Should You Carry A Surplus Pistol?

Is it okay to carry a leftover pistol that was meant for law enforcement or military standard issue for your EDC?

Everyone’s always looking for a bargain, right? Guns are expensive items, and trying to save a little money while securing a defensive firearm is a worthy goal. With this in mind, many people turn to the idea of using a surplus firearm for concealed carry and home defense. Surplus pistols seemingly offer shooters an affordable firearm option, but there are a few things you should know before we utilize a surplus pistol for defensive use.

What’s Surplus Pistol Mean?

What exactly do I mean when I say surplus pistols? A surplus pistol is a handgun originally used by a military or police force. When that police or military force upgrades their firearms, they tend to sell them to the general public. These pistols become known as surplus and are often sold at a very desirable price point.

Besides the affordable price point, are there any other benefits to a surplus firearm? Surplus pistols often see years of use with military and police forces and can certainly be considered proven. As good as the gun reviews you read here are, the best review is years of duty use. For defensive purposes, this can be highly desirable.

While these firearms are all used, they are often well kept. Well, some can be. Police firearms from the United States are kept to certain standards by armorers, and you know the weapon is often maintained well, especially for a used firearm.

What To Look Out For In a Surplus Pistol

With maintenance in mind, there are times when these firearms are not kept so well. While Americans seem to have a desire to keep their guns in good shape, that’s not a universal concept. Some firearms might be not have kept in such good condition. When purchasing a surplus pistol for defensive use, you’d be smart to inspect it.

Look for damage to the frame in the form of cracks, pitting, and rust. Examine the barrel for good fit and the bore looking for rust and rifling issues. Check out the controls, the features, the sights, and more for serviceability. Check the slide for cracks and wear and if possible, take the weapon apart and take a peek inside.

Without being an experienced gunsmith, it might be tough to see any and all problems a surplus pistol can have, but even an untrained eye can see the big things. Look for barrel bulges, frame cracks, slide cracks, chips, and rust throughout the firearm.

Staying Safe

What kind of surplus firearm are you shopping for? A surplus Glock 23 from a police department is a modern gun with all the modern safety features you could ever want. However, what about that old World War 2 surplus pistol from Eastern Europe? Is it drop safe? Can you safely carry with a round chambered?


Those can be serious questions to consider. What kind of safety features does the gun feature? A lot of military manual of arms dictated that handguns be carried with an empty chamber, so drop safeties weren’t considered. These days we carry with a round chambered and ready, so we need to consider the safety features of surplus pistols.

Don’t Forget Logistics

Winners don’t just talk weapons and tactics. They talk logistics. When it comes to your self-defense firearm, you need to consider the logistics behind it. What are the logistics to consider?

Well, first, as a holster company, I have to say holsters! Seriously, if you can’t have a modern and safe means to carry your weapon, what’s the point of purchasing it for self-defense? Some old guns just don’t have much support in the world of holsters and before you click buy it now on a surplus pistol, check out the holster situations.

Beyond holsters, what does ammo availability look like? A lot of weird old guns are in weird old calibers. These surplus pistols might be cheap, but the ammo cost might be absurd. If the ammo is pricey, you’ll see your savings by purchasing surplus dry up quite quickly. Beyond the price and availability of training ammo, what do your defensive ammo options look like?

Does someone make high-quality defensive ammo for your firearm? Packing FMJs is rarely a smart option for defensive use.

The Surplus Lifestyle

A surplus pistol can be a great defensive firearm….as long as you are smart enough to consider its downsides and do the research. A surplus Glock 22 is an easy gun to justify, but a CZ 52 is 7.62 Tok might not be the best way to go. Be smart, shop smart, and always do your research.

Do you have a favorite surplus pistol for self-defense? If so, let us know below.


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Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. Travis has trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army.

He serves as an NRA-certified pistol instructor and pursues a variety of firearms-based hobbies.




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