The Saturday Night Special

...It's Got a Barrel That is Blue and Cold

Most have heard that southern rock classic, but if you are younger than about 30 or so, you might not really know what they mean by Saturday Night Special.

Since the Clinton "assault weapons" ban of 1993, the focus of the gun controllers has been on expensive, high quality, high capacity, cosmetically militaristic, semi-auto rifles and pistols.  Nobody cares about the lowly revolver or pocket pistol.  But back in the 70s and 80s, much of the focus was on small, inexpensive pistols and revolvers that could be easily concealed in a pocket and were of dubious quality.  Part of the GCA 68 import bans related to pistols of "sporting use" to limit the import of such guns as the RG .22 revolver (used by Hinkley to shoot Reagan et al.)

The term "Saturday Night Special" has it's basis in racial and class prejudices.  The liberal, elitist prejudice believed that good, quality people of breeding and money could afford to buy quality weapons, and if they knew the right judges or greased the right palms, they could get a concealed weapon permit, or even just have the police look the other direction.  They believed that it was the white trash and ghetto blacks who could not be trusted to have guns, and would buy, steal or trade a cheap, often old or unsafe, pistol in an alley behind the honky tonk or nip joint so they could go shoot their cheating wife or dice opponent... typically on a Saturday night.  Probably the peak of the bias came when they tried to ban the possession of any firearms by people living in federal housing projects.  These were people who truly needed the ability to protect themselves, and could only afford to do it with the cheapest pistols around.  Somehow, the courts realized that this was completely unConstitutional and overturned the laws... and then came crack cocaine and the associated guns that are still on the list for the gun grabbers, and they forgot about the Saturday Night Specials.

So, now that the history lesson is out of the way, why did I bring it up?  I recently saw on a gun forum somewhere a thread about cheap pistols like the Hi-Point and if a person should buy one if that was all they could afford or if they should continue saving to buy a better gun.  Most of the arguments centered on how much better a good gun because of the features of the cheap guns that made them undesirable... bad trigger pull, heavy, hard to find a holster to fit, picky about ammo, poor sights, etc...  They talked about someone being so disappointed with their cheap gun that they wouldn't go to the range regularly and practice and that it might turn them off of shooting completely.

I think they missed a big point.  The person who is going to buy a Hi-Point or a Lorcin or a similar gun is not likely to visit a firearms forum nor to be a gun enthusiast.  It is likely to be a person with little money but a need for self defense and protection.  There will be some young people who buy one just to have a first pistol, or a spare pistol, and perhaps people who want to buy extras for arming family and friends who show up at a BOL after SHTF, but most will simply be people wanting to defend themselves.

All of this made me think about some of the guns I had when I was young that might have fallen into the category of Saturday Night Special.  The first pistol I ever bought was when I was about 14, and I gave my dad the money to pay for it... a Raven P25 on sale for $39.99 brand new at Southern Gun World.  I put a couple hundred rounds through it over the years, accidentally shot a B&W TV set doing dry fire practice to the Happy Days flipping records during the theme song, and sold it to a lady I worked with in my first security job when I was 18.

Next up, I got my dad to sign for a H&R 9 shot .22 revolver.  IIRC it cost $79.  I really liked that .22 despite the heavy trigger pull and rudimentary sights, primarily because of the 9 shot capacity.  I'm not sure when or why I sold it.

My last foray in to the world of cheap pistols was an FIE .38 special derringer.  The summer I turned 17 I was out in Idaho visiting my grandparents and other family.  My cousin had a friend whose dad took us all to a gun show.  I had $50 burning a hole in my pocket and saw the derringer.  The friend's dad gave the seller my money and I was the proud new owner.  I bought a locking case at the White Elephant sporting goods store and flew home with it in my checked luggage.  Worst $50 I ever spent.  After shooting five rounds, the pot metal firing pin on the upper barrel broke.  Funny thing is, I still have that little piece of broken junk.

So, cheap guns.  You get what you pay for.  But sometimes, that's all a person can afford.  They serve their purpose.


  1. Hey there. Just saw this post. Kinda funny I got a H&R model 922-C from my grandfather stashed away somewhere. Bulky and clumsy and you are right about the trigger pull. Never have shot the thing. Maybe one day.

    C. Closs

    1. Dig it out and bring it by the house one day and we'll run it through its paces. A 9-shot .22 is a ton of fun!


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