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Old August 23, 2012, 11:55 PM   #1
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Pistol for a One-Handed Shooter?

Hey, all. I recently found myself in a situation where due to an injury in my left arm, I'm left with no other choice but the eventual amputation of the limb by years end. Prior to this turn of events, I can't tell you how much I was looking forward to becoming old enough to purchase my own handgun. I have spent a decent amount of time firing revolvers in the past with my Dad, and ever since those days shooting has always had a certain allure to me. However shortly before turning 21 I was given the news I would soon be losing all use of my arm, and now 1 year later it seems I'm about to reach the point of no return.

That being said, I really wanted to get some opinions from the online shooting community as to which type of handgun would be the best choice for someone in my situation to purchase as a handgun not only for a beginner, but a somewhat limited shooter.

I can tell you right now, my overwhelming preference is for a semi-automatic pistol, and honestly what I'm most looking for / hoping to find is some people who think, or better yet, *know* that it is entirely reasonable for a one-armed shooter to manage a Semi-Auto pistol on their own. However if I'm completely wrong in that hope, I'd like some advice as to perhaps what I should be looking for.

I recently visited a local gun-shop to ask if a one-armed man could properly operate a Semi-auto pistol, as I have seen and heard online that the military and police have drills training their personnel to load, chamber rounds, and clear any jams one-handed, but it's my understanding these techniques are all more SHTF tactics, rather than ways to adapt to 1 handed pistol use.

In fact, when I asked the salesman, he laughed in my face at the question, and proceeded to tell me he's never heard of single handed pistol use, and went so far as to walk away mid conversation, refusing to even let me hold and experiment with a pistol just to see for myself how manageable it may be.

Admittedly that whole experience left me feeling rather defeated, and wondering if perhaps wanting to purchase a semi-auto pistol as a one-handed shooter is a foolish endeavor. However, before completely giving in and buying a revolver, I hoped I might be able to get some second opinions from the internet. I figure at the very least on a forum it's not as shocking to get rude responses as it was to have such a response to my inquiries in person..

Anyway, I really am grateful for any input, whether it's what I hope to hear or not, as long as it's an honest opinion I'm more than happy to take it into consideration. Thanks in advance for anyone who takes the time to respond.

Last edited by Verk; August 26, 2012 at 05:58 AM.
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Old August 24, 2012, 12:19 AM   #2
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First, welcome to the forum there is a lot of great information and helpful folks on here. Also, I really do hate to hear about the situation that you find yourself in, but I also firmly believe that it does not have to deter you from shooting or anything else.

As for specifics I am not really certain, but I have heard of modified semi-autos that had a pin that allowed them to be hooked on a bench and racked. I have also heard that some semis cam simply be operated with one hand, but must admit I am not sure which ones or exactly how it is done.

Again, lots of intelligent folks on here, so give it a day or so and I think you’ll get some good information. Also, we would love to hear what you eventually settle on.
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Old August 24, 2012, 12:56 AM   #3
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Hi Verk,

I'm left handed. Years ago I crushed my right hand and was in an assortment of casts and braces for nearly 2 years... my fingers were of little to no use as I had no strength in them at all. Took about 3 years after that to get most of my strength and coordination back.

It took extra time to do everything including disassemble guns for cleaning, load magazines, chamber a round etc etc... because I did it all with my left hand. I used tables, doors, steering wheels, tool boxes, belt and belt loops, even my holster... what ever served as a brace to bear the gun against.
I carried a Colt Commander at the time. I beat the hell out of it and broke off a few nice Swenson sights slamming it against all sorts of surfaces to chamber rounds.

I'd never tried a revolver during this time, but I'd imagine that loading and unloading a revolver would be a little bit easier, as would normal cleaning.

