Project Appleseed is a rifle training course combining marksmanship with a civics lesson. “Good shooting requires learning positive traits such as patience, determination, focus, attention to detail, and persistence,” their website declares. “Since these skills are likewise key elements of mature participation in civic activities, we urge our students to take what they have learned about themselves as marksmen and apply it to their participation in their communities and in the wider American society in accordance with their own choices about how Americans should govern themselves.” When I heard that Appleseed was dropping in the Big Apple, I had to attend . . .

Could there be a venue further away from the core of Appleseed Project than the city that gave rise to the original Mayor Against Illegal Guns? The City that reserves the right to carry a gun for the Mayor’s friends, celebrities and anyone else who has the juice to jump the queue of law-abiding citizens seeking to defend their life and property through force of arms (including your humble correspondent)?

Call me a damn Yankee, but I thought a range down the road from a Cracker Barrel and fireworks stand was the logical venue for Project Appleseed. In this case, I journeyed to the Westside Rifle & Pistol Range. The what? I lived round’ these parts my whole life; I never heard of no range in the borough of Manhattan. Now I really had to go…

The range is in the basement of an office building between a Lillian Vernon furniture store and the VIP high-end strip club. A guard guides you to the basement steps where you walk down a long corridor to a counter with a spartan pro shop. Everything looks like it did in 1962. Because that’s when the range was constructed.

In today’s Manhattan today, receiving planning permission for a gun range in an office building is about as likely as finding a nuclear particle physicist among the half-dozen hostesses in the aforementioned venue (no disrespect intended). Shooting ranges are like gasoline refineries—they aren’t building any new ones. So we have to rely on our pre-Bloombergian legacy.

But I was still enthralled by the place. The operator was a short guy who looked liked Salacious B. Crumb sleeved in tattoos. He was joined by a group of Asian range officers, each one in better shape than the next. They looked as if they were in spec-ops with the Blackhawk and Eotac gear aplenty. I love New York.

The Appleseed Project was scheduled from six to 10pm over two consecutive evenings; day one was classroom instruction, day two live-fire. A dozen excited individuals, some of whom never fired anything, were in da house.

We started with some firearms safety basics, ballistics, and slingwork. Appleseed is designed to maximize shooting accuracy with a rifle at distance, using iron sights. Our trainer was phenomenal: passionate, patient, informed, entertaining, focused and friendly. I give it up to Dan the man. He fabricates containers for expensive artwork in Brooklyn during the week and hits the great outdoor ranges on the weekends.

Our other trainer, Rich, was a Vietnam Veteran. He’s had real world experience behind the trigger of a military rifle, and wants to spread the word.

Appleseed continued with a lecture on marksmanship, viewed through the prism of American military history. As you’d expect from an program run by The Revolutionary War Veterans Association, America’s struggle for independence from the British was the instructor’s main focus. For those who forgot the minutia in the Boorstin-Kelley tome from high school, it was an eye-opening insight.

Bottom line: shooting accuracy played a key part on how we defeated the most powerful military of the day. The Appleseed program is designed to help bring back that lost art.

We took a quick break at the only open eatery on the block (a pizza joint). Sitting in front of me: Dee Snider with his kid. Mr. Twisted Sister wanted to know if the group would dress in period clothing for a film he was making. Dan said it could be arranged. Again, only in NYC.

We then did drills on prone position, breathing, sightwork, and more sling work with dry firing. The rifles used for our event was 10-22s supplied to us because of the nightmare of transporting guns in NYC. Rifles in city limits have to be neutered to the letter of the law;  stock 10-22s must have 10 round magazines. (All other rifles can only have five-round magazines.)

Unfortunately, I could not attend night two because of my sister-in-laws’ birthday dinner party. I seriously contemplated going the second night, however, I am fond of the remaining testicles I have, and did not want my wife to remove them after leaving her high-and-dry on Friday evening.

So so far so good. I’m ready for the second night; I’ll report back ASAP. Meanwhile, I was left wondering why New York City high schools couldn’t host the first part of the course. But then I remembered where I am. And where I’ve come from. And how far we need to go. Still, a seed’s been planted. As planned.

