Born with a rare disorder, arthrogryosis, which affected his shoulders, arms, hands, hips, legs and feet, Stetson Bardfield – at age 4 – underwent bilateral knee dis-articulation (amputation of both legs at the knee) allowing him to be able to walk with prostheses. A military kid, he chose to become a competitor in the world of Olympic Air Rifle five years ago. Now, at 18, he is a serious contender on the USA Shooting Paralympic team and the youngest member on the team. He recently achieved world-class scores, including shooting a score of 632.1 on day one and 630.0 on the next at the Robert Mitchell Rifle Championships.
Learn more about one of Air Rifle’s rising shooting stars.
NRA Family: Stetson is an interesting name that you don’t hear very often. Who named you Stetson and why?
Stetson Bardfield: My mom put a box in her workplace and asked for suggestions for names when she was pregnant. She found the name “Stetson” and her grandparents were ranchers and she instantly fell in love with the name. I’ve only met two people with that first name.
NRA Family: When people ask you what you do, what do you say?
Stetson Bardfield: I am a Paralympic Air Rifle prone shooter. I’m shooting at a target the size of a bottle cap at 10 meters (33 feet). To hit the 10 ring, it’s like putting a pellet through a drinking straw each and every shot. And then to hit a perfect shot, which is a 10.9, it’s like hitting a period on a newspaper.
NRA Family: Supposedly a Marine was responsible for getting you hooked at this type of shooting?
Stetson Bardfield: I was volunteering at the Warrior Games in 2014 when I moved to Colorado, where my dad was stationed at Ft. Carson. At dinner, I sat next to a guy named Ernesto Aquino. He asked me, at the end of the competition after his rifle match, if I wanted to get into shooting. I said, “It would be better than sitting on my butt doing video games all day!”
NRA Family: Is it better?
Stetson Bardfield: Absolutely.
NRA Family:You live at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. How do you find life there?
Stetson Bardfield: I find it relaxing, actually. I have a routine schedule: I get up at 7, I’m at the range at 7:45. Then, lunch and then, the gym.
NRA Family: Is meditation part of your training, too?
Stetson Bardfield: I was doing it a little before coming to Colorado Springs, but I didn’t take it as seriously as I do now. The benefits? I’m able to relax a lot faster and control my anxiety and slow my heart rate down.
NRA Family: Do you have a special trainer?
Stetson Bardfield: I go off complex, because my trainer is located there. He’s a physical therapist, but he’s my personal trainer. I do a lot of core, shoulders and back exercises to strengthen my stability and make sure that I’m not moving almost at all when I’m competing.
NRA Family: Do you have a sponsor?
Stetson Bardfield: My sponsor is absolutely incredible. It’s Sheath Underwear! Originally started by a First Sergeant in the Army who walked through the desert and chafed a lot. He made underwear with a pouch, and has added apparel made from bamboo.
NRA Family: You’re heading to United Arab Emirates for the first World Shooting Para Sport World Cup of 2019 at the time of this interview. Have you been out of the country before now?
Stetson Bardfield: Yes, I’ve been to Thailand and Korea … I’m incredibly interested in learning about the culture of other countries.
NRA Family: Do you consider yourself to be an ambassador for the shooting sports?
Stetson Bardfield: I try to be … I have a huge goal of being able to have as many Paralympic shooters as we can; right now, I’m the only Junior Paralympic shooter at this competitive level. The first Junior Paralympics was held last year, and it’s because my family and I fought for a spot. There were only two other competitors there.
NRA Family: Where do you see yourself when you’re not competing any longer?
Stetson Bardfield: I want to become a coach and build a range that, if possible, is better than the one here. It’s all indoor here. Every competition, beside the one here, is held outdoors. I’d love to have an outdoor range, and an inside range with a wind simulator. I’d like to have a Junior Olympic and Paralympic program alongside that.
NRA Family: On your Facebook page, you recently posted that you got your first tattoo. Why did you choose that quote from “Sunrise,” by Our Last Night?
Stetson Bardfield: Two years ago, when my parents split up, I found that song by Our Last Night, with this line: “When the night is cold and you feel like no one knows what it's like to be the only one buried in this hole. You can make it to the sunrise.” I figure it was a little much, so I chose “You can make it to the sunrise.” It has a lot of meaning for me. The darkest moments are right before the sunrise.