cheap to manufacture… no frills!

I decided to write this article because of my friend Ken Brooks. Ken really enjoys giving me a rough time about my love of cheap guns. This is my attempt to explain why I like cheap guns and why that I believe that they have their place. For what it’s worth, I would like to make something very clear… I like quality guns a lot better than cheap guns! Okay, my manhood is intact and I’m ready to continue.

I understand why Ken, and many others (especially Gunsmiths), hate cheap guns; because they are a liability, they cost far more to fix than to simply buy a new one and they are usually made of such a cheap alloy that welding, bending and stretching become a great concern. I remember working on specific models that the parts are made out of such horrible metal that the adjustments or alterations that I just made were out of whack after test firing several rounds! That type of gun I can understand not ever wanting anywhere near your shop! On the other hand, I have met gunsmiths that love these little moneymakers because they always break and need fixing. Many of these repairs come down to simply replacing broken or missing parts. The point being quality guns do not end up in the repair shop very often.

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We get a good look at the Jennings J-22’s simple trigger and disconnecting system with the slide and grips removed.

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The left side of the J-22 gives us a good look at the safety mechanism. The safety blocks the sear.

 

Another reason that I like cheap guns is because I can use them as an inexpensive learning tool. I have bought cheaply priced and broken guns just so I can try and fix them. The first firearms that I ever fixed were my family heirlooms. I invested in a few DVDs from the American Gunsmithing Institute and fixed them cheaply because I could not afford to take them to a competent gunsmith. After almost having a nervous breakdown repairing those guns, I decided to switch over to buying and then experimenting on cheap guns. The mechanisms are simple, interesting, and easy to study and understand. When it came to working on and altering gun parts, I figured that if I am going to wreck something while I learn to get better a certain task, I might as well do it with cheap guns… makes sense, right?

Americans have always had an appreciation for small concealable handguns and our government has been trying to take that right away since there has been a government. At this point in time, we even have laws like the “Right to Carry Laws” that combat other laws that make it illegal to carry a small handgun! The slang term for a compact inexpensive/cheap, small caliber handgun is Saturday Night Special. The history of this term is vile and should be researched in your own time. Federal legislation has restricted the usage of many cheap small caliber firearms thinking that they are saving us from ourselves, however a study by the Justice Department itself revealed that 68% of felons would switch to using more expensive and higher caliber handguns if they couldn’t find a “Saturday Night Special” and 18% would switch to a sawed off weapon! Another study showed that Law Enforcement Agents are becoming more fearful of higher caliber weapons that are being used in crimes more often now. Some say this is the result of the Drug Trade booming and others say that it is because the cheap small caliber guns are not easily acquired anymore. One thing for sure is that by not having the option of buying cheap guns, there is a vast percentage of poor folks that can?t properly protect themselves and more often than not, these are the people that really need a firearm to survive!

So, while I’m on the topic of cheap guns, I would like to share a story with you. My little tale involves a bunch of cheap guns and people that I love.

In a previous article, Dragon Shotgun, I wrote about a Hawk shotgun that I customized for one of my friends. The Hawk shotgun is a cheaply priced Chinese copy of a Remington 870. If you know that you will not be able to afford a Remington, the Hawk is a good cheap choice. The reason that I ended up working on that shotgun was because my friend saw a rifle that I customized for another friend. When I was working on the Hawk shotgun, I bought a couple different sets of reptilian taxidermy eyes. One pair was inlet into the forend of the shotgun and the other pair was used on the grips of an RG-26 pistol for yet another one of my friends.

Rîhm RG-26 pistol (.25 ACP). These pistols were manufactured in Germany and imported into the United States during the 1970s.

Rîhm RG-26 pistol (.25 ACP). These pistols were manufactured in Germany and imported into the United States during the 1970s.

On other projects, I have chosen to inlet things with a hammer and chisel. Having proven to myself that I could do such a thing, I decided that I wanted to try to get it done in a more efficient manner. I have been moving my shop to a place that has a lot more natural light, so I used what was handy to strap the grips of the RG-26 down to be inletted. I used a 1″ drill bit to make room for the reptile eyes. I then epoxied the eyes into the grips.

RG-26 grips taped down and inletted with a drill.

RG-26 grips taped down and inletted with a drill.

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Reptile eyes in place and red safety dot touched up with enamel paint.

Right side of the Reptilian RG-26.

Right side of the Reptilian RG-26.

Left side of the Reptilian RG-26.

Left side of the Reptilian RG-26.

Funny how things go, when my friend came to pick up the RG-26 and a little Jennings J-22 that I had installed a new firing pin in, I was busy spraying the shotgun Barney Purple. I was trying an aerosol DuraCoat protective finish. She didn’t really like the look of the solid black Jennings gun and though chances were good that I was going to run out of paint, we figured that it would look better than the way it currently looked! Well, even though I ran out of paint when painting her gun, she thinks it looks better than it did. She calls it her new “Apron Gun”, don’t mess with her in the kitchen! The J-22 definitely looks like a gun a lady would enjoy shooting and looking at. I was disturbed at the fact that I ran out of paint, but it was pointed out to me that she could now see the safety more clearly and it was much better for her now. I guess I must embrace my mistakes as innovations… I’ll take it! I have found that many of the women I know do not like black guns very much?! So for all you dudes out there that are wondering why I destroyed a good looking black gun, the answer is “Women” and that’s a good thing!

