Appleseed Takes Aim to Preserve American History

The smell of gunpowder in the air mingles with tales of Revolutionary War battles, acts of heroism, and the sacrifices made by founding Americans who fought for this country’s freedom. DSC_0813

Lying prone on the ground, rifles aimed at 25-yard targets, 30 shooters wait for the command to begin firing. We’re in a two-day Appleseed Clinic not far from Tullahoma, learning how to become rifle marksmen, mingled with history lessons that remind us of America’s heritage and the difficult choices the Founders made on behalf of modern Americans.

The targets are shadows of ghostly Revolutionary War minutemen and scaled-down silhouettes that, at 25 yards, present the equivalent sight picture of targets at 100, 200, 300 and 400 yards. We are learning to shoot a one-inch group using traditional techniques including natural point of aim, respiratory pause, focusing on the front sight, and holding the trigger back for proper follow-through. DSC_0836

A modern rifleman can consistently hit targets at 500 yards, known as the ‘rifleman’s quarter mile,’ meaning he can hit just about any target he can see. Many of us here have a lot to learn!

Instructors follow our progress closely, ready to help refine our techniques, even watching if we blink when pulling the trigger, or shoot at the bottom of the exhale.  Stable field shooting positions of lying, sitting and standing are taught using the simple GI sling as a shooting aid. It’s amazing how something so simple can completely transform one’s ability to hold steady and shoot accurately. Instructors demonstrate the techniques and we get plenty of opportunity to practice.

These are the skills taught at an Appleseed weekend, interspersed with history lessons that come alive as volunteers alternate between their roles of storyteller and expert rifleman instructor. DSC_0817

In just a few short years, Appleseed has grown from a single event into a nationwide program that is teaching expert marksmanship, the lessons learned from the American Revolutionary War, and the positive traits of patience, determination, focus, attention to detail, and persistence.

“A lot of young people don’t know the basic principles our country was founded on,” said Master Rifleman and instructor, Claude Morse. “One of the main reasons we do these clinics is to teach those principles and bring to life the forgotten heroes of April 19, 1775.”

That was the first day of the American Revolution, when “embattled farmers stood, and fired the first shot heard around the world.”

“This is probably some of the best rifleman instruction available in the country,” Morse added. “We have some people who have never touched a rifle before, and others who come with years of experience. Many are surprised to find they have bad habits that need to be unlearned.” DSC_0800

The Appleseed Project is a major activity of the Revolutionary War Veterans Association (RWVA), a non-profit 501(c) (3) organization. Weekend events and week-long Boot Camps are taught by volunteer instructors who travel and teach because of a passion to ensure that Americans preserve their heritage and revitalize the waning art of the early rifleman.

Appleseed Clinics are kept very affordable, costing only $60 for two days of expert instruction over a weekend, or $20 for students under 18. They are popular with scout troops, Home Schoolers, families, teens, and men and women of any age. DSC_0927

Participants are encouraged to bring a semi-automatic .22 rifle, since they’ll be shooting off close to 500 rounds over the course of the weekend, many of which are shot with time limits. But there will always be a mixture of rifles on the line. Maybe an old .303 Lee-Enfield bolt-action, or an AR-15. Some Appleseeds make loaner Ruger 10/22 Liberty Training Rifles with iron sights available for those who don’t have a .22 rifle. You’ll need to check when registering for any of the Appleseed Clinics scattered across the nation. DSC_0892

The knowledge gained is put to the test on both days during the Army Qualification Test (AQT), determining who ranks as a Rifleman. A score of 210 out of a possible 250 earns the coveted Rifleman patch and title, a prerequisite for all instructors. On this Appleseed Clinic at Arnold Air Force Base Rifle Range near Manchester, Tenn., half a dozen graduate as Riflemen.

It’s a special moment for three generations when the son of Rusty the instructor is presented with his first Rifleman patch, flanked on either side by his father and grandfather. DSC_0939

The weekend finishes with a final encouragement to get involved and take seriously the responsibility of every American citizen. To vote, take part in local community decisions, communicate with elected representatives, and preserve the liberties gifted to us so long ago. For some, the history lesson of their first Appleseed is worth the whole trip.

* The Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776, just over a year after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War.





Hi! I’m Dayle Fergusson. As a transplanted Aussie living in Middle Tennessee since 1986, I have been a freelance travel...Read on

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