I first heard about the Appleseed Project from one of the OFWGs at my local gun club. He was a big supporter and both he and his wife helped organize and run the events in the local area. The Appleseed project is the brainchild of Fred from Fred’s M14 Stocks website and was started in 2006. If you don’t know, basic goal of Project Appleseed is to teach Americans about their heritage, focusing in particular on the events that began on April 19, 1775. If it’s been a while since your fourth grade history class . . .
That was the date of the initial skirmish between the British Regular troops and the Colonial militia on the Green in Lexington, MA. A force of 700 Regulars marched overnight towards Concord, MA to seize a cache of weapons and powder that an informant had told them would be there. The forces loyal to the Crown had seen the direction that things were headed and wanted to deprive the local militias of arms to head off future conflicts. But to get to Concord, they had to go through Lexington and that’s where the troops met the 77 men of the Lexington militia. A standoff ensued and held until a shot was fired – the famed “shot heard ’round the world.”
To this day, no one knows who fired that shot, and things didn’t well for the militia that day. But when the Brits got to Concord, they met a force of 500 Minutemen at the Old North Bridge. Things went better for the colonists. What made the difference was the fact that the Minutemen took the time to fire carefully aimed shots at the officer cadre of the Regulars killing nearly half of them. The loss of so many of their officers forced the Regulars into retreat and they headed back to Boston in haste. You probably know how things ultimately turned out.
The Appleseed project focuses on the key difference in tactics used by the Minutemen. While the Regulars had the numerical advantage along with a seasoned officer staff who knew how to fight a war, Minutemen changed the rules of the engagement by using precisely aimed fire to take out key targets among the British troops.
The concept attendees are taught is that one reason the Colonials ultimately prevailed was to learn to use their rifles as effectively as possible, which enabled them to beat a numerically superior foe. Appleseed’s goal is to once more turn us into a nation of riflemen as opposed to a nation of people with guns. Owning a rifle doesn’t make you a rifleman and that fact was clearly evident as we started the day with an initial accuracy assessment.
The weathermen had predicted rain for the day and rain is just what we got and it didn’t stop the whole damn day.
The day began with a series of instructional segments that focused on the three shooting positions that we would use throughout the day. We learned the prone position, the standing position, and the seated/kneeling position – the latter being the least pleasant of the three, particularly for those of us older folks whose bodies were not quite used to being contorted into various positions. All fire is done unsupported meaning we were taught to use slings and nothing else. No benchrests or bipods.
In addition to the weather, I spent a good part of the day fighting with my relatively new Ruger 10/22 which decided it wanted to have feeding issues. I had shot the Ruger numerous times before and never had a problem, but that day it decided to make my life a living hell.
By lunchtime, I was more than happy to let the traitorous rifle rot in the rain which was a good thing because I really didn’t have a choice. Just about every part of me was soaked through despite my raingear with the merciful exception of my feet. I could just about kiss the guy who invented Goretex.
The morning session concluded with our first attempt at the Army Qualification Test or AQT. The AQT consists of a 40-round course of fire at 25 meters using a specially modified target that offers progressively smaller bullseyes to simulate firing at 100 yards, 200 yards, 300 yards, and 400 yards. Ten shots are taken from the standing position at the 100 yard target, 10 shots taken at two 200 yard targets (five on each one) from the sitting/kneeling position, and 20 shots are taken at a series of 300 and 400 yards bullseyes from the prone position. The goal of the exercise is to shoot a score of 210 points out of a possible score of 240 points, no easy feat when you’re fighting weather and a malfunctioning gun.
We then broke for lunch which was followed by the first history lesson of the day which focused on the brave patriots who initially stood up to the Brits on the green at Lexington. The Appleseed instructors really work to make history come alive as they tell the story focusing on personal details of the men who fought the Revolutionary War. We learned that on the Green that day, there were eight father/son pairs who choose to oppose the British, five of whom lost either the father or the son.
Following lunch, it was back to the Tsunami for more AQT drills and two more history lessons – the battle at the Old North Bridge in Concord and the final battle forcing the British into their boats in Boston.
At the end of the day, three of the participants had managed to shoot a score qualifying them as Riflemen (sadly, I was not one of them) who were awarded the coveted Rifleman patches. But I had a second day to work on qualifying and I planned to learn from my mistakes and leave the Ruger at home. I had high hopes for better luck with my Sig Sauer 522.
Participants leave Appleseed with two fundamental take-aways. First, we have all learned the basic skills necessary to improve our everyday rifle shooting, but more importantly, we have a deeper understanding of the skills and the sacrifice that our forefathers made to give us the free nation that we have today. Second, you WILL be a better shooter when all is said and done. They actively encourage new shooters as well as more experienced ones to participate and it;s an excellent opportunity to introduce new shooters to the sport.
The cost is nominal – $70 for men, $10 for women, $5 for kids under 21, and LE/Military folks attend for free. On top of this, if you choose to join the Revolutionary War Veterans Association, you can get a pass that allows you to attend future Appleseed events at no cost until you earn your Rifleman patch.
Ben Franklin left us with an important lesson. As he left Independence Hall at the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, someone asked him, “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?” He prophetically said, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
The more people who attend an Appleseed event, the greater our chances of keeping our Republic.