Review: Project Appleseed

by Bob Maroldy

It was a cold (43 degrees) and rainy Saturday morning as I pulled out of my driveway at 06:30. I had packed up the night before so I could just get up, get dressed, and go. However, the weather was already making me wonder if I should stay rather than go. I grimly continued on.

I had been trying for a couple of years to get to a Project Appleseed event. I read "Fred's" column that appears in Shotgun News every three weeks. He begs, pleads, cajoles and almost insults people into getting their butts "up off the couch" to go to an event. There you will learn great tips and hints for better and more accurate rifle shooting. According to Fred, there are just 2 types of rifle owners: Cooks and Riflemen.

If you can prove that you can really shoot (by qualifying at an Appleseed) you are a Rifleman, and get a patch to prove it. If you can't meet the standard, or worse don't even try, you are just a cook and, according to Fred, will be "in the rear cooking for the Riflemen who are up front fighting for American freedom and ideals when the balloon goes up and the 'blue helmet troops' invade America."

Project Appleseed is hosted by the Revolutionary War Veterans Association (RWVA) and a large part of an Appleseed is devoted to learning about our heritage and how the Revolutionary War really started, not how it started according to myths.

Appleseed is not a militia group by any means and avoids talking politics. They merely want to get our citizens, men and women, back to being a "Nation of Riflemen" as we were in 1775. To accomplish this, Appleseed instructors teach marksmanship as it was taught to soldiers preparing for WWI and WWII. The use of the rifle sling is paramount for shooters at Appleseed.

As I reached I-70 East, headed for Zanesville, I cranked the windshield wipers up a couple of notches to try and keep ahead of the rain, and again found myself thinking, "Do I really want to try to shoot on a day like this?" Well, as I have said above, this is something that I have wanted to do for several years but could never find anyone else to go along with me. Now I'm going to do it alone. Fred says, "People like to think they can really shoot well but are afraid to try to prove it because if they don't then they can't convince themselves that they are a good shooter any longer." Fred has something there because I, too, like to think I'm a good shot but know that if I don't qualify, I won't be able to tell myself that anymore. Well, it's time to find out if I am as good a shot as I have been telling myself that I am, or take up the culinary arts.

Coincidentally, I realized that this weekend is 50 years to the week that I, as a nineteen-year-old kid, qualified with the M-1 in basic training for the Army at Ft. Dix, NJ. I did it then; can I do it again at nearly 70 years of age? Rain or no rain, I'm going to find out.

I managed to find my way to Briar Rabbit Shooting Sports range in the dark (with the unrelenting rain) and went to the office to ask where on the complex the Appleseed shoot was being held. The two folks in the office actually looked surprised that someone was here to shoot on a day like this but gave me directions to the rifle range. Arriving there a bit before the 08:30 scheduled start time I was met by Julia, the Appleseed Instructor who told me that she was expecting me as well as 4 others and a possible 6th person from a previous shoot who had missed his 2nd day and wanted to finish up. Did I mention that this is a 2-day event? There's lots of shooting and we were told to bring at least 500 rounds of ammo with .22s being allowed. I brought along two Ruger 10/22s as I figured Murphy's Law would intervene if I only had one rifle. Two spare 10-round magazines (largest capacity allowed) gave me a total of four, just in case. Scopes are OK but no bipods as the only support allowed is your sling. As magazine changes are part of the program you must have at least two. As luck would have it, I did have one magazine go bad with a broken spring.

The other four folks showed up in one vehicle as two father-son pairs. The boys were in their early teen years and, given the weather, were more enthusiastic than the adults. We retrieved our rifles and, with my 10/22 there were three other semi-autos and one bolt-action, all .22s and all with scopes.

We moved some benches aside to give a clear line for the three shooting positions that we would use: standing, sitting or kneeling, and prone. We laid down our shooting mats in the mud and put our rifles on the mats. The safety briefing commenced while the rifles began to get soaked. I used my sling to cover the ends of my scope to help keep raindrops off the lenses (helped a little).

After a lengthy briefing and explanation of how things would be done, we all laid down in the rain (did I mention that it was RAINING?) and began to sight in at 25 meters. All shooting is done at 25 meters with "half-silhouette" targets scaled down to simulate 100, 200, 300 and 400 meters. They get small! Scoring rings are 5, 4 and 3 points, only. Outside the 3-ring it's zero.

After shooting and adjusting, shooting and adjusting, everyone was finally satisfied with the settings on their scopes and we all looked like we had been mud-wrestling. Then practice shooting commenced with different positions, different sling settings and magazine changes with time limits on some of the stages. A little after 13:00 we broke for lunch. The plan was to have lunch available for purchase but, with the weather and small turnout, that didn't happen so we drove off to town for chow. Julia stayed at the range to watch the rifles and we brought lunch back to all eat together. While eating lunch we talked about current politics but Julia declined to comment saying she was not allowed to participate in political discussions per Appleseed rules but said we could easily "guess [her] position." While we were eating, two "die-hard shooters" showed up to shoot a Mosin-Nagant and an AR-15 for a while. As the loud noise was disconcerting compared to our .22s, Julia suggested we go to the office classroom for the required discussion about our colonial origins. As it would get us out of the rain for a while, no one objected.

