Choosing guns for older shooters, whether that’s yourself or a loved one, can be difficult. There’s a lot that goes into picking a gun for older shooters, and the challenges associated with choosing guns for older shooters thats appropriate can lead to members of the older generation giving up the shooting sports they love, or worse, being unable to defend themselves.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Let’s be honest: the signs of aging show up a lot earlier in life than a lot of people are prepared for.
I’m not just talking about wrinkles and gray hairs, though those things can be a jarring outward sign. No, I mean the things going on inside your body as you get older.
Many people begin to notice changes in their sight as early as 40 years old and almost all people will experience it by 50. Around the same time, joints tend to start to get stiff. Muscle mass starts to decline, even if activity levels stay the same, starting at just 30 years old. At first, it’s only by a few percent each decade, but after 60 it really picks up the pace.
All of these things can make the stuff you used to do harder and shooting is a prime example. Yet being able to comfortably and reliably use a weapon is more important than ever as we age, since older people are more likely to be targeted for crime which its why it is important to choose the right guns for older shooters.
My own parents are in their 70’s now, and while both are life-long gun owners, age, illness, and injuries have made owning guns for hunting and self-defense a little difficult, so I set out to make a list of some of the best guns for shooters that are getting up in age, but still want to hunt, compete or target shoot, and keep themselves protected.
Here’s what I found.
First, I want to acknowledge that aging looks different on everyone. Different people will notice different symptoms at different times and to different degrees.
With that said, there are certain problems that pretty much everyone experiences to some extent. Those problems, and how you can address them when selecting a firearm, are what I’m going to focus on. And since older shooters are more likely to be targeted for crimes, it was especially important for me to focus on what guns make for good home defense and carry options.
Things to Look For
One of the biggest things to look for is a gun with light recoil.
Now, one widely recommended way to reduce recoil is with a larger, heavier gun to distribute the energy. For defensive guns, this is a good solution, but when it comes to hunting guns, additional weight can become a problem after carrying it around the woods for a while.
Choosing a gun chambered for a low recoil round is a good solution regardless of the purpose of the gun, as is choosing a gun with a large, textured grip to help you keep a firm, steady hold on the gun despite recoil.
A properly angled and shaped grip can also make all the difference for shooters with arthritis. On a similar note, guns should have controls, like the safety and magazine release, that are easy to manipulate.
And on another similar note, reliability is always important, but it’s especially important for older shooters since clearing jams can be tough, especially when limited dexterity and issues like arthritis only make it more difficult to choose guns for older shooters.
Finally, for a defensive gun, sights should be highly visible night sights, or at least it should be easy to upgrade to ones that are.
In addition, keep in mind that the older we get, the worse our problems become. When choosing a gun, you may want to try to choose one that not only works for you now, but will continue to work for you five or ten or more years down the line, even if it might require some modifications to make that happen.
Speaking of which, guns that allow plenty of room for customization and upgrades are a great idea, since they let you make necessary changes as your body continues to change.
Now that you’ve got a general idea of what we’re looking for, let’s move on to the guns themselves.
Rifles For Older Shooters
For hunting and target shooting, a rifle is generally the best option. We have one fun gun that can easily be turned into a competition gun, a plinker, or a pest-control gun, and one that’s designed for hunting most common types of game in North America, including whitetail deer.
Ruger PC Carbine
I’m going to kick things off with the Ruger PC Carbine.
Now if you’re confused because you’re pretty sure you remember this one, but also remember hearing about it getting discontinued about 15 years ago, don’t worry, you aren’t going crazy. Well, at least not about this.
Ruger brought this gun back (with many, many, many upgrades) just a couple years ago in response to the growing popularity of pistol caliber carbines and it’s doing pretty great.
It’s a lightweight rifle (only 7.3 pounds) with a fast, simple takedown design, which makes it great for hunting small game.
What keeps it so light are the aluminum handguard and receiver, as well as the synthetic stock. That stock is a position adjustable telescoping Magpul MOE stock, so you can make sure it fits you perfectly. In addition, the rifle boasts an ergonomic pistol grip that allows for easier, more comfortable hand positioning. However, it’s also easy to switch out the pistol grip and stock for any AR compatible one to fit your particular needs, whatever they are.
It has a dead blow action with tungsten dead blow weight for reduced bolt travel, recoil, and muzzle rise, making continuous accuracy easier. The reversible charging handle and magazine release allow you to use whichever hand is stronger.
It also has interchangeable magazine wells, one for SR-Series™/Security-9® pistol magazines (installed) and one for Glock magazines, so you can use whichever you prefer.
If you’re already familiar with the trigger of the Ruger 10/22, the PC Carbine has the same components, giving it a light trigger pull with little overtravel.
The Ruger PC Carbine doesn’t come with sights, but it does have an integrated Picatinny rail, allowing you to add your preferred ones.
All of this, plus the fact that it’s highly reliable and exceptionally affordable, make the Ruger PC Carbine a phenomenal rifle for older shooters.
It’s available in both 9mm and .40 S&W, but the former is definitely better for further minimizing recoil.
Tikka T3x Lite .243
It has the same quality as the rest of the Tikka T3x line, but in a lightweight package that’s easy to handle and maneuver.
The bolt action is smooth and easy to use, and the single-stage trigger allows you to adjust pull weight from 2 to 4 pounds. .243 Winchester keeps recoil nice and light, while still being accurate.
The factory bolt handle might be rough for arthritic hands, but aftermarket handles that are larger, easier, and more comfortable to manipulate are easy to find. It’s also not ambidextrous, even when it comes to the texturing on the handguard, but left-hand versions are available.
Speaking of the handguard, the Tikka T3x Lite’s synthetic furniture is durable, weather-resistant, and easy to care for. It has a low angle pistol grip, but the but modular design of the stock allows you to easily switch to a longer and/or more vertical grip. Both the grip and handguard are textured to help you keep a firm grasp on the rifle, while a soft, recoil absorbing butt pad makes the kick of the rifle even easier on joints.
Like the Ruger PC Carbine, the Tikka T3x Lite doesn’t come with sights, but it does include a 17mm dovetail rail.
Overall, the T3x Lite is an excellent all-around rifle for deer hunting, varmint shooting, and other longer range shooting. This one has the Papa Collins seal of approval, and he’s been carrying one in .270 for the past two deer seasons as a lighter replacement for his R700 in .30-06. I actually wrote this article while scarfing down some meatloaf made with venison sausage that came from a deer he shot on opening day this year with his Tikka.
If you’re looking for something a little more advanced, try our guide to the best beginner precision rifle setup for more accuracy when punching paper.
Handguns for Older Shooters
Handguns are some of the most commonly-used defensive firearms, so we’ve focused on guns that are both extremely reliable, and easy to use in a stressful situation.
Smith and Wesson Shield .380 EZ
As the name suggests, Smith and Wesson specifically designed this pistol to be easy to use, from top to bottom.
Racking slides can be a huge problem for people with arthritis, but care has been taken to make sure that the S&W Shield .380 EZ’s slide is easy to rack. Likewise, the magazine is designed to be easy to load and the gun as a whole is designed to be easy to clean and maintain with a polymer frame and stainless steel barrel and slide with Armornite finish.
It’s got a larger grip than necessary for its capacity and caliber (and grip than the more popular 9mm version), making it easier to get a strong grip, even without strong hands. Plus the grip angle is optimized for comfort, strength, and accuracy, and it’s textured to further reinforce that secure hold.
It’s still compact and easy to conceal, though, with a lightweight polymer frame that helps keep this pistol’s weight down to just 18.5 ounces.
The Shield .380 EZ has a reversible mag release and a tactile loaded chamber indicator. It also has a grip safety and is available with or without a secondary ambidextrous manual thumb safety.
The light, crisp trigger features audible and tactile trigger reset.
Finally, stark white dot sights make the Shield .380 EZ easy to aim, even for aging eyes. My mother has both rheumatoid and lupus arthritis, and she absolutely loves this gun. It has replaced her little S&W snubnose as her preferred carry gun, and she feels much safer with it, and I feel better knowing she has it.
Ruger LCR .38/.357
Another strong, reliable option is the Ruger LCR double-action revolver, a platform that some older shooters might find more familiar and easy to use.
