Best SD gun for small, weak, arthritic hands?


Charlie Oldphart
November 18, 2005, 12:14 PM
My wife and I are in our late seventies live in Vermont---and that is good,

We also live in Southern Vermont---and that is NOT good!

The reason? We border New York and Massachusetts and are within a short distance from Connecticut and New Jersey. Need I say more? The criminal elements bring their damn drugs and immoral lifestyles across our borders and one is not safe in one's home anymore.

An incident took place not long ago only a few miles from us. Two punks broke into an elderly couple's home. The husband was severely beaten and the wife was sexually assaulted. She was 79 years old! Can you imagine assaulting a 79 year old woman? Filthy b*stards!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am a peaceful man and outside of the military, I have never shot at anyone or even threatened anyone. There was never any need to. Now, I've had enough! I am not paranoid, but I expect to live out my years in peace and if I have to protect myself and my wife by sending an assailant straight to hell, then I will do it.

Now here's where I need help from you folks. I intend to buy a weapon for my wife, but I have not kept up to date with the latest types that would be suitable. Bearing in mind the following conditions, what would you suggest?

1. My wife is 5 feet tall, 110 pounds and has small weak hands (arthritus)

2. I'm thinking that she could not work the slide on an auto.

3. I'm thinking she could handle nothing larger, caliber wise, than a .38 Spec.

4. Which manufacturer makes a double action with the lightest trigger pull?

5. Would it be practical for a gunsmith to lighten up the trigger pull and still
be safe?
6. The weapon should should be of the highest quality. Price is no obect.
(At my age, I can't take it with me, can I ? )
7. What about smaller calibers that would still be effective?

Guys, thanks so much for your input. Women also, perhaps you can relate.
All info is greatly appreciated and I know opinions will vary, I want to hear them all.

God Bless You and Yours.


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November 18, 2005, 12:28 PM
First off Charlie Howdy and welcome to The High Road, if you can go to a range that will rent you a revolver that will fit her hands,try the trigger first if they will let you.
Once you do that rent it and shoot it .38cal will work just fine with good shot placement. It would be a good idea also to get some basic pistol training for the both of you.
Keep us updated on how it goes with what you choose.

November 18, 2005, 12:34 PM
It is a semi-auto, but the Para Ordnance LDA series are double action and the trigger pull from the factory is about 4 to 4-1/2 pounds. I think they have at least one model in 9mm. You could load it and leave it ready to go when you're not at home. It's built on a 1911 pattern, so it does have a thumb safety and it also has a firing pin safety.

Like all semi-autos, though, it should have a few hundred rounds put through it at a range to demonstrate reliabiluty before you trust it with your lives.

A revolver is perhaps inherently more reliable, but there is the trigger pull issue ... and the need for reloading after fewer shots. The Para Ordnance Hi-Cap 9 holds 18 rounds in the magazine, plus one in the chamber. Stock number DX189S.

November 18, 2005, 12:36 PM
Charlie, welcome to THR. May I make a suggestion? I suspect that a handgun will NOT be the optimum weapon for your wife. This is for two reasons:

1. With her weak and painful hands, she won't be able to cope with the recoil of any meaningful self-defence cartridge, and extended practice (very much a necessity with a handgun) is out of the question;

2. Without that practice, she may not be accurate enough to hit what she wants to.

I'd suggest a light-recoiling carbine instead. The Kel-Tec SU16C is very light, easy to shoot, can handle a red-dot sight if you want one, has very little recoil, and (when loaded with soft- or hollow-point bullets) will hit far harder than any handgun round. I'd strongly recommend looking at one of these - they don't cost any more than a decent handgun. Alternatives are the Ruger Mini-14 (however, reliable high-capacity magazines are hard to find) or the AR-15 (much more expensive for a quality example). I don't recommend a shotgun, due to recoil management problems with her arthritis and light build.

If you have a friend (or a local rental range) with one of these weapons, try her out with it. It's light and portable enough to be kept handy at home, and I assume you're not worrying about carrying a gun 24/7.

Good luck!

November 18, 2005, 01:05 PM
Welcome to THR Charlie.

As a youngish (37) man with arthritis in his hands I can sympathize; even if my build is a tad more ... substantial than your wife's. ;)

Preacherman gave you some excellent suggestions. If you're sold on a pistol I would get her a large heavy steel revolver and load it with .38 special. Something like a Ruger GP100 will soak up the recoil.

You might also consider a pistol caliber carbine, which can be a bit smaller than the Mini-14 or SU-16. Being a long gun it will soak up much of the recoil of a pistol cartridge. Since you say money isn't an issue you might look into something like a Beretta Storm which is available in 9mm, .40S&W and .45ACP.

If she can't operate the slide on even something like a Storm then perhaps a lever-action carbine chambered in .357/.38spl such as the Marlin 1894C would work better. It's relatively heavy and as a result firing .38's from it is almost like firing a .22. The recoil is practically non-existant.

November 18, 2005, 01:07 PM
For a person with small, weak, arthritic hands, a semi-auto is probably not a good choice. Many must be gripped firmly to properly function, otherwise you may get what's sometimes termed a "limp wrist" malfunction. This can be alleviated to a large extent by the use of more powerful ammunition (either "+P" or "+P+") Recoil of this ammo in, say, a Glock 26 is quite mild, and I've been unable to induce a limp wrist jam in that pistol, but only you and your wife can determine if a pistol like that is a viable option.

A revolver is always fine - in fact, my "always loaded house guns" are ALL revolvers. I would recommend an S&W "K" or "L" frame revolver with a round butt in .357 Magnum. The .357 has a healthy recoil, but ordinary .38 Special ammunition (with much less recoil) may be used in any .357 Magnum revolver. Plus, most steel framed full size S&W .357s are just a tad heavier than their .38 Special counterparts, which further reduces the recoil.

I'd look for a pre-lock, pre-MIM used revolver with the firing pin still on the hammer, and then either have a good gunsmith work it over, or get the "Trigger Job" DVD by Jerry Miculek (highley recommended!) and do it myself.

Adding long arms to the equation, Preacherman has some good suggestions. I'd also add an "AK" pattern rifle into the mix - they're compact, they shoot a good, mild-recoiling round with good stopping power (especially if softpoints are used), the manual of arms is easy, and they're reliable with quality 30 round detachable magazines readily available.

Echo Tango
November 18, 2005, 01:13 PM
I kind of agree with Preacher's point of view, but I have a few questions. I am naturally assuming this is going to be a "In-house" gun i.e. Home Defense weapon. If that assumption is correct, there is no rule that says that weapon has to be a pistol. A youth model shotgun should be light enough and easy enough to handle, and given the extra mass of the weapon would allow for a heavier round/shot with less recoil felt( there are some really good low recil tactical buck shot rounds on the market today) this equals more stopping power for her as opposed to a small caliber pistol that would be required/limited because of her hand strength/arthritis issues.

Another plus....much like the crossbow/long bow delimma of the middle ages: Many a Barons and Dukes (not to mention long bowman) saw the invention of the crossbow as a great threat because if reduced the level of skill needed for the average joe to be dangerous at a distance. The long bow, much like a pistol required training and practise to be proficent where as any knuckle head could pick up a cross bow aim it and generally hit what they were aiming at...much like a shot gun.

Now in a high stress situation,simple is better. Yes you can miss with a shot gun, but its a heck of alot easier to miss with a pistol or even a rifle and if your dont have the time to take your Wife to the range to practice with said pistol thats just asking for holes in the walls and ceiling. A shot gun is definately the way to go.

