By MD Matt
I find it awkward publicly talking about guns. Especially the first time the topic comes up, who I am tends to be a sticking point. I have a genetic disorder called Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis. According to Wikipedia: “Leber’s congenital amaurosis (LCA) is a rare inherited eye disease that appears at birth or in the first few months of life, and affects around 1 in 80,000 of the population…LCA is typically characterized by nystagmus, sluggish or absent pupillary responses, and severe vision loss or blindness.” . . .
I was born with decent vision that has deteriorated over time. As a child I played video games, rode a bicycle, and played soccer. As a high school sophomore I lost enough capacity to make it unsafe for me to ride a bike on my own. Now in my late 30s I can barely tell if a light is on in a room or if the sun is out. I use a white cane, employ a text to speech program to operate computers, and depend on my iPhone’s voice over function to use my smart phone.
As a result, people assume that blindness precludes meaningful interaction with firearms. Getting past that preconception can be…challenging. I get it; it’s counter intuitive to think of someone without sight getting anything out of such a visually intensive activity.
To put this in context, my father is a devout pacifist; so my brothers and I were discouraged from owning anything gun-like. Air rifles, slingshots, and paint ball were right out. Until 2000 my only contact with firearms was limited to a Boy Scout camping trip where my Scout master let me put a few .22 shots down range. Guns were something I read about or saw in movies; not something I encountered in person.
Things changed when I began dating my then future wife. She, who is also blind, grew up in a “rustic” household with all manner of projectile throwers. My in-laws are avid hunters and shooters. They lived on several acres of prime hunting land in rural Maryland.
Whereas I had only the vaguest practical understanding of guns, she had been plinking with the family numerous times. Over the course of several years I spent many enjoyable interludes with her relatives. Throughout those times guns were “around.” They were always safely stored, disassembled for cleaning or in their component parts for work; but they were there. Having firearms nearby didn’t bother me. Having potentially deadly devices at hand which I had no idea how to interact with safely was an issue though.
Whether in the middle of a machine shop or a room full of unknown clockwork bullet throwers, my approach is the same — do…not…move without sighted assistance. Doing otherwise can lose me a finger to a band saw, cost me hundreds of dollars in broken knickknacks, or cause a very negligent discharge.
My in-laws did their best to overcome my reservations; but with little success. I didn’t know the difference between a lever action, a bolt action, a pump action, or a semiautomatic; let alone how to safely handle them. That deficiency left me in fear of unintended consequences.
I detest helplessness. Being blind means I spend a fair amount of time in circumstances that are beyond my control—in a crowded weight room, navigating airports, explaining to a Comcast tech in India that no, I can’t see the blinky lights on the modem which apparently isn’t part of their script. It’s one thing to be concerned or annoyed by a circumstance beyond your control; but “guns” seemed like a fear I could conquer.
In 2009 I decided that enough was enough. I was sick of being afraid of inanimate objects. I started researching firearms, self defense, calibers, gages, optics, brands, holsters, slings…for every term I defined there was another branch of nomenclature to master.
I spent a lot of time on Masaad Ayoob’s Backwoods Home blog, TTAG, and various YouTube channels. After a couple months of furious Googling and Wikipediaing my fear evolved into a healthy respect. This led me to consider the benefits of firearms ownership. That led me to researching the requirements of purchasing a firearm. That led me to buying a Remington 870 tactical 12 gage. That led me to the range. That led me to shooting more guns. That led to fun. That led to buying more guns; and that led to a lot more fun.
Life has taught me that people have issues with blind folks. It’s just the way of things; every blind person has different limitations, capacities, and needs. Few people have the real world experience required to appreciate that variability.
I honestly expected a bit of pushback when buying a firearm or going to the range. As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. The People of the Gun have been universally professional, courteous, and accepting. Their only concern has been making sure I have the requisite paperwork and safety knowledge. It probably helps that I am very upfront about learning each gun’s manual of arms. I make a point of following the four laws of firearm safety. I abide by the range rules and make sure my guests do the same.
That being said, there has definitely been a learning curve for all involved. My friends had to learn how to get me “on target.” I am still responsible for what happens to the projectile when I pull the trigger; so I require a spotter. This got a lot easier after I discovered Crimson Trace and Lasermax—though my regular range confederates have become quite proficient with the MK1 eyeball.
Some guns are easier to aim than others—a Mosin Nagant at 100 yards holds the record for the most fun and least comfortable platform so far. I had to ask a lot of questions and endure some humbling—showing up to the gunsmith with my 870 broken down into a stock and a bag of parts is humorous now, but was hugely embarrassing at the time. The range employee who showed me how to breakdown and reassemble my 1911 by touch deserves a teaching excellence award. My ‘smith endured my various stages of firearm infatuation including, but not limited to, custom grips, rebuilding a couple 10/22s, mounting optics (it turns out that if you give sighted people good tools to play with they are more likely to repeat the experience), loading and unloading moon clips, and refurbishing an old 1903 pocket hammerless.
