Who needs to be able to defend themselves more, the physically fit or the handicapped? Obviously, the answer is the more physically disadvantaged. My friend Frank James, IDPA Area Coordinator for Indiana and Michigan, asked me what the IDPA rules were for handicapped shooters. Well, he got me. We founders overlooked a handicapped rule.
I recalled that when I helped form the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) in 1982, I wrote the “handicapped” rule, which, in the USPSA 14th Edition Rule Book, is rule number 10.1.4.5 and states, “If a competitor is unable to fully execute any part of a course of fire as a result of incapacity or previous injury, the competitor may request a penalty in lieu of the stated course requirement. It is permissible in this case to apply a penalty by deducting 20 percent of the competitor’s target points as shot. This penalty should be specified prior to the start of the stage and at the option of the Range Master.” This seems to cover someone with a disability, but does it work for a shooter in a wheelchair?
The reason Frank asked the question was that there is an IDPA club in his area that has several handicapped members in it. So when I was in the area this past June, Frank arranged to have the North Porter County Conservation Club’s match director, Bill Warfield, and its two handicapped shooters, the late Dave Jolly (who unfortunately passed away prior to publication) and George Janiec, be at the range midweek to fit into my traveling schedule. Bill, assisted by his father (Bill Warfield, Sr.), Mike Hanlon and John Miklos, set up the IDPA Classifier and one other stage involving a low, wide wall and multiple targets. In the absence of an IDPA rule, Bill simply has the wheelchair-bound members shoot each position while someone records the time. They start at a low-ready gun position with muzzle pointed downrange and away from their bodies and chair. When they are done, they unload and bag the gun in a chest pouch, which also holds spare magazines. They then move to the next firing position and repeat the drill. If the course calls for a “turn and fire,” it is ignored, since doing “wheelies” in crushed gravel isn’t a good idea, with or without a loaded gun in hand.
By the way, both men pick up their own brass (with some interesting almost-tip-overs), but both are determined to do what they can without help. The rule is, no help unless they ask (unless there looks to be a safety problem, of course).
I thought they were doing just fine with their local system pending the IDPA Board of Directors creating a rule–with one exception. Using sacks or fanny packs when in a wheelchair has the muzzle pointed in other than the normal safe direction, so some sort of gun bucket is needed to have the gun pointed away from their bodies as well as others on the range.
For more information or to join IDPA, contact the International Defensive Pistol Association, Dept. HG, P.O. Box 639, Berryville, AR 72616-0639; (870) 545-3886; fax (870) 545-3894; idpa.com; email: IDPA.firstname.lastname@example.org.