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Massad Ayoob on Guns

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Massad Ayoob


Thursday, February 4th, 2010

“We’re proud that even experienced rifle shooters always seem to learn something here,” said Florida State Appleseed Coordinator Eric McCabe at the event in Hernando last weekend. He then asked, “Who learned something here in the past two days?”

Everyone’s hand shot skyward. Including mine.

Some of the lessons I learned in 500 rounds or so, and a few runs over the challenging Appleseed Qualification Course:

PREPARE THOUROUGHLY…AND DOUBLE CHECK EVERYTHING BEFOREHAND.  The night before leaving for the shoot, I put a 5,000 round case of .22 ammo in my SUV…and the next morning, made the impromptu decision to take the Significant Other’s van so we’d have more room. The ammo stayed behind…and I was able to buy Remington Thunderbolt for $40 per 500 rounds at the range. I was lucky there. I replenished the supply with CCI Mini-Mag at a Wal-Mart the first night. Just call me “Mr. Tactical” … sigh …

EVEN THE BEST EQUIPMENT CAN FAIL. I had gone to Appleseed with a perfect gun for it, one I hadn’t shot for at least eight years: a Ruger 10/22 Clark Custom “Squirrel Gun,” built by the late Jim Clark, Sr.’s daughter Kay Clark-Miculek. The Douglas heavy match barrel is just over 16” long and fluted, giving accuracy with perfect balance for fast offhand shooting, and the famous Clark trigger job helps a shooter do his best. A stock designed for practical rifle shooting from Brownell’s had been added, and an inexpensive Tasco scope worked fine…but I had neglected to Loc-Tite the scope mount screws, which Appleseed line officer Doug Cowan spotted, and corrected, since Mr. Tactical here hadn’t brought any Loc-Tite…(sigh again). Thanks, Doug. Prior to the fix, the scope had “walked” forward on its rings, taking the groups to places I didn’t want them to go, and costing me my first attempt to win the grail of the Appleseed, the Rifleman’s Patch.

CHECK THE RULES BEFORE YOU ENTER THE CONTEST. On my second try on the qualification course, I shot 232 out of 250 possible, with 210 required to earn the Patch. Unfortunately, the replicated 400 yard sequence on four tiny targets required ten rounds to be fired in a 2-2-3-3 shot sequence. Mr. Dyslexia here shot ‘em 3-3-2-2 instead. Part of the Appleseed core goals is instilling discipline, and that cost a price: the score went down from 232 to 216. That would have still been six points higher than needed to “make Rifleman,” but…

…The old guy here had also shot the Clark 10/22 using the bottom of an extended 25-round magazine as a unipod, which definitely steadies the gun. I thereafter learned that this is not kosher at Appleseed; they want the shooter using techniques that will translate to any rifle. So, I had to shoot again with short magazines and no “monopod” technique; the third time was the charm, with a 229 score and the Rifleman’s Patch. I hadn’t been able to find an Appleseed Rule Book online, and should have asked about the technique when I got there. Mea culpa…lesson learned.

So, yes, 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. Check out the Appleseed website and you’ll get an idea why I’m enthusiastic about what they do.

“Next episode,” we’ll talk about suggested hardware to bring, and software to practice beforehand.

Gail Pepin switched to standard stainless 10/22 with conventional scope after her tricked-out 10/22 and red dot sight both suffered mechanical problems. (Photo courtesy Paul Brown, Appleseed)

Mas shoots Clark Custom 10/22, using extended magazine as unipod, only to discover that technique is forbidden at Appleseed. He had to re-shoot. (Photo courtesy Paul Brown, Appleseed)

Test your rifle and ammo before you attend. Extraction failure jammed this customized 10/22.

Appleseed Qualification Targets are challenging. Center “V” rings are the size of pencil eraserhead, 9mm case diameter, a dime, or a bottlecap respectively. See previous post for discussion.

“Zero” your rifle before you go. This is 10-shot/25 yard group. Knowing your gun and ammo “can do it” builds confidence.


  1. NHdude Says:

    Appleseed – very cool.

