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Appleseed Shoot

It was several months ago when a friend of mine at work asked me if I was going to the Appleseed shoot?  "Appleseed shoot?" I asked.  I had to find out more about this shoot.  A quick search with Google landed me on the Appleseed Project web site sponsored by the Revolutionary War Veterans Association.  After spending about 15 minutes on the site, I had a faily good idea of what the Appleseed project was all about.  Upon returning to work the following day, I informed my friend that I would be attending if at all possible.  A week or two later, the Appleseed site had been updated with the info for the upcoming Phoenix area shoot.  I registered myself for the weekend ($70 for the course) and began organizing my equipment. 

The best thing about an Appleseed shoot is, in my opinion, that you can make it as expensive or inexpensive as you wish.  You can shoot anything from a .22 rimfire rifle to a high power rifle, such as a .30-06 or .308.  Given today's cost of ammunition, being able to use a brick of .22 LR keeps your ammo outlay down to the $20 mark or less.  I shot 400 rounds over the weekend.  I may not have done it if I had to feed my AR-15 or Saiga .223 with 400 rounds. 

Aside from my ammo, the other "big" expense was a $10 purchase at the local Walmart.  The Appleseed site suggested I bring a shooting mat.  For $10, I purchased a nice 2' wide doorway runner about 6' long....the home furnishings section had quite a variety of them.  While never intended to be used as a shooting mat, I'll tell you it did a great job and will be used again when the need arises.  Did I mention we spent a lot of the weekend in the prone position? 

You will need eye protection (safety glasses is what I use), a ball cap to keep the brass from raining down on your head and landing between your glasses and your eye (OUCH!), and of course some hearing protection.  While it doesn't take much to quiet down a .22 rimfire rifle, remember you may be next to someone shooting a .30 caliber rifle so be sure your hearing protection is up to speed.  You can also wear foam ear plugs under the ear muffs if additional protection is needed.

While not an absolute requirement, you really do want a sling for your rifle.  The nice part is that it doesn't have to be an expensive/fancy sling.  A low cost $10~$15 web sling will do the job just fine.  Once I learned how to properly use the sling, I found it to be a big advantage towards creating a steady shooting platform.  I used a nylong sling that came from Uncle Mikes, if I remember correctly. 

That is about it.....everything else is provided for you.....that being the packet of very good information and the targets.  You will need a good attitude too.  If you think you know everything there is to know about rifle shooting, then this probably isn't the place for you.  If you want to improve your shooting skills and learn a little bit about our country's history, then sign up and come to the course.  As I type this paragraph, I believe I know why the guy in the lane next to me didn't make it to the end of day #1.  His attitude sucked (he was a 30 year retired cop form an east coast city PD and believe me, I heard a lot about his great shooting abilities).  After correcting him, for the 2nd time, about him loading his rifle before the range master gave the command to do so, it appeared that he got all butt hurt and left shortly after lunch.  Oh darn it anyway! <grin>  I have a very low tolerance for attitudes that put people in danger.

Appleseed shooting #1

Here I am with my trusty ol' Ruger 10/22 and my Walmart shoot mat.  This pic was taken on day #2....I know that  because of the duct tape holding the mat in place.  It was just a wee bit windy that day....but we pressed on with our practice and qualification.  As our instructor repeated on several occasions....."A rifleman persists."

Safety was a very important part of the two day shoot.  While everyone was good natured and enjoyed the humor that sometimes came with the course of instruction, there was no joking around when it came to the safe handling of your rifle.  Each rifle was inspected prior to us going down range to tape or replace targets.  On the rifle, the magazine was removed (or tube released on a tube fed rifle), safety on, bolt locked back, chamber empty flag inserted, and the rifle safely pointed down range and on the ground.  No one was allowed to touch or move a rifle until the range officer gave the command to do so. 

Appleseed target #1

A big part of the rifleman training was focused on a technique called NPOA (natural point of aim).  NPOA is a shooting skill where the shooter minimizes the effects of body movement on the firearm's impact point.  Along with proper stance, sight picture and trigger control, it forms the basis of marksmanship.  The above sight in target (upper left corner of the pic), shot at 25 meters, is on a 1/2" grid.  This group was shot by one of the participants with his eyes closed (from start to finish) after obtaining a good sight picture and sight alignment using NPOA.  Of course, good trigger control doesn't hurt either and is very important too.  But the point is that once you have gotten your natural point of aim for the position you are shooting from, it really does make it much easier to shoot an accurate group.  We got to practice working on our NPOA a lot and after I started getting the hang of it, my groups did improve as did my score.

The purpose of the Appleseed shoot is to provide you with the necessary skills to achieve an Expert score on the AQT (Army Qualification Test).  The AQT is shot using a total of 40 rounds of ammunition.  Since the AQT is designed to test your rifleman skills out to 400 meters, we used a target scaled for 25 meters.  Since public 400 yard ranges are not all that easy to find, this worked out well.  And yes, we didn't have to compensate for windage at 400 yds.....but we did shoot our exam in a 35 MPH Arizona wind storm on the afternoon of the 2nd day.  Staying on target while shooting from the standing position was certainly interesting. 

