Monday, September 8, 2008

The Appleseed Issue

OK, so I've only woken up in the past three weeks or so to notice that Appleseed and bloggers hate each other. I'm a blogger, so I hate Appleseed. Don't do it. It's bad.

You didn't buy that, did you? That's why I like you. You're smart.

Before we start, let me get this out of the way: I haven't been to an Appleseed event. Ever.

What I have done is take an old Garand and go shoot NRA Highpower competition at a local 200-yard range. It was three-position stuff, standing, sitting and prone, with smaller targets to simulate going out to 600 yards (nobody told me until I'd been there a few times that these targets were not the standard 200-yard targets; I only knew that some targets were bigger than others and I sucked at the smaller ones.) I learned a lot doing this, but most of what I learned concerned how little I knew and how little skill I really had. It had a lot in common with USPSA "run 'n gun trigger-slapper" pistol competition in that regard, actually.
  • I had very little idea how the rifle should be supported in any of the positions; I spent a lot of time shifting around.
  • I knew I needed to let some breath out and quiet my breathing, but I wasn't very good at it.
  • I knew I needed to find what the Appleseeders call my "natural point of aim" or NPOA, but again, I was bad at it, and knowing that I should be good at it didn't seem to be enough to get hits.
  • I did not have a sling on the rifle, nor did I have any idea how to use one as an aid to marksmanship.
  • I did not know how to adjust my sights, and I frankly thought doing so was more a crutch than anything--until I perforated the steel lane number sign about 13 times in one round with my loosey-goosey sights adjusted for about 50 yards. Windage was sweet, though.
There's more, but I see no reason to humiliate myself. It's my blog. My point is that an Appleseed shoot might really help me, because I DO want to shoot highpower competition, and I think it might be more fun if I sucked less. To argue that Appleseed is lacking because it apes highpower competition doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Are we against the Civilian Marksmanship Program now? They're pretty big on the three-position rifleman training over there, too, you know.

I understand the argument that you're not ready to fight a guerilla action against crack Imperial Stormtroopers (the crack ones still miss, but they don't give away their positions as quickly) just because you can hit man-sized targets out to 600 yards. But it IS a basic skill, and if you can't hit that target on demand at closer ranges, it won't matter much that you also can't hit a moving, camouflaged target on demand. I used to get this argument from karateka a lot. They'd argue that people who studied MMA, or BJJ, or whatever were limited in their approach. All we did was drill basics over and over and over. "That's beginners' stuff!" they'd tell me. "You won't want to go to the ground when the other guy has five friends waiting to put the boots to you while you're down there!"

Well, sure. That was true as far as it went. What that argument missed was that all the fancy stuff they were learning was being applied against air and unresisting "ukes"--people who knew their role was to let the technique work. They couldn't do their fancy techniques on demand against one opponent who was doing his best to stop them or pull off his own technique--but they were lecturing a man who could stop one opponent because he couldn't take five at once!

I feel that way about Appleseed. If you've mastered the basics and moved on, good for you. But I haven't. If you can do all the run 'n gun stuff with your rifle out to the ranges you want, then you might have no use for Appleseed. That's OK. We don't have to like the same stuff just because I'm crazy about you. Another common argument goes like this:
"Appleseed claims to be the gateway for new shooters, but it's way too hard and the wacko stuff about redcoats and the U.N. will scare new shooters away."

And that may be true. On the other hand, I've seen several new shooters introduced by way of a visit to a gun show, and if you've never met a true nutcase at a gun show, you ain't trying very hard. These people think guns and war and shooting people are neat, and they think that's what the rest of us are into, too. We'll never be completely rid of them. Sometimes, they may show up at Appleseed shoots, too--but then I've encountered racists and conspiracy theorists in many places. Ambulance services, tee-ball leagues, checkout lines at big box stores . . . .

For my own part, I think Appleseed may be aimed--very deliberately--at gun owners in about my stage of development. Think of their motto--something about "Don't be a gun owner, be a rifleman" isn't it? What does that mean?
It might mean that they think there are a lot of guys like me. Guys who owned several rifles and knew they couldn't hit anything past 100 yards to save their lives with a single one. Guys who owned battle rifles in calibers designed to put game or enemies down at extended ranges, but realized (or didn't, which would be far worse) that they'd have to rely on dumb luck to get hits at those ranges. Guys who could not really be called new to guns, but couldn't really be called "riflemen" or even "shooters" very honestly.

