2nd Amendment to the Constitution of The United States of America

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

"I ask sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people except for a few politicians."
- George Mason (father of the Bill of Rights and The Virginia Declaration of Rights)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Appleseed Project Boot Camp review

This past weekend I participated in my first Appleseed boot camp clinic and shoot up in Gibsonberg, Ohio at the Sandusky County Sportsman's Club.

Right about now a lot of you are asking "What the hell is an Appleseed boot camp?"

A few months ago I would of asked the same thing myself. I found the Appleseed Project quite be accident one night while looking up accessories for my Ruger 10/22 rifle that I purchased to try and still get out and shoot while not breaking the bank on ammo. I found a company call Tech-Sights that produces a GI pattern aperture sighting system (like the type used on US service rifles) for the 10/22. Seemed like a good idea as the simple blade sight on the stock Ruger didn't appeal to me. Anyway, went looking for reviews of this sight on the web to make sure it was worth the money (it is) and ended up finding all this talk of these sights being used for these Appleseed shoots and in the making of a "Liberty Training Rifle". Intrigued I searched for the Appleseed Project and all was revealed due to the magic of the web.

In a nutshell, The Appleseed Project is comprised of a group of individuals dedicated to the idea that every American should know about our past history as a nation of rifleman, train in this art and pass it on to future generations. It is run by the Revolutionary War Veterans Association. Of course none of them are actual veterans of THAT war, but they carry on the skills and traditions of the rifleman that enabled a rag tag bunch of colonists to do pretty damn well against the British army. Despite what the internet may tell you, they are not a training program for anti-government militias. Even though they teach the marksmanship and history of our Revolutionary War ancestors, they are about discreet range marksmanship. The things you learn here, while a GREAT building block for other skills, will not enable you to engage in modern combat. Far from sniping at columns of men in red coats walking in order and standing tall, modern combatants need to adhere to the 4 basic tenants of survival: Shoot (which they teach), Move, Communicate and Sustain (which they do not). So all this hot air about anti-government militias can be tossed aside on that account. While there teachings do have a distinctively libertarian and don't-tread-on-me approach, it is up to each attendee to do what they want with the info.

Their clinics consist of a two day clinic, called a "boot camp" in Appleseed lingo, in which you get an oral history of the American rifleman along with hands on training with your rifle designed to enable you to hit targets at "the rifleman's quarter mile" (500 yards). You will learn all of the basics of shooting (the 6 fundementals) as well as different shooting positions and techniques. You will attempt to qualify on their own version of a US Army Alternate "C" course of fire at scaled targets at 25 meters. If you are skilled enough to qualify as a "Rifleman" by obtaining a score of 210 out of a possible 250 points you receive the coveted rifleman's badge as well as the opportunity to return as an instructor later if you qualify.

The Alternate Qualification Target (shown at left) consists of 4 stages shot at targets of decreasing scaled size on the target paper, they are (in order)
  • 10 rounds standing

  • 10 rounds transitioning from a standing to sitting position, including a mag change

  • 10 rounds transitioning from a standing to a prone position, including a mag change
  • 10 rounds prone.
Trust me, those lower 2 rows of silhouettes look TINY from 25 meters!

This is not as easy as the Alt "C" qualifications that I have fired in the Army. In the Army all you have to do is get the round in the black. With the Appleseed AQT, shot placement counts and is scored.

Why Me?

OK, so why would a guy who retired just 19 months ago from 21+ years of military service think he needed to go learn to shoot military rifles with these guys. Well, lets take a look at the following vid:

So as you can see, even the humble shoe shine guy, who specializes in one thing and one thing only can still provide a lesson to somebody who has been doing it "right" for his entire life. I'll be the first to admit it, the Army does not do a great job at teaching marksmanship. When you need to develope a training program and standard that will be applied to tens of thousands of new troops each year and hundreds of thousands of others already in, a few short cuts and allowances have to be made. The Army will teach you how to properly aim and shoot a M16/M4 series weapon to their standard, which is 23 hits on 40 man sized tagets at ranges from 50 to 300 meters. That's about a 58% hit percentage. You would never pass a course in school with that but its fine for defending your life in the Army. Luckily for us, most soldiers exceed this standard by far, but some still struggle even after years of service to achieve a "go" on this important task. My experience has found that there are just those troops that see the rifle as a necessary evil to their "job" in the military and do the bare minimum to get by with it just to stay in. Others, especially those troops who prior civilian lives involved hunting or other shooting related activities, saw the rifle as a tool or extension of themselves and did a much better job at preparing and performing at qualification. Of course there are the one-offs and naturals such as a 18 year female troop from the suburbs who shoots a 40 the first time. But overall in over 20 years that was my experience and impression.