Just something to consider.

bad LT
November 18, 2005, 01:15 PM
A longgun is simply a better weapon than a handgun. The above are all good sugestions. Another alternative is an M-1 carbine loaded with quality hollowpoints. Very effective and user-friendly.

November 18, 2005, 01:16 PM
sir, have you considered perhaps an irritant like pepper spray? For about $25 you can get 6 oz can that can supposedly stop a grizzly in its tracks. This may be a wise alternative for someone who is not accustomed to firearms, and I can personally say (I was a non beliver once) that this product will stop a grown man, myself for instance 6'5" 230lb, it hurt so bad I could not think. Military or police grade spray is preferrable due to concentration and ergonomics of the can, look for 10% concentration or better. Plus on a big can you have about 50 shots without reloading. Please consider this if safety is your concern, I hope this helps, good luck

November 18, 2005, 01:43 PM
Personally, I think a large framed .357 revolver is going to be too heavy for her weak, arthritic hands.

May I suggest a Smith & Wesson 431PD ( in .32 H&R Magnum?

As far as long guns, I like the suggestions of the Keltec SU16 and the Beretta Storm.

November 18, 2005, 01:58 PM
I'd start with a dog. Something that at least looks threatening. Rottweiler, German Shepard, Doberman, etc.
Yes, they can be distracted with a $.99 package of lunch meat, but it may deter the criminals looking for as easy target.
I had a Rottweiler when I lived in a crap neighborhood. She had one confirmed encounter with a bad-guy trying to get in. I wasn't home but it was obvious the clown trying to get in the window got the scare of his life, probably wet himself, and took off quick.
Even a small dog will let you know if strangers are around. Kinda like an early warning system that only costs a few dollars a month.

As for a firearm, I agree with a heavier, .38/.357 revolver.

November 18, 2005, 02:14 PM
Under similar circumstances I chose a youth model .410 slide action shotgun as a home defense gun for my wife and she is very comfortable with it

November 18, 2005, 02:23 PM
I vote for a 20 ga. coach gun. Easy to learn and load, short, maneuverable, light kick with light loads. Arthritis shouldn't be too much of a problem. Drop one with first barrel and the rest can decide who gets to catch the second. Joe

November 18, 2005, 02:27 PM
I'd start with a dog. Not for stopping the threat, but as an early warning system. Either the revolver or carbine/levergun sound like fine options. Pepper spray? I'd hate to bet my life on a can of seasoning. It's a nice intermediate option for some people, but it doesn't always work. I got soaked with it in the academy, and it didn't do squat. After a soaking with spray, I got hit with foam, which did start working, after about 30 seconds. Total time until I was incapacitated? 5+ minutes. At the time, I was around 280 lbs, and in good shape. I can do a lot of damage in 5 minutes, or even 30 seconds. Pepper spray can also cause problems for people with respiratory problems.

November 18, 2005, 02:30 PM
Winchester 94 .410 loaded with slugs.

Low weight, Low recoil, Easy to use, nice trigger

The only consideration would be where to put it.

Pepper spray indoors is a big no no I experimented with it in my youth :barf:

A Taurus or smith and wesson .38 with a 4 inch barrel is easy on the hands
especially if you get the recoil absorbing grips.

Best of luck to you and your wife and I hope you never encounter any of these cretins.

November 18, 2005, 02:36 PM
I would think it really depends upon just how "arthritic" her hands are. If she can grip a small handgun, I'd try maybe a walther PPK/S (a .380 automatic ... note: a double action automatic ... very light recoil sold by S&W now), or even a S&W 3913 Lady Smith (a light 9mm, with a little more recoil, but not much more).

Good Luck, I hope you find something that eases both your fears.


November 18, 2005, 02:46 PM
Welcome to THR.

Charlie, a dog and a shotgun will get you a lot more for your buck than a high dollar pistol. Remington's "Spartan" line (made in Russia) has a good quality double barrel shotgun for under $400... ask your local gunshop to show you a 'coach gun' (as in stage coach gun). A double is very easy to load and use.

For under $300 (and often times closer to $200) you can buy a Remington pump shotgun, get a short barrel (18-20 inches) you aren't buying it for duck hunting. It's a little more complex, but holds 3 more shells.

If you really want a handgun, I'd find a local 'smith to build you up a .38 cal SW model 10 with a light trigger pull.

Whichever you choose, practice with it, and still get the dog.

November 18, 2005, 02:50 PM
For all those recommending shotguns: folks, please remember the arthritic hands situation. Any weapon requires practice to master it, and a shotgun's recoil, even in minor gauges, is a bit too much for arthritic hands. I'd still recommend a carbine in a lighter caliber (the suggestion of a Beretta Storm in a pistol caliber, probably 9mm., is also a good one), as the minimal recoil of such a weapon is likely to be conducive to practice with, and therefore mastery of, the weapon.

November 18, 2005, 03:31 PM
Preacher, on that note I'd suggest an M-1 Carbine... it's light, little recoil, more punch that a .357, short pull to cock it for the first shot, light as a .22.

I would NOT suggest a Marlin (that damn safety will get someone killed) lever gun or Winchester '92 (You have to squeeze the lever to make it work) to a person unfamiliar with firearms, much less one with arthritis.

The point of a break action double, is that it's so simple you can do it one handed... and in a smaller ga. like a .20, it's pretty managable. And, to be truthful it can be left loaded with the safety on. You just have to remember that it's loaded, and treat it accordingly.

November 18, 2005, 03:33 PM
In general, I agree that a rifle, carbine or shotty is more easily handled as far as taming recoil, has better (read: easier) accuracy, better ballistics and may intimidate an intruder. But let's not forget the intimidation factor to the USER. Those of us that know better, probably including Charlie since he mentioned a military background, know that they are not necessarily harder to operate than a handgun, but just the fact that it is a bigger, heavier, two-handed weapon may make it more intimidating to his wife. If she is, as I assume from his post, "a woman of a certain maturity", she isn't likely to want to take up shooting as a new hobby. I'd have to agree with many here that a K-or L-frame S+W, Ruger GP, or similar-framed Taurus .38 really fits the bill. Even if she has never fired a gun, there is a universal familiarity, even a comfort level with a revolver. When he mentioned buying a gun to her it was probably the first picture in her mind. The trigger can be worked on to be very friendly towards her arthritic hands. Mild, target-loaded .38's are downright fun to practice with from a steel-framed revo and standard pressure hollow-points are fine for "across the room" defense. Speaking of across the room distance, adequate accuracy is not out of reach of a "rookie" with a handgun. Again, she will most likely not be a recreational shooter, trying to erase the spades from a playing card at 25 yards. If, God forbid, she needs to use it, she'll need to hit a torso 10 feet away or closer. Charlie, if you are primarily interested in a new gun, I would suggest you take a hard look at a Smith + Wesson Model 10 or 64. The 64 can be had with a 3-inch barrel. Either can be had with a 4" barrel. If you don't mind used, there are great deals to be had out there. Good luck. Whatever you decide to buy, I hope you enjoy learning to shoot it together and never have to use it for anything but fun.

November 18, 2005, 03:36 PM
Used Marlin Camp Carbines in 9mm aren't too expensive and will soak up all the recoil from the 9mm.

Does anyone make a .410 or 20 guage gas operated shotgun that might be gentle enough for her to use?

A dog and alarm system is an excellent idea. The certainty of a monitored alarm limits the amount of time criminals are willing to spend in the house.

Forget pepper spray. If you can't be assured of having the police show up then you can be assured a sprayed criminal will take out their resentment on you.

November 18, 2005, 03:41 PM
Since this is for home defense, would you mind telling us a little how your house is constructed? If you have a choke point such as a stairway, a rifle seems like it would be ideal (any maybe a shotgun as well, for you not your wife). If you live in a trailer or a small apartment a rifle might be a little harder to utilize.

