Do you or a loved one suffer from a disability that makes using a firearm difficult?
Some of the most talented shooters I’ve ever met actually had a handicap or disability. Contrary to popular belief, physical impairment does not mean you cannot shoot a gun.
It is true that amputation, nerve damage and other severe impairments make it harder to use a gun, but there are still many accessories and techniques that can help disabled people own and use a gun effectively and safely.
Today, I’m going to go over some tips and tricks I’ve picked up from years of experience helping folks with disabilities enjoy the world of firearms.
With this information, almost anyone, regardless of physical ability, can use firearms either at the range or for self-defense.
I encourage you to read the whole article as you never know what information might be helpful, but I’ve also included some links below to take you directly to the information you need most.
Tip #1: Ask the Right Questions to Find the Right Gun
While every shooter must strive to find the right weapon, this is even more important if you are disabled. Here are the top questions you should use to evaluate a gun before buying it:
1) Can you hold the gun firmly enough to prevent limp-wrist problems? If you cannot hold the gun steady while it is firing, the brass may not eject properly, and your shots may go astray. Folks with arthritis or other weakness in the wrist will do better with revolvers.
2) Can you pull the trigger? Double action triggers on revolvers or heavier triggers on semis may not work if your hands are weak. Double/Single action revolvers may be best if you have arthritic hands or other problems that limit the movement in your fingers and wrists.
3) Can you hold the gun in the extended arm position? If you cannot do this, then you will need accessories that enable you to use the sights. You can use wrist braces or other aides to help with upper body strength or mobility problems.
4) Can you shoot, draw, reload, and holster the weapon? Something as simple as a different carry position or modified holster can solve this.
5) Can you maintain the firearm? You should be able to field strip the gun, clean it, lubricate it, and reassemble it. If you can’t do these things, do you have a friend or family member that can do it for you?
Tip #2: Shooting From a Wheelchair
If you use a manual wheelchair, then your upper body strength may be up to the task of using a firearm. Others may have serious problems with arm and shoulder strength.
It may be necessary to lift weights or do other exercises to maximize upper body strength. I recommend talking to a physical therapist to get some tailored recommendations for exercises tailored to your ability and unique circumstances.
Once you can hold the gun steady and manage the recoil, you will be on your way to shooting effectively in all situations.
Being able to use your firearm effectively in a self-defense situation is especially important for those in wheelchairs as well.
Often, people who target individuals in wheelchairs will try to knock them out of the chair. Part of being an effective shooter involves being able to draw your gun in any situation.
As such, a wheelchair bound person will have a few extra things to consider. A certified self defense instructor can be very helpful for working on these things.
Choose one that listens to your needs and offers useful advice. Remember, just because you carry a gun, that does not mean you will be safe in the critical seconds it takes to draw it.
Here are some other things to remember:
- You will need to know how to counter moves designed to throw you from the wheelchair before you can draw the gun.
- It is also very important to take self defense classes that will teach you how to defend yourself on the ground.
- Always practice situational awareness.
- You will be the most vulnerable when getting in and out of a vehicle. People traveling with you should be aware that you have a gun. Use practice drills so that everyone knows what to do in a situation where someone is trying to harm or rob you.
Many of these points also apply to someone who uses a cane, crutches, walker, or other aid. If you have limited use of your legs, make sure you practice staying on your feet during the process of drawing, aiming, and firing.
If you find yourself having trouble maintaining your balance while drawing and aiming a firearm, try to practice drawing and firing with one hand while using your other hand to maintain your balance and support yourself with your walking aid.
You may also want to practice shooting from a prone position to ensure you are still able to use your gun in a defensive situation after you have been knocked down by an assailant.
Tip #3: Shooting With Chronic Pain
Arthritis and other forms of chronic pain can make it very hard to shoot and practice shooting. Aside from the pain, you should also consider the effects of the medication you are using.
Do they make you dizzy or cause your eyesight to blur? If you have these problems, then it will be best not to shoot until you are no longer under the influence.
It is also very important to consider your tolerance for pain and how long it will take to recover. There are several ways you can maximize range time without causing unnecessary pain.
Here are some things to consider:
- Use shorter sessions spread over a longer period of time.
- Make use of exercises that allow you to stretch and relax your muscles between sessions.