I had a friend named "Hook"... we've called him Hook since the early '70s when he got his left arm and leg blown off in Viet Nam. While he was still alive (he died 5 years ago), he could operate any firearm with no problems... sure, he had a prosthetic limb, but it didn't slow him down one bit.
Like my Colt, most of his guns had that beat to crap look... but that was because his stainless steel, cable operated, claw hook was heavily serrated on the insides. He had a little custom made leather sleeve that fit over the hook when he didn't want to damage stuff, but he'd lose it on a regular basis... so guns got mangled sometimes.

I don't foresee you having too many problems that you won't be able to overcome one way or another. Have hope and faith... you can and will do everything you want to do in your life.

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Old August 24, 2012, 01:10 AM   #4
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My congratulations on not allowing your lot in life stop your desires. My suggestion would be to get a semi auto milled for an rmr sight. Reason being with the right rmr you can use the optic to rack the weapon. ATEi in Taylor MI specializes in this sort of thing and can suggest to you the proper optic to use that would be strong enough. I respect the owner Doug greatly and know that he wouldn't steer you wrong.

That being said honestly a DA revolver would be much simpler and cheaper to get started with.
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Old August 24, 2012, 01:18 AM   #5
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Hi, I recommend a gun smith helping you out with this, maybe he could make some sort of charging handle for you to safely use a semi auto at the range. As for carry I stick with 2x revolvers.
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Old August 24, 2012, 02:23 AM   #6
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Hi, Verk. Kudos to you you for coming online with your inquiry.

I think the key question is, what is your highest priority at present? Is it to be able to shoot and reload a handgun, whether for pleasure or defense, or is it to be able to overcome your new challenge and operate a semi-auto no matter what? You noted that your earlier experience with handguns, possibly all of it, was with revolvers and I didn't pick up on any dislike about that.

If your primary motivation is, admirably, to triumph over a pending adversity and master semi-autos, you already have gotten some good tips here and doubtless more are forthcoming. I don't know your financial situation, but if there is any way to do it, I would also consider a good-quality revolver with priority focus on a cylinder-release that is easy to use with your shooting hand (the rest of the reloading cycle will come easy). I am left-handed, a very minor disadvantage, and from lots of practice I easily can reload with the use of just my left arm/hand, especially when using inexpensive HKS speed-loaders.

But should self-defense ever become an issue, re-charging or clearing a jam in a semi-auto in a stressful situation could be much more challenging than re-loading a revolver. If your only concern is range time, go for it with a tweaked semi-auto - there are an endless number of shooters who will be happy to shoot with you and give you any tips or assistance you want. You have great spunk and that is all that is needed. Here's to your ten-rings.
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Old August 24, 2012, 04:05 AM   #7
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One handed shooting is covered by some training places where they teach pistol and rifle useage while disabled. As an example, say you're in the military or say your a civilian, but you get caught up in some gunfire or other event that renders one hand or arm not usable. The pistol of choice would be a standard steel frame, steel slide, open iron sights. Don't use plastic sights. The idea is that you hold the slide against some object like a door edge, a tree, a leg or something to hold the slide. Then rack the slide by pulling the grip. The iron sights are strong enough to do this and won't break. Reloading can be done by retaining the handgun between your knees or by putting it backwards in the holster. Research youtube and look for videos from those popular tv gun programs. You might find something. I saw an episode on one of them some time ago that covers this topic.
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Old August 24, 2012, 06:23 AM   #8
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All it will take is the will to do it.and some practice.
If it was me I would stay with 9mm medium size pistol,with square or stepped rear sight with as much frontal surface as possible so you can rack the slide off of your belt,holster or clothing,you can insert the mags while in the holster.loading mags will take some practice but its doable.Id also choose a simple strieker fired double stack pistole with a low bore axis to keep the muzzel flip down,possibley a Glock 19,or mabe a 26.
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Old August 24, 2012, 06:49 AM   #9
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There's a local guy who lost his left hand/forearm to just below his elbow. He functions quite well and uses a Ruger single action revolver but is very slow at reloading. For loading/unloading he just holds the handgun by squeezing the barrel between his stub and ribcage. Changing mags on a semiauto would seem to be fairly simple.
When I required hand surgery and was in a cast from elboe to fingertips for 8 weeks, I used my normal carry gun when my left hand was in a cast. While my right hand was in a cast, I used a single action 9mm lefty and held it between cast and body for reloads. I had to use the single action since my left hand was not strong enough to handle the heavier DA trigger pull of the Ruger P95.
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Old August 24, 2012, 08:14 AM   #10
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I can tell you for a fact that it is easily possible for a one-armed shooter to manage an autopistol on his own.

