Grandma's Got a Gun, or Shooting With Arthritis

by David Higginbotham

Recently by David Higginbotham: Gun Law 101: National Firearms Act of1934

I come from a big southern family. We’re rural folk, for the most part. Guns are part of our culture, and not just the men folk. My grandmother lived alone in the woods of western Alabama for more than 20 years. I can still remember the old break-action shotguns that she kept beside the front and back doors. They were, she said, for wild dogs that plagued that part of Alabama, roaming in mangy packs.

If I’m to believe the rumors, my grandmother’s shotguns were loaded with rock-salt. It would sting real bad, I was told, but wouldn’t kill a dog. Sounds like hogwash to me, like something concocted to make a city kid feel better about his grandma shooting dogs.

The truth was, even at 82, she was capable of defending herself. And prepared to do so.

One of my aunts still lives in the area. She’s getting close to 80. She was out in her garden not long ago when she spotted an armadillo rooting in her day lilies. After some quick work with a 12 gauge, she had completely gutted her grandson’s football. Maybe, some in the family whispered, it was time to take away the guns.

Hogwash, I say. She tore up that football.

Meanwhile, back in the big city

My mother is 72, and has just received her first concealed carry permit. She’s shopping for something to replace my father’s old Iver Johnson Cadet. She called me six months or so ago and asked what she should get.

I had all kinds of ideas. We talked for a couple of hours about different philosophies of concealed carry, home defense, and various caliber options. Through a steady process of elimination, we decided on a common solution. We landed on a traditional .357 snub-nosed revolver. The Ruger SP101.

But we hadn’t considered her hands. She has arthritis. But she still has the right, and the will, to defend herself. So what’s the best option?

Shooting with my mother (then)

The last time I had shot with my mom, I was still in elementary school. My grandmother died in 1987 when I was 13, so it had to be before then (as my father and I only ever shot at my grandmother’s house). I remember my mom embarrassing us with her skills and her apathy. She could shoot accurately and we couldn’t, and she didn’t really care one way or the other.

My father and I would shoot (at) old tin pie pans. We’d make excuses for distance, or wind. We’d shoot for a while and run through the ammo. But before we finished, my mother would step out onto porch and take the gun and poke five clean holes in the swinging target. Every time. And effortlessly.

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