Last week, my father asked me to research guns that would be good for senior citizens. He served in the Army when he was younger, and still swears he could take apart and put back together an M1A in a few minutes flat. I asked him if he would ever want to go to the range with me some time, he responded, “Sure! Though I couldn’t hit a target!” I understand what he’s saying. I’m pretty blind without my contact lenses or glasses. Gun ownership is not only for the able-bodied with perfect vision, there are so many different varieties of guns to choose from that a senior citizen with poor vision, arthritis, and limited range of motion will be able to find something they can comfortably shoot. After all, “guns make everyone equal.”
The most important factor is if you can load/unload and shoot the gun comfortably and safely. Consider the following when in the market for a gun:
- Ease of trigger pull
- Grip strength
- Ease of operation
Ease of Trigger Pull
If you have arthritis, pain, or loss of strength in the hands, racking the slide of a semi-automatic handgun can be difficult, or even impossible. Though semi-automatic handguns, especially those configured like a Glock, have the lightest trigger pulls, do not rule out a revolver. Revolvers tend to have harder trigger pulls, but a good gunsmith, or even the gun’s manufacturer can do custom trigger jobs on a revolver to create a lighter trigger pull. An alternative to the revolver, if you want a semi-automatic handgun, is to look at tip-up barrel models, such as the Beretta 86FS Cheetah.
The gun you chose should not put any strain on you when you raise it. Further, shooting the gun must be comfortable. If you buy a gun and find it uncomfortable to shoot, you will be less likely to practice with it, which is necessary for responsible gun ownership. Be mindful of the gun’s overall weight when loaded. Many polymer-framed handguns are lightweight, such as the Glock 26 or the S&W M&P. A good choice would be guns with different size backstraps, so you can find one comfortable for you. I would suggest rubber grips over wood grips. Rubber grips provide more comfort and a surer grip when shooting a lot of rounds.
Smaller, shorter barreled guns have more recoil than guns with a longer barrel. Recoil should be manageable for quick, accurate follow-up shots. 9mm is generally, in my opinion, manageable. A snub-nose .38 is painful. Of course, .22 Long Rifle, .32 ACP, and .25 ACP barely even kick. There are tons of arguments about calibers for self-defense, but Bruce N. Eimer, PH.D in “Arthritis and Choosing a Defensive Handgun” writes about the merits of .380, “accurate shot placement is more important than caliber. A center hit with a small caliber is better than a miss with a larger one.” So pick what caliber you can shoot repeatedly without causing pain. It is suggested for senior citizens to shoot reduced-recoil loads and chose to shoot the non +P if your gun is +P rated. I have a short-barreled S&W in .38 Special +P-rated, but I shoot normal .38 Special ammunition in it. It still offers the same stopping power.
Ease of Operation
As I mentioned above, operating the slide, which loads the first bullet into the chamber and prepares the gun for shooting, may be impossible to operate for some users. A revolver is easy, and pretty fail-safe. Some revolvers that are single-action require you to cock a hammer back for each trigger pull. Other revolvers operate in double-action, which do not require the cocking of a hammer at all. Double-action revolvers are preferable to single-action for a self-defense gun. Some revolvers are hammerless, these types are just point and shoot. Of course, in times of high stress, this might be the best choice. If a semi-automatic handgun is your favored choice, then pick one with simple to use controls. Make sure you can load, unload, change magazines, operate any safeties, and disassemble the gun for cleaning easily. Many modern day polymer-framed pistols have very few controls, and zero complicated safeties.
Using iron sights might cause a problem, if you have degeneration in your eyes, trying to focus on both the front and rear sight and the distant target will be difficult. Many guns, both semi-automatic and revolvers offer laser sight models. If you find a gun you like without a laser, most will accommodate an after-market laser that is easy to install on your chosen gun. Laser sights line up with bullet’s trajectory and help you in quick aim and bullet placement. Some pistols will accommodate a flashlight and a laser, aiding in your vision further. In addition, there are high-visibility sights you can add to any gun that utilize tritium that naturally glows in the dark without needing sunlight to charge.
In my research, I found these recommended guns for senior citizens:
- Glock 26 in 9mm
- Kel-Tec P32
- Kahr Arms PM9 and MK9
- SIG Sauer P239
- S&W J-Frame revolvers
- Full-sized .357 Magnum revolvers
With this little bit of knowledge to get you started, you can go to your local gun range and rent some of the suggested guns above to see what fits best for you. Remember: safety, comfort, and accuracy above all else.