- Same caliber
- Same magazines as the "A" team (or no magazines required)
- Commonality of accessories
- Still effective "enough" for basic applications
- Some unique utility compared to the "A" team"
- Significantly cheaper (defined as 1/2 the price or less)
HANDGUNS: HiPoint, Kel-Tec, or Surplus Revolver
A S&W M&P, Glock, or similar "standard tier" handgun costs ~$450. To be an economic "B" team handgun, the price has to come in <$225. There are a few options:
- HiPoint Semiautos: The only option there that's in the same standard semiauto caliber is the HiPoint. So, the "B" team is a HiPoint. The unique capability that adding a HiPoint gives you is the option to get a companion carbine that takes the same magazine.
- Kel-Tec .32 Semiautos: If sharing cartridge commonality isn't a factor, then the Kel-Tec is an option too, as it offers a small "deep concealment" option.
- .22 LR Revolvers (and a few semiautos): I don't consider the .22 LR options to be a credible self-defense caliber. Its better considered in its own category, although owning a .22 LR handgun makes sense for cheap practice.
- Used revolvers: Finally, if you already have investment in a revolver caliber, that may be an option too.
The baseline option here, in my opinion, is either a somewhat customized Ruger 10/22 or similar, which will come in around $300-500 (depending on your level of customization).
Below $150, there are a wide variety of single shot rifle options. However, for a few bucks more, you can get semiautos: the Savage 64, Mossberg 702, or Marlin 795. I would also look real hard at the Marlin 60, a tube fed semiauto .22. They have a great reputation, are very affordable, and won't require you to maintain a separate stock of magazines like the other three options do.
SHOTGUNS: Used double barrel, or go with a Mossberg 500
The baseline option is a pump Mossberg 500 or Remington 870 with a few accessories, coming in at around $350. So again, the goal is something below $175. There aren't many options down there.
There are a fair number of single shot guns around $100 (or perhaps a bit more). These are ok but pretty limited in application. New England Arms (a Chinese company) makes pumps that come in under $200 so that might be an option. Most side by sides or over-unders are above the price window, but if you can get a deal on one used that might be an option.
I think this is a category where its hard to do better than the baseline unless you find a deal on a used gun. I think a single shot may just be too limited. Its not adequate for self defense and even its hunting or skeet applications are limited.
.308 "BATTLE" RIFLES: 4+1 Bolt
My "dream" baseline rifle is an M1A in .308. These run about $1400. A "B" team rifle would have to come in somewhere below $700. Luckily there seem to be quite a few options down below there.
Remington, Rossi, and New England make single shot options for around $200. For another $100-200, you can move up to a bolt action 4+1 like the Remington 770. Left-handed bolt guns seem to be more expensive still, around $500 such as the Remington 700. The first semiautos don't show up until you hit the $600-700 price point.
Like I thought with the shotguns, I think a single shot might be too limited. I wouldn't want to go bear hunting with a single shot rifle! The $300 Remington 770 4+1 bolt rife sounds like an excellent value. I also like the Remington 700. It is in use as a military sniper rifle which attests to its ruggedness and accuracy, and its available in left handed versions. There is much more aftermarket support for the 770 than the 700.
An entry level semiauto could be an option, but for $700, you're halfway to an M1A. I might just prefer to make do with a bolt gun and then save pennies for a semiauto.
.223 "VARMINT" RIFLES: 4+1 Bolt
One quick comparison here -- the AK-47 7.62 x 39 has an easy to select understudy: the SKS.
The queen of the .223 however is the AR-15. Putting together a good AR-15 probably costs between $800 and $1400. Let's say $1K for a baseline. So, a "B" team would have to come in under $500, and maybe under $400.
There are some options down there. As usual, single shot rifles are the cheapest. Rossi and New England both have offerings for around $200. But again, I think single shot rifles may sacrifice too much utility. In the mid-$300s, Stevens offers a 4+1 bolt gun which I think is really the first serious contender.
The Mini-14 is probably the closest to a .223 SKS and was probably the first option to jump to mind for most folks. Its likely the cheapest decent semiauto and is pretty common. The problem here is that I think its too expensive. A mini-14 costs just under $700. For a few hundred more bucks you could look at a decent AR. You're sacrificing a whole lot of utility for not a lot of cost savings. If the Mini-14 could come in below $500 I think it'd be worth looking at more carefully, but its just too pricey.
One niche where I think the "B" team can shine is in combo guns. For example, a Savage 24 with .223 over 12 gauge gives you a shotgun and a varmint rifle in one. They are specialized but seem great for small game or gardens.