Strength and Disability

From Dr. LateBloomer

I have always been a relatively strong woman physically. Not in a “gym rat” sort of way, but in a naturally “built like that” kind of way. I’ve never been the wispy, delicate sort. As a result, I have always taken for granted my ability to easily rack a slide and handle a double action revolver trigger. Although I understood on an academic level that some women had trouble with these things, it was not something that I had to take into consideration on a regular basis. Until now.

For the past few months I have been dealing with a slowly creeping nerve impingement issue. The result is numbness, tingling, and slow loss of grip strength and fine motor skills. It is worse in my non-dominant hand, but the right is also involved. My physician and physical therapist have been working on pinpointing and correcting the cause, but these things take time.

I realized this morning that the local IDPA season starts in about 6 weeks. I also realized that this hand issue may affect my shooting choices. Although I have never managed to get classified in revolver (I was out of town when the past few classifiers were held), I have puttered around with shooting my S&W 686SSR at matches for the past few seasons. With this revolver, stages requiring support-hand-only shooting have been challenging but do-able. This year, I fear they may be impossible.

The little bit of basement dry fire I have attempted confirms that I’d best leave the wheel gun at home in the safe and shoot semi-auto SSP instead. Even racking the slide on my Glocks and M&P takes much more effort than it used to. This is deeply concerning to me, but I am hoping that this is a temporary condition.

Nonetheless, I am trying to be philosophical, and take this situation as a learning experience. The elderly, the disabled, and the less physically strong may have to deal with obstacles in learning to shoot which I have heretofore taken for granted. I’m going to do my best to pay attention to these things as I go along in the future. Life, as they say, is the ultimate teacher.

So, I’m going to take this opportunity to urge firearms instructors and internet keyboard warriors to occasionally “disable” themselves in some way, and then try to shoot like that. Besides the obvious non-dominant hand use, perhaps try wrapping a hand in an ace wrap and then shooting with that hand to adversely affect grip and dexterity. Using double or triple layer trauma gloves will affect touch sensitivity. Try smearing lip balm over shooting glasses to simulate cataracts. Tie shoelaces together or use a locking knee brace to simulate mobility issues.

Not only would all of these drills be a good “tactical” exercise in how to stay in the fight if one is wounded, it might also grant some clarity and understanding about the challenges faced by future students or comrades. We know that the elderly and disabled are often chosen as targets by the criminal element. Understanding their physical challenges may help us as instructors better help them to be able to defend themselves with firearms.

If nothing else, you will have moved your own self farther up the learning curve, and that is never a bad thing.