19 Responses to Johnny Appleseed Takes Manhattan. Pt. 1

    • Do you know what a break action 22 and why would you be afraid to touch it?

      The rifle used is a Ruger 10/22 – semi-auto.

  1. As interesting as the course is, I would be more interested in finding out about the people who chose to attend it. As in, what made them sign up? How did they hear about it?

    It’s obviously my flyover-country bias but I would have figured people in NYC don’t have much interest in shooting, especially rifle shooting, so it would be fascinating to hear about the people who put in the time and money and effort to take this course.

    • NYC is largely populated by transplants from flyover-country, many of whom grew up hunting and shooting. NYC is as diverse culturally as it is racially, and that extends to attitudes about guns.

    • I belong to the club – I am a life long NYC resident. My parents came to this country in the 1950’s and my dad hunted, he taught me to shoot. You would not believe the number of new shooters the club turns out.

      I think NYers are finally learning that the police can not protect everyone!

  2. There must be more interest in shooting in NY than I give credit for. I can hardly blame New Yorkers for not being big-time recreational shooters, since it would hardly be a Shooters Paradise even if the legal climate were better.

    Still, I have a few friends in and around NYC who would love to own and shoot guns if they could.

  3. Westside is a neat little oasis in the firearms desert known as New York. I shoot there whenever I’m stuck in the Rotten Apple.

  4. If you practice what they do at Appleseed’s (natural point of aim being the most important), you will eventually be able to hit 4 MOA at 500 with irons. With no wind and a stationary target, this actually becomes easy. But it never stops satisfying.

  5. Martin: I was totally facisnated in the demographics as well. Two people from flyover country, two public radio show hosts that heard about Appleseed, a Korean man with daughters / daughter’s friends in tote, and a few other guys I did not interview… Most heard from friends who atteneded other Appleseeds in the NY / NJ area. And there was a flyer being circulated.

    Blammo: Guilty- that is how I found out about it…LIF.

    Ecurb: The particle physicists will only be offended if you call them skanky…

    Robert: One correction in the editing- ALL rifles in NYC have to have 5-round magazines so we got neutered 10/22 rotary magazines that only accepted 5 rounds. No exceptions. Fun to live here, right?

  6. I had my office that building for 6 years and it is constantly packed with shooters. I would go into the office on Saturdays once in a while and there would be a line out the door with members waiting for them to open the doors at 8 am.
    @ Brett where is there a pizza joint on the block? The only one i can think of is on 5th ave right off 19th st.

  7. If you haven’t yet attended a PROJECT APPLESEED shoot, you really don’t know what you’re missing.
    Great instructors, you’ll meet other Stand Up Citizens like yourself, increase your knowledge of History and improve your skills as a Marksman.
    A great weekend event for the whole family, ( or for those of you who are still single, round up a few of your buds and your ‘significant others’ and get some quality ‘bonding’ time in at the range. You’ll be glad you did and that’s the Truth about APPLESEED. )
    Go to http://appleseedinfo.org/ for places and dates on the 2011 Tour.
    *****
    Personal Tip of the Hat and Heartfelt Appreciation Extended to all the dedicated and hardworking instructors at PROJECT APPLESEED!
    Thanks to their skills, knowledge, persistence and infinite patience, even I was able to score a 177 with an AR and ball ammo.

    Happy participant and active supporter.
    Gw.

  8. I mean that with the upmost respect as busting-stones compliment. Feel free to break my balls anytime I may revisit. In all seriousness, you seem like a great knowledgeable dude. Just don’t shoot me! I can’t carry in NYC!

  9. If classes like this are of interest to you, each April we have a two day Civilian Service Rifle Small Arms Firing School out on Long Island. Pictures from past events can be found on our website. Annual attendance is typically 100+. Classroom and dry-fire on Saturday, then live-fire at 200 yards on Sunday.

  10. Appleseed events all Winter long in Florida, and as people are beginning to say everywhere, “Those Florida Appleseeders are different.” Camping is available at most ranges.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *