The 10 Best Calibers for Older Shooters

.32 H&R Magnum Ammo

Each time I go to the range, it seems I see a shooter with a caliber that is an overmatch for their age, physique or skill level.

I watched a 14-year-old boy being beaten up by a .30-06 while a 74-year-old shooter was enjoying firing more than a hundred rounds from his .223 Remington.

An optimal chambering for older shooters is important, and this same reasoning may be used for beginners and the slightly built as well.

A 30-year-old with plenty of muscle that only shoots occasionally, probably doesn’t need a 7mm Remington Magnum either.

Recoil kills accuracy and accuracy is what is important for target shooting and hunting. Recoil induces flinch or involuntary muscle tremors.

I have endured enough blows in police work, no need to endure this any more than I have to.

Not to mention horses and motorcycles —less recoil means greater confidence, greater accuracy and the skill to deliver the shots into the vitals of a game animal.

In handguns, the choice is more difficult because the smallest calibers are famously ineffective.

Just the same, there are choices that will make for a good balance of recoil control and wound potential.

A word on rifle ammunition — today we have choices in ammunition selection that we did not have just a few years ago.

Modern bullets will drive deep and expand well.

Calibers such as the 7mm-08 have been improved and the .223 Remington greatly improved, moving it into the deer category for game taking, given good shot placement.

Accuracy of off-the-shelf rifles is better than ever and inexpensive optics are of a higher clarity than ever.

There are very good calibers that I have not chosen for several reasons. One of these reasons is that ammunition isn’t as widely available as other calibers.

I also did not consider handloading, although many seniors are master handloaders.

Some calibers really come alive with handloading. But we have to consider the default load and that is factory ammunition.

As an example, it isn’t difficult to look up a number of calibers such as the .223 Remington or .308 Winchester and find 50 or more separate choices in ammunition.

Anyway, click here to skip the infographic and continue reading the article. Otherwise, here is a quick guide to my selections:

best calibers older shooters

Rifle Calibers for Older Shooters

.22 Long Rifle

This is without any question the one rifle (and handgun) caliber we must all have.

The .22 offers economy, no recoil, excellent accuracy in the right firearm and is a great small-game caliber.

Back to the wall, the .22 can be a lifesaver. Stock up on affordable .22 caliber ammunition and practice often.

More than one shooter owns only one rifle and it is a .22.

CCI .22 LR Ammo
Even after 150 years or more of development, there are new loads introduced for the .22 LR on a regular basis.

.223 Remington

America’s favorite rifle cartridge is an accurate and affordable number. Bulk ammunition is available from our major makers and foreign sources as well.

Most choices are accurate enough for practice. Then there are affordable loads that exhibit excellent accuracy. The Winchester 62 grain is one of these.

Modern bonded-core loadings make for a minimal caliber for deer with good results predicted given good shot placement.

I like the .223 Remington for its economy and easy shooting. It is a fine centerfire target cartridge.

.223 Remington Ammo
The .223 Remington is available in affordable and useful loads. These Winchester loads are among the best.

.243 Winchester

The .243 is suitable for varmints up to deer-size game. It was designed as a heavy-duty varmint rifle for longer-range use and for larger varmints such as coyote.

In this role, the low recoil .243 excels. It is available in affordable guns such as the Savage Axis, offering a lot of value for the money.

I think the .243 Winchester is an unsung champion in many ways and should get a hard look from anyone interested in hunting with a light-kicking but effective rifle.

.243 Winchester Ammo
The .243 Winchester is a useful and underrated cartridge.

6.5 Creedmoor

I was slow to jump on the 6.5 Creedmoor bandwagon. I am glad I did. That is one thing about being a gun journalist, the job forces a lot of guns on you.

Sometimes the realization of the gun’s capabilities takes a while to sink in.

The 6.5 Creedmoor offers modest recoil, superb accuracy and good killing power on deer-sized game. The caliber is fascinating to an accuracy bug like myself.

The 6. 5 Creedmoor is offered in affordable package guns and is at its best in a slightly more expensive piece such as the Savage Apex Storm rifle.

SIG Sauer 6.5 Creedmoor Ammo
SIG Sauer’s tipped 6.5 Creedmoor loads are famously accurate.

.30-30 Winchester

The .30-30 WCF is a fine outdoors cartridge for hunting deer-sized game up to 150 yards. The .30-30 is affordable and ammunition is widely available.

The problem with the .30-30 isn’t power, it has enough power, the problem is shot placement.

Older rifles with buckhorn sights limit accuracy potential. Modern rifles have superior sights and in most cases, may be mounted with an optical sight.

Don’t discount this classic round. Recoil is modest and it offers a lot of versatility.

.30-30 Winchester Ammo
The .30 – 30 Winchester Centerfire is a great, low-recoil cartridge.

.308 Winchester

The .308 Winchester may represent the upper end in recoil for some shooters.

On the other hand, older shooters that have used the .30-06 Springfield or 7mm Remington Magnum and are finding these calibers less comfortable as they age, will move smoothly to the .308.

The advantages include gilt-edged accuracy in the right rifle, and that is most .308 bolt-action rifles, the ability to chamber the cartridge in bolt-action, pump-action, and self-loading rifles, and ability to take 200-pound game up to 200 yards or a bit beyond.

125 to 200 grain .30 bullets may be loaded successfully, with the best all-around results in the 168-grain class.

SIG Sauer .308 Winchester Ammo
While getting a bit heavier in recoil, for some the .308 Winchester is a great caliber with many good choices.

Pistol Calibers for Older Shooters

.32 Magnum

There are many advantages to this neat little light-recoiling caliber. In a decent handgun, the .32 H&R Magnum is accurate. Even the old H&R revolvers are reasonably precise.

The .32 H&R Magnum will also accept .32 Smith and Wesson and .32 Smith and Wesson Long practice ammunition.

The original .32 Smith and Wesson Long is a pretty weak loading. 98 grains at 700 fps isn’t going to impress the bad guys. This is, however, an accurate and useful small game load.

