This weekend, the diminutive but deadly Mrs. Graybeard and I attended an Appleseed weekend. The event we attended was close enough to commute to, but just barely. We were up at 5 on Saturday, out by 6:45, home at 8:45 PM and did it again on Sunday. Except I fumbled the alarm on Sunday and we ended up getting up 15 minutes late; if it hadn't been for Mojo the cat waking me to get petted, I would have overslept really late.
Let me do the short version first: if you have have never attended an Appleseed weekend, you should go do one.
The longer version is “so what's an Appleseed and why should I go?”
Appleseed is a project of the Revolutionary War Veterans Association. From that mission page:
“Through Project Appleseed, the Revolutionary War Veterans Association is committed to teaching two things: rifle marksmanship and our early American heritage. We do this for one simple reason, the skill and knowledge of what our founding fathers left to us is eroding in modern America and without deliberate action, they will be lost to ignorance and apathy.”The RWVA wants to be known primarily as a history teaching organization, and it's helpful to think of the shooting as a core part of the history teaching. The training makes more sense if you keep that in mind. Their emphasis is to remind Americans of the incredible sacrifices our founders did to give us this country we're loosing today.
So here you are, checking in at 8:00 AM somewhere probably far from home, and then anxiously waiting to spend a weekend working on your rifle marksmanship. Instead, you're treated to a short history lesson on the events of April 19, 1775, “Patriot's Day”, the day the war for Independence started. To underline the lesson of the marksmanship skills of the colonists, your first target is called Redcoats, and the object is to see if you can shoot as well with a modern machined rifle as those shopkeepers, farmers and regular townsfolk did with a smooth bore musket. The targets, printed in red, are scaled to be the same angular size as a man, a British Regular (Redcoat), at 100, 200, 300 and 400 yards, with a separate target that's roughly the size of an average guy's head at 250 yards. For your first attempt at this, you're allowed to shoot from any position you'd like to use. You are given 13 rounds (recalling the 13 original colonies), and are given three shots at each target, plus one for the 250 yard head shot. You must hit all 3 shots in a target to claim it (obviously not including the last). I think it's an old military saying that “once is an accident, twice is coincidence and three times is enemy action”.
As the day goes on, three history lessons, the first, second and third “strikes of the match” became the best part of the day, to me. Along the way, you're taught how to use a GI sling standing, sitting and prone. You're taught to find your natural point of aim (NPOA). You're taught to shoot on a rifleman's cadence. You're taught basics of long range shooting. You're taught how to transition from standing to sitting or standing to prone, find your NPOA and get rounds on target quickly. The emphasis is definitely on quickly. Finally, there is talk in the handouts of how to read your targets and see what you're doing wrong.
The vehicle they use is called an AQT, the Army Qualifying Test – except that at the end of the event you're told that military officers have come to shoot Appleseed events and tell the trainers that Appleseed training is much harder than the current military training. How an AQT is run at Appleseed is you shoot everything at 25 yards, with targets scaled in angular terms to be man-sized at:
- 100 yards (1 target, 10 rounds, standing, essentially unlimited time)
- 200 (2 targets, transition standing to sitting, 10 rounds but mandatory magazine change, short time)
- 300 (3 targets, transition standing to prone ,10 rounds but mandatory magazine change, short time)
- 400 yards (4 targets, prone the whole time, 10 rounds, essentially unlimited time)
As you can imagine, those transition stages are the hardest. In between all of those stages you are rushed to prepare magazines and generally made to feel pressured. The approach is not unlike how competing in IDPA with the stopwatch going can make you better in a real fight.
You will shoot many, many of these runs. Most of the Appleseed's second day (Sunday) is spent shooting AQT runs.
The Rifleman patch that can be awarded is highly regarded by anyone who knows what it takes. You must score over 220 on the AQT. No one qualified at our event, and if I recall correctly, the highest score at our event was a guy who has qualified for rifleman already and shot in the 180s. I am happy to say my wife out-scored me.
I will make no excuses for doing poorly – much worse than I thought I could do. With my AR's barrel on a Caldwell rest like the one above, I can keep everything in a 4 MOA circle at 200 yards – what their targets are – whenever I shoot. I specifically went to Appleseed to learn how to do that without the front rest. My groups did get better as the weekend progressed, achieving better precision but not the required accuracy - as in the second picture of this famous illustration.