Somebody mentioned before that their kids are upstairs, and that if his home was being broken into that he would just sit on top of the stairs and aim his shotgun down. Hes thoughts were let them have whatever they want, as long as he protects his family.

Have you considered having separate weapons for yourself and your wife?

November 18, 2005, 03:53 PM
a woman of a certain maturity

Anyone who thinks a granny with a shotgun isn't scary needs their head examined.

Then again, granny liked her Colt Single Action as well...

(All meant in good fun...)

November 18, 2005, 04:02 PM
I would agree with the 410 as a good choice
or a light revolver you could check out at the range or gun shop

November 18, 2005, 04:48 PM
I'd start with a dog. Something that at least looks threatening. Rottweiler, German Shepard, Doberman, etc.
Yes, they can be distracted with a $.99 package of lunch meat, but it may deter the criminals looking for as easy target.

Wanna bet on that? You can come in my house and see if you can distract ANY of my 5 German Shepherds, wit a nice steak (and I'll pay for it!)...Job 1 is to protect their "pack" (family) and territory..

So I think you should consider a dog as well.

I also agree with some others that a nice 9mm carbine (loaded with some +P+ hollowpoints) would be good, although a shotgun is better, if not quite as manageble.

T. Bracker
November 18, 2005, 04:55 PM
If cost is no issue, then consider mine another vote for the Beretta Storm in 9mm.

One of Many
November 18, 2005, 05:25 PM
Baretta makes a tip-barrel semi-auto in .380 that is fairly small in the grip size, and may fit her hands better than a revolver; since the barrel tips open, a cartridge can be loaded without racking the slide. I think it is model FS86, but my memory isn't the best. It might be available for rent at a well stocked gun store/shooting range.

I have seen one of these at a gun show about 2 years ago, and thought about getting it for my wife; I got her a Makarov instead. My wife has fibromyalgia (SP?) and has trouble just holding a revolver, much less firing one. She finds the Makarov in 9x18 much easier to handle than the .38 revolver with wadcutter loads. If a handgun is decided upon, I recomend the heaviest gun she can handle, as it will reduce felt recoil; those light suckers are for He-Men.

Oleg Volk
November 18, 2005, 05:31 PM
One solution for such a situation was a Glock frame with Advantage Arms .22 aluminum upper -- no small controls or external safeties, light trigger, light gun, reliable.

Another option would be an older full-size .32 pistol, like the Colt Pocket Automatic (though its sights are poor).

November 18, 2005, 05:49 PM
.38 special is my suggestion, as others have stated. The ammo available ranges from light target loads that would also be adequate defensive load, to higher velocity HP loads that still don't kick a lot. Keep in mind that the heavier the gun, the less the kick. If she is strong enough to hold a heavier revolver up, it won't kick as much. In addition, if she can't handle the double action pull, she can cock with her thumb and then has a very light pull. Not as fast, but still a good defensive weapon that way.
I would suggest that you get some .38 wadcutter target loads. They have flat ends, and although low velocity, they would make a nasty wound. They are perfect to practice with for a gun shy person just learning. Again, the heavier the gun, the less the recoil. I would strongly advise against a small frame snubby for her.

Burt Blade
November 18, 2005, 11:41 PM
The Smith & Wesson Model 10, also known as the Military and Police, is fairly easy to manage. With modest .38 Special loads, it is reasonably effective. It is also a very reliable gun.

If double-action revolvers are difficult to fire, one can use a two-hand grip, and thumb-cock with the offhand thumb. Trigger pull is now short and light. This is astonishingly fast with a bit of practice. I know several folks with arthritic hands who use this method to shoot .38 special single-action revolvers in Cowboy Action Shooting competitions.

In long guns, the lever action rifle is a definite possibility. For semi-autos, go with an M-1 Carbine.

Loading a gun with heavily arthritic hands is not something to do under stress. Leave them loaded if you can, or get the gun that is easiest to load.

And above all else, get the gun(s) that _she_ is most comfortable handling and shooting.

Felonious Monk
November 19, 2005, 12:05 AM
Welcome to THR, sir!
I agree totally with the thinking of middy, as follows:
Personally, I think a large framed .357 revolver is going to be too heavy for her weak, arthritic hands.

May I suggest a Smith & Wesson 431PD ( in .32 H&R Magnum?
We MUST be realistic for a woman in her 70's, or she will become frustrated and the goal will not be met.
I think I'd try one of the above, but not feel the least bit undergunned if you decide to go with an 8 shot 22 magnum revolver. It's preferable to a baseball bat, and I'm pretty sure no one is going to stop and calculate bullet size flying at them as she shoots.
Make sure she can hit what she aims at inside of 5-7 yards with some fun outings to the range or the farm.
It's all about placement.

Glad you're taking up the responsibility for yourself and your wife's safety.


November 19, 2005, 12:56 AM
Welcome to THR, I am new as you are.

I have to say the only reason I was not here sooner was my DOG! She has thwarted 4 known intrusions with only the perp running off scared, maybe scarred, he never came back after I let the dog loose. Marking my house off the list before I ever woke up and reached for my gun.

I recently bought a .45 for a similar issue where meth-heads stole a rig of mine. My current dog did not defend my property as her predecessor did. Anyhow, long story short, get guns that you are comfortable shooting, take some courses for some education, and get more than one GUARD DOG! Being where you are, I assume you can afford the new companions, and they will prove much more valuable than a gun, you will quickly forget their purpose for their companionship, but they won't. No thief or assailant attacks a house with loud vicious dogs, or even yappy barking cats for that matter, not the smart ones. And if they do, you hear your dogs while you prepare yourself for the ugliness that may come. This is why I prefer a dog that can cause some grief on the assailant. A 50 pouder will do fine.

Training them to know the difference is not something I can tell you "how to do". You will need experts for one trained like that. Meanwhile, get you and yours some training and think of the dog as an all critical alarm. It will be you or a pro to train the dog to "know" the difference. My current dogs don't, hence my .45. They will always bark first, but the reaching is usually not necessary. The point is, the dogs bark, you reach, you're READY. They don't expect a 70 year old with a gun.

My suggestion would be to buy a gun with a magnum caliber that you can shoot with practice ammo. Like the .357 mag. Easy practice ammo, heavy hitting protection ammo. Because when it matters, the extra kick won't, because there won't be time, only reaction. But you can practice 38 spcl all day.

And what I don't see in the forum is that you need to prepare being a gunowner. I did not sleep well for about a month once I "knew" what I had to protect myself within arms reach. The responsibility weighed heavy, and it still does, months after purchase. As a younger fellow, I do sleep better in the woods at night, much better. I just "know" I have the gun now, not "think" about it, took a while.

Speaking of which, my dogs woke me up last night as a pack of coyotes strolled through the area. Had it not been for the dogs, I might have had a coyote pelt or two this morning.


November 19, 2005, 02:10 AM
Under similar circumstances I chose a youth model .410 slide action shotgun as a home defense gun for my wife and she is very comfortable with it

A really big +1 to that!

Don't disregard the .410. This arm can put out buckshot and even slugs at an energy that equals many hot-loaded handgun calibers.

Recoil is practically non-existent, and the .410 is available in lever action arms (Winchester), pump action weapons, and even semi-automatic shotguns. I'll tell you this, a semi-auto .410, loaded buck-slug-buck-etc. will be a formidable weapon indeed.

You might even be able to find a slightly larger caliber/gauge for your use. I just saw a Browning Auto-5 in 16 gauge in a local shop. The trigger pull is light and sweet, and the shotgun balances like a feather. Moreover, the Auto-5 is perhaps the fastest cycling shotgun on the market--bar none.