Moving to the .32 Magnum, you have a loading that breaks 1050 to 1100 fps in a three to four-inch barrel revolver.

This isn’t ideal, but it is low recoil and superior to the .22 and .25 calibers.

Buffalo Bore offers a 100-grain JHP at a solid 1190 fps. This gets the .32 Magnum off its knees into a more useful category.

.32 H&R Magnum Ammo
The .32 H&R Magnum and its understudies offer low recoil and excellent accuracy.

.380 ACP

The .380 ACP is over 110 years old and isn’t going away anytime soon!

Wound ballistics are limited compared to the .38 Special and 9mm Luger, but the .380 may be chambered in light, handy and useful handguns.

For most handguns, the Hornady Critical Defense is a good load, offering as good a balance of expansion and penetration as possible with this caliber.

A full-size .380 such as the Bersa Thunder is a joy to fire and use. It is also inexpensive, an important consideration for those on a budget.

.380 ACP Ammo and Handgun
Hornady’s Critical Defense is a big improvement in .380 ACP defense loads.

.38 Special

The .38 Special is easily among the most versatile revolver cartridges.

The .38 is available with powder-puff loads that barely raise the barrel, to potent outdoor loads rivaling the .357 Magnum.

The .38 Special is among my favorite calibers. The .38 is a satisfying target cartridge and a fair small-game cartridge.

There are quite a few personal-defense loads that provide reasonable wound ballistics. The snub-nose .38 is a good defensive firearm.

In a worst-case scenario, the gun grabber doesn’t have much to grab onto, but the user has a full firing grip to maintain control.

The snub-nose .38 may be shoved into an assailant’s body and fired repeatably without jamming.

A four-inch barrel revolver may be fed heavy loads that offer excellent wound potential. This is not only a great handgun for older shooters, it is a good beginners cartridge.

The .38 Special is arguably the finest of all cartridges for a handloader to learn the ropes with.

.38 Special Revolver and Ammo
A lightweight .38 Special doesn’t kick much but it offers reasonable power and good accuracy.

9mm Luger

The last caliber for older shooters is among the best suited for personal defense.

Not everyone needs a self-loading pistol. If not gripped properly, the pistol may short cycle.

That is an argument for the .38 Special. But for older shooters that have been using a self-loading handgun, particularly the .45 ACP, the 9mm is pleasant to use and fire.

A full-size SIG P229 or GLOCK 17 is downright docile. The 9mm Luger is affordable, with quality FMJ ammunition relatively affordable.

Standard-pressure 9mm loads offer good wound potential. +P loads may increase this wound potential, but should probably be used only in full-size handguns.

A number of 9mm handguns are affordable and useful.

Browning Hi Power 9mm Luger Handgun with Ammo - Older Shooters
A properly set up 9mm Luger handgun may be accurate, powerful and easy to control.

There are a number of good-quality handguns and rifles that will make life easier for senior citizens.

There is no reason not to enjoy shooting well into your eighties, and these calibers are among the easiest and most useful for older shooters or anyone interested in a high percentage of power for modest recoil.

Have you had to change calibers as you’ve aged? What do you prefer to shoot now? Let us know in the comments section!

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (68)

  1. Bo that was well written and I couldn’t agree with you more. I didn’t take Bob’s final comment about reloading to be anything more than a rant of a “know it all” that happens to know how to type. I don’t think guys like that are taken seriously.

  2. Bob,
    I am a 69 year old Army veteran who is disabled. I still am able to hunt and shoot, just not as much as I used to because of my disability. For the record, both of my first two pickup trucks had a three on the tree, as did the 1950 Mercury I had back in the 60’s. I have been shooting for almost 60 years and everyone who knows me considers me to be very knowledgeable about a variety of weapons. I have mentored many young people who were interested in learning to shoot. I used to reload, but situations in my life changed and I am no longer able to do that. I am sure that I am not alone. Your very judgmental statement about those who don’t reload being, in your mind, incompetent is totally uncalled for. You sound like a twenty something, or a millennial, who is pretty sure that your very limited life experiences qualify you to judge everyone around you and you are the only one who can measure what constitutes competence in someone else’s life.
    Guess what. You can’t! Your judgmental arrogance and condescension is uncivil, revolting, and generally unpalatable and comments such as yours have no real place in civilized discourse.
    You may be able to reload and do it well, but you have proven to be a miserable advocate for the shooting sports. Your comments and opinion as stated will do more to isolate and alienate new shooters. Alienate means that you will drive them away, in case you were wondering. I don’t know if that was your intent but I do know that comments like yours would not be accepted as reasonable with almost all shooters I know (many of whom are reloaders.) Sometimes it is better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt as what you said was not a wise thing to say, at least in the manner that you said it.
    We need to be encouraging and mentoring new shooters, not telling them that they are incompetent and you are the arbiter of who is competent and who is not. We do not need people who do that, that’s what the liberal anti-gunners do.
    When we attack the newbies in our group with our prejudices and biases, we project a persona that is anything but what is needed. The liberal media has an idea of who shooters are and you are perfect for them to present as what they would like to promote as a stereotype of all that is wrong with the shooting community.
    You owe everyone on this thread an apology!

  3. I was surprised that at the beginning of the article handloading was downplayed. I believe it is a very important component of shooting skills. I purchased my first .22 at the age of 15 AFTER I managed to save up the money for it from my paper route. When I was 21 I purchased a Ruger Super Blackhawk in .44 magnum, and quickly learned a very important reason to handload: RECOIL. Then I learned that the brass case is half the cost of each round of ammunition. I grew up too poor to throw away those valuable cases. The minimum load listed in the handloading manuals recoils similar to a .22 RF, but it can be loaded at any level between there and full factory load ballistics. When I purchased my first .45 Long Colt I found out that factory ammo was made for older cast iron frame revolvers, so the loads were quite light. Now more powerful factory loads are available, and of course, handloads to provide whatever level you want or need. I have long believed that anyone that thinks he (or she) is a knowledgeable shooter but does not handload, is as incompetent as those that think they know how to drive but can’t even get out of their own driveway without the help of an automatic transmission.

