Physical limitations don’t have to keep you from owning and using a gun.
When you consider whether you can safely use a gun for concealed carry or home defense, consider your abilities:
- Finger strength and mobility
- Range of motion in arms and shoulders
- Ability to turn your head
- Ability to steady the gun
- Reaction time
- Decision making skills
Adaptive equipment is widely available to help you with shooting your gun, and professional help is available. Before you decide not to bear arms, consider these solutions:
- Choose a lighter, smaller gun
- Get a shooting stick
- Choose a gun with less kick
- Choose a gun with a lighter trigger pull
- Choose a revolver for easier loading
- Use speedloaders
- Choose a semi-automatic with a lighter recoil spring
- Add a red dot sight
- Add a laser sight
- Update your glasses
- Get Physical or Occupational Therapy
- Review your medication list
- Get a physical
- Assess your method of carrying your gun
- Stage your home for self defense
The Skills You Need
Criminals know how to spot a victim, and they are going to target the elderly and infirm for break-ins and burglaries simply because of the greater likelihood of success in getting what they want. How can you gain the advantage in defending yourself as you get older?
Certain activities require specific physical skills. A license to drive, for instance, requires a driver to pass an eye exam. Using a seesaw at the park requires you to be approximately the same size as the person on the other end to weigh down the board enough to lift the other person.
What physical skills are required to shoot a gun? I looked up the law in my state and discovered that South Carolina requires vision correctable to 20/40 to qualify for a Concealed Weapons Permit (CWP).
Everything else is negotiable. You can even get a doctor’s note excusing you from the fingerprint requirement if your fingers cannot be printed.
You do have to be able to hit the target. To get a CWP in South Carolina you need to hit the target in 35 of 50 attempts. See my prior post on getting a CWP. There is nothing mentioned about needing to stand, lift heavy things, or squeeze a certain number of pounds of pressure with your hands.
You can shoot without hearing. You just need to be more aware of your surroundings because you will be using your vision to assess the location of your target and the movement of anyone in your environment.
Note that a deaf shooter will still want to wear hearing protection when shooting. Sound waves will still be pressing on your eardrums, and guns are loud enough to cause ear pain and vertigo for the unprotected.
This is the Walkers Razor electronic hearing protection we bought for our daughter to use for shooting practice, available at Optics Planet.
Trigger finger control is an important element of gun safety. You need to be able to feel your trigger finger so that you don’t accidentally pull the trigger.
If you can’t stand and shoot, learn to shoot from a seated position while maintaining your sitting balance. Shooting from a wheelchair is doable. Lock your wheels before you shoot.
Shooting causes a a high speed projectile to exit the front end of the gun. At the back end of the gun you will receive the energy from that projectile as kickback. Make sure you have the balance to stay standing when you shoot.
Finger Strength and Mobility
A proper grip on your gun is essential, and you must have control over your trigger finger.
A quick internet search turned up an adaptive finger grip and other accessories to help you shoot a gun at beadaptive.com. If you choose this option, be sure to get proper training in how to use your adaptive devices.
Range of Motion in Arms and Shoulders
You need to be able to lift the gun to eye level and keep it there while you shoot. Handguns require less mobility than long guns because you don’t have to extend your arm as far.
Ability to Turn Your Head
Shooting is generally done with your head facing forward, but you need to assess your surroundings. If your neck is stiff, make sure you can turn your trunk far enough to the left and right to make sure no one is about to step in your path.
Be aware that your gun goes with you when you turn your trunk.
Ability to Steady the Gun
Weakness and tremor can keep you from steadying the gun long enough to take aim and shoot.
In a self defense situation you need to adjust quickly to a threat in your environment. You may be ready to shoot and then see someone coming out of the corner of your vision. Can you stop in time?
Decision Making Skills
If you don’t feel up to making split second decisions, trust your gut.
Mental stability is a must for a gun owner, and your memory should be good enough for you to take care of yourself and follow all the rules involved in using a gun.
Holding a gun in position requires endurance. After you shoot, you have to have proper form while you follow through.
In my day job I am a speech pathologist, so I see people using adaptive technology for eating, walking, and even communicating. I wondered what was out there to help with shooting.
Choose a lighter, smaller gun
The first step is to make sure you have the right gun. See my article on how to choose the right size gun for your needs. A midsize revolver or semi-automatic will work well for home defense.
A forty-six inch rifle sitting by the door is great when you are young and healthy, but after a certain age it will be difficult to hoist ten pounds to your shoulder and maintain it there long enough to convince an intruder that you can keep the promise you are making.
Get a Shooting Stick
If you want to keep your rifle, look into a shooting stick, which is an adjustable stand that you can place next to your chair to help support the rifle. Hunters use these to sit for long periods in a hunting blind. We like the Bog Havoc Shooting stick, available at Cabela’s.
Choose a Gun With Less Kick
If you have difficulty with weightier guns, get a handgun. The smallest ones will have a lot of kickback, so go for something medium-sized that will absorb some of the blow of shooting with its own mass.
See my prior article on what kinds of guns are available. Go for the biggest one you can comfortably carry.
Choose a Gun With a Lighter Trigger Pull
If you have difficulty squeezing the trigger, get a gun with a light trigger pull. I chose the Ruger LCR revolver when I found that my Taurus Model 85 revolver was too stiff for me to fire repeatedly.
