Wednesday, May 30, 2018

10 Year Blogiversary - on Endurance.

Endurance doesn't always shout. 
There are times
it is simply that soft voice
 you hear with each new day,
 quietly stating "never give up".
 - Brigid

Home on the Range just hit the ten-year mark.  It feels like I've always done this, as natural each day as breathing, but somewhere since 2009, when the stat counter went up a year into it, some 12 million people have wandered by to say hello, including a better part of a year I went private.

My first blog post was on food. Muffins.  Imagine that.  It had about 15 visits and it took a few weeks before anyone ventured to leave a comment. The second was a simple post on the Heller Decision and it garnered over 2700 visits. My audience was pretty clearly defined at that point. But I had started this to write for my daughter, so she could get to know the woman who gave her up for adoption. I wrote for my Dad and Big Bro who was so far away. I wrote for me, to let things out, things that, like water, gather in all the light and the cold and the darkness, then release it with a torrent. And there's bacon.

Seriously, you could replace a picture of ANY President with a picture of bacon and his approval ratings would go up.
My recipes archive runs from 2006 through Feb. 2008, simply to have a section of the blog that's just recipes for the sidebar links, but the first public post was this date in 2008. In these years since a lot has changed, and yet it has not.

The biggest changes, I gave up living in a semi-rural area to move to a huge city.  I did this, for one reason.  I married one of my readers, who first became my best friend, and then my husband.  I'd follow him to Mordor (which is sort of what I actually did).   There were naysayers  -" he's half your age",  "he lives in Chicago", but I found my hearts twin and when he made me a dozen roses out of duct tape on our first Valentine's day, because I told him real roses made me sad because they died, I knew I was in this for the long haul. 
Tam, having an aviation background, I knew before this blog. But through her, I met Roberta X and many a grand adventure was had before I married and moved north. I miss Indy, but I love the life that he and I built and he has his dream job up here, something I'd never ask him to give up for me.

Then there were the losses, my stepmom of 30 years, Barkley, my brother, friends who left too young, such as my pilot friend Neptunus Lex. (to which my fifth book on the philosophy of flight will be dedicated).  Such things deserve more than a blog post, but lasting dedication to maintaining those memories.
Abby Normal, our Senior Rescue Lab Mix.

The second is on the urging of my readers I wrote a book, then another, then another, then another, an anthology with other authors with the help of my friend of 30 years Jim Curtis. I honestly don't know if I would have - had not Barkley and my brother died within just a few weeks of one another. I wanted to capture their stories, hoping it would at least momentarily purge the grief.  So I began to write, the words filling their void. Five weeks later the words and the tears dried up, remaining forever as traces upon paper and skin, visible only to me. 
All were amazon best sellers, 2 hitting the #1 spot and staying there.  The book of Barkley as of last week, four years in, is still #14 in genre at Amazon.  I've won two major literary awards, been on the cover of a literary magazine and was interviewed by NPR.  Then there was that time that Partner was in London on business and in a fancy brick and mortar bookstore saw TBOB in a table display, with a sign that said: "also by this author".  At the time, Saving Grace wasn't published and was still in draft.  He called me and told me and I said: "what book is it".  It was a book by a Dr. L.B. Johnson - on erectile dysfunction.  Quick a phone call to my publisher and publicist!!!  
I got letters from people that loved them, through my publisher and through a P.O. box my best friends set up for me so I could mail out autographed books without giving out my home address.  All were people I'd never met, simply telling me how my words soothed their own personal griefs and helped them grow and remember.  Those letters are all contained in a small box in which Barkley's old orange collar lies.  That meant much more than the fame, though having Chewbacca read my book and post it online was cool as was The Piano Guys inviting me to help produce a video with some other fans.

Then there were all the animal rescue people I met, as all the book proceeds go to them.  So many dog lovers, probably too many barbecues, and beers but great fun, in numerous states.

