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Things I wish I knew before going to Appleseed

Photo from RWVA's facebook page
I had a lot of questions before I did my first Appleseed, so I'll try to answer all of my own questions I had before I actually went to one.  I'm also including my friends' questions here.  Here is the after action report: Appleseed tips from my first time out.  Keep in mind that I'm not an Appleseed instructor, and I've only been to the 1st day.  But the first day is when most of the fundamentals instruction happens.  I'm not an 'expert' at Appleseed.  The experts are the instructors, instructors in training, and other members who organize the events.  But from one participant to another, I hope you find the following to be helpful.

1. How many mags do I actually need?
You need two magazines for most events.  The 5 magazines that is recommended by the RWVA would be nice, because you can have your magazines ready for the next two stages and one spare just in case you lose one or one breaks.  In order to save time, you should ask the shoot boss how many rounds you need to load for the next stage as soon as it is possible, after cease fire is called.  Then load up before he/she calls prep.

One note: I did read that a minority of Appleseed events, probably in an effort to save time, have you load up all 40 rounds and run through all the stages without reloads or chances to prep your magazines.  In this case you would need 4 magazines if you have a 10/22.  I would call ahead and ask, then decide whether to buy more magazines or not.  That is a shame though, because I thoroughly enjoyed the additional 'counting' element that forces you to be more aware and conscious.

2. When do I have time to load, sling up, etc?
Before each shooting stage, whether it is a practice stage or a stage from the AQT, the shoot boss will call the prep period.  This may be long or short; I think it is the shoot boss' discretion.  During this time, you can pretty much do anything to get ready.  But it is best spent slinging up, and getting into your position and finding your natural point of aim.

3. Is the history lesson and other talks really political/crazy/extreme?
It is a bit of a pet peeve of mine to see gunowners blindly bash Obama, talk shit about democrats, and generally be really ignorant.  I'm a libertarian with slightly conservative values myself, but since most people who blindly and constantly bash the other side or pick and choose their favorite parts of the constitution are pretty ignorant, it bothers me that so many gunowners fall into this category and makes us look crazy.  That being said, I think the RWVA did a great, great job keeping true to the original intent of the organization.  We were told a narrative that really helps you put into perspective of what it would have been like to be at the revolutionary war.  The only political message I heard was that we should actively participate in preserving our liberty.  No finger-pointing, no bashing, and
'crazy' gun talk was limited to how many guns you should own, and was jokingly said to begin with (which ranges from one to infinity.. hah)

I did hear that some instructors go a bit too far and start talking about things outside the scope of RWVA.  It not supposed be like that, and I think it is the exception to the rule.

Can you tell I was pretty impressed by the event?

4. So what time should I get there?
If you were like me, you may have spent hours searching for the start time of the Appleseed event you registered for.  The official start time is 8:30.  I'd get there at 8:00AM or before, to help set up the equipment.

5. What time does it end?
I can't speak for all events, but it seemed to go on as long as necessary.  You will get so much more than what you paid for!  My event was over close to 7PM.  It was awesome because the instructors really took the time to help us out, and stayed late to squeeze in two AQTs

6. I've been shooting for a long time. Is the AQT that hard?
I think so, even if you are really good.  Remember, you'll be outside, hot, tired, sometimes with the sun glaring into your eyes.  Also, you can't afford to make many mistakes.   The nature of rifle marksmanship seems to be centered around that concept.  You gotta get the planets in alignment, and squeeze off the round properly within a very small time window.  And you have to do that 40 times, in about 10 minutes with a lot of terms and conditions attached to the order of those shots.  At my first AQT, I did well my first two stages; my instructor told me I was right on track 'medal position.'  Then I screwed up my 3rd stage.  I was so sure I wasn't going to qualify, since the last stage is really tough.  This was the deciding moment for me; for your 'deciding moments,' you can either let it bother you, or you can do the only thing you can do-- do everything you were taught to do and extract the best performance out of yourself.

