No longer shooting in the dark
PEOPLE with sight problems will no longer be excluded from the enjoyment of shooting as a new acoustic shooting club has opened at Canford School.
Made possible by a £6,800 donation from the Talbot Village Trust, an independent charity that has supported causes in Dorset for more than a century, the club is the brainchild of former Royal Marine and Canford School Combined Cadet Force instructor, Ray Gunning.
"My daughter suffered a major brain injury three years ago that left her blind with no visual perception and partially disabled," he says.
"Before the accident she had been extremely competitive so I was searching the internet for activities she could pursue which is how I came across acoustic shooting and as she belongs to Dorset Blind Association I approached them to see if we could work together to make this happen.
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"I'm very proud to see this up and running and hope it can bring enjoyment to as many people as possible."
Instead of having to aim by looking through sights, a blind or visually impaired shooter listens to an audio signal that rises in pitch as the point of aim moves closer to the centre of the target.
All blind and visually impaired shooting is done with .177 air rifles at a range of 10 metres on roundel targets that are white in the centre with shading outwards through progressively darker grey tones, on a black background.
Light reflected from the face of the target is picked up by a device that looks like a telescopic sight mounted on the rifle. The light level registered by the sensor is converted into a sound signal which the shooter hears through headphones.
"This is a very exciting development and owes much to Ray's drive, commitment and enthusiasm for the project," says Jonathan Holyhead, chief executive officer of Dorset Blind Association, which helps up to 1,000 blind and partially sighted people a month to live as independently as possible.
"We are extremely grateful to Canford School for making the facilities available to us and, of course, to Talbot Village Trust for funding the equipment. Acoustic shooting is not yet recognised as a Paralympic sport, but if that changes we could have a team ready for Rio in four years time!"
Gary Cox of Talbot Village Trust, which has distributed more than £12 million to help hundreds of projects in the last 15 years alone, adds: "The Trustees felt this was a groundbreaking idea that would make a big difference to the Association's members and were delighted to be able to help turn it into a reality."
The Club is holding open days on 25th and 30th October and 1st November for any visually impaired person to try the activity. It will then be available to Dorset Blind Association members for open practice on two afternoons a month.