Few activities can seem as inaccessible to the disabled as shooting a gun. A blind woman might cross-country ski, but how could she sight a biathlon target? How can a quadriplegic or a man with no arms steady and squeeze a rifle’s trigger?

Yet technology makes such activities not only possible, but popular, thanks in part to the National Rifle Association’s Disabled Services Department.

Since 1994, the NRA’s Disabled Shooting Services Program has enabled thousands of disabled Americans to enjoy a variety of shooting activities that include hunting and competitions, ensures that shooting facilities are wheelchair accessible, and provides information on how organizations can include the disabled i5n their programs.

Vanessa Warner manages NRA Disabled Shooting Services, providing information on adaptive equipment, medical waivers for competitions, and advice for coaches working with disabled shooters.  “Anyone with a disability who contacts the NRA and who wants to shoot is routed through me,” says Warner. She also runs clinics throughout the country where she teaches gun safety and basic shooting techniques.

Disabled Shooting Adaptations

The physical disabilities Warner accommodates include those with mobility impairments, from bad knees to quadriplegia, blind cross-country skiers wishing to try the biathlon, and upper-limb amputees who want to hunt.

Here are examples of how shooting is made accessible to persons with three common disabilities:

  1. 1.1.1.Blind shooters can sight with their ears. “We shine a super-bright light on the bull’s-eye,” says Warner. “The rifles have special telescopic sights that convert light into sound whose signal indicates proximity to the center of the target.” The system, which is very popular in Europe, is used in shooting competitions and the biathlon.

  2. 2.2.2.Those who can’t use their hands use a “sip and puff,” a tube that attaches to a trigger guard activated by saliva. “You either suck or blow on a tube and the mechanism contracts and pulls the trigger,” says Warner. There are also bite-activated triggers. BE Adaptive Equipment makes both types.

  3. 3.3.3.Deaf shooters use normal technology but may need someone to relay range commands. “When you’re on a team, you have to be able to call your shot, to say it was off center, high, low, 2 o’clock, etc.,” says Warner. One method deaf shooters use is positioning a magnet on a metal replica of the target.

Disabled Shooting Clinics and Competitions

Changing attitudes towards the disabled, which include an increasing number of programs for wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, are making shooting popular, according to Warner. The National Veterans Wheelchair Games draws over 550 competitors, all of whom have spinal cord injuries or paralysis.

Warner’s daylong clinics cover how an air rifle works, basic safety, and adaptive equipment and shooting positions. Following a lunch break, she stages an actual shooting competition. “One role the clinics play is to help USA Shooting to develop elite competitors for the 12 shooting events in the Paralympic Games,” says Warner.

Long known for its fierce advocacy of Americans’ right to bear arms, the NRA is also a model of accessibility and inclusion, providing information on how most physical disabilities can be overcome safely with the right technology and approach.

Read more at Suite101: Disabled Shooting Resources | Suite101 http://suite101.com/article/disabled-shooting-resources-a142479#ixzz2GksQ5mCd

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It is curious - curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare.
- Mark Twain