    1. Bob: As an older shooter, closing in on 68, I couldn’t agree more about the importance and facility of handloading. I’ve probably been handloading since around 1988. Yes I took driver’s ed in high school and learned how to drive a stick early on. However, I think your response was a bit harsh, as some people don’t have the inclination or focus to safely handload. This doesn’t automatically mean that they’re not dedicated shooters. Handloading also requires sufficient time to do a good job, and some individuals and/or families just don’t have any extra time on their hands.

  4. Mornin,’ y’all,
    For personal carry, don’t forget the S&W in the new EZ Shield. We’ve not racked and shot the EZ 9mm, but if the .380 is sufficient for you, it’s a pussycat to rack. It has a transparent magazine with an assist tab built into the mag to help one push down on the mag spring–a la .22 long rifle mags. Shoots well, too.
    My wife bought one and loves it; I’m thinking of trying the EZ in 9mm.
    Using one’s hands during a lifetime, eventually wears them out–part of the “process.”
    God bless y’all and AMERICA!

  5. I agree with one commentor – the 22 Magnum is great in my PMR-30. Light recoil, 30 rounds (if you can get them in the magazine – and I can for now), and superb accuracy. The firearm is very light to carry and if you have big pants pockets, it is a great pocket gun.

  6. I’m 72 in body (25 in mind) I’m strictly a bench shooter. Ruger Precision Rifle, .308 with a silencer @ 300 yrd. Subsonic with can @ 100 yrd. makes 0 noise & has 0 recoil, ok grouping for plinking.
    Mossburg MVP .556 with can out to 200 yrd. or further.
    One of my favorites, Savage Mod. 93R, .17 cal., bull barrel, very accurate out to 100 yrd. (calm day)
    Thanks for the opportunity to share!

  7. Nice article. At 68, I too am feeling the effects. With the stay-at-home I have had a lot of time to go through the safe and re-clean a number of firearms. I now find it a bit difficult to rack the slide on my 1991 Colt .45 and SR1911. My old ’98 Mauser sporterized in the ’60’s in cal. .30-06 leaves my shoulder pretty beat up. At the range I have found a sandbag or some duct taped bubble wrap between my shoulder and the butt works pretty well. A couple of years ago the local shop had a special on a Howa 1500, .270,new for $175.00. Couldn’t pass it up at that price plus between my son and myself it was caliber we didn’t have. It is a joy to shoot. It seems to just ‘lay back’ into my shoulder rather than the sharp bite of the .30-06. My son used it last fall and dropped a nice cow elk at 170 yards with one shot. Jack O’Conner used nothing but the .270, I see why. Howa is a great brand, My son, who is a Deputy Marshall, has a Howa 1500 with heavy barrel in .308 he uses for his tactical rifle. Dime size groups at 200 yards all day! Soft recoil, too.

  8. My favorite handgun caliber is a 10mm, in my Glock model 40. Everyday carry is a very light, but ported Charter Arms Bulldog in .44 Special. Shotgun is still 12 ga. reloads with 1-1/4 ounce of shot going well over the speed of sound, and I guess I fall in the “older shooter” category. I’m 73.

    Oh, I’m also a gunsmith, and I will have to agree with the guy that stated the Bersa Thunder being extremely unreliable. It only works when the various springs inside are perfectly balanced against each other. The problem with that requirement in the design is with ware, some springs ware faster than others and they are no longer balanced, causing all manner of malfunctions. The real problem here is people are buying these things for self defense, not just random plinking. If you may bet your life on a gun, go for reliability first.

  9. I am 71 years old and shoot 7mm Browning and 10mm hand gun, we will see when I get too old th shoot them Rom

  10. I have found the Bersa Thunder to be the most unreliable firearm I have ever owned. You can fine four in any pawn shop in America. Thank you.

  11. When I retired ten years back, I had more time to work on shooting skills, as well as hand loading. You could say that I shoot mostly to hand load. Long range shooting began with a new rifle at retirement, an AR-10 chambered in 7 Remington short action ultra magnum. I worked with this platform for about three years, until I finally settled on the 180gr SMK and the 180gr Berger VLD as the best round. I fitted a multiport muzzle brake and recoil was not a problem with any of the loads.

    I decided I needed more caliber for longer ranges, and when Alexander Arms came out with the Ulfberht semi-auto in .338 Lapua, I moved to this caliber. The Lapua is quite superior to the 7 RSAUM, The recoil was only a little greater than the 7 RSAUM un-braked but being a magazine fed rifle, I still could not load for longer than magazine length. Again, I fitted a Big Beast brake and this rifle became a pussy cat recoiling more like a .308 or .243. Shooting from the bench is better because the brake reduces the rifle’s hop and aids followup shots. Of course I found that the powder bill went up with the .338 in my favored 300gr SMK in ahead of 93 gr. RL-33. I gave the Ulfberht about 2 years and thoroughly enjoy the platform.

    Wanting to do explore a better long-range caliber and passing the 75th birthday, I moved to my now favorite caliber: .50BMG shot from a Barrett M99. The single-shot rifle with a longer barrel and a Vortex scope makes an excellent target platform. The hand loading experience has been fun for this round as well, with my favorite round being Hornady A-tip 750gr. and 230gr. Alliant RL-50. I am using once-fired LC or WMA brass that does take a lot of processing to prepare. It helps to be retired, and more so to be quarantined to have time to prep the brass for loading. Even hand loading these rounds are just a little pricey, so I practice mostly with 647 gr. M33 ball pulls and use 235 gr. WC-860 to bring down the price a bit. There is considerable recoil that does get your attention, but no worse than the .30-06. The Barrett muzzle break is efficient but it does tend to clear out the firing line, so I try to shoot when there are no others around.

