On October 7, 1777 Sergeant Timothy Murphy of General Daniel Morgan's Sharpshooter Corps shot Brigadier General Simon Fraser from his horse as Fraser tried to rally the crumbling British lines at the Battle of Bemis Heights (Second Saratoga). At at distance of about 300 yards Murphy's fourth shot passed through Fraser's abdomen and ended any hope the British had of reversing the tide of battle that day. The loss of Fraser prompted a disorganised retreat toward their previous pre-battle positions and sniper fire from Morgan's Sharpshooter Corps hit the hat, coat and horse of the British commanding general, General John Burgoyne. The shot from Murphy's rifle ended Fraser's life, the possibility of the British winning at Bemis Heights and the career of General John Burgoyne.
The victory of the fledgling American Colonial Army at Second Saratoga was trumpeted in Europe by American messengers. The news of this battle induced King Louis XVI of France to throw his weight behind the American cause (or more to the point, against the British) which continued on until the final battle at Yorktown. Thus, Murphy's shot can be said to have won the entire Revolutionary War, although he did have some help.
The Appleseed project, run by the Revolutionary War Veterans Association, aims to instil in those who attend the skills and spirit of those few that used their superior marksmanship to help free a people and found a nation.
Fellow blogger Sean at An NC Gun Blog organised a group of local bloggers to attend a two-day Appleseed training evolution at the RWVA's home range in Ramseur, NC. The RWVA kindly waived the normal $70 attendance fee for the bloggers but there was no indication that we would be treated any differently than any of the other attendees.
Mrs. Knitebane took advantage of the $10 fee for women and she will be posting her observances later.
The Appleseed site says that the most important thing that you should bring with you is a teachable attitude. They list some other, minor items that you might want to have, like a rifle.
The instruction and the attitude of the instructors was first rate. Later in the day one of the instructors was relating a story of how he was telling a student that her habit of flipping the safety on for magazine changes was slowing her down. Her reply of "But that's how I was taught!" caused the instructor to tell himself, "Okay! Stop instructing!" This is a markedly helpful attitude and shows that while they have knowledge they want to transmit to the students they are also aware that their way is not the only way. What matters is what works.
The first day consisted of a safety briefing and then a level-set test with a modified AQT target called a Redcoat. This consists of a long, skinny target set up to simulate shots at increasing distances by shrinking the size of the component targets. The single target has 100, 200, 300 and 400 yard head-and-shoulders components and then a postage-stamp sized square target that simulates a 250 yard head shot.
We then transitioned to a sighting in session with instruction and drills. After three rounds of 5 shots each I was punching a small, ragged hole in the center of each sighting area. This was to be my best shooting of the day. After this, it all went to hell.
We now moved to the marksmanship portion of the day. We shot at modified Army Qualification Test targets. The orginal AQT targets are all the same size and are to be used at 100 yards and then increasing distances. Instead the Quick-and-Dirty AQT targets start out 1/4-sized for use at 25 yards and then decrease in size to simulate increasing distances. This cuts down considerably on the need to trudge down ever increasing distances to change out targets.
The AQT challenge consists of four runs against four parts of the target. Each course of fire is 10 rounds.
The first is a single target at 100 yards engaged while standing. The next is two targets at 200 yards with a magazine change engaged with a standing-to-sitting transition. The next is three targets at 300 yards with a magazine change with a standing-to-prone transition. The last is slightly different from the traditional AQT. The original AQT target uses eight targets at 400 yards. The fourth run of the QDAQT uses four targets but scores them double. This target is engaged while prone.
At first we were doing AQT drills which would be a bit of instruction on the part of the target being taught, including proper body positioning, sling use, sight alignment, sight picture, breath control and trigger control. The point of the instruction was to find what they called the Natural Point of Aim (NPOA), a place where the rifle naturally points. We would adjust our entire body position to then move the sights to the target, ensuring that the NPOA was on the target. Then we would go shoot that part of the target.
This went at a fairly rapid pace. The standing wasn't too bad. I've been shooting standing forever. When we moved to the sitting position the wheels came off for me. They showed us a position that included sitting cross-legged and putting the elbows outside the knees. I simply could not get comfortable in that position or any of the alternate sitting positions we were shown. As a result, by the time I got down into their sitting position, got relaxed and got the sights on the target I could get two or maybe three shots off before thde 55 second time limit was up.
The transition to prone wasn't quite as bad and the prone position and techniques that we were taught were quite useful. With four separate targets on the last run there is a tendency to want to muscle the rifle over to the next target rather than moving the entire body and maintaining NPOA. This almost always causes misses.
After the AQT practice had taken up most of the day we moved to the actual AQT. I sucked. I could regularly get 50 out of 50 points on the first, and 80 or so out of the last, but the middle two, especially the second standing-to-sitting run, were killing me. I finished out with a max score of 186, far from the required 210 to score expert.
While all this was going on we were treated to two other things that went on all day. The first one was planned. During the day and over lunch we were treated to history lessons about the Revolutionary War, the American rifleman and detailed lectures on the activities of April 19, 1776 at Lexington and Concord, MA. This was nicely done and there were several participants that noted that schools really don't teach history much any more.
The second was unplanned by the staff but not entirely unexpected. The sky opened up at about 10AM and treated us with varying levels of wet all day long. The covered shooting stations held up well but the trips to the target stands and back ended up making us all a bit soggy.
By the end of the day my continued inability to score well had me tired and frustrated. Most of what the instructors were teaching was very helpful and my prone shooting was greatly improved but I was starting to think that I'd never master the sitting position. This was especially irritating as I've made some pretty good shots and taken deer from the sitting position that my grandfather taught me.
We attended dinner with some of the instructors and other students and lots of lessons learned bounced around. During dinner the largest part of the storm that had drenched us thundered over.
The next day started out grey and wet too but never really got as wet as Saturday. The level of instruction tapered off too as we set about doing AQTs and getting more one-on-one instruction. By the third run of the AQT I had decided that the Appleseed-taught way of shooting sitting was simply not going to work for me. Neither was their primary method of sling use. The way they suggest, using the end loop of the GI sling around the bicep, looks very stable and maybe with extended practice it will be for me too but I've been using the hasty sling method for a long time and it works for me.
On the third run I switched sling methods and used my own sitting position.
This would never have happened if the instructors were not flexible. They understand that not everyone can do it their way. They're all volunteers. They want people to learn to shoot. Results, not slavish attention to THEIR WAY matters most and if that means letting someone shoot standing on their head, they'd be good with that.
I shot one more AQT but couldn't best that one so I helped the Mrs. with her practice, got my patch and listened to the founder of Appleseed, Fred, talk about his mission.
I'm very happy that I managed to qualify expert and earn that patch. I'm also aware that I've still got a lot to learn. I'd like to hit a higher score. I'd also like to shoot it with a centerfire rifle. Just to be curmudgeonly and contrary I think I'll do it with my AK.
And a big thank you to our host for this event, IronPony. His guidance, advice and patience turned what could have been a disappointing and frustrating event into something great.
This won't be my last Appleseed shoot.