Good luck to you in your quest!

November 19, 2005, 02:16 AM
Hello - Welcome

You can already see that there are almost as many opinions as there are people.

May I suggest a Smith & Wesson 431PD in .32 H&R Magnum?

I will give this one a third recommendation. I recently had the pleasure of working with my 80 year old aunt who wanted a handgun for protection. She also has a weak hand, and what worked best I feel was a revolver. She has been doing well with it. It is also a small frame revolver and not heavy.

The S&W 431PD would be small , light weight, easy to learn and handle, and have light recoil using .32 Shorts or Longs for practice and then using the .32 H&R mag for the extra power wanted for self defense.

Get it and a dog if you want a pet - personaly I don't like to have to take care of pets . While the carbines and light shotguns can be of good use, they still require strength to operate and hold that I don't think your wife may have. Also , as you mentioned - no autos that require the slide to be pulled back will work in my opinion.

So - there's me 2 cents worth.

PS: My aunt chose to buy her pistol in .22 mag caliber . While you won't find many recommending that for personal defense, it has near zero recoil and is a lot better than having nothing, or something that recoils too much for old hands to use. I think the .32 with shorts would also be near zero for recoil and that's one reason I also recommend going that way.

November 19, 2005, 09:18 AM
Remington's 1100 is available in both 20 guage and 410. A gunsmith could put a short synthetic stock on it and reduce the barrel length to minimum legal length. It might be a functional alternative.

Peter, what do you think of this alternative?

November 19, 2005, 10:44 AM
Ok, a few guys want to write off pepper spray. I am aware that this is a gun forum, but that in no means takes away the effectiveness of a 25$ bottle of 10% spray. Most cops in the US carry a can of pepper spray. I have seen more than 300 people get sprayed, after we spray our rookies they must fight me off for 30 seconds and keep me from grabbing their gun. I have not seen a single tough guy that could have realistically injured me after he was sprayed. Yes there are a few people who are effected less, and even fewer people who are so tenacious that they can fight well afterwards, but I have only seen two, TWO out of more than 300 that were truly unaffected.

If my own mother needed a gun I would buy her pepper spray, why? Because she has never handled a gun in her life, it's cheap (you can buy one for every room in your house if you want and still spend less than half of what you would spend on a reliable firearm), pepper spray requires no marksmanship training, she doesn't have to worry about neighbor kids finding one, it's easy to use, and most of all, IT WORKS!

One argument was that some guy had 30 seconds of fight left in him after getting hit with foam, this is most impressive, the foam feel's like having airplane stripper poured in your eyes. If you shot me in the center mass with a small calliber handgun I'll bet I'd have more than 30 second's to come after you.

It all boils down to preference, I guess you are probably safer with what you feel comfortable with, if you think you need a gun, get a gun. Don't believe for a second though that pepper spray is a toy.

November 19, 2005, 10:45 AM
Charlie, I sure do share your concerns. Even moving to a "nice safe place" is no guarantee against ruthless perps. A small carbine like the Keltec or Mini 14 would really reduce the recoil and make her one mean granny to confront. She can just fire away multiple shots. Yes most revolvers can be tuned by a gunsmith to lighten up the trigger, but she still will have to deal with the recoil. I also have dogs, and they're worth their weight in gold. Even a medium size dog will begin to get the understanding of their "protector role", and do their job for you. Dogs have a way of knowing when someone weaker needs help. Look up the breeds. There are dogs known for their strong bonding tendencies for 1 or 2 people, rather than a big family of kids. Do this soon. It will give you some peace of mind. Hell, get a bottle of bear spray. Its the strongest spray out there, doesn't hurt to have that around either. Its range is about 30feet.

November 19, 2005, 10:48 AM
Oh, and Burt, do you honestly think an old lady should have an M-1, If we are thinking of the same 308 you should re-evaluate the advice you give people

November 19, 2005, 11:01 AM
Get an auto-loading 20 ga shotgun and load it with buckshot. Preacher is right that it will recoil more than a carbine; nonetheless, it is still a very controllable and user friendly gauge and action. Automatics tame recoil much better than double barrels or pumps. I would recommend the Remington 11-87 Upland Special, which you can view here:

It has a short barrel, which is desirable for a longarm that will be used in tight quarters (e.g. indoors).

November 19, 2005, 11:08 AM
Perhaps a Bren or maybe a Russian KPV, you guys are nuts

November 19, 2005, 11:09 AM
I would go for a 4" barrel S&W revolver in .38 Spl. She can practice with light target loads and keep +p's in it for defense.

November 19, 2005, 11:11 AM
Trueblue, I think he mean the M1 Carbine.

The advice about not using pepper spray is based on the concern that it's only temporarily incapacitating. If an elderly lady uses it she has to retreat from the house to be sure that the assailant won't recover and exact revenge upon her before law enforcement can arrive or she has to fall back to a safe room with a weapon for the same reason. (the indoor use/colateral inhalation concern can be mitigated by use of stream or foam instead of fog sprayers)

We have pepper spray in stategic locations so that they can be grabbed at a moments notice and used while getting a more permanent solution.

November 19, 2005, 11:15 AM
maybe I'm just cynical of the abilities of elderly women with arthritus firing old battle rifles

November 19, 2005, 11:24 AM
If she doesn't train much she won't be able to hit anything with her weak hands and a revolver. I'ld say go with a .410 shotgun or a light carabine.

George S.
November 19, 2005, 11:46 AM
While there seems to be a lot of well-intentioned suggestions regarding what is the best firemarm for your wife, I have not seen anyone suggest that you both go to a gunstore that has a range and actually try a few handguns, carbines, or even shotguns. A really good store will be able to suggest not only a specific handgun based on how it feels in her hands but what specific caliber and load will be the most effective for home self-defense. You might even want to carry this step a bit further and get her to go when she is experiencing some amount of pain or discomfort. Unfortunately, Murphy's Law is usually in force when you have to do something at a point in time that can cause problems.

A longun would not be my choice for somebody with issues like arthritis in the hands or any joints in the arms. If she is awakend in the middle of the night by an intruder, just the act of picking up something relatively heavy (compred to a lightweight pistol or revolver!) can be painful in itself much less dealing with the fright and stress of the situation. My mom had rhuematoid arthritis and even picking up her coffee cup in the morning was painful to her.

Further, a longun can let an intruder grab the barrel should she miss with a shot or not grab it and get it on target in time. She would most likely lose control of a longun in a situation like this. And rifles tend to kick upwards from recoil as you shoot, If she does not have the strength to hold a rifle or even a shotgun, a missed first shot may not give her a chance for a second.

For my $.02 worth, look at a relatively small caliber double-action only revolver. No chambering of a round, no safety to worry about and you can get them in a very light weight. Most all revolvers respond to a bit of trigger work and a lighter spring for a light trigger pull. Aftermarket grips can help with the hold and recoil absorbtion. I would consider anything from a .22mag (yes, they will stop somebody!) to a very lightweight .38 with something like a wadcutter/target load if typical defensive loads are too hard to control.

I would suggest looking at either the Ruger SP101 DAO 2 1/4" barrel .357mag (which will handle .38spl's), Taurus CIA Model 850 .38spl or the Ultralite 731 in .32MAG, or the S&W Lady Smiths. These are lightweight models in DAO and should work fine depending on the ammo load selected. They have smaller grip frames and she would probably find these easier to grip.

Again, try them to see what she feels comfortable with!!

November 19, 2005, 12:17 PM
solid stuff George, good show

November 19, 2005, 02:32 PM
Charlie, welcome. I'm a new member to this group but they are impressive aren't they? All have good advise, but I am going to attempt to answer your specific question. The Smith and Wesson Model 10 is a sweet pistol and something a gunsmith can do wonders with. They make one with a bull barrel that in my opinion is one of the best shooting revolvers ever made. It has negligable recoil with 148 grain wadcutters. My wife has a concelled carry permit and frankly still thinks it is too much gun. What ever you decide try to purchase at a store that will let you try that or a simular model. Here are my wifes favorites. North American Arms mini revolver with matching 22 mag and longrifle cylinders. This is a "single action" very small pistol that she carries in her purse. She practices with the long rifle cylinder and then interchanges the magnum cylinder for carry. You can get oversized grips for this revolver that helps the pointability. I prefer the Blackwidow model with the same set up and that would be my recomendation for your wife. See their web site. Another that she has for her bedstand revolver is Smith and Wesson model 651. This is a J frame 22 mag. and is an outstanding shooter. I will throw out one semi auto. Berretta's Tomcat in 32 acp. This has a very good grip DA/SA after first shot and has a tip up barrel that allows for loading without racking the slide. A friend of mine has lost most of the grip in his hands and he loves the Tomcat for his carry pistol. Charlie, these are all marginal calipers at best but adequate. Many people mentioned dogs. When I was in Law Enforcement I spent a couple years working B and E's. I never had a successful breakin or burglary when a dog was present no matter what the breed. I will take this one step further and say if you are serious you should consider layers of security. It is easily done with lighting and a dog. Basic principle is to make sure you have your property lit to the extent that no one can easily conceal themselves near your doors and windows. You can do this with porch and door lighting on timers and then some IR/motion lights of brighter intensity on all four corners of your house. Good luck

Essex County
November 19, 2005, 03:17 PM
Years ago I knew a gentleman with severe arthritis that selected a .22 magnum Ruger Single-Six as a bedside handgun. He found that it was easy for him to cock repetedly. Good luck with your choice. Sincerely, Essex County

beaucoup ammo
November 19, 2005, 04:00 PM
I know several Oldpharts in the New England area. Welcome to THL. Seriously, Charlie, put me down for (1) good watch dog and (2) .357 with .38 special ammo. Get a good smith to tweak the trigger and all the missus will have to do is lift, point, cock and pull the trigger with zero effort.

The most important choice, of course, is anything your wife is comfortable with. I'm willing to bet if you call a couple of ranges in your area and explain the situation as you did so well in your post, you'll find people more than willing to let you shoot a selection of weapons. Find one that will offer her a proper grip with her condition.

Having a rough idea of your floor plan would allow the the real experts who post here (Not Me!) to offer up more effective suggestions. One story or two? Big house? Small? ,etc.

Take Care

Burt Blade
November 19, 2005, 09:04 PM

The M-1 Carbine, more properly, U.S. Carbine, .30 Caliber M-1, is not a "battle rifle". (Not in the sense of an M-1 Garand, Springfield 03, Mauser 98, SMLE, etc.) It is a lightweight, auto-loading carbine firing the .30 Carbine cartridge. That cartridge is essentially a hot pistol round, being somewhere between a .38 Super and a .357 Magnum, depending on how one keeps score on such things. It is not the .30 caliber round fired by the Springfield 03 or the Garand, that rifle round being better known as the .30-06. The M-1 Carbine itself is lighter than an AR-15, and was intended as a replacement for a sidearm, for people who could not carry a battle rifle due to their military duties. (Officers, drivers, heavy weapons crews, etc)

A ten year old can easily shoot an M-1 Carbine.

November 19, 2005, 10:32 PM
My mother has very weak hands and very little arm strength.

So far the only pistol she can work, carry and shoot properly is a Beretta 21a is .22lr. I've been looking for something bigger and better for her, but I have yet to find it.

I'd love to find her a revolver but what I've found she can't hold up or can't handle the DA triggerpull. A mid sized auto would be great, but she can't work the slide.


On the good side, that little 21a rides in her purse just about everywhere she goes. :-)

November 19, 2005, 11:19 PM
the foam feel's like having airplane stripper poured in your eyes

That's the best description I've heard. The stuff's nasty.
The thing is, I know I'm an unusual example. However, most rookie's aren't hopped up on psychotropic drugs when they're sprayed. Some street thugs are. Do I keep pepper products around? Sure, as I said before, they're a great intermediate force option, for those who have time. They simply aren't the fight stopper they've been touted as. I've seen a lot of guys shrug them off, mostly steroid freaks.

November 19, 2005, 11:55 PM
I'd love to find her a revolver but what I've found she can't hold up or can't handle the DA triggerpull. A mid sized auto would be great, but she can't work the slide.

My aunt has the same problem with shooting DA . She can cock the hammer back OK , and that is how she shoots. (sa only) My personal opinion is that works OK , and like I told her, after the first shot you will likely find the strength to work the DA !!

The tip up barrel of the Beretta's helps with loading, but there is still that DA trigger pull to deal with unless you cock the hammer the first time.

Her hand strength would not allow her to deal with what many suggest in carbines and shotguns either. Pulling the bolt back on a 1100 20ga. for example is not possible for my aunt. The same would be true for many of the rifle carbines mentioned.

That's why I still recommend a J frame size revolver in a caliber no bigger than the 32 mag , with the ability to shoot light loads like the 32 short and long. And although other manufactures make some pretty nice small frame revolvers, I see no reason not to stick with S&W as they make a quality gun of the right size, weight, and caliber.

November 20, 2005, 08:36 AM
Thanks for explaining to me what a carbine is there Burt.

November 20, 2005, 10:46 AM
I'd go with a carbine. You can stuff 10 or so rounds of 110 or 125 grain .357 hollowpoints into a 16" Winchester. It's light, it's compact, the trigger ain't all that bad, and it's light. The light rounds don't recoil all that much. And the Giant Ball Of Fire from the business end is really interesting. Downside is you need to work the lever. Up side is that it doesn't require any real dexterity.

I'd stick with a 20 gauge or smaller shotgun. With a youth stock.

An M1 carbine would also be interesting, if she can manage to work the action. Hook a few fingers on it, and yank...

Anyone in Vermont wanna take these folks shooting?

November 20, 2005, 10:57 AM
If you can find a full-size Walther P99 A/S or SW99 - you can set it for a S/A trigger pull - that is fairly light, and how I usually carry the gun. It also has 3 adjustible grips, which she can swop out to fit her hands best.

The only issue is that she probably won't be able to work the slide on any typical semi-auto pistol. And second, recoil will be a bit more in a polymer handgun. But, this would take care of the trigger issue for you.

Remember, though, U can get a Glock and have someone work on it to bring the trigger pull down to 3 pounds. But with an older lady, it might not be a wise idea to have a trigger that light.

Everyone says to get a rifle are carbine. But unless she has grown up around that large of a weapon, I don't think that is a good idea. It is heavier, and it would take some practice for an old lady to learn how to handle it. I took my 65 year old mother out shooting for the 1st time in her life 2 months ago. I know what I had to go thru to explaint how to use the sights and everything. I dodn't see my mom easily using a rifle w/o a lot of instruction. It's harder to teach someone that old than it would be for you or me to learn it.

Too bad Beretta doesn't make the 86 model anymore. It was a 280 pistol with a tip up barrel.

November 20, 2005, 12:04 PM

The tip up barrel of the Beretta's helps with loading, but there is still that DA trigger pull to deal with unless you cock the hammer the first time.


I'm going to guess you've never handled a 21a before. The triggerpull on that model (both DA and SA) is one of the lightest and smoothest I've ever felt.

