The wild wild west

About 10 years ago I woke up at 6am on a Sunday morning. I hate when I do that especially since it happens way too often. Wide awake, I turned on my TV. Flip, flip, flip and nothing exciting at 6am on a Sunday morning. Then I find a show on whitetail deer hunting. I haven’t hunted since the accident. Guns are heavy, they have a pretty good kick when shooting them and dangerous if not handled properly. Handled properly, there are safe as a butter knife. You just need to know one thing about guns. Crocodile Dundee said it best when he pointed to the end of the barrel and said, that’s the dangerous end. If you respect that one thing, guns are as safe as a butter knife.

A couple of days later I received a catalog in the mail titled Access to Recreation. It has pages of items to assist the handicapped. I haven’t received a new catalog in quite a while, but they have a web page. The guy that runs the show is named Don. He’s in a wheelchair and a nice guy. I’ve talked with him a few times when I needed info on something in the catalog. I often liked flipping through the pages. If I was rich, I’d buy a bunch of stuff from the catalog. That day ten years ago I spotted a cool gun turret that mounted on a wheelchair. It was developed by a guy in a wheelchair as well. I called Don and he put me in contact with the inventor. I liked it. But it had one problem, it cost thousands of dollars. I think if I bought everything it would have cost over $3000. I work for my money, so I’d need a lot better job to afford the store bought gun turret. But it did give me an idea. I can make my own. The one thing I did buy was this plastic little thing that mounted inside the trigger area with two little set screws. On the side is an inch long lever that would operate the gun’s trigger. That only cost $49. I bought two. I should have bought several. They don’t sell them anymore.

So off to the hardware store I go. To mount the turret to the wheelchair I wanted to make it simple, but strong and safe. I’m not going to be the one mounting it on my wheelchair, but I don’t want it so complicated that no one will help me either. It’s hard to do things on my wheelchair while sitting on it, especially since I have paralyzed hands. Also, I have no need to ever shoot a gun by myself; it’s not something I need to do. If I shoot an elk, I’ll need the help anyway bring the 1000 pounds of steaks, roasts and sausages home. So I want to keep it simple. It might be a cold snowy day when I’m hunting the elusive 12 point buck. Easy and quick is important. I accomplish this by buying a 2 foot piece of 1 ½’’channel iron. I cut it 17’’ in length. The width of the frame of my wheelchair is 16’’. I then cut two 1’’ pieces. My brother Paul, who was living with me at the time worked at a company that had a welder, welded the two 1’’ pieces onto the 17’’ piece of channel iron so it formed a ‘’C’’ if you will on one end. On the other end I drilled two holes to fit a U-bolt. When you slide the channel iron with the C end over the lower pipe on the left side of my wheelchair and U-bolt the other end with wing nuts on the right side of the wheelchair it’s a solid mount. Anyone can attach the gun turret mount with one U bolt and two wing nuts to my wheelchair in 5 seconds, 10 seconds in cold weather.

With the goal of making a simple mount complete, I had Paul weld a pipe coupler to the center of the channel iron. With the gun mount on the wheelchair just behind my front wheels on the wheelchair, all I had to do was screw about a 3’ piece of pipe down between my legs to the pipe coupler that was welded to the mount.

A gun everyone should own that wants to own guns is a Ruger 10/22 rifle. It’s a very small .22 caliber rifle that uses very cheap ammo. The rifle has no kick what so ever so it’s great for learning how to shoot and safely handle a firearm. It’s the gun I bought to test my gun turret. Safety first when it comes to firearms. I wanted to know that I could safely shoot a gun before I got deep into the sport of hunting. To mount my .22 caliber Ruger 10/22 rifle to the gun turret mount I had attached to my wheelchair I used shelving angle iron. You’ve seen that silver angle iron used for shelving that has all the holes in it. I cut two pieces about 2’ long. Using threaded rod, I bolted the angle iron together just wide enough to fit with fender washers over a pipe T. To hold the rifle on the 2’ angle iron, I simply used two old front forks off an old wheelchair. Without the wheels, I bolted the forks pointed up on either end of the 2’ angle iron. I wrapped them in foam then used duct tape to keep the foam on the forks to protect the rifle from being scratched when in the forks. I used just the right amount of foam so the rifle fit very snug inside the two forks.

Now it was just the matter of putting the part that held the rifle on the 3’ pipe mounted to my wheelchair. Inside a pipe T, I JB Welded a smaller pipe that a 3/8’’ bolt just fit in. With two 3/8’’ fender washers, I loosely bolted the pipe T near the center of the two pieces of angle iron that had the two forks that held the gun. Add a short piece of pipe in the pipe T that fit inside the 3’ pipe that is mounted to my wheelchair and I have a homemade gun turret. Add two threaded rods near the top of the 3’ pipe going back to my back rest of the wheelchair and it’s a solid.

Basically, I have a thing that securely holds a rifle mounted on top of a pipe attached to my wheelchair. The rifle in the mount can rotate on top of the pipe left, right, up and down. After a coat of blue paint, I take the new gun turret, my new Ruger model 10/22 rifle and my brother Paul to a gun shop that has an indoor shooting range. Paul attaches my new gun turret to my wheelchair. He slides the .22 caliber rifle into the foam covered forks. I dawn ear protection and safety glasses while Paul attaches a paper target to a device that will bring it down the narrow 25 yard tunnel. I aim the rifle and pull the lever attached to the trigger. POP! It wasn’t a very loud sound. .22 caliber rifles don’t have much gun powder in the little cartridge. The gun doesn’t kick at all. I know this from my childhood when I’ve shot  .22s.

I asked Paul if I hit the target. He was busy in the stall next to me. Paul rented a .45 caliber Colt model 1911 semi-automatic single action pistol. In my opinion, the most iconic classic handguns ever made. This is the hand gun that is in all your old gangster movies, WWII movies and even Vietnam. The .45 caliber is a very big shell and Paul said the gun was heavy to hold. After a few shots down the gun range, Paul too was asking if he was hitting the target. It took us both a couple of shots before we were sure we were hitting the targets. For Paul, you could call it a bucket list item for him. For me, it was conformation that my gun turret worked and I could safely shoot a gun and hit a target.

I don’t remember if I ordered my next gun that night or it was a day or two later, but it was ordered. I had been looking at web sites for guns for several weeks leading up to that day. Once I knew it was safe and I could hit a target, I was buying a real gun to hunt with. I looked at several manufactures and many different calibers. Since money was a concern because I’m not rich, I choose the Remington Model 700 bolt action .308 caliber 28’’ heavy barrel rifle. I chose this gun for several reasons. For the price, it’s a very well designed and manufactured rifle. It will do everything I want and expect it to do and do it very well. I choose the .308 caliber because it’s most likely I’ll be shooting 100 yards to 250 yards at the animals. The .308 cartridge carries long distances well, but it doesn’t have the kick of a 7 mm. I chose the longer heavy barrel version of the Remington model 700 because weight wasn’t a concern. I wasn’t going to be handling or holding the gun. I wanted the heavier gun hoping it would kick less. As for scopes, I bought a Leupold VX-2. After talking with a buddy, Kurt, I was told it’s a great scope for the price.

