Guns for Granny – Choosing A Gun for the Elderly or Infirm

guns for granny

So much advice on the internet regarding firearms selection is written by (relatively) healthy and able-bodied men, for healthy and able-bodied men. When it comes to choosing a tool for those around us, things usually either get shrunk down, or people get told to train more. Smaller guns aren’t without shortcomings, and some people just aren’t able to put in the time/money depending on their circumstances. Previously I’ve written about choosing a firearm for the women in your life, but even that advice isn’t entirely applicable across the board. Today we’ll look at some aspects of choosing guns for the elderly, disabled, and otherwise infirm. These are guns for granny, and beyond.

Guns for Granny – Real World Context

A few years ago my grandmother became a widow. At the time she lived alone, in a once-nice but now deteriorating trailer park in the Midwest. Her experience with guns is limited; having only shot BB guns and break action shotguns as a child. Up until this point the role of protector was being played by her late husband, a former Ranger and experienced martial artist. With the reality of self defense suddenly being thrust upon her, grandma asked me to teach her to shoot.

Physically my grandmother was in pretty good shape at this time, despite being in her early 70’s. Arthritis had set in, keeping some modern gripping techniques out of her reach, and increasing her sensitivity to recoil. Additionally, grandma is on a fixed income, keeping her budget extremely tight. Taking regular classes, or even multiple range trips a month wasn’t financially feasible.

Test Guns for Granny

Home defense is our strict context here, with no desire to conceal carry, which drives some of our requirements. During our range trips I brought a small selection of guns from my inventory. My primary concern is shootability, reliability, and administrative operation. Something that grandma can operate on her own, and get effective hits on target from across the bedroom. Next, we’re looking at cost due to her fixed income. Granny isn’t showing up with a Staccato, so these will be guns your grandma already owns, or can pick up relatively inexpensively.

Ruger Standard

Ruger is essentially THE standard when it comes to 22LR pistols. Convenient that one of their older models is called the Standard. For those unfamiliar, this is the genesis of their Mk series of pistols. This gun is our reference for typical target style 22 pistols, a stand in for newer Ruger offerings, the S&W Victory, Browning Buckmark, and similar.

guns for granny
This gun is literally The Standard by which others are measured

Overall, this was grandma’s second favorite gun, though there were several gripes about features of the gun. The more square frame was a little uncomfortable for arthritic hands, despite the low recoil. The small cocking knobs were more difficult to manipulate than a traditional slide, though not impossible for her. Grandma also had difficulty with the heel magazine release compared to button releases, and the gun was slightly heavy for her even with a taper barrel. These issues show us that something more modern like a S&W Victory or Ruger 22/45 may be a better choice.

Even with basic unpainted irons, she liked the sight picture quite a bit. The longer radius between the front and rear sight helped with precision, and the light trigger was easy to manage. Of course a dated gun like this has dated controls. This makes is representative of the time, something that grandparents may already own, but not what they could pick up at the store.

Ruger SR22 – Granny’s Favorite Gat

The Ruger SR22 is a gun I picked up years ago due to reports of it being an improvement over the Walther P22 my father lusted over in my youth. It is compact, holds 10 rounds, has an adjustable palm swell, and a DA/SA action. It’s certainly more of a carry focused pistol than some of the target guns on the list. As such, I thought it would be an interesting addition. To help top things off, it was readily available and inexpensive to boot while still being reliable.

guns for granny
Granny’s favorite, the Ruger SR-22

The SR22 was hands-down my grandma’s favorite gun of the range session. It is the only gun that she repeatedly asked to shoot again over other things I’d brought to test. She was able to get a solid grip on the gun, manipulate the controls, get decent hits, and had no issues with reliability. The one concern was the double-action trigger, which she could only get a full stroke of about half the time. Single action proved to be a non-issue, but the gun cannot safely be stored with the hammer cocked. It’s possible that she could work on her hand strength to the point of reliable use of the trigger, but it’s an issue in the short term.

I wouldn’t have guessed this would be her top choice, but sometimes the gun gods work in mysterious ways.

Beretta Neos with Bushnell TRS-25

The Beretta Neos isn’t a great gun, however it was my only 22LR pistol that could accept an optic. In line with the budget mindset, I stuck an old Bushnell TRS-25 on top of the pistol. As we age, our eyes aren’t as sharp as they used to be, and often times an optical sight can help alleviate those issues. The primary reasoning for bringing the Neos out was for grandma to try optics, with the gun itself being a lesser concern.