And of course Midwest Chick, Mr. B.  A home I spent many a weekend in with Barkley before I met Partner in Grime, forging friendships that last to this day.
All things that never would have happened had I not started this blog.  I'd probably still be single 30 years now, not 20.  I'd probably have too many rescue dogs, and I'd be living off the grid somewhere in Indiana, with probably at least one book on my shelf with a pirate with six-pack abs and a panting maiden.  My table would be pretty empty most Saturday nights.

I'm SO glad I started this blog.
But it's the small changes and memories that are with me on this night.  Snippets of conversation with people I'd never had met but for the blog, many that became friends in what my dear friend Og calls "meatspace". It's time to let my thoughts out, it's time to laugh, it's time to savor all the minutia that makes up a life.

Another evening in a quiet house, with a cup of coffee and the computer, and the need to simply write about my day, my thoughts, sharing with those who have become part of my daily life. Reaching out to like spirits, those of us that love the shooting sports and the outdoors, our indomitable desire and will to pursue and grasp beyond all limits of flesh, of the outdoors, teeming with life. To defend and protect and teach. To share a simple meal, the renewing power of family and a belief in a way of life that goes back to our forefathers.

What has changed are those souls that share this space with me, some now, only in memory, waiting at the Rainbow Bridge and beyond, others tethering themselves here, with only love.
Though many people have come and gone through this small space, the quiet has not changed. I'm often amazed how very quiet it is around the Range as I sit at the computer. Here I am, all said and done, after almost 60 years of roaming this planet, a wanderer, an adventurer, on this tiny piece of land, in a small state, finally stationary, easing into quiet.

The years have been one of change, of brutally hard decisions and mistakes, of happiness, winters of cold and seasons of astonishing rain, falling like coins onto parched earth. But even the rain grows quiet now, the earth soaking up only the sun, the corn turning, dying slowly, the cool, solacing stalks spinning the last of golden radiance from a white-hot sun. I  will arise early, the smell of biscuits baking, the land beginning to stir.
I wish I could sleep in, but too many years of living on a small farm broke me of that. A reader commented early on that farmers are all basically on government welfare, the small family farm dead, and I looked down on calluses that remained after the work on that farm ceased and didn't know whether to laugh at that or cry. Tears won out, splashing on hands whose last grasp of that family farm were as they lay on top of a coffin, a touching goodbye to someone who in defending that way of life lost his very breath. Still, years later, on a much smaller piece of property, within a small and quiet village within a huge city, the sun draws me up, Abby, our senior rescue Lab snoozing on the little futon in the office on which Barkley will be forever imprinted, barking silently at ducks still floating on dreams. The coffee has perked, and the world falls into still again as memories of youth come unbidden, stories I do not write about, but that stay with me.

So many memories, ones I hope you will share.
The early ones revolved around aircraft.  I still remember the sounds of a flight to Ireland, a small fuel stop on the way further on. A cockpit is rarely quiet, but it's a symphony of familiar sounds. The voice of the air traffic controller, a reassuring sotto voice confirmation that two minds are in agreement, and all is well with the world. The clatter of a trim switch and the beep of an altitude alerter, sounds of warning that the earth is approaching. The ground. It's solid underneath you, and hard, and if you flared too high you'll break your aircraft against its incontrovertible passivity.

Aloft and level though, airplane sounds stabilize into a gentle song with just the occasional background chorus of the controllers, and you would have time to think and perhaps chat a little. We rarely talked about the mission, but like pilots everywhere we talked of everything else. We talk of the spiritual and we talk of the mundane. We talk about families and jobs, spouses, children, food, politics, food again and surprise, we talk about airplanes. 
Then, with the remark about someone we knew, lost in combat, flying more dangerous work than we'd ever know, that familiar awe-filled sadness enveloped our little space and we grew silent, remembering him, sounds of mourning and respect. Airmen, like Patriots, are a small community of thousands, and we never forget our fallen.