7. I want to bring my AR-15.  Whats the best rifle to bring?
I think if you are really serious about qualifying and you haven't yet, I would bring a Liberty Training Rifle built around a magazine fed .22 rifle.  Not that you really need an LTR to qualify, but I am a firm believer in 'not leaving anything on the table.'  Furthermore, off the bench, I do shoot my AR-15 better.  But shooting my AR would have tired me out a lot faster.  Besides dude, look at the ammo costs.  It is actually cheaper to build an LTR then buying 3-500 rounds of 5.56mm.

After you make Rifleman, you can do whatever you want.

8. Do I really need a sling?  Does it really help?
Hell the f*** yes.  Unless you are an amazingly good shooter.  Buy why give up anything?  Get the GI cotton sling.  1.5" is best, but I did fine with my 1" sling.  The leather one is actually better, but takes a long time to set up and get it right.

9. What can I do to get ready?
I think the single most important thing for me was dry fire practice.  But practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.  Its easy to train bad habits, so I would focus on getting sight alignment, sight picture, and trigger from the standing position.  If it is your goal to pass on the first try, as it was my goal, you might want to do more.  But be very careful to make sure what you are practicing is the correct method.  Oh, also, get in good shape.  Start jogging a few miles every day a few months out from the event.  And when you are at the event, conserve energy whenever you can.
This patch is what you want, and you will earn it.

10. What do I really, really have to bring?
Long pants, substantial shoes, sunblock, shaded shooting glasses, hat, weapon, mags, ammo, sling, sight adjustment tool, plenty of food (nothing heavy, but substantial), water (lots of water), pen/marker, tape or stapler, shooting mat (get a big one!), and a lawn chair if you don't like sitting on the ground.  I think these are the bare essentials.  Anything less you'd be wasting time trying to borrow from your neighbor.  Anything more, you'll be out worrying where you put your shit, etc.  The RWVA website tells you to bring clear safety glasses, but I think shaded ones are better, unless you know it is not going to be sunny.  In fact, my eyes would have been very very tired towards the end of the day, when you need to be at your best for the AQT.

11.  What are the 6 steps to shooting a rifle, Natural Point of Aim, Rifleman's Cadence, etc?
I think you should go to an Appleseed event and hear from the instructors yourself!

Photo credits: Kelly Robertson Farms - http://www.krfarm.net

Appleseed After Action Report - I am the 2%

The title is meant to be eye catching rather than cocky.  It'll make sense when you finish reading the article.  I made it out to my first Appleseed event today (Aug. 11th).  It was a very sunny, very humid, very hot day.  We shot under the sun, with the damp and grassy earth giving off steam, cooking us as we laid on our bellies and squeezed off carefully aimed shots.

The target you shoot in the beginning,
then again at the end.  
What is Appleseed?  It is a rifle instruction course taught by volunteers from the Revolutionary War Veterans Association.  You learn the fundamentals of rifle marksmanship, as they used to back in World War II, and as they still do in the U.S. Marine Corps.  You cover prone, sitting, kneeling, standing firing positions and you do it with no bipod or other support.  Any rifle and any sight or optic is welcome, but people tend to favor using their modified 10/22s.  You do an Army Qualification Test after the basic instructions, and if you score above 210, you qualify as Rifleman.  It is supposed to be the equivalent of qualifying Expert in the Army.  Cost is only 75 dollars for the weekend.  45 dollars for one day.

I don't know why, but every time I have had a race, match, or anything else fun and important to me, I never get enough sleep.  Despite my efforts to go sleep early yesterday, I went to sleep after midnight.  All in all I got about 5 hours of sleep.  I am a bit sick and because of that, the 5 hours of sleep wasn't very satisfying.

My old truck is a piece of shit-dying alternator, overdue timing belt change, beat up CV joints, iffy AC and bad idle.  The day before yesterday, I had bought a new truck. I tossed my Liberty Training Rifle and my AR-15 onto the bed of my truck and took off.  Oh what a pleasure to drive a fully functional car to Clermont.

Instead of rambling on about my day, I'll try and cover the highlights in a helpful manner.  Here are the things I learned; be forewarned though, the following list will be long and highly detailed, because I like detail when I'm preparing for any event.

