I spent this past weekend attending my first Project Appleseed event which had popped up on my radar thanks to a fellow Liberal Gun Club member. We spent Saturday and Sunday, from morning to late afternoon, at the Douglas Ridge Rifle Club, learning about rifle marksmanship and about the “shot heard around the world” that started the American Revolutionary War. There were almost a dozen of us, a quarter of which were also LGC members, with a half-dozen volunteer (actually all Project Appleseed folks are volunteers) instructors.
After the obligatory safety briefing and the first of a multi-part lecture on the events leading to, during, and after April 19, 1775, we were led through a series of exercises on the fundamentals of marksmanship, interspersed with target drills. All the shooting was done at 25 yards, using target sheets that simulate distances up to 400 yards (e.g., the farther you go out, the smaller the hit area becomes).
A goal (and some might say “THE” goal) of these exercises is to earn the Marksman patch(TM) by scoring 210 or higher out of 250 in the Appleseed Qualifier Test. The AQT consists of four stages, where the shooter engages targets at simulated distances of 100 to 400 yards from standing, kneeling, and prone positions. Two of those stages involve going from standing to kneeling or prone positions, and also require magazine changes. Needless to say, the AQT isn’t meant to be passed on the first try. Colloquial observations place a success rate of about 10% of first-time Appleseed attendees earning the patch.
With all that said, we did have two new Riflemen that weekend, and both from our LGC contingent! Mike was a few points shy of the patch on his previous and first Appleseed, and he nailed the AQT this time around. River was one of the abovementioned 10% who got the patch on the first Appleseed event!
For the sake of documentation (and brevity, otherwise I could write a novel here), here are a number of takeaways from this past weekend:
- Natural point of aim (NPOA) is absolutely critical to accuracy and consistency. Especially at stages involving “400 yard” targets, taking the extra time to adjust your entire body to attain NPOA makes a world of difference in making the shots.
- The “follow through” step of the Six Steps of Firing the Shot is paramount in landing tight groups on the target. I was making the mistake of taking the finger off the trigger after each shot, and once I remembered to work the “reset,” my shot groups became much smaller.
- Zeroing in your sights is as important as it is (weirdly) fun. It’s a lot of elementary math involving simplified minutes of angle (MOA), grid paper, and counting clicks while adjusting windage and elevation. And it is so gratifying when you’ve got it sorted.
- Mark those magazines! In a number of exercises and AQT stages you have to go between magazines that are loaded with two and eight rounds. I’d lost time, shots, and ultimately points due to ejecting or loading the wrong magazine. Marking one as the “two rounder” and the other as the “eight rounder” eliminated this costly goof.
- Misfires suck. I was using “less than top tier” .22 LR ammo in a bulk package, and experienced way more than my usual run of duds (which is zero when firing CCI MiniMags from a Glock G44, Kel-Tec CP-33, and S&W M&P 15-22). Particularly during a series of AQT’s, misfires cost time, shots, and again points.
- Ibuprofen for the win! Man, I haven’t been this sore from getting down and up so many times. While we are using a shooting mat, there’s still a concrete slab underneath it, and frankly I am out of shape! It’s kind of a cross between doing yoga poses and burpees while (safely) holding a rifle. I’ll definitely have to practice the physical element of this exercise before the next Appleseed.
And speaking of “next Appleseed,” I’m totally hooked! Not having practiced with a rifle since Boy Scout summer camp many, many moons ago, I found the instruction and exercises to be eye-opening. By the end of the weekend, I was scoring at the penultimate Marksman level, which I’m quite proud of, and I also walked away (achy, but) better learned and curious of the events and people surrounding the Revolutionary War, which to be honest, I’d learned mostly from watching Schoolhouse Rock.
I also learned that Project Appleseed had “beta tested” a handgun program this past fall. To say that I’m intrigued would be a gross understatement.
Oh, and here’s some of what was consumed off-range this past weekend to nourish and re-fuel: