Carrying With a Disability, Part 2: Gun and Gear Recommendations

Josh Wayner

Suggestions are about the same thing as opinions. I find that the majority of people mean well, but the main issue is that they’re telling you what works for them, which is invariably a conclusion that was reached after much trial and error. Or a healthy amount of stubbornness. Or both.

In my last article, I detailed the results of a little survey I did that focused on individuals with a physical disability who carry a firearm…or not in some cases. That group of 100 people offered many valid points to consider and I’ll detail them and my opinions on the matter here.

There are lots of good products out there for those of us who suffer from anything ranging from chronic pain to a permanent disability. A few guns were particularly popular among the sample group I talked to and each has particular advantages and potential hang-ups.

As I detailed earlier, weight and size are a huge factor in the regularity of carry. Don’t laugh this off as common sense. Lack of common sense is a disability all by itself and can cloud rational thinking. This seems particularly true in the gun culture, leading to decisions that can result in liabilities.

Hand-in-hand with choosing a gun is the choice of caliber and, by default, the choice of ammunition. This can be a big point of contention, but I’ve got all the bases covered here. For those who find it difficult to look past a 1911, I have what is possibly the best production compact available as of this writing.

The SIG Ultra Nitron 3” is a super-handy and very tiny 1911. I spent a great deal of time looking around for what would be the ultimate carry .45 for those who were unwilling to separate themselves from either the caliber or the platform. It features a robust finish, fine wood grips, and bright night sights, all factory standard.

The pistol weighs the most of any gun that I’ll be going over — a rather hefty 36 oz. loaded and chambered. That’s almost double my recommended weight for ‘effortless’ carry. Now, there;s a way to shed some weight, but that can only be done in the ammo department.

Enter Liberty Ammunition’s Civil Defense line. The remarkable 78 gr +P loads generate a blistering 1800fps from this little devil of a gun. That’s fully 1100 fps faster than the standard 230 gr loads and 1000 fps faster than SIG’s V-Crown 200gr HP ammo. The best part is that it only lost about 100fps over the advertised velocity of 1900fps and did it with two inches less barrel than a standard 1911.

Not only is the Civil Defense ammunition hella powerful, but it weighs only about 1/3 that of a 230 gr cartridge. It isn’t like carrying on an empty magazine, but it is damn close. The pistol feels instantly lighter when loaded with the 78gr +P cartridges when directly compared to standard loadings.

I ended up firing two offerings from SIG, a mixed bag of 230 gr ball, and the Civil Defense loadings and experienced nothing but flawless reliability. I’d go so far as to say that this option is good considering that the pistol is very accurate and powerful, to the point that it may very well be the best option for an individual who’s married to the platform or unwilling to change the type of gun carried.

Before going further, I will say that I don’t believe that a 1911 this size is the best solution for a person suffering from a disability. A GLOCK 17 holds 18 rounds standard and isn’t as heavy at approximately 33 oz loaded. If carrying off body, do as the many respondents in my survey and go with the lighter, higher capacity weapon.

There are many like it, but this one is mine. The G17 is a solid all-around gun and carries well in the pictured El Paso belt holster.

I’m going to vacate the 1911 vs. GLOCK moshpit and talk about one of the most ideal carry guns available. The Smith & Wesson 642 has appeared in my articles before and it’s a great gun. But I didn’t know quite how popular it still is. Of those who answered as to what brand preference they had, S&W was a clear favorite over Ruger’s LCR, mostly because it’s a prettier gun according to the ladies.

Interestingly enough, the .38 Special has never lost popularity among those who carry it. I’ve only been carrying one for a short time and really like it, but I never imagined that it would be, based on my survey results, as popular as 9×19 and vastly more popular than .380 with my sample group.

When you break it down, what’s not to like? The .38 Special is a round that used to be a staple of law enforcement and target shooters alike. It’s easy to reload, can be loaded hot or not, has a massive industry following, and gets the job done for millions, plain and simple.

