I am not a licensed instructor and I have no intention on making concrete recommendations to any prospective blind shooters. This section is merely for the purposes of answering the types of questions I have been asked throughout the years.
What is a blind marksman?
My definition of a blind marksman is someone who independently loads, aims, and fires his or her weapon, honing in on a target with all available sensory input to deliver a tight pattern, while maintaining control of the weapon. Sorry, but they aren’t someone who just pulls the trigger, as others hold and aim the weapon. I have flown coach a number of times, but I don’t call myself a commercial pilot. Besides, too many minds and hands on a weapon can lead to missed shots and potential disaster, which is not necessary if one uses special scopes and common sense.
What is your stance on gun rights?
Everyone who is a legal American citizen and is also responsible should have the right to protect themselves with any firearm they want, but should be trained to operate that weapon within the framework of their own personal limitations. I believe firmly in shooting tests. They demonstrate that the applicant has at least fired a gun once before carrying in public. Beyond that, they don’t have a “Real World” application. I’ve never heard of cardboard firing back, have you?
How blind are you really?
I have no useable vision as certified by many doctors since I became blind in July of 1983. I do however have an extra sense that allows me to detect objects at a distance without sight. This is called facial vision.
What is facial vision and do all blind people have it?
Facial vision is a scientifically proven way that blind people use sound waves to detect objects in their paths at a distance. It is something on the order of echolocation that bats and whales use, but is far less developed in humans. Some, not all, blind people have this sense and the degree that they have it varies from person-to-person. I myself can gage the size of the object and its range to a certain degree as sound waves bounce off my facial muscles. This can make it appear as if I have some vision, but any doctor will tell you that I am totally blind.
Where did you first receive your training with firearms as a blind person?
I began my training in firearms In July of 1988 at a National Guard Base here in North Dakota. As part of a cadet program, I was given hands-on instruction in the disassembly, maintenance, reassembly and firing of my first gun, the M16.
What other subsequent gun training have you received since then?
In 1991, I took an official course in pistol marksmanship through the Army ROTC where training was daily for several months with a variety of handguns. On the final exam, I scored 105 out of a possible 100 on a human silhouette do to a deflected shot, placing a 4.0 for the class on my college transcript.
Then In October 2000, I took these skills to the local police pistol range and under law enforcement guidelines of proficiency, I completed the required number of shots to qualify for my first gun permit in my home state of North Dakota.
Since then, I have had numerous proficiency tests with rifles for hunting opportunities through the Department of the Interior, all at the basic distance of 100-yards, certifying me to take a shot at up to 300-yards with a high-powered rifle.
Where can I find gun training as a blind person?
Before I answer that, I want to state that anyone wishing to proceed, sighted or not, should first seek official training, preferably from law enforcement or the U.S. military. You might try and attend a few NRA conventions and network at local gun shops and shows. Failing that, check first with family to see if you have an outlet there. However, Keep in mind that you are fighting a seemingly universal stigma attached to the blind, which conjures images of bullets flying everywhere without control. I know such is lunacy, but there it is.
Don’t waste your efforts in trying to convince those who have their minds made up. Someone somewhere will be receptive to the idea. It might just take a while, so have patients and keep at it.
How many states can you legally carry your weapon?
I can now with my two state-issued permits carry my gun in over half of the United States, including Minnesota, where my completed application was denied.
What truly happened with Minnesota’s gun permit?
Warned about my blindness by the very same NRA instructor who certified my shooting ability to complete the permit process, the Sheriff at the center of the denial refused to sign off on his part of the gun permit. This forced the issue into the courts. I then turned to various organizations for help with legal representation in this matter. Needless to say, the topic of a blind person being included in the Bill of Rights was just too hot for anyone to handle. Therefore, I was forced to represent myself in court, loosing most of my basic American rights in the process, the right to bear arms and the right to a fare trial among others.
To add insult to injury, the sheriff, up for reelection within months of all this, told me in front of others right outside the court room that he had no personal problem in signing off on the permit if the judge made him, not seeing me as a real danger to the public. I would just love a do over, but don’t have the funding, which enables that despicable ruling to stand for now.
Have you actually carried over there anyway?
Yes, for years now I’ve used my Utah permit to legally do what that ruling said I couldn’t. And with a clean record of carrying in that same sheriff’s jurisdiction, I further prove the absurdity of the whole fiasco.
Why would a blind person need a firearm for protection?
May I first state the obvious? Someone without sight can neither avoid a dangerous situation, nor run from one should it occur, do to obstacles that might be in your escape rout. This means that you will have to stand and fight with whatever means you have at your disposal. No other method of defense is as effective against criminals as a firearm.
Can I have a gun for home defense being blind?
The easy answer is of course, yes, but in some states you need a permit and formal training to even buy and keep a gun. Such regulations are good in the fact that people need to know a trigger from a safety switch, but such measures should never be used to disqualify anyone, based upon perceptions of their abilities. Besides, who knows your home better, you or an intruder, and therefore who has the home field advantage? Also in all reality, you may not have to pull the trigger, because no one can mistake the racking of a shotgun. And if they are foolish enough to not turn tail and run at the sound, then intent could be established.
