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The Ultimate Guide to Self Defense for Seniors

The Ultimate Guide to Self Defense for Seniors

16th Nov 2023

As we age, we often gain more wisdom, experience, knowledge, and even financial security. But as these increase, our bodies also decline. We lose strength and energy. Our minds aren’t as sharp. This is a reality we must face, as seniors are becoming prime targets for theft, robbery, and assault.

As a senior citizen, you’re more likely to be targeted for violence because of your reduced strength. You may also have nicer jewelry and are more apt to carry identifying documents than younger people. Criminals often believe they can take advantage of your weakness and exploit your wealth.

And they will — if you let them.

With the push to defund police departments and reduce penalties for crimes, more and more people are opting to take their safety into their own hands. You might not be as confident in a fight at 80 as you were at 20. But with the proper equipment and training, you can live your life confidently knowing you can defend yourself from criminals.

Let’s examine the self-defense mindset, debunk some myths about self-defense for seniors, and look at some tools that can protect you from violence, theft, and other crimes.

Stay Off the X: The Self-Defense Mindset

At least 80% of self-defense is preventative. Sure, martial arts and firearms are great defensive tools, but avoiding dangerous situations entirely is even better.

Criminals pick out areas and times to trap or assault people — think of a dark alley or parking garage. Being “on the X” means you’re making yourself a target by walking into these areas or situations. Doing so (especially alone) automatically increases your chances of becoming a victim.

The best defense is to stay “off the X.” This means avoiding places that criminals target. If you live in or near a bad part of town, this might mean staying at home at night when crime is more likely to occur.

But what if you have to be out at a less-than-ideal time or in a seedier place? In this case, situational awareness is key. It’s as simple as four steps:

  1. Realize that you’re in a time or place that’s more compromising than usual.
  2. Take extra time to look at your surroundings. Study each aspect more carefully. Keep a close eye on dark places, alleys, and people.
  3. Walk faster, with more purpose and confidence. Get to a safer area as soon as possible.
  4. Don’t use a phone or allow other distractions when you’re out.

These steps will help you be more in tune with your surroundings. Because of age alone, you’re probably at a disadvantage in terms of speed, strength, and balance, but you don’t have to be caught unaware. Keeping one step ahead of crooks and preempting their advances with stern words will ward off most would-be assailants. They're cowards, after all.

Self-Defense Options for Seniors

As a senior, you have just as much of a right to defend yourself as any other citizen. But not every tool will do the job effectively. Many people are hesitant to carry a firearm for one reason or another — that’s your choice. However, let’s look realistically at some other options:

Cane Fu (Martial Arts)

It might sound silly, but taking a whack to the noggin from a solid hickory cane will make most crooks rethink their life choices in a hurry. But you might have your attack blocked, lose your cane, or be in an awkward position that doesn’t allow for much mobility.

Martial arts and hand-to-hand combat are great skills to learn (both for self-defense and exercise). You should certainly get some kind of training in this area. But make no mistake: this is not a realistic defense method in our modern society. Most attackers carry a firearm or a knife, but even if unarmed, they will likely outdo you in strength and speed. Unless you train relentlessly, your adrenaline in this kind of situation will render most hand-to-hand combat techniques useless.

Non-Lethal Weapons

You can also look at non-lethal weapons that are easier to deploy, but these have some drawbacks as well.

  • Pepper spray/gel - Hot, spicy goo to the eyes is a pretty stiff deterrent, but with drawbacks. The canisters can be hard to aim, and provide only a handful of shots. If you miss, you could be out of luck. In the time it takes you to chuck the can and assume a fighting stance, your assailant can take your purse or put a knife in your gut. Plus, if there’s a breeze blowing back toward you, all that spicy spray will go right in your eyeballs, making you doubly vulnerable.
  • Stun guns/tasers - These wacky sizzlers are mostly silly (especially the kind you find at the gun shows that advertise “1 MILLION GONAD-FRYING WATTS OF POWER!”). However, a real police-grade taser is no joke. You carry and aim it like a gun, but keep in mind you only get one shot. If you miss, you better have a backup you can deploy within seconds as the attacker closes in on you.
  • Whistle - This isn’t so much a defense weapon as it is a cry of “holy crap I’m being attacked — someone please help!” It’s better than nothing, but it assumes the general public will come to your aid if they hear it. Modern psychology and the bystander effect both cast doubt on that assumption. It’s much better to take your defense into your own hands with a viable weapon.

