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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.

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