Hmmm.... j-frame in .32 mag. The could be a nice option. Does anyone make an aluminum or titanium j-frame in .32mag? (don't think she could hold up a steel one - really, really weak arms)

November 20, 2005, 12:16 PM
As mentioned by some of the others a S&W 32 mag. Model 431PD:

If you get the 32 MAG let her shoot it with 32 S&W Longs to learn how it works but then load it with 32 Mags.

Or you might consider the S&W 22 MAG. Model 351PD with an easy to see light gathering front sight.

Here is the link:

November 20, 2005, 12:34 PM
I'm casting my lot with those suggesting the M1 carbine. Light, handy, little to no recoil for all purposes, and easy to work when loaded and ready to go.

November 20, 2005, 12:44 PM
My thoughts are that you start with what you can afford! If it's a gun you want, go to the nearest range and shoot the guns you think will fill the bill. Then look for a used weapon.

In the meantime, start with exterior home security. Call the local cops. Most will come to your house to do a "security evaluation". Most depts have a Community Services section whose main job is to do neighborhood Watch type presentations. They will check to see if it is up to par or an easy target for breakins. Things like trimming back bushes from the windows and walls to increase visibility as you approach and eliminate hiding places for crooks. Exterior lighting and stout locks are also a plus.

Alarms are pricey. If you cannot afford one, go get some stickers from an alarm comapany ( or the internet?) that say the premises are alarmed and post them on windows and doors. If the cops can't help you, many here probably have low cost-no cost ideas to share.

November 20, 2005, 01:22 PM
Well Mr. Oldphart sir when I read your post I thought about myself reaching my seventies and what I would want under the circumstances you describe. My first thought was what has already been listed- the lightweight S&W 431PD in .32 magnum. Being a S&W the quality is very good and if the trigger pull feels heavy to you or your wife most any gunsmith worth their salt can lighten and tune your trigger. The ability to familiarize and practice with the lighter .32 Long ammo should also help. S&W also makes one in .22 Magnum, the 351PD I believe. It would also be a good choice. In your situation my handgun preference is definitely a revolver over an auto pistol for simplicity/ease of operation.

If you choose a long gun a .410 semi-auto shotgun may be good, if your wife can handle something that size. In a small rifle I would look at the proven Ruger 10/22. With decent ammo it will make most people think twice about continuing their illegal activities after they have been shot. And with magazines available holding up to 50 rounds without reloading you should be able to hold your own with a 10/22. In a higher caliber rifle look at the inexpensive Hi-Point 9mm carbine. Quite accurate and very dependable overall so far. While you may have to cycle the action yourself to chamber a round, if you have no children or other immature people around the gun could be kept ready to go with the safety engaged for you or your wife to use if needed. Its only drawback may be the weight. I'm not sure any long gun may be appropriate for you because of the weight/handling issue though.

I too believe you should not discount pepper spray. Look at the large cannisters with the wide-area spray they make specifically for defending against animal attack, not the small presonal size cannisters. They have larger controls that should be easier to operate under stress. Look at the 'heat unit' ratings, the higher the better. Try to get at least 2 million SHU or higher.

While not always true I believe that most of those who prey upon the eldery are themselves weak and cowardly. When confronted by any type of active resistance, a firearm, pepper spray or dog, they will most likely retreat. And it is the weaker ones that have to move out from the cities to seek their victims, they cannot compete with the hardened city dwellers. Shooting someone like that with even a .22 LR will more than likely cease their hostilities. It cannot be stressed enough that whatever you choose to use, you and your wife need to get some training and practice in using it. And do not forget proper eye and hearing protection when practicing. Stay safe.

November 20, 2005, 01:56 PM
I'm going to guess you've never handled a 21a before. The triggerpull on that model (both DA and SA) is one of the lightest and smoothest I've ever felt.

You guessed wrong . Now I get to guess that you and many others haven't dealt with the weak arthritic hands of an elderly person. ( OK - I know you have , but others apparently haven't )

The 21A "may" work but you are still looking then at a standard .22 RF for self defense. While better than nothing I don't recommend it if there is a better alternative. And I think there is .

Not only do I think there is a better alternative , I think there is one that fits within the realm of what the poster asked for . He didn't ask for recommendations on how to protect his home - he already decided he wanted a handgun. I think the guy is wise enough to know there are other things that one can do for protection, and guns other than handguns that are available.

Therefore I still recommend the guns so gratiously pictured by lbmii .

November 20, 2005, 04:22 PM
I'll be looking for a 431/432/451 to hold in my hands. If it's all everyone here says it is, I may have found Mom's Christmas gift. Until then, I still haven't found a better all around package for her than the 21a.

November 20, 2005, 04:36 PM
A Ruger 10/22 with the stock cut short enough to fit her with either Williams Fire Sights or some sort of red dot scope, and a couple of Butler Creek 25 rnd mags full of Stingers clipped together. Low noise, light wieght, very fast follow up shots (shoot everything that gets in front of it 3 or 4 times) and 50 rounds of ammo every time that you pick up the gun. The bolt is easy to cycle and it should be dead reliable regardless if her technique is perfect or not.

It may also look a lot more intimidating than a smallish handgun would to most people, which should not be relied upon to solve the problem, but can't hurt.

November 20, 2005, 05:09 PM
If you can find a Berreta 84 .380 with tip-up barrel, then have a bit of trigger work done to lighten the pull, you will have a more powerful version of the 21A. You would have to get a used one or a leftover NIB since that model has been discontinued.

Charlie Oldphart
November 20, 2005, 06:36 PM
Hi guys,

What a terrific bunch! It is really great to receive so many good ideas from folks who have our best interests at heart. Not everyone agrees and thats fine. I appreciate every opinion.

Some questions were asked of me and the answers will give you a better idea of our situation,

We live in a one and a half story house located on a dirt road about five miles from town. Police protection is next to nil. The State Police probably would get lost and they are too busy anyway. We are "protected" by the County Sheriffs Department. There are about 20 men in the department which is headed by an openly female lesbian. I kid you not!!!!!!!! (There, I've probably offended some one and will get kicked off the board for not being politically correct). She actually got elected on this platform. Anyway, morale has gone to pot and we have ended up with high turnover and the type of cops who sit downtown in their mini vans a pass out speeding tickets. I would like to hear from LEO types relating to morale in your depts.

This is what I am hearing from you folks:

1. Get a dog.
Yes. The decision has been made. In fact, we had a Rottweiler up until two years ago when it died. We will get some professional help in training , also.

2. Get an alarm system.
I think some type of motion alarm system that would at least turn on outside lights would be in order.

3. Take wife to a range where she can try out various types of weapons before choosing . Absolutely, we will do it!

Now, as to my own leanings, from listening to you folks, what little research I have done and some past experiences.

We have decided that we need two guns for her. A house gun and a CCW for her purse. The purse is the fanny pack type worn in the front.

House gun. I'm leaning toward a short carbine such as the Beretta Storm in .45 caliber. Need more research. Definitely, not an M1 carbine. Why? Pure predjudice!! Damn thing nearly got me killed in Korea in 1950! I know, I know, that doen't make it a bad house gun in 2005. Thank you to those who suggested it. Just my personal hang up. If you care to read the story, go to the Rife Forum, look under "Who used an M1 Carbine in WW11", Post #28.
Thinking about it now, I probably should kept my mouth shut and not posted it at all. I apologize to any Korean Vet who did not needed to be reminded of his service in Korea.

CCW gun. From what I hear is that even the best auto might jam . Even once. I don't think my wife could clear it, I just don't want to take the chance. That leaves revolvers and I'm hearing strong support for .357 caliber that will also take .38 Special light rounds. I'm thinking a quality piece with a 3 or 4 inch barrel. Make sense?

