October 26, 2004

Concealed Carry For A Paraplegic?

A reader sent me the following question in an e-mail:

"Do you or your readers have any suggestions for a paraplegic seeking a good concealed-carry sidearm?"


He included a link to this post over at Brain Shavings. Here's the question asked in full:

"...what pistol(s) do you recommend for a paraplegic with limited grip strength, who wants to carry a concealed weapon while in a manual wheelchair?

It'll be carried in either a shoulder holster or a holster positioned in the small of the back. The jurisdiction is Ohio, so the rules & restrictions are not an issue. It should be relatively lightweight and easily concealable, of average reliablity (or better), with better-than-average stopping power, a caliber of .38 or larger, and shouldn't be too hard to break down and clean. Magazine capacity, appearance and price tag are immaterial. Utility ├╝ber alles."

Say Uncle took up the question in a post of his own. Say Uncle's a Glock fan. I'm not. If you want to buy a Glock that's your decision, but not one I'd imitate.

That being said I think a Glock might be less than a good choice (all its other faults aside) to meet the specfic needs of a person with limited grip strength. The trigger pull may be too long & heavy.

Enter JMB. A 1911 clone by any of the reputable makers would seem ideal, espcially in a Commander or Officer's length pistol. Kimber has a few options to choose from for compact pistols. Springfield Armory Inc has ultra-compact & micro-compact pistols. Para-Ordnance, Colt & many others make decent (depending upon one's standards) 1911's that are chambered for cartridges starting with .4 & otherwise meet the criteria set out above.

The reason the 1911 is perfect is the single action trigger pull which will be easier to reach & operate. You're looking at 4 or 5 pounds or so for the trigger pull. 1911's are usually very easy to field strip & they can be had in concealed carry friendly options, such as a lightweight frame & shortened length.

Next on my list would be another design JMB had his fingers in; the Browning Hi-Power.

CZ has some excellent offerings which are based on the Hi-Power design. The main difference is the Hi-Power is a single action whereas most CZ's are double action.

Berreta as well as Taurus both have large frame offerings that should meet all the requirements. Taurus also has some medium framed pistols (scroll down for the double action pistols) that should serve the purpose.

EAA has the Witness series of pistols (in steel or polymer framed versions as well as full sized or compact versions of each) which I can't seem to stop hearing good things about.

Ruger has its P-series of pistols which would be worth a look.

The reason a double action pistol is okay is that, provided it has a manual safety instead of just a decocker, it can be carried just as a single action would be carried. This allows for a shorter trigger pull length as well as a lighter trigger pull than a double action only pistol such as the Glock or the Taurus Millenium series.

All of the pistols I recommended above would more or less fit the criteria. Thye can be relatively light weight (say around 30 ounces give or take a few), chambered in a decent cartridge (most are offered in 9x19mm, .40 S&W & .45 ACP), are fairly easy to field strip for cleaning, & have suitable trigger pulls for a person with grip strength issues.

Now will all of those pistols be perfect? By all means no. It could turn out that not one of them fills the person's needs. But if that's the case then a compromise will have to be made, most likely in caliber. If a 32 ounce pistols is too much weight to hold while aiming, then reducing wieght will almost necessitate reducing cartridge size. If grip strength is an issue with a .45 ACP that weighs 38 ounces, Lord knows recoil will be problematic if the wieght gets dropped down to 28 ounces.

So if none of those suggestions seem workable, I'd have to advise looking at a .380 ACP or perhaps even a .32 ACP.

Of course if I were in a wheel chair I wouldn't worry too much about carry weight, as I'm sure I could find some way to hide a small mountain howitzer on the wheel chair itself. In all seriousness I would, if possible, look into a short barreled pump action shotgun for carry in such a situation. If you wish to explore that option without running afoul of the Gun Gestapo, permits (actually tax stamps) for most short barreled pistol gripped shotguns run around $5. You just have to wait however long it takes the ATF to get off its ass & process the unconstitutional paperwork.