Of those with a disability the carry regularly, the Smith & Wesson hammerless .38 Special may be the most popular single species of concealed carry gun out there. The resounding response I got cited its light weight coupled with the simplicity it offers. There really isn’t anything simpler for a person who needs a gun that can be operated with only the pull of the trigger.

Weighing in at a scant 15 oz unloaded (and barely 16 with five rounds aboard), the 642 may very well be the ultimate carry gun. I’ve got about 1500 rounds through mine without a hiccup. Since we’re only talking five shots, the ammunition load isn’t really a factor in the overall weight of the gun, as it is in many high-capacity autos. This makes it a ‘what you see is what you get’ weapon in terms of weight.

Josh Wayner

The 642 loaded with Hornady’s 110gr Critical Defense is a downright perfect for most people.

The weapon has no adjustable sights, no manual safety, and nothing to fumble. My pistol is dressed up in Hogue Piranha grips, but that’s about it as far as modification can go short of a laser. These grips have been proven to be among the best for maintaining control of the weapon and are comfortable to boot.

There are several rounds that I’d recommend for the 642. Hornady’s excellent Critical Defense line offers a ‘Lite’ option. The 90 gr load is comfortable to shoot and isn’t what anyone could call a wrist-wrencher. Many women I spoke to used this as their go-to load for carry.

The last gun in my countdown is a favorite of the younger crowd. The GLOCK 42 weighs about the same as a 642 when both are loaded, however it carries an additional two rounds for the same 17 oz. Why not the GLOCK 43? The most common answer was that the 42 ‘feels smaller and thinner’ while the 43 feels ‘heavier and more like a single-stack G26’. I agree with that sentiment, however there’s something to be said for the merits of 9mm over .380, but that’s moot of one doesn’t carry the gun in the first place.

The G42 carries nicely in a Tagua lambskin IWB holster loaded with James Bond’s favorite, the hardball ‘9mm Short’.

The G42 is very small and thin, smooth all over, and easy to carry. Because it’s so slim, it disappears in the pocket and carries with negative perspiration. If you’re looking for a concealed carry .380 (aren’t they all?), look no further than this little pistol. There are others available, but none offer the same reliability and simplicity as the G42.

Favored carry loads among my sample group? For guys it was remarkably cheap ball for the reason of ‘punching through clothing’ while for women the answer tended to be some sort of JHP because for ‘stopping power’.

Now on to gear. Among those who have an injury or disability that carry on their hip, a good belt was the first recommendation, followed by a really comfortable holster. Bigfoot Gun Leather’s belts are serious business and I currently use one when carrying on the hip. The belt is blessed with a steel core and damn, does it hold a gun up like no other. I was surprised to find that most people who carry on the belt have been tuned into this idea for a while. I finally caught on, but on my own and much later than most.

Josh Wayner

Selecting the type of holster is as important as deciding what kind of gun to carry, as it is usually the holster that makes carry uncomfortable.

Along the same lines, Alien Gear makes some good affordable holsters. I have some residual pain in my lower spine that nags me from time to time, making me sensitive to toting anything as heavy as a gun. Thanks to this quality holster, I barely notice the weight at all. I can comfortably carry a gun that weighs as much as the SIG Ultra Nitron or a GLOCK 17 for an extended period of time.

A Bigfoot gunbelt and Alien Gear IWB holster make carrying almost any pistol a breeze.

I hadn’t heard much about either Bigfoot or Alien Gear before I began this little adventure, but I must say that the products from these two companies work as advertised and I haven’t a single complaint about either. I’d strongly recommend this combination of belt and holster brands to any person suffering from lower back pain or sciatica issues.

In closing, I came to realize that there are substantial numbers of people out there who don’t carry for reasons of disability or discomfort. I used to be among them until I did my research into my conditions and came out reached out to others with similar problems.