I’ve developed a love of big calibers, 1911s, 12 gage, and nicely tuned revolvers. My collection has grown to several handguns, rifles, and shotguns. I’ve introduced and in some cases reintroduced several people to shooting. All this to say that guns have become a very rewarding part of my life.
- I am a better citizen because of gun ownership. Complying with Federal and State law has necessitated learning about how laws are enforced, what my rights are on paper/in reality, and the need for an informed opinion come election season.
- Shooting has pushed me to lose weight and build strength. When you have to stand with arms extended for several minutes while someone adjusts your grip, cant, stance, and alignment, every ounce of weight exacts a price. I quickly found that if I wanted to enjoy shooting for more than a half hour I was going to have to get back in shape. I am now considerably stronger and lighter than six years ago. A big part of the motive force for that change was a desire to shoot more and suffer less on the range.
- Guns have made me smarter. Shooting well requires strong math and hard science skills. Looking at terminal ballistics, sectional density, muzzle energy, comparing finishes, optic quality, ballistic coefficient, recoil impulse, laser types, bullet drop rates, penetration tests, and industrial solvents has given me an entirely new set of skills.
- Gun ownership has introduced me to a variety of secondary hobbies including preparedness, sustainable living, and ham radio.
I’ve been thinking of writing this article for a while. Each time I sat down to put virtual pen to paper a part of me rebelled. I have spent my life attempting to teach people to view me as a person first and a blind person second. From that perspective writing this piece feels horribly attention-seeking.
I wouldn’t have gone through the effort if it weren’t for recent discussions questioning the Second Smendment rights of the disabled. I figure if there was ever a time to tell this story it is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities act. I’m blind. I’m a gun owner—and proud of it.
Please let this entry win the contest.
I was thinking the same thing.
It’s unusual, well written, touches on some important RKBA topics, etc. It reads like a winner to me.
+ Another… IMHO we’ve had some great entries but this one is truly excellent in a very unique way… Matt I’d shoot with you anytime… God Bless…
+1 Love it. Great article.
Yeah, I must admit – this article would have been interesting and motivating even with the sightedness of the author omitted. With it included, the piece is downright inspirational. Thank you for sharing.
You’ve got my vote.
It has my vote as well.
Best entry so far!
This is a good one.
Seventhded or eighthded? It is amazing to watch. My mother is an adapted PE teacher who has done work with bridge to sports and the wounded warriors. I accompanied a few of our nations finest one day to a range only to find out that they could still outshoot me with no functional vision. It was an amazing process to watch and gave me an intimate respect to anyone who takes on that sort of responsibility (ie discharging a gun without being to able to see where it is going) because it is immense. I applaud you. I simply hope there is no raging anti gunner who gets ahold of this because your triumph would then be spun (probably) into blatant irresponsibility. Which is a shame. Because all I have learned throughout my mothers years of teaching is that anyone with a disability will never let it prohibit them from anything. And I for one am glad you havent in this circumstance. Well done. Excellent writing as well
I have to admit that I would be nervous on a range where a blind person was shooting. I believe if given the chance to converse with Matt, or someone of his caliber (pun intended), my apprehensions would be down next to nil and I would be honored to help any way I could. Good for you, Matt for facing your fears and learning something new and very intimidating. I wish you the best and pray you stay safe.
Bravo, Matt! Out of the ball park hit. And I vote for this to win also.
I’ve been partially deaf, a nerve deafness that hearing aids can’t help, since I was three years old. My hearing continues to deteriorate slowly as I approach my 70th birthday. I don’t mention my hearing status if I can help it, but that is often not a good option so I’ve had a number of serious discussions about guns and the disabled. It helps that I’m well known as someone who carries openly, all the time, and also that I’m an experienced and well educated, certified firearms and self defense instructor. I specifically seek out and offer training to all women, the elderly and all disabled people. I only wish more of them would take advantage of that opportunity.
People with disabilities are at even more risk than others, and should never meekly give up their right, and the tools necessary for self defense. Responsible use of those tools is a given, and help from non disabled family, friends and neighbors is a real blessing.
“..People with disabilities are at even more risk than others, ”
Being hearing impaired myself I am aware that when the brown stuff hits the spinning things I will be at a disadvantage. I do what I can to minimize that disadvantage and that includes carrying a firearm.
