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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

THE GUNS OF APPLESEED

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

Before you take a rifle course you need a, uh, RIFLE. You probably already own a suitable gun. If you don’t, let the hosts know beforehand, and they can most likely round up a loaner for you. Even if you’ve never fired a gun before, that’s something the experienced and dedicated Appleseed crew can deal with. They’ve certainly done so before.

At the single event I attended, I saw everything from a WWII Russian Mosin-Nagant (which kicked hell out of the brave young man who shot it, yet he persevered and shot remarkably well!) to an M-1 Garand and more than one M1A/M-14, and an SKS and an AK47 semi-auto clone, and a few AR15s. That said, though, the OVERWHELMING majority of shooters chose the humble .22 Long Rifle cartridge, usually in a semiautomatic rifle.

Half or more of the course is fired from prone position, and that gets in the way of the firing hand working a lever action, and tends to cause short-stroke malfunctions with the forward hand when operating a slide-action. Appleseed legend has it that their best score ever was fired by a septuagenarian master of the smallbore rifle, using a bolt action target gun…but few of us are old masters, and when you have a relatively short time to drop to prone or sitting, load, fire two shots, reload, and fire eight more, the bolt gun is slo-o-ow. It’s not so much the time it takes for the four motions to eject the last spent casing and rechamber the next shot…it’s more that the gun moves off target during that violent motion, and the hand has to re-take its firing hold and position on the trigger – and take up trigger slack – ten times instead of just once, while the clock is running.

That’s why the great majority who are Appleseed veterans recommend a semiautomatic. I saw the super-popular Marlin Model 60 there, but this rifle is generally encountered with a tubular magazine…not fast at all to reload.  The dominant gun, by far, was the Ruger Model 10/22 semiautomatic, so named because it holds ten rounds of .22 Long Rifle in its relatively easy to swap out box magazine. (Yes, longer magazines are available from aftermarket sources, but many of them don’t work reliably.)

The flip-up iron sight on the rear of a standard 10/22’s barrel is designed for plinking, and not conducive to either maximum accuracy or easy adjustment for zero. Experienced Appleseeders recommend the Tech-Sight, an aperture type iron sight reminiscent of those on the WWII Garand and the Cold War M14, with very reliable and repeatable click adjustments. Fit THIS on a Ruger 10/22, attach a GI surplus web loop sling, and you have the LTR (Liberty Training Rifle), the quasi-official .22 of Appleseed.

We nearsighted geezers do better with magnification. The pretty girl shooting next to me did great with a red dot optic, but her younger eyes were sharper than mine, and for me, the big red dot obscures the center of a precision target. I’ll take a powerful telescopic sight…I set mine at 8-power magnification…but that’s just me. I tried the course of fire again with a 2.5X Weaver scope on another .22, and it delivered ample precision and “feedback.”

Most first-timers at Appleseed won’t win the Rifleman’s Patch. That’s OK. It’s not about that! It’s about the history at the core of our nation’s history. It’s about both personal and collective discipline, and the heritage of marksmanship in what USED to be – and hopefully will be again – known worldwide as A Nation of Riflemen. Bring what you have…come ready to learn…and open yourself to the Appleseed message of pride in your country, a nation built upon baseline American values of individual accomplishment and self-reliance.

Blackhawk cushioned shooting mat, which folds into a rifle case, worked GREAT for Mas, and at least one other shooter there. This one has been augmented with car blanket for even more comfort. Rifle is Ruger 10/22 with Evolution adjustable-length stock and ATN red dot optic. Orange “chamber flag” to show that gun is completely unloaded is standard Appleseed safety protocol, and is issued when you get there.

Ordinary Ruger 10/22, with Tasco telescopic sight and milsurp web loop sling, is “good to go” for Appleseed.

This determined young shooter ran the course with hard-kicking bolt action Russian Mosin-Nagant, WWII vintage. OUCH…but he did well!

The Rifleman’s Patch is a benchmark of Appleseed shooting…but the experience is much more about history, discipline, responsibility, and skill acquisition than it is about winning an award.

44 Responses to “THE GUNS OF APPLESEED”

  1. ZerCool Says:

    Mas,

    Another huge thanks for the kind words.