  12. I look forward to deer season all year long, but I’ll be 60 this year and age has altered what I carry. I used to carry a bolt action 30-06 which dropped deer like a ton of bricks. But a few years ago I purchased a Ruger M77 compact in .308
    The .308 has proven to be very effective on deer and the M77 compact is shorter and lighter making it much more enjoyable to carry. Recoil is very manageable in a one shot hunting situation although its rather light for target shooting. It has become my go-to choice. I highly recommend it.

  13. I am a 73 year old Vietnam veteran. My DD214 says “Small arms expert”. I own multiple handguns and long rifles chambered in .22, .223, .38, .357 magnum, 7.62×25 (Tokarev), 7.62×39, 7.62 Nagant, 9×18 (Makarov), 9×19 (Luger), 30-30 and both a 12 and 20 gauge shotgun. In short, I have a lot of choices.
    The more powerful loads do remind me of my age and arthritis. A day at the range with these often requires a slathering of Ben Gay on my wrists, neck and shoulders. But now I have a newfound love… A new discovery… My new Ruger 57!
    With a capacity of 20 rounds and a remarkable absence of recoil this recent purchase has risen to my “top three” fun shoots.
    A Burris red-dot helps me put remarkable shot groups on paper at 50 yards… And no pain later.
    My friends with an F&N report the same. This may truly be the “magic bullet” for us old geezers.

  14. At around 70 or so I began to notice the 1911 wasn’t as easy to rack. Recoil didn’t bother me until late 70’s when I shifted to 9mm 1911/Glock 17 or 19 with more difficulty with racking. Now at 85 I find the 22LR about the only calibre handled with ease. Steel challenge is now my game. Revolver in any calibre is tolerable though for only a few rounds at a time, otherwise the wrists begin to tire, and proper hold suffers. Muscle tone deterioration for me was most noticed in the last 5 or 6 years though I do remain active walking, cycling with small weight exercises. I now understand completely why my father and grandfathers slowed in their later years.

  15. I’m 60 and I have a S&W 629 – the off the shelf ammo 240 gr loads were killing my hand. My solution was #1 change the grips out to Pacmyers and #2 load my own ammo at lower power and bullet weights. 180 gr 44 mags are just as manageable as 528 gr 357 mag and that was never a problem for me.

  16. I turned 74, yestitty, so I’ve been pursuing low recoil for acwhile.

    Reloading for most of my life, loading for the .223 Rem to use in an AR I built with an adjustible gas block and compensator is almost as much fun as the .22LR AR I built.

    .357 Mag loads are down to .38 SPCL +P level recoil, if that.

    I load from .32acp, for cost, to .44 Mag for recoil reduction.

    I’ve also been aquiring low effort slide autos like the Smith EZ.

    Great article, thank you.


  17. I’m old. I’m disabled. My daily carry is a Delta Elite 10mm with 200@1200 loads, I still enjoy my heavy rifles, won’t brag about how well I shoot them but I damned sure could.

    Never accept the limitations of lesser men.

  18. Excellent article. My present dilemma, exactly! I have enjoyed, over the years, the intoxicating feeling of raw power felt while shooting my Ruger Super Redhawk. I can still, at 66, with arthritic hands, 10-ring at 25-yards with open sights, but not past six rounds. It’s a crying shame, but it’s too much gun for my hands — i feel the effects for weeks. However, i really enjoy my M9 (Beretta 92FS, a la US Military). It is made for my hand. It was my primary weapon in the military (Medic, then later Intel) and settles in extraordinarily. I still enjoy my Colt 1911, but it’s the upper limit. I just bought a S&W M&P 40 Shield, which i have yet to fire, for EDC (the M9 and 1911 give me a back ache and my love handles and belly don’t allow any carry location alternatives). I don’t think .40 will give my any trouble, by all accounts, and the larger bullet gives me peace of mind, if nothing else. On that note, i don’t see myself going even as far backward as .38 Special, not to mention .32 (my dad was a musician in the 20’s and 30’s and carried a .32 Iver Johnson in his sock). I’m now getting into the hobby realm of building ARs — gotta do my bit to flood society with Black Rifles! I’m super excited about my first 6.5 Ceedmoor and can fir 5.56 NATO all day long (i actually have, come to think of it). The Creedmoor is my favorite. The AR15 varieties are a work in progress. I’m curious about the .300 AAC; it looks good, for modest distances — certainly defensive distances. There is life after 65, but it is a different one for me. Cheers!

  19. To quote the author in his comments regarding the 30-30 round, “Don’t discount this classic round. Recoil is modest and it offers a lot of versatility.”

    I bought a Winchester Model ’94 from our local drugstore back in the 70s. My brother wanted me to go deer hunting with him and all I had shot to that point was a 22 long rifle and my 12 Ga pump. When we got out of town we set up a target at 100 yards and I started shooting at it to get the iron sights adjusted to my preference. I have never been been so sore in my life. The 94 is a light weight rifle and does not absorb much of the recoil. I also shoot a 300 mag more recently and it doesn’t kick like my 30-30.

    I sure don’t agree with the “recoil is modest” statement.

  20. They make a bunch of carbines chambered in 9mm. Great for shooting at the range. Plus pair that with a 9mm hand gun you only need to buy one type of ammunition. You and your family could shoot for hours

  21. What about the 22 Magnum ….. I’ve killed many a coyote and hog with one.

    Or my new favorite, the 300 ACC BLK OUT in subsonic rounds. A bolt action matched with a suppressor and night vision makes for one heck of a hog gun and low recoil too.

  22. Great read Bob, I always enjoy your articles. I’m 64 and between my time in. the service and my hobbies over the years I’m the proud owner of some serious body damage!LOL Ii have always been a .45 ACP guy for handguns and still maintain a small herd of 1911s. I started shooting IDPA matches 2 years ago and have come to appreciate the 9mm round so much that all my carry guns are now in that caliber. (Sig P365 & P320) My Match guns are a Springfield XDM 5.25″, Remington R1 LTD (9mm) and occasionally my Rem R1 Enhanced (.45). I had surgery on t my support hand wrist recently (not Carpal tunnel) and I’m working through the rehabilitation to get back to where I was before so I am REALLY appreciating the 9mm even more. As for rifles, I think you may have missed the 6.5 Grendel. I built an AR in this caliber last year for a two man distance match that never happened and IT IS SUPERB! Excellent accuracy, scary good distance and plenty of knockdown power for deer or pigs. I also have a couple of .308s and I will always fall back to as the mother round but the Grendel makes the .308 look like a mortar at distance! I’ve always had a fascination with the higher caliber rounds and still do somewhat but I’m learning to appreciate the lighter, faster stuff. I’m lucky, I’m still pretty mobile and maintain reasonable amount of physical strength but I can see where this is headed and I spend much more time concerning myself with shot placement and training than when I was younger.

