I had a lot of fun at my first Appleseed shoot at the program’s home range in Ramsuer, NC, a little over a month ago. I learned a lot about our Founding Fathers and the “three strikes of the match” that triggered the American Revolution on April 19, 1775. I also learned more about marksmanship in two days than I’d learned in my prior 41 years.
It took me no time at all to decide that I was going to come back again. I wanted to prove that my score of Rifleman (expert) wasn’t a fluke, and I was interesting in starting down the path of the “orange hat,” which is what the Revolutionary War Veterans Association (RWVA) calls their instructors-in-training (IITs).
Precisely why they call them orange hats slips my mind, but I’m sure it will come to me.
I had butterflies in my stomach when I got down on the firing line Saturday morning and took aim at the first redcoat of the day. The instructors knew my goal was to shoot rifleman and join the instructor cadre, and I was nervous.
When the command to fire came, however, I was able to calm down and focus on my breathing and trigger control. When the cease-fire command was given and we were to proceed downrange and retrieve our targets I found that I found that I had cleared the target, putting all 13 shots where they needed to be, with three each in the simulated 100, 200, 300, and 400 yard targets, plus one in the 250-yard “headshot.” From there the day went smoothly as I tried to help a father and his sons work on on the fundamentals as we worked our way up to the Army Qualification Test (AQT) that I needed to score 210 or more on out of 250 to earn entry into the instructor cadre as an IIT0. Full Appleseed instructors, called “red hats” for equally unfathomable and mysterious reasons, all have to be able to “walk the walk” as expert shots.
When the AQT finally rolled around late in the afternoon, I actually managed to improve on my prior score a little (from 220 to 223), while feeling like I’d done worse, because I now had a much better idea of what my shortcomings are as a shooter. Still, I’d earned my second patch and could now join up to help teach, which is something I really enjoy.
When Sunday morning rolled around, I found myself on the left side of the firing line as a range safety officer (RSO) on that side, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I n addition to making sure the line was safe, I was able to help shooters make adjustments to their technique , and it was awesome to see the smiles on their faces when a suggestion led to a tighter group.
Though the temperature had plunged into the 40s by the end of the afternoon, we had managed to turn out several more riflemen and a riflewoman, who is also going to be working down the path to instructor with me.
I’ve mentioned the people at Appleseed before as the best part of the program, and I can’ tell you enough about how this entirely volunteer-run organization has impressed me. There is just such a helpful attitude among all the instructors, who are there merely because they believe in Appleseed’s charter and hope to help others become excellent marksman and better Americans in the process.
The individual highlight of the day came for me after the benediction. The rifles were silenced, the last stories of the day told, and shooters and instructors were beginning to clean up the firing line when one of the shooters came up to pull me aside. She was a mature lady, who had been working hard but was frustrated with her shooting earlier in the day before I’d switched to RSO the other end of the line. I’d gone over one of her targets and had made some suggestions about things she may want to look to adjust.
She wanted me to know that she was disabled, was having a hard time with the course of fire in such miserable and cold conditions, and was just about to the point of wanting to give up when other instructors and I had given her advice, and she saw remarkable improvement. She wanted us to know we had made a difference… and she wanted us to know that she was coming back, and had her heart set on earning her rifleman’s patch.
Folks, you don’t get much better of a feeling than knowing you really touched someone’s heart. This was just my second Appleseed, and my first as an orange hat.
I can hardly wait to see where this adventure leads, and I’d love to see you there.