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 into 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 on West 20th Street.
The what? I lived round’ these parts my whole life and 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. 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.