  23. This was an interesting article. I got my wife into hunting with me. I use a 308 but recoil was not my even part of what I was thinking about when I changed from a 300 weatherby mag. For me it was the choices in ammunition. Plus the rifle is smaller and lighter. For my wife I chose a 270. The main reason was recoil. I needed her to not be afraid of her gun and be able to carry it for a 6 mile hike in Colorado. Plus its good for larger game such as Elk. I would add the 270 to your list its a great choice.

  24. I agree once you get older recoil becomes a problem in some people especially those with arthritis…I went from a .45 caliber EDC to a 9mm…I wanted a smaller lighter pistol so I went with the Sig P938 , very recoil manageable and excellent accuracy..I bought a Springfield Saint .223/5.56 and for practice days with my sons whom are also target shooters’ and I I use American Eagle 55 grain brass…
    I am looking at the new Smith & Wesson Shield EZ 9mm but had some stove piping in the Shields I had before ( ? )

  25. It’s nice this subject is addressed. I’m 72 and beat up a bit from many years working at sea. I’ve had to back down considerably on long and short gun carry and use. I bought many 9mm’s until I finally found one I liked and a .38 for varmints. I gave up my Win 7mm mag. because it hurt so darn much. The hardest part of aging is aging.

  26. no mention of the 327 Federal Mag great snub carry gun with an extra round~ I have 3 of them and love ’em all,Ruger makes one in the LCR ~~ * With its strengthened case and increased pressure ceiling, the .327 Federal reaches the velocity levels of the .357 Magnum, if not the same power. Since the .327 still shares all case dimensions, excluding length, with the .32 S&W, .32 ACP, .32 S&W Long, and .32 H&R Magnum, revolvers chambered for the .327 Federal can also safely chamber and fire these shorter cartridges. This makes the .327 Federal unique, as it can fire five different cartridges from the same gun with no modifications.

    While felt recoil exceeds that of the .32 H&R, revolvers in .327 Federal are much easier to control than equivalent models chambered in .357 Magnum. Comparing the two calibers, Chuck Hawks says, “There is no doubt that, for most shooters, the .357 Mag. produces uncomfortable recoil and muzzle blast.”[6][7]

  27. A good place to find the 32 H&R Mag is in a 327 Federal Mag ………. it can handle most 32s ………. 32 ACP. 32 S&W (short and ‘long) 32 H&R and the added option of the 327 Federal Mag ……should the need arise !!!
    I still find the 308 can beat the hell out of ya …….more than the 06 even and that is just for me.

  28. At the age of 10 I was” issued “ a Stevens single shot 16 ga and a Remington single shot .22. My dad taught me how to shoot and firearm safety. In military school I was on the rifle team.
    Later as an aviator in Vietnam I was issued a S&W model 10. I quickly turned in for a 1911.
    Now at 70 and having owned what my wife would say is way too many guns, I have settled into the compact 9mm as firearm of choice. The Sig P365 and Springfield Hellcat with the Shield red dot my carry piece..

  29. I am 67 and enjoy shooting my long guns frequently. On the range i shoot .223/5.56, 22LR and 45LC. On the autotrap shotgun range I shoot 12ga shorty shells and .410. Both of these rounds have very little recoil and, because of their respective, loads, make it much more challenging to break clays.

  30. I am 75 and retired from Dallas County Sheriff Department. I love my .223 AR and I have a S&W .22 AR that is a ball to shoot and very accurate. In hand guns, I have a Beretta 92FX I love, a Glock 19, 21 and a Sig Sauer P220 and a couple of .22 LR and Mag. pistols plus others. I love to shoot and it is an inexpensive sport.

  31. The .327 Federal will accept all the cartridges that the 32 H&R mag will as well as the H&R mag. Its stout enough to take deer sized game at moderate ranges, and recoil is still surprisingly light. If you get a chance to shoot one go for it, you’ll probably end up wanting one.

  32. I just turned 79…I shot my first rabbit at six years of age…Dad was a rifleman, and guided my steps in that direction. I still shoot, and am still competent offhand. Shooting is a natural thing, because I was started early, I suppose. I prefer the .45 ACP for serious work…and the .45 Long Colt for fun. Muzzleloading contests sharpens one up for offhand shooting…and slows a man down to make each shot count.

    Thank you for the article…it showed much wisdom!

  33. Say BO, I have two Smith 59s. One I bought new in 81 the other because I like the first bought in 2009.
    My biggest hoot to shoot is my 4570 gov TC 16” ported or Marlin 1895 remake.

  34. Great, succinct piece of writing there Bob. I’m 67 yrs. old here and grew up in the great Pacific Northwest, USA. Retired LE (40 yrs) and though the first handgun I ever fired was a military “surplus” 1911 when I was just a really young pup. Dad (a WW2, Guam, Phillipines, etc. vet, 6th Army, Alamo Scouts) had one round chambered and he helped me shoot my first handgun. I don’t believe I was much older than 5yrs. old at the time. But hey, that first round won me over. I’ve been shooting guns ever since and after my Army days ’72-’75 (82nd. ABN). I ended up in the Law Enforcement field for 40 yrs. My preference is a .38/.357 snub revolver but in the summers I’ll throw my Ruger .380 or my SCCY 9mm auto “pocket pistol” in my pocket(s). Cheap, blue collar shooters. I also own a .243 with a 3×9 scope and an old J.C. Higgins (tube fed) .22 brass, semi auto rifle with a brass, 4x scope. My handguns run from a Jennings J22 .22, Ruger .380, Sccy 9mm, Taurus 38/357, Taurus 40 G2c Slim and a cheap Hi-Point .45 for craps and giggles. The .45 is a great brush gun and a reliable hand cannon. Shooting that beast can be fun. I’ve carried it all over the Pacific NW backwoods along with the Sccy 9mm or the Taurus w/a .357 load. I’ve been reloading for quite some time now and am good to go with my ammo. I just wanted to let you know your piece brought back memories and is pretty darned spot on, IMHO. The only other thing I left out was my old 870… but that’s a different beast altogether.