The descent and the landing were at hand and the day was drawing towards sunset, or would if we could see it through the prevailing overcast of our world, so we paused. The sound of conversation ended there. We simply basked in the hum of the engines and the view out the window to our world, clouds disbanding with the disinterest of late day, and the contrail of another aircraft 1000 feet above, vanishing upward like smoke as we descend for landing.

For just a moment, I leaned my head against the side wall of the cockpit and felt the vibration rattle through my bones, breathing in and letting the surge of the engines push my thoughts inward and breathing out in unison with the straining metal of the airplane. The sounds of our craft and the exhale of our breath mingled with the voices of those guiding us. Talk of things past fell away, for we knew that for now, we all had a task to do. We were so alive in that moment, and thoughts of our own mortality disappeared behind us like vapor trail as the sounds of our aircraft drove us towards duty and home.
It is a place, now years later, where the world is simpler, quiet, the only motored hum I hear that of my husband in his shop.  I still travel, my work takes me around the world, but it's done from the back, not the cockpit. But there are many more mornings tending to an ancient house, afternoons tending to myself. Quiet gatherings of people I trust over for food, wine, stories, and laughter.
The First Range Dinner Party- Shooty Buddy, Barkley, Roberta X, Turk Turon and Tam (playing with my Swiss K31 in the other room)

Only a handful of them are pilots, yet all are of the same cloth. Determined, strong, traveling great distances within themselves to find the life they wanted. Things are never the same, yet they are. We all blog, but for many of us, that is not how we met, just a trait we share

Airborne or earthbound, some things just do not change.

Home on the Range. Days of work and weekends of sharing bullets and beer with those who believe as I do. Late evenings spent in front of the computer, writing, a post, Internet letters to my daughter, writing to you, as you chat back with me like the air traffic controllers of years ago, giving me guidance and encouragement, propelling me onward into this life that I lead, now shared.

These weekdays fly by, but I'll get out Saturday morning, like most, and head out walking, passing gardens past their prime, and flowers still unfolding in lush morning dew in defiance of their season. I move quickly forward, gun on my hip, black lab by my side, watching city life scuttle out of my path. Walking onward, out through pavement unmoving and shallow in the great streaming light, out towards the trees and towards the train tracks.

As I wander these trails of history and sound,  I look around my world, changed, yet unchanged, a scattered mosaic of leaves and broken flowers, the small bones of a broken bird laying among dried needles of pine, footprints of invisible deer. The hushed sound of my breathing, thoughts of a hand on a pine box, thoughts of another hand on my skin, tracing a scar that stands in stark relief to white skin, fingers kind, strong and forgiving.
Too soon it's time to get back in and start my day, the sound of the train forlorn in my ears, breath quickened but quiet after my morning absolution. I need these walks out in my surroundings, a place more quiet than a church, in a place where my God lays his hand on me, a hand also kind and forgiving, giving me the strength to go on.

It's a different life, yet the same. Days of hard work, countless days marked with bitter cold and radiating warmth, monotonous wonderful days of work and friends that I love, of water, woods and sky. Countless days here retreating like fields of corn, replaced by the city, leaving their mark on the landscape even when they are nothing more than dust.
On the porch, used as vases for some fresh flowers, are old-fashioned glass milk bottles, from cows that live as well out in a beautiful countryside, no longer part of my daily world, yet always contained in it.  I look at the clean lines of the rinsed glass, carefully washed and dried, stark, clear lines against a backdrop of country life, empty now, but soon to be filled with all that is beautiful from the earth.

Things that were worth waiting for.

Things that were worth remembering.

It is not the life of spoiled subsidy, it is not the life of an adventurer that I once led. It is my life, strong, quiet, true to myself and joined with those who hold not just my values, but my heart.  It can't truly be judged by those who have never spent time with me. It can't be totally understood just from some words on a page.  It is simply my life.