1. Be prepared
I was slightly under-equipped.  The biggest thing I lacked was a hat.  Even though the nice guys at the event let me use their awning, a hat would have been nice to cut out the glare.  Things you absol-f*****g-lutely need to bring, aside from your weapon, ammunition, and your magazines:
-Shaded eye protection (or else prepare to tire the shit out of your eyes)
-Shooting mat.  It doesn't have to be an actual shooting mat.  But if you have never fired from a shooting mat before (like yours truly), be wise and get one that is big.  I got one that was 3x6; it totally was not enough.  With my body angled, and leg tucked forward, my legs were hanging out of the mat and into the wet grass.
-Pants you do not mind getting dirty.  Fatigues work nice, but try not to look too poser.  The less you care about getting dirty, the more you can focus.
-Food! Don't be too full, but enough to keep you going all day.

Aside from the above, here is my take on the official Revolutionary War Veteran's Association's list of things to bring.
-You don't really need long sleeve shirt, but it will be nice to keep hot brass from the shooter next to you burning you.
-I didn't feel like I needed elbow pads.  In fact, I don't know if I could have done as well as I did with them; in fact, it would have been nice if my elbows were made of bare bones or something with no fleshy cushion!  My supporting elbow is a bit tender though.
-The list mentions that you should bring clear shooting glasses.  Well, if your event is going to be sunny, bring shaded shooting glasses.  I've found them to help with eye fatigue quite a bit.

2. Take it very seriously
My performance today completely exceeded my expectations.  I think it was because I took it very, very seriously.  I was here to qualify as rifleman, not to simply have fun.
- Rest When You Can: When I had time off, I rested.  I stayed in the shade as much as I can.  Unless I really had to, I didn't run.  Generally, I tried my best to conserve my energy so that I can have more when it was time to shoot.
- Hydrate: If you didn't know already, your body is like a big water tank.  It is bleeding water all the time, through sweat, breathing, and of course, urinating.  When it gets hot enough, your body cannot absorb water fast enough to keep you properly hydrated.  So before the event begins, be sure you drink enough fluids.  Top it off; basically until to have to piss.  Keep off of exceedingly sugary drinks like soda.  You want to start fully hydrated, then continue drinking regularly to replenish what you lost.  Keeping hydrated is a lose-lose game; if you win, you get to prevent dehydration from affecting your performance too much.  If you lose, you'll progressively feel crappier.  Remember, if you actually feel thirsty, you've lost!
- Don't Socialize: I love talking to people, and incidently, the more I talk to people the worse I tend to do in any sort of shooting events.  I need to have my own time, at least for a few minutes before I start shooting.  I tried to keep talking to a minimum and tried to be a bit of a loner.  After all, it is pretty badass when the quiet, loner kid wins something.  I learned this through IDPA.
- Never give up: Every time you aim, aim to hit.  You can do it.  The bullets will hit where your rifle is pointed at, every time.  No matter how tired or hopeless you feel, when you do things right you will make all the hits.

3. Take your time
I tried to make it somewhat of a goal to be the last guy to fire off a shot.  AQT stage 1 and stage 4 gives you plenty of time.  Use it!  But at the same time, when the planets are in alignment and the sight picture is good, get that round out there!  Stage 2 and 3 requires you to hustle a bit.  I found that if I tried to follow the cadance they teach you, but not fire when I did't like what I saw through the aperture, I would finish just in the nick of time.  Airplanejoe (handle on the RWVA forums) told me 'it is better to make 8 good shots than 10 bad ones.'  I took that to heart and took my time.

4. Empty your cup
Empty your cup!  So said Bruce Lee.  Its also an old buddist quote.  You cannot fill a cup that is already full.  So empty your cup!  Today's event taught me how important it was to have a solid base; which finally led to me discovering what the natural point of aim is.  I would not have gotten that if I wasn't listening.  On that note, pick the brains of the instructors.  Keep asking questions!