My son lost his left arm at the shoulder in a car wreck when he was 6 years old. He's 28 now. We shoot pistols every weekend. He's been an enthusiastic pistol shooter his whole life. He competes in IDPA and GSSF.

He prefers 1911's and Glocks, but has no problem with any type of autopistol.

You'll want a good holster for whatever you choose.

Revolvers aren't as easy to manipulate with one hand. Hard to get the new cartridges in without laying it on something. You can't usually use the holster to hold it with the cylinder open.

Auto reloads are easy - dump the mag, stick the gun into the holster, stick the new mag in, draw the gun and hit the slide release (if you shot it to empty).

You can get slide rackers that bolt onto Glocks with no modifications, use the edge of a table, your belt, etc, to rack it.

Where are you located? PM me if you have any questions. If you're close enough, we'll all go shooting.

Last edited by 45_auto; August 24, 2012 at 08:29 AM.
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Old August 24, 2012, 08:16 AM   #11
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I once worked with a guy who broke his arm, he would rack the slide on his pocket to open it to show a gun. While your pocket wouldn't be ideal with a loaded gun, you could use the bench or something else that was handy. He hooked the back sight and pushed. I have seen slide rackers made for scoped handgun that might be of help to you. You'll also mave to come up with away to load magazines, a clamp or vise of some kind maybe.
Don't automatically rule out a revolver. An L frame Smith is very easy to shoot well and would be easier for you to reload especially with a Safariland speed loader.
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Old August 24, 2012, 10:11 AM   #12
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he's never heard of single handed pistol use
To the excellent advice and encouragement you have already received, I will only add that you need someone more knowledgeable and helpful than this to assist you in pistol selection, any modification that might be necessary, and training. The simple fact is that the oldest and most traditional pistol bullseye competitions require a one-hand hold. The US Army's pistol marksmanship manual is written with those competitions in mind. Competitors in these competitions tuck their off hand into their pocket or belt line, or hook their thumb over their belt to keep it out of the way, and achieve excellent scores. If he has never heard of firing single handed, he doesn't know much.

I am sorry that you are suffering such a severe problem at such a young age, but you can and will overcome this, in shooting pistols and in every aspect of your life. You are a champion, and I salute you.
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Old August 24, 2012, 10:41 AM   #13
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Sorry to hear about your predicament.
With dedication and perseverance, it's amazing what we can overcome.
Here's some youtube videos on one handed shooting that should help:
Awhile ago, I was essentially one handed for about a year an a half.
There's many effective techniques to help do just about everything, including shooting.
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Old August 24, 2012, 11:11 AM   #14
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Some years back, I read an article about an elderly couple that didn't have the strength to pull back the slide on their autos yet still liked to shoot semi-auto pistols. They had a device made that they could press their 1911s into muzzle first that would allow them to cock the pistol. I'd imagine that someone with some woodworking skills could make something similar that you could use both at the range and at home to charge the handgun.

Good luck to you, sir. It's good to see you seeking a method to overcome these speed bumps that life puts in front of you.
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Old August 24, 2012, 03:11 PM   #15
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Verk, from a medical standpoint, I hope you've gotten a second opinion. Injuries don't usually cause elective amputations a year later.

But, that aside, see if you can find a Beretta 86; It's a 380 with a flip up barrel; load the barrel, click it into place, and you never have to rack the slide. They can be found on Gunbroker, usually in the
$6-700 range.
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Old August 24, 2012, 03:56 PM   #16
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You'll also mave to come up with away to load magazines, a clamp or vise of some kind maybe.
This is where I thought you may have an issue also but I'm sure if you're determined enough you'll find a way to do it. A small soldering vice might work perfect for holding the magazine and most autos come with some sort of easy loader for the magazines, HKS also makes one.

