The trail begins one step at a time–each one finding surer footing through the confidence of mastering another marksmanship fundamental. Finding the trail and following it through requires personal perseverance and the committed help of fellow riflemen. It requires the kind of instruction and coaching offered by the Revolutionary War Veterans Association (RWVA). The Revolutionary War Veterans Association started Project Appleseed to take you from being a simple rifle owner to a Rifleman. An American tradition, the Rifleman has been defined as a marksman capable of hitting a man-sized target from 500 yards away–“the rifleman’s quarter-mile”. A Rifleman also understands the heritage of our nation and honors those that sacrificed to found this country.
Project Appleseed was born four years ago to promote marksmanship skills and knowledge of the Revolutionary War to modern Americans. It is named after an American folk hero, Johnny Appleseed, who traveled the land planting apple seeds – not for himself, but so future generations of Americans could enjoy apples. Project Appleseed is similarly committed to providing instruction to all ages so that today’s youth will gain and pass on the skills and knowledge once common in earlier generations.
Massad Ayoob, nationally known firearms instructor and writer, reflects in his blog: “we old rifle shooters can learn (or re-learn) things at an Appleseed, even though the program has its most dramatic effect on new shooters”. Observing youth attendance, he writes: “I was most pleased to see how many young people were there, boys and girls alike: as simplistic as it sounds, the fact really is: ‘The children are the future.’”. In recent years, RWVA’s clinics have seen an upward trend in family attendance—occasionally spanning multiple generations.
RWVA instructors volunteer their time to travel the country and teach not only traditional rifle shooting skills, but the history and heritage that lies behind those skills. Instructors begin as students who qualify as Riflemen and possess a steadfast resolve to pass on our national tradition in marksmanship and history to others. As instructors-in-training, a multi-step curriculum and formal evaluation process is followed to assure continued quality within the instructor corps. The curriculum mixes classroom instruction, mentored field training and demonstrated performance to develop the instructor-in-training.
In 2006, just 18 events marked the beginning of the program. It expanded to 47 events in 2007; 154 in 2008 and 466 events last year; and 2010’s goal of 1000 events nationwide. It is the nation’s fastest growing history-teaching and rifle marksmanship program and due in large part to grass roots promotion by word of mouth. This year, the 20,000th “Appleseeder” will attend an Appleseed. RWVA instructors expect to teach the 100,000th Appleseeder in 2012.
During these nationwide weekend clinics held throughout the year, students learn, develop and hone traditional rifleman skills. In a recent Washington Post article, staff writer Dan Zak, observed: “Aims improve. Each time the line walks to retrieve targets, the bullet-hole groupings are tighter and more centered. It’s addictive, this collective pursuit of precision.” The course of instruction begins with safety and marksmanship fundamentals that apply regardless of student skill. As the clinic progresses, instruction builds upon each layer of fundamental skills—requiring mastery in their combined application. The second day of the weekend clinic is spent applying skills toward a multi-stage, timed evaluation known as the Army Qualification Test. Frequent one-on-one coaching helps students resolve deficiencies with technique so that they progress toward achieving marksmanship proficiency. Determination and concentration characterize the traits of the Riflemen and are reinforced through practice and instruction. Students often find that repeated attendance is needed to sufficiently hone their skills to achieve the high scores that will earn the coveted Rifleman patch.
While weekend clinics dominate the Project Appleseed schedule, RWVA hosts specialized events to support unique needs. The Rifleman Boot Camp is a week-long clinic that provides additional marksmanship instruction including full distance shooting. In addition, some states have started women-only weekend clinics to widen the appeal to the shooting community’s fastest growing population. RWVA has also provided specialized training to improve the marksmanship of deploying soldiers through a partnership with the United States Army. These instructional partnerships are multi-day and tailored to the Army’s unique needs. Soldiers from the 2nd Engineer Battalion are shown in their field gear with RWVA instructors offering guidance.
This past April 17th and 18th, the RWVA conducted 100 simultaneous Project Appleseed rifle marksmanship and American heritage clinics across the country–providing a total of three and half miles of firing line to nearly three thousand attendees. It was the biggest and most wide-spread event to mark the history and heritage of rifle marksmanship and the role it played in our country’s history–starting with the events of April 19th, 1775, the day “when Marksmanship met History, and Liberty was born…” A new initiative called “Adaptive Appleseed” was started to address the needs of impaired students. Much of this initiative focused on refinements and adjustments to the program’s points of instruction and line operations to accommodate differing student needs and constraints. This initiative is an important step toward achieving the overall goal of providing an education to all American citizens on rifle marksmanship and their heritage.
The Revolutionary War Veterans Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization headquartered in North Carolina. Women, persons under 21 and active military/National Guard/Reserve attend clinics free. For more information, please visit www.appleseedinfo.org.