That quote also has other meanings.  Empty your cup.  Empty your mind.  Your knees wet?  Doesn't matter. Hot brass hit your face?  Bugs crawling up your arm?  Doesn't matter.  There was an M1a going off next to my head from the shooter next to me.  Hot brass hitting me and my rifle.  While this sounds like a distraction, I think it helped me because it caused me to try even harder to focus on the only thing that mattered then.  What matters is that you aim the rifle, and get the round off.  Nothing else should matter.  Don't actually get burnt though.  If it doesn't bounce off, its time to swat the casing away.

5. Be in good shape
Not that you have to be a marathon runner, but being in good shape helps.  Your body is limited by your mind, but your mind is somewhat limited by your body.  In the end, the mind is always the limiting factor (Brownie's quote).  However, right now at this moment, your mind will have a hard time exceeding your body.  Get in shape.  This is a physically challenging event.  You will do much better if your body is not overly fatigued, which in turn allows you to keep a clear mind.  Hah, see how meta-circular that was?  Anyways, if you aren't physically active, I would start jogging a month or two in advance.

6. Don't shoot someone else's AQT
Don't shoot your neighbor's AQT.  I accidently fired into my neighbor's target during one of the practice.  Fortunately, he was firing a .30 Carbine, so my holes were obvious.  Actually, not really because I got a few shots into his .30 cal holes.  LOL!  I felt like an asshole.  Fortunately I did not repeat the mistake on the AQT, where basically all you are accomplishing is dicking the other guy over.  If you have this problem, do not despair.  Just take a very quick mental note in your prep period when you are settling into your NPOA.  Its okay if you wonder "did I make sure that I shot my own target?"  You might have forgotten but if you cared enough, you probably did check.

Okay, I think that is about it.  So what did I learn today?  Too much!  But particularly, I was quite pleased that I finally understood the rifleman's cadence and the art of making rapid but accurate hits.  I was also happy in finally understanding the natural point of aim.  Well, I got a lick of what it is supposed to be.  Can't really say I fully mastered my NPOA but through understanding it a bit, I improved my shooting quite a bit.

The history lesson was pretty good too.  Brian, the shoot boss, was a good storyteller.  I spent the time he taught the history to rest and conserve my energy.  But it was really nice to have something to listen to.

Okay, so how did I do?  Well, let me say this first.  This is the first time I feel I have achieved something with shooting.  Yes, I'm a decent shot compared to the general gun-owning public, but I have never won anything or placed well compared to others who take it really seriously.  In fact, I've never taken any sort of course or done any sort of rifle events.  Though this event wasn't exactly a competitive match, I still shot against everyone else who were serious enough to at least go to the event.

Well, I qualified!  I obtained the highest score among all of the shooters with an AQT score of 228 on my first try.  I got a special YotNottin Ranger patch; not because I am awesome, but because I had the honor of being under the instruction of an instructor bred under the late Ms. YotNottin.  Not that only the top shooter of the day is supposed to get it, but the shoot boss only had one.  Still, made me feel more accomplished!  This patch is apparently only available to Appleseed shooters who have qualified as Riflemen in Florida under Ms. YotNottin herself, or an instructor who was taught by her.  Cheers, Ms. YotNottin.  Two people, including myself qualified on the first day.  There was one other kid who fired a scoped AR and qualified with a 215, I believe it was also his first event.  One kid shot a 209.  I hope he qualifies tomorrow!

More information about Appleseed here.  What a great program.  I really recommend it!  Active, reserve, guardsmen and LEOs shoot for free.  Ladies shoot for 10 dollars.  Official start time is 8:30 (they don't mention it anywhere on the website!)

Apparently only 2% of people make Rifleman on their first Appleseed event.  While I somewhat dispute this figure, I do think its cool that I passed on my first day!  I'm trying to be humble about it but I'm pretty giddy tonight.  I better get my ass to an actual competitive match before my head gets too big.  I hope you guys forgive me for my thinly veiled pride.


Rage postal match - 25M rifle silhouettes

I've been dry firing a lot at home and I finally reached somewhat of a benchmark.  I did a couple of 2 inch groups firing from offhand, unsupported.  I'm slowly starting to understand the mechanics of it.