It is tending a garden in drowsing sunlight, wrestling life from the ground in a flaying of green, sore muscles, mending heart. It is soil and sweat; it is books and reports and hours spent looking at the smallest of life's tragedies through a microscope. It is a life of putting together the pieces of shattered lives, pieces of me. But it is that life that all those contrails led me to, and I thank those of you, who have shown nothing but kindness, for sharing it with me.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Bacon Care of Business - Hash Brown Crust Quiche

Quiche is one of my favorite brunch foods, even if it isn't low calorie the way I make it.  But it's a great way to use up chopped leftover meat and veggies or those eggs that are nearing the "best by" date.  Plus not only is it great out of the oven, a slice cold for breakfast or lunch is also great. and a very filling light meal.

But what to do for a crust as an alternative to flour?

Try shredded hash brown potatoes.  The top is a wonderful little crunch and the bottom is softer but still holds together. (I originally came up with this  to be gluten-free for a friend with Celiac disease but now, I just like it as is and it's easier to make than a homemade pie crust)

3 1/2 to 4 and 1/2 cups shredded hash browns thawed and blotted well with a paper towel to remove any moisture.  (My pie pan is fairly large so I used 4 and 1/2 cups)
1/2 stick butter, melted

Mix and pat into and up the sides of a pie pan.

Bake at 450 F. 22-25 minutes (edges should just begin to brown a little).

While that bakes mix:

10 slices cooked bacon, chopped
1/3 cup of chopped onion
5 large or 4 Extra large eggs
1 cup cream
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
4 shakes of black pepper
2 shakes crushed red pepper
4 drops of hot sauce.  I used Singing Smoke from

I never liked hot sauce at all until I tried theirs, handcrafted in Indiana. Online ordering is easy, they have a ghost pepper one, and a couple of medium ones that are really good, but if you like mild the Singing Smoke and Cowboy Crooner are amazing in adding a little depth to all kind of savory recipes. If you're ever in Kouts Indiana, drop into their store at 702 E Indiana Ave #9b, Kouts, IN 46347. That's right next to the Gauntlet Gun Store.

When the crust is done, fill with egg filling, and lower heat of the oven down to 325 F.  Cook for an additional 50-55 until center is set and crust is browned.  Let stand 3 minutes, then serve.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day 2018

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
- Ronald Reagan

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Teaching My Fingers to Fight

Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth
my hands to war, and my fingers to fight
-Psalm 144:1

Today is as good a day as any to think about such things for I have seen hell. . . . .

. . . . . and it's Wal Mart on a holiday weekend when it's  almost 100 degrees.

The photo above was the outside temperature at the Range at 2:30.  Really too hot to do anything,

But Partner in Grime has been gone for work for a week and I need to make him a homecooked meal.

"What's for supper B?"

"HOTR Hambush surprise?"

"you'll like it,  bring eye protection."

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - Pocket Pistol Protection

I've owned a number if inexpensive "pocket pistols" to varying degree of success.  By success, I mean, not actually having to use it to defend myself but not being known at the range as "Noodle Wrist Johnson" or drawing blood (because if I want something that BITES me I'll get a pet alligator.)

Many of those guns are polymer, which makes them both light, and cheaper to make.

I'll be honest. I had never been a fan of guns made out of polymer. But then I added a little Smith and Wesson M and P 9 to the stable after firing one a friend owned and really liked it, and heard the praises of the Glocks from many of my colleagues.

When I saw my first Glock as a young woman back in the late 80's, the 1911 style .45 auto was THE defensive pistol to have when things went south in a hurry. I still felt that way most days, so when one of the Indy gun bloggers first brought one of the smaller Glocks to the range I had to try it.