Monkeys with circular saws, in other words. People with finely-crafted tools who could do no more than admire the craftsmanship and think how cool it would be if they really knew how to use them to their full potential. So maybe what Appleseed is looking for is the transition between the casual gun owner who can't really shoot and the rifleman who has the basic skills to learn all that nifty combat stuff, or train for that elk hunt he's dreamed about, or have fun with his buddies on Sunday mornings at the highpower matches. And if somebody brings a new guy, he's welcome. And if somebody brings a really good "tactical" shooter, or a three-gun guy who wants to try Appleseed's way, so much the better. But if they can turn a wannabe into a rifleman--even if just being a rifleman is not enough to take out the invading Alien/U.N. hybrids--it's still better than not even being a rifleman.

So yes, I plan on attending an Appleseed event, hopefully sometime this fall if one happens near enough. I won't be going to blog about it or have my mind changed. I wanted to go before. I actually planned on going to a shoot in a town called Chillicothe (think Peoria--that's pretty close) but then I got invited to Blackwater and all my funds went there. Will I make Rifleman? I don't know. Maybe not, the first time. Will I be better at the end? Well, Breda says so, and I don't really see how a couple of days of intensive shooting with feedback could hurt me too much. Will I have time to sling up when the narcoterrorist U.N. mercenaries are marching on my hometown? I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

IF. If I come to it. That's what I meant. Stop looking at me like that.


Justin said...

Can someone please help me to understand how taking the time to learn the basics can be a bad thing? Every Marine is trained on a KD course with generous time limits and utilizing slings. Then every year they have to shoot the same course to prove that they are still proficient in the basics. Now, the rest of the year, especially the combat arms types, train up on high speed-low drag shooting techniques which they will actually use in combat. But you know what? All of those techniques do nothing except expand on the basics. You still have to know the fundamentals of a stable shooting platform, how your breathing will affect your point of impact, and how your sights actually work.

Do people honestly have an issue with someone just trying to teach the basics?

Earl said...

Well, thanks, you said it well. I am getting into Heavy Rifle shooting, fired ten rounds through my Model 70 the other day and was happy but wanted to do better. I am buying, provided the CMP loves me, an M1 to shoot in competition - not because I will ever be the Olympic rep for USA but because one works up to higher levels of competition, or I do believe.

I have been trying to get civilians to understand that machine guns are to be used at beyond three hundred meters, and rifles, too. But I think Hollywood has made us all believe that war is fought on football fields and we must know the names of our enemies and the unit they come from. Long range rifle shooting should be like the Japanese tea ceremony, when it is perfect you are there.

Countertop said...

very VERY well stated.

Sometimes, I think people blog because they have nothing else to do.

This is one of those times. The whole Appleseed discussion struck me as so much like the crap you see on the cable news channels where the producers are desperate to fill the air (and advertising slots) 24/7 they just make up the most asinine controversies.

Tam said...

Basic marksmanship is indeed the foundation of it all, whether pistol, rifle, or whatever.

Whether it's pistols at seven yards or rifles at seven hundred, being able to utilize a breath control, good mechanics, and a proper trigger squeeze is vital for placing the bullet exactly where you intend it to go.

As far as the "trigger-slapper" bit goes, I could swear I just heard a World Champeen IPSC shooter lecturing me the other day about breathe-squeeze-surprise break, whether he was shooting steel on the run at 5 yards or dropping plates at 100. But maybe I was hallucinating from too much trigger slappage. ;)

NotClauswitz said...

I wish you would have come to *my* club to shoot Highpower because we teach (and even explain) 1.) the use of the actual dangley sling thingy including the non-web Turner's type super-slingeroonie, 2.) how to adjust ancient tired old Garand sights that sometimes go on the fritz and drop your zero to 50-yards, 3.) how to find and harvest in the wild the organic natural no-preservatives lightly-roasted full-Yoda point-of-aim - and 4.) triggery-squeezery with in-and-out chest pumpery - also you get to help score the targets. Twice a Month for $10 after club membership - bring your own Garand ammo or buy it from the club.
We do the same damn thing over and over, trying just to refine it a bit, please God let me shoot little groups once I figure out how to shoot any kind of freakin' group at all.
We keep score over time. We don't have any cooks. You *start* as a Rifleman because you've got an M1 Garand The Finest Yadda-Yadda General Patton Killing Nazis Omaha Beach and all that in your hands already, and shortly afterward you make Marksmanley, and then Sharpshooteroonie, and hopefully hence ZeExpayrt (I'm still workin on it) ~~ and then *The Distinguished Gentleman* ~~ (or something with ribbons I think) and you get go to feelie Leg-Matches and a bunch of totally arcane crap about which I know nothing including ^The Holy Temple of Camp Perry^ - but that is too far away and too much trouble for me to ever attend...

I'm not against Appleseed as much as all the hearsay - what I've heard about their grueling midnight-sun boiling-sands work ethic, and slam-dancing the panic-button on "the Blue Helmets are Coming!" stuff. I can't listen to that crap and concentrate on shooting, it doesn't fire me up. I also don't listen to hard-rock metal music to get amped-up and into a frenzied red-mist shooting mood. I need less audio and mental caffeine not more.

I'd like to try run-and-gun Ninja stuff but it doesn't happen very conveniently around here, and it eats up a lot of spendy ammunition - and I haven't been Twenty Years Old in over thirty years.
I passed on a Scoped Rifle Match this Sunday because I don't have anything with a scope that will hit a 3-inch square at 200 yards. So there's another Ningariffic Tactical Police thing I'm not doing.

In the M1 Carbine Match we held a couple weekends ago (I don't know if Appleseed allows that as a "rifle" - some folks are funny about a shoulder fired pistol-cartridge) I would have shot "Expert" - but the scoring is generous for that one. :-) There's no Appleseed's within several hundred miles of here, along this elongated State, and I have nothing to do so I blog.

Unknown said...

I think, (this is only a thought and it could be incorrect) that many of the gripes that come from the apple seed program is that it emphasis only hitting a piece of paper and not a human silhouette. The other gripe I have heard is that unless you can "pass" (not sure what that is) then you are still a "cook". To me, I have no problem with that, if I am a cook and not a rifleman because I suck than I will try my a$$ off to get out of cook status. And the final gripe, albeit odd, I have heard is that at the beginning they fire 13 commemorative shots to honor the rifleman who defended this country.

These do not seem like good reasons to me to pick a bone with the apple seed folks. I have shot a rifle before, and I will start hunting this year, but my bet is that if I had the basics of rifle shooting down I would be a better shot. I do not see a problem with the basics. There is still a lot I need to learn and I think anything that would help me shoot better is a benefit.

Hell, I was reading the apple seed website and it said to have my sights zeroed for 150yds. I have iron sights. I have no idea how to zero them. Told you I have a lot to learn.


SordidPanda said...

There really is very rarely a bad training event. Only a training event where you learned something you didn't intend to learn.

Have fun hitting steel at 600, it's really not as hard as you think or as tough as anyone makes it out to be.

If you can't get to an Appleseed event, ask around for a former grunt to give you some BRM training, that at least will get you out to 300 meters from the prone and standing supported positions. Every Soldier or Marine is expected to be a teacher of rifle marksmanship and know how to diagnose problems like inconsistant sight picture, improper trigger squeeze, flinch, improper breath control, etc.

Don't be afraid to do your homeworkd before hand, there are plenty of good books that make for light reading on the subject of rifle accuracy at distance.

Robert Langham said...

Watch some Youtube. You'll be happy. Scroll down. Lot's of NRA Highpower, technique, folks talking about Distinguished Rifleman badges, Camp Perry, et, et, et.
Even Commercial Row.
You're welcome. Go to Appleseed. Shoot. Learn. Have fun.

Don said...

Did I kick over a beehive?

Understand that I'm not the one calling action shooting "trigger-slapping." That came from the Appleseed forum. I realize not all Appleseed instructors feel that way, but it's out there.

Understand, too, that I'm not lining up against The Blogosphere on the Appleseed side of the barricade. I usually see both sides of a fight and end up somewhere in the crossfire trying to get everybody to settle down and have a drink, and maybe that's what happened here.

I just think that with the number of bloggers out there, the Appleseed guys are being criticized because they're not meeting a lot of different standards--and most of the standards aren't coherent with each other because they came from different people at different times. If you think Appleseed claims to be the ultimate new-shooter experience, it would fall short compared to a .22 and some balloons and tin cans on somebody's back 40, no doubt about it.
If you expect Appleseed to be infantry training beyond the basics, it will probably disappoint you as much as the new-shooter guy.

But if you take it for what's offered--getting people to get out and test their real skill with a rifle, then teach them to improve it--I think you could do a lot worse. Above all, I give them much respect for doing the hardest part: they're actually doing it. They're not talking about it. They're not discussing it. They're doing it.
Once you stop planning and start doing, mistakes creep in and weaknesses show up, which opens you up to criticism. That's OK, as long as the critics remember to give credit, too.

The Rifleman/Cook system doesn't bother me. No student can ever succeed in a system where failure is impossible. If you're going to teach skills and assess those skills, you have to establish some level of performance on that assessment tool that will be considered a success. Once you do that, everything below that threshold must necessarily be considered failure. That doesn't mean an instructor has to be mean, or that people have to be labeled as bad people if they fail. But they do have to be made aware that they haven't mastered the skill; to do less than that is unethical in any instructor.

Anonymous said...

Would that be Chillicothe, OH? And how far would such a location be for you? It's durn near "local" and I'm thinking we should go shooting sometime!!

Anonymous said...

Never mind. I seee, Virden, IL. NOT local. Oh well, if ever in the Chill...,OH region, email e a (and then last name of Farmer Frank) AT ieee. organization.

