U.S.A. -(AmmoLand.com)- When the Adaptive Defensive Shooting Summit (ADSS) was first held four years ago at the SIG Sauer Academy and Experience Center in Epping, N.H., there were just 13 participants.
Fast forward to ADSS 2022, and the growth in popularity and participation is remarkable for a shooting competition designed for people to overcome disabilities and of shooting skills of all levels.
After three days of instruction, practice, and full-fledged competition, there was a common theme voiced by everyone as they headed home from the 140-acre SIG Experience campus: keeping the momentum building for the future. There is little doubt next year’s competition will bring together even more people with adaptive abilities to compete who all share a common bond – a love of shooting.
Growing the Community
Between 2020 and 2021, nearly 40 million law-abiding Americans passed an FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) verification and purchased a firearm. NSSF retailer industry data showed approximately 40 percent of 2020’s gun buyers were first-timers. What most Americans don’t even think about day-to-day, though, is that number includes Americans with adaptive abilities.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 13 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 64 have a physical disability that limits their movement in some way. That doesn’t count those who are sight limited, blind (like ADSS participant Carey McWilliams), deaf, or those with hearing impairment. Those Americans are buying and using firearms as well, and they’re learning more and more about opportunities to join a community like ADSS.
“The thing we keep in mind in all this is you don’t grow a community from inside the tent,” said Rick Cicero, a certified firearm instructor and ADSS match instructor.
Cicero lost an arm and leg in an explosion in Afghanistan 12 years ago. He uses the knowledge he gained before his injury and after to help adaptive marksmen improve their skills, gain confidence and realize the full spectrum of their capabilities.
“It really takes everyone to bring more visibility to shooters with disabilities and competitions like ADSS and the support from the entire industry help do that and bring more people out of their homes and into the fold,” Cicero explained. “ADSS is something completely genuine that does that.”
ADSS 2022 showed the formula is working. After only 13 participants traveled to Epping, N.H., for the inaugural shoot four years ago, more than 55 participants registered to compete at this year’s match.
After four years of hosting ADSS at the SIG Academy in the northeast, it’s clear the event’s popularity means shooting for new goals, including branching out and taking advantage of more locations across the nation. Past ADSS participant and instructor Nick Fairall said the growth is remarkable and has no worries about continuing momentum.
“We’re all in on this event, and the firearm industry has been critical. They don’t ever want to say ‘No’ to something because of someone’s disability,” Fairall said.
For him, growing the competition’s footprint nationally is a no-brainer.
“It’s awesome what ADSS can provide,” he added. “Of course we want, regardless of disability, for people to be able to shoot safely and proficiently. It’s not just working on shooting and proficiency and to get you out shooting. It’s about improving your skills and becoming a more competent shooter. If you’re better than you were yesterday, you’re doing a good job.”
Cicero explained that plans for ADSS include adding regional competitions in states like Florida, Texas, California and others to make it easier for participants to travel and be a part of the weekend.
“These plans are in the works and they’re so far highly successful,” he said.
Fairall also boiled it down to why the event is so popular.
“It’s fun to get out on the range, to go to classes and go burn it down on the range, of course. But also to develop skills and have a group where you’re not an oddball out at a range,” Fairall said. “There are extremely high-level shooters and beginners alike and everyone’s there for the same reasons.”
Changing People’s Lives
Chad Barber, the Competition Program Specialist at SIG Sauer, sang the same tune following last month’s ADSS 2022 and keeping the momentum going into next year and beyond.
“The goal now is to keeping it growing, to keep it up,” Barber said. “That means regionals, that means getting more people out there with other like-minded people too. Industry support has to be there across the board, it has to be supported by industry – and it has. The support for us has been phenomenal.”
Barber added, though, bringing people with adaptive abilities into the shooting community, regardless of skill level, is about more than just competition. It’s about impact.
“We knew this event would impact people’s lives,” he explained. “What we didn’t know is just how much our lives would be impacted. It’s about bringing more of that visibility for shooters of all kinds, young, old, abled and disabled.”
Cicero echoed that sentiment. Events like ADSS build confidence, awareness, and acceptance.
“As someone who might feel guns are bad, how do you say guns are bad when you see more people like me, and more people like these participants, using them safely and responsibly?” Cicero asked.
The positive feedback and excitement were already building for next year’s match, even as ADSS 2022 closed. Everyone is aiming at the same target to keep the momentum building.
“For the [ADSS] community already, it’s about being welcoming and learning firearms training in a fun way. It was great there were so many people this year that said they can’t wait already for next year,” Fairall said. “They loved it and love being a part of it!”
Fairall concluded with a concise takeaway for everyone. “ADSS is about changing peoples’ lives in a meaningful way. What we learn from this can be incorporated to everyday and even to people without any disability.”
ADSS 2023 can’t come soon enough.
About The National Shooting Sports Foundation
NSSF is the trade association for the firearm industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of thousands of manufacturers, distributors, firearm retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations, and publishers nationwide. For more information, visit nssf.org