Not satisfied with any of these options? Good. That means you’re being realistic about self-defense, and one step ahead of the criminals who think they can take advantage of your age.

A Gun: The Best Self-Defense Tool for Seniors

As the saying goes, “God created men, Samuel Colt made them equal.” In the hands of a capable user, nothing is more effective in stopping violent crime than a firearm.

What other device can level the playing field of a physical altercation between a 105-pound woman and 215-pound man? A thief may have all the confidence in the world to snatch that purse from your arm — until they’re staring down the barrel of a Smith and Wesson.

More often than not, a drawn gun will diffuse the situation entirely. You might be afraid to carry a firearm because you don’t feel comfortable using it. This can (and should) be addressed with regular training. However, it can be comforting to know that, most of the time, you won’t need to pull the trigger at all.

The Best Self-Defense Firearms for Seniors

There are several proven firearm choices for seniors which are easily operated and ideal for those who don’t plan on shooting every day.

Each type of firearm has its drawbacks. That's why it’s so important to try before you buy. If you don’t like how a firearm feels in your hands or you can’t handle the recoil after some serious training, it isn’t the right gun for you. Try more models at the range until you feel confident you can use one.

Besides the shooting experience, consider the size and weight of the gun, because the purpose is to carry it. If it’s uncomfortable, too heavy, or hard to grip, you won’t carry it with you when you leave the house. That defeats the purpose of self-defense.

Option 1: Semi-Auto Pistol

Not too long ago, semi-auto pistols were full sized, all steel, and not that easy to conceal. Today, concealed carry is a big deal, and semi-auto handgun manufacturers have responded with improved designs that are easier to conceal and handle.

Modern semi-autos are lightweight, compact, reliable, and offer immense firepower in a small package. The .380 Auto is the widely accepted minimum for serious self-defense work, yet the vast majority of guns are offered in 9mm, which is a step up in power and recoil. If you can learn to shoot the 9mm, the number of guns available to you increases immensely, and you’ll be packing a bigger punch.


  • Big capacity (up to 17 rounds)
  • Smaller and lighter than revolvers
  • Easier to shoot
  • Slimmer design makes most easier to carry and conceal


  • Harder to manipulate (slide racking, etc.)
  • Can be hard to clear a malfunction
  • Not as good for off-body carrying (purse, fanny pack, etc.)
  • Can have sharp recoil in the smallest of guns


Option 2: Snubnose Revolver

While you should absolutely plan to train with your firearm on a regular basis, a snubbie is a viable choice if you seldomly get the chance to shoot. Its operation is fairly simple: Acquire a firing grip, aim, and press through the trigger. They’re also small, and easier to conceal in a purse.

However, revolvers are not always the best choice for a few reasons:

  1. The trigger pull is tough - Revolver triggers can be hard to squeeze for those with reduced hand strength or arthritis.
  2. They fail - Revolvers often exhibit a high rate of failure and missed shots, especially among those who haven’t trained very much with a firearm.

The gold standard caliber for small revolvers is the .38 Special. It’s a perfectly capable and extremely versatile self-defense round that is available in light-recoiling loads or +P (extra pressure) loads that even rival .357 Magnum offerings.

NOTE: .38 Special cartridges are perfectly safe to use in all .357 Magnum guns, but not the other way around (but don’t worry, the .357s won’t fit in a .38 cylinder — they’re too long).

If recoil sensitivity is an issue, there are plenty of .22 snubbies on the market as well. To be fair, .22 isn’t a great self-defense caliber, but it can still do some damage, and it’s better than a sharp stick or taser.


