Sunday, August 7, 2016

Traveling With Purpose ~ Appleseed Project

Originally posted: July 14, 2014

Everyone has a reason to travel beyond the usual “neighborhood”. There are too many of those reasons to even begin to count; nor should we have to. Suffice to say that we simply WANT to get there or to BE there (for some reason) rather than be HERE, where we are now. Reason is purpose enough. Genius statement – I know.

In the instance of this article, I wanted to attend an “Appleseed Shoot”. I think I see some smiles on your faces right now because of those mental images you have of a Johnny Appleseed or a William Tell-type person shooting the apple of his son’s head using a modern-day rifle instead of a medieval-period crossbow. Both could be partly correct.

Sponsored by the Revolutionary War Veterans Association, Appleseed events teach rifle marksmanship and American Revolution-era history.

I remember as a boy going to Boys Club Camp every summer as we became of age. We camped comfortably in wooden cabins, had our own bunks and stored our clothes in our foot lockers in similar fashion to military style, which I wouldn’t learn anything about for nine more years in the Marine Corps. I remember our inter-cabin competitive activities softball, flag-football, archery and rifles. Of course, we had swimming classes as well. It was a great experience yielding memories that I’ll never forget.

For rifle competition, we used a single-shot, bolt-action, caliber .22 short with peep sights and shot across the narrow ravine into log backdrop on the opposite hillside measured at 50 feet from the wooden platform firing line. Our camp leaders showed us how to safely and properly handle the rifles, line-up the sight picture, breathe, relax and squeeze the trigger to achieve a good score.  I think we each got to shoot 5-10 shots each. It was the most exciting and desired competition of the entire camping experience and my introduction into shooting.

I lived on the near east side of Indianapolis, Indiana, so hunting and shooting were never skills I actually needed. If our family needed food, mom simply went to the A&P or Kroger. When dad “cooked”, he ordered Bob’s Tu-Your Door Pizza (the best). My dad was a Korean War Veteran and used a single-shot, 16-gauge shotgun to occasionally hunt rabbit and squirrel but we didn’t need weapons. Grandma knew how to cook them, but dad was the only one who ate them – usually in barbecue sauce or stews. I was a picky eater (still am), so I had a hamburger instead.

Later, when I was in Camp Pendleton, California during the third phase of Marine Corps Boot Camp training we learned to fire the M-14 – a vastly different weapon which used high-powered 7.62 mm NATO round over a true 500 meter target range. This was THE best rifle marksmanship training for basic Marines. Of course, we aren’t talking about Sniper School, here. After a week of snapping-in – getting our bodies stretched into “comfortable” shooting positions – and getting acquainted with proper range safety and protocols, we practice-fired for the Marine Corps Qualification Test which was held at the end of the week. Of course, in any other branch of military service, this rifle proficiency test would be called the “AQT” – Army Qualification Test. The Marines are special. We have our own test.

At this point, I realize I’ve strayed from the subject of travel, but since I’ve closed-down my other blogging websites, I feel the need to combine some of my former subject matter into a single blog space. I’m writing for the sake of my children and grandchildren, so if you’d like, just skim over the more personal stuff.

The Revolutionary War Veterans Association is an organization of men and women with the goal and desire to keep the Spirit of 1776 alive by helping Americans return to the basics that earned American Freedom from colonial beginnings by teaching the history that created the need for the American sovereignty and the need for the revolution to accomplish that goal. These are points of history – the “three strikes of a match” that lit the fuse to freedom. Along side the history lessons, marksmanship lessons are taught using the same methods taught to American soldiers in order to successfully “qualify” as Riflemen under the rules of the AQT.

It had been over forty-years since I held any sort of weapon for self-defense or otherwise. I never felt the need, but something stirred within me creating that desire again. Maybe it was the memory that back at summer camp, I was a leader in rifle marksmanship and helped our cabin earn a merit patch as team champs. Maybe it was the memory that as a Marine, I shot 218 – just missing “Expert” level (225) by a few points because of a loose gas cylinder plug during 200 meter rapid fire. I had to settle for Sharpshooter badge. “If only” crept back into my head.

So, since I would soon be 65 years old, which some consider a milestone of sorts, I thought it would be cool to see just how well I could shoot these days. I enrolled myself into an Appleseed Shoot in New Martinsville, WV last mid-October. While I was at it, I put in another $20 to become a member of the RWVA – it IS a worthy organization, IMHO.

Following the trail from Fairmont to New Martinsville in the West Virginia territory.
The event was to begin at 0830 on Saturday morning, so I drove over to the range area the night before as primitive camping was available on the grounds. Although I left home in plenty of time, my Navigational GPS took me on a couple of undesignated detours. I arrived after dark and used my car headlights to set-up camp. Trust me, it wasn’t the first time that ever happened. I had already put-in a full day at work and was pretty tired, so I hit the rack early.

I decided that I had to have a flagpole at my campsite to keep the theme of the weekend. Still do everywhere.
When I woke up in the morning, I was surprised to see the Instructor had arrived and was busy making preparations for the day. At this point, he and I are the only participants. A short while later, a young married couple arrived and set-up their tent while I was washing up with pre-moistened cleansing towels and fixing some “gourmet” Folger’s instant coffee in a tea bag with oatmeal and a banana for breakfast. There was still plenty of time, so no real reason to rush.

Camp cooking at it's most simple.
Camp cooking – its as easy as boiling water, then add instant coffee (from a teabag) in your travel mug and oatmeal in your old, recycled margarine tub. I also shared my bananas.

There was a light fog in the air, so I took my camera around a bit and took a few photos. Nothing really interesting, but … that’s what I do. The instructor gathered us all together for brief introductions and pleasantries before getting down to the business at hand – learning how to shoot effectively for scores. We all hoped to bring home a “Rifleman” patch proving our success for the weekend’s efforts.

My fellow travelers and preppers  who hailed from the extreme southern part of West Virginia.
We shot standing. We shot standing to sitting. We shot standing to prone and we shot prone. We put rounds down range some 82 feet or 25 meters and did our best to hit those damned little spots on paper. It was becoming clear to me that while my spirit was more than willing, this old body doesn’t bend that way any more while trying to find the sweet spot of vision through no-line bifocals to hit the target. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

Our instructor demonstrates the use and stability of the loop-sling while shooting in the prone position.
All along the way, our instructor was very helpful with his marksmanship instruction – a lot kinder and gentler than my Marine Corps D.I. ever was. I don’t care who you are, it isn’t as easy as it looks.

A "selfie" on the firing line taken by my Drift HD Ghost video camera.
Yeah, I had to take a “selfie” with my Ghost HD video camera. I took one frame from the video to get this still image. Notice, while I’m fooling around with my camera and posing for this shot, my finger is NOT on the trigger, NO magazine in place and an orange chamber flag is inserted inside the bore at the receiver. Although you can’t tell from this image, the rifle safety is ON as well.

Meanwhile, my fellow shooters seemed to be having some difficulties sighting-in with their telescopic sights mounted on their new Ruger 10/22 rifles. I was using my new Marlin 795 with military-styled Tech Sights and web sling and experienced no mechanical or sighting problems whatsoever. We cleared and locked all rifles and took some time-out. I used the opportunity to snap some pictures.

Sometimes adjustments are required, such as remounting and aligning telescopic sights. Time-out.
The wind finally came up so I could see how my custom-made flag pole mount worked in support of my two flags carrying a good breeze. Judging from this shot, I’d say pretty well – no bending in the breeze.

I also flew the Gadsden Flag as appropriate because in 1775, the first flag the newly created Marine Corps marched.
Semper Fidelis!

We fired some more rounds down-range and did the best we could, but were reminded that there is a history to what we came to do this weekend, so we took a break between changing targets. This was the last such session of the “Three Strikes” history talk, which nearly completed the weekend. Only one or two more attempts at completing the AQT before the end of the weekend.

By this time, the British were marching on Lexington as Paul Revere's riders spread the word.
Unfortunately, we all had some difficulty in learning, adjusting and qualifying for “Rifleman”. Anyone will tell you that it takes time and practice to learn a new skill and very few actually earn it on their first attempt. In my case, it would take some physical education too. I WILL try again – hopefully, this summer in North Carolina.

It was a good camping weekend, too and I would definitely do it all again. I learned something about .22 LR ammunition, too. First, it was very hard to find at “normal” retail prices. Secondly, I was supposed to have 500 rounds for this shoot, but could only manage about 400 rounds of the same brand, velocity and grain weight. Otherwise, I would have to switch brands, which may not perform in the same way. I used British “Eley” special target match ammo which is much more expensive, but supposed to be more consistent. I had no troubles with FTF or FTE. I just had trouble hitting the Bulls-eye properly. I can’t blame the ammo for that.

For the record, I believe strongly in the goals of the RWVA and the Appleseed Project. I also believe in the Constitution’s Second Amendment and the reasons our founders made it #2 on their list. I believe it is part and parcel – consistent with an America as it was in the beginning and those who fight for our freedoms today even more so. I hope it never falls on the average, non-military American citizen to be suddenly thrust onto the front lines of defending our shores, mountains and rivers from tyrannical oppressors of any form. However, if we must, I would hope to – just as our forefathers, young and old, have done – be able to pick-up an inexpensive, rack-grade rifle and be capable of accurately hitting a designated target in defense our country to preserve the freedoms we have and the lives of those we cherish and have sworn to protect.

This is the logo of the Revolutionary War Veterans Association.
Notice the Minuteman – the volunteer, citizen soldier.

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