Although I like quite a bit about Manhattan, one of the aspects I miss of New Hampshire was the ability to teach novices gun safety and marksmanship almost every weekend. In total, I took about a hundred classmates of mine from business school through the basics, with an emphasis on practical marksmanship.
Manhattan, due to the draconian laws and dearth of ranges has not really been conducive to teaching. The Appleseed class afforded me the opportunity to invite four of my friends out to practice the basics of serious rifle marksmanship.
Due to the particulars of Westside Rifle and Pistol, the course was split up into a Friday lecture and Saturday lecture/range portion. The lecture portion covered a combination of Revolutionary War history (emphasizing the events of April 19, 1775), civics (I think of “The Pledge” like “Saying Grace” at dinner, fine for others, for me, no thanks), safety, and marksmanship. The Safety portion was very rigorous. Because Appleseed teaches thousands of people with zero experience and likely has no umbrella policy they run the safest line I’ve ever seen. If Chuck Taylor runs a “hot range” and USPSA runs a “cold range,” then the Appleseed range is a “frozen range.” Not criticizing, just noting.
The marksmanship portion was interesting. Appleseed was created by the Revolutionary War Veterans Association, which itself was created by Fred of Fred’s M14 Stocks. Fred’s views largely color the rifle doctrine being taught in the class, which itself derives from British WWI-era training. Fred’s a big fan of the M14, or rather, the box-magazine fed, iron sighted, semi-automatic, 30 caliber battle rifle, delivering well-aimed fire out to 500 yards. He’s also a big fan of traditional GI slings.
Fred’s gun, the M14:
I don’t want to come across as a chairborne ranger, but I’ll be the first to state I’m a big fan of two things: Modern Technology and Best Practices. From 1898 until probably the mid-1990’s, the iron-sighted 30-cal battle rifle was basically the “Rifleman’s Rifle.” Scopes weren’t rugged enough, AR15’s weren’t reliable enough, and 5.56mm was spent at beyond 300m. Now however, a strong case could be made that the SPR (18″ barreled flattop AR’s wearing low power optics) is the “go to” gun for the serious rifleman.
Why? Accuracy, reliability, and the ever important “shootability.” The AR15 platform has a fraction of the recoil of a heavy battle which translates to lower shooter fatigue and faster follow-up shots. Reputable AR’s are basically all sub-MOA guns. Modern 223 (ie mk 262 mod 1) has better external ballistics than 308 ball ammo. Add a better cartridge like 6.8 SPC or 6.5 Grendel and 308 begins looking positively stodgy.
With regards to best practices, I’d look to shooting sports like 3gun and Long Range Field Target as well as American soldiers to see what’s the state of the art in technique. The first thing that stands out is usage of slings. Folks use them to carry rifles, but that’s about it. Most snipers and competitors use bipods, bags, rocks, backpacks, shooting sticks, etc. I’m not saying slings aren’t effective, I’ve shot enough NRA Highpower to know that they work well, but I’m also the first to say that bipods are faster to deploy, more stable, and quicker to change position. Again, go back to a match like the Steel Safari, these are guys making hits from 300-1000 yards under time pressure. Now someone is definitely going to reply, “but if your rifle doesn’t have a bipod what will you do?” This isn’t ‘Nam, no one is handing us a piece of garbage and saying “make it work.” If your rifle can’t accommodate a bipod… get a new rifle!
I can see a stronger argument for learning marksmanship with iron sights, but these days, the assumption that a “fighting rifle” has irons is well… dated. Inside about 45 yards, irons are tied with red-dots for speed and accuracy. Outside of 45 yards, optics are both faster, easier to make hits with, and easier to properly ID targets, three excellent factors. So, if you’re a total novice, get decent with irons, but please, even if you fancy yourself a rifleman, don’t criticize scopes.
Back to the class. The quality of instruction in the class was very high. The instructors had a great deal of range time under their belt and just as important, they were passionate about spreading rifle marksmanship. Also worth noting, the “student instructor ratio” was very low so each student got more individualized attention than at some of the big name shooting classes I’ve taken. Late that evening, the class ended and we went our separate ways.
Saturday morning, I woke up very early and rode my motorcycle to the tip of South Brooklyn to rendezvous with a friend. We then carpooled out to a gunshow in Philly. I didn’t really “need” anything, but I was looking for 7mm Rem Mag ammo. No luck. Didn’t see much of anything that caught my fancy, but I did get to handle a Bushmaster ACR. Made me miss New Hampshire more than a bit. I made it back to Manhattan in time to swing by my apartment for shooting glasses on the way to Westside, which was good. I have a prescription Rydon kit that I like quite a bit.
When we returned to the range, we did a few more classroom exercises before hitting the range. Because Westside was kind enough to provide range accommodations to the Appleseed organization gratis and use of 16 Ruger 10/22’s, I will say nothing about the rifles or the facilities. I won’t say anything about my group size, or my ability to print on AQT targets at 50 feet.
All and all, the class was a success. 16 students are now well on their way to becoming riflemen (plus a few riflewomen). I met the instructors, they were good people. Made me definitely decide to get a sling and irons for one of my 10/22’s. (After all, I better be able to shoot a rifleman score the “hard way” before I criticize slings and irons)
Look at those smiles: