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  • michaelwhapples1Michael Whapples from Leicestershire is blind and shoots air rifle.  In 2011 he was the first British shooter ever to compete at the Open European Shooting Championships for the Vision Impaired, held at Nitra, Slovakia. 

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  • Di CoatesDeanna (Di) Coates lives in Hampshire, shoots air rifle from a wheelchair, and is one of our most successful disabled international athletes. 
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  • scoutwithprosthesis1This young Scout was born without a left hand.  When he took an interest in shooting, which is very popular in the Scout movement, Hampshire Scouts helped his local club to find a solution. 
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  • vicmorris1Vic Morris lives in south Wales and is paralysed from the neck down as the result of an accident.  With the aid of an 'equaliser' device invented by his coach, John Kelman, Vic shoots pistol and rifle. 
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  • stewartnangle1Stewart Nangle, a Lancastrian, is pictured shooting .22 pistol.  What the photograph does not show is that at the time one of his legs was fitted with a metal frame that was bolted into the bones. 
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  • MattSkelhon1Matt Skelhon shot to fame when he grabbed gold at the Bejiing Paralympic Games and proved it was no fluke by claiming silver and bronze at London 2012.

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  • peterbreheny1Peter Breheny from Derbyshire shoots benchrest rifle.  He has Kennedy's Disease, a progressive wasting condition that has weakened his limbs. 
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by Liz Woodall, Co-ordinator

It’s very sad when the membership department of a national governing body gets a letter from someone who has spent a lifetime in that sport, saying that they are giving up because of age, infirmity, disability, etc. Seeing such letters coming into the NSRA made me wonder what might be done to help people like that carry on target shooting. Then I started finding out more about the excellent scheme that the Association has for issuing dispensations to people who cannot shoot with a “conventional” position or technique, so that they can not only take part in competitions under NSRA rules, but also do so against fully able shooters.

Mulling these things over, the idea developed of setting up a project to help more disabled people to get into the sport, and at the same time to encourage those suffering from age, infirmity, etc. not to give up. Over some months the idea took shape into a fairly comprehensive plan of how such a project might look.

The next question was how to get it off the paper and into reality. An initial data-gathering survey of NSRA-affiliated clubs produced a large and enthusiastic response which provided clear confirmation of the need for something like this to happen.

At this point Charlie Blow, a member of the NSRA’s Board of Management, came on the scene and offered to take the idea forward. To cut a long story short, Charlie was as good as his word and secured approval from the board for us to set up a small working group and get the project moving.

Training and Development Manager Dave Froggett was immediately recruited to the cause, and Disability Target Shooting GB (DTSGB) nominated Mandy Pankhurst to represent their interests. This initial small working group was later expanded to include another board member, John Lloyd, and disabled coach Keith Morriss, whilst Mandy bowed out in favour of Rikki Singh due to her own training commitments.

The NSRA’s magazine The Rifleman was the main launchpad for the project, backed up by material on the association’s website. We set up a meeting of all the people who we knew were likely to be interested in the project. This proved to be a fantastic day at Aldersley, when everyone came firmly on board, and we were able to start laying plans for growing the project into something really worthwhile.

There are several key elements to the DSP. Firstly, it is a point of contact for anyone with any disability, or who has become “less able” to seek help and advice on getting into the sport, or staying in it, as the case may be. We do our best to help these people to find clubs where they will fit in, and which can cater for whatever their problem is.

Secondly, the project acts as an information exchange. This means that if a shooter or coach is trying to find a way of accommodating a particular type of disability or infirmity, we may well be able to put them in touch with someone else who has already solved that problem, and is willing to help with advice and sometimes even practical assistance.

Thirdly, we are doing our best to spread the word that target shooting is the most disabled-friendly of all sports, which welcomes people who are unlikely to be able to take part in any other sport competitively. This is, of course, primarily aimed at benefitting those people, but we do not lose sight of the fact that developing this aspect of the sport will undoubtedly do a great deal to turn the tide of disapproval of shooting sports which is found at all levels in the political world, and in large parts of the media. The disabled shooters in the DSP have made it clear that if their presence in the sport can benefit everyone else as well, that’s just fine, because at the same time it preserves the sport for themselves!

During the process of hatching and nurturing this fledgling project there are several people who have been inspirational, and I would like to mention particularly Vic Morris (tetraplegic shooter who has won the NSRA-Eley competition), John Kelman (coach and builder of amazing special equipment), Keith Morriss (the only disabled person to have qualified as an ISSF coach), Stewart Nangle (a recently-discovered pistol shooter with a talent that has overcome his damaged leg), Michael Whapples (who is blind but shoots acoustic air rifle free-standing with great success), and the DTSGB people who keep winning medals internationally. Many others have made crucial contributions along the way, and continue to do so – far too many to name here.

The growth of the DSP has been fantastic, and so much has happened in so many astonishing directions. We have been able to help a coach in the Falkland Islands to work with a disabled shooter there. New competitions for disabled shooters are springing up. Representatives of the fullbore and clay target disciplines have joined the working group. H.M. the Queen has written a letter in support of the Disabled Shooting Year which will run from April 2012 to March 2013.

This article was originally published in 'Target Shooter' on-line magazine.  

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