Budget-Friendly Everyday Carry (EDC) Essentials: How to Stay Armed and Prepared Without Breaking the Bank


There are plenty of articles on the internet discussing concealed carry guns for under $500, but a gun is only one component of a good everyday carry (EDC) setup.  Along with a gun, you need a good holster, a knife, a flashlight, and, ideally, a tourniquet. All those items cost money, too. Then there is the cost of practice ammunition to train with, and effective defensive ammo. Finally, there is the cost of training and, in some states, a concealed carry permit.

Unfortunately, not everyone has a couple thousand dollars to sink into their EDC gear. Worse, it’s often the people living in high crime areas where they need a concealed firearm the most who have the least money to spend on one. But with careful consideration and shopping, it is possible to be legally armed even if you are on a budget.

Be Realistic

There are plenty of inexpensive and reliable handguns available for EDC. They may not have all the bells and whistles of the high-end guns, but they will also not set you back $2500 like a Staccato CS or even $600 like a Sig P365. Just remember that cheap and inexpensive are two different things. While the overall quality of inexpensive guns is much higher than a few decades ago, it still pays to shop carefully.

You must also set your priorities according to your budget. The first and most important items you will need are a reliable gun and a good holster. Everything else can be added or upgraded later. You will also need ammunition, and if your state requires a carry permit, the cost of the training class. Leave the fancy flashlight and expensive knife for later.

The Gun

Fortunately, there is a good selection of inexpensive compact guns designed for concealed carry on the market today. Before you buy any gun, however, it’s important to decide ahead of time what you are looking for, especially if you are on a budget and may have to live with whatever you buy for a significant time before you can afford to replace it.


Determine the total amount of money you have to spend. Then divide it up between the absolute minimum items you need for EDC, with the priority going to a good gun. The other minimum items are a holster, ammunition, and, if required, a permit. Once you know how much you have to spend on a gun, you can start looking for the right one.


This is an important consideration because it will drive what guns are available when you start shopping. The two most common calibers for concealed carry are 9mm Luger and .380 ACP. The most popular is 9mm because it has plenty of power and an incredible variety of handguns chambered in it. The .380 has slightly less recoil and usually a little greater capacity, but a somewhat smaller selection. Either is a viable self-defense round and good for a new gun owner. Decide which one you want in advance so it will be easier to find the right gun.

Quality and Reliability

No matter what brand of gun you buy, reliability is one of the biggest concerns. This is especially significant if you go to a pawn or gun shop and buy a used gun. There is nothing wrong with buying a used gun as long as it is not damaged or excessively worn. If you are not all that familiar with firearms, it would be a good idea to take along someone who is to look at used guns. It’s also a good idea to do some research ahead of time. Find out which guns have a good reputation for reliability and which ones to avoid.

Some Firearm Options

This is not a gun review article, so I am simply going to list some inexpensive guns designed for concealed carry that either myself or people I trust have had personal experience with. There are probably others out there, but I can recommend these in good conscience. The prices are based on an average of what you can normally expect to pay online or in a gun shop. No one charges the actual MSRP, so hunt around for the best price.

Taurus G3c and Taurus GX4 Micro-Compact

Both the G3c and the newer GX4 are excellent compact/micro-compact 9mm handguns. They are both just over 6” in overall length and have barrels just over 3”. They have a capacity of 12+1 and 11+1, respectively. The G3c is a single-action pistol with a manual safety and a loaded chamber indicator, while the GX4 is striker-fired with a trigger safety and loaded chamber indicator. Either can be had for well under $300.


SEE ALL Taurus GX4 Micro Compact DEALS

PSA Dagger Micro

Palmetto State Armory has a reputation for making reliable inexpensive guns. The Dagger was originally a Glock 19 clone, but the Dagger Micro has been shrunk down a bit in size. It is a striker-fired 9mm that is 6.5” overall with a 3.4” barrel. PSA’s MSRP is $339.99, but you can probably find it for less.


Ruger LCP .380

If you want a very small gun in .380ACP rather than a 9mm, the Ruger LCP can usually be found for around $220. It is very small at 5” long overall and has a 2.75” barrel.  It only has a 6+1 capacity and no manual safety, but it is a reliable, inexpensive gun.


Smith & Wesson M&P Shield Plus 9mm and M&P 380 Shield EZ

The 9mm Shield Plus with a manual safety has a 3.1” barrel and a 13+1 capacity. The 380 Shield EZ is chambered in .380 and is designed such that the slide is very easy to cycle. It has a 3.7” barrel and a capacity of 8+1. Both have a MSRP of around $450 but they can usually be found for under $400.