    Thanks again,


  35. i agree with the 38 but want a 3″ 5 shot as smallest
    you missed out on the older mans rifle m1 carbine
    yes i still have an m14 semiauto and m1 garand and 20 gauge pump
    got rid of 12 gauge

  36. I always thought the 45acp recoiled less than a 9mm.
    Maybe because a 1911 is a heavier pistol than the common 9mm polymer frame pistols. And the impulse feels different.
    I need to shoot them side by side to compare. I did that so MANY years ago that I don’t remember the results.

    As a shorter range alternative to the 30-30, I’ve been wondering about a 44Mag in a lever rifle.
    Wicked in a pistol but the extra mass of a rifle should tame it down a lot. And you have the option of the lighter 44 special round. And being shorter than a 30-30, the rifle can hold more 44 rounds.

    Agree about the shotgun. I shot a 12G ONCE, quickly went to the lighter shooting 20G.
    Though they now have low recoil 12G rounds, so that is another option. But I don’t know what is available in low recoil loads.

  37. An often overlooked revolver favorite of mine is the .44 S&W: aka, .44 Special. Very manageable recoil and ballistics almost identical to the .45 ACP cartridge. A genuine ‘sleeper’……..

  38. Even though I do not perceive recoil bothering me, I do find myself flinching, especially with a handgun. I notice I don’t flinch nearly as much with a 22, so I suppose it is a fear of recoil thing. I like shooting my 45’s, 9’s and even my 44 special, but I love shooting my 22’s. One writer eluded to it, but carry weight is maybe just as important as recoil, in the woods I usually carry my Browning 1911-22 at 15 oz, I don’t even notice it’s there. I bought a 1911-380, “for my wife”, maybe I should consider carrying that, it also comes in at about a pound.

  39. I am 74 years old, and have most of the handgun calibers listed above. I love the .32 magnum, but with a nuance. I actually have an LCR .327 magnum. That extra strength in the gun gives me a little more confidence, and while I load the first five shots as .32 magnum, I actually put a .327 mag in the sixth chamber. That’s as a last resort, and target acquisition isn’t important after the last round is fired.

  40. one of the finest calibers EVER made the 7mm Mauser. will take anything in North America
    12 to 14 foot pounds of recoil

  41. Big shout out to Bob Campbell really top notch writer. He picked a great subject and I agreed with almost all of his preferences. I will be looking for more of his work. ( I would have substituted. 270 for the 6.5 creedmor)

  42. In CO the .223/5.56 is illegal for any big game hunting. I haven’t tried it yet, but I recently finished a lower receiver build mated with a Stag 6.8 SPC upper. Bullet weights in the 6.8 can vary from 90gr to 120gr, with better ballistics than a 5.56 loaded with a heavy-for-caliber projectile. The last shot I had at a CO mule deer was under 25yds, and I probably could have used my very old Colt Trooper Mk III, loaded with 160gr jacketed handloads, carried in a chest rig.

  43. I’m 65 and have some fused disks and nerve damage which limits the strength in my right hand (I’m right handed). I carried a Kimber Ultra CDP 1911 in .45 caliber for many years but in the last few I’ve had some problems with short-cycling episodes and I know it isn’t the gun or magazines. The problem is me and I knew I had to downsize calibers if I was going to continue carrying a 1911 pistol designed for concealed carry which is my personal favorite style.

    After reading several reviews and trying different guns and calibers, I settled on a Dan Wesson Elite Carry Officer (ECO) in 9MM. It is classified as a sub-compact 1911 with a 3 1/2″ barrel weighing in at 27.1 oz which is 1/2 inch longer and 2.1 oz heavier than my Kimber. I had a few failures to go into battery during the first 50 rounds but the manufacturer says to expect that during the recommended break-in period of 300-500 rounds. I find the recoil noticeably less and have had no problems since then.

    All Dan Wesson pistols are rated for +P ammunition but they do not recommend a steady diet of them. The ECO has no problem with any type of target ammunition I’ve used but I’m still experimenting with different defensive rounds. My favorite so far is the Speer Gold Dot 147 grain Personal Protection.

    The pistol comes with two 8-round magazines but Wilson Combat makes 9-round magazines for it and I bought 3 of them giving me 2 more rounds capacity than my Kimber. I also had to purchase a different Galco holster because of the 1/2 inch longer barrel. In summary, this was the right choice of pistol and caliber for me. I hope this helps.

  44. Interesting article and follows along the lines I have been experiencing. Although a large person, at 75 my recoil tolerance has diminished. Where I carried an S&W 325PD that .45 recoil is just not worth the price. A Sig p320 in .40 or 9mm [ or similar brand in similar caliber] I am much more accurate with more shots on target in less time.
    Along those like I have relegated my .30-06 & the elk rifle – 300 WinMag – to the safe; except for a few range times. I still shoot accurately but I just can take the beating of the recoil [the 300 even has a muzzle brake] for any extended period, i.e. more that 8 shots.

