Combat-Wounded Veteran Can Shoot Again Thanks To Florida Gunsmiths

Marine Marcus Burlson lost both hands to an IED in Afghanistan, but can shoot again thanks to the efforts of LaBelle, Fla., gunsmiths (and Marines) Buck Holly and Dave Clark (not pictured) of C & H Precision.

Is it just me, or is it a little dusty in here?

Explosions have shattered much of Marcus Burleson’s adult life.

The Twin Towers. The Afghan bomb that blew up in the young Marine’s face. His marriage.

But this week came an explosion Burleson, 34, had been craving for years: the crack and kick of his new M40A3 rifle, custom-made by LaBelle, Fla., gunsmith Buck Holly to be shot by a man with no hands.

Sweat shining on his scarred cheeks, Burleson cocked his head and curled his black bionic finger around the trigger of a weapon designed similarly to a Marine Corps sniper rifle used since the 1960s. With the faintest of mechanical whirs, he squeezed, then fired.


Burleson laughed. And kept laughing.

“How’s that?” Holly exclaimed. “230 yards. First-round hit.”

Still grinning, Burleson said, “Like a tuning fork.”

Beyond the impressive marksmanship, this shot is another step on Burleson’s journey to the kind of life he wants. Though technically disabled, he works to raise money and awareness for other injured veterans, difficulties be damned.

“Shooting has always been a passion for me. … I’ve been shooting for as long as I can remember, always hunting — whatever was moving.”

He learned about Holly and his company, C&H Precision Weapons, from a friend who’d been an Army sniper.

“I really wanted to get back into shooting and I wanted to do it right,” Burleson said. That meant a rifle he’d be able to use with minimal help. For the last six months, he and Holly have called and emailed each other as the company fashioned Burleson’s custom rifle.

After his first few shots with it, Burleson was visibly elated. So was Holly.

“The difference between this rifle project and all of our other ones is our connection as Marines,” Holly said. “My partner Dave and I are both former Marines. Veterans Day is this week, the Marine Corps birthday is this week and having Marcus here now to deliver this rifle to makes it extra special.”

Burleson was injured defusing an IED, and spent two years learning to walk, stand, and speak, and lost his wife in the process. He’s still suffering excruciating pain every day from a phantom limb that is no longer there but feels like it is on fire, as it was in the last second it was part of his body.

C & H Precision, thank you for helping get your fellow Marine back on the firing line.

Nov 26, 2021 10:30 AM ET