Senior Sense

The changing demographics in America are a reality that affects every aspect of life. On the one hand, so-called millennials now represent a major segment of the population. At the other end of the spectrum, we have the aging “Baby Boomers” retiring at record rates.

As a firearms instructor for many decades, I have noted how demographic changes have altered the makeup of my classes. The ages of the students in a typical carry class now run from young people in their twenties and thirties to those approaching retirement.

Cultural shifts have also had a dramatic effect. As more and more women of all ages realize that they must take responsibility for their own safety, they now represent a much higher percentage of my students than ever before.

But more recently, I have seen a rise in interest in firearms training among the “over 50” crowd, especially those in their sixties and seventies. Friends in the training community have reported similar changes. Older Americans, both men and women, are now buying guns for self-defense, and are seeking advice and recommendations.

Others already own guns, but now want training for self-defense, particularly with the intent to carry outside the home. The reasons are varied, but some are fairly obvious. For example, every time there are news stories showing rioters rampaging through public streets (or college campuses), smashing windows, blocking traffic and attacking innocent bystanders, I get a flurry of calls.

Anyone seeing videos of such mayhem would be concerned, but older people already feel more vulnerable. As we get older, we get slower. Vision and hearing can deteriorate. And quite simply, we will not be as strong as we were in our twenties or even our forties. Additionally, things like arthritis and other ailments can make handling and shooting a firearm more difficult.

OK, there are certainly exceptions. Some foolish street thug who tries to mug 77-year-old Chuck Norris would likely get an extremely unwelcome surprise. And I myself recall a student who was 83. First clue, he arrived in a sinister-looking black Chrysler 300, and being a “car guy” myself, I caught the “SRT8” badge. Yep, the BIG hemi.

His surprisingly high energy level and obviously robust health rivaled people in the class who were half his age. And his marksmanship skills were superb, even when doing high-speed, multiple-target drills.

But for most of us, aging will require some adjustments. So, whether you are someone who trains older students or are getting on in years, just be sure to remember the limitations that can come with age.

Choice of firearm must take into account things like size, weight and trigger pull. Revolvers especially can have triggers that are difficult for some older shooters. The same holds true for auto-pistols that utilize a heavy double-action trigger pull on the first shot.

And even striker-fired pistols like Glocks, XDs, HK VP series and others can have slides that are extremely difficult to operate for those with weak hands. Handle any gun to find out. A live-fire test is highly recommended. Better to find out if recoil is tolerable before you buy.

Finally, whether you are the trainer or the student, be brutally honest in assessing their (or your own) physical condition, limitations and any health issues. With proper thought and training based in reality, almost anyone, regardless of age, can have the ability to protect themselves.

As they should.