As with most shooters, using an optic required some guidance and instruction to understand. Even with the tubular housing of the TRS-25, grandma still found herself struggling to find the reticle on multiple presentations and when recovering from recoil. When she could find the dot, her hits were better and faster than with irons, but overall reliability was lower than irons. Due to this her hits on paper were the best of all pistols tested, but sometimes there was a significant delay in taking shots while hunting for the dot.

guns for granny
Granny absolutely drilling the target despite heavier recoil

Much like with the Ruger Standard, grandma greatly preferred the single action trigger over the DA/SA SR22 or the DA Model 10. The slide was a little easier to use than the nubs of the Standard, though not quite as easy as a traditional pistol slide. In short, this reinforced lessons learned from other guns, while also showing that an optic might not be the best choice here, despite what the target shows.

Smith & Wesson Model 10

You’d be surprised at how many people have an old K-Frame in a dresser drawer at home. For years my grandfather kept a pristine Smith & Wesson Model 15 in his bedside table, loaded with Federal 158gr LRN that hadn’t been touched in decades. The .38 Special revolver is something easily accessible, simple to operate, and fairly effective on target. With no need to operate a slide or safety, the revolver is an excellent “fire extinguisher” choice for many shooters. A steel frame will also help cut down on recoil, which is a benefit in practice.

guns for granny
Going old school with the Model 10

My Model 10 is setup with rubber Pachmayr grips, and loaded with Federal Gold Medal Match 148gr wadcutters. This is about as low recoil as you can get in a service size firearm. Unfortunately, it didn’t make the mark here. Grandma found recoil manageable, but not pleasant. Despite the subpar sights, she was able to get some hits, aided by nail polish on the front sight blade. The big issue here is the double action trigger, which proved too much for grandma to use. Single action was fine, but that’s not much of a viable option in an emergency. Due to this, the Model 10 was removed from consideration.

Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ

The Smith & Wesson Shield EZ was a relative newcomer at the time of this experiment. With some features that seemed purpose built for someone like my grandmother, I was eager to put it in her hands. No modifications were made to the gun, and we shot Magtech 95gr FMJ during our range session.

The Shield EZ featured granny’s favorite sights by far, but that’s where the positive reviews stopped. The recoil of .380ACP was far too much for her, after one or two rounds she asked to stop due to pain in her hands. Despite being fairly large for the caliber, the polymer frame didn’t do much to cushion the blow to her arthritic hands. It may not seem like much to you or me, but this reinforces the importance of context in firearms selection. In the time since then, I’ve found the EZ to be highly unreliable in both .380 and 9mm, across multiple pistols.

Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 – Granny’s Greatest Performance

Only one rifle was tested during our range session. This was a rental M&P15-22 from Smith & Wesson, a suggestion from Chuck Haggard. As someone who believes in the defensive 22LR, but has had poor luck with the Ruger 10/22, I was happy to get another rimfire rifle on the range. Looking exclusively for home defense options, a long gun makes a lot of sense. We won’t worry about limp wrists impacting reliability, and we can jam more ammunition into the magazine without issue. Additionally, the ability to add improved sights or lights is much easier here.

guns for granny
Shooting a loaner M&P15-22

While grandma found the Model 10 to be a bit heavy, the M&P15-22 was a non-issue. Three to four points of contact help distribute the weight, making it much handier for shooters with less strength. Due to some limited mobility, grandma did struggle to get a good cheek weld, hovering her face over the stock when shooting. That also impacted her ability to get accurate shots. However her precision was dramatically improved with the rifle versus every handgun tested. This is where a quality laser or high mounted red dot could come in handy. Despite that, Grandma kept every round on paper out to seven yards, with a higher rate of fire–something not done with handguns.

The rimfire carbine is probably my go-to selection here. Between precision, reliability, and ease of adding accessories to improve shooting, this is hard to beat. With inexpensive ammunition, and a relatively inexpensive gun, this is also fairly budget friendly.

Other Considerations for Guns for Granny

Guns aren’t the only tool for personal and home defense. I won’t speak to this at length here, as I have elsewhere. That said, sometimes the firearm isn’t the best option for a variety of reasons depending on your personal situation. Maybe securing the firearm from others in the home isn’t feasible, or budgets are so tight that the timeline for saving enough money is extensive. It could be that the defender simply isn’t prepared to use lethal force against a violent attacker, and that’s perfectly okay.

guns for granny
Lower recoil helps to keep rounds fairly accountable even for new shooters

In these situations, other tools should be under consideration. Pepper spray is a fantastic option, and I don’t leave home without mine. POM and Sabre are my go-to brands, with both offering excellent compact options. Sabre also offers larger cans with longer range and more capacity, making them solid options for a hunkered down defender. Of course there will be clean-up to do afterwards, but it’d be the same story if you used a firearm.

I would stay away from any sort of pepperball launcher, as they have proven unreliable in my experience, and are also comparably priced to real firearms. Stun guns and tasers are also not without serious shortcomings. Check out Agile Training & Consulting’s OC & Less Lethal course for more information on alternative tools.