It’s available in a bunch of different calibers, but I recommend either .38 Special or .357 Magnum for older shooters. The .38 is best when you really need recoil to be as easy to manage as possible, while .357 is good when you need more power.
Fortunately, while the .38 models have aluminum frames to keep weight low, the .357 models use heavier steel to help you manage the higher recoil. Ultimately, the difference is only about 3.5 ounces, with the .38 model weighing just 13.5 ounces compared to the .357 model, which is just a little over 17.1 ounces.
For both, the steel cylinder is fluted and the fire control housing is made from polymer, both to reduce weight.
Additionally, the Hogue® Tamer™ Monogrip® minimizes perceived recoil, but it’s also easy to switch out for another grip if you prefer.
Other features of note are the patented friction-reducing cam for smooth trigger pull, as well as the U-notch integral rear sight and replaceable front sight, but you may want to switch the front sight for one that offers more visual contrast.
Regardless of which caliber you go with, the Ruger LCR is a slim, compact, and easy to conceal revolver that’s good for both hunting and personal defense. If you’re looking for something semi-auto, check out our list of the best affordable 9mm pistols.
Shotguns for Older Shooters
A good shotgun is incredibly versatile, and can easily be used for everything from putting food on the table, to putting down a two-legged threat. These are some of the best shotguns for the older shooters that are worried about recoil, reliability, and being able to cycle and action quickly.
Mossberg 500 .410 Gauge
If someone knows just one shotgun manufacturer, odds are it’s Mossberg. While the company’s shotguns have earned particular fame, Mossberg has over a century’s worth of experience producing reliable, high-quality firearms of all types.
Older shooters can certainly appreciate the value of experience.
The Mossberg 500 has been around for 60 years and stands out by being the only mil-spec pump action. Because it’s a mil-spec gun (meaning that it was designed to be used in rough, grimy conditions) it’s exceptionally easy to clean and maintain and will have no problem standing up to wet and muddy waterfowl hunts.
The Mossberg 500 is well-suited for hunting, but also home defense, and comes in models specially designed for both purposes.
Though models of the Mossberg 500 are also available in the more traditional 12 and 20-gauges, I like the .410 bore for its lighter recoil. It’s smaller than 12 and 20-gauge, but modern .410 defensive loads are effective at home defense distances.
On the other hand, while the shotgun itself might be fine for hunting waterfowl, .410 doesn’t have the range that most people require for waterfowl and is best for pests and small game like rabbits and squirrels.
There are a number of excellent .410 defensive ammo options out there that make this a powerful option for home defense as well.
.410 bore Mossberg 500 Hunting models have 24” barrels, double bead sights, and wooden stocks, while Tactical models have 18.5” barrels, bead sights, and synthetic stocks. Both have 5+1 round capacities.
If you’d like to be able to hunt waterfowl, opt for a 20-gauge model or this next shotgun. And if you want to know more about this caliber, or the other shotgun gauges out there, check out our shotgun caliber/gauge guide.
Benelli Ultra Light 12-Gauge
This shotgun isn’t just light: it’s the world’s lightest semi-auto shotgun.
The Benelli Ultra Light 12-gauge is only about 6 pounds, with the 24” barrel model weighing about an ounce less than the 26” barrel versions.
It’s also, in my opinion anyway, one of the most beautiful shotguns currently in production, with a blued barrel and a gorgeous satin-finish walnut stock. The stock has a WeatherCoat seal to protect it from the elements and keep it as beautiful as possible for as long as possible.
If you’re interested in doing any bird hunting, skeet/trap shooting, or you just want a simple and reliable scattergun for defending the homestead, the Benelli Ultra Light is an excellent option…just be ready for that kick. For older shooters who just don’t want to lug around something heavy in the field, this is an excellent option.
If you or someone you love is getting on in years, a new gun may be just the thing to make shooting, hunting, and self-defense a little bit easier and more practical. These guns for older shooters should help with hunting, target shooting, and self-defense, regardless of age.
If you’ve been shooting the same gun for a long time and still like it, you may find that switching to a different caliber of the same gun, switching out the sights, modifying the grip, or a combination may be enough. If not, try one of the guns on this list. They’re all rock solid, and a good choice for anyone, but they’re especially good for anyone with arthritis.