I wasn't sure what to think.  I mean, It's PLASTIC.  When I thought of going to a gun show and buying one and coming home with friends asking "what did you get!" all I could think of is the Charlie Brown Halloween special (heavy sigh) "I got a GLOCK".  Because frankly folks, to me anyway, most plastic guns have all the aesthetic appeal of a sippy cup.  Face it, I love revolvers. I love 1911's  I love a gun with some character. I love old weapons, period. I love tools as well. Put a wood handled tool in my hand and I just want to craft something with it or at least take a chunk out of one of my fingers so I can practice some new words in the shop.
But I love such things. Especially guns lovingly crafted with steel and rosewood, intricately machined forgings, polished flats and arcs cleanly intersecting, beautiful bluing and straw tempering, it is hard to find anything in a plastic pistol that speaks to me. Give me something made of fired steel and sweat, to be carried through generations, passed on from father to son, older brother to little sister, mother to daughter.
The history of personal weapons is one of honor, family, sacred duty, prestige and adornment. Warriors were buried with their swords, or they were handed down through generations. I have blades forged hundreds of years ago, as sharp as the day they were made. Somehow a personal weapon with the soul of toaster oven seems wrong. Besides, when you draw that 1911, John Moses Browning is probably looking over your shoulder, smiling.

I wasn't a fan of those first Glocks I fired, only for the feel of the grip than the quality or the handling. But then I got a chance to shoot one of their Glock 21's.  It soon made its way to the Range to make a home because frankly, compared to Glock's I'd fired, the 21 was still a barrel of fun but it didn't have that "blocky" feel to the grip I sensed in other models I'd tried with hands which have a small palm, but really long fingers. It now has a custom made laser sight on it, near where I sleep in case of a home break in as I know it won't let me down. But a Glock 21 is not a "budget gun" which is our featured today.

So though I passed on the cheaper Glocks and a Bersa was added  to the collection.
It's a weapon that's been out for a while, and there it was again, for sale at the gun store, at a price I was really surprised at. I picked it up, liked how it felt in my hand and REALLY liked the price. Certainly, there are a lot of small weapons for sale and cheap, but not all are made with good craftsmanship and quality materials. Holding them up, they may look good, but the metals may be poor, zinc or some sort of mystery metal that may be too heavy or too soft, certainly not guns I'd stack up against someone attempting to attack me on an isolated street. I was looking for something for concealed that wasn't just cheap and light, but was made well. Not for a trip to downtown at night, but something small and light that I could carry running errands or in environmental conditions that result in less bulky clothing or as a backup gun.
When I first spotted one, the store owner was quick to point out that this .380 is similar to the Walther PPK/S, including a seven round magazine with a plastic floor plate extension. I did a little homework. On-line reviewers tend to rate them as reliable, well-built, and strong enough for the average "social situation". There are people that want a gun, but aren't into owning more than one or two, or paying a lot of money. So for me at the time, the Bersa was a nice option.

As shooters it's easy to dismiss inexpensive guns as simply being "junk", and all of us wish to own some fine quality firearms.  But history has a way of showing that over time, for many an ordinary citizen, a cheap firearm may be all they had to defend themselves with.
On the table sits an old-fashioned revolver, as finely tuned as a musical instrument, carefully tended and cleaned and oiled.It simply sits, no hand upon it, musing, steadfast, not threatening in its form, yet carrying with it a weight of responsibility.The weapon is old, the barrel black, as if fire singed, cauterized by fury and fight, turmoil and threat.It is a weapon of history, of a hand that raised it in response to such things, taking stock of their principals and courage.  This is my land, this is my family, these are the things that my hands bled to gain.  I may be one man, one woman, but gaunt, tired and undefeated I will take up my arms and not flee.

 I live in a world totally foreign to the original owner of that old revolver,  yet I too bear the weary, indomitable outrage against those that feel that they can come in and steal what I have worked so hard for.

I wonder what a resident of a 19th Century Western landscape would think of us today were he transported here? For back in the days of the old West, it wasn't just the cowboys and gunfighters that were armed, but the farm and the shopkeeper,

Firearms were prevalent, not only to protect against wild animals, Indian raids and the likebut also against the rustler and the poacher, to whom the laws, gun or otherwise, meant nothing.

