By "Kusanagi Motoko"
I recently had the privilege of attending an Appleseed. There was some unpleasantness, but overall I had a great time. My boyfriend and I rolled in the night before, having prepared for actual camping out in rural Kansas, but found ourselves staying in a big cinderblock tent instead. The worst of the "camping" was that I'd forgotten a pillow and there was no hot water the first night. A storm swept down on us that night, which made me glad we weren't in a tent.
I took my Savage Mark II FSS -- with the fiber optic sights that it came with. In retrospect I probably would have scored better if I'd had a semiauto, but I prefer not to use such rude guns. I had to be careful where I put myself on the firing line so I could catch the other guy's brass on my back instead of in my face. The person to my right had no such worries -- which was lucky, because he was eight.
The instruction I received at the Appleseed is hands-down the best firearms training I have ever gotten. They were fanatical about safety. They taught one and only one way of shooting. They watched me while I shot and gave me helpful feedback. They did not wait until I had already done something wrong five times before correcting me. They were, above all, patient with rank amateurs.
(I'd fired a rifle exactly twice before going to the shoot: Once because hey, I had my own rifle! And once to make sure all my new magazines worked.)
They taught position shooting with a sling, which I am told is not practical. It doesn't bother me (I studied Kumdo). Prone, sitting, standing, then with magazine changes, then standing to prone, standing to sitting (this is the worst). We only had a 25 m range to work with, but the targets were tiny. For some reason my groups got bigger as the targets got smaller... I did manage to nail the (simulated) 250 m headshot, though.
I also managed to hurt myself -- not badly, but enough that I spent the rest of the weekend fighting my own reaction the pain. One of the things I learned studying Kumdo (in addition to tolerance for impractical fighting styles) was how to push through pain no matter what. As years have passed and the consequences of that behavior have manifested themselves in my body, I've taught myself to respect pain.
"Respecting pain" does not mean "backing down when men are watching," however. Being the only woman on the firing line got me a lot of attention, some inappropriate manhandling, and expectations that would make a goddess cringe. Our instructor opened with a story about a woman who came to Appleseed as a beginner and earned her rifleman patch by the end of the session. No pressure there.
Another thing that impressed me was how our primary instructor behaved with his assistants. He was clearly training them for his job. He made each of them take a turn lecturing, watching the line, or giving individual instruction. It was egalitarian in the sense that I felt that anyone could step up, work hard, and eventually lead their own Appleseed. I think that's a sign of a healthy organization, and I hope it holds elsewhere in the country.
Appleseed isn't just about marksmanship, of course -- it's also about listening to the instructors tell stories about the American Revolution. Specifically the first few battles, in all kinds of gory detail. It is propaganda of a sort -- they clearly framed the statistics so as to make the colonists look like stupendous badasses. I don't think it's anything sinister -- just guys trying to tell a good story. And they were good stories. I was nearly in tears a couple of times (though that might have been sleep deprivation). I was surprised by how much emphasis they placed on the fact that the colonists were defending community property -- the public ammunition stores, the community flagpole, the town green.
By Sunday, I could shoot a score high enough to stay in the Army (if the Army let people qualify with a bolt-action .22 :sweat: ), but not high enough to earn that rifleman patch. I can't wear the shirt they gave me in good conscience, because it has rude things about cooks printed on it. Some of my good friends are cooks, and besides, It's shortsighted -- you can't be much of a rifleman if you're shaky from hunger.
I want new sights now. And I want to go back -- I adore shooting rifles and I want to see if I can do better.