We lay side by side in the dirt in a farmer’s field. Some lay on state-of-the-art shooting mats while others made do with an old quilt from home folded in half. Some shot .22s while others shot AR-15s. A seven-year-old girl and her dad occupied one end of the line, and a 65-year-old grandpa hunkered down in the prone position at the other end. We all shot at “Red Coat” targets, and for a split second, we all felt connected. We were about to be touched by Appleseed.
Project Appleseed … what is it?
Maybe it’s best to describe what Appleseed is not. In a New York Times article, “Firing Line,” dated Aug. 1, 2010, a reporter attended an Appleseed and then, twisted his article to focus on militias and gun owners that are not and have never been part of the Appleseed Project. Project Appleseed is not a back-door approach to forming a militia.
Project Appleseed is quite possibly the largest group of volunteers in this nation, all marksmen, who teach traditional rifle marksmanship skills and also the history surrounding the events of April 19, 1775. Learning about our country’s struggle for independence takes place during lunch and other breaks, welcome respites from rigorous training in the field.
Hands-on and ears-on – this is why so many homeschooling programs now flock to Appleseed to teach America’s children history lessons that get left out of modern books. Typically, the Appleseed Project takes place on a weekend, but weeklong boot camps are also available, especially good for those shooters interested in becoming instructors in the program.
The Appleseed and the NRA
“We’re not political,” said instructor Chester Misener, “otherwise, we would not attract Zombie Shooters.” The sole focus of the Revolutionary War Veterans Association, through Project Appleseed, is to “promote civic responsibility through the teaching of colonial history and the American tradition of rifle marksmanship in a safe, non-partisan environment.”
At this event, a few shooters’ gun cases even sported NRA stickers.
America’s Riflemen … then and now
Thousands of people will attend Project Appleseed events and weeklong Boot Camps,which have already begun and will pick up the pace here as the weather warms up across the country. There is not a single paid member in the organization. They have all read and teach lessons from history professor David Hackett Fisher’s “Paul Revere’s Ride.”
Our instructors became emotional when they talked about patriots and how they suffered indignities and atrocities at the hands of the world’s finest military, the British Army. The instructors took turns telling tales that made history come alive, and young children sit still. Old-fashioned story telling that made the midnight ride of Paul Revere take on a new route in our minds’ eyes, and then, we went back to our mats on the firing line with appreciation that we can practice our rifle skills without sanctioning from our government … it meant more to us.
“Simple farmers took on the best military in the world … but they knew how to shoot. They could not afford to waste musketballs when hunting for food for their families,” said Missouri State Coordinator for the RWVA, Chris Midkiff.
From cooks to riflemen
From day #1, all participants are considered “cooks” – until they pass the traditional Army Qualification Test as an expert rifleman. This hearkens back to Revolutionary War policy among the military; you were either a cook or a rifleman. According to Midkiff, 50 percent of most of Missouri’s Appleseed are women. “It’s free and that helps,” stated one woman, who works for the Defense Department and did not want to reveal her name for this article. Children under the age of 21, women and active duty military may participate for free.
In fact, one young man, Ian Diamond, brought his little brother, Isaac, to camp with him. Diamond qualified as an expert rifleman the first day and immediately volunteered to join the instructor force. On the second day, he stood beside the instructors, learning the commands. It takes approximately 125 hours of instruction before instructors in training turn in their orange caps for red caps.
Said Misener, “Some people bring a new rifle in the box and say, ‘I want to learn to shoot this thing!’ And we teach them.” That means sighting in the scope, and teaching about slings – hasty and loop. It also includes lessons in the following areas:
- Shooting positions – standing offhand, sitting/kneeling and prone. Instructors teach alternate positions for those who cannot shoot in some of the aforementioned positions.
- Natural point of aim
- Shot analysis
- Six steps to firing a shot
- Inches, minutes, clicks
Sight adjustment and range estimation
Instructors did not hesitate to lie on the ground beside the prospective riflemen. Shooters fire at scaled-down targets at 25 yards, with equivalent sight pictures at 100, 200, 300 and 400 yards.
Unlike the New York Times’ reporter, I did not walk away from this event concerned about the RWVA and its insipid motive of training up American riflemen. Instead, I found it refreshing – a place and time where the First and Second Amendments meld and where our history becomes alive to us.
See Appleseedusa.org for information about upcoming weekends and Boot Camps.