Don't Overlook These Import Guns For CCW
The term import guns for CCW can be a tad confusing, so let's get that out of the way first: guns from foreign brands that aren't already well-represented in the typical gun store. For instance, Sig Sauer, Heckler and Koch, and Bersa are basically in every single gun store. Furthermore, most of the well-known foreign brands have production facilities in the U.S.A., so they're hardly imports anymore.
That includes Glock, Sig Sauer, even CZ.
However, there are some curious imported firearms that you may run across here and there and ponder "hey, I wonder if that gun is worth picking up since it seems to be competitively priced."
Here are 9 that definitely are.
Canik, a Turkish firearms maker, has been in business for more than 150 years, quietly turning out quality firearms unknown outside of Turkey up until recently, and the TP9 series - such as the Canik TP9SA - has gotten them a lot of notice.
The TP9 series is a family of poly-frame striker-fired pistols often feted as budget Glocks. However, they are actually more comparable to the Walther P99. The base model has a decocker (in the same position as the P99) that puts the trigger in double-action mode. The TP9SA retains the decocker, but using it totally decocks the pistol.
Granted, the TP9SA is a service pistol, with broadly the same dimensions as the Glock 17 though it carries 18+1 - one more than the Glock.
There's an accessory rail for mounting a light and universal sight cuts for easy upgrades should they be desired. While not the most compact, concealed carry isn't out of the question as a lot of people CCW a 17 on the daily.
They are accurate, reliable (the Canik factory is actually ISO-9000 certified) and best of all, you can get one for a bit more than $300. As good as a Glock is, they aren't the be-all, end-all, and neither are Caniks...but they are just as good as the Austrian gun for about half the price.
The double-action crowd should also check out Canik's CZ clones, as they are excellent.
Magnum Research Baby Desert Eagle
The Baby Desert Eagle is a CZ-75-derived service pistol developed in the early 1990s as a service pistol for the Israeli army. Just like the CZ-75, the slide rides inside the frame rails, so lock-up is tight, recoil is softened and accuracy is great out of the box. The ergonomics are also outstanding.
There is a compact (3.8-inch barrel) and a full-size version (4.4-inch barrel) as well as steel and polymer frame models for both. The polymer version has an accessory rail, the steel does not.
The firing mechanism is double-single action, with frame-mounted ambidextrous decocking safeties like Beretta fans are used to. If you prefer a manual safety, Israeli Weapons Industries makes a twin of the Baby Eagle - called the Jericho - which does have one.
You can choose 9x19mm, .40 S&W or .45 ACP; the model determines capacity. The compact is a little easier to conceal with a shorter length (7.825 inches for the compact vs 8.375 inches for the full size) but overall height is 5.75 inches for both sizes. Width at the controls is 1.5 inches.
It's a bit on the bulky side, sure, but it's also a proven service pistol with excellent shooting characteristics for around $600 or less in most stores.
Rock Island Armory 1911
Rock Island Armory 1911 pistols are known for being budget import 1911-platform pistols that rival some domestic producers for function and features despite commanding much less in price.
Rock Island is made by Armscor, a Filipino arms maker, and the 1911s they produce can fit nearly any budget. You can get a variety of chamberings, including .22 LR, .22 TCM, .380 Auto, 9x19mm, .40 S&W, 10mm, .38 Super and of course, the trusty 'ol .45. Frame sizes on offer range from 3.5-inch Officer frames, 4.25-inch Commanders and 5-inch Government frames. Appointments and features abound; choose bare-bones GI spec pistols to decked out tactical models.
They make double-stack models, competition guns, hunting models, almost any 1911 variant you can think of.
Price depends on what you pick, but entry-level models start somewhere around $400 in most stores. That said, you'll get more gun for the money than the more prestigious names (Kimber, Springfield, Sig, etc.) and it will shoot about as well, though you might find a touch less refinement.
The Makarov pistol was the standard-issue sidearm in the Soviet Union and in certain satellite states for decades and is known as one of the best import guns for concealed carry from the military surplus stocks.
The Makarov won't win any beauty contests, for sure, but finding a decently maintained example will put a good CCW gun in your holster for less than $400 in many cases.
The Makarov is heavily inspired by the Walther PPK. The controls are the same; DA/SA operation, single-stack magazine, frame-mounted decocking safety. The barrel is fixed like the PPK's and the takedown procedure is even the same.
Carrying capacity is 8+1 rounds of 9mm Makarov, which is essentially halfway between the .380 and 9x19mm rounds in all respects. However, quality hollowpoints are available as the gun has become common as an military surplus import pistol. Russian and East German examples are rarer, more expensive and are a bit better made in finish and fit, but the Bulgarian models are just as good in terms of function for a bit less in asking price.
Steyr is mostly known for making the Scout and AUG rifles, but they make pistols too...such as the M-A1. It's a striker-fired, poly frame gun that just doesn't get much attention.
Perhaps it should. The M-A1 is a compact, roughly similar in dimension to the Glock 19, holding 17+1 of 9x19mm or 12+1 of .40 S&W. It has an accessory rail and can be had in OD Green. It has an even more extreme rake to the grip, which can turn some shooters off but reviews have said that once you get used to it, it points better than many other pistols.
