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Appleseed Comes To Phoenix

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I had one of the most intense educational experience of my life this past weekend.  It was the Appleseed shoot put on by a group with the unlikely (and maybe a little dangerous-sounding) name of Revolutionary War Veterans Association. 

If you think you know how to shoot a rifle...

If you want to learn how to shoot a rifle...

If you own a rifle and only take it out for deer season...

If you don't own a rifle but think you might want one someday... 

Go to an Appleseed  

Here's how it was in Phoenix.

The previous weekend I was out in the boonies along the Verde River scouting for deer, so my honey-do list was getting long.  Consequently, I was only able to sign up for Sunday of the two-day event in Phoenix.  Saturday morning I dropped son Brandon off at the high school for a college admissions test and made my way up the short drive to Ben Avery Shooting Facility to visit the event and get an idea what I had signed up for. 

What I found was forty-some guys, a couple of ladies to keep 'em honest, and a couple of younger guys -- younger than my sixteen-yearr-old, all listening intently to a lecture about rifle shooting in the context of defending liberty.  I was enthralled.  I watched the shooting for a bit and talked with the lecturer, an unassuming guy named Fred who provided the color and historical background.  

I've been to lots of shooting matches and clinics and sight-in days in my time.  But I've never been to one that placed so much emphasis on what it means to be a rifleman -- and what being a rifleman has to do with being an American.  As Americans, we owe our independence to riflemen.  I tore myself away to get home and work on chores.

Sunday morning Brandon and I skipped church and packed up the truck, he with a M1 Garand tuned up by Arrington Accuracy, me with a vintage Remington Model 720 set up as a high-power rifle, a case of 500 rounds of Federal .30-'06 ammo, mats slings, eyes and ears, water, binoculars, shooting box full of possibles (cleaning rod, staple gun, etc.), and headed to the range.  

Where Saturday had been a gorgeous fall Arizona desert day, Sunday brought a stiff breeze from the north.  Up at the range, that breeze became a howling north wind that rolled around the mountain creating strange wind currents and occasional dust devils that would lift the target frames right out of the ground.  The six-foot by four-foot target frames, built from 2 x 2 lumber with sheets of cardboard stapleed inside, proved quite aerodynamic, given enough wind.  The Appleseed crew faced down the adversity, trying and discarding several ideas until someone hit the right solution.  We cut two feet off the legs of the frames, turning them into stakes.  We then drove the stakes on the windward, downrange side and secured the target frames with guy lines.  There are pictures from the shoot at the Appleseed site.

With targets secured, we set about our business.  That was to learn to shoot.  Back on the line, sand (not dust, sand) formed drifts around gun cases, under shooting mats, in eyes.  My nose developed a constant drip.  We shot into the face of adversity.  Fred reminded us of what the guys in Lexington faced.  The wind didn't seem so bad.

Son Brandon took a beating from the Garand.  He has taken to calling it "Sugar" as in Sugar Ray Leonard (or Robinson) because it punched him in the face every time he pulled the trigger.  At Fred's recommendation, he cut a square of cloth and stuck it between his upper lip and a troublesome piece of dental hardware.  Nonetheless, he turned in some respectable scores, and even managed to beat me on the Army Qualification Test.  I'll soon remedy that.  

The public range next door closed.  The Civilian Marksmanship Program Creedmoor shoot called it a day.  Range flags stretched straight out in the buffeting wind.  The black powder club that was to share the range with us for part of the day stayed home to watch football.  We continued our shooting.   

It took me a while to learn to run the bolt gun, especially with a clock running.  I had never used Springfield '03-style stripper clips before.  But at the end of the day I was shooting better than I started.  There were a few targets I actually felt good about.  And there were some more targets that said more than just "good shooting."  I recently found a picture of myself at age 7 that Dad took as I touched off a .30-'06, my first experience with a center-fire rifle.  As the day wore on, I got to relive that moment over and over.  At the end of the day, I was bruised, gritty, cranky, and snot-nosed, but inspired.  It was one of the most memorable educational experiences of my life.   

By becoming riflemen we honor those who gave us what we have.  By reviving the tradition of riflery in this country, we strengthen the insurance policy that the Second Amendment represents.  My wife thinks I've joined a cult.  Nonsense.  I've thought like this for years.  I've just never seen such a clear expression of those thoughts, and especially not at the range.

Go shoot your rifle! 


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