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Guns Are For Everyone: Adaptive Defensive Shooting Summit at the SIG SAUER Academy


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By Matt Manda

The first day’s events at the 2023 Adaptive Defensive Shooting Summit in Epping, N.H., were cut short due to rain. The last day’s official competition matches were threatened by Tropical Storm Lee, swirling out over the Atlantic Ocean and bringing a little rain and wind to the Northeast and the SIG SAUER Academy and Experience Center campus.

No matter. The competitors at this year’s ADSS have been through more difficult challenges. They were here for education, training and most importantly, the competition – both among friends and with themselves.

By all measures 2023 was a big success and built off of last year’s momentum.

‘Extremely Motivating’

This was the fifth year for the ADSS match and it’s hard to believe there were only 13 participants the very first year. Now, dozens of competitors from across the country gathered again to push themselves and demonstrate what resolve really looks like.

“It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we don’t care about who gets credit,” said ADSS founder Trevor Baucom. “ADSS is about getting people out to shoot and finding a way to help those with physical limitations recognize they’re in this community too and can participate.”

Jake Altman at 2023 Adaptive Defensive Shooting Summit ADSS
Jake Altman (@One.Hand.Gunner) at the 2023 Adaptive Defensive Shooting Summit ADSS

One of this year’s competitors was Jake Altman from North Carolina. He goes by @One.Hand.Gunner on social media and was a first-time competitor. Altman spent six and a half years in the U.S. Army as a combat engineer and carried out several anti-IED (improvised explosive device) operations in Iraq. He was injured and lost an arm serving his country but doesn’t let that stop him from doing what he loves. Altman was amazed at what he saw in his fellow competitors in Epping.

“In a couple words – very inspirational,” Altman told me. “Being an upper extremity amputee and witnessing individuals with mobility issues, it puts things into perspective. And to see the participants compete the way they did, was extremely motivating.”

This year, Baucom organized the ADSS with a focus on introducing and connecting participants with various competitive shooting disciplines, stages and simulations. He included Precision Rifle Shooting (PRS) stages, 3-gun shooting courses (where competitors shoot rifles, shotguns and pistols) and Steel Challenge shoots.

Altman was one of a few upper extremity adaptive ability shooters. Several competitors have lower extremity injuries, including paraplegic and quadriplegic shooters using wheelchairs, as well as competitors with one or two prosthetic legs.

Baucom explained how he approaches rethinking the match each year.

“This year we had a woman who had never fired a gun in her life and we also had people who can compete heads up with the best shooters in the country. Everyone is welcome at ADSS,” he said.

First-Timer Hooked

Carol Brunjes of Maine is the first-time shooter Baucom referenced. She goes by @ThreeFourthsMe on Instagram and uses a wheelchair. ADSS was her very first time to handle a firearm. By the end of the competition, she was “hooked.”

Her excitement from the weekend was palpable.

Carol Brunjes at 2023 Adaptive Defensive Shooting Summit ADSS
Carol Brunjes (@ThreeFourthsMe) at the 2023 Adaptive Defensive Shooting Summit ADSS

Brunjes said, “I went into ADSS with the thought of learning how to shoot for home and personal protection. What I came out with was a feeling of inclusion in an amazing community!”

Baucom credited the SIG SAUER Academy instructors for their participation in the weekend’s events, noting they got Brunjes comfortable handling firearms safely and responsibly quickly so she could participate by the final day’s match.

“She had never fired a gun in her life. They adjusted and put her through a one-on-one first shots class. A basic and advanced class and at the end of the event, after three days of training and a match, Carol’s all smiles and ready to do more,” Baucom revealed.

“I tried very hard not to get hooked on another expensive sport and thought I would get away with it but the last day got me. I loved the various stages and the encouragement from the instructors and my squad,” Brunjes said. “ADSS has given my husband and me a sport where he does not have to be my support. We can be equals.”

Camaraderie Among Competitors

This year’s ADSS match saw plenty of new faces, but familiar returning competitors were out in full force as well. One of the returners is Emily Cotton. This year’s competition wasn’t her first and her story is a well-known one among the adaptive ability shooting community. She still found the training and classes informative and helpful.

Emily Cotton at 2023 Adaptive Defensive Shooting Summit ADSS
Emily Cotton at the 2023 Adaptive Defensive Shooting Summit ADSS

“This was my second year at ADSS and I had a fabulous time,” Cotton exclaimed. “The training classes were informative and I learned some new drills.”

Describing the welcoming environment and closeness among even the fiercest of competitors, Cotton summed up the event succinctly. “The best part about ADSS, though, is the camaraderie among us – new friendships, reconnecting with friends from last year, and shooting with my peer group – it’s priceless!”

Industry All In

NSSF – The Firearm Industry Trade Association – was a proud sponsor of the weekend’s gathering. Bringing so many members of the firearm community together was a goal of Baucom’s. And it’s clear he’s succeeding in that endeavor.

“We compete for sponsors [with other matches] but we share the same mission. We work together,” he said. “We’re hosted by SIG SAUER and the SIG SAUER Academy who compete with other ADSS sponsors like Ruger, S&W, Canik and Glock. Yet everyone is able to put business aside to come together and help people with disabilities.”

Group picture from 2023 Adaptive Defensive Shooting Summit ADSS

That’s a main point of mission for the firearm industry, ensuring everyone recognizes the Second Amendment is for all. ADSS is the pinnacle reminder of that. Over the past few years, firearm sales among law-abiding Americans reached record numbers and the current streak of more than four straight years of one million or more FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) verifications each month continues.

The gun-owning community has never been more diverse than it currently is and that includes Americans with adaptive abilities. Baucom added the importance of highlighting events like ADSS to continue bringing new safe and responsible shooters into the community.

“Every new shooter strengthens the pro-gun position. People will fight for something if it directly affects them,” he added.

Jake Altman added he’s already fired up and ready for next year’s event. “To watch some of these folks, it’s like ‘damn – I have no excuse.’ I can’t wait to be here again next year.”

All signs are pointing to a raised bar and new levels of excitement ahead for the 2024 match.

 

Matt Manda is Manager, Public Affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation

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