FORT CARSON, Colo. (Army News Service, May 3, 2007) - A certified occupational therapy assistant at Fort Carson's Evans Army Community Hospital made a simulated M-4 carbine out of splint material to aid the recovery of Soldiers who have hand, wrist and arm injuries.

Sgt. Christopher Burcalow, a reservist from the 4010th U.S. Army Hospital, New Orleans, La., assigned to EACH, said about 15 Soldiers have already used the weapon with positive results.

He made the rifle out of low-temperature, moldable plastic and it sports a trigger simulator with variable trigger pull resistance. It also has a working charging handle to chamber the first round and a selector switch which flips with a thumb motion. Soldiers can also insert and remove genuine ammunition magazines.

"Soldiers don't have to go to the range for occupational therapy. It's right here when they need it," Sgt. Burcalow said. "A main concern of Soldiers who want to go back to active duty is whether they can pull the triggers on their weapons. With this simulator, they feel confident after therapy in their ability to train on the real thing at the range."

A computer program measures a Soldier's progress - number of repetitions, weight of trigger pull and amount of time between trigger pulls. Soldiers can see they've squeezed the trigger faster and/or harder than the last time, Sgt. Burcalow said.

Capt. Priscillia Bejarano, assistant chief of occupational therapy here, said the Sgt. Burcalow's simulated weapon is really helping Soldiers recover more quickly and that gets them back to the range faster.

(Rebecca E. Tonn writes for the "Mountaineer," Fort Carson, Colo.)