A number of members have asked for more information on the training of disabled and/or handicapped shooters, with which I've been involved for more than 15 years. In this thread, I'll try to answer some of the most common points, and open it up to further discussion. First, we have to consider what constitutes a disability or handicap in terms of using a firearm. There are some injuries (e.g. amputation, nerve damage, etc.) that render certain types of firearms more difficult to use (e.g. firing a handgun one-handed), but with adaptation, can still allow the use of others (e.g. firing a rifle from a rest using the other arm). I haven't had much experience with these sorts of injuries, so I'll confine my discussion to more serious damage. Also, for the purposes of this discussion, I'll confine my remarks to using a handgun. Long guns pose a different set of challenges, and require a different approach. If someone is confined to a wheelchair, or must use a walker, this poses a number of problems. Paraplegia is a common problem with the shooters I've worked with. It's often coupled with a serious reduction in upper body and/or arm strength as well. Another common illness requiring the use of a wheelchair or walker is multiple sclerosis, which also affects upper body and/or arm strength and/or control. For someone using a walker to stand still and use a handgun is even more difficult than for someone in a wheelchair - they rely on the walker for vertical stability, so letting go of it altogether is usually not an option. So, for someone in a wheelchair, or using a walker, how does one go about using a handgun, and training them to be effective with it? Firstly, there's the problem of choosing a handgun. All the usual considerations of controllability, stopping power, etc. come into play, with the added element that the handgun must be controllable by someone with limited strength and/or flexibility. I tend to ask the usual questions, with the added emphasis described above: 1. Most important of all is that the shooter MUST be able to shoot the weapon accurately and control its recoil adequately (i.e. get fast second and third shots if necessary, as accurately as the first shot). This means that a light, hard-kicking revolver such as a Titanium or Scandium .357 Magnum is hardly ever appropriate! I've fired these beasts, and although I can be accurate with them, I simply can't get the rapid, repeat shots that I might need in a self-defence situation - so I won't buy one. Of course, some revolvers which are unmanageable with the standard, factory grips can become much more manageable when fitted with a better set of grips - for example, Pachmayr Gripper Decelerator grips are famous for taming magnum recoil better than almost anything else out there. If these big, fat, soft grips fit your hand OK, they're an excellent choice for recoil control: but they can hamper CCW, as clothes tend to "hang up" on the soft rubber, exposing the gun. 2. Given (1) above, the handgun should be in a caliber suitable for defence. Obviously, the .45 and .44 calibers are great, but not everyone can control them. On the other hand, the .22 LR is not very good as a "stopping" round, but there are some disabled and/or handicapped shooters who simply can't handle anything with greater recoil! So, choose a cartridge that is the most effective possible "stopper" - within the limitations of (1) above. 3. One now has to decide how the gun will be used. Will it be carried a lot? If so, how - holster? Pocket? What about wheelchairs? Walkers? Placement on body (e.g. ankle, waist, shoulder holster, etc.)? One has to choose a revolver that fits one's needs. It's no good trying to carry a 10" barrel S&W .500 Magnum in an ankle holster for bear defence! So, given the primary importance of (1) above and the secondary importance of (2) above, this is the third decision factor. Choose a gun that physically fits one's needs. 4. A final factor which is particularly important for disabled and/or handicapped shooters is whether or not they can operate the gun effectively. This involves a number of issues: (a) Can they hold a pistol firmly enough to prevent "limp-wristing", which causes FTF/FTE problems? If not, they're limited to revolvers for defence. On the other hand, if they can't handle a long DA trigger pull, they might not be able to use a revolver too well, either! This is a vital area to check out in practice, and see what will best suit their needs. (b) Can they hold the gun in an extended arm position, so that the sights can be used, or is their upper body or arm strength and mobility too restricted to allow this? (c) Can they perform the "manual of arms" in terms of drawing, shooting, reloading, etc. with the chosen weapon? Are there limitations? This involves testing various methods and locations of carry, to see which ones can be used by the individual in question. Sometimes, standard carry modes don't work, and something unique must be developed. (d) Can they maintain the firearm adequately? Do they have sufficient strength and manual dexterity to field-strip it, clean it, lubricate it, etc.? Many of them don't, and have to rely on friends to periodically come to their home to clean their guns for them. (e) A related issue is the accessibility of practice facilities for disabled and/or handicapped shooters. Are suitable ranges available? Is accessibility adequate for those with wheelchairs or walkers? How about setting up and retrieving targets? It's all very well if they can get to the firing line, but not much good if they don't have the accessibility needed to get to their targets! The answers to these questions will depend very much on the individual shooter. I've found it best to start them off with a .22 LR pistol and revolver, letting them get used to a minimal level of recoil, and become reasonably accurate, before moving on to higher-powered cartridges. From this level, I usually move up to standard-pressure .38 Special. After this has been mastered, I'll try them with .38 Special +P or lower-level .357 Magnum cartridges in revolvers, and 9mm. Parabellum in pistols. For those who are able to do so, I'll then move up to .44 Special and .45 Colt in revolvers, and .45 ACP in pistols. I've never been "higher" than this with disabled and/or handicapped shooters. I find most of them "stick" at about the .38 Special +P level. Heavier recoil than this is usually not an option for them, due to the difficulty