Semi-automatics typically have a lighter trigger pull than comparable revolvers because of the mechanics involved, so choose a semi-automatic for a lighter trigger pull if you are able to rack the slide.
Choose a gun that allows single action so that you have the option of pulling the hammer back before you squeeze the trigger. My gun can be used with either single or double action.
If I had not wanted to buy a new gun, I could have had a gunsmith polish the trigger for a lighter pull or put in a less stiff spring. Gun owners do this when they really like everything about a gun except how hard it is to squeeze the trigger.
Don’t go below a three to four pound trigger pull or you will end up with a hair trigger, occasioning a misfire.
Choose a Revolver For Easy Loading
If you have trouble loading a gun, choose a revolver over a semi-automatic because you can drop bullets directly into the cylinder without maintaining the thumb pressure you need for loading a magazine for a semi-auto.
Use Speed Loaders
A speed loader for a revolver will have you loading a strip or a circular device with the rounds and then aiming them all into the cylinder at the same time. This might be easier for arthritic fingers that don’t fit into small spaces.
For the semi-automatic enthusiast, speed loaders such as the Maglula, available at Cabela’s, can apply the pressure for you to load the magazine without using your thumbs as forcefully. See my prior article on semi-automatic guns for details on speedloading.
Choose a Semi-Automatic With a Lighter Recoil Spring
Racking a semi-auto can be a challenge. If you don’t want to switch to a revolver, choose a gun with a lighter recoil spring. The Shield EZ in .380 ACP or 9mm is the easiest gun to rack.
Add a Red Dot Sight
To make it easier to hit the target, a red dot sight mounts to the top of your gun for a bigger view of your target with a red dot to indicate where you are aiming. The Vortex Viper is available at Optics Planet. Be sure to get the right model for your gun.
Add a Laser Sight
For even more precision, a laser light will project a red or green dot onto the target itself. A bad guy with a laser pointed at center mass will realize you are serious.
We like this Viridian laser from Optics Planet for mounting under the barrel of a pistol. Make sure you choose the right mounting system for your gun.
Update Your Glasses
A new pair of glasses can make a significant improvement in your ability to hit your target. Getting an eye exam will help you deal with outdated prescriptions and address any new problems that have cropped up since your last exam, such as cataracts or glaucoma.
Degenerative eye problems are best dealt with before they get worse, and you need to know what to expect before you invest in a gun.
Get Physical or Occupational Therapy
Physical limitations can come on slowly, as in the case of arthritis, or suddenly with an accident or stroke. Don’t accept a decrease in strength or range of motion until you have assessed the possibility for improvement.
Ask your physician for a referral to an outpatient Physical Therapist (PT) or Occupational Therapist (OT) to address issues with mobility, balance, range of motion, or weakness. If you are homebound, Home Health can come to your home for therapy.
Mention to your OT or PT that you want to be able to use your gun, so he or she can assess your grip strength and advise you on methods of improving your ability to hold the gun steady while maintaining balance and paying attention to your environment.
Review Your Medication List
Some medications cause weakness, dizziness, drowsiness, changes in blood pressure, or an inability to concentrate. Your doctor or pharmacist can advise you on the side effects of the meds you take and suggest alternatives if your meds are causing problems.
You can go online for the official side effects lists of all your medicines, including those taken over the counter (OTC).
Type “medication interactions” into an internet search engine and you will find a website that will allow you to enter all the medicines you take, then check to see how they interact with each other.
Get a Physical
Seek treatment for medical conditions that leave you drowsy or impaired. Maintain proper nutrition and hydration. Ask your doctor what diagnoses you have and what can be done to improve your medical condition.
Assess Your Method of Carrying Your Gun
Your holster can make a big difference in how easily you can draw your gun. Some holsters have a mechanism that locks the gun in place until you deactivate it manually.
The deeper the concealment, the more steps are required to draw. A shoulder holster requires reaching one arm to the other side, and carrying in a backpack requires reaching around behind you.
If you have big pockets and a small gun, you can get a pocket holster such as this one from Desantis at Optics Planet.
Stage Your Home For Self Defense
Take a tour of your home and think about where you might be when you need to defend your home. Place your gun there, properly secured so that children and unauthorized adults do not have access. See my article on home gun safety for ideas.
Remove clutter so you can move safely at night if necessary. Make sure the locks are functioning well on all doors and windows. Upgrade your outdoor lighting with a motion sensor. Have a phone within reach at bedside.
Preprogram important phone numbers. Close your bedroom door when you go to bed. Preplan your location in case of a break-in.
If you hear someone entering your home, you will want a safe room, ideally with a large piece of furniture that can serve as cover between you and an assailant.
Discuss an escape plan with everyone who lives in your home, and decide whom to call in an uncertain situation. Consider a security system.
Don’t consent to be a victim just because you are getting on in years or your health is not what it used to be. Make the proper accommodations and you can continue to defend yourself.
When you are ready to learn how to shoot contact Double Eagle Gunworks LLC to set up individual or group classes on the gun topic of your choice. Join our newsletter to stay informed of upcoming events.
Check our schedule of classes to find a class for a Concealed Weapons Permit or one of several other classes we offer. Watch the Double Eagle Gunworks channel on YouTube for helpful videos on a variety of gun related topics.