Editor’s Note: Dr. Joseph Logar has his doctorate in physical therapy and is the new face of the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) Adaptive Shooting Program. He spent 10 years working in rehabilitation in northern Virginia and was looking for a new challenge. He now says, “I believe I can teach anyone with a disability how to shoot for fun, for competition and/or for self-defense.”
Developing the Adaptive Shooting Program
Every day going to work, I drove past the NRA’s building. Everyone in my family was a hunter except me, but I enjoyed shooting. So, I became a pistol instructor and was one for many years.
One night I came home and told my wife I’d really like to do something different. She smiled and said, “Not everyone can work at the NRA, except maybe you.” My wife told me she had seen an ad where the NRA was advertising for someone who could work with the organization’s Disabled Shooting Program.
I came onboard with the NRA in June of 2015. One of the first things I did was to change the name of the program from Disabled Shooting Program to Adaptive Shooting Program.
We can adapt our shooting program to be successful with almost anyone, regardless of his or her injury.
Since 1992, the NRA has offered a program for people with disabilities within the Competitive Shooting Division of the NRA. Its primary focus at that time was on people with disabilities who wanted to compete in shooting. But the program didn’t have an outreach for anyone with disabilities who wanted to learn to shoot for fun or to hunt. Once I came onboard with the program, we moved this program out of the NRA’s Competition Division into the Education and Training Division.
We weren’t abandoning the competitive shooters but wanted to broaden the program to educate and teach anyone with a disability how to shoot any type of gun.
Before I came onboard, the other managers had been very high ranked, competitive shooters with some even World Class Shooters. However, they didn’t have backgrounds in disabilities or rehabilitation.
I’ve started developing training materials for NRA instructors to give them a heads-up about people with disabilities that they may encounter, and how to help these people better learn how to shoot.
One of the things I’ve been integrating into our program is that when people with disabilities lose one type of range of motion, generally they retain another kind of range of motion. So, a person who appears not to be able to hold a pistol, a rifle, a shotgun or a shooting device will be able to perform those tasks using a different type of motion.
Instead of trying to help people fit into our shooting programs, we’re developing programs that take into consideration the person’s disability.
Having Fun with Adaptive Shooting
In the past, we’ve always viewed shooting as a sport that requires live fire. But now, we’re working with a company that uses laser technology to make laser simulators to allow people with disabilities to shoot without firing live ammunition.
For people with disabilities who really like to shoot, we can use this laser technology and this laser shooting simulator to give them opportunities to shoot and enjoy that form of shooting.
The concept the NRA is beginning to develop is that shooting doesn’t have to end with a bang (the report of the gun). We offer a program that shoots with air guns, a new form of shooting called AirSoft. These guns fire small plastic BBs.
This type of shooting has caught fire and has been very successful. We can use these AirSoft guns for target shooting with people with certain types of disabilities. These AirSoft guns are accurate out to 150 feet; they don’t make loud noises; they don’t damage walls; and they’re perfect for indoor shooting.
People can use this type of equipment to set-up shooting ranges in their basements with targets and even reactive targets that fall down when you make accurate shots. Some people enjoy the AirSoft shooting so much that they don’t care to move up to firing live ammunition at outdoor targets.
The NRA is looking at all the new technology that’s being developed in the shooting industry that will fit into our Adaptive Shooting Program. One of our goals is to find a way for anyone who wants to shoot to be able to learn how to shoot, regardless of their disabilities.
Recently the NRA attended the Great American Outdoor Show in Pennsylvania and set-up10 air guns on a range for people to shoot. A gentleman came in who had a spinal cord injury and was in a manual chair. He said, “I liked to shoot air guns when I was a kid. But since I’ve been injured, I really haven’t started shooting again.” He rolled up to our air gun range and began shooting. He had a great time shooting the targets at the end of the range, plinking away and trying out the different kinds of air guns we had available, and he shot as much as he wanted.
Right now, the NRA is working with the State of Indiana to allow high schoolers with disabilities to compete in trap shooting. Indiana is planning to recruit students this spring and train them to be able to shoot in the fall. Indiana has had trap shooting teams for about three years.
But until the NRA began to work with the state, there wasn’t a student with a disability who ever showed up to be on any team. Today, Indiana schools are recruiting students, whether they have disabilities or not, to be on these teams.
One of the advantages I have coming from a rehab background is that I’ve learned that anyone with a disability can more than likely do anything they want to do. They may just have to do it a little differently than everyone else.
Training Coaches for the Adaptive Shooting Program
One of the most critical ingredients in our adaptive shooting program is training coaches how to find ways for people with disabilities to learn to shoot. So, another part of our job here at the NRA’s Education and Training Division is to teach instructors how to:
- help youngsters with disabilities learn how to shoot,
- how to adapt the ways they shoot, and/or
- how to get the adaptive equipment that enables them to shoot.
All of our guide books for instructors have a section on working with people with disabilities. As these guide books come up for revision, I’m replacing the chapters on teaching people with disabilities how to shoot. I’m also adding extra pages, starting with items like etiquette for helping someone with a disability.
Then we’re adding a section that refers the instructors to people within our Adaptive Shooting Program to help them better teach the shooting sports to everyone, including people with disabilities. In the future, I hope to add units to our instructor training courses on how to train people with a wide range of disabilities to learn to shoot.
What I’d love to see in our instructor guides is information on how you can teach a person with this type of disability to shoot and how to adapt the program to fit the person, rather than having the person fit the program. Later I’d like to have an Adaptive Shooting Program that our shooting instructors can get qualified in, so they’ll be certified to teach pistols, rifles or shotguns to people with disabilities. I’d like to see the day when we at the NRA offer a program with specially-trained instructors to teach adaptive shooting. I don’t think this goal is too far in the distant future.
The NRA has almost 200,000 instructors right now. When I introduced our Adaptive Shooting Program on the NRA instructors’ website in October 2015, I linked an email account to the introduction.
That email account literally blew up with instructors wanting to learn more about how to teach adaptive shooting.
I got comments like, “Please let me know when you’ve got more information.” “I’d like to help. Tell me how.” I responded to everyone. But out of everyone who responded, I made folders on 64 instructors who had said, “I really want to do this.” The NRA knows that now it has a nucleus of NRA instructors who want to teach adaptive shooting.
Providing Materials for Teaching Adaptive Shooting
As I develop training materials for teaching adaptive shooting, I plan to send these materials to the instructors who already have expressed an interest. I want to get their feedback on what they like, or what they think we need to modify to help them be qualified to teach adaptive shooting. Of course, a strong emphasis on safety is one of our most-important elements that we have in all of our shooting courses.
I’m really excited about this new program. The NRA has been so cooperative and helpful in launching this new direction for inclusion and developing programs that allow everyone to learn how to shoot and participate in the shooting sports.
Developing a Hunting Program for People with Disabilities
Another of our objectives in the Adaptive Shooting Program is to develop a hunting program for people with disabilities. As I’ve begun to research the possibilities for this type of program, I’m finding that there are grassroots of hunters in many different states that actively promote hunting opportunities for people with disabilities.
I first found a group of hunters in North Carolina with a program titled “Back in the Woods Again.” I thought perhaps they had cornered the market on hunting opportunities for people with disabilities. However, the more I researched these types of programs, I discovered numbers of groups like this scattered all over the country.
I’d like to know about more organizations that are helping to promote hunting for people with disabilities. If anyone is aware of hunting or shooting opportunities for people with disabilities, contact me. Let’s see how we can work together. You can email me at JLogar@nrahq.org or call 703-267-1491.
About the Author: John E. Phillips
For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites.
He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at www.johninthewild.com.