Anonymous said...

if you kicked the hive, it probably needed to be kicked. the whole "controversy" seemed pretty stupid to me, similar to the Zumbo fiasco from 18 months ago. Lots of folks with a dearth of information and a surplus of opinion. Or the kind of "look down your nose" attitudes I'm used to seeing from "elite" shotgun shooters for action pistol shooters, or skeet shooters for trap shooters at my home range. An attitude I think we, as a community, need to bury because it is only fodder for those that support gun control.

Learning the basics of shooting is learning the basics of shooting. Getting out and meeting other people interested in learning the basics (or more advanced skills if that's the class your attending) almost never leads to having a bad time and hardly ever meeting ugly (attitude not physical) people.

Most of the complaints I read came from people that were reading someone else's description of the class or gathering their information from a source other than attending one of the events. Kind of like saying, I haven't read War and Peace but I have friends that did, they didn't like it, so I don't like it either for the following reasons...

What I think is kind of funny though, if the Appleseed folks are talking about turning people rifleman why are they talking about soldiers from the revolution who were, mainly, using muskets that are not known for their accuracy beyond around 80 yards, hence the shoulder to shoulder formations.

Tam said...


I don't have a side of the barricade. Although I do find the whole issue as perplexing as "IDPA vs. IPSC", "Benchrest v. High-Power", "Glock v. 1911" and many other of the eternal hair-pulling contests on the gun-webz.

"Sling-using fuddy duddy!"
"Run'n'gun trigger slapper!"

Jeez, y'all, get a room! ;)

Sebastian said...

I don't think the idea behind Appleseed is necessarily bad, but they need to be more clear about what level of shooter they are trying to reach, need to be more open to criticism of the program, more open to different ideas.

I also have just consistently gotten a "cult of personality" vibe from the whole thing that I just find distasteful. I've gotten the impression the program is too much about the people organizing it and not enough about the people they are bringing in as students into the program. I have no doubt many enjoy it, and many walk away better shooters. It is marksmanship training after all, and there's nothing wrong with that.

But I think any good program is going to have mechanisms to solicit feedback, weed out bad instructors, encourage good instructors, and be open to adjusting the program based on user feedback. I get the impression that Appleseed is more about Fred saving America than actually being concerned with trying to teach more people the joys and disciplines of shooting.

Tam said...

The "cult of personality" problem is rife in the firearms training scene in America today. It makes me throw up in my mouth a little.

Anonymous said...

"Or the kind of "look down your nose" attitudes I'm used to seeing from "elite" shotgun shooters for action pistol shooters, or skeet shooters for trap shooters at my home range. "

This crap violates the "Thou shalt not throw bricks at personell on OUR side of the Barricade. It is the sin Zumbo committed....

And Tam, you DO have a side of the barricade. Those who would ban guns are on the other side.....

Anonymous said...

As an Appleseed volunteer, and a Blogger, I'd love to see you on the firing line :)

This fall, within what I would consider 'reasonable' driving range...

Ottawa, IL (160 miles) on September 27-28
Wabash, IN (250 miles) on October 18-19
Osage Beach, Missouri (250 miles) on October 25-26
Evansville, Indiana (220 miles) on November 8-9.

I'll be at the MO shoot... Hope to see you there!

Chris Midkiff
Missouri State Coordinator,
Appleseeed Project

Anonymous said...


Thank you for the reasoned comments on the Appleseed Program. I followed the whole spindizzy last week on the blogs, and it was very much as someone said, a bunch of folks who haven't been to a shoot commenting on it.

As someone who has been to seven so far this year in 5 different states and a few more to go I have a good feel for what they are like. Are they perfect - nope. But they are good basic rifle training.
Does everyone make Rifleman-nope and the ones that don't are not ridiculed. Look back at what Breda said in her piece. This is not a competition, except against yourself to become better.
There is no discrimination against different rifles, actually we are platform independent. Same for iron sights or scopes, we don't care. We prefer to teach iron sights, again basics. But if you need/want to use a scope, use it. Our philosophy is that a skilled rifleman should be able to pick up any rifle and use it to it's potential. We see everything from 10/22's to high end hunting rifles every weekend. 2 weeks ago, we had a new (had his first rifle for 30 days prior)rifle shooter on the line. He shot a 213 (Rifleman) score Sunday afternoon. He learned the basics and applied them...with a bolt action rifle. This program works. Their is no cult of personality, no anti-UN harangues.

We teach marksmanship techniques (a lot)and Rev War history (a little) just to expose people to what the folks on 4/19/75 went through. Ordinary people just like us-jobs, kids, in-laws, etc.

Chris, get yourself over to E'ville in NOV. We're shooting for 200 folks on the line and I'd love to shake your hand.

Ed Yeager
IN State Coordinator
Appleseed Instructor