There are so many good ideas, shotguns,Pepper spray, etc. I'd love to have one of each! I've got to do a lot of research.

Guys, thank you so much for your ideas. I really appreciate them.

God Bless You and Yours!


IV Troop
November 20, 2005, 06:49 PM

I have seen this problem before. This may sound odd but I have a different suggestion. An S&W K (medium) frame 22 revolver would work quite well. Either 22 long rifle or 22 mag.

They are far more effective than people give them credit for. I have investigated numerous shootings involving 22s and they far deadlier than people realize. I know people will talk about instant stopping power and incapacitation and other such topics.

I don't read wound ballistics books or study charts. I can only tell you what I have seen work in a career in law enforcement.

They are easy to shoot well. Thumbing the hammer back is doable with a little practice and recoil will not hurt or scare her into not using it in the first place.

I know many an elderly person who uses a 22 and I would not want them shooting at me.

I did not see the picture of the J frame 22 mag posted above. That would make a great purse gun for her. I would still go with a K frame 22 for the home.

Browns Fan
November 20, 2005, 07:46 PM
"That leaves revolvers and I'm hearing strong support for .357 caliber that will also take .38 Special light rounds. I'm thinking a quality piece with a 3 or 4 inch barrel. Make sense?"

If you do go with a .357, get one that has a rubber grip that does not have an exposed metal backstrap (she will feel the recoil thru the metal, trust me,I know ;) ). I highly recommend a Taurus revolver that has the Ribber grips. They are THE best grips for taming recoil. It even makes shooting .38's in a .357 that much easier.

November 20, 2005, 07:54 PM
IV Troop has some good thoughts. I'm a fan of the 1911 for self-defense carry, but I also own an Italian copy of the old Colt 1873 Peacemaker. No cowboy action shooting around here (that I'm aware of), but I do like to read up on it. And one trend I've noticed is that a lot of 6-gun manufacturers are now offering cowboy guns in .32 caliber. Seems to work well for kids and women of small stature, who can't handle the weight and recoil of larger revolvers. For example, Ruger offers one in .32 caliber on their Single Six frame -- the frame that the popular .22LR/.22WMR is built on.

Both S&W and Taurus build small revolvers chambered in .22LR and in .22WMR. The magnum, in particular, could be more useful than many give credit for as a self-defense round. Negligible recoil, and fits into a compact package.

Speaking of package, Charlie, remember that your wife isn't going target shooting. You mentioned a 3" or 4" barrel. That much length isn't necessary at typical self-defense distances. It isn't necessary to be able to shoot out a gnat's eye at 25 paces -- she just needs to be able to hit center of mass (or center of head) at 7 yards or so. The longer barrel offers the possibility of getting hung up when trying to draw from a fanny pack, and with weak and arthritic hands, wrestling the gun with the bad guy bearing down is probably not in your wife's best interest. Personal opinion, of course, but to me a 2" barrel would be a lot easier to handle ... irrespective of caliber.

pete f
November 20, 2005, 08:12 PM
try a ladysmith revolver, lighter trigger and easy to grab crip shape.

My mother for years has relied on an old remington tube feed 22, 17 rounds of LR, even her hands can make the bolt cycle, now she has moved up to a 20ga model 1100. we had her try the bolt and it was a bit stiff, but
i showed her how to use the door frame in a pinch and now she is very happy. her hands are arthiritc as are her hips and knees, but she finds a20 ga auto to be just fine.

November 20, 2005, 09:02 PM
More support for considering 32 Magnum revolver, if a carbine is too unwieldy:

My wife has rheumatoid arthritis. She was able to shoot my Taurus Ultralight 32 Magnum OK; the recoil did not bother her, but she did not like the balance of the evne that light, snub nosed revolver (too much weight forward). She has a Taurus TP-22 which she can shoot. She likes the balance of the pistol, but cannot grip it tightly enough to have reliable cycling. The TP-22 and the Beretta 21 have tip up barrels so it is not necessary to work their slides to chamber the first round. If your wife can comfortably hold either the Taurus of S&W 32 Magnum revolver, one of them might be a good bet for her.

As for a carbine, can your wife handle the weight? If so, one would probably be easier to shoot than a handgun.

As for a small .357/.38 revolver, even the recoil of .38's in one of those is likely to more than your wife will wnat to practice with. A larger .357/.38 may be too heavy to wield effectively. Even if you can't find a place for your wife to shoot the gun before buying, it would be a good idea for her to handle the propsective purchase. I have been surprised more than once by what my wife considers to be too heavy; as an example, she felt that a Tuarus 905 (22 oz., I believe) was much too heavy.


Mad Chemist
November 20, 2005, 09:27 PM
I vote for the 20ga and a revolver. I think the .32S&W and .32H&R are good suggestions. Since money is not an issue, take the gun to skilled and reputable smith. Tell him who it's for, and that the DA trigger must light and smooth.

More importantly, you should consider making your home a harder target. Lights, doors, locks, landscaping, and dogs, can all contribute to home security. Don't spend a ton of money on firearms only to neglect essential home security.

November 20, 2005, 09:32 PM
...I have been surprised more than once by what my wife considers to be too heavy; as an example, she felt that a Tuarus 905 (22 oz., I believe) was much too heavy.


Earlier today I handed my mother two 9oz bottles of mustard and asked if she could hold them out. (someone suggested a 17oz gun earlier) She could not. It can be absolutely amazing what restrictions arthritis & lupus can place on someone's self defense options. :-(

Essex County
November 21, 2005, 02:37 PM
I guess there is no correct answer...But you've been given a bunch of good advice. I feel that the proper dog is a great idea. What's more important is your MINDSET, and you've already got that togeather. We're so blisfull up here sometimes we totaly forget that crime dosen't stap at the geographical border. The best to you and the Mrs. Sincerely, Essex

November 21, 2005, 02:52 PM
Nothing wrong with a sheriff being 'openly female' Charlie. ;)

Seriously if your mind is set on a long arm (I realize you disdain the .30 cal Carbine --though with softpoints it's a whole different critter)... I'd still suggest a break-action double... looking OVER the sights/bead is a lot different than looking THROUGH the sights on a Storm...

The Ladysmiths are great guns... I even know a few guys that carry them

November 21, 2005, 08:04 PM
I agree that a .32 mag would be a good choice. My great-grandmother carried one for years. The ammo is harder to find though.

I also like the idea of a Ruger 10/22 like revolvergeek suggested. I believe that they now make a .22 magnum carbine. A bullpup stock (puts the receiver at the end of the gun and moves the trigger farther forward) could be used to shorten it. Some people report problems with the higher capacity magazines though. Other brands make models with tube magazines that hold more rounds.

You may have to make sure that you keep it cocked since the first time you pull back the bolt to chamber a round could be tough for someone whose hands are in bad condition.

I like the idea of a .22 carbine mostly because of the lesser noise produced. The though of having to shoot a 12 guage with #4 shot in a narrow hallway and the possible resulting hearing damage scares the fool out of me.:uhoh:

November 21, 2005, 08:14 PM
Look into one of the Beretta's in .380 with the tip up barrel; I'm not a Beretta type,m no am I even legal where I live at the moment. But, the tip- up barrel could facilitate loading the chamber for her( assuming she cannot pull back the slide). THe .380 in a pistol of this size should make the recoil a bit more manageable. And ;although I lean towards either larger or faster stepping calibers, a.380 hydrashock in the brisket will not improve digestion:neener: for a bad guy intent on harming your wife.
BTW, I concur with the choice of a dog as part of the layers of defense.