  45. Bob, everything you mentioned in this article is true, but by capping your rifle caliber suggestions at .308 Winchester, and saying that it was adequate for game up to 200 pounds, you are telling older shooters that moose, brown bear, elk, caribou, and even the large Canadian whitetails are off the table for them. In Africa, many countries require a minimum of .375H&H magnum for large dangerous game. At an age when many hunters can finally afford their dream hunts, following your recommendations leaves them sitting at home watching others hunt on TV. There are many things other than caliber that can be used to mitigate recoil. Using mono-metal bullets that weigh less and thus recoil less is an inexpensive way to start. There are a number of great recoil pads, and wearable shoulder pads that help a lot. A cheek pad on the stock, and a stock that fits the shooter properly also help. Personally, I hate muzzle brakes, but there is no doubt that they reduce felt recoil. A good pair of padded shooting gloves greatly reduces hand shock. My wife and I are both past 70, and we still shoot our .375s, .45ACPs, 7mm magnums, .45-70s, and other big bores. There is far more to recoil management that caliber selection.

  46. Recoil is important. A retiree at the gun club once told me that he sold all of his handguns because his arthritis didn’t let him hold them well.

  47. I am 77 and just learned to shoot a year ago. I know this is about rifles and pistols but I might add that I have a Benelli 16 ga M2 that is a fun to shoot. I never get a sore shoulder, what a great gun.

    Still searching for the perfect 9mm have a Kimber Micro 9 but can’t seem to get the accuracy I want.

  48. I am a older shooter and my favorite caliber is the 6.5 Grendel. Out to About 300 yards it will do any thing the 6.5 creedmoor will do On Deer size game. And with much less Recoil. And a big plus it will work in a standard AR 15. Try it you will never go back.

  49. Retired police here. I’m not as slightly built as when I became a cop in. 1972, but I have a disdain for 12 GA shotguns. They punish to the point of severely interfering with accuracy and skeletal integrity. I have a great self defense 12 gauge now at 70 years old, that I won’t shoot any longer because it punishes my joints and hearing. My father’s 16 GA double barrel is what I grew up with, and am comfortable with, but these are truly a dying breed. I believe in the scatter guns with buckshot, so I bought a Taurus Public Defender in .410 as a compromise for the 12 GA. Up close, and with some of the new .410 handgun SD rounds, its formidable and accurate enough, but it too rattles my joints with its recoil in only the hand and wrist, where my arthritis is worst. My Glock 19 duty weapon still serves as my CCPistol, but I’m shopping for a semi-auto 20 GA scatter gun hoping it will be the Goldilocks weapon for me in self defense at home.

  50. I’m 64, and an above-knee amputee. I cannot use a prosthesis, so I am in a wheelchair. If you think about it, space to carry is at a premium, AND someone in a chair is seen as a prime target. So, I carry a Glock 30S (.45ACP), which is small, relatively easy to hide, and is in a grown-up caliber. But my backup -talking about recoil – is a Bond Arms derringer in .45LC/.410. The .410 antipersonnel loads are devastating at carjacking range, which is one reason I bought it. Obviously, that is NOT a gun you’d take for a long, pleasant day at the range. But the .45 is surprisingly accurate at the range it would be used at, and I found some really nasty JHP rounds for it. It has extended grips, and I have a lot of upper-body strength yet, so it’s not that big of a deal for me.

  51. I’m 51 and not yet concerned about handling recoil but I found this article very informative and enjoyed reading it. Well written and overall, well done.

  52. When I was a young man, I thought you weren’t having fun unless you came back from hunting or the range bloodied and bruised. When the 12 ga. 3 1/2 mags came out I bought a Mossberg pump that fulfilled that criteria nicely. Still able to handle the recoil for one shot at game, I realized I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I thought I did. A couple of years ago, I went with a gas operated auto loader to tame the recoil. I left my heavy and hard hitting 444 Marlin in the gun safe in favor of a much easier to carry and shoot 7mm-08 single shot scout rifle. For western hunting of pronghorn sized game, I favor my 6.5CM. I would use my 300 Win Mag for elk knowing I would be punished but would be rewarded for it with a good shot. At 65, I took a nice 6×6 elk with a 290 grain Barnes 50 cal pushed by 120 grains of Blackhorn. Enjoyed every minute of practice at the range with this load. For trail use, I favor the 45ACP. Everyday carry is a single stack 9.

  53. I’m missing a few parts and the remaining ones are bad. I started shooting a 6mm Creedmoor and found that the recoil is about like a 223 in the heavy rifle I use, and has less perceived recoil than 5.56 in my AR which gives me a sharp pain after a few rounds.
    I changed the barrel and shot some 6.5 Creedmoor from the same rifle and ended up with a rotator cuff injury.
    I’d recommend the 6mm Creedmoor for those who want better accuracy and to reach out farther than the 223 allows but still have manageable recoil.

  54. ‘m missing a few parts and the remaining ones are bad. I started shooting a 6mm Creedmoor and found that the recoil is about like a 223 in the heavy rifle I use, and has less perceived recoil than 5.56 in my AR which gives me a sharp pain after a few rounds.
    I changed the barrel and shot some 6.5 Creedmoor from the same rifle and ended up with a rotator cuff injury.
    I’d recommend the 6mm Creedmoor for those who want better accuracy and to reach out farther than the 223 allows but still have manageable recoil.

  55. Really enjoyed the article. Offers good advice for older shooters. The trend toward light weight rifles means more felt recoil. I recommend a muzzle break, a high quality recoil pad, a rifle stock designed to reduce recoil and a rifle between 8-10 lbs. This dramatically reduces felt recoil and makes a rifle enjoyable to shoot. It’s more money but definitely worth the cost. I am 70 and still shoot 45-70 Gov’t, 300 Win Mag and 7mm Rem Mag. The lighter calibers from 223 Rem up to 7mm-08 Rem all offer reduced recoil. I shy away from large calibers like 300 Rum. Just remember you need hearing protection when shooting a rifle with a muzzle brake and won’t be popular at shooting range. Thanks for a much needed article.

  56. I have several 9mm guns such as the Glock 43X, Walther CCP M2, a full size Canik, a Walther PPS M2, and a Ruger SP101 that I keep loaded with 38+p. At 62 years old, all of these are pleasant to shoot with mild recoil and fit well in my hand. Other than the Canik and the Ruger, I have carried these and they conceal quite easily. But, my favorite carry gun is the Glock 42 in 380acp. It is light for concealment, and it is very accurate. Probably the softest 380 I’ve shot, though some Bersa 380s I own are a close 2nd. So many great guns available today that you can’t go wrong with any of them.

  57. I have been rethinking the content of my gun safe. At 64, so many guns and calibers are just not as relevant as they once were. Calibers that were enjoyed, and/or maybe just tolerated are not there any more. My EDC was a couple of Kahr 380s that are now gone. Arthritis and a hand injury make it very hard to manipulate the slide of these small and accurate guns. Also gone are many 40 caliber handguns including a Glock 23 and a Sig 229. I am no longer willing to endure the sharp snap of the 40 caliber. Plus I never felt I could shoot the 40 as well as a 9mm. Now my EDC is a 9mm Sig 365xl with a red dot. It is much easier on aging hands. The proper load keeps the recoil in check. My house gun is a also a full size 9mm with a light and laser. I also have a PCC in 9mm with red dot and laser in case things go from bad to worse. I am amazed how important the available optics are to old eyes. I go to the local range often, at least until it was closed by the Pandemic. My optic enhanced guns allow me to accurately hit the targets with ease. For now, with these adjustments I once again feel I can defend myself and my family if the need arise.

  58. I gave up the Mossberg 500 12 ga. slug gun years ago for deer hunting here in Ohio. It shot well but the recoil was getting uncomfortable. I’ve since switched to a Henry Big Boy in .41 MAG. It still lets you know it’s going off, but I can shoot it all day.

  59. I am 69, so there are some who consider me old. I am also disabled, and a veteran, having served in the US Army back in from 71 to 75. I still play with my 629 Smith using full loads. I carry one of two different 1911’s, depending on where I am going. One is a Gov’t model and the other is an Officer’s Model. I have them both loaded with, shall we say, .45 ACP loads that are not for the faint of heart. I have a .22 conversion kit for the Gov’t Model. That is fun to shoot.
    As far as rifles, I do have several .22’s, my favored one being a Ruger 10-22. I also have an AR in .223 that I carry out in the woods during deer season IF I will only have short range (less than 150 yd) shots. I have a .22 conversion kit for it also. My other short range rifle is an SKS that shoots 7.62 Russian (or .30 Russian.) That gun has killed more than one deer.
    For longer range hunting, I have a Remington 721 in .270 that I have had for several decades. I have killed a bunch of deer with that rifle, reaching out and touching deer at ranges a little past 400 yds. (It’s kind of cheating to use a 4-12 scope. In the Army, I qualified Expert with the M-16A1, and we were shooting man-sized silhouettes out to 300 meters (328 yds) using iron sights, so a scope makes it almost easy to go out that far.) I also have a 6.5 Swedish (6.5×55) that I really like shooting and it will also reach out to reasonable distances.
    I had a .30-30 probably 35 years ago and swapped it for a compound bow. I just never found that gun to meet my needs. (My wife has told me about Marie Kondo, and as Marie would say, “That gun just never brought me joy.”) Glad it’s gone.
    Forty plus years ago, I had a Model 59 Smith (9mm) and sold it because I needed some cash. I wish I still had it because it was fun to shoot.
    I MAY have several more guns that I have not mentioned, mostly because the ones that I have mentioned are ones that my wife knows about and you never tip your hand or tell everything you know. But let’s just say, the ones that I have ALL bring me joy.
    As far as recoil, I can’t tell that I am more sensitive to it now than when I was younger, I haven’t felt the need to try any lesser recoil weapons so I don’t know that I would want to trade down. Now, if there was a chance to acquire MORE guns, I might consider it (READ, I would definitely look into it if it caught my fancy.)

  60. I’m 70, and have had surgery on both shoulders. Recoil now has an elevated importance in my shooting experiences. I have “downsized” from a .45ACP to a 4″-barrel 9mm for an every-day-carry, and I am quite happy.

  61. Many years ago I noticed that my Colt 45 was causing hip pain and so I looked around for a lighter gun for CC. I bought a Kahr CM 45 and although the recoil was very sharp, it worked for me. Now at 73, I need both a lighter gun and less recoil. I tried out quite a few 9mm guns (and actually purchased a few) and finally settled on the Glock 43X. Even with 11 rounds of Federal HST rounds it is very light and much less hard on me at the range not to mention less expensive to shoot. I would recommend it to anyone looking for an easy to carry, easy to shoot firearm.

  62. Bob – Thanks for the thoughtful article. I am turning 60 this year and have a job that lends itself to minimal physical activity. Most of my exercise is running off at the mouth and jumping to conclusion… Somethings that were a joy to shoot when I was younger are more of a chore. I historically loved to work-up hand-loads to see what a rifle liked. Now, by the end of a range session, my should is asking me “WHY”, “Why are you doing this to meeee”…

    BUT – Life is Good, cuz we can do the things we enjoy!!!

    Cheers – David

  63. the .257 Roberts deserves a look.

    imho tis the perfect caliber for young & older hunters, women included.

    from varmit through deer, antelope
    sized game… Federal Premium’s Nosler 100 gr & 120 gr Partitions work perfectly for heavier game.

    the 257 Ackley improved really is
    the enhanced version.

    timeless classic, the Bob….

  64. I’m 60. My .44 Mag recoils more then it did when I was younger. I still love my full sized Springfield.45 acp. My EDC is first gen M&P Shield in .40. I recently bought a Junior model.20 Ga pump vs my 12 Ga. I’m fused from L-2 to S-1, so, I enjoy less recoil.

  65. We moved my wife from her S&W MP Shield .38 to a Glock 43. She Loves the glock . Not so much the S&W. The .38 was too much for her.

  66. When it comes to easy shooting, light recoiling rifles, the Author should have mentioned the new Winchester 350 Legend.

    Almost no recoil, available in AR-type semi-auto and accurate bolt action, and honest 200 yds deer harvest capable. As a bonus the 350 Legend offers range friendly 145 gr training ammo for less than $10 a box.

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