Hindering Or Helping?

Part II: Self-Defense For Senior Citizens

It was Monday night and Diamond Dot and I were going to sit down and watch a couple programs we had recorded. I never watch anything on TV I don’t first record for two reasons: Namely being able to fast-forward through any commercials but, more importantly, to be able to watch on our schedule.

“How about I go get us a couple sandwiches before we sit down?” So it was off to the local drive-thru. I always have a hard time ordering anything through a speaker and this time was worse. I have no hearing left in my right ear and my left ear is less than 25 percent, which can be brought up to 50 percent with a hearing aid. Unfortunately, the problem was exacerbated by the fact I left my hearing aid at home.

Pulling up to the speaker I said: “Give me a No. 4 combo and a No. 9 combo with Diet Dr. Peppers. I can’t hear you, so don’t ask me any questions.” I could faintly hear a voice coming through the box doing just what I told him not to do—of course, I had no idea what he was saying. By the time I got up to the window he was screaming at me and was being helped by a young girl. With that I said: “Forget it, I’ll go somewhere else.”

I could have gone across the street to the competition, but I really wanted a No. 4 and No. 9. So I drove 5 miles to the next drive-thru of the same franchise, repeated the same thing at the speaker, drove up to the window and my order was ready with no questions. I complimented the young lady on being much smarter than those of the other drive-thru.

Now you’d think employees of any establishment would be given some training in how to deal with seasoned senior citizens—especially cranky, hard-of-hearing old guys. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising as I find the same thing happens in way too many gun shops. Although the problem isn’t hearing in this case but rather those behind the counter, who either do not understand the needs of older folk or simply don’t care as long as they make a sale. This was brought home to me again this week as my friend’s seasoned senior citizen neighbor asked if she could join us for our weekly shooting gathering because she needed help coming up with the proper firearm for concealed carry.

This live-alone lady had plenty of experience, as she kept a Ruger .22 Mark II semi-auto and holster in the house, taking it out for practice as needed. However, she realized it was too large and bulky for concealed carry. So off she went to one of the local gun stores where she was quickly sold a gun and ammunition.

With the first shot she knew this wasn’t for her and took everything back. To the store’s credit, they took the handgun-back although she lost $70 in the sell-back. But more importantly, she learned to seek advice from others. We had several firearms for her to try and she settled on a Smith & Wesson Model 351 chambered in .22 Magnum. No, it isn’t the best choice for self-defense, however, it’s well above nothing and she felt she could handle it with confidence.


Taffin’s number one recommendation for CCW for seniors is a good .38 Special revolver.

Just two days later, this same friend went to get a new gun for his wife. Several companies are now making .380’s, which are not quite so small and light and thus have less recoil. He purchased a high quality, miniature 1911-style .380 and stopped by the house to show it to me. It was a beautiful little pistol—not too light, not too large, and with excellent night sights. The slide was easy to work, but then I tried the trigger. I can normally handle heavy triggers, especially on full-sized pistols, however this one seemed exceptionally heavy, even to me.

It was sold to my friend as having a 6- to 7-1/2-pound trigger and he also thought it seemed heavy, even though the salesman assured him it would be fine. I put the trigger pull gauge on it; fortunately I had one that went way beyond 8 pounds. I didn’t think this thing would ever let go. When the hammer finally fell, it registered 12 pounds! This was on a lightweight pocket pistol. I would have difficulty handling such a situation, and there was certainly no way his wife would be able to shoot this pistol well. It went back to the store and he got a full refund.

I was recently asked to do an article for one of our annuals on Self-Defense For Seniors. It didn’t take much thinking to realize I’m not a self-defense expert and certainly not even close to the knowledge of such friends as Mas Ayoob and Clint Smith. However, while I’m not an expert in self-defense, I’m certainly qualified as an expert in seasoned senior citizenry. With 7-1/2 decades behind me, I know a lot of about growing old(er). Expert I may not be, but experienced I am. So, from the standpoint of experience I will share my ideas.

When it comes to senior citizens, one size definitely doesn’t fit all. We’re all different, we have differing needs, we have differing abilities and we definitely have differing attitudes. Sixty-plus years ago, our bodies were changing almost daily and doing it positively. They are still changing rapidly, however, now in a negative direction.

If you’re considering helping parents or grandparents outfit themselves for self-defense—or if you are a seasoned citizen such as I am and looking to arm yourself for self-defense—there are some definite things to consider. Stay away from the heavy handguns and also from the opposite part of the spectrum namely very small handguns.

Forget lightweight .380 semi-autos as they are vicious in their recoil and very difficult to handle. They are for experts only. The same can be said of derringers. They slip easily into pockets and look quite deadly, however just as with the little .380’s they are also, perhaps even more so, for experts only. The same can be said of very small single-action .22 pocket pistols. Once again experts only need apply.


The 5-shot Smith & Wesson J-frame .38 Specials (top left and bottom right)
and the 6-shot Colt Detective Specials (top right and bottom left) are
all excellent pocket revolvers.


Viable 9mm pocket pistols for senior citizens includes the Ruger SR9c
(top), Springfield Armory EMP, and the Glock 19C (bottom).

For self-defense, there are two categories to consider, namely the “house gun” and a firearm for concealment, which are not necessarily the same. Size and weight don’t have to be considered as critically in the former as in the latter. At this point we’ll consider only the latter, that is, concealed weapons for senior citizens. I can’t think of any better place to start than the .38 Special. The 5-shot J-frame from S&W has been around for nearly 65 years. Even before this Colt was making the 6-shot Detective Special. Unfortunately, the latter is long gone but still can be found on the used gun market and, if you’re is living right, at a reasonable price.

If the pocket revolver chambered in .38 Special exhibits too much recoil with regular .38 Special loads, there are 148-grain full wadcutter target loads with much less recoil which are still quite effective as self-defense loads. S&W, Taurus and Ruger all offer .38 Special revolvers with 2-inch barrels. It’s probably a good idea to stay away from the ultra light versions for senior citizens and, at the other end of the scale, Ruger’s SP101 is all steel which helps to cut down on recoil without being overly heavy to carry.

If the .38 Special still proves to have too much recoil, there are several pocket revolvers in .22 LR and .22 Magnum as well as .32 Magnum—all very light recoiling guns. As we mentioned earlier, these are not the best choice, however, they’re way better than nothing.

Switching to semi-autos, the 9mm is the counterpart for the .38 Special revolver. Glock, Ruger, Smith & Wesson, Springfield Armory, Taurus and several other manufacturers all offer pocket pistols chambered in 9mm. Whichever pistol is chosen, it is important the senior citizen who is going to use it is able to work the slide. Just as with the .38 Special, +P loads should be avoided.

Some manufacturers offer interchangeable backstraps to fit the individual hand. Shooting ranges often rent different handguns, which allows you to actually try out the gun and load before settling on a purchase. This could avoid many problems.

Whether it’s a senior citizen or kids or grandkids trying to help, choosing a personal self-defense pistol or revolver is just that: personal. It doesn’t make any difference what has been written by others and is definitely not dependent upon a gun salesman trying to make a sale. There are few things in life more personal than choosing a self-defense firearm for concealed carry.

I believe it’s Clint Smith who says, “Concealed firearms should be comforting, not comfortable.” This may be very true until we get to some senior citizens who have enough discomfort in their life without trying to carry an uncomfortable firearm.
By John Taffin

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