A Sunday at Appleseed

Context: As noted previously in this blog, MMGC VP Alan Clute earned his Rifleman Patch at an Appleseed Shoot last October. This post is adapted from an email he sent to a friend the following day.

Appleseed is a nationwide program, which combines very high quality marksmanship training with lessons in American history and heritage, particularly concerning the beginning of the Revolutionary War at Lexington & Concord, April 19, 1775.

Appleseed uses an Army Qualifying Test (AQT) target, modified to simulate distances from 100 to 400 yards at 25 meters, to qualify shooters for the Rifleman Patch. To qualify, a shooter needs to score 210 points, out of a possible 250. There are 4 courses of fire (stages) in the AQT, each of which tests shooting accuracy in various positions, at varying distances, and under varying amounts of time pressure.

The “Red Coat” target referred to also tests distances, by using smaller and smaller red silhouettes (standing in for British regulars — red coats) to simulate further targets. It is the first target shot at an Appleseed weekend and is used several more times after that as well. Being “bayonetted” on a Red Coat target means not even succeeding at hitting the “100 yard” silhouette, since the real life Red Coat could cover that 100 yards and bayonet you before you could reload. Obviously, one does not wish to be bayonetted! 

For more information about Appleseed, contact MMGC or visit the Appleseed Project website.

I’ve put a few explanatory comments into the account; they are in italics.

Talked to David (an instructor) early on about sight picture and sight alignment issues. He said that retinas need lots of oxygen, especially for those over 50, so I probably need to breathe more and more deeply than normal when shooting.

Kept from being bayonetted, barely, on the Red Coat. Hit the 100 yd target with my Marlin .22, iron sights, allegedly sighted in at home. Humph. On to AQTs.

183   (first AQT score) Big vertical displacement on stage 1 (standing), haven't quite gotten the hang of the extra breathing yet.


128  (really not liking the trend here, but there were some mag issues)


Break for lunch.  Still working on the issue of getting a clear sight picture, David and Chris (the shoot boss) strove mightily to help, answer questions, and coach.  They fixed a few things, and were running out of things to improve, except for my scores.  Tired, a bit discouraged.

I was offered a couple of scoped rifles for the afternoon. Ryan (another instructor) loaned me his Marlin 795, just like mine, with a Bushnell scope on it.  It didn’t have quite enough eye relief (long skinny neck, bony shoulder, kinda take up the slack between the butt and the eyepiece in prone). Chris loaned me his shooting jacket with padded elbows and shoulder that almost made up the difference. With a little adjustment, I started to be able to see things more clearly,

140   But not that clearly yet. Futzing with the new setup, need to make sure the shoulder padding stayed up behind the butt.

180   More like it. Getting glimpses of ‘in the flow’, but in brief spurts followed by 4” groups.

190   Better, but crawling half-dead across the finish line had no appeal, for some reason. Tired, sore, frustrated a bit, getting toward 4 o’clock. I didn’t feel like a Rifleman, just somebody with a bunch of pretty good skills that couldn’t put it all together. Felt a connection with the target on a few shots, but not all.

Meanwhile the two main instructors, David and Chris, were almost beside themselves. Several fellows had already made Rifleman, so they were pretty focused on me. They had the spotting scope set up right behind me and I’d hear little bits of excitement when I nailed a target.

Probably only one more AQT left. Time for a prayer break. I mean, when all else fails, right? Turns out Kathleen took a moment at the same time at home, for the same purpose, unbeknownst to me. Hers, thank God, was more clear and specific, I was just mostly fried.

We had run out of green AQTs and so put up a red one, same color as the Red Coat. Pretty bright, actually, especially through the scope.

As I started prep for the (probably last) AQT of the day, I noticed a few things. I wasn’t tired. I felt energized, easy, and happy.

In short, I became a Rifleman, in between AQTs, not because of a shooting score.  I then proceeded to prove that on a target. I knew if I could see it I could hit it.

With Chris and David trying to keep quiet (with not a whole lot of success) at the scope behind me, I proceeded to cheerfully chew up the stages. I noticed not many holes were showing up outside the red, and when I could see a red hole I aimed for that. I had fun (pretty much for the first time that day during the shooting). I felt the scope lock onto a specific spot on the target, and the rifle pretty much just shot itself, other than being careful in prone to keep my head back a little so I didn’t lose my eye relief.

The bottom row (1-inch targets) was actually the best, 48 out of 50, all groups under an inch; the last target only had one ragged hole where three bullets went.

David and Chris ripped the AQT out of my hands, shooed me away, and went off to score it.

232! Patch! Orange Hat! Giddy Rifleman! Happy (and Relieved) Instructors!

So then, just for fun, I cleaned the final Red Coat. Never give up! Never surrender!

Today I'm mostly recuperating.

alan w red AQT
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