The enjoyment of shooting sports isn’t something that needs to be cast aside because of a physical disability. With the wide variety of equipment and resources available, most anyone can maintain these pursuits while taking advantage of the benefits.
Although it is true that severe physical impairments, amputations and nerve damage can make it that much more difficult to shoot, that’s not to say that it’s impossible. Adaptive shooting is incredibly popular and the options for assistance in this area are almost endless. Whether you shoot for recreation, hunting, competition or personal defense, there is likely a solution for whatever your physical challenges may be.
The numbers of individuals with physical disabilities currently counts in the millions and the numbers are growing as our population ages. Keeping in mind that a ‘disability’ can also include ailments such as severe arthritis or age-related loss of mobility in addition to certain neurological handicaps. Fortunately, the firearms industry and organized sport have responded with many opportunities for competitive shooting, instructional resources, facility accessibility and product innovation. Para shooting for instance, has been a part of the Paralympic games since 1976 and it is practiced in over 75 countries. There are also a variety of other competitive adaptive shooting events available every year. Additionally, both the NRA and the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs are very active supporters of the advancement of adaptive shooting nationwide and their efforts have definitely helped the cause.
Finding the Right Gun
While it’s important for any shooter to find the firearm that best suits them and their needs, it is even more critical for someone with physical challenges. Depending on what your physical issues may be and your access to assistance, you should consider the following:
Are you ambulant or restricted to a seated position?
Do you have sufficient strength to hold a gun steady and shoot it with precision?
Are you able to maintain an extended arm position?
Do you have the strength and dexterity to pull a trigger, load, eject a magazine, cock a hammer, rack a slide or engage/disengage a safety?
Can you effectively draw and re-holster the gun?
Is an assisted trigger device (activator) necessary for you to shoot?
Will you require any specialized optics or targeting aids?
What is your ability to maintain the firearm?
How would your holster be oriented for the most efficient draw?
Obviously there will be a ton of variables at-play here and every situation will be a little different. Once you determine your activity of-choice and whether you’re looking at a pistol or a rifle, you can figure out your exact needs from there.
Like any new shooter, you’ll need to determine what you can handle – and starting smaller is typically a good idea. A .22 (or even an air gun) is an ideal way to test your level of strength, flexibility, dexterity and comfort level. For those who will rely on a fully mounted firearm and/or a trigger activator, there will be a little more leeway in your options here.
You’ll need to consider the gun weight, recoil, trigger pull weight and smoothness (a gunsmith can help here), barrel length and ease of operation. Is a revolver a better choice than a semi-automatic – and at what caliber? Would a speed loader help? A slide pull tool? Also give some thought to consistent accuracy for hunting or range shooting, and your reaction time for personal defense application.
There are certainly a lot of questions, but luckily there are professionals in this area who have the answers. Be sure to consult with an industry expert who can help to fit your needs with the appropriate firearm and whatever specialized equipment or set-up that may be necessary.
Techniques & Adaptations
Again, there are a lot of variables to consider when adaptive shooting, but at this stage most of the bases have been covered by the industry and those groups that advocate for the sport. Here is a listing of some of the elements to give some thought to as you move forward.
As mentioned above, be sure to work with a professional when getting yourself set up and for the required instruction/training.
Do some homework and see what facilities in your area offer suitable accessibility and other resources.
No matter how you shoot, diligent and consistent practice will always pay off. You can also consider using shorter practice sessions and add-in suitable breaks to help maintain concentration and to offset potential fatigue or stiffness.
Using air guns for practice can be a good way to practice your fundamentals without the distraction of recoil. Live fire is necessary of course, but this method can help if you know you’re going to be going through a lot of rounds.
With adaptive shooting, you may be uncomfortable in certain shooting positions or be unable to attain them. Fortunately, the sport allows for most all accommodations. Whether prone, kneeling, bench or wheelchair, there will be a way to make it all happen and be proficient doing so.
The accessories that are available for adaptive shooting make all the difference, and there is no shortage of items that make effective shooting possible. These would include (but are not limited to):
Stands and pods of various types that are designed to hold and support firearms for stability and improved shooting performance.
Braces and prosthetic devices to provide upper-body support and aid in firearm operation.
Optics accessories and sighting enhancements for optimal shooter positioning and better target acquisition.
Mechanical trigger activators that allow firing with an attached mouthpiece.
Bench supports and adaptors that can accommodate drive-up wheelchair access.
Specialty mount systems that make it possible to hunt and shoot directly from a wheelchair.
There is no doubt that hunting and shooting sports are great activities that can provide a variety of benefits. The advancement of adaptive shooting equipment and training makes it so much easier for enthusiasts to participate, no matter what their challenges may be.
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