they encounter in controlling the firearm. Some can handle a .44 Special or .45 Colt/.45 ACP revolver, but their numbers are relatively few. Also, I find the vast majority do have "limp-wristing" problems with pistols, making the use of a revolver a virtual certainty. Some of them, due to advanced levels of muscular deterioration and/or lack of arm strength and control, can't get beyond the .22 LR caliber at all. I think the firearm most frequently chosen by these shooters is a K-frame S&W revolver, in .38 Special or .357 Magnum (mostly shooting .38 loads) for those who can handle it, and in .22 LR for those wanting minimal recoil. I've also used S&W, Rossi and Taurus revolvers in .44 Special (the full-weight, steel-frame guns), and a few S&W N-frames in .45 ACP and .45 Colt, but the bigger revolvers are suitable for only about one in ten of the shooters I've worked with. J-frame snubbies are mostly not suitable, because their small size and proportionately greater recoil makes them less easily used by those with strength and/or mobility and/or flexibility problems - again, one out of ten can use them. For those who can handle semi-auto pistols without "limp-wristing", I've mostly found that 9mm. is the biggest caliber they can handle, and the "safe-action" pistols like the Glock or Springfield XD seem to be most "user-friendly" for them. External safeties are mostly not suitable for their use, given limitations on their hand strength and mobility. For those who can only handle .22 LR levels of recoil, I've found the Ruger and Browning pistols to be most useful and most easily mastered. A few use pistols in .32 ACP or .380 ACP. As for ammunition selection, many of them battle to control +P and Magnum levels of recoil. I've found most of them can handle the .38 Special Federal Nyclad load, in either 158gr. or 125gr., at standard velocity. Of course, this excellent round is no longer manufactured: but one can still find old stocks here and there, and I've stored some away for issue to them. In 9mm. Parabellum, I mostly recommend the Federal 9BP standard-velocity load, which is about as good as one can get in this caliber. Practice is with standard-velocity loads. As always, "speed's fine, but accuracy's final", and I train them to put at least 200 rounds a month through their guns as ongoing training. Many of them also have access to .22 LR revolvers or pistols, and I encourage them to put 500 rounds a month through these, as it's dirt cheap. For those using revolvers, a trigger job is often a very useful "accessory". My personal favorite gunsmith for this is Clark Custom Guns in Princeton, LA - for $97, they do an absolutely wonderful action job. I've had people shoot my revolvers and tell me flatly that the trigger pull is too light for reliable ignition - but they go bang every time... One can, of course, have a trigger job done by almost any competent gunsmith. For those with really limited income, a set of Wolff reduced-power springs can often be "good enough", even if not the best solution. I mentioned that there are some shooters who can only handle .22 LR. My standard practice with them is to require them to use up a minimum of 5,000 rounds in initial training, and at least 500 rounds per month thereafter. I want them to hit a moving ping-pong ball 9 times out of 10, at ranges varying from 10 to 20 feet, before I consider them well trained enough to use this caliber as a defensive round. I equip them with a good, deep-penetrating load such as the CCI Velocitor, and train them to put half-a-dozen rounds at least into the face, between eyes and upper lip. Personally, once they can do this, I'd hate to be in a CQB situation against them - I'd probably die! One also has to take physical limitations into account. One of the most effective defensive shooters I know is a paraplegic with less than 50% upper body strength and mobility, who's permanently in a wheelchair. In training her, a huge problem was that if she extended a handgun at arm's length, her arm and hand shook so much that she couldn't get an accurate sight picture! She also didn't have the hand strength to manage a DA trigger pull. The eventual solution was a hoot. We bought a Browning Buck Mark in .22 LR, and she put several hundred rounds through it, but was still unable to get a good sight picture. So, we bought a laser pointer unit (the kind that teachers or lecturers use), wired it up for pressure-pad operation, and mounted it in a set of rings (using inner "filler" rings to take up the gap) on top of the Buck Mark. We put the pressure pad in the center of the front strap, where her middle finger goes beneath the trigger guard. I then spent quite a while aligning the laser with the bore, "shimming" it in the rings so as to get it to point accurately. Once this was done, I got a machinist friend to make up a set of aluminum "filler" rings to fit the laser and scope mount, accurate to within 1/1,000", and mounted it permanently. I trained her to ignore the sights, not to lift the gun off her lap - just rest the butt on her thigh, illuminate the target with the laser, and shoot. It took about 10,000 rounds to get her reflexes trained - but she can now hit a moving ping-pong ball, at 10 to 20 feet, every single time. I've seen her go 100 rounds without a miss! Obviously, she's not able to deal with targets behind her, or to one side, very easily: but our solution is a lot better than nothing, and she's a lot more comfortable with her ability to defend herself. I'd hate to be the mugger who tried to rob her! My last sight in this world would probably be an intense red light in my eyes! I hope this has answered some of the questions I've been asked. If you have more, now's the time to ask! Also, I hope that others who've been involved in this field will join in the discussion. A FINAL APPEAL: Many of the disabled shooters I work with are on severely limited incomes - workers compensation, welfare, Social Security, that sort of thing. Many of them can't afford a decent handgun, and I have to scrounge and beg to get something suitable. I also find the Crimson Trace laser grips to be an invaluable accessory for them - but these cost as much as many used guns, and are financially out of reach for many of them. If anyone is interested in helping out by buying or donating a gun or a set of CT grips, I would really, really appreciate your help - as would the shooters! Please PM or e-mail me if you would like to help.