Appleseed target #2

Here is the scaled AQT target I mentioned above.  I put a couple of quarters on it (circled in red) to give some perspective as to what you are shooting at.  The course of fire is as follows. 

Stage #1 - 10 shots, in 2 minutes, from the standing position.  1 magazine is used assuming it will hold the required 10 rounds.  This target is scaled down from a 100 yard target.

Stage #2 - 10 shots, in 55 seconds.  You start in the standing position and transition to the sitting or kneeling position.  Two shots are fired at the left target and a magazine change is performed.  Three more shots are fired at the left target, then five shots at the right target.  This target is scaled down from a 200 yard target.

Stage #3 - 10 shots, in 65 seconds.  You start in the standing position and transition to the prone position.  Two shots are fired at the left target and a magazine change is performed.  One more shot is fired at the left target, then three shots at the middle target, and finally fours shots are fired at the right target. This target is scaled down from a 300 yard target.

Stage #4 -  10 shots, in 4 minutes.  You start in the prone position with a 10 round magazine.  Two shots are fired at the left and adjacent targets, and three each on the remaining two targets.  This target is scaled down from a 400 yard target.  The points achieved on this stage are doubled when adding them into the total score for the AQT.  It can certainly be the deal breaker, so to speak, when you start adding up your total score.  Mistakes on this stage count double against you.  OUCH! 

A perfect score is 250 and from what I've been told, that doesn't happen very often.  A score of 210 is considered an expert marksman by the Army and so it is in the Appleseed shoot too.  We had one person score a 214 which means he made Expert Marksman in just one weekend.  I finished the shoot with a score of 184.  There was significant improvement from the first AQT that we shot on day #1. 

Appleseed shooting #2

We also shot "Red Coat" targets (in honor of the Revolutionary War) at various times during the weekend.  These targets are scored such that a hit at 100 yards makes you a 4 MOA marksman (roughly a 4 inch group).  These targets are also scaled for 200, 300, and 400 yards, like the AQT targets.  There is also a small square box that qualifies you for a head shot at 250 yards.  My best run at the Red Coat targets yielded a 100, 200, and 300 yard (3 shot groups) along with the 250 yard head shot.  I just couldn't quite squeeze out that 400 yard shot.  <sigh>

Deep down, the Appleseed shoot is all about bringing back the basics of rifle marksmanship.  Things nowadays are very different from when I grew up on a farm in Minnesota back in the 50s and 60s.  I remember taking several rifles to school (on the school bus no less) to blue and refinish when I was taking shop class.  Now days, that would get you a felony conviction and time with "Big Bubba" as your cell mate. 

The Appleseed Project is growing rapidly.  I can't think of a better thing to do with a brick of .22 and your favorite rimfire rifle.  Check out the scheduled shoots on the Appleseed web site and get yourself AND A FRIEND signed up for one in your area.  If there isn't one in your area, talk to the folks at your local rod and gun club and see if they have plans to get one going.  I was at Front Sight just this past week and bumped into a member at the motel I was staying at.  I was wearing my Appleseed t-shirt (yes, you get one of those too at the shoot) and he was quite excited to tell me that his gun club in California (no less) was hosting their first shoot in another month.  Way to go guys! 

I would like to hope that this write-up just might help you commit to polishing your rifleman skills and getting the drop on those Red Coats!  If you do, drop me an e-mail and let me know how it went.  I would enjoy hearing your comments about the event you attended. 

Best regards and keep shooting! 

Update:  10/19/2009

I attended my 2nd Arizona Appleseed event this past weekend.  We met at the same range, near Buckeye, Arizona, and had another great event.  The only down side was the heat.  We've had some great fall weather the past couple of weeks....highs in the mid-80s.  So this weekend, old man summer decided he would remind us that he wasn't out of the fight just yet....and so we popped a couple of 100 degree days.  It is difficult to lay in the sun and slow cook on your shooting mat while trying to put each and every shot on target.  But hey, the saying hasn't changed since the last Appleseed...."A rifleman persists."

I did better this time, but not quite enough to make the grade.  Would you believe it....I shot a 208.  (The first time I did the math I thought I had made it but I had miscounted.) 

The group was great and as with any such event, new friendships were made.  Two shooters qualified this time!  And so the ranks of rifleman continue to grow.  We had folks there that had never shot a rifle before.  Again, we had everything from .22 rimfire to .308 high power.  With the ammo prices still being up there, a lot of folks were shooting .22LR rifles.  Hey, I was too, but this time I had just picked up a new .22 rifle a week before the event.  You can see the review on my M&P 15-22 here.  It ran great and I can't wait to get it back to the range.

I want to express my thanks to the volunteer instructors who made this weekend such a wonderful event.  They truly are all about what the founding fathers passed on to us.  Some folks haven't figured it out yet, and some may never.  I hope I can help wake up some of my fellow Americans.





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