- Use Airsoft systems or other methods that do not expose you to recoil while practicing. You can use these parts of your range time for improving accuracy and drilling scenarios. Even though you will still need to do some live firing, Airsoft practice will allow you to familiarize yourself with the motions of drawing, aiming, and firing without dealing with recoil that could exacerbate conditions such as arthritis.
- Always be aware of your concentration levels. If you feel tired or achy, it is time to stop your practice session as you will be distracted, and that is when accidents happen.
Tip #4: Shooting With Impairments of the Hands, Arms, or Shoulder
Even though you may have impairments in your hands, arms, or shoulders, it is possible for you to shoot well. These few simple tricks and accessories will help all but the most severely disabled shooters have an easier time with firearms, whether at the range, or in a self-defense scenario.
Here are some things to try with pistols that will get you through each of the main stages of shooting:
Loading the magazine
From my experience, I recommend all shooters invest in an universal speed loader. I use the MagLula magazine loader, and find it both durable and easy to use.
Pulling Back the Slide
If you have a weakness in your hands or wrist, it can be very hard to pull back a pistol slide. Insofar as accessories, I recommend the Brass Stacker Slide Pull ($75.00)from TGR Enterprises.
This accessory attaches to the serrations on the back of the pistol slide. Once attached, put your finger into the circular hole and pull straight back to work the slide.
The Brass Stacker Slide Pull is great for anyone with limited use of their hands. I have personally seen it used with great effectiveness by a former military police officer who only retains the use of one finger on his support hand.
The Brass Stacker, along with a lighter recoil spring, allows him to operate a wide variety of pistols with ease.
Aiming the Pistol
Even though you may be able to use the sights on your firearm, aftermarket systems may help you save time and make your life easier.
In particular, I recommend night sights for all defensive handguns, but especially for those who may have trouble aiming due to compromised motor control, or poor eye sight.
As a side note, these things are great for competition, hunting, and any other application where fast target acquisition is a must. I highly recommend trying one out and getting a feel for it.
If you really want to take the guesswork out of shooting, especially if you have motor control issues, you may also want to take a look at universal laser sights such as those made by Crimson Trace ($140.00)
Shooting Your Firearm
A lack of strength in the fingers is a devastating disability for shooters, and in the past would preclude you from using most firearm at all.
Fortunately, there are now many useful accessories that can help you overcome this. For example, the Adaptive Outdoorsman Finger Control Device ($75) is a trigger finger prosthetic that lets you more easily use your wrist and arm strength to work the trigger of a firearm without throwing off your aim.
Tip #5: Choose the Right Holster
If you are in a wheelchair, or must rely on some other walking aide, reaching behind to access a gun can be very difficult. Wheelchair arms and other parts of a walking aide can also make it hard to pull a gun from a holster located to the side.
There are four holster types that work well for concealed carry in these situations:
- Fanny Pack Holsters – These holsters look like a regular fanny pack. A fanny pack can be of use if you fall or become separated from your walking aide. No matter where you go, the fanny pack will still be on your body. As long as you can get to the pack and open it, you will be able to draw your gun. Of course, it can also be used to carry a first aid kit, medication, and various other sundries that you may need, or want to have on you.
- Shoulder Holsters – These holsters are ideal if you are in a wheelchair and must draw the gun while seated. As with any new holster, you will need to practice a bit to make sure you have the draw down. We recommend a Safariland Universal Shoulder Holster ($73.00).
Regardless of the holster type and material, it is very important to practice drawing. Make sure the gun is not loaded and that you are in a safe place.
You should practice in every position you might find yourself in, and once you master stationary positions, do not forget to practice drawing while moving. These drills can save your life, but are often overlooked in favor of other skills.
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Tip #6: Investigate Other Firearm Accessories for People with Disabilities
Caldwell’s Deadshot FieldPods can make any day at the range or in a deer stand much easier for those who don’t have full use of their upper body. These adjustable tripods will hold the weapon for you.
You can buy ones that can hold a pistol, rifle, or shotgun. They are as stable as a regular benchrest and are useful for target shooting, hunting, and even maintaining your firearm.
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Over the years, I have helped numerous disabled people find the right tools to shoot and maintain guns. If you have a disability and are able to shoot, please feel free to leave a comment below and I will do my best to help if I can. I’d also love to here from anyone who has another solution to any of these problems, as it may help someone else where my advice falls short.