It's Not About Guns, It's About Freedom.

Jack Billington

I really hate to mention it here in this realm of derring-do and expertise in all things martial.

But I’m a lousy rifle shot.

Picture it: I’m a guerrilla fighter. My comrades are counting on my sniping skills to take out a key enemy position. I aim, breathe, squeeze the trigger — and take out a cow in a barn 12 degrees to the left, alerting the enemy, losing the battle, and depriving my fellow fighters of milk they need for survival.
Fortunately, no one is likely ever to be dumb enough to rely on my sniping skills.

Still, one recent Saturday I found myself, rifle in hand, at a nearby farm in the company of 20 women and girls.

We were there to attend a LadySeed, the women-only version of an Appleseed marksmanship clinic. Project Appleseed, as you may know, is an effort to turn Americans back into expert shooters “one rifleman at a time.” Its events are put on by the wonderfully named Revolutionary War Veterans Association and are staffed entirely by volunteers.

It’s not just about shooting. Each Appleseed also features an extended history lesson focused on April 19, 1775.

But mostly it’s shooting.
A blog post is too short to cover much about the events. The quickest and best thing to say is this is valuable training for anyone — man, woman, or child — who wants to buff up on rifle skills and do it with excellent help and in good company. And if there’s an Appleseed near me in the uber-boonies, there’ll probably be one near you at some time or another. Schedules are listed on the organization’s site.

Appleseed is not ideal for someone who has never fired a gun. Still, the woman next to me on the firing line was a newbie. She began the day unable to hit the paper. By the time we dragged our tired selves home, she was punching impressive holes.

The friend who came with me and I quickly realized we had handicapped ourselves by not bringing proper equipment. She had a bolt action with a single five-round magazine, and I had a tube-fed Savage that was my brother’s Cub Scout gun back when dinosaurs ruled the earth.
A semiauto .22 with two or more mags and a sling is really a must to get the most out of an Appleseed.

Turns out there’s a good equipment list linked right from the front page of the Project Appleseed website. But since we came to the class sign-up via a different route, we never saw it and couldn’t find one. It was our fault for not digging deeper. But it would have been nice had the organizers ensured that every attendee had such a list.

That’s a nit-pick. There are many, many more positive things to say. For the sake of brevity, I’ll focus on one: the excellent volunteer staff. The instructors in our case were all women — and could easily have been professional trainers.

Appleseed got started just five years ago with roughly two dozen clinics. This year, according to our instructors, it’s putting on close to 1,000. Even the New York Times took notice — although predictably the writer put the scariest possible slant on things.

Did my friend and I emerge as better shooters? Hard to say. Most people in the class did — and that was just on the first day. For a variety of reasons, we decided to skip the Sunday session. Both of us felt we’d have made more progress had we brought semi-autos.

But there’s always another Appleseed. And maybe someday “I’ll be good enough not to pot that cow.”


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  1. I have been an Appleseed Instructor since 2010. I really believe AS can improve the marksmanship of shooters of all levels and abilities. A newbie will learn great fundamentals. An advanced shooter will learn techniques snipers use. The programs are family friendly and absent safety violations you won’t have any drill sergeant yelling and screaming. Love to see you on the line

  2. Well, here’s a lengthy response but I hope it encourages you and others. I see this on Well, I AM a black man with a gun and I’m also an instructor.

    My first experience at an Appleseed was full of adrenaline, frustration, and disappointment. And all three are great things that led me to becoming an instructor.

    I was invited by a colleague and instructor. I had shot handguns before but never a rifle. He offered both his CZ .22 and ammo for that weekend. And this is his normal routine. He usually has at least 3 loaner rifles and slings for EVERY Appleseed. I know I went through at least 600 rounds that weekend. By the end of the Saturday, we were prepped on the AQT’s and we actually got one in.

    Getting the rhythm for each stage was VERY frustrating. By Sunday, even with that frustration, I was scoring within the 180’s and was determined to get a rifleman patch. I was told not to put pressure on myself because it normally took about three Appleseeds to score rifleman.

    Well, for me, as competitive as I am, those words were blasphemy. I had to pick apart one at-a time, what I was doing right and KEEP doing it. I had to do the same for what I was doing wrong, and STOP doing it. We had time for about 4 more AQT’s and I think I was at 187.

    I was confident that I was going to score a 210 but a peculiar thing happened. In the middle of my last few AQT’s, just when I had nailed my first and third stage (I hate sitting till this day), the CZ kept misfiring. Didn’t matter what we did, same thing. My highest score as a result was 187.

    After that, I told the instructors, I’d be back at the very next Appleseed and I was getting my patch. What I do? I decided to buy my own Ruger 10-22 and a scope. I practiced each stage of the AQT to memory by utilizing dry firing techniques and sling configurations at home.

    I returned. Day one, I spent unlearning a few bad habits. Day two, on my next to last AQT, I etched by and scored a 212. In my opinion, it was horrible. I was very mediocre on the first three stages, but on that last stage, I nailed it.

    I wanted to convince myself it wasn’t a fluke so I came back at the very next event. Did it again, BOTH days. I was asked to consider being an instructor, but I declined. I had more goals to accomplish first.

    First, I made a point to score rifleman consistently. But more importantly, the red coat had to die! Meaning, I had to clean my target. On my 5th or sixth Appleseed, I cleaned everything except the 400 yard target. That afternoon, I cleaned everything but the shingle. I came back to the next Appleseed. The Saturday morning, same thing. That afternoon, one of the instructors said I was putting too much pressure on myself and that he had only cleaned the target twice–EVER.

    I decided to clean the 100, 200, 300 yard targets first. Then I went for the shingle. I saved three rounds for the 400, and went through every step of firing a shot methodically. Taking that last shot seemed to happen in slow motion. I squeezed, and as the shot hit the paper, I heard my colleague who recruited me say, calmly, “Got it”. I smiled then said, “And again tomorrow.” The instructor who had only cleaned it twice told me that it was unlikely. Rinse, repeat, that Sunday morning, “Got it!”. I missed doing it that afternoon by a hair.

    THAT’S when I felt ready to teach what I’d learned. To this day, when I do get a chance to shoot at a “seed” I don’t leave without a clean Redcoat and that’s using different rifle types and calibers.

    Not to be critical, the problem wasn’t your loaner rifle. Yeaaaaa, a semi-auto helps but the greatest handicap for both you and your friend was to not return the second day. You needed repetition while perfecting the techniques we emphasize.

    In addition , I would emphasize to readers of the post, to focus on mastering whatever rifle you were loaned . The more proficient you become with a rifle that you think has flaws is still beneficial if you’re taking in everything else, and it becomes even more beneficial when you get your own. I was told when I got my first patch that what made me a Rifleman wasn’t a natural ability to shoot, but my determination to become one by constantly assessing and adapting until I became one.

  3. I attended 4 Appleseed weekends as a student. My two daughters (then 10 and 13) and my father in law also came. It is still some of my greatest memories. We all had bolt action rifles and tube fed… Even my daughters made it back for day two! LOL … just a little poke at you. Seriously though, its great instruction, and a perfect way to intro gun safety to a new shooter.

    You will never find better instruction. And… for $60 for a whole weekend.

  4. Maybe you’re right, maybe we shouldn’t return in a second day. Still, it was fun in some kind, there not so much events that can gather people with common hobby – shooting.

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