As regular readers will know, I trained disabled and handicapped shooters for many years. They have unique problems to deal with, and issues of limited mobility that make “regular” firearms and their handling a real challenge. For example, due to limited upper body and/or arm and/or hand strength, many can’t handle anything in the way of serious recoil, limiting them to minor calibers. More than a few also have dexterity issues, making revolvers a simpler solution than semi-auto pistols (although reloading either can be a problem for them).
I’d given up my training activities due to advancing age and my own partial disability (the result of a workplace injury back in 2004) slowly getting worse. However, the COVID-19 pandemic, urban unrest, and their effects on the availability of guns and ammo have dragged me back into doing what I can to help disabled shooters. Many are faced with a real dilemma. On a (usually very small) disability income, they can’t afford new guns, and are forced to look for economically priced used models. However, with the panic buying of guns and ammo now under way, there are almost no “economically priced” guns to be had!
As an example, I used to recommend older-model Taurus medium-frame revolvers (the Model 66 and its variations – current models hold 7 rounds, but earlier ones held only 6) as a lower-priced but decent-quality carry gun to my students. One used to be able to find them for $250-$350, where a comparable Smith & Wesson or Ruger model might be twice that price. Nowadays, though . . . there’s just no way. New models are anywhere from $600 to $800, depending on location and sales tax, while used models are rare as hen’s teeth. On one of the major firearms auction sites, only three used guns are currently listed for sale, with their starting prices respectively $549.99, $600, and $649.99. On top of that, of course, the buyer has to pay for shipping to a local dealer, plus the latter’s processing fees on the transaction. So much for economy!
There are a few (a very few) halfway decent deals to be had, but they’re hard to find. This week I came across a 6″-barrel Model 669 variant (solid rib and full underlug) similar to the one shown below, for $480.
That’s still too expensive for most disabled shooters, but it’s the reality of the market these days. A 6″ barreled gun is too big to easily carry concealed, but it’ll do for home and/or vehicle defense.
A big part of the problem is that gun shops and well-meaning gun owners often recommend entirely the wrong firearms to disabled shooters. “Oh, buy this small, lightweight snubnose revolver. It’s so easy to carry, you’ll forget it’s there!” Sure – but the recoil of that small, lightweight revolver will be almost unmanageable for someone with limited hand and arm strength and mobility, and its smaller size and controls make it harder to manipulate. The same goes for many small to medium-size semi-auto pistols. A heavier medium-frame revolver is simpler and easier to operate; it can’t be “limp-wristed” to cause malfunctions; its springs and trigger can be worked on for lighter, easier function; it can usually be equipped with a laser sight, making precise aim using the iron sights less important; it can be rested on a knee in a wheelchair if necessary; and its weight absorbs a lot more of the recoil than something lighter. Using lower-powered ammo (for example, .38 Special rounds in a .357 Magnum revolver) also helps. Only when you’ve had to actually train and work with disabled shooters do such realities become clear.
There’s also the factor that the criminal element often picks on disabled people to a much greater extent than “abled” folks, because they regard them as easy prey. If they dump a wheelchair on its side, the person in it typically can’t get up very easily (if at all), and will be helpless as they assault them or steal their belongings. On the other hand, a firearm in that person’s lap, or conveniently attached to their wheelchair in an easily accessible holster, can stop such attackers in their tracks.
At least five of my students (so far, that I know of) have had to use weapons to defend themselves under such circumstances. All have come through their encounters with flying colors and only minor injuries. Without their guns, the ending might have been a whole lot less happy. I know of at least four disabled persons in wheelchairs who ended up on the ground, and were kicked and beaten so badly that they either died, or were further (permanently) crippled by their attackers, who regarded it as a fine amusement. Scum like that are no better than animals – in fact, it’s an insult to the animal kingdom to regard them as such. They have to be stopped . . . and if there’s no-one else on the scene except their victim, then it falls to them to do the stopping.
I’d like to appeal to those of my readers who have more firearms than they need, and are feeling generous. If you have older revolvers like that, please consider donating them, or selling them at a well-below-market price, to disabled shooters in your area. You’ll find them by talking to local shooting ranges and/or instructors, and to other shooters you know. If you don’t have a spare gun, perhaps you’d consider helping such shooters financially. Right now, guns suitable for disabled shooters are either unavailable, or almost completely priced out of the market for those on a limited income. If you can help in any way, I know they’ll appreciate it very much.