Letter Re: Comments on the RWVA Appleseed Training Experience

I grew up plinking with a .22 rifle but was totally inexperienced with MBR rifles when I bought my FAL last summer. When I saw the RWVA Appleseed training schedule in SurvivalBlog, I decided to risk a possible cold weekend and attended Fred’s February 2006 training in North Carolina. I had the company of one other FAL shooter, an SKS shooter, a .22 shooter and a lot of M1A and M1 Garand shooters on the lower range line. Three or four families with children ranging in ages from about 10 up came to the training also and sported various calibers according to size. One family had thee kids, including two younger teen girls and a pre-teen boy – all participants. One Dad and son about 10 (who shot a .223) I remember because on the second day I was paired with them in a team exercise. But I had to get through the first day’s training. My point here is that there was a big turnout so for logistic reasons, Fred and company opened up the upper (parallel) range line for the family groups so all had appropriate instruction and coaching.

I was so discouraged after the first day. As Fred’s pre-shoot instructions said, I had sighted in my FAL ahead of time (using the built-in bipod). Using a sling is a fundamental rifleman’s skill and so, though tempted, I kept my bi-pod folded up the whole Appleseed experience. The sling makes sense because it can be used to stabilize a rifle when standing, kneeling or prone, whereas the bi-pod is fairly useless unless prone. But all the business with using the sling for stability was just not coming together for me. Question: Is it normal that changing from bipod where the rifle’s weight on the bipod pushes up on the barrel to using a sling where there is a downward pull on the barrel would change the point of impact by 12 MOA? Or is there something wrong with my FAL? (I’d readily agree to the “operator factor” explanation except, either way, I could hold a pretty good 2-4 MOA group.) If using a sling vs. bipod makes that much difference, is there another hardware arrangement where the bi-pod and sling attach to, say, the front handguard and not the barrel, so point of impact can stay the same shooting from either configuration? Anyhow, I was still getting my FAL, the sling and me sighted in FAR into day 1. Pshew. I had hoped to be way further along the learning curve. It had been a good full day of shooting but I was tired, befuddled, and frustrated. Certainly not satisfied.

But I went back for the second day. It came together. Just as Fred and company promised it would if you keep at it. Wow! Was I pumped by the end of Day Two! By the end of Day Two, I knocked down targets at 100, 200 and 300 yards. Iron sights. Yep, doing the sling thing. And I’m 53 years old and wear trifocals.

As I mentioned, in the later part of the 2nd day, we had some team events. I was paired with a Dad and his young son. As a team, we shot against the pop up targets at 100, 200 and 300 yards and against the clock, from the line, prone. For a time advantage, so we would not all three be shooting at the same target, Dad, the best long-range shot, started with the 300 yard pop ups, me the 200 yard ones and the young’un the 100 yard line. I got three of my four down before Dad got 4 at 300 yards down and helped me out. The next phase in the team experience was to walk toward the 100 yard berm and whenever the 100 yard pop ups appeared, stay standing and shoot till they were down. Then we kept advancing toward the 100 yard berm till the pop ups at the 200 yard berm appeared, at which time we knelt and shot till they were down. Sitting or kneeling is steadier than standing, so even though the targets were farther away, they went down in fewer shots. Then we ran (shoulder-even with each other so no one got ahead of anyone else’s muzzle) the rest of the way to the 100 yard berm where we climbed / crawled up, went prone and took out the pop ups at the 300 yard berm (now at a 200 yard distance).

Walking back up the hill I remember how I felt. It was a mixture of satisfaction that I persisted past my inexperienced frustration and had learned something new. No I had not just learned something, I had trained to a new level of competence. But that was only part of what I felt. I felt so proud of that Dad and his young son. The kid was ahead of us going back up the hill – full of energy – walking tall. I remembered back to when I was a boy and my dad took me and my brothers out plinking with the .22 rifle. I had felt tall on those days. I said quietly to this February ’06 Dad, “You have given him a great gift. He will remember this day out here with you the rest of his life. I know because I can remember like it was yesterday when my dad took me out and taught me how to shoot.” Then I spoke some even quieter words of thanks to the spirit and memory of that 1966 dad who had shown me how to handle arms safely and watched as I stood a bit taller.

What more worthy lesson can a boy learn from his dad than the skills of a rifleman who can, if necessary, defend his own life and that of his family? If your life has worth, and it does, it is worth defending.

Appleseeds. This February ’06 dad was a qualified rifleman. And his young boy will soon also be a qualified rifleman. Appleseeds. It is about learning the skills to defend a family or community. Or rebuff tyranny and start a nation as the dads of April 1776 did. It is a story Fred and company know and tell. It is not a history lesson they tell for you to only learn the story. It is a story they tell so you will train the story, that is, train to have the skills of the story. It is an inspiring story. It is a satisfying experience. – Kentucky’s Virginian