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Old August 24, 2012, 04:21 PM   #17
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I use an 8 shot revolver. I can reload using moon clips, my foot and a little time. I thought about this and recall from my 3 gun matches at my club that the guys shooting .45 acp pistols had ways to use their boot heel to rack the slide, could drop the spent magazine with one hand, then remove it and insert another in not much different manner than I using moon clips. I thought the guys with 9mm and 17 shots would have an advantage as they would not need to reload as often as a guy with 8, or 9 shots. However I never saw that, as here in California the playing field is pretty level as 10 round magazines are the maximum allowed by law, unless it was from the pre-ban period.

A 17 round magazine pistol, if legal in your area, might have a real plus in that fewer reloads would be needed. With practice I saw that one armed pistol reloads were no faster,nor slower, than with a revolver. Good luck. One of each might be a thought.

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Old August 24, 2012, 04:26 PM   #18
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I second the Beretta model 86,,,

Right now there is one in gunbroker with 3 magazines,,,
The "Buy it Now" price is $619.00

Click here please.


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Old August 24, 2012, 05:17 PM   #19
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Wow, lots of really good information and encouraging posts right off the bat. I definitely need to find a different shop where I can get someone actually willing to listen, and get my hands on a few different pistols to see how different things are laid out on different models and which fit my hand size best. I have a feeling nothing will really feel really "right" from the start, as I kind of need a gun to practice with before I can really get used to using it. Until then I expect anything to be a bit awkward, but armed with forum suggestions and youtube videos I think I should be able to manage.

It may take a bit of a drive, but there are a few gunsmiths in the area I plan to call once I've narrowed it down a bit to see what kind of options I might have for modifying the slide or something just to make it that much easier. I figure it's definitely worth driving a bit if it makes every time I use that firearm that much easier for me.

In response to another post, I must admit I don't necessarily dislike revolvers. I do have a few minor grudges with the limitations of them in terms of lack of rails for customizing and ammo capacity, largely because having to set the gun down and fumble with it to reload every 5-7 shots is a bother, but I can't deny that it is manageable with one hand, and provided it's not too heavy a model (I'm not the largest guy out there, so anything too big and my arm gets too shaky to hit reliably) I do shoot reasonably decent groups given my lack of experience. Actually, regardless of if I buy a semi-auto or not, I do plan to get a revolver at one point or another. No matter how much I want an auto pistol, in terms of ease of use in a stressful situation I cant discount revolvers, and for a personal defense weapon I'd be silly to overlook the merits of them. I definitely plan on / enjoy the idea of one of each, and really didn't mean to come across as disliking revolvers. I'm just interested in exploring what other options I might have, as the idea of owning nothing *but* revolvers is a bit less fun to me, especially if it's because "that's all I can use" rather than "that's what I like".

That being said, I have only fired a semi-auto once, a 9mm keltek that sadly was not quite for me. And though this initially was mostly just a selfish desire to buy the thing I wanted whether it was a "good" idea or not, I must say it's evolved a bit into an even more selfish desire to buy one and adapt/teach myself to use it just to give myself the satisfaction of doing so.

I'm really glad I came here rather than giving up from the start, as I don't think I would have bothered pursuing this any further if I hadn't gotten the type of response I did from you all.

As a side note to berettaprofessor, I know, my explanation was fairly poorly worded. I guess to be more accurate the injury actually occurred almost 6 years ago. I broke my arm, and for whatever reason a type of extremely rare and fairly aggressive scar-like growth started to form along the site of the break, right between the 2 major bones in my fore-arm. After a good deal of testing the conclusion was reached that it's a type of tumor that can form at the site of physical trauma. They pretty much never happen ( 3 in a million or something?) and it seems that it's usually genetic, which makes it all the more strange. I've heard from every doctor I've seen what an unusual case it is, and though some treatments exist, none are really reliable. I've been through a few types of chemo, but because of the slow growth cycle of the cells it's difficult to kill them off with that form of treatment. There are a few things I can try still, but the tumor is large enough that it's begun breaking the bones in my arm, and from here there isn't much good that can happen.