One of the things that the course taught that I was looking forward to was learning on how to use a sling. In the Army for the most part a sling was something used to carry your rifle around. In the days post 9/11 more "tactical" use of the sling has been prevailant, but it is still basically a rope to sling the rifle around with to most troops. I knew, mostly from watching former Marines (want to piss a Marine off, call him an "ex-Marine") use them, from watching others that the sling had a hidden value that I never tapped into. The instructors showed me how to use the sling properly and to great advantage. The 500 meter shot I made (more on that later) was using a rifle with no other supporting equipment than a GI sling and my body.
Do you know what this is? Come to an Appleseed event and you sure will!

The Staff

The staff at this event were very friendly and knowledgeable. They are all volunteers and former students of the course themselves. They receive no payment for their services nor travel reimbursement and in many cases buy training materials and aids at their own expense. Many at this event were from out of state, as far away as Illinois! (we even had one student from there also and another from Wisconsin!) Appleseed advertises that their instructors are required to undergo a more lengthy training period in terms of hours under supervision than either the NRA or CMP programs. They do not point this out to belittle the other programs, just as a point of note.Other than one instructor named "Panama" wearing a BDU top I couldn't tell if any of the other cadre were prior military. Really didn't matter. They were all very knowledgable and up to the task of instructing. They all go by their nicknames on the Appleseed forums so in addition to "Panama" there were other names such as "Slim", "Gopher Boy", "Fuzzy Math", "Dinky Dao", "Poster Boy", "Butt Stock" and others. While some of their methods may have run a bit contrary to my previous instructions they got the point across and were more than willing to work with you one-on-one to get you up to speed. The cadre here in Ohio wear either a Orange or Red cap with RWVA on it, depending on their level of experience, the red being the higher of the two designations. Online I have seen other Appleseeds run in other locations that the instructors apparently wear no such distinguishing garb. I, for one, liked it. It made them easily recognizable as both an instructor and range safety during the event. This is kind of important I think when you are talking about a group of individuals that come together to shoot without knowing each others tendencies or having any other type of connection initially. I cannot over emphasize their willingness to help you and assist in any way possible with the exclusion of actually shooting for you. Their methods and instruction are sound. While I may of been used to the way things ran on a military range, I quickly adapted to some of their methods after I assessed that there were NO major safety issues with their range methods.

"Dinky Dau" (red hat" instructing one of the students. Yes, she is a woman, gentlemen please check your egos upon registration.

"Poster Boy" Mike, a resident of nearby Bowling Green, where I once lived. By far my favorite instructor of the weekend. Want another reason to check your ego, the young (I do mean young!) lady in the orange cap in the background is only 13! She obviously can out shoot me because part of wearing that cap is scoring a 210 on their AQT qualifications, which I did not.

Another example of one-on-one instruction, in this case 2-on-1. Erica came here with her husband and brother (who drove from Wisconsin and brought rifles and ammo to give to them, talk about brotherly love!) and had never shot a rifle before. She started with an AR! While she, like me, did not qualify for the rifleman badge, she did get better and will be back!

The 500 meter Shot
The purpose of Appleseed is to teach shooters how to engage targets at "the rifleman's quarter mile" which is 500 yards. We were lucky enough at this location to actually get to do that on their range. I shot using another shooters Springfield Armory M1A (semi-auto M14) and was able to get consistent hits after adjusting the sights. The proof is in the pudding as they say!
This is the M1A I got to shoot, it is a beautiful weapon to look at and shoot, gotta get one!

The only video I actually had time to shoot during the weekend.