But in the later days of the old West, such ordinary folks were unlikely to carry a more pricey six-shooter on their hip.  Many of them got a bulldog, and NOT the canine variety

The “British Bulldog” was a basic double action revolver whose design can be traced back to Philip Webley and Son of Birmingham, England in 1872 and were subsequently copied by gunmakers in Continental Europe, particularly in Belgium and the United States
These had a reputation as being good, reliable handguns. It featured a 1.2 inch barrel and was chambered for .44 Short Rimfire. Most of the ones we have seen weren't made by Webley, but by smaller shops where a few gunsmiths with mostly hand tools, could turn simple forgings into function firearms, have them proof stamped, and  then send them off to foreign markets by the dozen.

Popular in Britain and the American West, US Army General George Armstrong Custer was said to have carried a pair at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, though it didn' exactly make his day end well.
Intended to be carried in a coat pocket, many have survived to the present day in good condition, having seen little actual use.  However, most Belgian copies were not particularly long lived.  "Soft parts" wear quickly, which gives way to timing and lockup problems.  But that was not an era where people had the ammo to go "plinking" for fun or practice, so such firearms, kept clean and used sparingly, would usually go "bang", not "*#(@!) when necessary. It wouldn't be useful at ranges much beyond a few feet, but many a shopkeeper or bartender kept one  under the counter and I guarantee more than one woman of the old West had one nearby when he man was far away from the homestead.

Myself, I prefer a stout looking big barreled big brother - which says more "leave me alone", but too, have a "pocket pistol" when taking the trash out, or walking to the corner store for something quick. Still, back in the day, I don't think I would want to have looked down the shooty end of one of these guns.

Sales of cheap firearms didn't slow down even as the U.S. economy and standard of living increased, paralleling the manufacture of their more pricey counterparts.  For every Smith and Wesson high-quality firearm turned out, there would be a budget minded copy made at Harrington and Ricahrdson. Many of those designs were almost identical in looks to their more expensive counterparts the differences being metallurgy and heat treatment, as well as fit and finish.
Pictured is the Range Harrington and Richardson Hammerless .38 S + W.

It was manufactured sometime prior to 1904 I believe, given the caliber and very low serial number and like all first models of the H & R Hammerless, both large and small frames, it was manufactured for black powder cartridge pressures (a give away for that being it doesn't have the caliber stamped on the side of the barrel and there are no horizontal notches on the side of the cylinder).
Like the (Belgian) British bulldogs, they were not likely to hold up well if shot regularly, but they still served a defense function and someone of average means could sav up a few dollars and order one of these from the Sears catalog.  Having a function al sidearm compared to NO firearm is a no brainer.

Next up is a little pocket pistol that meetings two functions to qualify as a cheap firearm.
(1)  It's a firearm
(2) It's cheap

That's about all of the nice things I can say about it.

The Valor SM-11.  These come up occassionally for sale, usually for less than $200, and I've seen one as low as $25 (which screams run away! right there).. This is not one I'd recommend.  They usually come in two forms, mint in a box with a box of vintage ammo or parts guns.The owner of this example lost the front of the slide downrange using ordinary factory ammo. The mint ones someone probably bought, shot once, vowing never to fire that particular firearm again, the putting it away for years.
“What’s that?” you say,”Is that pot metal?

No, it’s probably Zamak, which is way we city folks say high strength pot metal. Apparently. in order to avoid the cost of forging or machining the frame and slide, they were die cast instead. Sure it's cheaper and faster, but Zamack is NOT the best material based on its inherent brittleness and corrosion issues.

Over time, the pot-metal frame corrodes even when carefully stored, just from the action of Oxygen on it, and the frame weakens to the point where even a .22 short can blow it up and the barrel alignment to the cylinder is also commonly poor. Shooting at a bad gun only to have the barrel fall off might make a good comedy movie, but it is not smart.

