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Party in the Park
When: July 31, 2010, 11am
Where: Liberty Park
Are You a Rifleman or a Cook? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Kinsey   
Tuesday, 03 April 2007 08:29

In the closing days of 2006, I penned a short article listing a few of my New Year Resolutions. As you may have seen, I only mentioned those that pertained to defending our Second Amendment rights and kept the obligatory weight loss goal to myself for plausible deniability.

In reviewing that list, I realize that some efforts are progressing further than others. One in particular that I had been neglecting until recently was number four on that list:
Become a Rifleman. I have informally plinked my entire life but have never had any training with a rifle. This year, I want to compliment my handgun skills with some long arm abilities. There is nothing wrong with having a few more self-defense tools available if the need for them should ever arise.
To begin my journey, I read as much as I could, both online and in print, to try and learn the basics of rifle marksmanship. My spoiled, lazy rear convinced me that would be sufficient during the first cold months of an Ohio winter and I was on my way.

I could not have been more wrong.

That complacent attitude was officially banished this past weekend when I attended an Appleseed Shoot sponsored by the fine folks at the Revolutionary War Veterans Association (RWVA). Before I tell you about the training itself, I would like to recount my experience so that you can learn how I went from having fired twenty rounds of centerfire rifle ammunition in my life to consistently hitting (simulated) 400 yard targets with iron sights and a .30-caliber long arm after only two days of Appleseed instruction.

When I began my research, I kept running across one name: Fred. You may have read a few of Fred’s articles in Shotgun News. You may have stumbled upon his renowned site for everything M1A/M14, Fred’s M14 Stocks. Maybe you’ve read high praise for him in "Boston’s Gun Bible". Anyway, it seemed almost universally agreed that this was a man who knew how to use a long gun and how to teach others to do the same.

I ordered a copy of “Fred’s Guide to Becoming a Rifleman” and read it cover to cover as soon as it arrived. The explanation of the basic mechanics of rifle marksmanship was exactly what I had been seeking. Fred’s Guide provides everything a beginning rifleman needs in a matter-of-fact manner that allowed me to get started on the right foot. With that introduction, I knew how to aim my rifle, how to get into the various shooting positions, and how to use a sling. Time for some action, right?!

I fought that urge to head straight to the range and instead diligently practiced getting my body used to the correct prone and sitting positions in my basement and dry-firing “by the numbers”. Fred’s Guide describes the six steps to firing an accurate shot. They are as follows:
  1. Sight Alignment: Aligning the front and rear sights.
  2. Sight Picture: Bringing the aligned sights onto your target.
  3. Respiratory Pause: Your natural breathing raises and lowers your rifle. When you achieve a perfect Sight Picture while exhaling, hold your breath to remain on target.
  4. Focus
    1. Focus your Eyes on the Front Sight: Just like in most handgun training you’ve likely encountered, your whole world is that front sight.
    2. Focus your Mind on the Target: While your eyes are focused on the front sight, you must focus your mind on keeping the front sight on your target.
  5. Trigger Pull: Notice that the phrase isn’t “Trigger Jerk”. (Another important point that gives me fits is to make sure that the rest of your trigger finger does not touch the stock while on the trigger.)
  6. Follow Through: There are two important facets to Following Through. First, you want to take a mental snapshot of where your sights were when the shot was fired so that you can have instant feedback and can call your shot to know where it impacted the target. Second, you want to hold the trigger back for a moment and then release it slowly to prepare for the next shot. You may have heard this described as “trigger reset”.

In order to gain a true understanding of these techniques and everything else that a rifleman needs, I urge you to purchase a copy of Fred’s Guide for yourself and not rely on my meager summary above.

After a few days, my body stopped protesting the various positions and they actually became comfortable... just as Fred promised they would. I was able to dry fire without flinching and “call my shot”.

Next thing I knew, it was time to attend my first Appleseed Shoot. The program is named after the legendary efforts of one man in the early 1800’s that traveled the Northwest Territory planting apple orchards along the Ohio river. His name was Jonathan Chapman, otherwise known throughout history as Johnny Appleseed. The RWVA uses his example as inspiration to help accomplish something even more important - passing on our American tradition of rifle marksmanship.

Since I had no idea what to expect from this past weekend’s activities, I am unable to accurately put in words how extremely impressed I was with this family friendly event. Skilled volunteer instructors (most traveling from as far away as North Carolina) taught the young, the old, and yours truly to put into practice the basics of rifle marksmanship. It was only through their instruction that the words I read in Fred’s Guide finally “clicked” and I realized what I had to do if I wanted to become an accurate shot.

We began by sighting in our rifles and quickly moved on to specific lessons that culminated with practice on the firing line that gauged the group’s improvement. We practiced with various drills, including the Army Qualification Test (AQT) which dictates a specific course of fire to test the techniques and positions we had been taught. We learned proper sight adjustments that need to be made in the field and just what the heck Minute of Angle (MOA) actually means. We also used “ball and dummy” drills throughout the weekend that allowed a shooter to easily pinpoint various mistakes he/she was making. This occured through the random loading or unloading of a rifle and having the shooter fire the shot as normal. When the rifle dry-fired, it was easy to see if the shooter was flinching.

The instructors periodically broke up each day’s training exercises by giving us a rest while they imparted a bit of our nation’s history. Specifically, they discussed the preliminary defeat that turned to triumph at the beginning of our American Revolution on April 19, 1775. For those that are as interested in history as I am, you must read “Paul Revere’s Ride” by David Hackett Fischer. It is simply one of the best accounts available describing the initial skirmishes at Lexington and Concord while accurately detailing Revere's famed midnight ride that has transformed over the years into more myth than fact.

Thanks to group and one-on-one instruction, I was able to leave the two-day Appleseed Shoot achieving accuracy that I never thought possible given my lack of experience.

If you are interested in learning to accurately shoot a rifle offhand, sitting, kneeling, and prone, you owe it to yourself to look into RWVA and attend an Appleseed Shoot near you. Bring a friend! Bring the family! I have attended several handgun training courses and can honestly say that I have never had a more enjoyable time on the firing line. I arrived barely able to keep ten rounds on paper at 50 yards and left feeling confident that I could quickly get into a steady prone position and hit a target at 400 yards. (Notice I didn't mention anything about confidently shooting from the sitting position. I'll keep working on that one.)

Fred and the RWVA like to say that there are two types of gun owners out there: Riflemen and Cooks. I’m certainly not up to Rifleman standards yet, but thanks to the great instructors at RWVA that generously donate their time to further our American tradition of rifle marksmanship, I have the chance to some day get out of the kitchen!

Both "Paul Revere's Ride" and "Boston's Gun Bible" are conveniently available through the OFCC Bookstore.