Carrying a firearm is not just about prolonging a feeling of self-reliance, it’s also about providing an opportunity for self-defense.
» I RECENTLY ATTENDED A Girl and a Gun meeting at the Range of Richfield in Wisconsin and struck up a conversation with a woman who was watching the shooters through the window. She had on shooting glasses, so I assumed she was there to join in with the others who were trying out AR-15s. But she mentioned that some medical issues were keeping her from pulling a long gun to her shoulder. And then she chuckled and added that her doctor really didn’t know she was shooting firearms at all.
Nancy Reisner, 61, sporting a fleece top, blue jeans and a sweet smile, might look like someone’s grandmother — and she is — but this granny is packing. And she’s not alone. As the number of women in the industry skyrockets, it’s only natural that more moms and grandmothers are part of that growth. In fact, according to the NRA, an increasing number of guns are being purchased by senior citizens, with a noteworthy 400 percent increase since 2010 in the number of seniors taking a basic firearms course.
Being able to retain independence is a significant objective for most seniors, but for this grandmother and many others, that enduring sense of self-reliance does sometimes clash with various physical challenges and limitations.
But being a grandparent with a gun can offer its own set of unique challenges and perspectives. And I was intrigued and interested in talking with Nancy about her thoughts on this matter. So I spent the next 30 minutes picking her brain about this very special segment of female shooters.
Nancy shared that she has had her concealed carry permit for the last five years. And she’s not the only one in her family who knows how to use a firearm. Her son and two grandsons love to hunt and love to shoot.
“My grandkids could probably protect me,” she said. “They are very safe and talented with shooting.”
But Nancy is not one to sit back and depend on family members to take care of her.
“I feel that it’s my responsibility to take care of myself,” she said. “I am married, but I am alone a lot. I travel around by myself frequently, and I’d like to be able to keep doing that. And the only way I feel I can continue to enjoy that and do it with confidence is to carry a firearm. There’s a big responsibility (for firearms ownership), and I acknowledge that, and I take every step I can to be a responsible gun owner and shooter. But I think that all of the preparation is well worth it to be able to take care of myself.”
Being able to retain independence is a significant objective for most seniors, but for this grandmother and many others, that enduring sense of self-reliance does sometimes clash with various physical challenges and limitations. And Nancy’s own conditions have changed the way she lives her life, the way she chooses to carry and even which gun she elects to use.
“I carry a Ruger LCR .22,” she explained. “And selecting (that revolver) was actually a matter of excluding the other types of guns that I could not physically manage anymore. I was having trouble with the semi-automatics, which was a real shame because I had to give up my semi-automatic pistol. Racking the slide and loading the magazine — and everything — was just getting difficult. I have a lot of problems with my fingers, wrists and hands. Plus, I was worried about the gun jamming and me not being able to clear it. But I have never had an issue with the revolver.”
Some joint problems and other medical issues also influenced Nancy in how and where she carries her firearm concealed.
Nancy also chose her LCR because she felt like she could use it safely and efficiently.
“I have a lot of control over the .22,” she said. “And even though I know it’s a small caliber, at least I know I can use it. With some of my muscle problems, if I go to my 9mm or .45, it puts me on the floor. And I’ve realized that you really have to find what works best for you, train with it and carry it all the time.”
Some joint problems and other medical issues also influenced Nancy in how and where she carries her firearm concealed. Nowadays, her holster of choice is the Sticky Holster. She purchased it at a convention, and it quickly became her go-to holster. Nancy also discovered that the easiest way for her to safely access and draw her firearm is to put the holstered gun in the left front pocket of her jeans.
“(My gun) is right here,” she explained as she patted her side. “It doesn’t take more than half a second to grab it. I can also conceal it easily with a top I wear on the outside of my jeans. It’s easy, and for me, it’s the safest and most manageable place.”
Carrying a firearm is not just about prolonging a feeling of self-reliance, it’s also about providing an opportunity for self-defense. And just like many other firearms owners, Nancy realizes that a gun can often mean the difference between being victimized or being victorious.
“I have a lot of chronic diseases, and a lot of those affect the way I can physically handle myself,” she explained. “Even going out, just to the grocery store, parking in my disabled parking spot, I look at myself as probably being the ideal target for someone who wants to grab my purse or grab me or take my car. And I could feel like I am totally at risk and have anxiety about going out and just buying some milk. Or I can have my carry gun and feel confident about wherever I go.”
Seniors can also install alarm systems, buy pepper spray and even own dogs. But these methods don’t always work.
Nancy’s thoughts are not irrational or out of place. There have been rising reports of older people being targeted and attacked, whether they’re out and about or even in their own homes. It’s a growing concern, and members of this age bracket are seeking out ways to build a sense of personal security and safety. It’s perfectly fine to have a community of family and friends on which to depend. Seniors can also install alarm systems, buy pepper spray and even own dogs. But these methods don’t always work (and, in the case of pepper spray, aren’t always even safe options). And law enforcement can’t protect everyone all the time. Fortunately, with a firearm — the “great equalizer” — grandparents can have that extra tool, that extra layer of protection.
Of course, Nancy clarified that she’s not careless about when or where she travels or how she lives her life.
“I use good situational awareness wherever I go,” she said. “At the same time, I think that my age and my situation give me the surprise factor. People aren’t expecting me to be carrying a weapon. That can give me the upper hand in protecting myself. While I might be the person the bad guys are looking for to take advantage of, they don’t realize that I’m ready to take advantage of them if I have to.”
I asked Nancy if she had any advice for others who are currently in or approaching her stage of life.
“I would tell other ladies like me not to live their lives in fear,” she said. “There is a way around that. And the last part of your life can be just as fun as the first part. The world has really changed a lot, and I think we can remember when it was not so bad. It was a wonderful place, and you didn’t really have to think about all of this. But you can still go out into the world and try new things and do new things and not be afraid.
“And don’t be afraid to try firearms. It’s our right. But I also think it’s our responsibility. And I think it’s the logical solution for just about everyone these days. I know that I am not going to be the victim. Not ever.”
Nancy also encourages all firearms owners to be responsible, which, in her definition, requires a lot of education and a lot of range time.
“Also, I have been a member of the USCCA since I got my permit,” she said. “I don’t carry my gun without my membership card because I know that having support and advice on what to do and what not to do could save me a lot of problems, including jail time and financial heartache. If I have to use my firearm (for protection), I won’t be dead, which is the whole point, but I understand that my life will never be the same again. And I need to have as many people as possible watching my back.”
For other grandmothers, nanas, memaws or gigis, Nancy shows that owning and training with a firearm for your own personal protection is not that far out of reach. It’s a decision you can make carefully and responsibly, and it’s a resolution you can make for your loved ones … and for your life.