    Blunderbolts. Aiyeee. Practically every forum post about those ends in horrors, especially with the new class of .22LR fun guns. WILL NOT put one of those in my SIG-522 even though I was offered a few hundred for free. DO NOT WANT 🙂

    $40/500? Cough. Cough. Cough. That had to hurt.

    CCI? Awesome stuff. Even Federal Bulk 550 packs are decent.

    Thanks, inspiring 🙂

  2. Patrick Says:

    Agreed. You can read my experience with the Thunderbolts on my blog where I used them and the CCI to test the CMMG .22lr conversion kit for the AR15. Thunderbolts had a lot of FTF. $20/500 at Dick’s. I guess that is the pain for not remembering your ammo.

    Thanks for posting about this Massad. I have heard the Appleseed name thrown around but have never found out what it was until your posts. I’m going to enter one at least this year. Looks to be great fun. One will be in my area in March but I won’t be able to do that one. I’ll have to find a later one but I will be going and I have already thought of 5-6 guys who would go with me.

    See how a simple idea spreads? LOL

    Been enjoying your books too. Just finished Gun Digest of Concealed Carry and before that Gravest Extreme. Going to read Stressfire next. You give me a lot of food to chew on. Thanks for doing what you do.

  3. Matt Says:

    Remington rimfire ammo? Had no failures to fire or failures to feed with Remington Subsonic – but do expect some rounds of it to go supersonic from rifle.

  4. Armed Geek Says:

    Actually, I had a Rossi pump .22 carbine that shot it’s very best w/ Thunderbolts. Just goes to show that .22’s can be a law unto themselves. Generally my marlin’s and Winchester’s do slightly better w/ standard velocity ammo than high velocity.

  5. JB Says:

    Appleseed is about learning to defend our country. That requires riflemen who can both handle a full-size rifle AND shoot well.
    Although a .22 may help develop some skills, I believe that you are not a rifleman unless you qualify with a full-size rifle (.308)
    That, my friend, is not so easy (even after my 3d Appleseed…)

  6. Pete Says:

    Wow, Google Reader recommended your blog to me, based on what I was reading already.

    Reader says, do you want to subscribe to Mas Ayoob’s blog? I said, of course I do G-Reader, why didn’t you say something sooner?

    It was great to see Appleseed as the first article I came upon. I *learned* how to shoot at an Appleseed event a few years ago in Southern Indiana. Before that I was just pulling the trigger and making holes.

    After a day-and-a-half with the Appleseed instructors I was a different kind of shooter. The biggest thing was learning the right way to use a sling. Why hadn’t anybody mentioned that to me before? Maybe they had and I wasn’t paying attention.

    Grab as many extra targets as they’ll let you have. The Appleseed AQT target makes a great practice tool!

  7. Matt Says:

    “CCI? Awesome stuff. Even Federal Bulk 550 packs are decent.”

    Federal 550-round bulk pack is $15 and change at Wally World now – and it’s GREAT, hollowpoint, copperwashed ammo.
    No failures to fire, no failures to feed, no failures to eject in semiautos with it!

  8. Fred Bartlett Says:

    It’s funny how difficult the correct type of sling is to find. As you suggested, I checked Brownells carefully ( I have the main and tactical supply catalogs) and they don’t show this type. I went to several websites for Army surplus and could not find one either. Retired Maj. Plaster in his excellent sniper books shows the technique clearly and even illustrates the Cooper and hasty sling techniques. I’ll have to keep looking for the sling or buy one at a Florida Appleseed event. There are many of these events. Thanks for bringing them to our attention. It looks like many different caliber rifles are being used. Is a .223 bolt action allowed, or only .22LR?

  9. Griff Says:

    To Fred Bartlett’s question.
    Any caliber rifle is allowed up to 8mm. The basic idea is for the shooter to be able to use a rack grade military rifle to qualify.
    Bolt action and semi auto rifles are pretty much equal on the firing line. The only disadvantage some have is reloading time, tube feed .22’s take alot of time compared to a simple swap of a 10-22 mag. Bring plenty of mags as well,[2 ten rounder’s will work] they have a tendancy to stop working after being rolled over and squished into the sand!
    Slings are [usually] available at the range, you simply borrow one and return it. Local gun shows seem to have cotton/nylon slings for a decent price. Just get the M1/M14 type sling and go to town!

