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Gun Buying Tips For Those With Weaker Hands

gun selection for seniors

I plead guilty. Yes, I have not paid enough attention to a very important group of gun enthusiasts and self defense pistol shooters. In a past article, Where to Begin When Choosing Your Firearm for Concealed Carry, I provided some help to those purchasing a gun for personal defense.

I look back and with regret, realize that I left out information that could have helped a large group of shooters. I am speaking about upper body strength challenged shooters, the elderly, and those with less hand strength due to arthritis, a physical injury, or disability.

For that reason, I wanted to address this important group of people who often get overlooked.

The facts from the above mentioned article still apply, and will help even if you have reduced hand strength, a disability or something similar. But, the additional points below may help you choose a firearm that will work best for you.

Let’s talk about the size of the firearm. It is a huge consideration, mainly because you are trying to match it to your needs and the size of your hands. Typically, I see women (or elderly), handed a small pistol as a ‘great fit’ for them because the pistol is small and may be a smaller caliber.

This is actually the wrong firearm for a new shooter, especially one who is part of the group this article is focusing on. The size of the firearm plays the largest role in recoil mitigation and in difficulty of operating the slide (on a semi-automatic firearm).

Remember this: the smaller and lighter the firearm, regardless of caliber, the more the shooter will feel the recoil. If recoil is a major turnoff for you, purchasing a pocket pistol or smaller sub-compact will be something you want to avoid.

As mentioned above, a smaller pistol’s recoil is felt more, and is usually slightly more difficult to grip because of less grip space, and its sights are usually not as refined as a full-sized or even medium-sized firearm.

Because recoil is a factor in smaller and lighter firearms, manufacturers have to put stiffer recoil springs in them, in order to absorb some of that recoil. This in turn can make it more difficult to operate the slide, i.e. locking the slide open or chambering a round.

This can be a huge issue for those with less hand strength. In these situations, you may want to look for a slightly larger gun that has a little more weight to it. This allows the recoil spring to be a little less stiff.

Also, the added size provides a little more surface area for you to grip. All of this will make it easier to operate the slide. Note: I do not want to recreate the wheel. There are many quality articles and videos explaining techniques on how to manually operate a slide.

I recommend this one by our friend Eve Flanigan on our YouTube Channel:

Yes, proper technique helps in operating a slide on a semi-automatic handgun, but sometimes even the proper technique can’t overcome a disability or weak hands, so proper pistol selection is important.

What about revolvers? Revolvers can be a great option for elderly or those with weaker hands but they do have some drawbacks. Remember that revolvers do not have a recoil management system, so all of the recoil is transferred to the shooter’s hands.

This may only be an issue if you’re repeatedly firing your revolver for an extended period of time on a range, and less important if you are using it in a self-defense situation. Revolvers can be a good choice because most do not have an external safety. Rather, they have a heavy double action trigger pull.

Having a heavy initial trigger pull, combined with properly following the safety rules and carrying in a proper holster will eliminate the chance of a negligent discharge.

Try to keep in mind that if your hands are too week to do administrative tasks on a semi-auto pistol, you may also struggle to pull the heavy trigger.

If this heavy pull is uncomfortable, look for a revolver that can also be manually cocked and fired in single action mode. As long as it is not impossible for you to physically fire the revolver in double action mode (hammer forward) during a stressful situation, this could be a viable option.

The last point to consider is the firearm’s sights, especially because our eyesight diminishes as we get older. Obviously if you can’t see, you probably shouldn’t be shooting a gun out in public. But, anything that makes it easier to see your front sight will help, and this applies to all shooters.

If you are color blind or have difficulty seeing a specific color, try looking for a firearm that has sights that can be changed without major custom work needing to be done. This way, you can change color, size, and the actual sighting method for your firearm.

I hope that this article, along with the past article, Where to Begin When Choosing Your Firearm for Concealed Carry, provides you with a wealth of information for selecting your firearm, regardless of your physical attributes and circumstance.

As always, stay safe.

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5 Responses to Gun Buying Tips For Those With Weaker Hands

  1. Anita Ray July 5, 2019 at 10:56 pm #

    Thank you, Matthew. This is great information for those of us with weaker hands.
    I wish I had been given this advice prior to shopping for my first gun, a Glock 42. Three years and much research later I have upgraded to a full size 9mm and love it!
    And im exercising my nondominate hand with the grip master Riley recommended and am improving in my abilities in racking the slide more reliably.
    Thanks for adding the video. I’ve watched it before as well. Very good info. You rock!

  2. D Garroutte July 6, 2019 at 12:18 am #

    AWESOME information

  3. John July 7, 2019 at 10:59 am #


    Thank you for the article. I shot every caliber and pistol for over 35 years with no problem until injuring my neck and having nerve damage in my arm and hands. I bought a M&P EZ380 for my wife and now I use it because of the difficulty I had with my other pistols. It came to a point I could barely disassemble/reassemble them after cleaning too

    I think more manufacturers will start making pistols for this group as people age or injury forces them to find alternatives


  4. Robin Chance July 7, 2019 at 12:20 pm #

    I identify with everything you are addressing in this article. I’m female, 60ish, have arthritis in my hands, and wear trifocals. I could not rack my husband’s Glock. In February, my husband, under the advice of a trusted gun enthusiast, bought me a Smith & Wesson Shield EZ. A whole new world opened up for us. We now shoot together regular and I almost have 1000 rounds through it already. I am waiting on some new HiViz sights to help with my vision issues and I will be set! It’s a sport we are really enjoying together. So glad to have a firearm that allows me to be included in the fun!

  5. Nancy McPherson August 27, 2019 at 9:26 pm #

    Locking the slide for left handed shooters, when the gun does not have an ambidextrous slide lock button: Line up your right thumb with the notch in the slide that the slide lock fits into. When you pull back on the slide, your thumb will line up with the slide lock button to slide it into position.

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