Who Needs Defensive Firearms Skills More Than A Potential Victim Confined To A Wheelchair?
When readers talk, GUNS Magazine listens. Some readers confined to wheelchairs asked Editor Jeff John to address their issues from a handgunning standpoint. Having been privileged to teach a number of chair-bound students over the last four decades, I was honored to catch the assignment. There ain’t a whole lot of people in our society who need to master the “equalizer” more than the physically challenged; they tend to be perceived by the predators of our society as natural prey.
Living in the wheelchair makes you tough and adaptive, which means students in that situation are resourceful, motivated learners of the gun. They teach those of us who have the pleasure of teaching them, in turn. Ambulatory shooters could learn from their don’t-give-up attitude.
The first thing that occurs to the Handgunner in the chair is placing the darn gun. Many a custom holster-maker has tried his hand at crafting a scabbard to attach to the chair, and some are ingenious and effective. T.J. McEnany in Jacksonville, Fla., has come up with a heavy-duty wheelchair designed to negotiate rough ground, and has adapted holsters to it. You see the concept illustrated here. Ed Sevetz, a noted surgeon, who teaches tactical firearms on the side, assisted him on the tactical aspect. Particularly well suited to practical shooting ranges, McEnany’s Wheeled-Warrior Chair is equally at home in the park or a jaunt in the woods, expanding the horizons for a part of our society once confined to flat floors, sidewalks, and elevators. Scott Schearer has developed another chair-mounted holster option for the wheelchair-bound usable for competition and another for street concealment.
Remember, however, that “living in a wheelchair” is a figure of speech. Actual users are in and out of the chair, going to bed, transferring to vehicles, etc. That separates you from a gun attached to the chair. A handgun attached to your body makes sense, and can also be a lot more convenient, if not always faster. Ankle holsters, accessible from seated position very readily for a fully enabled person, seem to be a great idea at first until you realize that many confined to wheelchairs won’t be able to feel a too-tight ankle strap cutting off their circulation, with dire results. “Seated techniques” that work equally well for the physically challenged and the fully enabled include crossdraw on the opposite hip, the shoulder holster, and the front-mounted “fanny pack.”
Another “out of the chair” scenario that must be considered is the common attack of turning over the chair and dumping the victim on the ground, in hopes he’ll now be as helpless as a turtle on his back (and perhaps out of reach of a gun attached to the chair).
Practice drawing and firing from every possible position: prone, supine, or on your side. A lot of this will be expedited by using the support hand to slap the ground and push you up to where you can fire with the dominant hand only.
A Wheeled-Warrior Chair, complete with holstered Springfield Armory XDM,
by T.J. McEnany of Wheelchairs Plus. Photo: Ed Sevetz
Many a mugger who preys on victims in a wheelchair looms over them at close range to dominate and terrify them; that puts them within reach of your gun. While we’ve been able to adapt some handgun retention technique to our chair-bound students, there’s no denying that the limited range of movement created by the chair limits their ability to maintain control of the weapon. I have long suggested either the one working “smart gun”—the MagnaTrigger conversion of an S&W revolver from Tarnhelm, which only fires in the hand of someone wearing its proprietary magnetic ring—or a semi-automatic pistol combining the features of manual safety and magazine disconnector safety. If the gun is taken from the legitimate user while on-safe, the attacker has to figure out how to “turn it on.”
If the defender feels himself losing control of the gun he’s struggling for, pressing the magazine release button and dropping the mag “kills the gun” and renders the round in the chamber un-shootable. The Browning Hi-Power 9mm combines these features, as does the .45 ACP Ruger P345, and as did the traditional double-action S&W autos still available on the used gun market in a wide variety of calibers and sizes. This strategy, of course, requires a second “backup” gun readily available to the legitimate user.
If you can apply some downward foot pressure to the footrests of the chair, you can lean forward into the gun, but if you’re paralyzed from the waist or chest down, that option is off the table. You may actually have to keep your shoulders back so you don’t fall out of the chair. In that situation, locked arms will cause more recoil lift than you need, slowing your recovery time between shots.
The Classic Weaver stance from the waist up—both elbows bent, with an isometric push of the gun hand and concomitant pull back with the gun hand—turns your arms into shock absorbers that let the handgun come more quickly back on target. If you prefer an Isosceles posture, bend the elbows slightly outward and use muscle tension to accomplish the same thing. Spend extra practice time on 1-handed shooting; the chair limits your range of movement, and on some angles you’ll need the free hand on the armrest of the chair, supporting your weight to stay balanced. Since you won’t be able to “step into your preferred stance,” you also want to spend extra time drawing and bringing the gun to different angles from the wheelchair.
Thanks to the readers who suggested this topic. It’s important. Not only for those now confined to wheelchairs, but to all the rest of us who could possibly be, as early as today or tomorrow.
By Massad Ayoob
Tarnhelm Supply Co.
431 High St., Boscawen, NH 03303
Scot Works LLC
500 Old Onion Mountain Rd.
Wilderville, OR 97543
County Rd. 220, Middleburg, FL 32068