    Thanks for Mr. Ayoob’s fine write up.

  10. Fred Bartlett Says:

    Thanks Griff. I’ll keep looking for the right sling. I have a Savage FVT II .22 LR with peep sights that I can use in addition to a .223. Looks like I’ll need a scope to compete at long range. The peep sights ( Williams) are fine for 100 yards but to a 55 year old that has had LASIK eye surgery, 400 yards is a long way to see through cheap peep sights. Thanks again.

  11. Matt Says:

    “The peep sights ( Williams) are fine for 100 yards but to a 55 year old that has had LASIK eye surgery, 400 yards is a long way to see through cheap peep sights.”

    XS Sight ( is who has the best moderately-priced ghost-ring sights and scout-rifle scope mounts for many common rifles. GREAT quality!

  12. Project Appleseed Says:

    Fred Bartlett-

    Please visit the Appleseed Store to purchase the proper sling- new, unissued, from a USGI contractor, only 12.50 plus shipping.

    Find the schedule for Florida here:

  13. D. Hansen Says:

    As an appleseed instructor in training, and having attended two appleseeds and scoring rifleman patch both times, I learned several things that might be helpful regarding equipment. All slings are not equal. I purchased some of the green canvas and nylon slings, and the problem was that the locking mechanism would not stay down and they would slip even while shooting. At a recent gun show I tried a few others and found that there are some better designed ones. I found and bought a tan colored sling that locked snugly. I’ve also found the leather ones with the dual hooks work well too but are stiffer. As for tube-fed firearms, the first appleseed in Kemmerer WY allowed my son to load the bullets in during the preparation period but for safety’s sake not close the tube until the fire command was given. The second appleseed made him load the bullets in after the preparation period had ended. Even with a speed loader it was impossible to keep up the pace needed to make the time limits because, at the fire command, the shooter had to undo the sling, load the rifle, then replace the sling. No amount of logic could persuade the senior instructor of the futility of the practice. I would generally recommend against tube fed rifles unless the instructors allow for pre-loading. We also found it very difficult to shoot off-the-shelf Ruger 10-22’s accurately because of the heavy trigger pulls they require. Both of my teenage sons received rifleman patches using my bolt action heavy barrelled Marlin .22 with 5-round clips.

  14. Fred Bartlett Says:

    Thanks for your all your help. I purchased the sling, targets and other items from the Appleseed website. My wife and I both plan to participate in an event in FL soon. I am sorry to hear about the disadvantage of a tube feed rifle as we have an original Weatherby .22 auto-loader that we would like to use in addition to the Savage Mark II FVT. I guess I misread part of the original post and now I understand that the targets are only 25 meters/yards away and that the target size simulates the distances. As Mas says, “read the rules first.” The Savage rifle is a bolt action, but I can’t justify purchasing two Rugers just for this event. The Savage Accu-trigger is outstanding for an inexpensive rifle and you need to train with what you will shoot.

  15. FLASH GORDON Says:

    The goals of the Appleseed should be to hit the target, get the scores and do it safely. Their obsession with doing it by precise position shooting is simply distracting. A Redcoat with a .69 cal musket ball in his vitals didn’t care HOW the projectile got there!

    If a guy shoots from a wheelchair and makes the scores, he gets “Rifleman” status. If a woman who had back surgery shoots from an improvised table, and gets the scores, she is a Rifleman. If a shooter with joint pain needs to shoot from a bipod to survive the match, then get after it. That’s how it should be at Appleseed!

    The folks who fought in the war of Independence used tree trunks, rocks, or anything they could find in support of their effort to bag a Redcoat. That’s what distinguished them from the Volley trained British Regulars. We fought but we didn’t fight fair.

    The Brits complained that our guys kept shooting officers. That just wasn’t fair! We didn’t play by the rules of engagement and that’s how we won! They shot the Brits from behind trees and bagged the Redcoats from ambush. They got the scores regardless of HOW they presented the rifle to the target!

    So….Appleseed………get off your obsessive adherence to the position shooting. Some folks just can’t handle position shooting through no fault of their own but they can still bag a Redcoat. If they get the scores give them a Rifleman patch!