You are not alone out there in the world. There are people just like you who suffer from aches and pains and there’s no reason that you shouldn’t be able to exercise your rights. Not even your body should be able to deprive you of your sense of security and the objects you hold sacred. Plan well and you can carry every day pain-free.

comments

  1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    The moral of the story: keep at it until you find a caliber, firearm, and holster that suits you.

    I have told my children the same pearl of wisdom many times:

    Great things do not happen because people have an incredible plan, technique, or skill. Great things happen when people are persistent. That applies to concealed carry just like everything else.

  2. avatar PeterW says:

    I like the ‘in-between’ option. J-Frame size, mid-weight, .357 Mag power option, so either a model 60 or a Ruger SP101 ~25oz not too heavy but heavy enough to soak up some of the magnum punch. Comes hammerless (SP101) in both 2 and 3″ barrels.

  3. avatar Ralph says:

    Thanks, Josh. This is a very useful series of articles. Even though I have no disabilities now (except for my damned back), I know that if I live long enough, I will have serious physical deficits that I’ll need to deal with. Maybe we all will.

  4. avatar Volt says:

    When I was kid my dad was friends with a guy who was severely disabled. He went around town in an electric wheelchair chair. He always had a blanket over his lap. Under that blanket was a S&W Model 29 44mag. I remember him well. He would be at the gun range in his wheel chair letting loose that 44, throwing rings of fire.

  5. avatar Hoplopfheil says:

    Really useful stuff in these two articles so far. My back is awful and may never improve, so the thought of carrying a gun all day is daunting. Luckily I can’t carry at work, so I have a good excuse for being a carry slacker.

    I’m thinking Ruger LCP in a pocket holster, loaded with nice lightweight Corbon Pow’R’Ball.

    1. avatar junkman says:

      The LCP, especially the custom version, is a remarkably great gun–the Ruger ARX ammo made by Polycase is flat out remarkable in performance–see the new ‘Real Guns’ review of the LCP II to see how the ARX ammo performs, you will be amazed

  6. avatar Andrew Lias says:

    Opinions on the S&W Model 12? That’s kinda what my mind comes back to getting. It’s no “J” frame but at the weight it’s a tempting option because I think it’d be more shootable than the model 38 I have due to being a bit bigger and ~1/2 lb heavier.

    One thing I will mention on the disability that I don’t know if you hit on is that I was talking to a friend’s widowed mother and she kept a revolver. The reason why is that it was hard for her to rack the slide. Just something else to keep in mind.

  7. avatar Geoff PR says:

    “…the 642 may very well be the ultimate carry gun. I’ve got about 1500 rounds through mine without a hiccup.”

    1500 rounds through an Airweight.

    I gotta ask – How bad does your shooting hand hate you?

    That has gotta *hurt* dude.

    Something like that 642 will be in the cards for me in the future, but there is no way I could see myself putting 1500 through it, unless there is a whiz-bang recoil taming grip for it somewhere…

    1. avatar jwm says:

      For practice the airweight j frame isn’t bad if you keep to standard pressure loads. And use a glove. I can shoot 75-100 rounds like that at a time without bad effects.

      But it’s a whole other animal with +p and buffalo bores. Don’t wanna go there again.

    2. avatar sagebrushracer says:

      yeah, that recoil was one of the main reasons I went to a range and we rented a LCR and a S&W 642, shot them side by side with the same range ammo. The LCR really tames recoil better than the old 642.

      1. avatar junkman says:

        The LCR is simply the best shooting lightweight snub nose going–full power American Eagle 158gr JSP .357’s are FUN for one of my nieces that is all of 5′ 2″ & 120#–she thoroughly enjoys this combo

  8. avatar PPGMD says:

    Oh joy gimmick ammo. Even with a full size gun Liberty ammo rarely meets the 12″ minimum standard of penetration set by the IWBA let alone the 15″ preferred by the FBI. And when it is only the small disc which has little mass.

