By: Justin Hunold
We live in a great time in the world of firearms. Not long ago it was a real task to find a reliable handgun for under $500. Nowadays, it's tough to find a bad gun for around $500. With a focus on concealed carry, and improvements in modern ammunition, slim, reliable, easy-to-use 9mm’s have taken center stage. This category of guns really make up one of the best represented and fastest growing categories of all firearms, and for good reason. Here are six of the most reliable handguns for under $500.Mossberg MC2sc
O.F. Mossberg & Sons is world renowned for making reliable, tough as nails and bulletproof firearms and their latest offering in the world of handguns is no exception. The Mossberg MC2sc is a ultra-reliable, sub-compact, 9mm with features that punch way above its weight class for the price of $500.
This glass enforced polymer frame pistol is ready to go with recessed controls, good grip texture, flat front trigger with integral blade safety, 11 round and 14 round magazines, snag free sights, Safe Take-Down System and it comes from the factory Optics cut for the J point/Shield patterns. The MC2sc can be taken down and maintained without pulling the trigger. Another awesome feature is the ability to co-witness the factory sights because the Optics cut sight keeps an optional red dot mounted very low.
The ability to have a functional sight whether the optic is working or not doesn’t matter if the gun malfunctions. This is not a worry with the MC2sc. There are multiple reports of MC2sc’s going thousands of rounds without malfunction. Throw it, freeze it, drop it, submerge it, run it over, the MC2sc will keep going. If it didn’t it comes with a lifetime warranty that you’ll likely never use
Ruger Max 9
Ruger is constantly at the forefront of great guns at an affordable price. With multiple firearms in the most sold guns of all time ( think 10/22 and Mark series). The company is no stranger to delivering a great gun to shooters. With the principles of delivering on what customers want, the reliable, shootable and all at a great value the Max 9 knocks it out of the park.
The Ruger Max 9 can put shots down range at an amazingly fast pace. With a good trigger and overall ergonomics, it is a very shootable gun. On a scale of bang for the buck the Max 9 is arguably the best pound-for-pound gun in its category. With Tritium/Fiber Optic front sight, Cold Hammer Forged Barrel, a reversible mag release, and an optics cut slide with the ability to co-witness the stock sights it’s tough to argue that anyone needs more than the Max 9.
It has been said that the overall tolerances aren’t as tight as some of the other guns in its class and sometimes you can hear that with a bit of a “rattle”. This is purely a preference of the individual shooter. You know what has looser tolerances in general? An AK platform. You know what AK’s are, plain reliable, and the Max 9 is exactly the same. The Ruger Max 9 doesn’t have tool-less take down. The takedown pin has to be pressed out. One view of this feature is that there isn’t a lot to break on a truly solid build characteristic.
Taurus GX4 T.O.R.O
In 2021 Taurus hit the market with the GX4 and people loved it, except it wasn’t optics-ready. Well, with the release of the GX4 T.O.R.O. Taurus corrected this misstep in a big way. They took a truly reliable carry gun and moved it into the field of more expensive guns. Taurus really did it right with this gun and at a great price point too.
The Taurus is not only cut for optics but it also has a standard capacity of 11+1 with the flush fit magazine and 13+1 with the extended mag. The slide runs on a full stainless steel chassis. The GX4 has an ultra-tough Nitride finish. It will handle IWB carry and all the rigors of range equally well.
Much like the other polymer guns on this list, the GX4 is striker fire and has a blade safety in the trigger. And just like the others, it’s super reliable. This gun just goes and goes and eats anything you feed it. Taurus hasn’t always had the best reputation for reliability of the past decades, but the GX4 is a different animal altogether. It’s just as reliable as any of the best guns in its class.
Now we come to the Granddaddy of them all. Glock, and specifically the Glock 43X. The world of handguns would look very different without Glock. They are the OG, the original polymer frame, striker fire, double stack handgun. The bigger brother of the 43X is the G19 which by the way is the most issued police and military handgun of all time. Reliability is what this brand is built on.
Interestingly the 43x is Glock’s answer to the question that all of these guns try to answer. What do you get when you want a double stack, at least 10+1 capacity subcompact to micro size 9mm that can handle both EDC and range use. The Glock does it with fewer overall features but a ton more aftermarket support and a reputation for being one of if not the most reliable guns in the world.
The G43 came out as a slim frame, single stack deep cover gun. Then with the advent of the Sig Sauer P365 the market changed and a gun that size needed to be not only concealable, reliable but it also needed to have 10+ capacity in 9mm. Enter the 43X.
With a good grip, familiar controls, beveled edges, tons of support, and the Glock name you won’t have many arguments against this gun for around $500. It does everything a gun needs to and it does it every single time you need it to. Glock’s reputation for reliability is so well known that this gun has none of the frills and features of the others on this list but is still a lot of peoples choice in a 9mm carry gun.
Smith & Wesson M&P9 Shield EZ
If the Glock is the industry’s most issued police handgun the Smith & Wesson M&P is probably a close second at this point. The two striker-fired polymer frame guns are neck and neck for reliability and even though the former may have brought this style to the market the latter revolutionized it with a better fit, and form making the first truly adjustable gun of this style.
The M&P 9 Shield EZ is a continuation of this amazing line of handguns. It was built with a very specific shooter in mind, someone who wants one gun for carry, home and range use. Specifically, someone doesn’t have or want to need the hand strength to rack a standard semi auto gun. If you’re a small frame shooter, or some one with some physical limits this gun is your ticket.
The Shield EZ has a grip safety which upon correct purchase of the grip is turned off and the gun is ready to go. This is an added level of safety for those carrying IWB, or folks that want a piece of mind in that aspect. Again, one only needs to do two seconds of research to begin to grasp how reliable the M&P series has been and the Shield EZ is no different.
With a few less rounds in the gun 8+1 this gun doesn’t compete with the other guns on the list as far as capacity goes but it is built for a specific case use. Sporting Easy to rack slide, a great trigger, grip safety and an Armornite Durable Corrosion Resistant coating this gun just works, flat out. Don’t let a little less capacity scare you away; it's a phenomenally reliable gun you can bet your life on.
Smith & Wesson CSX
The second Smith & Wesson offering on this list is the CSX. The CSX is a horse of a different color on this list. It is a Micro 9 like a lot of the others, it does carry 12+1 rounds with similar capacity to the others and it does have a blade safety in the trigger, like the others and that is where the similarities come to an end.
The S&W CSX is an aluminum frame handgun with an exposed hammer. This is a single action gun much like a 1911 or 2011 but it doesn’t quite cross over into either category fully. The all aluminum frame makes this gun very shootable and compliments the single action trigger very well. There is an ambidextrous thumb safety, and two magazine release buttons makes this a great gun for a southpaw.
With all that in mind the CSX has held up to the stringent standards laid out by Smith and Wesson shooters. It’s a reliable EDC handgun. This is a great choice for not only lefties but also anyone who prefers an all metal gun. It does have the same Amornite coatings, Interchangeable backstraps and EZ tab integration for easy slide operation. All backed by S&W’s Lifetime Service Policy. Buy this gun with peace of mind, it’ll do its job if you do yours.
At the end of the day, the shooter’s individual preferences are the deciding factors in any gun purchase. With a budget of $500, any gun on this list will do everything you ask it to do and do it well. We live in a great time for buying a reliable handgun, that is at home in a holster for EDC, in your nightstand, or sending rounds down range. Take a look at each of these and decide what fits your needs. These guns are all under $500 and all super reliable.