May 13th, 2010

NRA Open Range Day Empowers Disabled Shooters

Disabled Open Range DayOpen Range Day in Phoenix, AZ is a special NRA program providing shooting opportunities for persons with disabilities. Under the direction of Vanessa Ross, NRA Disabled Shooting Services Manager, the 2d Annual Open Range Day was a great success. Art Merrill, a freelance writer for Shooting Illustrated, provides this on-the-spot report from Phoenix’s Ben Avery Shooting Facility.

Open Range Day Report (by Art Merrill)
Vanessa’s safety briefing Saturday morning was the no-nonsense pronouncement we’re used to hearing from rangemasters – except for the “sip & puff” part: “Always always always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction! Keep your finger away from the trigger until you’re ready to shoot. If you’re using the sip & puff trigger mechanism, don’t put it your mouth ’til you’re ready to shoot. If you need help, if you have a question, don’t be stubborn – ask a volunteer.”

Indoor Air Rifle Shooting Popular
The air rifles appealed to a lot of shooters today, and not just because it was indoors, sheltered from the 95-degree desert spring. Every shooter enjoys hitting reactive targets, in this case, air rifle metallic silhouette targets. But there are other reasons, as well: “I don’t like loud bangs,” Ashleigh Justice said. “I liked the .22 pistol, but the .38 was too much.”

Ashleigh had never shot a firearm before today. What motivated her to come out to Open Range Day? “I was afraid of guns. I wanted to get over it,” she said. “My husband shoots and I was tired of the anxiety I felt around guns.” Beyond that, however, was a desire to push the envelope of her disability to achieve something more: “I want to be good at something that takes skill more than physical ability”, she said. Looks like she found it: she, too came away from the firing line talking about the possibility of a regular air rifle competition.

Disabled Open Range DayShooting Provides Important Challenge
For Mike Tagliapetra, it’s all about challenge. You can feel it in his handshake even before he talks about competing in marathons and even a triathlon – using his wheelchair. Mike’s motivation, a quote from writer Ella Wheeler Wilcox, is boldly emblazoned on his business card: “There is no chance, no destiny, no fate that can hinder or control the firm resolve of a determined soul.”

Open Range Day is winding down now, and the shooters are all going home. They had different motivations for being here and yet, because every participant said they want to return again next year. Something about the shooting sports is satisfying all of their motives. If there’s a common denominator to these motives, it’s the desire for challenge and the satisfaction of success – and empowerment – that comes from it. In the shooting sports, yes, there’s only one match winner; but every time we approach the firing line we are competing, not only against others, but also with ourselves to accomplish our personal best.

Contributions from many businesses made Open Range Day possible. Sponsors included: Birchwood Casey (targets), Colt (firearms), Davidson’s (Weatherby shotguns), Kowa (spotting scopes), Lapua (ammo), Pyramid Air (pellets), Ruger (firearms), Savage Arms (rifles), White Flyer (trap targets), and Winchester (ammo). Symbius Medical catered lunch, and Arizona’s Game & Fish Department made its world-class facility available for the event.

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