SEE ALL Smith & Wesson M&P Shield Plus DEALS


SCCY DVG and CPX Handguns

SCCY offers a line of small handguns that are available in either 9mm or .380. The DVG line consists of 9mm striker-fired pistols. The CPX line consists of DAO (double-action only) handguns in either .380 or 9mm. Both run around 6” in overall length and have 3”+/- barrels. Their best feature is the price. They can be had new for $200 or less.



The Holster

A good IWB holster will have enough rigidity to cover and protect the trigger to prevent it from being operated accidentally, and it will retain your gun to prevent it from falling out or being easily grabbed from your holster in a struggle. Good holsters from companies like Crossbreed and Alien Gear will run you anywhere from $40 to $100, and both are worth the cost. CYA Supply Co. makes excellent Kydex holsters that are rigid and sturdy and can be found for as low as $39. DeSantis also offers a good line of pocket holsters for small guns like the SCCY. It is also possible to find decent IWB holsters on Amazon for a good price, but be sure to compare ratings and customer feedback before buying one. I recommend you avoid soft nylon holsters that have as much rigidity and support as a sock, as they offer no retention and do not adequately protect the trigger.


Think of your EDC knife more as a tool than a weapon since, most of the time, you will be using it to cut rope and open packages. You can go for a We Knife Soothsayer for $1,200 if you like, but the reality is that a simple and inexpensive folder like a Smith & Wesson Drop Point Folding Knife for $20 will serve you well. If I am going out into the woods, I carry a couple of high-quality knives, but for just beating around town, an inexpensive knife is more than adequate. You can always upgrade as your budget allows.


A good flashlight can be both a tool and a weapon because you can use it to find dropped items or to blind and disorient an attacker.  The last thing you want is a cheap light that will fail when you need it the most, but that doesn’t mean you have to go out and spend $250 on a Surefire Aviator. There are powerful and reliable flashlights available for a lot less than that, but avoid cheap no-name flashlights on Amazon.

LA Police Gear has been my go-to for reliable and durable equipment for years. I have an LAPG flashlight I have used daily for over eight years. The LA Police Gear F1 1,000 Lumen Flashlight puts out 1,000 lumen, is 3.7” long, and only costs $40. The Streamlight 88061 ProTac is another good option for around $40, although it is only 350 lumen.

Concealed Carry Permit and Training

You won’t need to spend money on a permit if you live in a permitless carry state, although it’s a good idea to eventually get a permit anyway if you are planning to cross state lines into a state that requires one. In states with a carry permit requirement, you will have to pay for the cost of the mandatory training and the cost of the permit. These costs will vary from state to state, and sometimes even from county to county, depending on how that state structures its concealed carry permit process. The best way to find out how much it will cost is to do some research on classes and the permit application for your state.

Ideally, however, you will eventually be able to afford some defensive shooting training. It will provide dynamic training that you cannot get on a static range. An alternative that will still give you some excellent experience in shooting and moving is to shoot USPSA matches. You do not have to be ranked to shoot a match. Simply register as a novice and show up. The fee is usually lower than the cost of a class, and there will be a lot of skilled people there who will be happy to help you out with guidance and pointers. When I was preparing to deploy to Iraq as a private security contractor, I shot every USPSA match within driving distance. They were some great people, and I learned a lot.


Try to plan on a couple of boxes (100 rounds) of FMJ training ammo so you can get used to your gun and learn basic shooting techniques. Any factory ammo brand would be adequate. Be aware that some firearm manufacturers will consider the warranty void if you shoot remanufactured/reloaded ammo, but it is your choice. I shoot reman ammo all the time with no problems.

As for defensive ammunition, be sure to get a good JHP cartridge. I recommend against carrying FMJ or Ball ammo for defense. It doesn’t have the performance of a hollow point round. You can find good quality JHPs at a decent price if you look around. Just before typing this sentence, I searched and found a 20-round box of Winchester SilverTip 9mm Defense 147 Grain JHP ammunition for $12.89. Be sure to run a magazine of your defensive ammo through your gun to ensure it feeds smoothly.


Everybody has a right to defend themselves and their loved ones, but sometimes financial realities can make that difficult. However, depending on the gun you buy and if you do your research and shop carefully, you can realistically get a handgun, holster, FMJ practice and JHP carry ammunition, and your permit for under $500. Less if your state doesn’t require a permit. Keep in mind that there will be taxes attached to every purchase price, and if your state requires universal background checks, that will also cost extra.

Many firearms dealers now offer payment plans and layaways for guns and holsters, so you can find a good gun and take advantage of a sale if you find one. Many manufacturers also offer rebates on new handguns. Even if you must buy your EDC set up one item at a time, it is still possible to do so, even on a budget. The alternative is to be unarmed if and when trouble strikes.

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