The Location
Appleseed locations are basically wherever they can secure a suitable range. In this case it was the Sandusky County Sportsmens Club in Gibsonberg, Ohio. Great place. Although I did not actually go in, they have an actual clubhouse at the front and several different ranges, including the 25 meter one we used (actually the back end of a Cowboy Action range complete with a Western style town range!) and the 500 meter range we shot at. For the most part we had the range to ourselves the entire weekend. It had camping on site that some people utilized (I stayed at a friends place 1/2 a hour away). Overall it was a nice club. The other big sites in Ohio are Miamisburg and Athens. Be sure to contact the state POC for your area before you attend at a new location to be sure of what they have available.

The Cost
The cost is a very reasonable $70 for a two day clinic, or $35 to come one day to shoot. The two day price includes an Appleseed T-shirt. Now that I have been through one full one, I may go back for a 2nd two day clinic again but then will probably just shoot single days. If you are a female, male under 20 with your parent or a actively serving member of the military the cost is FREE. Whether you pay $70 or zip, local range fees may apply. The SCSC levied a $15 range fee on top of the event cost, payable in cash upon registration.
What Worked for Me nad What to expect/bring type stuff
There are plenty of links and info out there about what to bring and expect. I will post them at the end of the article. Here are a few things that worked for me or recommendations that I will be using myself next time I go.

As far as I am concerned, the Ruger 10/22 or similar .22 LR firearm is ideal for this. Ammo is cheap, recoil is ideal for both novices and more experienced shooter, and at 25 meters the ballistic difference between it and other rounds is a non-issue. My rifle ($189 stock) was modified using a synthetic stock that included sling swivels from Butler Creek ($50), a set of Tech-SIGHTS to give it military style peep sights ($55) and a modified bolt release mechanism to allow me to pull right back on the charging handle and release it (free, instructions on the web). Add a GI Sling ($12) and 3 additional 10 round mags ($13 each) and it was ready to go with a couple of bricks of ammo. If you've been keeping track the total cost was about $345 for a dedicated "Liberty Training Rifle" as it is often called. If you own an AR style rifle you can buy a .22 LR adapter and extra mags for under $200. At the time I started down this path I had yet to own an AR, otherwise I may have gone that route.

Any rifle will do as long as you can work it and know its operation inside and out. Coming back on Sunday during the first drill I was embarrassed because I could not cock my rifle. While everyone else was getting ready to shoot I was stripping it on the spot only to find out I installed the ejector incorrectly the night before, DOH! There were quite a few 10/22's there, as well as AR's, a few AK's, a FAL, a couple of bolt action rifles and even a Daewoo!

Be sure to bring maintenance supplies for it, break free and a bore snake and rag as a bare essentials minimum!

GI sling
Just buy one, you'll be glad you spent the $12 at the Appleseed Store. After getting used to using it you'll be hard pressed to figure out how you went so long without it. Walking around with a green strap of cotton dangling down you arm all day is cool.

Shooting Mat or Pad
Something I wish I had brought. Being "Army tough" I thought I could just make due with laying on the ground, not so. There were so many shell casings on the ground by the end of each day I was covered in welts from laying on them. The Appleseed website recommends bringing a carpet, all I brought was a cheap plastic painters groundcloth (which actually worked well as a shelter for my gear during the brief rainstorm we had). I borrowed an instructors Midway USA shooting mat (which just happend to be on sale for $24.99 now!) and it made a world of difference while I had it. Ordered one as soon as I got home.

A folding bag chair
A good idea, even if I did not use mine much. We had a pretty good range and did not have to wait to get onto the line. At other locations you may have to take turns firing, a chair would be great to have then. As it was, it was a convenient place to lay items while in the ready area.

My plastic box
JACKPOT!! I finally had an idea I don't think anyone has documented about these shoots. I bought a rather generic, tan plastic storage box and used it to keep all of my stuff in. Not only did it provide a convenient way to transport stuff to and from the truck, it also provided a small table to reload mags on and also kept anything inside dry during the rain. I am bringing one of those cheap luggage carts next time to wheel in around instead of carrying it to make it even more of a winning idea.

A cooler and drinks/food
I failed here, I brought a cooler with drinks but no food. I thought I had read that they would have a lunch to buy but never saw it. Had to go into town to get Subway on Saturday, not convenient. Didn't eat on Sunday. Bring some simple sandwiches or snacks, granola bars, fruit or whatever else you might want to much on. You have ample time to eat while on the line so you can snack throughout the day.