What kind of gun do you have at home?
I personally find that a 12-gage 18.25 inch-barrel tactical shotgun with front and rear pistol grips is the best for such close quarters. I would use number 7 bird shot. If you want to see it in action at about the range you would realistically use such a weapon in self-defense, go to the main page and look for the Video footage of both the weapon and shell I have recommended here under Carey McWilliams Shooting a Plastic Bottle.
Can you describe how a blind person can hit targets at the range?
A blind shooter can locate a target quickly by Listening for a beacon. The best thing for me is a series of slow rhythmic beeps such as a smoke detector taped to the target, but anything will do as long as its tone is not overwhelming with a lot of echoing feedback. Measure the pulses in each ear and focus until the sound is equal in both ears. This means that the beacon is centered with your nose.
Square your shoulders and memorize where your body is when the desired frequency comes to the center.
Using your mind's eye, picture the gun's barrel before you and the target beyond. Draw an imaginary line going from your center of gravity, between your wrists and along where you imagine the gun's sights to be, using hand placement as a reference. This line should be able to be drawn from your eyebrows, neck, shoulders and heart to the target.
Tighten your grip on the gun to the point of making the gun shake slightly. Then relax your hold until the shaking stops and a firm, but steady grip is established. Adjust your stance as required for the desired spread, always maintaining one firm foot pointing towards the target so you will not loose orientation during readjustment and to absorb the shock of the gun's recoil.
Raise the gun slowly to check the alignment from your heart to your palms holding the gun. Gravity and body positioning are two constants that anyone can use to accomplish this.
Controlling the rhythm of your breathing can help steady the gun.
The trigger pull should be so gentle as to surprise you.
How can I hunt as a blind outdoorsman?
First of all, the distances and conditions in which you will be taking down game big or small are not at all like hitting paper targets at the firing range. As a result, a scope man or woman is necessary to insure safety and accuracy. If you feel a bit diminished by needing assistance, take heart that even the mightiest hunters of African big game require Gun Bearers, so you are in good company. Your guide should never feel free to touch your weapon during the aiming process, as this will increase the chance of a misfire. Only in an emergency should more than one mind try and control the same weapon.
That said, let’s break it down, since a duck is not a deer and weather conditions and terrain are never a constant for any hunt. With every species you hunt, new weapons and techniques need to be put into place to be successful in the field. Know your weapon well and accept the fact that your target is alive and this is a 3-d world where the game has a 4 out of 5 chance of getting away from even the best hunter.
For wing shooting as a blind bird hunter, if you can hear it aim for it, but if a sighted guide is present, have them place their hands on your triceps and go with their swing by following the pressure of their palms. Stay smooth and follow through to insure that the shot pattern flows to spread the shot as wide as possible to paint the bird out of the sky.
With land targets, Use a fixed rest when possible. The blind hunter would do best to sit, however, this isn’t always possible, especially during still hunts. There, kneeling or leaning against something sturdy like a tree or stump will do if you use it as a fixed place to orientate yourself and steady your weapon.
If your target makes any sound, aim your nose and square your shoulders at the source. This will provide a general direction which cuts back on the need for drastic adjustments. By keeping your head and shoulders level, your scope man or woman will have a clear view of the crosshairs. With their fingers only touching your left and right shoulders, your scope man or woman can direct your aim. Here they have a couple of options.
One is to draw an imaginary crucifix across your neck and back. Following this, he or she can tap your right or left shoulder for an adjustment to the right or left. To get the level, they can tap the middle of your back for down and tap the back of your neck for up. The urgency of the taps can be a wordless indication of just how far to adjust.
Two, if such makes you more secure about the shot, you could instruct your guide to apply steady pressure with their palms against your shoulders, lifting and lowering them together to adjust the level not unlike the controls on an airplane, while steering them like a bicycle’s handlebars left or right, adjusting the angle through pressure. Doing this, you need to follow the slow steady pressure of your guide’s directions to aim.
Thirdly, If no ear protection is present and the game is way beyond earshot, your scope man or woman can just say right, left, up, down, and fire. This verbal technique is demonstrated on the main page with my elk hunt.
Now this is the most important part. In order to give the command to fire, you and your guide must agree on the right signal. I can’t tell you how many times confusion at the trigger has cost me a shot, or made one less than on the mark. If hearing protection is in place, your guide might want to tap three times rapidly on a shoulder. They can also whisper, “Fire” if no hearing protection is restricting hearing.
A Final Note:
Above all remember, brains are more important than sight for safe carrying, as it continues to be proven true on the nightly news. Since The Supreme Court’s ruling on the Second Amendment as an individual right, remember that you are an American citizen too and thus you do have a right to Keep and Bear Arms.