With my new gun, it was just a matter of going to a shooting range and trying it out. At the time, my brother Paul was living with me. Paul was the type of person that could come home from work and be happy just sitting on the couch watching TV. So to get him interested in wanting to go shooting, I talked him into buying himself a gun. Paul is the youngest of seven boys. He’s always had the problem of thinking he’d had to fill the shoes of all his older brothers. I don’t think he’s ever understood he can be just Paul. There are seven boys in my family. We all have our own individual unique talents. One would have to be superman to do everything everyone else can do. Well maybe he finally has. He did just get married.  Anyway, I used Paul’s insecurity of being the youngest into him buying the biggest, baddest monster gun he could afford. I told him he’d have the biggest gun of anyone in the family. Again it was the Winchester Model 700, but not the .308 or the 30-06 that is popular among the other brothers, I talked him into the Winchester .300 Magnum. The .300 Magnum is a monster of a shell. It’s twice the size of my .308 cartridge. The Winchester .300 is a gun that you can take to Africa and shoot water buffalos, rhinos and even elephants with. Now, I was taught by my uncle Freddy ‘’not’’ to shoot anything you’re ‘’not’’ going to eat and I still believe that to be true today, so don’t go shooting anything you don’t plan on eating. Now there is self defense, but it’s very unlikely that you’ll need to use a gun for self defense. If you do, I’ll understand and do what you need to do to protect yourself and your family, but I’m hoping no one I know will ever need to defend them self with a gun. While I’m on the subject, if you own guns, then you should own a gun safe, and use the two holes in the bottom of it to bolt it securely to the floor. When it comes to firearms, be smart and be safe.

Now that Paul has a monster of a gun and I have my Remington .308 model 700, we’re off to the outdoor firing range. We find one just south of San Jose off of highway 101. Of course both Paul and I have ear and eye protection when we set up at the shooting range. The shooting range had boards 100 yards down range you put your paper target on. Since there is a couple of dozen places to shoot from, the range has no shooting periods so everyone can walk the 100 yards to put their targets up. While we waited for the break, Paul set me up with my gun turret. Then the break came. Paul sets up targets for the two of us. Paul was excited to shoot his weapon of ultimate destruction so I watched him fire his gun first. I’ve been around guns a long time, but I’ve never heard a gun as loud as Paul’s .300 Winchester Magnum Model 700. HOLY CRAP was it loud. Everyone at the shooting range turned to look at Paul. I think he took three more shots than put the gun back in his gun case. I asked him why and he said it was because it cost $3 a shell to shoot. Later on he admitted it kicked like a pissed off mule.

When my turn came, Paul set me up with a clip full of .308 shells and put my gun on the turret. I pointed it down range, pulled the bolt back to chamber a .308 shell, took the safety off and pulled the trigger without looking through the scope. It seemed to work well. The turret held the gun perfectly. Neither the rifle nor the gun turret move on my wheelchair, it looked safe. My second try I looked through the scope, but with my face 6’’ back. I pulled the trigger and everything looked fine. My third try I put my eye close to the scope, aimed at the center of the target and pulled the trigger. Paul, did I hit it? Paul uses the binoculars I had in my duffle bag to look at the target. Yes, you hit the top corner. I was excited so I didn’t notice the warm fluid trickling down my face. Paul looks at me with a surprised look. You’re bleeding! It wasn’t until then I realized I was cut. The scope came back from the kick and nailed me between the eyes. It happens so fast I didn’t feel it.

It took several minutes to get the pretty deep cut to stop bleeding. When it finally did, I pointed the Remington model 700 .308 down range. Without putting my face near the gun, I told Paul to watch what happens when I pull the trigger. I pulled the trigger. Do it one more time Paul said. I pulled the bolt back and chambered another shell and fired. My gun turret was working perfect. The gun wasn’t moving an inch in the turret. What was happening was the kick from the rifle was lifting the front of my wheelchair up so the entire wheelchair was rocking back a couple of inches when I fire the gun. Basically the rifle, gun turret and wheelchair were moving, but my body wasn’t.

Ok there needed some modifications, but the gun turret concept worked. I shot another 15 or so times down range . I kept my face a few inches back from the scope when I shot. Even though I had a little bit of a hard time aiming because my eye wasn’t close to the scope, I was hitting the black circle part of the target at 100 yards on most shots. Adjusting the gun turret, the gun or maybe just a broom handle propped underneath the handle on my wheelchair to keep the wheelchair from rocking back, and I feel I could be a good enough shot to safely go hunting with someone. And a lot more practice.