Although he doesn’t say specifically, it sounds like he wouldn’t use a firearm unless he has a spotter. Don’t see how this is an argument for armed self-defense for those who are blind.
“…Don’t see how this is an argument for armed self-defense for those who are blind.”
You have it backwards. It is within his rights to be armed, you are the one who is supposed to make the case for why he -can’t- be armed for self defense simply because he is blind.
Another interesting article on this matter.
Chip in FL,
How can a blind person follow the four rules without a spotter?
Why would having a spotter be a problem? If I needed one, I’d get one too.
“…How can a blind person follow the four rules without a spotter?”
In a self-defense situation I doubt you are going to be able to get the attacker to stop attacking long enough to to call up a friend to come be your spotter.
In a self-defense situation I am willing to bet MD Matt would be more accurate than most exactly because he is vision impaired.
Not that I am wishing harm on him to prove the point, I’m just saying that he has probable given more thought to what he would do than any of us have.
Forgot to ask for notification of comments…
Well done, sir. Those without good visual acuity have been targeted by the anti-gun types for too long. I can’t specifically advocate for you because I have no idea what it is like to live your life. But you have done an excellent job advocating for yourself.
I’d like to see some video of you and your friends on the range. That would be a strong show of compassion and camaraderie virtually impossible for emotive liberal-progressive gun grabbers to attack. It would also provide insight to folks like us, and perhaps motivation for others in a similar situation.
As for the contest, you’ve definitely earned my vote.
The way I see it, legal blindness is a short step from good old fashioned correctable vision such as what I have . the problem is that most folks only hear the blind part of that statement and assume that the moment you put a firearm in their hands, they become an unholy combination of Mr. magoo and blinkin from Robin Hood, men in tights. What disappoints me is when someone who should know better, such as someone representing a major company jumps on the hysteria
Does anyone other than me find the constant use of OMG! in TTAG headlines annoying?
Nah, just seems to me as a way to highlight things anti gunners would lose their sh*t over. Repetitive, yes. Annoying, not yet.
agreed, its targeted snark at those who would shit a brick over the article. And its still funny, cause they get the vapors every time, even if they have been warned.
As someone who’s losing his sight to Macular Degeneration, I’ll just say “thanks” for this article. I’ve been trying to get as much range time in as possible over the next few years, thinking I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the shooting sports much after that…now, I’m rethinking that defeatist idea.
Still want to get as much range time as possible of course (oh, to have a backyard range like Hickock45!), but now maybe I can relax a bit more…
One of the most interesting articles on TTAG–ever.
I agree with what others have said, I think this article stands out as the best in one sumbitted in a field of well written articles.
I had a full retina detachment in my right eye and can only see 20/80 even with glasses. I am left eye dominant so pistols are still ok but iron sight rifles are out of the question. (can’t even see the front sight).
I had found excuses to not go to the range and, I now realize, had started to feel sorry for myself. Thank you for the article and the encouragement.
learn to shoot rifles left handed.
I’ll try. For some reason I had resisted it.
as a leftie, of course I prefer to shoot left handed, but my dad had to make a switch when his right eye had some issue (i forget exactly). holding the stock and working a bolt with your right hand is not so terrible. Always wear eyepro with auto loaders, some of them will fling hot brass very near your face or right eye. My 10/22 will send them zinging right in front of my glasses, with the odd round tapping them as it sails by.
Thank you, I learned some things from your article and enjoyed reading it.
Well written, informative, engaging, topical because gunz.
Eye transplant? I’ve got an extra…
thank you for writing this article and saying some things that needed to be said.
It annoys me to no end when people find out I’m blind, and really really into guns, and are all like
Omg you can shoot? Isn’t it dangerous for you to have a gun?
No, it isn’t. No less dangerous than anyone else with a firearm who follows the 4 safety rules.
Range outings are always a blast.
There is no reason to be nervous when going shooting with a blind individual.
Aren’t sighted people also capable of making mistakes? Just because I am blind does not mean that I am stupid.
Sorry for the really long comment. I’m just really thrilled that another blind person isn’t afraid of the challenge, and won’t let their disability slow them down.
Very good entry. Don’t let azzwholes like Jimmy Kimmel or John Stewart make fun of the blind/deaf gun owners…I’m not blind but the close up reading thing is gone. And fighting against diabetes(adult onset) will be a challenge. Top 3 entry…
Kudos Matt! When I read the headline, I was skeptical. I now consider myself educated. It’s great that you are able to enjoy this awesome sport. Great job on the article. You have my vote as well friend!
Great read and I vote winner, too.
We found a similar truth in episode 35 “Shooting Blind” with Greg Trapp of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind. (what a gun nerd he is)
Fantastic article! He brought up some good points that I’d never thought of and that’s a hard thing to do.
