Help! I really want a handgun for self defense, but my hands are too weak to operate a semi-auto pistol.
This problem is more common than you may think. Due to arthritis, age-related muscle atrophy, finger/hand/wrist injury or other medical conditions, many cannot operate the slide on a semi-automatic handgun. You may want to consider one or both of these excellent firearms made by Beretta. They use a unique tip-up barrel, so you never have to fight a spring to “rack” the slide in order to get a round into the chamber. Simply tip up the barrel, place on cartridge in it, snap it closed, then insert a full magazine into the gun. It is now ready to fire, once you disengage the safety.
The Beretta 86 Cheetah is a mid-sized handgun chambered in .380 acp (commonly known as a “short” 9 mm). It is ergonomically well designed, accurate, and has manageable recoil for most. While these are no longer produced by Beretta, very nice used ones are available for about $500 +
The Beretta 3032 Tomcat is a sub-compact handgun chambered in .32 acp. It is an ideal “little gun” for concealed carry (or by the bedside), but still packs a punch, when using premium, hollow point ammunition. They are still being produced , and are available in traditional blued finish, or in the extra-durable Inox finish. Expect to pay around $400+ for new one. Used ones in the $300 – $350 range.
Some may steer you to a technically simpler 5-shot revolver. My advice? Rent one and try it out before you buy one! Even though revolvers do not utilize the spring and slide system like semi-autos, many people learn to their dismay (after buying the gun) that the trigger pull on a modern double action revolver is too difficult to pull. That is how they build them today – with extra stiff triggers. I have personally witnessed countless people at the range with newly-purchased revolvers that they struggled to operate. If and when they managed to finally muster the finger strength to fire the gun, shots were slow and inaccurate. That is not a good self defense tool to have in your hand when facing a dangerous two or four-legged predator.