On the bright side, ish, I've pretty much known what to expect for the past few years ever since it started getting larger. Thankfully it's benign, and there's no way it can end up as life threatening, but it is a major downer that it's limb-threatening.. Though, I've had more than enough time to think about it, and I've just kinda decided to try my best to roll with it. I would never say I'm remotely glad, but I can't deny that dealing with it has made me grow as a person, and has changed my views in a lot of ways. Haha, but now I'm just sort of rambling, turning that into the longest "side note" ever.

/end wall of text
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Old August 24, 2012, 05:36 PM   #20
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In response to another post, I must admit I don't necessarily dislike revolvers. I do have a few minor grudges with the limitations of them in terms of lack of rails for customizing and ammo capacity, largely because having to set the gun down and fumble with it to reload every 5-7 shots is a bother, but I can't deny that it is manageable with one hand, and provided it's not too heavy a model (I'm not the largest guy out there, so anything too big and my arm gets too shaky to hit reliably) I do shoot reasonably decent groups given my lack of experience. Actually, regardless of if I buy a semi-auto or not, I do plan to get a revolver at one point or another. No matter how much I want an auto pistol, in terms of ease of use in a stressful situation I cant discount revolvers, and for a personal defense weapon I'd be silly to overlook the merits of them. I definitely plan on / enjoy the idea of one of each, and really didn't mean to come across as disliking revolvers. I'm just interested in exploring what other options I might have, as the idea of owning nothing *but* revolvers is a bit less fun to me, especially if it's because "that's all I can use" rather than "that's what I like".
While I'm not trying to dissuade you from getting a semi-auto if that's what you really want, this would seem to address most of your dislikes about a revolver specifically due to its eight-shot capacity, accessory rail, and relative light weight.

Or if you'd prefer it in .45 ACP and a slightly shorter barrel, you could go with this one although you'd lose the eight-shot capacity.

As to the ease of using a semi-auto with one hand, racking the slide might not be as difficult as you would think if you choose the model carefully. If you get a normal tilting-barrel action without a full length guide rod, you can rack the slide one-handed by simply placing the bottom of the slide (the portion underneath the barrel) against a table or other steady object and pushing the grip forward. Many 1911's come without a full length guide rod (the original design lacked that feature) as does the standard CZ-75B. I'm sure that there are several other semi-autos that would also fit the bill, but I can't think of any right off the top of my head.

The real problem, as I see it, with using a semi-auto one-handed is loading the magazines. Perhaps one of the various magazine loading tools could make this task easier for you. If anything, you might be able to hold the magazine with a prosthetic limb and use your remaining hand to actually insert the cartridges.
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Old August 24, 2012, 05:38 PM   #21
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You don't need a gunsmith ....just a good instructor....

There are all kinds of guns you can manipulate one handed...and probably lighter is better....and how well you can manipulate the controls with one hand is obviously a big deal .../ so something in a single stack ..that is not too wide ...and maybe something mid-sized like a Sig 239 ...or a 1911 say in a 4" ...especially something in either platform in a 9mm ...and there are lots of other options out there.

a. Don't run the gun to slide lock ...drop the mag with a round left in the chamber ....decock it or put safety on ..set the gun down / pull another mag ..and reload it / pick the gun up again ...and continue just one way to do it.

b. If you can't set the gun down on a safe surface.../ and have to sit and use your lap or something to manipulate the gun for the reload ...maybe its better not to have a round in the you run it to slide lock / then reload...bring the gun up on target, drop the slide one handed, commence firing...

A good instructor will run thru all of these options for you ...and you can adapt a little bit ...not a gunsmith ...or a gun salesman for that matter.