The talk about how the events of April 18 & 19, 1775 unfolded was very informative and made us feel proud that we were carrying on in those Patriots' traditions by becoming Riflemen in today's world. Julia was very passionate about the trials and tribulations the colonials suffered to gain freedom from oppression by the British. After about an hour and a half she concluded and I could see everyone was affected in a positive manner. We started back to the range, hoping the "die-hards" had run out of ammo and maybe the rain had quit. We got 1 out of 2 wishes: i.e.: it was still raining...

We again had the range to ourselves and commenced more practice of the various drills. Late in the afternoon we set up to try the AQT (Army Qualification Test) which is used to qualify (did I mention that the rain never quit?). The standard to qualify (or not) is a score of 210 out of a possible 250. I felt fairly confident that I could shoot at least that 210 but had concerns because of my disability (I'm literally "bolted together" from a motorcycle accident and at nearly 70 arthritis is creeping in) which really slowed down my transitions from standing to sitting and prone which are timed stages. Also, those of you who have Ruger 10/22s know that magazine changes are not as smooth as an AR's.

We began and, when the last "cease-fire" had been called, we slogged down to score our targets. At first glance mine looked good to me but, unfortunately, the youngster shooting next to me had gotten confused on one stage and shot my target instead of his. It really hurt his score with 5 missing shots but it also hurt mine because, with extra holes in the targets, the highest 5 were deducted. When all was scored one of the adults had shot a 226 and qualified. My score, even with the deducted points, was 212! I was just about to celebrate but was told that I had gone 5 seconds over on one stage which disqualified me. So close, but "no cigar."

We packed up our gear as dusk fell. The four others said they might be back tomorrow so as to allow the three who didn't qualify a chance to try again. I told Julia that I was staying over in Zanesville so I would definitely be there on Sunday. I headed for my motel and a hot shower. A few hours of cleaning my gear and rifle and practicing with the sling and different shooting positions left me really beat. I hit the sack and fell asleep watching "Predator" with Arnold on the TV. Lots of firepower in that movie but I noted they weren't using slings. Maybe that"s why they kept missing the alien.

The alarm woke me Sunday morning at 07:00 and I got dressed to get some free Continental breakfast. I opened the door and was greeted by...pouring rain!

Thinking that I somehow had gotten transported to a tropical rainforest by mistake (of course I wasn't because it wouldn't be 45 degrees in the tropics) I walked down to the office to have breakfast. They had a waffle machine and nice hot coffee. The topic of conversation at the breakfast bar was, oddly enough, "rain." I checked out, loaded my gear, and headed for the range with the wipers on "high" and the rain getting ahead of the wipers.

Arriving at the range I had to use 4WD to maneuver to my parking spot as my truck slid in the mud. Stepping out into mud, I got my rifle and gear, and trudged in mud to the muddy shooting positions. Julia arrived about 5 minutes later and we talked about...the mud. I was thinking I was glad I had a web sling because if it was leather it would have rotted by now. We gave the other shooters until 09:00 to show but they didn’t and the "make-up" shooter didn't show either. I guess they were all smarter than me. I pictured them in a cozy house in front of a fire enjoying being warm and dry.

So, now I had 1-on-1 instruction which helped me get procedures down pat. A few practice targets and I was ready to try the AQT. I gritted my teeth and said "it's now or never" (or at least not again until it's a warm, sunny day). It was up to me to do this.

Things went pretty smoothly and I only had one difficulty with a magazine change. I felt pretty good as I secured the rifle (bolt locked back, magazine out and off the mat, safety on and safety flag in the chamber), We walked down to the target and, the closer I got, the better it looked. Every shot was "a scorer," meaning nothing less than a "3" - and only one of those! We took the very soggy target back up to the shooting bench, carefully laid it out and scored it. When it was totaled up I had shot a 241 out of a possible 250 and done it well within allowable time. A picture of me right then would have looked like a mud-monster with a BIG smile! Raining? I didn't even notice.

I was issued my "Rifleman" patch, a "Patriot" patch, a Rifleman window sticker for my truck and an Appleseed T-shirt. The T-shirt cost a lot more than that simple embroidered patch with flag stripes, a circle of 13 stars and the word "Rifleman" but I wouldn't trade that patch for a thousand dollars. You can't buy one; you have to earn it and I got mine! It might not be quite so hard to do for a young, healthy guy but, for a beat-up & broken, bolted back together, old guy and doing it under tough conditions, it means a lot to me. In fact, I'm going to frame it along with my target (after I dry it out).

If you want more information on Project Appleseed and the RWVA, ask me or go to www.appleseedinfo.org. Why not see if you are as good a rifle shot as you think you are and have real bragging rights?

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