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Published on April 06, 2021

History Comes To Life at Project Appleseed:

My Experience Learning Marksmanship and Revolutionary War History

The Minute Man statue in Concord

Are you someone who likes shooting rifles and wants to get a bit better, or someone who is new to shooting and wants to learn more in a safe environment. Would you like to learn Revolutionary War history at the same time? Do you think two eight hour days of practice no matter the weather sounds like a fun challenge? Then this is the place for you, me, and the tens of other people who feel the same!

Jokes (mostly) aside, I attended a Project Appleseed event for the first time recently and I loved it. Here I share my experience, why it was so interesting, and how to prepare for one. It’s something I highly recommend.

Um, a gun event? That sounds all kinds of sketchy.

First, let’s talk about the elephants in the room. Perhaps you’re asking yourself:

“Is this some sort of far-right gun nut thing?”

“What are the goals of the organization itself? Is this an NRA thing?”

“What is my registration fee used for? I don’t want to support something I disagree with.”

“How safe is this event? Do I want to be around beginners with guns?”

Woah there, Leftist Libby! I have no idea why you’d immediately jump to all these conclusions about a bunch of upstanding citizens gathering in the wilderness to shoot guns. On second thought, I wondered the exact same things! So I did some research, decided to attend, and asked several follow up questions at the event itself. So let me explain … no, it is too much, let me sum up.

Project Appleseed is run by the Revolutionary War Veterans Association. Yep, you read that right. It’s a “history and heritage” organization. Uh oh, are those also codewords? The short answer is, in this case, I don’t believe so. I’ll pull a quote from the Project Appleseed website that I feel they live up to:

“Aside from the fun and camaraderie of these events, the designed takeaway is a renewed sense of civic responsibility that each attendee can then implement in his or her own community. If we can reconnect enough people with the selfless civic virtue of our forefathers, we as a nation will all be better off.”

That’s a laudable goal for anyone. Our instructors regularly discussed civic participation with phrases like:

“I don’t care how you vote, just get involved and vote.”

“Participate at the local level, that’s where individuals can have the most impact.”

Vote!

Now, were there some “conservative” words spoken by students there? There were, that does tend to be a part of the gun “culture” for various historical and political reasons. But it was first and foremost a respectful environment. I attended in Colorado, which is a purple state these days. I’d say the number of ultra hippies roughly matched the numbers of folks wearing camo clothing. The rest were along a spectrum in the middle. We had ages from 9 years old to about 55, one-quarter of the class were women, and only about three-quarters of the class were caucasian.

This mix of participants coupled with the focus on “everyone should participate” was a great experience. There aren’t many spaces these days you can see either of those things while having fun.

The RWVA itself is not associated with the NRA or other gun organizations. You’ll find that some of their members are a bit more vocal about Second Amendment rights being important, but no one is off the deep end calling for revolution. That makes sense given their focus on the history of the American Revolution and in teaching the history of the skirmishes and battles that led up to it.

I would also like to draw attention to some new requirements they’ve posted since the event I attended (which was before some of the recent events):

  1. <I am> not affiliated with any group that promotes, supports, or encourages taking up arms against the citizens or government of the United States of America or any other form of armed insurrection.
  2. <I am a> United States Citizens or a Permanent Resident Aliens who is lawfully permitted to possess and use firearms.

I know they tried to stay apolitical, but I do appreciate that first requirement, even while recognizing that this is a class focused on our own revolutionary history.

So the fees to attend an event aren’t going to anyone with (much of) an agenda. Those fees go to pay range fees and to grow the organization itself.

And how safe was it? Safe.

They drill you constantly on how to make your rifle safe and follow protocols to keep the range safe. The instructors inspect every rifle before anyone can move around the range. No one touches a gun outside of practicing with it. That said, we did have one person shoot their gun unintentionally … a big no-no obviously. Even then there was no way to hurt anyone because of the established safety protocols. It was a teaching moment and nothing more.

So what was so interesting about it?

First off, the history! We had three instructors there, and each had their own stories to share about the events leading up to and during the Revolutionary War. It was like a weird night at the bar recounting plays from the Superbowl, but you know, from events almost 250 years ago. They were excited about their subject, and those are the most enjoyable teachers to listen to.

I also learned a lot about marksmanship. I began shooting as an adult, and until the Appleseed event, I was self-taught. I wasn’t terrible, but had plenty of room for improvement. Going into the Appleseed, they set you up with a practice target that you’ll use several times. Here’s a comparison of the first one I shot and the last one I shot at the end of the second day. The targets are shot from top to bottom with the biggest target shot from standing, the next shot kneeling, and the other three shot while lying on the ground.

Appleseed Target

They taught breathing techniques, trigger control, aim, and use of a sling to support the rifle. It’s a lot to remember, but together these made a huge improvement; so much so that my range buddies all noticed the following week. You can track your progress on the paper targets and literally watch yourself improve. That’s a thrill all on its own!

At several points during the weekend, instructors also brought out reproduction Revolutionary War muskets and let people shoot them at the targets. It was easy to tell that modern rifles had some major advantages. Even so, learning to load and shoot those “antique” guns was a blast! (I couldn’t help it… pun intended)

Musket

So what do I need to attend an Appleseed?

Project Appleseed has you covered, just follow their instructions. If you don’t own a rifle, some of the instructors will be willing to loan you one. You have to get in touch beforehand and ask to find out.

I’ll give some links below to good equipment to buy without breaking the bank. I’m also including some items from Appleseed where you can support them by buying their products.

Disclosure: This article contains Amazon affiliate links to products. Purchasing via these links supports our writing at no extra cost to you!