There are ways to reload one handed ...even I wouldn't rule that out either...maybe a nice S&W model 66 in a 4" or something easy to handle ...and you can train with .38 spl's in it / and carry it with .357 mag if you want..../ moon clips are more trouble than they're worth to me...a good speed loader a Jet loader is pretty easy to manipulate one handed with some practice on a K frame S&W...
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Old August 24, 2012, 05:52 PM   #22
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i am assuming that you will be getting a prosthesis. When you are selecting the device, discuss shooting with your Dr., therapist and most importantly with the technician who builds and fits the device.

There is a gunsmith I know of in eastern AZ who has done some excellent work for physically limited shooters.

I would not give up on revolvers if they are your preferred hand gun. A good instructor can help you develop techniques to overcome any limitations.

If all else fails, follow the advice of the one armed Deputy from the Unforgiven, carry more guns.

Good luck and keep us informed or your progress.
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Old August 24, 2012, 06:22 PM   #23
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Verk - had two additional thoughts overnight:

1. When you look at a semi-auto, I recommend you make sure the slide release is easy to depress with one finger. That is no problem on a 1911, but some of the newer style semi-autos have ones that are small and difficult to press - the presumption is that the shooter will rack the slide with their support hand. I have never had to rack the slide on my 1911s, even being left-handed. Reaching over or up and pressing that release becomes as instinctive as blinking. The advice on some self-defense TV shows often assumes that you will have a Keith type ramp rear sight and that you release the slide by tugging the sight against edge of your belt. It is a whole lot easier to just press down that slide release and you won't tear up your belts or ding up your sights. (But you don't want to practice this repeatedly with the magazine out - the action of chambering a round softens the impact of the slide on the frame a bit.)

2. Depending on how you feel about talking to folks about assistance, your local VFW or Amvets chapter might be delighted to help you find solutions, perhaps including the building of a device to make reloading a magazine or a couple of speed loaders easier. Ditto the gun range folks, if you plan to join one.

Last edited by FloridaVeteran; August 24, 2012 at 06:30 PM. Reason: added parens note at end of first paragraph)
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Old August 24, 2012, 06:39 PM   #24
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I'd say a Glock.


1. Holds alot of rounds so you don't have to reload.
2. No safeties to worry about.
3. Very reliable.
4. You can get a rear sight that is sharp and use it to rack the slide on you jeans, table, pocket edges, etc...
5. It's accurate and a very easy gun to shoot to.
6. If you drop it, it's drop safe and UGLY to boot. So no biggie, right.

I'd pick the Glock 19. 16 shots and easy to conceal.

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Old August 24, 2012, 10:42 PM   #25
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Again, thanks for all the feedback thus far. I do of course plan to end up with a prosthesis, and I definitely plan to discuss several activities I have in mind with my doctor/therapist to see what sort of use I will be able to get out of it. I kinda wish I knew already, just because for the time being I'm unsure what to expect, so I'm just sorta planning on "if I can't use my left at all, then what".

To Webley, that first S&W M&P R8 is awesome, for serious. I'm actually amazed I hadn't seen anything exactly like it in any shops around here, but that's certainly something I'm interested in.. However unfortunately it's way up there in terms of price. I don't make a whole lot of money, and had only planned to spend around 600, but that really makes me want to save a while longer... Though because of price that may be the second gun I end up with..

I definitely agree with all those who suggested seeing a trainer. Even if I weren't in this situation I'm sure they could teach me an insane amount, though again price starts to become an issue. I'm about an hour south / SW of Chicago, so though I've never looked, I imagine I have plenty of options.

And to Deaf, I had certainly thought a glock might be a good choice based on your and a few other people's posts. Though they're ugly as hell in my opinion, I can't deny the amazingly boxy build makes it quite good for catching a protruding sight on something.

I really need to try to go and get my hands on some stuff in the near future. I have a little drive upstate coming up that I plan to use an an excuse to detour and check out a few stores.
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