Even though I ran out of Barney Purple, the gun cycles much smoother with the protective DuraCoat finish.

Even though I ran out of Barney Purple, the gun cycles much smoother with the protective DuraCoat finish.

The light layer of DuraCoat finish allows the owner of this Jennings pistol to be able to see the safety position much better!

The light layer of DuraCoat finish allows the owner of this Jennings pistol to be able to see the safety position much better!

The right side of the Jennings J-22 . Jennings was located in City of Industry, CA. The company was established in 1978. Jennings was also the brand name for Bryco Arms, as well as distributers for Sundance and Accu-Tech.

The right side of the Jennings J-22 . Jennings was located in City of Industry, CA. The company was established in 1978. Jennings was also the brand name for Bryco Arms, as well as distributers for Sundance and Accu-Tech.

Left side of the J-22 before painting.

Left side of the J-22 before painting.


12 Responses to There is a Place for Cheap Guns

  1. Good jobs Robert.

    I can definitely see the safety (and the gun’s data stampings) easier on the Jennings .22 after the application of the Barney Purple DuraCoat.

    Thanks for the article.
    Cheers

  2. I love cheap guns to. I own a Jennings J-22, Phoenix HP22, Jimenez J9 and Hi Point C9. The latter three are very accurate. I also own a NAA mini revolver and a Sentinel revolver (super accurate). Nice to see someone else enjoys them too.

  3. I would like to know where to find a firing pin for the little RG, I have been looking for one for about a year

  4. I have to admit, I only have one cheap gun right now, a little .22 revolver, but I can fully understand the love of cheap guns, especially as a training tool for gunsmiths. The only thing the hoopla and restrictions on cheap “Saturday Night Specials” did was make it impossible for poorer people to be able to afford a gun for protection, and often these same people live in areas where the police aren’t all that available and they need the protection more. So once again, the nanny state says it’s going to protect you and what it does winds up hurting the poorer citizens, an all too common occurrence.

    I once had one of the little cheap Chinese .25 autos, chrome, kept it in the dash of my car for a month, never fired it, finally decided it was too junky and I didn’t trust it. I traded it back in and put the money towards something better. Wouldn’t mind having one now just to tinker on it.

    Good article!

  5. Robert,
    I couldn’t agree more with your article. Living in the northeast corner of Georgia that once was a thriving area full of industry until Mexico and China got most of outsourcing avalanche, I too work on many old guns and many cheap guns. Many are hand me downs with lots of sentiment attached and I feel I am doing the community a service by repairing these firearms most of which are not really worth the cost of the repair if I charged what I should charge. I treat each gun with the care and professionalism as I do with the higher end guns. Some things are truly priceless and the gleam in the customers’ eyes when they see a once neglected non-functional firearm now clean and functional is worth a lot to me personally. Call it a “calling” of sorts but I derive great pleasure in making these guns once again bark. I think the world’s supply of Remington 742’s in 30-06 must be in this area as I really get more than my fair share of these rifles. Always enjoy the posts and the friendships of the many AGI disciples.

  6. Cheap is not the same as inexpensive. But a cheap gun is excellent for learning how to repair a firearm. One of teh first guns I ever worked on was a S&W 1-1/2 that had a loose front sight blade.I was too young and foolish and basically ruined a collectors item 60 years ago.
    A cheap gun is great as a truck or tractor gun. You can leave an SKS in your Jeep without worrying about a little rust. 0000 steel wool will fix an SKS as good as new.
    The most expensive gun is the one that is so cheap it doesn’t work and you die because it doesn’t work when you need it.

  7. Robert:
    I’m definitely with you on this one, for all the reasons you cited (including the fact that even an experienced gunsmith can learn things working on this little guns). I have fixed a bunch of little Raven, Jennings, and FIE Titan pistols. Don’t make much money doing it, but it is fun and educational. Also agree with you on the idea that these guns supply a need, because not everyone can afford to buy a Glock or even a Taurus. Just a comment for those who are interested — cheap guns are still being made, and low price doesn’t necessarily mean they are junk. Case in point is the Phoenix HP-25 (I wrote a two part article here about it some time ago). Nice little gun, made in USA for around $100.
    P.S. I love those reptile eyes — giving me ideas for a lot of “custom guns”

    • Loved the FIE Titan series autos. I have owned over a dozen of the little .25acp versions. Even carried a pair in my pockets when I was a LEO, final backup for my backup. Had several of the .32 and .380acp versions also. I would love to find some now but unfortunately people now think they are worth well over a $100.00.

  8. Amen! Cheap guns are fun, but they are even more fun when you can afford to have cheap guns as tinkering and plinking guns, plus not cheap guns for concelaed carry, competition, etc.

    I bought one of my cheap guns, a Raven in 25 ACP, in the 1970s brand new for $25.It has never failed to feed or failed to fire.

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