I got a bit bored at the range so I decided to come up with my own 'test.'
I can't remember where I got these targets, but the silluettes are simulated for 50, 100, 150, 200, 250 and 300 meters when fired at from 25 meters.  The goal is to make at least one hit on every single target, with 10 rounds in 5 minutes. I shoot from standing, unsupported.  A hit anywhere on each target is worth maximum 2 point.  However, if the previous target has scored a hit, each target subsequent target are eligible for the following points:

300 - 2
250 - 1.5
200 - 1
150 - 0.75
100 - 0.5
For a maximum of 20 points.

So basically, if you make one hit on all the targets, and 4 additional hits on the 300M target, you will have made 20 points.  If you missed the 250m target, you would only make 2 points on the 300m even if you made 4 hits on it.  Basically, if you aren't 100% sure of your abilities, you have to hedge your bets.  Purposefully missing one target penalizes you because the bonus points are not more than 2 points.

My best so far is 12 points on the LTR and 11 points on my AR-15

This target is available here.

Please feel free to upload your results!  The rules are: only 10 or less holes should appear on the paper, and the target is to be shot at 25 meters (about 27 yards).  When you print, turn off any scaling. Any caliber any rifle, iron sights, standing unsupported (sling okay).  If any tear or ring made by the bullet touches the target, then it is a hit.  Good luck!


Marksmanship goals

When I have enough time, I try to shoot my pistol at least once a week.  I usually know exactly what to work on each trip.  However, I'm pretty new to rifle marksmanship, so I decided to set some goals.

Goal 1: 1" groups on the bullseye at 25 meters, standing unsupported
After this goal is reached,
Goal 2: 1.5" groups on the bullseye at 50 meters, standing unsupported.  If my rifle won't do 1.5" I'll do whatever the rifle allows me to do.  Standing, unsupported.

When this goal is reached, I think I will buy a national match rifle and start shooting high-power rifle matches.  What do you guys think?  Are the goals too easy, or too hard?  I want to stay iron sights if I can.  My dominant eye vision is just about 20/20, though my right eye vision is a bit above 20/20.  I used to complain about them a lot until I realized my dominant eye is still pretty good; just not as good as it was when I was younger.

I would appreciate any tips!  I'll post my progress here.
Oh, and yes, I'll keep up my pistol shooting as well.


Liberty Training Rifle - Tech-Sights review

Guess what rifle this is?
Agh! Ammo is so expensive!  I wanted to hone my long range marksmanship skills on the cheap, so I bought a Ruger 10/22.  I got lucky because I found a vintage rifle manufactured in 1968 for pretty cheap.  Not that it matters that much, but 10/22 aficionados will pay a premium for an old one.  Reasons: metal trigger housing parts, better bluing, bluing on the inside of the receiver, tighter fit and finish.  Some say the barrels are more accurate as well.  Regardless, any 10/22 is a good purchase.  Also, my 10/22's trigger is crisper and smoother than any other factory stock 10/22 I've handled, but that may be just from 'break in' from the years of service this rifle has under its belt.

The 'Liberty Training Rifle' concept is from Appleseed shoots.  Apparently this setup optimizes the 10/22 for qualifying on the events: 10/22, aperture sights, GI sling, 5 magazines, aftermarket magazine release, and sometimes a tuned trigger.  The aftermarket magazine release is unecessary on the new 10/22s as the rifle now comes with a easier to manipulate magazine release from the factory.

I don't mind the original magazine release, and it doesn't get in the way when I'm shooting from the bench.  So I didn't bother with that.  Also, the trigger isn't limiting my accuracy yet, and like I said I very much like the trigger on this particular rifle, so I'll leave it alone.  I did everything else though; and the result:

I rather like the way it looks with the sights.  Installation was easy: drift out the factory front sight, drift in the tech-sight front sight, insert and loctite the screws.  After that, remove the rail mount screws on the rear of the receiver and use the supplied oversize screws to install the rear sight, again with loctite.  Done!

