Project Appleseed: It’s A Family Affair

I grew up in a household that was gun-neutral. Both my parents grew up in rural communities and were familiar with guns, but we never had one in our home. As I’ve said before, I was always interested in guns, but they weren’t a priority for me until I was married and had children of my own to protect. Now that my sons are older, I want to pass on to them the legacy and freedoms I’ve enjoyed. That’s why earlier this month we attended a two-day Project Appleseed event in central Florida.

A Project Appleseed event is great for anyone, regardless of whether you have children. No matter your skill level with a rifle, you’ll be a better shooter at the end of class than when you started. Project Appleseed is designed to teach you rifle shooting from positions such as prone, kneeling, and sitting using a sling for added stability.

Learning how to shoot well from these positions is a priority for me because I’m starting to compete in precision rifle competitions. In these competitions it’s quite common to see stages featuring kneeling and other strange shooting positions. My skills with a rifle were not enough to keep me competitive in those matches. So, a Project Appleseed event was a win-win for me: I could learn the positional shooting lessons I needed to be a better marksman, and my children could learn to shoot and also receive a better understanding of what makes America great. 

Starting Off Right

Three Ruger 10/22s for Project Appleseed

My sons and myself with our Ruger 10/22s

Before shooting at Project Appleseed, we had to get the rifles and gear we needed for the event. You can shoot an event with a centerfire rifle like an AR-15, but my sons and I chose .22 caliber Ruger 10/22s. My oldest son shot a wood-stocked version with a blue barrel. My youngest shot a 10/22 with a synthetic stock and a stainless steel barrel. As I am (somewhat) patiently waiting to be approved by the government for a new .22 caliber suppressor, I chose the 10/22 Tactical model with a threaded barrel. I fitted mine with a Leupold 1.5-4 power scope that I had lying around. 

We chose CCI Mini Mags as our ammunition because they’re a proven, reliable performer.  We zeroed our rifles at 25 yards with that ammo two weeks before the class. I adjusted my scope on the top of my gun so that I would have a comfortable eye position while sitting down at the range. All three of us showed up Saturday morning to learn a little bit more about this country’s origin and the basics of rifle marksmanship. 

A History Class Held At A Shooting Range

Part of what makes Project Appleseed stand out against other shooting classes is that it integrates events surrounding the founding of the United States with the process of learning how to shoot. The first morning of the event was dedicated to explaining the motivations behind Project Appleseed and what we were going to learn that weekend, along with a safety briefing and a review of the range commands for the weekend. 

A brief word on the class’s politics: There aren’t any. The emphasis is placed on our civic duty to get involved in the electoral process, not selling us on one political party or another. Instead, we heard stories about the battles of Lexington and Concord and how citizen-soldiers played a huge role in turning back the forces of a tyrannical government marching out to seize their firearms. 

Do Your Homework First

Rifles at Project Appleseed

The shooting goes on, rain or shine, and in Florida, we get plenty of both

After that, it was out to the firing line to gauge our baseline skill. As I settled down behind my rifle, I was somewhat horrified to learn that, while my scope setup would work great while shooting seated on a bench, it was far too close to my eye for a proper sight picture when shooting prone. As a result, my ability to quickly pick up the crosshairs and sight them on the target was severely limited all weekend long. Despite this handicap, I did quite well on the first shooting test. 

My sons, on the other hand, are not accomplished shooters. They struggled to hit paper on their first shots of the weekend. That said, their progress throughout the weekend was nothing short of amazing. Both of them learned how to slow down and apply the fundamentals of shooting such as sight picture, breath control, and trigger press to shrink their groups.  They soon turned in quarter-sized groups at 25 yards. 

For my part, I learned how to use a sling to steady my aim in the standing, seated, and prone positions. As I grew more comfortable with each position, my groups on the target grew smaller and smaller, and I began to grow confident in my ability to use a sling to steady my aim when shooting a rifle. 

Putting Your New Skills To The Test

The Project Appleseed shooting tests are based on the Appleseed Qualifier Target (AQT). The course of fire for the tests shows the influence of the Civilian Marksmanship Program. There are various levels of recognition given out based on your score on the AQT. The one everyone wants is the Rifleman patch.  This requires a score of 210 or higher, and, sadly, my best score of 192 was not quite enough. In all fairness, though, I was using a gun I had barely shot before the event, and I was fighting my scope all day long. I’ll take what I got, learn from it, and move on. 

My sons learned a lot from the event. Their marksmanship improved remarkably, going from being barely able to hit paper to turning in quarter-sized groups on demand. In addition, the event’s organizers demonstrated a flintlock rifle on Sunday, which wow’d all of us with its fire and fury. Everyone was invited to shoot a few rounds through an M1 Garand that an instructor brought to the match. Watching my 14 year old son settle behind that battle rifle and put shot after shot into a 16 inch gong 150 yards away made my chest swell with pride. 

Is Project Appleseed Right For You? 

Appleseed Project Instructor

The instructors were very patient with all of us.

If you want to learn (or relearn) the basics of rifle shooting, a Project Appleseed event is a great choice for you. These events are not about the quick transitions of shooting a 3 gun match, nor are they about how to quickly and safely move about a structure with a rifle in your hands. Rather, a Project Appleseed event teaches you the basics of putting rounds on-target out to 400 yards — a timeless skill that is useful to anyone who owns a centerfire rifle.

Ordinary people with extraordinary marksmanship played a big role in the creation of the United States. Keeping that tradition alive is why Project Appleseed exists. With events scheduled all across the country, it’s easy for you to brush up on your rifle skills while being reminded of some of the things that make the United States a beacon of freedom for the rest of the world.