First, you need eye and ear protection. Not only a good idea, but a requirement to shoot with this group and on most ranges.

Ammunition is a requirement, of course, and people often ask what type of ammo to bring and how much cost this will add. For a two day Appleseed, they recommend 500 rounds. Most people brought a rifle that shot .22 Long Rifle (.22 LR) style ammo.

Boxes of .22 LR ammo will cost between $0.07 and $0.12 per round for most brands, so you can expect to spend between $35 and $60 on this caliber. If you have a chance to shoot the rifle before the Appleseed, try out different brands like CCI Mini Mag, CCI Standard, Blazer, and Aguila Super Extra in your rifle. See which ones seem to work the best and stick with those. If you don’t have that kind of time, CCI Mini Mag or CCI Standard is what I recommend for most people. It works well and it’s available everywhere.

A lot of people had an Uncle Mike’s Hot Lips loader or clone for their Ruger 10/22 magazines. I found it a bit tricky to get right, so I preferred to load my magazines by hand, but saving your thumbs from hand loading 500 rounds deserves an honorable mention.

If you are bringing a different caliber rifle like a 223 Remington or 5.56 NATO, keep in mind that the ammo cost is likely to be significantly higher. These also have more recoil than the .22 LR, so prepare yourself for 500 rounds of recoil on your shoulder over the two day event.

On my first day, I brought the kitchen sink. Everything on the list plus some. I had several changes of clothing, extra padding for elbows and knees, two slings for my rifle, my full cleaning kit, and even two kinds of camp chairs.

The second day, I consolidated almost everything into a basic plastic toolbox of gear, plus my shooting mat and my rifle (and don’t forget a gun case). I learned to trust the list the website provided.

Box of Appleseed gear

Toolbox: A toolbox worked great for me to store my gear. I learned the hard way that my ammo needed to be dry. I mean, I knew that, but it rained both days and I wasn’t careful about my ammo on the first day. I had a few jams that definitely slowed me down. In the photo above, you can see some of the critical items I included. Everything fits and stays dry in the toolbox. Items included: a small notebook (for notes), some tools to adjust your sights or take apart your rifle, clips and staple gun for targets, a wipe for optics, multiple magazines, a chamber flag (you get one from the instructors), a brass rod to check for barrel obstructions, pens, tape, eye and ear protection, my sling, bug spray and sunscreen, ammo, and cleaning equipment .

Ground Cover / Padding: I brought a tarp along with my shooting mat. Lots of people brought yoga mats or folded up wool blankets for a mat. The idea is to give yourself some padding while lying on the ground. The tarp helped keep the mat dry so when I lay down on it I didn’t end up immediately soaked. You’ll spend a lot of time lying down on your shooting mat. Before you attend an event, try out your mat on gravel or concrete and prop yourself up on your elbows. Make sure that’s comfortable. Some people used elbow pads. Don’t knock it.

Wet Wipes: Remember, you’re around gunpowder and lead, bring something to clean your hands before you eat.

Food: Good snacks and drinks are a must. Eight hours of concentration and physical activity take their toll and you need to re-energize and stay hydrated. Being “hangry” makes for poor accuracy.

Clothing: Be prepared for your local climate. For me, that included everything … bug spray, sunscreen, a broad-brimmed hat, layers of clothing, and a poncho. I used all those things each day. Colorado weather is crazy. Clothing-wise, I would recommend most people bring a long sleeve shirt that doesn’t have a loose collar. Hot brass might come out of your rifle or the rifle next to you and land on your neck or arms, and while it’s not a big deal, it’s startling. You will barely notice it through clothing.

Knowledge: Know your rifle and how to clean it. Many people improved their accuracy on the second day after the instructors convinced them to clean their rifle. Find Youtube videos on how to disassemble and clean your rifle as each rifle is different (Ruger 10/22 example).

The cleaning equipment choice is personal preference. Some people prefer a bore snake. You can also easily purchase a rod-based complete system. My preference is to use a flexible cable and cleaning patches. With a cable and patch system you also need a bore brush and slotted tip for your caliber. The cable system gives you the benefits of a bore snake (easy to use, even without disassembling) along with the benefits of patches (a deeper clean and you only ever replace the patches, not the whole system).

Whichever system you choose, you’ll need some bore cleaner and lube as well.

The Rifle: The rifle itself is of course important to bring. The exact type of rifle is less important. I saw lever actions, bolt actions, and semi-automatics. Some people brought $1000 rifles, and others brought $100 rifles. We did have one person bring a larger caliber than .22LR, but they tired out from all the recoil in the middle of the second day. Instructors loaned him a .22LR rifle and he ended up earning a patch for accuracy by the end of the weekend. Bolt actions and lever actions are going to be far more difficult during the timed events. Bring what you have and learn to shoot it better!

A 2 Point Sling: I had two slings I brought, but the one from Project Appleseed was the winner. It’s cotton instead of nylon which was more comfortable. Plus, it’s the style instructors are accustomed to, so you’ll get better training when using it.

Magazines: One final item that was key for me was a way to make magazines distinct. I was using 15 round magazines in my 10/22, so I wrapped colored electrical tape around the middle of one of them. In some of the tests, you’re told to load different amounts in each magazine and use them at different times. You don’t want to mix them up. Some paint to mark the bottom of one or some stickers would be pretty good as well.

All in all, it’s an experience I hope more people will pursue and it’s a lot of fun. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I hope this article sparks some interest. Find an event, improve your rifle skills, and learn something new!

Redcoats

I got to take a deeper look at Project Appleseed's goals recently and wrote an article all about it if you want to learn more!


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