  • Easy to conceal
  • Superior reliability (a quality revolver and ammo rarely fails)
  • Extremely safe
  • Wealth of caliber options, although .38 Special is the recommended minimum for a defense caliber


  • Models with small grips can be hard to grasp
  • Recoil in .38 Spl.+P or .357 Magnum can be stout
  • Heavier than small semi auto pistols
  • Trigger pull on some models is heavy, making it hard to fire and aim accurately


NOTE: Don’t listen to any YouTube personality to determine what gun is best for you. These recommendations are a great place to start, but you really need to shoot a handful of guns before choosing one as your primary defensive weapon.

Firearm Carry Methods for Seniors

Once you’ve found the firearm you like best for self-defense, you need to start carrying it. It's no good at home. But while open carry is permitted in some cases, it’s not usually a good idea unless you’re at the range or hunting. Walking around with a gun is just asking for trouble, and it makes a situation more tense.

Instead, most responsibly armed citizens opt for a concealed carry method. In some states, this is the only legal way to carry a firearm in public.

Most people who carry a concealed firearm do so on their belt in either an inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster, or outside-the-waistband (OWB) holster. Carrying it in your pants might require a new belt and bigger pants, but it offers the greatest concealment and peace of mind. If you’d rather not carry it on your person, fanny packs are becoming more popular as a concealed carry method.

No matter how or where you carry your gun, you MUST use a concealed carry holster that covers the trigger guard. Do not settle for a cheap nylon deal that claims to be universal. Get a custom-fitted Kydex or leather holster specifically made for your carry method. They’re not that expensive and deliver unmatched security. Custom holsters fit your gun precisely, greatly reducing the chance that the holster slips off (or the gun slips out) and an accidental discharge occurs.

Your body type, mobility, and confidence with the gun will dictate where you carry, and with the still-growing popularity of concealed carry, there are plenty of options for everyone.

Firearm Training for Seniors

The most important part of the self-defense equation is training. In a high-stakes, adrenaline-filled self-defense scenario, you’re not going to magically become Clint Eastwood. You’re going to be scared, slow, and likely trembling as you try to achieve proper grip, rack the slide, acquire a sight picture, and start shooting. Don’t count on your current skill set to save you, even when you’re armed — you will default to the level of your training. If you have no training, you might as well be wielding a brick.

Your training doesn’t have to be anything crazy. You probably don’t need to be diving, rolling, or sprinting like Rambo. You just need to get familiar enough with your gun to operate it almost automatically.

At minimum, you need to understand how your gun works, what it does when you fire it, and what it’s capable of.

Dry Fire Training

You want to be able to pick up and use your gun in any situation (even in the dark). Muscle memory is key, and there’s no better way to start training pure technique than with dry fire drills. Dry fire training means practicing fundamental shooting techniques and firearm manipulation without live ammunition. This allows you to hone in on specific aspects of self-defense, such as:

  • Drawing from your holster
  • Achieving a proper grip
  • Acquiring and engaging targets
  • Aligning sights
  • Managing recoil

When practicing any technique with your firearm, remember that fast is smooth and smooth is fast. To make the most of your muscle memory, practice every movement slowly to perfection. As you practice more, you can gradually increase your speed. As you do this, you’ll build great habits that benefit you when you have to deploy your weapon.

All that said, there is simply no replacement for range training. To truly be confident and proficient with your firearm, you need to shoot live ammo. You need to experience the loudness and recoil of a gun when it fires. Otherwise, your first shot will disorient you entirely, giving an attacker another chance to harm you.

Final Thoughts

In a violent world, you can’t afford to be naive. Criminals and violent offenders often carry weapons — so you should, too. Firearms are without a doubt the best and most effective means for seniors to defend themselves. Carrying and learning how to use a firearm means refusing to become a victim in a world that would otherwise exploit your weaknesses.

At Pro Armory, we believe the right to bear arms applies to everyone — especially the most vulnerable among us. That includes seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities. That’s why we offer fairly priced ammo and tactical gear along with top-notch online firearms training — so you have everything you need to take your safety into your own hands.

We also guarantee a 100% secure shopping and checkout process. You can be confident your payment information is completely safe when you buy from us.

Don’t wait. Check out our selection of handgun ammo and tactical gear, and sign up for our newsletter to be notified when our online training course officially launches.

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