  16. PassinBy Says:

    For Flash Gordon,

    I came across your posts on another website and found them interesting and was sorry to hear about your negative experiences at your first (and last Appleseed). Now I see that you’ve taken them over here to continue your bashing of Appleseed I find your comments disappointing and unfortunately, predictable. Like it or not, you come across as just another disgruntled whiner with an axe to grind. Get over yourself. On the other website the folks at Appleseed apologized to you with genuine sincerity and to most of us, that would have been enough. Now you want to continue your attacks and all it does is make you look very petty. Let it go, life is too short!

  17. FLASH GORDON Says:

    I was warned many times that speaking out about problems at Appleseed would result in personal attacks from AS supporters. That is how the organization has handled differing opinions in the past. You called me a “Whiner.” How unexpected!

    You term my assessment of the Appleseed training “bashing” yet that is what I do professionally in technical instruction….observe, evaluate and make suggestions for improvement. You call those efforts “attacks”. Imagine that!

    On this very day, I exchanged correspondence with the Texas State Appleseed coordinator about changes that can be made to improve the quality of instruction and to effectively adapt it to persons with disabilities. Bonnie will be here tomorrow and the three of us will speak this week by phone regarding how we can join the effort to improve Appleseed instruction!

    We will also discuss how our experiences can shape the new “Adapted Appleseed” for disabled shooters. THAT IS WHAT WE ACCOMPLISHED TODAY AND IT BEGAN WITH THOSE FORUM POSTS!

    Since our experience was with ONE event, we were also invited to attend another Appleseed to gain a different perspective about the program.

    So… me a “whiner” and discredit the positive changes we are trying to bring to Appleseed. Call my forum posts “attacks” and my efforts “bashing. Discredit me as a professional educator. I really don’t care. It was not unexpected.

    I spoke up and I’ll take the heat.

    Appleseed gets a major “attaboy” and my respect for listening to differing points of view!


  18. Patriot Gal Says:

    Yes, I love Appleseed. Got my Rifleman my second shoot, only hampered during the first shoot by the constant jamming of brass in my 10/22. A kind, knowledgeable veteran of Ruger 10/22s suggested I swap out the hammer and spring and the extractor. I did that and later adding an auto bolt release and extended mag release and extended titanium bolt handle and spring and we are smokin’ now!!!

    I fixed up both my Rugers as indicated above. My two sons were able to both shoot Rifleman their first try using my two Ruger10/22. Equipment does make a difference. Following the 6 steps and accurate steady hold factors do too. Not sure what I mean by that? Come to an Appleseed and find out!!!

  19. Patriot Gal Says:

    Thank you, Mr. Ayoob for your very nice write up on Appleseed. It was good to hear you on radioblog tonight.

    Flash Gordon, the Appleseed shoots I have attended, both as a student and as an instuctor in training have always tried to accomodate physical disabilities or any other physical problems. We are now planning to have shoots just for persons with disabilities.

    We are 100% there for the student who comes to us.

  20. Patrick Says:

    Got a ticket for an April Appleseed! Thanks again for spreading the word, Mas.

  21. Fred Bartlett Says:

    Feedback on Appleseed:

    My wife and I shot on the 27th of March. Mas’ comment about appropriate rifles is right on the money. I used a bolt action target .22LR and my wife used a tube feed older Weatherby .22LR. Neither is fast enough to get Rifleman status. I shot well, but a bolt action is just too slow and a tube feed is inappropriate, too. Of the entire day, we rushed through everything EXCEPT the speeches about the Revolutionary war.

    A loop sling is really not needed as there is no time to get it right. You basically have one to two minutes to get ready to fire and it takes too long to use a loop sling. You are not allowed to touch your rifle even if the range is cold and so putting on a loop sling takes too long. Use a hasty sling and you will be fine.

    If you ever want to make Rifleman, use a .22 autoloader ( Ruger 10/22 was most popular) with several magazines and practice beforehand dropping from a standing position to a sitting, then from a standing to prone position.

    No one in our class made Rifleman, although one man got close using a .223 M-4 clone. I could not make enough shots with a bolt action to get close, even though I hit the targets. Take an autoloader as Mas suggests.

  22. Fred Bartlett Says:

    ” Are you a Rifleman or a Cook”?

    This is the challenge that Appleseed gives you and repeats often. After our Appleseed session in late March 2010, I did a little internet research. The US Naval Postgraduate School published a masters thesis by a student there. The National Stock Number is NSN7540-01-280-5500. The title is “Rifle Posture ADA435486.pdf, Published in June 2005.

    The nature of the thesis concerns the effect that modern body armor has on shooters. The report is quite long. In regards to the “Cook vs Rifleman” taunt, it was found that there was NO statistically significant rifle accuracy difference between support personnel ( drivers, mechanics and cooks) and master gunnery NCO’s. This test consisted of 491 soldiers from buck privates through majors. Above major, officers do not carry rifles. No Army snipers were included, obviously.

    Modern techniques used were prone, kneeling ( not sitting), foxhole ( simulated concrete foxhole with sandbag support for rifle fore-end) and offhand (without hasty or loop sling).

    The study found that there was no statistically significant difference between iron sights and red dot sights, but that the full length barrel M16 was more accurate than the M-4.

    If you have not taken college level statistics, you can ignore the math. But, the conclusions are pretty clear. Of almost 500 soldiers tested, there was little difference is shooting accuracy with the 5.56 rifle between cooks and other more experienced fighting soldiers out to 350 meters.

  23. Tip Says:

    To Mr. Bartlett’s comment about not having time to use the loop sling on your arm; leave the loop sling adjusted and attached to your arm between targets. Attach it to the rifle when you commence. Of course, it helps to have a sling with a hook on each end to do this.

  24. Terry Says:

    Hey Fred. I think you are missing the point of Cook V Rifleman. They are just saying you should be a rifleman. Everyone should be. Support military personnel use rifles too. Some are pretty dang good with them. There is no intention of degrading cooks. We all like to eat. God bless all our cooks. 🙂

  25. Al smith Says:

    Cook vs Rifleman?

    I believe above question referenced the Test to get an interview with Morgan’s Riflemen. So many fellas wanted to sign up with Morgan’s group that a method to discriminate was needed. Hence the Pumpkin on a Post @ 250 yards. Hits Count! Then and Now.
    If the volunteer could hit the pumpkin he may get a spot with the rifleman. (Rifleman got better treatment, duty, and leadership and were held in awe by the Continental musket toters.)

    As for the comment that today all soldiers shoot equally poorly. That is a shame. I read in a post on Small Wars Journal that in Afganistan, 52 % of engagements occur at 500 yards or greater. Seems like we could use some more American Rifleman.

    I am an RWVA Volunteer. I run a small business, have a young family, am involved in my community and have very little personal time. But it is folks like you that make Applseed a Great Investment of my scarce volunteer time.

    I have met lots of different folks who are inspired by the stories of sacrifice by common folks to give us a better future.

    We encourage folks to get involved in their community and Tell their elected official what they want and expect of them. And if they do not deliver…Find someone else.

    Thank you all for your support. See you at the firing line.

  26. John H Says:

    We love Appleseed. We have attended three in Ohio. We found both the instructors and participants to be invariably polite & helpful people. I had plinked a little bit with 22’s as a kid, my wife and three kids had been to the range once or twice. I just missed rifleman status at my last shoot by one point, and the family is hot on my heels with their scores. Our shooting has improved dramatically and should continue to do so. We also enjoyed the focus on our forgotten and normally poorly taught history. I love it as taught by regular, passionate people who have done some homework. Great program, great people.

    As to choice of firearm, the Appleseed website has many recommendations. We found those suggestions to be accurate and helpful. We use 10/22’s with GI Slings (the leather ones were hard to use, we tried that once). We like Blackhawk stocks for 2 of our very short family members & the same for me (a little tall, plus I do not like the curved carbine butt). Also, the Tech/TSR sights make a heck of a difference over the standard Ruger sights, we tried both. We will probably get a simpler magazine release installed.

    Appleseed is a very cheap & effective way to start from scratch and learn how to shoot. We have also seen plenty of more experienced folks come to bone up, a number of them are especially surprised at how a sling and natural-point-of-aim help. Strongly recommend.

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