Contest winner, I say!
This one is so good!!!
All the firearms books I have read state the majority of defense shootings happen at a distance of 10 feet or less. This would be particularly the situation for home defense. If someone is making noise or talking, hitting center mass to stop the threat at this distance is highly likely. The hysteria happens when ninnies imagine a blind person shooting a gun at a target in a public place at a significant distance. In the real world apart from TV and the movies, few defense shootings are like this. The most publicized civilian defense shooting in recent years was the Martin-Zimmerman confrontation. Zimmerman saved his life by a single shot at close range, something a blind shooter could do.
Sorry, which Chip are you responding to? Because I agree with your statement.
The author of this article has probably given much more thought to what he would do in any situation involving firearms when compared to the rest of us. Generally speaking, of course.
I know I have given considerable thought to what could happen if I had to draw my firearm, not about the shooting part, but the part that comes after. I know that if the cops show up behind me I am probably going to get shot because I am unlikely to hear them and whatever they are shouting at me, to them I wont be compliant to their requests.
MD Matt up there being vision impaired has to think about not just what he would do during the shoot, but what is he going to have to do after the shoot. He isn’t going to be able to see if the person approaching him is a cop or another bad guy, he has to think through not only the initial shoot, but everything that happens afterwards and think about it in a much different way than just I shot someone now I wait on the cops.
Thank you all for the kind words. In response to a recurring question re-self/home defense.
I have, as several posters have theorized, given a lot of thought to the matter. Being a risk averse and generally considerate neighbor, there are two big issues I need to overcome.
First, I live in a large apartment complex. I have neighbors on three of the six sides of my apartment, 5 sides if you include possible over-penetration—the last side being the roof. This means I really really have to be careful of where shots go and how much they penetrate. Normal handgun ammunition easily penetrates several interior sheetrock barriers including pre-fragmented rounds, bird shot, and buck. In my own home things might be different; but in this instance I owe it to my neighbors to make every effort to balance stopping power and the potential for over penetration.
Second, In a self defense shooting situation, my opponent would need to be at contact distances (3 feet or less) before I’d be willing to pull the trigger. Basically, they would need to be in the same room with me. I’ve fired handguns, rifles, and shotguns at as little as ten feet and even small changes to wrist alignment can cause huge variance in point of impact. I’ve run some simulations with nurf guns and laser tag and it would have to be contact distances before I’d be comfortable with the risk I’d be taking. That is because as soon as the dust settled I’d be that blind guy who shot someone. The question, quite reasonably, would be how did I know the person I just shot was a clear and present danger. I don’t think I would be able to support that claim, even if it were true, at more than a few feet.
My choice for self defense ammo is a mix of .410 self defense and Glaser safety slugs from a smith and Wesson governor. These have excellent short range stopping power with the least chance of over penetrating the attacker. Back up would be the Remington disintegrator pre-fragmented rounds out of my Benelli Super Nova for similar reasons.
There is no ideal kind of self defense shooting for me. Assuming I successfully stop a threat, there is going to be a public outcry and likely charges brought. I live in Maryland—a state that views firearms ownership as an aberration. So the best scenario I can think of runs something like this:
Individual(s) breaks into apartment.
My wife and I, realizing what’s going on, immediately call 911, and loudly advise the burglars that we are armed, that the police have been called, and that they need to leave now.
If they do not leave, we advise them again that the police are on their way, we are armed, and that we will act in self defense if required to do so.
If they come through the bedroom door, I get to contact distances and pull the trigger until the threat is stopped. At this point, most people I know figure the day is done. In my case I expect to be arrested, have my firearms confiscated, and be charged with manslaughter. I expect to be the subject of a targeted media campaign and even if I ultimately win, to have to move and/or set up residence somewhere else.
My preference would be a combination of pepper spray, a bright light, and a taser rather than a firearm. Unfortunately the county I live in does not permit taser ownership even though Maryland allows it. I’ve thought about a shotgun, something like the circuit judge, loaded with rock salt. The problem, again, is that if all those warnings don’t dissuade a burglar, then I will literally need to “stop” the threat. Short of going Chuck Norris on them—a bad idea for multiple reasons, a firearm is my last and only option.
amen brother! Being totally blind myself, there’s nothing better than a day at the range. I like to use the mini key finder alarms. The one with the remote that when pushed beeps loudly. I mount them 8 inches above the target at the pistol range. When the remote is depressed, you know exactly where they are. Use more than one to require multiple targets. As for the criminals Breaking into my house, I suggest they hold their breath and don’t make a sound.
What animal is this for my BLIND MAN BUCKET LIST ,, and How much did this beast weigh?
Dan is an inspiration!!