Trap Shooting For The Physically Handicapped

Ronald C. Adams

Hamlin Products, McNeil Corporation, 2741 Wingate Avenue, Akron, Ohio 44314.

Trap shooting is a unique sport for the physically handicapped which was started recently at the University of Virginia Children's Rehabilitation Center, Charlottesville, Virginia. Pete Rademacher, developer of the Trap Shooting Range, acted as consultant in the establishment of the program.

Target shooting with a BB gun had been very popular with the physically handicapped. However, many children wanted an activity that provided a greater challenge to their shooting skills. This was particularly true for those individuals who became excellent shooters from the standard Daisy BB Gun 15-foot range. The new trap-shooting program offered a BB gun activity of a higher skill level that could be easily adapted to the better shooters regardless of their handicap.


The complete indoor-outdoor BB Trap Shooting Range used can be obtained commercially. The range consists of a trap house, a table and bench, and an easy-to-operate trap, plus 25 "breakaway" plastic targets. The targets are virtually indestructible and can be reassembled quickly for repeated use.

Another component part of the trap-shooting program is the instinct shooting BB gun. The Model 199 Daisy Special Instinct Shooting Gun is recommended, but it is not absolutely essential. Those who do not wish to buy the M-199 can remove the sights from a standard model BB gun. If the shooter is active in target shooting and has only one gun, instinct shooting can be learned even without removing the sights. The Daisy Model 99 BB gun has proven to be very successful under these circumstances. This model, with associated gun terminology, is depicted in Fig. 1 .

Gun Safety in Trap Shooting

It is always necessary to emphasize safety rules at the beginning of each program. Also, it is recommended that all beginners learn dry-firing (without shooting tube) skills before attempting live firing. Five important safety rules should be emphasized in trap shooting:

  1. When assembling the trap house, always make sure that the screws are tightly secured in the tubular steel frame. The trap operator must be fully protected behind the trap house. If the trap operator is wheelchair-bound, make sure that the portable seat is removed from the trap table.

  2. All shooters must obey commands. No shooting should be allowed until after the trap operator gives the command of "ready."

  3. The instructor should coach each beginner to insure that the gun is handled correctly.

  4. The instructor should never leave the students alone nor let them regulate their own shooting program.

  5. No physically handicapped individual should compete in trap shooting until after the fundamental skills of target shooting are learned.

Learning Instinct Shooting**

Instinct shooting is the easiest and most natural way to become an expert wing, trap, or skeet shot. Experts in this method of shooting say, "if you can see the target within range, you can hit it." The secret is to shoot with both eyes open and to concentrate on looking at the top of the flying target; not just at the target. Most beginners shoot under a flying target because they carry over aiming techniques. The gun must be positioned snugly against the shooter's cheek so that the shooter's eyes are looking out over the barrel. In this way, as the shooter looks at the top of the target, the gun barrel follows the line of sight. The shooter's eyes should be positioned about three-quarters of an inch to one inch above the level of the rear sight. No attempt should be made to look through the sight.

After practicing this method of shooting, the average shooter will not only be able to concentrate on a very small area at the top of the flying target, but also will actually be able to see the BB pellets hit or miss the flying target. Remember: look at the top of the target with both eyes open.

When in position and ready to shoot, the gun should be held at a "Port Arms" position. The shooter should call out "pull" and, as the target flies up, the gun is brought snugly against the cheek and the shooter concentrates on seeing the top of the flying target (Fig. 2 ). When the target is seen clearly, the shot is released. The trap-machine operator should give the command of "ready" before the shooters call "pull." This provides for better teamwork and allows for proper timing in response to the forthcoming moving target.

Preliminary Teaching Techniques

An excellent way to start the practice sessions is to use coffee cans or round, plastic, serving trays as the moving targets. This approach enables the beginner to hit a larger target before attempting the much smaller "breakaway" targets. The shooters, either wheelchair or ambulatory, are positioned approximately 10 feet from the trap house, and then gradually moved back to 15-18 feet, depending upon their ability to develop the necessary shooting skills from that distance.