    For the readers that may not understand the concept of the “Liberty Training Rifle”, it is this:
    Concepts, techniques, and practice at 25m with a .22 translate just fine to centerfires at full-distance. Using TechSights duplicates the aperture sights common to service rifles, as well as the sight adjustments. For the price of 1,000 rounds of centerfire ammo (say $400 for round numbers), you can build your LTR from scratch, and practice on the cheap. It is a worthwhile investment.

    About boltguns – I use one. A Savage MkII with a thumbhole stock and bull barrel, and yes, it’s scoped. A rifleman who has his cadence and NPOA shouldn’t have any issues with staying on target while operating the bolt. My personal best thus far is a 239 on what we in the Northeast call a “Rapid AQT” – all 40 rounds in four minutes, with position changes and reloads done at the shooter’s own pace. There is a young man I have worked with (I believe he’s 13) who works a bolt .22 even faster than I can – I’ve seen him put ten aimed shots into those one-inch squares in 12 seconds.

    To reinforce the idea that techniques transfer: that same 13-year-old who runs his boltgun faster than most run their 10/22s shoots an M1 Garand at full distance. I’ve watched him make one called shot from prone to check and then adjust zero, and then finish the remainder of the clip on a silhouette at 500m. Iron sights, CMP “service” grade Garand, CMP surplus ammo. One shot to zero, seven hits at 500m.

    THAT is what I want to see – from every shooter on the line. Admittedly, I can’t quite do that yet… but practice makes perfect, right?

  2. uncle dave Says:

    Now there a rifle Ruger could come up with for 2011!

  3. Patrick Says:

    I would love to do this but I’m worried about having to drop prone. The comment above mentions “at shooter’s pace”. Is the whole event that way? I’m arthritic at 38 (shoulder, knees, ankles, back, and wrists) and have two fused L4-L5′s in my back so I just don’t drop like I use to. I can take the shooting and the moving as long as I don’t have to do any military style dropping to the ground and getting up with a bounce.

  4. Mas Says:

    Good news, Patrick. To allow for the physically challenged, Appleseed will allow the shooter to get carefully down into the sitting and prone positions, then remain there with an unloaded rifle. On the start command, this shooter will load while the more able bodied are dropping into position and then loading. However, the shooter taking advantage of this rule and starting already in position, cannot fire their first shot until someone else on the line has fired the first shot of the sequence. Keeps the playing field level, and allows the physically challenged to not exacerbate existing problems.
    best,
    Mas

  5. Fred Bartlett Says:

    Its funny you mention the 70+ year old gentleman with the best score. I shoot in Florida with a 79 year old former Olympic rifleman who still wins with a .22 Winchester bolt action with a 22X fixed scope. He can no longer shoot kneeling or sitting, only from a prone position with jacket and shooting pad (sort of a sniper drag bag style). He competes throughout Florida and still often beats current Army shooters. He shoots 50 meters with very accurate fire. He also can shoot with expensive peep sights. In this discipline, there are two classes: peep sights and “any sights”, which usually means telescopic sights. He said that once in a while a rifleman with peep sights will win the whole thing. He is a nice gentleman who is willing and able to teach and still learn. It is great that Appleseed and others want to teach others this fun, challenging and exciting sport.

  6. mas Says:

    Hey Mas,

    is your name a reference to a style of MA?
    Just wondering

    Mas

  7. Mas Says:

    From Mas to mas…nope. In my case at least, “Mas” is just a natural contraction of Massad, a name that had been in the family for at least a couple of generations before I came about. And yours?

    Cordially,
    Mas

  8. Peter Says:

    I have arthritis in my spine as well. And my neck is so limited in movement that in the standard prone position, I cannot tilt my head up far enough to see the horizon. So I would need some sort of support for my torso. Would that be allowed?

  9. Mas Says:

    Peter, I honestly don’t know the answer to that. However, I found the Appleseed folks most accommodating to those with physical challenges. I think your best bet is to go to their website, http://www.appleseedinfo.org, and register on their forum. Then, ask the question there. I’m sure you’ll quickly have an authoritative answer.
    best,
    Mas

  10. Ted Says:

    I have been involved with the Appleseed program for over three years… first as a participant and now as a host for the Three Forks MT shoots. I hold a two day AS and an eight day boot camp event every year and I would just like to assure anyone who is reading this that the instructors and all involved are there to help anyone regardless of type of rifle or physical condition. In fact if one looks at the registration fees it should be quite obvious that it is less about profit and more about getting people out to shoot.