The cost cutting didn’t stop there.  Compare the internal workings of the SM-11 to the much higher quality Colt 1908 parts. (this is a Range firearm)
The pocket hammerless is another design by firearms legend John Moses Browning.  Manufactured by Colts's Manufacturing Company from 1908 to 1948,  it was originally said to have been presented to Colt Management before the turn of the century but they passed on it, allegedly in efforts to produce a larger caliber pistol that would help them secure a military contract.  Their loss was Frabrique Nationale de Herstal's gain as FN welcomed the design, producing Brownings self-loading pocket pistol and the FN Model 100 both chambered for the Browning introduced .25 ACP (Automatic Colt pistol) cartridge.
The European market fell in love with it, a loss which was felt by Colt as their European sales took a hit. Colt wasted no further time in brokering a deal with Browning and FN to produce the handgun for US sales, marketing it as a small concealable firearm which could be easily tucked into a gentleman's vest pocket for discrete carry

The moving parts in the Colt were milled, heat treated and usually ground to a good finish.  Certainly, you don't have to have such a clean finish on EVERY part of a more economical firearm, but when you're looking at parts that keep the gun from firing when it's NOT supposed to do, it's vital they be milled properly and more rugged. Now you may not need to have such a clean finish on every part of a more budget oriented gun,
In the Valor, there are several parts made from stamped sheet metal and a few made of plastic (including the safety, yes, I always think plastic when I think safety)  A quick check with a file makes it clear that the steel bits, maybe aside from the barrel, were not heat treated.

The firearm's basic design is not that bad, modeled off of the Walther Patent Model 9, which is a decent little pistol.  The Valor is easy to field strip, acceptably ergonomically sound, and aside from the safety lever, ( and if you get the one that's not starting to rot from the inside out) probably functional.  But the choice of materials, for me personally, is a deal breaker  Between a brittle slide and the plastic safety block, this is not a gun I would even FIRE, let alone concealed carry.

Now contrast the SM-11 to the ‘cheap guns’ of today, the Glocks, the Keltecs, the Bersa's the Hipoints and more. Some may be plastic, and some may be blocky but if cared for well, they should not let you down and the HiPoints are surprisingly rugged. It's not the one pictured below - but you can get a Hi-Point Model C-9, a polymer-framed, semi-auto,blowback-operated pistrol chamber iun 0 x 10 Parabelluls (and rated to accept+P ammo) for around $160.
Another US-made economical firearm that a colleague who is a retired police officer swears by for his pocket pistol is Keltec.  I've never owned or shot one,  but he loves his little K-11, a compact, semi-auto, short-recoil operated pistol chambered in 9 mm Luger.

Another one I'm going to check out soon is the Chiappa M-22. The M9 Semiautomatic is a 9x19mm Parabellum pistol that was adopted in 1985 as the official sidearm of the United States military after winning a competition in the 1980s, beating out many other contenders. The 92F survived exposure to temperatures from -40°F to 140°F, being soaked in salt water, being dropped repeatedly on concrete, and being buried in sand, mud and snow. Additionally, the 92F proved a MRBF (mean rounds before failure) of 35,000 rounds, the equivalent to five or six times the pistol’s service life.

Want a Revolver? You can pick 8p a 8sed Taurus 82S for less than $300.The .38 Special with a 4″ barrel is a timeless classic as well as a reliable handgun with very few parts to ever fail. A .38spl cartridge has resulting in the bad being being on the short end of the losing side and it would certainly comfort this gal if my front door was kicked in.

So there we've covered a bit of what's out there in cheap handguns, the good and the bad.  And since there 's usually a third term used in that phrase, I present you 

The Ugly,
Remember, whether you get an old classic or a new plastic piece remember, it's about function, not admiration. With some cheap firearms,  you may not get oohs and aahs at the range, but you'll have a piece of defense on your hip or in in your pocket when you need it.  And THAT, my friends, is priceless.