Rimfire pistols are seldom the answer to defensive needs, but they fit one niche well. The defender in this case is an 86-year-old woman who lives alone. Her hand and arm strength are minimal, so full-weight handguns are not in the cards. Her recently departed son set her up with a classic S&W Airweight .38 with wadcutter ammunition. She had never fired that gun. As it turns out, while it fit the criterion of “lightweight”, it failed on other counts. Her hand strength is insufficient to pull the 12 pound double action trigger. Further, even with 148gr target wadcutters, felt recoil would be in excess of her tolerance.
On an earlier date, we tried Sig P938-22 and Keltec PF9 with a Twisted Industries rimfire conversion. Neither gun was comfortable for her, and she was unable to hit a silhouette at 5 yards. This time, we tried a Keltec P17 with a Viridian C5L light/laser. Even in broad daylight, the laser dot remained visible. For indoor use, which would be 100% of this weapon’s use, light combined with a laser will provide target ID and fine targeting. Capacity of 16+1 provided a nice improvement over 10+1 of the others. Linear compensator cuts muzzle flash and channels the noise away from the shooter.
The trainee found this pistol comfortable to fire, and we had no malfunctions despite the imperfect grip some of the time. She could keep it on a silhouette at 7 yards consistently. Confidence in the weapon and even the limited practice done today combine to make the lady a lot happier about her defensive options. P17 design has been optimized for reliability from the start. An excellent 3.5-pound trigger and light overall weight make it a good defensive choice for strength-limited people so long as reliable plated high-velocity ammunition is used. CCI Minimag is one such good load.
Peter Grant has trained many elderly and handicapped shooters. Based on his experience with the gun, he acquired multiple P17s for teaching his students.