The Tech-Sights have been criticized in the past for its front sights: apparently the quality was lacking on them.  They have revised the front sights recently, and it shows.  The front sight post is better than the one on my AR-15!  Adjustments are identical to the M16A1's sights, with windage adjustment but no elevation adjustment on the rear sight.  The model I got, TSR-100, comes with two rear apertures.  One is marked 0-2 for short range, and the other is unmarked.  The unmarked aperture is a bit taller.  I am not sure which ranges the sights are meant to be zeroed but I'll figure that out in the future.  The apertures on both sights are the same size.

Did I tell you how happy I am with these sights?  With the factory sights, I had trouble finding a consistent sight picture and keeping my point of aim the same between strings.  With these guys, I don't even have to try that hard to get a good sight picture.  Just place the target at 6'o'clock hold (or however you have the sights zeroed), squeeze trigger, follow through.

The adjustment methods are identical to the M16A1's sights; that means you have to use a 5.56mm bullet tip or other sharp objects to move the sights.  Each click is 5/8 MOA, which means at 25 meters it is about 5/32 inches, or about 4 milimeters.    If you ave a very strong set of fingers you could probably manipulate the rear sights, but I recommend that you just get a A1 sight adjustment tool.

Tech-Sights had the GI sling and sight adjustment tool for a very competitive price, so I just ordered them from there.  The items shipped out the next day from South Carolina and I received the stuff 3 days later.

All in all I'm very happy!  The rifle is so fun to shoot now.  Oh, on a final note, I am getting approximately 0.5 inch groups with this rifle.  Plenty good enough for an Appleseed shoot.  I'll leave you with a few more detailed pictures of the tech-sights.
You can order the Tech-Sights here: Tech-SIGHTS, LLC


Smith & Wesson 642

I don't like gun shows that much.  Most of the stuff out there is a ripoff, preying on unsuspecting or underinformed consumers.  The CWP classes there are a joke, instructors even giving plain incorrect legal advice.  But alas, I went.  It was on the way to a destination and besides, wal-mart has been dry of 9mm ammo for quite some time and sometimes there are good deals on 9mm at gun shows.

I came out with not a box of 9mm, but a new piece and a blade.  Well, the Spyderco was part of buying the revolver; I traded in my current factory-edge Emerson (for more than I spent on it I may add) for a bit of cash and discounted price on the Spyderco, which allowed me to pony up enough cash for the 642.  It was just an okay deal, but I loved that laminated wood grip!  I figured it would be like a 20 dollar value, which makes takes it from 'okay' to 'good' deal.  I later found out through a helpful person on reddit told me what the grips were and that the revolver is a distributor exclusive edition.  I know that may just mean they slapped on some discontinued grip and slapped it on there, but.. cool!  Just as a side note, laminated grips are heavier but durability exceeds plastic grips.

I fired it at the range today.  Whoa!  I forgot how hard snubnose revolvers kick.  Especially firing the +p loads.  Each time I fired, it would shift in my hand.  I use the standard 60% of grip from support hand and 40% on trigger hand method, and it was hard to grip harder with the support hand due to the small size of the grip.  However, shooting with one hand was a pleasure.  The grip actually fits my hand very nice.

I could hit a head sized target out to about 10 yards, with some decent speed.  But that is about it.  I'm all over the place!  Need more practice.  As far as egronomics and use goes, its very simple and I like it a lot.  I almost want to replace my PPS as a carry piece, but I want more than 5 rounds of .38 special.

This will be my carry weapon when I'm out jogging at night, and when I am out in my boat.  I figure the simplicity and the stainless cylinder and bore will go a long way with saltwater exposure.


Wish list

Dear Smith & Wesson,
Right now pistol caliber carbines are inflated as heck. The only truly quality carbine, or at least the way I perceive it, is the Beretta CX4, which is about 300 dollars too expensive for my taste. Would you please design and release a 9mm carbine that is about 400 dollars, takes Smith & Wesson M&P Magazines, with a modest amount of rail, with, in a compact package?