    The Appleseed program can generally improve the skills of the most experienced shooter as well as being a fantastic introduction to proper shooting for the beginner… a great program.

  11. Fred Bartlett Says:

    I found the proper M1/M14 sling at Sight-Tech for only $ 13.00 plus only $ 2.00 shipping. Not a thing of beauty, but it is new surplus and useful.

  12. Peter Says:

    I will. Thanks!

  13. Hank Says:

    Great writeup about the Appleseed project. I shot my first Appleseed last summer, and during the tail end of a tropical storm! I would say the level of training was on par with some other courses I attended that cost quite a bit more money. I can’t say enough about the quality of instruction provided or the helpfulness and dedication of the instructors.

    If for no other reason, everyone who “knows” they can shoot should attend a least one Appleseed as a skill check. It’s only 25m and scoped .22s are allowed. How tough can it be? I found out. I missed rifleman by just a few points my first Appleseed.

    Determined to earn a rifleman patch, I studied the handouts and did a lot of dry fire drills. I attended my second Appleseed 3 months later, again in the rain, and mud, and with the remnants of the flu. I qualified on the first AQT of the day. Shot a couple more, qualifiers just to prove it wasn’t a fluke.

    Also, its noteworthy to mention that Appleseed events are held in ANY weather. Snow, rain, tropical storm, it doesn’t matter. I found it also to be a great test for my gear. I built an LTR from a used 10/22. I literally dumped water out of the receiver in between AQTs..magazines attracted grit..and the rifle..wiped down between AQTs kept on working.. I am also a big fan of KISS.. and my Tek-sights keep working even when other’s fancy optics failed. That was a great lesson in and of itself. Mr. Murphy attends EVERY Appleseed.

  14. DryFire Says:

    Peter, as in instructor with Appleseed I had a gentleman in just your condition this last year in Ohio. He was not able to use the prone position at all and still see the sights. As a result he shot the prone section of the course from the kneeling position at first and then after we taught the sitting he used that for the remainder. We nicknamed him Sittingbull and he was able to acomplish a rifleman’s score using the sitting position. Although we recomend the positions as we teach them, we are also very flexible in allowing people to work around any physical issues they may encounter. As Mas said the core of the project is the history and the heritage of this country as a nation of rifleman.

  15. Texas Minuteman Says:

    Mas,

    Been reading you for years – thanks for this Appleseed report !

    My son & I attended one in Central Texas last November. He is fairly new to shooting – maybe 6 times at the range, max, before the shoot.

    Yet, the instruction was so detailed & to the point, that with our brand new Colt M4 AR .22, he managed to shoot 220, high score of that particular shoot, with him & only 2 others winning the coveted ‘RIFLEMAN’ Patch.

    I, with 30 years of experience & bad habits to overcome, shot 209, missing the Patch by 1 lousy point !

    While proud to be outshot by my dear son, can I let this sorry state of affairs rest – to be Rifleman ‘patchless’ ?

    Not while there is another Appleseed shoot coming !

    For your Texas readers — please see us at the College Station Appleseed shoot on April 18-19, 2010.

    Yes the tyrants are watching – let’s show them how belly up to the bar we Patriots are – please swarm your local Appleseed – most states have them, some have them in every corner –

    I bet there is one within a 2 hour drive or less of most of you. A full day trip would still be worth the effort.

    Locate one: http://www.Appleseedinfo.org

    Thanks Mas. Apologies if I grabbed your ‘soapbox’ here – but the program of teaching genuine American Colonial History & Marksmanship is so timely & needed, I cannot resist preaching.

    How many of us have the ‘hardware’ – a closet full of guns, but lack the training & vision to be modern minutemen ?

    “Guns are Liberty’s Teeth” – George Washington

    Liberties are only secure when men KNOW their rights come directly from God, & how to use Arms in the defense of them. -Thomas Jefferson (paraphrase of two of his sayings combined)

    Long live the Appleseed program !

  16. ASVet Says:

    Great article!

    I’d suggest bringing elbow, and knee pads, sun screen, bug spray, and a hat that will supplement your eye protection (brass can fly anywhere). In my experience, those using 10/22s seem to have trouble with cheap, Remington ammo. The CSI, and Federal, are inexpensive, and if you’re lucky you can purchase them at a local Walmart (I’m sure there are several fine ammo.. just recommend against cheap Remington).

