I had a very pleasant 70-year-old patient in today. He is disabled from multiple sclerosis and bound to a motorized wheelchair. I was evaluating him for hand weakness. He mentioned that his weakness was leading to malfunctions when shooting his Glock 19. I mentioned limp wristing, and he picked up that I was also a shooter.  That led to a very pleasant discussion . . .

He mentioned that he does not carry a pistol anymore due to his weakness and is considering a Taser. He wears a fanny pack with various essentials front and center and I think it would be a perfect place to conceal a pistol. No one is more vulnerable than the elderly, the disabled, and those among us who are both.  Unfortunately, most pistols are made for the healthy.

What self defense handgun would you recommend for someone in this man’s position?  I personally recommended that he look in some of the .22 WMR or .32 DA revolvers on the market, and consider a .38 if he can stand it. For a recoil sensitive person, I can’t imagine a better (or noisier) round than .22 WMR.

Do you guys agree, disagree have other recommendations?

 

59 Responses to Question of the Day: Which Self-Defense Gun for Disabled Shooters?

  1. I think the .22 wmr is a nice choice. I’ve fired the .22 wmr critical Defense and like it well enough in a small revolver. Hornady’s web site claims it to be near .380 performance and they have some data to back that up.

    • +1 Confirmed – saw an article in “Shooting Times” a few months back on the.22 as a personal defense round. Their ballistic gelatin tests showed the Hornady Critical Defense round in .22 Mag, out of a 1.88″ barrel revolver, had temporary wound cavity and penetration very close to the 90-gr .380 from a small auto.

      I really like the S&W 351PD in .22 Mag. Light, J-frame short barrel with a fiber optic front sight. 7 shots in 22Mag would be a fairly convincing way to persuade a criminal to leave you alone.

  2. I think you’re definitely onto something with the idea of a revolver, but don’t forget that you can port a gun to reduce felt recoil; Perhaps you should suggest a 3-4″ ported .38/.357?

    Given the readership, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a reader with just such a gun that might be in your area and willing to meet up at a range to test this theory.

    • I was thinking along the same lines: A ported handgun would help significantly with the muzzle flip issue. A friend gave me a ported Springfield Armory 1911 compact (Model = “V-10 Supertuned”) that he didn’t need/want and I am amazed by how light the recoil is even though it has a 3&1/2 inch barrel.

  3. The question I have is whether he will have the hand strength to squeeze a DA trigger. If not, does he have at least the thumb strength to cock back a hammer on a SA revolver?

    If that’s the case, maybe a NAA 22 WMR mini revolver, but with the large folding grip on it (NOT the standard small grip that comes with it). I’ve got one and it is surprisingly accurate and very easy to shoot with the larger grip at 10 yards. The hammer requires only a minimal amount of strength to thumb back. It’s also light enough that it doesn’t take much strength to hold it steady while aiming. I got it with the intent of being certain that, no matter what physical disability I might face one day, I’ll always have a firearm available. Loaned it to my father when his hand strength started diminishing significantly.

  4. As a disabled shooter with weakness in the hands, I would suggest he look at a Ruger Vaquero, or possibly a Blackhawk. He won’t have to worry about limp-wristing it, and it soaks up enough recoil to make it possible to use a real self defense cartridge, like a .357 Magnum or .45 Colt. The Blackhawk offers the option of .327 Magnum, and will hold 8 shots of it. He also won’t have to worry about the trigger being too heavy; if he has weakness in his hands, it’s very possible that he would have difficulty maintaining any kind of practical accuracy using a double action trigger.
    A Beretta Stampede Marshal would also be an excellent choice, it’s easier to conceal, but often more difficult to find than a Ruger.

    • The heavy trigger of some revolvers could be an issue for someone with hand weakness. I saw a Chuck Hawkes article on this that suggested lower powered round in a moderate to heavy gun as the answer. Then you end up with a larger gun to carry around. I think small guns with large calibers are the worst option.

      • It is a larger gun to carry around, but you did mention that he’s in a wheelchair, so it’s not hanging off his waist like an ambulatory shooter would experience.

        If he would be more comfortable with an autoloader, I’ve owned a Beretta and a Smith & Wesson 5906 in the past and found them to be easy to shoot, provided the hammer was already cocked. The 92FS was much easier to take down and clean, which is something to be considered as well. Hand weakness can make field stripping some weapons a real chore.

        Ultimately I sold both of them because I find a single action revolver much easier to get consistent hits with, and that’s what ends a fight. Proper trigger and muzzle discipline are extra important, but I don’t think the weapon is any more dangerous than the operator. Just make sure you don’t pull back the hammer until it’s time to break things and/or hurt bad guys.

