Vic 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.
Stewart 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.
Michael 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.Read More
To many people, the words ‘blind’ and ‘shooting’ are rarely synonymous when used in the same sentence. Indeed, I can well attest to reactions ranging from mild alarm to sheer disbelief and everything in between when talking to people about the sport I love. Yet blind and partially-sighted people across the UK have actively participated in modern acoustic air rifle shooting for over 15 years.
First introduced in 1994, shooters use regular .177 air rifles, firing points and ammunition just like their sighted peers. However, the differences, which make this sport truly accessible, lie in the ‘scope sight, target and lighting used. The ’scope is a ZE-B 618, specially customised and manufactured in limited numbers by Swarovski. Targets are standard, pistol-sized 17cm square with inverted colours, ranging from white at the bull (12mm diameter) to dark grey at the edge of the card. The lighting used is dichroic, 12-volt, 50-watt halogen bulbs with a beam angle of 10 degrees. Of these factors, the lighting has the greatest effect on accessibility to the shooter, and it is thus imperative that only bulbs with this exact specification are used.
Firing points are typically set up with the target at 10 metres and with the bulb shining centrally, directly onto its face. This ensures that the light is evenly distributed across it, and is reflected back towards the shooter. The Swarovski ‘scope is mounted onto the rifle in the usual way, and has normal elevation and windage adjustments. As the shooter aims, light reflected back from the target is captured by the mechanism at the front of the ‘scope, similar in function to a CCD sensor in a standard camera without flash support. An oscillator linked to a variable resistor converts the captured light into sound, with the pitch of the sound directly proportional to the level of light received. Thus, as the shooter aims closer to the light-coloured bull, and the amount of light reflected back increases, a higher-pitch sound is heard by the shooter through headphones connected to the ‘scope. This allows them, through hearing the changes in pitch as they move across the target, to position themselves accurately for the best shot.
Today, acoustic shooting (as it’s more technically known) has risen in uptake with over 100 people participating either competitively or as a hobby at over 20 clubs across the UK. Two major competition meetings take place annually; the British Championships at the West Midland Regional Shooting Centre at Aldersley, Wolverhampton each March, and the Scottish Championships hosted at Denwood, Aberdeen in August/September. The NSRA also organises postal leagues twice yearly. Both stand-assisted and freestanding disciplines are represented, with the latter increasing in popularity in recent years.
With the above equipment and the valued help of volunteer guides, shooters are able to enjoy the thrills and technical challenges of this sport. Guides typically assist with loading, initial positioning and sighting of the ‘scope; however, more experienced shooters often take on some of these responsibilities themselves. Nevertheless, with increasing numbers, collaboration with other disabled shooting disciplines and the possibility of competitive entry into Europe on the horizon, the appeal, scope and renown of this sport seem only set to increase in times to come.