The Knox Report
From the Firearms Coalition
Appleseed: Purpose Driven Riflery
By Chris Knox
(October 22, 2007) The Appleseed Project came to Phoenix this October. It was my privilege to strap into a hard-kicking .30-’06 bolt gun, lay down on a concrete floor, and, fire well over 200 rounds into the teeth of an Arizona sandstorm. It was among the most intense educational experiences of my life. By the end of the day, despite the tough conditions, I knew that my shooting had improved, but more important, I had a new perspective on what it means to shoot a rifle.
The Appleseed Project, a grassroots idea that seemingly came out of nowhere, has quietly grown nationwide and yet has stayed beneath the radar of the established shooting world. Behind it is a club with the unlikely title Revolutionary War Veterans Association. An Appleseed shoot is part history class, part rifle theory, and a whole lot of shooting. Last year a thousand people participated in Appleseed shoots around the country. This year’s goal is 2,000. For 2008, it’s 4,000. The longer term goal is to double the number of attendees every year.
Nonetheless, Appleseed is not about shooting.
That may seem a strange thing to say about a weekend rifle clinic where you can easily burn a couple hundred dollars worth of ammunition and where you’ll be force-fed the distilled essence of 200 years of rifle-shooting knowledge. By itself, shooting is a sport – a game. At an Appleseed you’ll learn to look past the game and to see the craft of riflery in a historical and philosophical context. The context is everything.
The historical context is that America owes its independence, its very existence, to riflemen. America was once a nation of riflemen. The ambitious goal of Appleseed is to make us riflemen once more. At an Appleseed a fair portion of the between-shooting time is spent on discussion of events around Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts on April 19, 1775. The history lectures put basic marksmanship in a new light. Appleseed is not about shooting. It’s about liberty. Freedom. Individual rights. And most certainly, it’s about the right to keep and bear arms.
That isn’t to say an Appleseed shoot isn’t fun. It is! But it’s serious fun.
Fred of Fred’s M14 Stocks is the self-effacing prime mover behind Appleseed. The Ramseur, North Carolina resident sells stocks and other shooting accessories from a web site (http://FredsM14Stocks.com) and through Shotgun News. But the business is a sideline. What Fred does is Appleseed. The Revolutionary War Veterans Association and the Appleseed project grew out of Fred’s experiences running a local gun club. He was disappointed at how few members knew – or were even interested in learning – how to shoot. “If you’re going to be in a fishing club, you should know how to fish – and if you belong to a gun club, you should know how to shoot. Anybody can buy hardware. Appleseed exists to tune up the software.” That software exists between the shooter’s ears.
Much of the shooting at an Appleseed happens at 25 meters (or yards, depending on the facility). That seems awfully close until you notice that the targets are scaled down. The shooting standard is four minutes of angle – equivalent to an inch at 25 yards or four inches at 100 yards. It doesn’t sound like much if you’ve heard gun shop talk of one-minute or half-minute rifles. Four minutes sounds easy. Until you try it.
If you attend an Appleseed you may shoot longer distances as a confidence builder, but long range shooting isn’t entirely necessary and the trips downrange cut into the jam-packed shooting schedule. The shorter range also opens the field up to .22 rimfire rifles. That’s another of the many virtues of Appleseed. Any sighted-in rifle is suitable for Appleseed. Some will naturally do better than others, but instructors won’t disparage anyone’s rifle. Instead they may suggest what sort of rifle might make it easier to shoot a better score.
There is no equipment race in Appleseed. If anything, there’s a certain amount of snob status for the most Spartan rig. A rifle – any rifle – with any sights, a sling, a pad or piece of carpet, and maybe a jacket with elbow and shoulder pads is all the equipment you need to get started.
My own experience with Appleseed showed the project at its best. A hard gusting north wind punctuated by swirling dust devils lifted target frames out of their holes and sent them sailing over the line. The Ben Avery public range and a Civilian Marksmanship Program Creedmoor Cup match closed up shop and went home to watch football, but the Appleseed crowd staked down the target frames and called the firing line ready. To quote Fred, “A rifleman is persistent.” We proved it that weekend.
Appleseed events are scheduled all over the country. To find one near you, visit their web site at http://appleseedinfo.org/. I can’t think of a better way to learn back-to-basics marksmanship than to put it in the context of history and the principles of freedom.
Permission to reprint or post this article in its entirety is hereby granted provided this credit is included. To receive the Firearms Coalition’s bi-monthly newsletter, The Hard Corps Report, send a contribution to The Firearms Coalition, PO Box 3313, Manassas, VA 20108 or visit FirearmsCoalition.org and ShotgunNews.com ©Copyright 2007 Neal Knox Associates