Handguns

There is one firearm I wanted my grandmother to try, but I wasn’t able to get my hands on during our range time. This is the Standard Manufacturing S333 Thunderstruck Volleyfire. On the surface, it seems purpose built for this demographic. Unfortunately, it is a complete piece of junk. I reviewed one shortly after this experiment, and you can ready my findings >>HERE<<.

One gun that has released since our testing that I think would work really well here is the Taurus TX22. It’s a semiautomatic 22LR pistol, with reasonably sized controls and capacity of 13 to 16 depending on variant. They’re fantastically reliable, optics ready, lightweight, and affordable. While the TX22 isn’t a target pistol, I think it fits the “carry 22LR” niche pretty perfectly, which is what we’re looking for here. Alternatives include the Ruger MkIV 22/45, Smith & Wesson Victory, and Glock 44. While I have no time on it, the S&W M&P 22 Magnum may also be a decent choice so long as it fits the shooter’s hand.

Long Guns

For long guns, the Ruger 10/22 is typically considered the gold-standard. That said, I’ve had poor luck in terms of reliability with mine. Additionally, I think the controls can be a bit confusing, especially as it relates to the bolt release and bolt lock. That said, they’re the standard for a reason, and most people seem to have good experiences. An alternative to this would be the Savage A22, which features a few ergonomic upgrades and more refined controls.

The M&P15-22 works well, and grandma was easily able to understand the controls. Being an AR style rifle allows us to easily and inexpensively swap parts to help mitigate ergonomic concerns, something not easily done on more traditional rifles. While more “tactical” looking, this would be my go-to for someone in this situation.

Observations from Testing Guns for Granny

Most of my students are either middle aged or under 30. Rarely do I get the chance to work with older students, especially those who are at the point of experiencing more severe arthritis and other ailments. Working with my grandmother helped open my eyes to some physical limitations that I was less familiar with. Changes in grips, sights, action, controls, and more can really make a difference here. Simplicity in operation is even more important than with the typical gun owner as well. Also, we must consider that maybe the gun isn’t the right option for this person, even if they think otherwise.

guns for granny
Granny putting in work

Another consideration that falls away in our internet age is actual hands-on help. Sure, looking at hits on a target is fine, but you may never see some of the issues people experience with manipulations. Or maybe you’re missing out on some key technique errors that can be easily mitigated with simple coaching. Grandma made great hits with an optic, but really struggled to reliably find the dot in any useful amount of time. We can wax poetic all day long about tool selection, but nothing beats in person experience.

Final Thoughts on Guns for Granny

Don’t take this as a “Top 5” list for choosing guns for someone you know. Rather consider some of the points made here, and in my other work, and apply them to those you may find yourself helping. Choosing equipment for personal protection can be challenging, especially for those who are physically different from yourself. Even younger shooters can have physical limitations that impact their ability to use common options.

Hash out what your wants, needs, and limitations are on paper. Get out to the range and try a handful of options to see what works within your criteria. Maybe you’ll find that some adjustments need to be made before making a financial decision. As always, get some quality training and regular practice if able.

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If you made it this far, thanks for reading! Writing isn’t my full-time profession, and nearly everything I do comes out of my own pocket. Between ammunition, tuition, range fees and more, expenses add up fast. If you like what I have to offer, consider making a donation to my Patreon.

Every bit helps bring more work like this to you, and contributes to shortened timelines or more in-depth work on my part. You’ll also have more direct access to me, offering suggestions for future projects, looking behind the scenes, and getting early access to some content. You can find my Patreon >>HERE<<

About Daniel Reedy 400 Articles
Daniel holds instructor certifications from Rangemaster, Agile Training & Consulting, and the NRA. He has received training from Craig Douglas, Tom Givens, and Steve Fisher among others. He also has experience competing in USPSA, CAS, 3 Gun, and Steel Challenge. In his free time Daniel enjoys petting puppies and reading the Constitution. His work is also published by AmmoLand, Recoil Concealment, and Air Force Times. Daniel has also written and edited for The Kommando Blog.

2 Comments

  1. Sir, I found your article provocative in that it reminded of many personal options I had forgotten about. For instance, I am age 81, and I have an old military .38 S&W I acquired decades ago from an old Seabee with WW II history. Great thought! I am disappointed in the performance you got from your Smith EZ’s… I have been using a 9mm EZ for a couple of years, with range visits 4 times per month, and it has been a total delight! I got it due to the light rack on first round, which is my main Achilles heel. My rotator cuff(S) are gone, and both my biceps are separated from their shoulder anchor-points, and I can rack the EZ just fine. I’m not so good at that on my 1911, Series 70 A1, nor most miniature guns (Ruger LCP II, COLT 1903-.32). Ruger Mark I (1960’s vintage) is good, borderline in the heel release your grandma had problems with. And, btw, I admire your respect for older users, and esp your grandma. You seem to have had a fine up-bringing. Cheers. (1st time viewer, but “I’ll be back!”) Henry -New Mexico

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