A tent or awning

A couple of folks brought those portable shelter awnings with them to set up under. We had fairly cool and cloudy weather both days, but had the sun beat down they would of been great to be under. Just PLEASE don't be like the folks on the far end of the line and bring Wolverine style gear around me!

Uof M...PLEASE!!!

I intitally thought about wearing some BDU/ACE or other "tacticool" type clothing to this but then thought about how militant it would seem and wore jeans. They worked but over the course of the weekend they got dirtier and dirtier and retained sweat and grime. I may wear BDU type pants next time as they are lighter and breath better as well as allow a better range of motion for sitting and kneeling positions.As far as your top goes, I used a plain t-shirt and elbow pads. A cheap shooting jacket or BDU style top with reinforced elbows would not be out of place here either.

Its hard to tell from the photo, but my pants are filthy and feel gross by this point.

I think I got this right, I came in expecting nothing from myself and trying to take everything as it was and not let my prior military background get in the way. I knew what they were teaching was different from what I had gotten from Uncle Sam and I was right. I also was ready for the uescapable "wanna be" types in a crowd like this and just enjoyed myself with those people with whom I could connect with there.

Physical Readiness
Massive FAIL here for me! I was not in shape for this. I am over weight and do not have the same muscle strength, flexibility or stamina I had while I was younger. Not only was breathing control harder, I was really sore in my legs and back both days from some of the repetitive up and down scenarios and well as supporting myself in the sling for so many hours. I am going to start exercising and stretching before I go back so it is not as burdensome next time.

One thing I had not counted on was my eyesight. Sure I knew it was getting worse (hell, I even had to change to shooting rifle lefty during my last mobilization due to my eye dominance shifting) but not that bad. With iron sights the smallest of the targets just looked like fuzzy smudges in the distance. I asked about using a scope as I saw some others use and was told after 40 there were no shame points assigned for using one. Off to the gun shop...

Well, that's about it for now. I will definitely be posting about this more in the future. In the meantime feel free to ask my any questions concerning my experience and take a look at the links below for more information. I hope to see some of you at a future shoot!


Kevin Delaney said...

Good post Pete! When you go in the Spring im there! Looks like fun!

Anonymous said...

Pete, Thanks for the kind words. This Gibsonburg Appleseed was a great event for instructors and shooters alike. I am Panama for Applesed, and you are correct, I am former Army. You are also correct about swallowing your pride and learning to shoot the right way are what you need to do at these shoots. It took me 2 Appleseeds to make Rifleman, and I went to Sniper School.

What made the Appleseed you attended so great was the shooters on the line. It was a great group who were willing to listen to what we were teaching, and absorbed it well. We had 5 Rifleman in this group, that is outstanding.

I hope you do come back soon and bring friends with you. I look forward to working with more great Americans like yourself.

Anonymous said...

Dinner was fixed by a young orange hat on Sat night and made available to the campers, breakfast was also made available and made over the camp fire by an instructor and another instructors mom, lunch was there not much but it was sandwiches and the sides to go with it. No drinks though. For the 2010 AS there is a family talking about making it their "job" to provide meals for the shooters at a reasonable cost per plate as the food does come out of their own pockets when they do this. It is appriciated by all the AS who attend when this done.

Huey148 said...

I saw the sandwiches there but since nobody spelled out what was going on with them I assumed that it was some other groups food and left it alone. I'll know better next time and just stop off at a gas station on the way up and get a pre-made sub or something. Thanks for the info though.

Anonymous said...

Hey Huey, we've got another one out there this coming weekend, and August, September, October. May even get a "Winterseed" going.

Come on out again, dude! Or at least, stop by the appleseedinfo.org/smf forum again and say hello.

Thanks for the excellent writeup.

RWVA Instructor
Gibsonburg, OH

Anonymous said...

Wonderful article!

I just want to chime in and note that I was the person sitting under the Go Blue Tent!

My buddy and I always bring our Michigan stuff to Ohio to mess with the instructors and (apparently) the other locals.

You and your Ohio gear are welcome in Michigan (Dundee for example) any time.

Happy Holidays everyone.

jimmyjames said...

Great website and more good info on Appleseed Project. Keep up the good work.

Huey said...

Thank you sir!