Adaptive Trigger Mechanisms & Weapon Mounts for Wheelchair User with Limited Hand Function

By Clint Lindemann ~

When I first got back into hunting one of the biggest obstacles I needed to figure out was how I was going to hold and pull the trigger on whichever weapon I wanted to shoot. My accident left me a C 4-5 quadriplegic. That means that I do not have any finger movement. I have a little wrist movement on my left but no wrist movement on the right side.  I do have use of my elbows. So knowing this, I needed to figure out how to support a weapon and also pull the trigger without using finger dexterity.

The first weapon that I tried was a Barnett Wildcat crossbow. I wasn’t familiar with crossbows at that time, but this one was given to me to help get me back in to hunting after my accident. It was an older style with a wooden fore-grip and stock. The nice thing about this crossbow was that the fore-grip, stock and trigger guard were each removable. Most crossbows, rifles, and shotguns do not have a removable trigger guard, so this was an added benefit.

Once we got the mount made, we focused on how to modify the trigger. First we tried shoving copper tubing onto the trigger to extend it down so I could pull it with my forearm. This worked for a while, but the copper tubing wasn’t tight enough around the trigger to stay put after a couple of shots. Then I thought of jamming an aluminum arrow shaft onto the trigger itself. This was going to work but we needed to figure out how to keep it on the trigger without drilling a hole through the actual trigger itself. Then someone came up with the idea to melt some plastic inside of the aluminum arrow shaft and then let that plastic melt onto the trigger. This worked great. Actually the same arrow shaft that I put on the trigger in 1999 is the same one that is still on it. It has never fallen off. An elongated trigger is what I call it.

Barnett crossbow mounted on my wheelchair.

Barnett crossbow mounted on my wheelchair.

Closeup of my custom trigger adaptation on my crossbow.

Closeup of my custom trigger adaptation on my crossbow.

Mounting the crossbow to the chair was actually pretty simple and straight forward. I needed the crossbow at eye level so I could see through the scope. We first mounted the crossbow so it was attached directly to the metal frame so it could not move, but after hunting a couple times, I realized that I was not going to be able to move my electric wheelchair to aim without spooking the game. So we had to come up with another idea on how to attach the crossbow to the mount.

Our next idea was to use a window mount that is supposed to attach to a spotting scope. We didn’t know if this type of spotting scope mount would be strong enough but we knew the Barnett Wildcat was very light, especially considering everything we stripped off of it. So we figured out how to attach the crossbow to the spotting scope mount, and then we attached that spotting scope mount to the metal frame which can be attached to the wheelchair.

With this spotting scope mount I was now able to aim my crossbow up, down, left, and right by using my chin. This works quite well for me. Everything can be lined up without me having to move too much to get on target. Another good thing is that there is only one bolt where the crossbow mount attaches to the wheelchair, which makes it very easy to put on and take off. We also made the front of the frame adjustable, to move up and down, depending on if I am shooting from an elevated position. The frame is made out of three-quarter inch metal tubing. My dad designed and welded it.

How crossbow mount is attached to my chair.

How crossbow mount is attached to my chair.

Mounting the rifle was going to be a whole different type of challenges. A friend of mine bought me a rifle mount kit from BeAdaptive.  Everything was there to mount to a wheelchair, but you had to have the right wheelchair for it to mount properly. Or what they consider properly. But with a little ingenuity and metal work we got it to work for me. This mount is designed to come up between your knees. The whole rifle mount is stationed on a metal pan that slides under your seat cushion.

The BeAdaptive rifle mount before I modified it for my wheelchair.

The BeAdaptive rifle mount before I modified it for my wheelchair.

The way this mount was intended to attach to a wheelchair would work great, but it does not work for me because I use a tray on my chair at all times. A lot of people don’t use trays, but I find it very handy for a number of purposes. We figured out a way to attach the mount on the right side of my chair and underneath the frame of my seat.  Going this route gave us the option to leave it on there permanently without having it affecting anything else. We also had to modify how to use the gun cradle. We ended up turning the cradle around 180° from what the directions say.

The BeAdaptive rifle mount modified to attach to the side of my wheelchair.

The BeAdaptive rifle mount modified to attach to the side of my wheelchair.

I also use the mount to hold my fishing rod.

I also use the mount to hold my fishing rod.

Getting a trigger to work was going to be difficult. The trigger guard was not removable and I did not want to cut every rifle that I wanted to use to be able to jam an aluminum arrow shaft up onto the trigger, so we had to come up with another plan. First we tried putting a hook made of heavy gauge wire on my splint and having me reach up and pull the trigger. This actually worked a little bit but I could not get the hook off the trigger by myself, so that wasn’t very safe. I didn’t have enough control. Next we tried putting a string around the trigger and having it hang down far enough so that I could hook it and pull back. This also worked but was not very reliable.

Next came the eye-opening, voilà moment. I believe there were five guys standing and staring at the rifle trying to come up with a solution. Soon enough it happened. It is hard to explain in words but I will try.

My adapted trigger mechanism

My adapted trigger mechanism

8-trigger

The good thing about this trigger mechanism is that as long as your trigger guard is big enough and flat on bottom it will work. The mechanism attaches to the trigger guard with two set screws, it mounts in front of the trigger with a pivot point, this pivot point has a block of metal which trips the trigger when I pull back on the rod that swings from the pivot point. It is a very slick design.

9-trigger10-trigger

I have used this on my Remington .243 Model 7400, Winchester M70 22-250, Ruger 10/22, Savage .243, and a Weatherby PA-08 12 gauge. It actually took a while to find a model of 12 gauge that it would work on. A lot of shotgun trigger guards are rounded or are oddly shaped. We had to do a little filing on the inside of the trigger guard but we got it to work.

When I bought my Carbon Express Intercept crossbow, I wasn’t too worried about the trigger because I knew we would be able to figure it out. It was actually quite simple. The trigger guard was not removable on this crossbow. So I just had my buddy make another rifle trigger mechanism and it slid right onto my Intercept trigger guard.

My Carbon Express Intercept with trigger mechanism attached.

My Carbon Express Intercept crossbow with trigger mechanism attached.

This crossbow is very adjustable. It is based on an AR platform. Mounting this crossbow was also pretty simple. We used the design that we use on the Barnett Wildcat and just made it beefier. The only difficulty we had mounting this one was figuring out the best, most solid way of attaching it to the window scope mount. But after a handful of attempts, we got a good, solid set up for my crossbow.

With all of these weapon mounts and trigger guards I have taken numerous game from gophers to whitetails to pronghorn. My next goal is a pheasant with the shotgun this fall. I could not have done this without a lot of help from friends and family.

If you have any questions on any of the equipment, please feel free to contact me by email at clintl@mlgc.com.