November 21, 2005, 10:33 PM
look for a s & w model 10 revolver. used, not new. there are several barrel lengths; choose what you liike. i prefer the 4" heavy barrel models.
i could never find a semi-auto my wife could operate the slide on. because of small hands, was difficult to cock the hammer.
we tried the ruger sp-101. couldn't cock the hammer, for single action and couldn't double action pull the trigger. put in the lighter springs and did a trigger job and at best was still marginal.
found this s & w model 10-10. my guess is it was someone's duty revolver (hell, even got a tooled, mock bros. hoster with it). typical s & w great trigger. lock up was tight. got it home, took off the side plate, washed it out with hoppes #9. dried it out; relubed with browning ultra light gun oil.
single action trigger pull dropped from about 3.5 lbs to 2.75 lbs and double action to 6.5 lbs. no push off.
my wife can handle this all just fine. the .38's are just fine. contacted s & w and they advised the later mod. 10's can easily handle +p's if desired.
stick with 158 grain jacketed soft points or lead semi wad cutters. it is all about eneergy transfer.
should be able to find a good mod. 10 for $200 or less. mcole

Connecticut Yankee
November 26, 2005, 06:04 PM
Charlie, I am assuming that your wife is seeing a physician on a regular basis, either an internist or, preferably, a rheumatologist. If she isn't, she needs to see one regularly to best treat her arthritis. Second, I appreciate that she is in her 70s and how very painful arthritis can be, especially on one's ability to grip items. But assuming that she is on optimal medication, discuss with him the possibiltity of regular Physical Therapy. A good physical therapist can make a real difference. A combination of forearm and grip exercises, heating pads, hydrotherapy, etc. - depending on your wife's actual diagnosis - might make a difference in what she can comfortably handle. Most arthritis is, alas, a chronic disease and I am not saying that there will be some 'miracle' or 'wondercure'. But a good PT program and exercises might make a difference in what she is able to comfortably train with and actually enjoy shooting.

Also, some more points. Make sure that you have her firearm fitted with Hogue or Pachymayr recoil absorbing grips. And make sure that she wears padded PAST or Uncle Henry's shooting gloves when she practises. Finally, also talk to her physician about what sort of a practice regimen she could comfortably handle. Depending on her exact disease status he may indicate that 50 wadcutters a month is the maximum she should use; maybe even only 50 or 100 wadcutters a year from a revolver. There is a small but important concern that you don't want to aggravate the arthritis by too much practise shooting. Again, in all of this, you have to listen to what her physician says he is the one who knows her status the best. Good luck.

Charlie Oldphart
November 27, 2005, 04:25 PM
Thank you for your kind advice regarding my wife's arthritis. She is under a doctor's care and takes medication for pain, however there has been no therapy. That sounds like a good idea and I will look into it.

I have to take charge of her as she is one tough lady and will not admit to any pain until the last moment. She also has osteo. She has become less and less agile as the days go on. At one time she ran a riding school but can no longer ride our last remaining horse. (A 30 year old Arabian.)

Up until a year ago we flew our own home-built ultralight airplane, but had to give that up also. Her knee would lock up and when landing a taildragger, that is not good.

Thank you for your kind thoughts and advice.

God Bless You and Yours


November 27, 2005, 06:03 PM
About the hogue grips and past gloves.

My wife suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and lupus . She was diagnosed 7 years ago. Her personal sidearm is a Ruger SP101 2.25" The Hogue monogrips and gloves make it possible for her to practice at all with it. Usually about 50 VERY MILD handloaded wadcutters is all she can handle at a time. About once every 6 months.

As others have said, trigger pull is a big issue. Her Ruger is very well worn and has a fairly light DA trigger. Even so on a "bad day" she needs to use both index fingers to pull the trigger. Single action is OK, but she needs both thumbs to cock the hammer.

I feel for you Charlie. RA is a monster. My wife was very active pre RA. Now a good day is being able to make the kids lunches in the morning.

If you haven't already, inquire about hot wax therapy. It works great for pain management on the bad days. If her rheumatologist will prescribe it, most insurances will pay for the home unit.

November 27, 2005, 06:56 PM
Get a .38 Smith & Wesson revolver, like a Model 10. With wadcutters it will recoil just a bit more than a .22. As soon as you get it, send if off to a GOOD gunsmith that knows revolvers, like Cylinder & Slide. Tell him your story and make sure he knows what you need. Have him cut off the cocking spur on the hammer too. Cocking it is the last thing you want your wife to do. Having inconsistent strength and holding a trigger finger on a cocked revolver is a bad idea.

You might also discuss the possibility of using a titanium cylinder with him. That would make the trigger pull even lighter.

Boss Spearman
November 27, 2005, 07:50 PM
Speaking of .32 magnum ammo, someone mentioned it can be hard to find. I have yet to find any .32 magnum ammo anywhere in the Indianapolis area.

November 27, 2005, 09:32 PM
There are any number of possible handguns, my wife is totally blind, her nightstand gun is a .38sp. double action with shot caps with #6 shot, I just tell her if she ever needs it , hold it out at shoulder high, point toward the noise and pull the trigger until the gun stops going bang.
For the house gun, I have a .410 double, both barrels have loads with 3 , .36 cal. buckshot in them.
I would expect that to work well in the night.
A decent .410 double would be rather expensive, but there are cheap, but reliable, pumps at very reasonable prices.
My personal nightstand gun is a 1917 S&W with 220gr cast bullets at 1000+ fps, I do expect that to stop most anything, even a meth freak.
I really do not like anything that has to be racked or have a safety clicked off or a hammer pulled back for a midle of the night gun, the average brain is too fuzzy then.:what:

Spec ops Grunt
November 27, 2005, 09:52 PM
I would get a .22 revolver or a .223.

High Standard Sentinals are good, cheap .22s. You could also get a Mini-14

November 28, 2005, 01:28 AM
Ruger makes a decent pistol calibre carbine that may be a fine alternative to the Beretta Storm. The Ruger PC4 and PC9 carbines may deserve a closer look. Ease of operatin, plus low recoil make these carbines fairly attractive.

Connecticut Yankee
November 28, 2005, 12:50 PM
Also consider using weightlifters gloves, I've posted a coupla URLs below. These seem to have even more palm and finger padding than do the PAST gloves which translates into more shock absorption and thus protection. They might have more restriction of movement but these would just be for practice, if it's really a problem a little judicious cutting should allow more freedom of movement. (Scroll down, lower right, Ocelot gloves) a selection of Harbringer gloves - also, the ones with the wrist support might be most useful for her

Again, best of luck.

November 28, 2005, 12:57 PM
20 or 410...

pistol grip... bird shot...

November 28, 2005, 01:08 PM
Look into one of the Beretta's in .380 with the tip up barrel; I'm not a Beretta type,m no am I even legal where I live at the moment. But, the tip- up barrel could facilitate loading the chamber for her( assuming she cannot pull back the slide). THe .380 in a pistol of this size should make the recoil a bit more manageable. And ;although I lean towards either larger or faster stepping calibers, a.380 hydrashock in the brisket will not improve digestion:neener: for a bad guy intent on harming your wife.
BTW, I concur with the choice of a dog as part of the layers of defense.

Unfortunately, they no longer make the Beretta 86 - I want one if I ever come across one...

November 28, 2005, 01:16 PM
My mother in law is in a similar state, except a tad smaller and she has no problem using a .38 special snub nosed S&W so it pretty much depends on the person and how it feels to them.

Crime hasn't really gotten worse, its just that with the current news we know about whats happening and its detected easier. Crime levels in the state of Vermont are alot better than they use to be 50 years ago for instance, where most crime was never reported due to the embarrassment especially associated with rape and so on.

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