Copyright 2014 Chuck Klein

Published: June, 2014 issue, The Gun Mag
Published: March, 2015 issue, Police Magazine 
Published: March, 2015 issue, The Blue Press (pg 37)
Published: Sept., 2015 issue, Star & Shield (LA County Prof Peace Off Assoc.)

Now that the baby-boomer generation is reaching their late 60s, it is clear that long-ignored shooting/self-defense issues are becoming apparent. If you’re a senior citizen you most likely are a victim of C.R.A.V.Y. – Comfort-Recoil-Arthritis-Vision-Yips. One or more of these age-related maladies are evident if we’re lucky enough to pile on the years. Though there is no cure to aging, accepting and dealing with symptoms is the only solution. These C.R.A.V.Y. factors, as they relate to handgun shooting and self-defense, are defined as: 

COMFORT: One of my fellow classmates at the Norwood, Ohio Police Academy (over 40 years ago) asked the OIC, Lt. Umbaugh, if we should carry a gun while off-duty. His answer was so obvious; I have not only lived it, but written about it and taught it. The Lieutenant said: “One either never carries or one always carries, but one never sometimes carries.” When it comes to concealed carry, owning the latest and most powerful assault stopper is insignificant if it is too big or too heavy for all day – everyday carry. There is a huge selection of carry rigs available from fanny packs/purses to holsters available to fit almost any part of the body. Finding a comfortable carry mode AND firearm that fits you and your lifestyle is a significant task and should be addressed with great importance.

RECOIL: Many of us, as we age, become less tolerant to noise and physical punishment. Modern light weight guns, even in the lessor self-defense calibers of .380 ACP, can be uncomfortable to shoot. The old saying of ‘a .22 caliber handgun beats an empty fist’ applies here. The .22 is not known as a man-stopper, but a well-placed shot or two will go a long way to bringing an end to most life-threatening attacks. So what’s the big deal if you’re in a fire-fight and your +P+ magnum bruises your hand while stopping a deadly assault? The ‘big deal’ is: if your carry arm is punishing to shoot then practice won’t be high on your list of life-saving priorities. Without regular practice your ability to stave off a deadly attack will not only be negated, but if a missed shot causes collateral damage and the following legal action discloses you didn’t practice . . . .

ARTHRITIS: The affliction is suffered, at some level and degree, by most of the older generation. This condition might not be a noticeable problem while conducting everyday affairs, but strong and agile wrist, elbow and finger joints are a requisite to defensive handgun shooting. Being unable to operate a double action trigger, grip the handgun with adequate strength or rack a slide is common among persons with arthritis. There are some medications that help, but the severity of the ailment usually comes and goes during the week or day – or even hour to hour. If you’ve noticed it is difficult to make a tight fist or experience discomfort in other joints, now might be a good time to begin looking for a handgun you can operate with ease.

VISION: This is the easiest of the five factors to correct. Of course, eye glasses will improve visual acuity – if you have them on. Corrective lenses will not solve issues related to cataracts, night blindness or specific distances such as being able to focus on the front sight while still seeing the rear sight AND the target. One solution to most vision problems can be over-come by learning and practicing instinct shooting, i.e., shooting by focusing on the target only. Under close-quarter-combat conditions, if you can’t see the sights but can still see the target, the point shooting technique should be sufficient. Another remedy is laser sights, though they have the drawback of having to expend an instant looking for that red or green dot.

The YIPS: A term attributed to golf pro, Lee Trevino, to describe an involuntary, unexpected and age-related twitch. Swinging smoothly and following through during a putt is no different than stroking a trigger. If, at this critical moment you suddenly have an, albeit, miniscule muscle spasm – you missed. Missing a putt, even if for big bucks, is not the same as missing a shot that cost you your life. For no other reason, this is why one should always keep their finger off the trigger until a shot is necessary. There is no known cure for the Yips and this quirk tenders no warning, but a firm two-hand and practiced grip will help to hinder twitch possibilities.

Summary: First, if you’re over fifty own up to the fact that you are aging. Test yourself with honest appraisals every time you handle your carry arm. Second, only carry a firearm you shoot well and one that is comfortable – size and weight wise. A diminutive handgun might be easy to carry, but if you can’t hit a man-sized target at close-quarter-combat distances, it will be of little value. Many modern firing ranges rent handguns for the purpose of allowing their customers to try-out different guns to help determine what works best. It’s an inexpensive way to learn what’s a good fit for you. Finally, practice self-defense tactical shooting including instinct combat shooting.

Chuck Klein, a former LEO and retired licensed private investigator, is an active member of the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors  and the author of INSTINCT COMBAT SHOOTING, Defensive Handgunning for Police; GUNS IN THE WORKPLACE, A Manual for Private Sector Employees and Employers plus many other books. He may be reached through his web site,