  5. Depending on what size gun he can conceal, carry and use, and whether he can operate the slide of a semi-auto, he might want to look at the FN 5.7. I would never recommend that caliber for an uninjured shooter, due to its anemic stopping power, but for someone who needs low recoil I would expect it to be a much better choice than a 380 or 22.

    I never recommend porting a defense gun. Often, close quarters engagements require shooting with the gun in close to you in the retention position and the last thing you need in a gun fight is to have fire and hot gas bursting upwards towards your face.

    Single action revolvers tend to be slow because of the need to cock the hammer, and dangerous as the shooter now has to deal with a single action trigger. I am not a fan of single action trigger for any shooter. This can be especially dangerous to someone who may not have full control of the gun due to hand weakness.

    • … look at the FN 5.7. I would never recommend that caliber for an uninjured shooter, due to its anemic stopping power

      Recently another thread commented that the over penetration possibility of the 5.7 is problematic for home defense. I’m puzzled by deep penetration but poor stopping power.

      Curiosity had me do some back of the envelop calculations for the “power” of some common handgun cartridges. Thornily Stopping Power is a calculation purporting to estimate “stopping power.” Power Factor is a calculation used to estimate recoil. Low recoil seems important when hand strength is a consideration.

      Caliber, bullet weight, velocity, TSP (PF):
      .25 ACP, 45 g, 815 fps, TSP = 7 (37)
      .22 LR, 38 g, 1260 fps, TSP = 9 (48)
      5.7 195lf hp, 28 g, 2050 fps, TSP = 11 (57)

      .22 WRM, 40 g, 1800 fps, TSP = 14 (72)
      .32 ACP, 65 g, 925 fps, TSP = 14 (60)

      .380, 95 g, 980 fps, TSP = 23 (93)
      38 Spc, 110 g, 980 fps, TSP = 26 (108)

      9 mm, 115 g, 1240 fps, TSP = 35 (143)
      38 +P, 158 g, 1000 fps, TSP = 38 (158)
      .40 S&W, 155 g, 1205 fps, TSP = 48 (187)
      357 Mag, 125 g, 1600 fps, TSP = 55 (200)

      10 mm, 165 g, 1425 fps, TSP = 61 (235)
      45 ACP, 185 g, 1225 fps, TSP = 63 (227) [that’s a hot 45!]
      41 Mag, 170 g, 1871 fps, TSP = 84 (318)
      44 Mag, 240 g, 1500 fps, TSP = 97 (360)

      The ballistics numbers come from the respective Wikipedia articles. If TSP has any validity the FN 5.7 is right down there with the other .2xx calibers.

    • Priorities of pistol “stopping power”
      1. Shot placement
      2. Penetration
      ……
      ……
      …..
      x. Caliber

      5.7 penetrates excellently, low recoil and plentiful capacity allow a lot of shots for stopping. I can’t think of anything anemic about it?

  6. Massad Ayoob has recommended the Beretta Tomcat .32 ACP in the past for a paraplegic friend with weak hands (to paraphrase the man’s ability, “Mas, I can hold a cigarette in one hand, and a drink in two”). With the tip-up barrel and magazine, it would seem very handy for someone with limited hand dexterity.

    I would personally recommend 2 guns. Either the Tomcat in .25 or .32 or a .32 short-barreled revolver of some form, and a .44 derringer loaded with high-powered blanks. The .44 is for someone on top of you, when you shove the gun into their chest or neck and fire.

        • I think “can kill” may be a more accurate description – and the object is to stop (at least that is all I have ever heard), not kill. Not sure I would trust a blank, particularly when it requires you to be in such close proximity to be effective. I’d rather a .22LR at distance.

        • fyi “point blank” does not mean that the muzzle is pressed against the target. it refers to ranges at which bullet drop due to gravity and lateral travel due to windage is negligible.

      • (Normally, I’d attack the puns head on, but right now I got nothing…. 🙂 )

        At contact range, a .44 blank is going to have more penetrating power than a .25 or .32, and the derringer will function when the revolver hammer or auto slide might get tangled up in your opponent’s body. Plus, if you miss (or overpenetrate), there’s no collateral damage from a blank.

        Jon-Erik Hexum is the most famous victim of a blank, and it was “only” a stage blank.

        This is another Ayoob recommendation (same article as the Tomcat one). For legally blind shooters, he recommended a .44 Bulldog with blanks. My grandmother was legally blind for years, and I tried a couple of times to let us get one for her, but she was completely uninterested in the idea.

  7. How about mounting an AR15 on a custom turret on the front of the wheel-chair? The turret can take the weight of the weapon, all the wheel-chair user has to do is run the safety and trigger and aim.

