A shooting club in South Devon has received a grant so that visually impaired people can take part in the sport.
Paignton Shooting Club received a grant which will be spent on a new audio-laser sighted rifle, including one with a five shot magazine.
Torbay-based charity Visualeyes Torbay, who hold regular shooting sessions at the club, have received £1,000 from the South West Foundation Trust.
Colin Reeves, chairman of the Paignton Shooting Club, was contacted by Visualeyes’ Chris Sumner in March 2016 to ask if the club could facilitate shooting for the visually impaired.
He said: “We’re a club that has always tried to be as inclusive as possible as long as the obvious safety constraints can be accommodated.”
“We previously ran weekly shooting sessions for blind and visually impaired residents at the RNIB rehabilitation centre Manor House in Torquay until the centre closed some years ago.”
“Technology has advanced greatly since those early sessions, so we started to research current systems that could allow a totally blind person to shoot using electronic sights and eventually we found a digital system in use by a club in North Devon and arranged to borrow it to carry out a trial.”
“This new system was much smaller and cheaper than the previous version so we decided to acquire a set for Chris’s group. Chris was very supportive and with his help we approached British Shooting to apply for a grant of £500 which we received to cover the cost of the sight system which we set up on one of the club’s own air rifles to run the sessions on a monthly basis.”
“This has been very well received as it’s a social activity with a difference as it allows people to take part in a sport that most visually impaired people had never considered for obvious reasons. The sight is capable of a high degree of accuracy and we have had shooters who have shot groups which are very small and on a par with a sighted shooter.”
Since the club purchased the electronic sight, Chris has been working to secure additional funding to acquire a new rifle which would better suit the needs of the group. Until now they’ve used a rifle which has to be loaded with each shot individually.
“Quite fiddly for a sighted shooter,” Colin said, “so for a visually impaired shooter it can be a very trying experience which is why we have members on hand to assist.”
The intention now, helped by the grant, Chris has received, is to purchase a rifle which takes a five shot magazine so once the gun is made ready the shooter will be completely independent and be able to load and fire at their own pace without the aid of our enablers.
Colin added: “We thought this was the way to go, as it puts blind and visually impaired shooters in a very similar position to our regular members which we think will be more rewarding for those taking part.”
Target shooting is actually a very inclusive sport, and is one of the few sporting activities where male and female, young and old, as well as people with a range of disabilities can take part in the same competitions at the same time as other members. Shooters can fire seated as well.
The shooting club itself, which dates back to the very early 1900s, has three ranges under the one roof, allowing a wide range of disciplines including rapid fire with turning target.
The Visualeyes Torbay Shooting Club also offers sighted partners and friends access to main rifles and pistols, so that everyone can take part and their oldest shooter is a lady of 92-years-old.