  9. avatar Bill says:

    After I wrecked my bike earlier this year, I would have killed for a revolver. My wrist was shattered, and all of my guns required two hands to effectively operate. You don’t realize how hard it is to only have access to one hand until you are forced to use only one for months.

  10. avatar Prester John says:

    Let me add a note for people with lessened grip strength and/or arthritis. I recently helped an older woman who had both and who could no longer rack the slide on her Sig 229.

    I had her try both a Kel-Tec PMR and a FN 5.7 Mark II. The primary reason for this was the more controllable recoil for these rounds compared to a 9mm, .40, or .45.

    In handling the pistols she found it much easier to rack the slide on the 5.7. I observed the difference and, to my estimate, it was at least 30 if not 40 per cent easier for her to rack the slide on the 5.7.

    Another point that I have found is that the more expensive M1911’s have a much smoother and easier to work slide than do the less expensive models. An Ed Brown or STI is markedly easier, not only smoother bur requiring less effort, than a stock, less expensive pistol.

    I appreciate this has been a thread about CCW but I thought this information might be helpful in the context of those with disabilities. Further, since we will all grow older and lose grip strength and, often, get mild to moderate arthritis, I wanted to have this information out there for long-range planning.

    1. avatar Sabrewolfe says:

      Hey, even when talking concealed carry, duty-sized weapons shouldn’t automatically be ruled out. In my case, for example, problems with my hips have made the strong-side carry I used to favor an exercise in agony. As a result, I’ve had to transition to a shoulder holster for my primary carry method. Because of this change, I’ve found that the concealment advantage small guns used to offer is basically gone. There is still the weight consideration, but otherwise I’ve found that a full-size firearm is no more difficult to conceal than a subcompact in a shoulder rig. So I’ve also transitioned to EDCing my XD Service over the XD Subcompact and Shield I used to.

  11. Also I would suggest, if you are in a wheel chair or have a walker, to check out mounted holster options. I know open carry isn’t legal in some states, but there are ways to make mounted holsters easily accessible to yourself only and keep them concealed. Check out the Tough-Claw Holster! http://www.daraholsters.com/dara-mounted-holster-with-tough-claw/

  12. avatar Nuke_road_warrior says:

    Herniated lumbar disc, some arthritis in both knees, and “trigger finger” in dominant hand; yeah, I use an electric wheelchair when I’m out and about. My normal carry is a Springfield Armory XD mod 2 compact in 9mm, carried in an IWB holster at ten o’clock. Alternately I also use a S&W Model 36 (38 spec.) carried in the same location. The main point is to find what works for your individual circumstance.

    Recommendations are fine as long as you don’t get locked into someone else’s preferences. The choice of tools for self-defense is an intensely personal decision, even more so if you have physical limitations.

  13. avatar rr says:

    About a year ago I bought an XDS 4″ in .45 and it’s really easy to carry.
    On the occasions that I just want to do something different (why do I sound like a woman talking about purses?) I have a S&W mod 36 that my Dad carried as his off-duty gun for 30 years. It’s old,but perfect.
    Just my $.02.

  14. avatar fifa4joy says:

    Just wanted to express I’m just relieved that i happened on your website!.

  15. avatar Chuck says:

    Hoag makes a fingerless monogrip for S&W J frames for about $20 that totally makes recoil very, very manageable. They make other size grips for the same gun, depending on handsize. I got the fingerless grip and can shoot my J frames all day without fatigue.

  16. Since I began to have bone pain I have learned that carrying a heavy gun and ammo is a no-no. So I got a gun bag on wheels at Amazon.com . I also purchased a 22 , and a 357 magnum ruger LCR for carry . Also a Glock 42, 43 . I remember in the past all of the light weight firearms that were out there . It would be nice if gun manufacturers would look even further into light weight metals . Everybody do not need to carry a big 15 shot pistol . But if you want one I would suggest you get a roll around gun bag . I like mine and I am learning I don’t need to be Rambo ! Lol . But if you young guys want to . That’s up to you !

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