    I guess some folks might disagree with making a wheelchair into a mobile weapons platform, but hey, nothing says D-F-W-M like a disabled guy with an AR.

  8. Think about the new Sig 250 that is coming in .380. Super light recoil spring so it should be easy to operate and the .380 in a mid to full size gun should be manageable.

  9. Interesting problem. I should think a small to mid-size revolver would be the way to go for simplicity and ease of operation, but perhaps something like a PPK or mini-glock (26?) should also be on the table. Sig 238?

    My only experience with disabled shooters has been difficulty manipulating a slide (had no problem with a Ruger MkIII).

  10. Limp wristing calls for either a revolver or a steel-framed semiauto. Since he’s already using a Glock 19, you know he can handle 9mm recoil, and racking a slide. Also, a single action trigger shouldn’t be a problem, and he might even be capable of a double. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many new steel-framed pistols out there these days. Most are polymer or aluminum.

    CZ-75. (If selecting a compact model, be sure not to get one of the ones with the aluminum frame. The full size models are all steel. Get a standard model that can be carried cocked & locked for a light trigger pull.)
    SIG P229 Stainless Elite. (Sort of a special edition, but does have a steel frame. Most SIGs are aluminum. He will have to be able to handle the DA trigger on the first shot, or learn to thumb-cock.)
    S&W 5906. (No longer in production, but fairly easy to find used. Also has a DA/SA trigger.)

    • Well, you win the CSI of the Day award.

      Based on your recommendations, this guy might actually be a good candidate for the upcoming SIG P224 or 938. I know they’re not out yet and someone on here is gonna flip sh*t for recommending “Kimberized” SIGs, but those models may still be worth a shot.

      If those won’t work…I know they’re hard to find, but SIG did make a single-action-only P226. Not sure if they still do. FN put out an SAO as well, but to the best of my knowledge discontinued them (polymer frame anyway, so the issue might be moot).

  11. I’m thinking that his limited wrist strength will rule out most if not all semi-autos, so I would have recommended S&W model 617 in .22 lr with 10 shots, model 351PD in .22 mag with 7 shots, and model 317 in .22 lr with 8 shots. Or the Charter Arms model 73220 in .32 H&R mag with 5 shots, or the Taurus model 941 in .22 mag with 8 shots. I went looking for revolvers in .32 H&R mag, and was surprised to see only the Charter Arms pop up in a quick search, because I think this would be a very managable round with better performance than the .22 mag.

    • Agreed. L or N frame .38 with a 3″-4″ barrel or even a .357 mag with lightweight bullets would mean very little recoil but would still be a serious “manfuckerupper”

    • This must be the most reliable option: No chance of limp wristing causing a malfunction, enough weight to absorb the recoil of a cartridge with a mild nature, yet powerful enough to do what’s needed using modern expanding projectiles.
      People with MS suffer from lack of motor control as well as weakness & a dinky little gun like the Tomcat is more likely to be fumbled than a more substantial one.

  12. Rule #1 in a gun fight, Have a gun. I bought my wife a S&W 351 22mag. She loves it it light only 10.5 oz low recoil,small and has 7 shots. Hers is doa but you can get it as sa/da which would be great if you have weakness in your hands. As for me kahr pm40 with 180g Gold Dot

  13. If he has MS, the trigger pull of a DA revolver might be too much for him. If he is used to carrying a Glock 19, how bout a similar size 22 semi auto, e.g. Walther P22, Ruger SR22, Ruger 22/45 or S&W 22A with the 4″ barrel. Blowbacks don’t fail when limp wristed, and the single action trigger pull will be easier to manage. I know that 22 LR is not seen as much of a fight stopper but loaded with CCI Singers or Velociters will give a 22 some punch. Besides, I’m pretty sure any punk who chooses to pick on an old man in a wheelchair is doing so becuse he (the punk) expects the the old man to not put of much of a fight. Taking a couple of 36 grain HP’s to chest might not kill him, but I’m sure it will take the fight out of him fast.

  14. It naturally depends on the disability but it is hard to go wrong with a “j-frame” revolver in .38 special or .22 wmr.

    I’m kind of a fan of the Taurus 941 for people with physical limitations related to hand/arm strength. The 941 is an eight shot .22wmr “j-frame” revolver and comes in a lightweight version. It is inexpensive, and with .22 WMR ammo designed specifically for short barrels lately, an adequate amount of firepower. The DA trigger pull on this model is not very stout, and if the user has a condition which affects fine motor function, a long pull is probably best. If the trigger is too heavy, it could be cocked manually with a thumb or even a free hand. If hand strength is really a problem, it would perhaps be reasonable to fit it with a longer and wider hammer to give more leverage.