Physically handicapped shooters should learn to cock their own BB guns in trap shooting, although in some instances this is impossible because of the nature of the handicap. In such cases, the help of an assistant is necessary in this phase of the shooting program.

At the University of Virginia Children's Rehabilitation Center, the minimum age for starting children in the trap-shooting program is seven years. The program can easily be modified for inclusion in programs of recreational or adapted physical education activities in the public schools, children's hospitals, rehabilitation centers, Veterans Administration hospitals, and summer camps. Physically handicapped children with good upper-extremity strength should learn instinct shooting without using adaptive equipment. Wheelchair-bound shooters have proven to be very capable shooters because of the solid base provided by the chair. One of the best shooters that was ever enrolled in the Children's Rehabilitation Center trap-shooting program was a 14-year-old boy with a diagnosis of transverse myelitis with paralysis of the lower extremities (with a sensory-motor loss at about the T-6 level). This youngster, although confined to a wheelchair, consistently hit 15 out of 20 "break-away" targets from a distance of 18 feet. Another effective trap shooter was a 14-year-old paraplegic girl (spinal cord lesion at the T-8 level as the result of an automobile accident). This wheelchair-bound shooter constantly beat her ambulatory male competitors by averaging ten out of 20 hits.

In some instances, because of the severity of the handicap, trap shooting may not be recommended. If the child is unable to adjust to the physical or mental requirements of the activity, the therapist or instructor may need to limit the individual to target shooting only with adaptive equipment.

The Trap Suspension System

This adaptive piece of equipment (Fig. 3 ) was designed for those physically handicapped individuals who needed an assistive device to help them develop proper shooting techniques. The trap suspension system is primarily useful to those patients with upper-extremity weakness and joint involvement. These conditions include rheumatoid arthritis, arthrogryposis, Friedreich's ataxia, muscular dystrophy, post-polio with upper-limb or shoulder involvement, and various other disabilities. Although this equipment is not available commercially, it can be constructed without difficulty.

The Hemiplegic Shooter

The trap suspension system is a natural piece of adapted equipment for this group of patients. The suspended gun can normally be adjusted, providing the shooter has enough strength in the unaffected body side to position the stock of the gun. Also, standing tolerance must be thoroughly evaluated (Fig. 4 ).

Trap shooting is an excellent sport for the individual with hemiplegia. Muscle reeducation procedures for the affected extremities may be made a part of the program for teaching shooting skills. Activities involving proper positioning of specific body parts serve as coordination exercises. By experimentally placing his affected hand on the forearm of the gun in various positions, the shooter may promote muscle awareness. Joint range of motion can be evaluated in relation to the demands of the activity.

The Upper-Extremity Amputee

The trap suspension system is a helpful device for this group of patients because it can serve as a substitute for the missing limb (Fig. 5 and Fig. 6 ). Coordination of movements can be strengthened by making provision for independent exploration of the use of certain muscle groups by the amputee shooter. Trap shooting provides for recognition, social approval, competition, and body-image development.

Instinct Shooting for the Amputee Without the Trap Suspension System

In the final stages of learning instinct shooting skills, the suspension system can be used to assist the shooter until maximum performance is achieved. Trial shooting without the assistive device may then be undertaken. However, this change is usually not introduced until the prosthesis is comfortable in fit and is properly adjusted. Upper-extremity amputees can experiment with instinct shooting by placing the terminal device underneath the forearm of the gun, or by adjusting the gun sling to accommodate the hook fingers. Longer gun slings can be provided and arranged in a double sling loop on which the shooter's terminal device can obtain a more comfortable and tighter grip. Some below-elbow amputees have proven to be capable trap shooters while using the terminal device to pull the trigger. The unaffected extremity is then positioned underneath the forearm of the gun and used to swing the muzzle into focus.

*Daisy/Heddon, Rogers, Arkansas 72756.

**By Pete Rademacher, Hamlin Products, developer of the Trap Shooting Range.

Ronald C. Adams is the Director of Recreational Therapy and Adaptive Physical Education at the Children's Rehabilitation Center University of Virginia Charlottesville, Virginia