League Lines: Expand Your Chapter's Outreach With Adaptive Shooting Sports

Arlington-Fairfax Chapter Shooting Sports

Virginia >> The Arlington-Fairfax Chapter set its sights on an inclusive shooting sports environment by adding an adaptive shooting program. It’s something any chapter can do.

The term "adaptive shooting" simply means adapting the shooting position or equipment for someone with physical limitations. If you have a competitive shooting program — for youth or adults — reach out to organizations in your community that serve people living with physical challenges, including current and retired military personnel. With a simple waiver, these shooters can compete in National Rifle Association (NRA) matches on an equal basis with other participants. You can download the waiver from the NRA Web site.

For disabled shooters, this might be the first time they can compete on an equal basis with their able-bodied peers. Juniors can compete in high school matches and at any NRA competition. This year, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is encouraging adaptive college shooting programs as well. Military veterans can compete in the Warrior Games, National Veterans’ Wheelchair Games, and the Valor Games. Expert marksmen and women can even go to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, where they can train to represent the United States in the Paralympic Games and other international competitions, including ones in which they can compete on an equal basis with able-bodied shooters.

International shooting competition for people with physical disabilities is governed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). IPC has a system to ensure winning is determined by skill, fitness, power, endurance, tactical ability, and mental focus. The adaptations for shooting sports are divided into two sport classifications:

  • SH1 (rifle) for persons with a lower limb impairment. May compete in a standing or sitting position.
  • SH1 (pistol) for persons with lower limb impairment and/or upper limb impairment in the non-shooting arm. May compete in a standing or sitting position.
  • SH2 (rifle) for persons who have trouble holding a rifle due to upper limb impairment. Athletes compete using a spring-mounted stand that helps support the weight of the rifle. May compete in a standing or sitting position.

For Sport Class SH1, you simply need a table and chair — any chair and table will do to start. You can easily make a table out of a medical walker and a piece of 1/2-inch plywood or use sawhorse legs and 3/4-inch plywood. We started with fold-up tables and metal folding chairs.

Sport Class SH2 shooters are allowed to use a spring stand. The rules for spring stands are available on the IPC Web site, but don’t worry about that to start — you can use any type of stand to get new shooters started. By the time they are ready to go to a higher level of competition and need a stand that meets the IPC specs, you can get one for about $100.

Setting up an air rifle or air pistol range is easy. Of course, safety is the first requirement. You will need shooting lanes 50 feet long and 4 feet wide. The space from the firing line to the targets is 33 feet (10 meters); the rest of the space is for the athletes and their equipment. If you don’t have this much space available, you can practice on targets reduced in size to match whatever distance you have available. Ensure no one can enter the area "down range." Backstops can be made from cardboard boxes with pieces of carpet hung vertically, and targets can be held to the front of the target box with push pins. You can find additional construction suggestions in the NRA Home Air Gun Program manual.

Helping disabled or handicapped shooters get started in shooting sports is an incredibly rewarding experience. It’s also a fantastic way to say "thank you" to a member of our military. The Wounded Warriors we have trained at our chapter have earned medals at almost every Warrior Game. The important thing is to simply get started.

Tom Ciarula, Arlington-Fairfax Chapter member