    -D

    -D

  15. It naturally depends on the disability but it is hard to go wrong with a “j-frame” revolver in .38 special or .22 wmr.

    I’m kind of a fan of the Taurus 941 for people with physical limitations related to hand/arm strength. The 941 is an eight shot .22wmr “j-frame” revolver and comes in a lightweight version. It is inexpensive, and with .22 WMR ammo designed specifically for short barrels lately, an adequate amount of firepower. The DA trigger pull on this model is not very stout, and if the user has a condition which affects fine motor function, a long pull is probably best. If the trigger is too heavy, it could be coc*ed manually with a thumb or even a free hand. If hand strength is really a problem, it would perhaps be reasonable to fit it with a longer and wider hammer to give more leverage.

    -D

    p.s. the word “coc*ked” and all derivatives relevant to gun discussion should be removed from the comment filter…

  16. My Mom is 83 and has arthritis. She was carrying and shooting a Charter Arms .32 H&R until the double action trigger just got too much for her. Now she carries a CZ 83 cocked and locked in .380. It’s a steel gun and she’s never limp wristed it.

    I teach guys and girls in wheelchairs the Texas CHL course and bought a Taurus Millennium Pro in .32 for quads to shoot. And there, you’re talking little to no hand strength. But it’s got a great trigger even in the first double action shot and again, no limp wristing problems to date.

    • .38 spl revolver with at least a 3″ barrel, in a steel chassis. Bersa or Sig P238 in .380. I would think around 20-25 ozs would be good–heavy enough to absorb recoil but light enough for weaker hands, in .38 caliber or smaller. There are any number of .22 and .22 wmr derringers about too that would fit the bill. Although there are many who say that anything under .380 is too small, the fact is this gentleman, should he be attacked, will be firing at point blank range, such that almost anything will acheive sufficient penetration.

  17. Beretta M84. Tip-up bbl, so hand strength to operate the slide is not a factor, dbl-stack mag in .380 = light recoil.

  18. I recall an article in “American Handgunner” by Mark Moritz entitled, “Christina” which addressed this very subject. I don’t recall the month but the year, I think, was 1988 or ’89. The solution was a tip up barreled Baretta in .380.

  19. Ruger LCR, due to the smooth easy trigger pull. The .22 version has minimal recoil, even with weak hands a person should be able to fire it.

  20. Check out the Walther PK380.

    Full sized (Almost), ambi controls, mild recoil, very light weight spring making it easy to rack the slide…

  21. Three Opinions:

    1. The FN FiveSeven handgun. It’s double stack, VERY low recoil, and more deadly than any .22 Magnum or .22LR loading available. You’ve got 20 rounds in a standard magazine, and due to the shape of the cartridge (being necked down as it is), it is MUCH more reliable when it comes to feeding. It may be a little large for a fanny pack, but it would be the best semi-auto option available with a decent trigger.

    2. The Ruger LCR in .357 or .22LR. The trigger is very smooth and light for a DA snub. If the .357 was used, I would stick with .38 Special loads. The recoil in the heavier .357 model is MUCH milder, especially with the Hogue Recoil Tamer grip and the grip running slightly higher on the gun. Felt recoil is slightly less in the wrist than a J-Frame S&W due to the slightly higher grip and grip design. The “recoil axis”, so to speak, is thus higher on the gun.

    3. As much as I hate to admit it, the Taurus line of revolvers in .22 Magnum might be a good idea. I’m not a fan of the quality control at Taurus, but it’s hard to beat the price. Not too many folks make a .22 Mag snub, but it would work. A light trigger job might help your shooter.

  22. Update:

    Thanks for all the suggestions. My patient decided on a FN FiveSeven for his carry weapon. He shoots it well and really appreciates all the great suggestions in the comments here.

  23. I have psoriatic arthritis and my finger bones are all but destroyed. I am able to shoot my AR-15, shotgun(20 GA Remington youth) with no issue and also my Walther P-22. I would like to move up to a .380 but find the trigger pull to be too much. Could a gunsmith solve the trigger issue for me without making the gun unsafe? I also wonder something could be done o lessen the strength needed to rack the gun back? I have also wondered about the E-Z pull trigger assist,even though it is for long guns.
    I am relatively new to shooting and have enjoyed it so far as my wife also shoots with me.
    Thank you for any ideas or suggestions.
    Ed

  24. I have cerebral palsy and my right hand is severely affected because of it. I have function of my left hand however. I have trouble racking the slide back on 9mm pistols but would like to concealed carry so what about the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield? Is the slide easy to rack back? What are your suggestions? Thanks!

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