This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend a two-day civilian marksmanship program called the Appleseed Project. In this article, I hope to shed some light on what the Appleseed Project is and why you should attend:
At first glimpse I thought it was going to be some anti-government militia movement, but after looking into it a bit more and actually attending an event myself, I realized it’s quite the opposite. Although there is a bit of a libertarian “don’t-tread-on-me” theme (which I’m perfectly fine with btw), no present-day politics are discussed, and there is no anti-government rhetoric. In a nutshell, the Appleseed Project is a mix of marksmanship and history. It’s mission: “to teach every American about our shared heritage and history as well as traditional rifle marksmanship skills”.
Taught by a cadre of volunteer instructors (who are chosen from former Appleseed graduates), the Appleseed Project is a nationwide event that is inspired by the riflemen of the American Revolution. Back in revolutionary times, the rifleman found his ranks among common, average, every-day citizens. These were farmers and craftsman, not career soldiers. However, many of these “commoners” could shoot a man-size target out to 500 yards with iron sights, using a standard rifle, and surplus ammo. This traditional “Rifleman’s Quarter Mile”, as it was called, is what the Appleseed Project enables (without scopes using only iron sights!), with the hope that you’ll pass this skill on to future generations.
Here’s a breakdown of the two-day event:
Appleseed Event: Day 1
Day 1 began bright and early at 8:30 AM. After a cursory overview of the coming weekend, as well as a thorough discussion into range protocol and safety, we are immediately thrown on the line to begin shooting targets out to 25 meters. This they do for two reasons: one, they want to see where everyone is as far as shooting ability goes, and two, they want you to be able to see just how much you’ll improve with just two days of training.
Learning the Fundamentals
After that first humbling experience (I did horrible), they began teaching the fundamentals of shooting: Natural Point of Aim, Sight Alignment, Front-Sight Focus, Bone on Bone technique, Trigger Control, Respiratory Pause, Follow Through etc. Similar to the Military, they use a crawl-walk-run approach by teaching a few principles at a time and then allowing you to practice, at which point a few more principles are added.
Throughout the first half of the day the instructors had continued to build upon our knowledge. We were taught how to properly use a sling for shooting stability (instead of just using it to carry your rifle), how to shoot from the standing, kneeling, sitting, and prone positions, and how to transition from one position to the next. We are also taught how to sight in our rifles and apply the MOA ( Minute of Angle) standard to adjust for range.
Since my Appleseed had around 20 people, there was a good instructor-to-student ratio which allowed for a lot of personal attention and critiquing.
The Appleseed AQT
We are also introduced to Appleseed’s version of the US Army Alternate “C” course, called the AQT, with targets scaled at 25 meters. The Army Qualification Test (shown at left with a quarter on the lower left target to show how small targets are) consists of 4 stages of decreasingly-scaled silhouettes representing 100, 200, 300 and 400 yards. Here’s the course:
- 10 rounds standing, firing on a silhouette representing a man-sized target at 100 yards (for a maximum score of 50 points)
- 10 rounds transitioning from a standing to sitting or kneeling position, including a mag change, firing on two silhouettes representing man-sized targets at 200 yards (for a maximum score of 50 points)
- 10 rounds transitioning from sitting/kneeling to prone, firing on 3 silhouettes representing man-sized targets at 300 yards (for a maximum score of 50 points) and…
- 10 rounds lying prone, firing on 4 silhouettes representing man-sized targets at 400 yards for a maximum score of 100 points (at 25 meters these things are super tiny!).
The qualification is as follows:
- Unqualified: under 125
- Marksman: 125-169
- Sharpshooter: 170-209
- Expert [Rifleman]: 210 or more
This course will be what’s used to qualify as a “Rifleman” by obtaining a score of 210 out of a possible 250 points. If you do so, you’ll earn the coveted rifleman’s badge as well as an opportunity to come back as an instructor-in-training.
A Lesson in History
After that heavy diet of training and shooting, we broke for a late lunch. We gathered as a group and as we ate one of the instructors related to us the events leading up to the American Revolution: the signal from The Old North Church, the Revere and Dawes rides that woke up the American populace, and the shots fired at Lexington and Concord.
Although I grew up in the Boston area where this all began, I never heard these stories in the watered-down version given by the public schools here. It’s a shame since many of these stories define the sacrifice those early Americans gave and were at the heart of the events leading up to the American Revolution.
In Search of a Rifleman
After lunch we fired course after course of the AQT. As mentioned earlier, those who score a 210 or higher on the course earn the Rifleman badge. Out of all of us, only one of our group earned this award. Surprisingly it wasn’t any of the adult guys (one of them being active military). It was a 12-year old girl! What a humbling experience that was! (It made me feel a little bit better when I found out she was a competitive shooter) But hey, that’s what makes this event so great, it’s open to all, young and old, male and female.
By the end of the day many of us came quite far. As you already know, I didn’t make Rifleman. But how did I do? Well, I started the day not even qualifying (scoring an 84) and by the end of the day I made Sharpshooter with a score of 186 — still a ways off of scoring expert (Rifleman) but pleased nonetheless.
To close out the first day, the instructors covered Meriam’s Corner, “Where the Revolutionary War really began…” It was there we learned that for the first time Americans, who had no direct connection to towns that had just been invaded, attacked, and looted, opened fire on British troops in support of other American militiamen. And thus began the fight for freedom…
Appleseed Event: Day 2
Unfortunately due to family needs, I was unable to stay for Day 2. But to give you an example of what Day 2 is about, I thought I’d make a quick note here.
Day 2 begins with a quick review of what’s taught in Day 1. Questions are asked and techniques are refined. Day 2 is also where attendees graduate from the 25 yard range and move on to the long range. Depending on the range that is hosting the event this may be from 100 yards upwards of 400+ yards.
I was surprised to learn that the same principles and shooting results transfer from the 25-meter range to the longer range. If you can hit the equivalent of a man-sized target at 300 yards on the 25-meter range you can actually hit it at 300 yards on the long-range (after any necessary sight adjustment of course). And again this is all with iron sights!
All-in-all, the Appleseed event was amazing. The instruction is top rate and for a fraction of the cost of other marksmanship courses, you not only learn how to shoot but how to shoot well. Even former military guys are very impressed with the quality of instruction saying that they did not receive that kind of training in the Army.
As far as the price goes, it can’t be beat. Women and youth (under 21) are free and since the program is run entirely by volunteers, you get passionate people and excellent instruction at only $45 if you’re attending only one day or $70 for the entire weekend.
For more information on an Appleseed in your area, be sure to check out The Appleseed Project. You won’t be dissapointed.