But a single or double action (not to be confused with double action only) pistol by any of the makers mentioned above (or by others that I neglected) should suit the needs listed. I didn't mention any revolvers because frankly I don't have as much experience with revolvers as I do semi-automatics. A revolver could be an adequate choice but I'll stick to talking about semi-auto's as they're what I know best.

Of course this is open for discussion & if anyone has some thoughts or recommendations to chime in feel free to do so.

Posted by Publicola at October 26, 2004 05:19 AM

If a person has limited grip strength a semi-auto pistol may be the worst choice. If your grip strength is poor then the likelihood of "limp wristing" is increased. "Limp wristing" in a semi-auto could turn your pistol into a single shot and with reduced strength your ability to clear a jammed pistol is compromised.

Reduced arm strength is also an excellent reason to stay away from compact semi-auto pistols with stronger (than full size) recoil springs.

I'd recommend a revolver for someone weakened by disability but still able to hold and aim a weapon. I've shot revolvers in competitiion over a period of six years and you might be surprised how light you can get a double action pull and still be very reliable. The problem with wouldn't be with the weight of the trigger pull but with lawyers - however the weakness and relative helplessness of the victim should mitigate against sensless prosecution.

On the other hand I've met several paraplegics with outstanding upper body strength.

As in anything having to do with self defense try different firearms for comfort in the hand, controllability and reliability.

Posted by: Marc at October 26, 2004 10:58 AM

I agree...a revolver is the way to go. Not only do you not need to rack a slide, but several manufacturers have increased the capacity of the cylinders from 7 to 9 rounds.

A quality .357 with a smooth double action trigger would be ideal...you could practice with .38 wadcutters for cheap and save the heavy stuff for taking care of business.

Grab one of those derringers with .410 barrels, load them up with 000 buck as a backup, and you're ready to go.

Posted by: bjbarron at October 26, 2004 11:05 AM

A revolver might be the best thing with the limited information available. They are easier to clean the about any automatic pistol, probably easier to load over all. Also no slide to mess with when loading or re-loading.

I have seen an auto pistol that broke open at the barrel, tipping upward for the first round, then feeding off the magazine after that. No slide to have to grip and rack that way.

Personally, I haven't found a revolver that really seems to fit my hand, at least not like the M1911 does. So trying a few out for grip angle, type, curves, etc is a good idea, including firing and having someone try and twist it away from you. The grip alone might settle the one or the other decision.

Posted by: Outlaw3 at October 26, 2004 12:55 PM

The Glock has a light trigger pull (4.5lbs, i believe) and is rather resistant to the limp wrist phenom that is inherent in other semi-autos.

A revolver would be a fine choice as well.

Posted by: SayUncle at October 26, 2004 02:13 PM

Shooting in simulated handgun combat games such as IDPA and IPSC/USPSA I've witnessed all sorts of malfunctions including limpwristed Glocks. Limp wristing is a common occurrence amongst shooters new to these games. Besides simply standing there and shooting movement is required.

Most people Ive met who haven't shot in these sports have virtually no experience with running around carrying a loaded pistol plus the scoring system adds an additional time pressure to the shooting and moving. This leads to an adrenaline dump just before the shooting commences.

Adrenaline is a funny thing, it powers the fight or flight response to fear. Adrenaline can make you go "weak in the knees" and for new competitors it can make you go weak at the wrist as well. When faced by a life threatening attack you can bet that adrenaline will flood your system.

The concern I have is that in extremis someone who already has diminished strength will be more likely to limp wrist and have reduced capacity to clear a jam if that occurs, remeber that adrenaline also messes up your fine motor skills (hence the shaking hands after you've been really scared).

It is not impossible to lock up a revolver, I know 'cause I've done it, more than once - but I still believe the revolver is the best choice for someone with limited strength. A revolver is easy load and unload, easy to clean and easy to operate.

BTW I carry a Glock 27.

Posted by: Marc at October 26, 2004 06:53 PM

I am having the same issue almost. What do you get for someone with one hand? I am getting a revolver for this person.

Posted by: gunner at October 26, 2004 07:01 PM
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