KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- A West Michigan man who suffered a spinal cord injury has created a device aimed at helping people like him shoot a rifle. It's been about 13 years since Ryan Williams, 34, was injured in a trampoline accident. Ever since, he's been determined to continue to enjoy all of his favorite hobbies he was able to before, including hunting.
"I broke my neck in the spring of 2002 jumping on a trampoline up at Northern Michigan University when I was 21 years of age," said Williams. "Just had a bad bounce and fell off it backwards and ended up breaking my neck."
After three months at Mary Free Bed, Williams left his wold world and faced his new reality. He was determined to continue living his life as normally as possible.
"Just trying to keep a positive attitude, and try to become as independent as possible, because I knew that was what it was going to take toget back out and be successful," said Williams.
"Back to normal" included picking up a cross bow just months after the injury. He believed he would never be able to shoot a rifle again until a fisherman sparked his curiosity. "He asked me if I had done any bird hunting like goose or waterfowl, and I said, 'Well, I used to with my dad when I was younger and up through high school, but since I've been hurt, I really can't hold onto a shot gun.'"
The idea of being able to use a shotgun to hunt was enough motivation for Williams to get the ball rolling.
"I did a lot of Internet research on it to try to figure out if maybe someone had come up with something like this before me," said Williams. "That way I wouldn't have to do it myself or re-invent the wheel, as they say. I found there really wasn't anything available."
Williams decided to come up with his own and recruited family and friends to help.
"I just kind of sat down with some paper and kind of drew up some little plans and some models and ordered some leather and straps on Ebay, and within a month I had my little prototype going, and I actually used that first prototype for like three years before I started making these."
Williams calls the device the Shot Strap.
Its design is fairly simple. It consists of a few leather straps and buckles that allows the wrist to be attached to the the barrel of the shotgun even if the hunter is not able to get a firm grip on their own.
Williams is still making the Shot Strap on his own using American-made products, including leather manufactured in Grand Rapids.
The Shot Strap is about more than just hunting, Williams said, it's about owning your life, not taking "No" for an answer, and showing others that anything is possible.
"I thought that I would never be able to go out on a range and shoot clays or even get back out in the marsh or the lake and do duck hunting," said Williams. "This has been a real game changer for me."
Williams also said that there are several people across the country that will soon try the product.
You can visit Williams' online store HERE to order the product.
Williams said that there is a warning label on the product to warn of the possible dangers of using a firearm.