The M-A1 is known to be exceedingly accurate and reliable with quality ammunition, as well as exceedingly shootable with a very low bore axis.
It's something of a mid-size pistol as it's just big enough to use as a service gun but still small enough to easily conceal, which means it's a good middle ground between the two. MSRP is $569, but you can often find them closer to $450.
EAA Windicator 2-Inch
Looking for a budget snubbie? The EAA Windicator may be a model to check out. The Windicator is made by Weirauch, a German arms maker, and imported by EAA - European American Armory - along with a number of other pistols.
Granted, it isn't the smallest of snubbies. It's a 2-inch barrel, but it holds 6 of .38 Special or .357 Magnum. As a result, it's 1.5 inches wide at the cylinder, 5.5 inches tall, and weighs 1.8 or 1.9 ounces, depending on the model. Thus, it is the size of a Smith and Wesson K-frame snubbie rather than a truly small revolver such as a J-frame or Ruger LCR.
A 4-inch model is also available, but the 2-inch is a little more appropriate for an import gun CCW.
A 4-inch model is also available, but the 2-inch is a little more appropriate for an import gun CCW. Most reviews praise them for being great guns for the money, as they give you what you need for less than $400 in MSRP, and about $250 in many stores.
Arex Rex Zero 1 Compact
Arex, a Slovenian gun maker, began exporting the Rex Zero 1 family of pistols to the US through the FIME group fairly recently, and it should be getting a bit more attention than it perhaps is.
The Arex Rex Zero 1 Compact is a lot of gun for not a lot of money. It's a double/single action gun, holding 15+1 of 9x19mm, with a 3.85-inch barrel. It has an accessory rail It stands a tad over 5 inches tall, 7.1 inches long and 1.46 inches wide at the controls...which are actually one of the selling points. Unlike other double-action autos, you get the best of all worlds.
The Rex Zero 1 Compact - like the rest of the Rex Zero 1 line - has a frame-mounted manual safety, for carrying in Condition 1... but also a decocking lever, located in a very familiar place for Sig owners.
What is it about the Rex Zero 1? Well, let's face it. It looks kind of like a Sig Sauer. It has Sig-like controls, but with the addition of a manual safety. Most reviews indicate it shoots a lot like one, with a high bore axis but a bit of recoil taming from the heft of the metal frame. Unlike a Sig, however, you won't go broke picking one up, as they can be found for about $600 in most cases.
So, if you like the Sig P229 but want an affordable alternative...this may be the ticket.
The Stoeger Cougar is the old Beretta Cougar; it's just that the name on the slide has been changed and it's made in Turkey now.
When Beretta cooked up the PX4 Storm a while back, they knew the 8000 (aka Cougar) was obsolete by comparison but didn't entirely want to stop making it. So they literally sent the machines over to Stoeger - part of the Beretta/Benelli family - and told them they were in the handgun business.
Stoeger is known for making fantastic working shotguns at highly competitive prices, perhaps most notably semi-auto shotguns that use the Benelli inertia-driven action rather than the gas system most semi-auto shotguns employ. However, their handgun is worth looking at.
The Cougar is available in 9x19mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. Beretta fans will recognize quite a bit, such as the metal frame, double/single action operation and a frame-mounted decocking safety. However, it's compact compared the battleship-sized 92, with a 3.62-inch barrel, overall length of 7 inches and 4.96 inches in height. It's also streamlined and contoured for easy concealed carry.
The frame is all metal - unloaded weight just under 29 ounces - so you'll need a good gun belt. However, that gets you a solid working pistol that saw a lot of service with police agencies around the globe and for under $400 in many stores.
EAA Witness Poly Compact
The EAA Witness, or more accurately the Tanfoglio Witness, is a family of CZ-75 clones made in Italy that's imported by European American Armory. The Witness Poly Compact has a polymer frame (naturally) and is...you'll never guess it...a compact.
Though the Witness family is seemingly weighted toward competitive shooting, they also have a few concealed carry models, of which the Witness Polymer Compact is a great example. Barrel length is 3.6 inches, overall length is 7.3 inches and it stands 4.5 inches tall. It's a tad wide, at 1.4 inches at the controls, but is fairly easily concealed. Unloaded weight is 28 ounces, which is a touch heavy but manageable.
One thing Tanfoglio is known for is offering a bit more in terms of caliber than other firms, as this gun comes in 9x19mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP and 10mm, with capacity depending on chambering. It also has a full-length accessory rail, and a frame-mounted manual safety. Like the CZ-75, you can either let the hammer down manually for double-action carry or carry it cocked and locked.
You also get the same design features as other CZ clones. Low bore axis and tight lockup with the slide riding inside the rails, better than average accuracy out of the box and outstanding ergonomics, and in a compact package to boot.
EAA asks $589, but you'll likely find it in-store for closer to $450. If you like an old-school gun for concealed carry that has modern appointments, the Witness Poly Compact is a great way to get one.