    Also, for those who have trouble getting, or staying, in a position, you can choose to stand, if you prefer, rather than transition to sitting, or prone. You can choose to sit, rather than get in prone. You have the option of shooting from a less stable, but more comfortable, position, if you wish.

    Good luck, and have fun!

  17. Scout Says:

    Mr. Ayoob,
    First off, thank you for your write up on the shoot you attended. We certainly appreciate your kind words and greatly respect your knowledge of fireams and their use. As far as Peter is concerned, we are very flexible on folks with special needs and have even developed a special program for them. It is called “Adaptive Appleseed” and you can find more info about it at http://appleseedinfo.org/smf/index.php?board=265.0
    We are willing do just about anything to assit folks with special needs at an Appleseed. Including having special events devoted to folks with special shooting needs. If I can be of any assistance to you in finding out more about these programs or answering any questions about The Appleseed Project, please feel free to contact me at rangescout@(remove) hughes.net Thanks again to Mr. Ayoob for your coverage of the program and we hope to see you again on an Appleseed Firing Line.
    Scout
    Master Rifle Instructor
    Appleseed Project

  18. Scout Says:

    Mr. Ayoob,
    The Appleseed Project has an internet radio program, “The Rifleman Radio Show”, that airs live every Tuesday night at 7:00pm central time at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/AppleseedRadio I know you are a very busy person with a lot of radio and TV appearences which I always enjoy watching, but I was wondering if you might consider guest hosting an episode of the show? The foks from Appleseed would love to hear you talk about your experiences at the event and have a chance to call in and speak with you live. If this is something you might consider please let me know at rangescout(remove)@hughes.net Thank you Mr. Ayoob for all you do for the shooting sports and for all the personel defense information you put out to concerned Americans.
    Scout

  19. Mas Says:

    Scout, please, it’s just Mas. Rhymes with brass. (Rhymes with something else too, but I’d rather not go there…)

    I’d be honored to do so. You and your nationwide team have a powerful and uniquely American message that needs to be spread, and I’d be happy to help.

    best,
    Mas

  20. mas Says:

    Hello Mas,

    My nick name comes from the style of martial arts that I practice…Silat…its from Jakarta Indonisia. It means “brother”

    Take care sir and keep writing.

    Mas

  21. Nickle Says:

    I’m an Appleseed Instructor, like others listed above.

    I’ll back up that we’ll work with Peter. We’ll either let you use what support you need, or allow you a different position. The main thing is to get you there and participating.

    Folks, we don’t teach competitive shooting, though most of it will help competitors, especially NRA Highpower and Smallbore. We do teach “field shooting”, the kind you all should be proficient at. Not much sense having a tool (rifle) and not have the skills to get the most out of it.

    We are a “run what you brung” operation, so we don’t look down at what you bring, though we may try to talk you into using something more suitable for learning.

    I too am a bolt gun shooter, and it definitely CAN be done with a bolt gun, even for a new shooter (there’s a young lady that got it done with a bolt gun in NY last year and she was a new shooter). Best score I’ve seen so far is a 248, that was with a semi-auto, but I have seen several scores above or near 240 with a bolt action Remington and iron sights.

    And, Mas, thanks for the great write up.

  22. Josey Wales Says:

    ..Massad Ayoob, Thank you for attending and then writing an artical on The Appleseed Project. I am an Instructor from Queens, New York and I travel all over NY State to attend Appleseed events. I have met Zercool and Scout and vouch for their honor…
    ..I am a subscriber of Backwoods Home Magazine and consider it a great tool. I know you have been writing for BHM for over 15 years and I thank them and you for the service you collectively provide.
    ..Hope to hear you soon on The Rifleman Show on Blogtalk Radio.
    ……..Strength & Honor……..Josey Wales……..

  23. Josey Wales Says:

    ..Nickle is also a huge asset to our Appleseed Project. I did not see his post until I posted mine and I could not leave without showing respect and admiration to Nickle also..

  24. Patrick Says:

    Thanks for all the comments. I wouldn’t have much problem standing for a bit and laying prone for a bit but the sitting and up/down/up/down would kill my back and knees after awhile.

    I am definitely going to have to go to one. There’s one in June near me in Miamisburg.

  25. Matt Says:

    My experience: if you can’t afford Leupold Gold Ring, some of the Chinese inexpensive scopes from outfits like Centerfire Systems or CDNN are pretty good. (But do move up to a good mid-price scope ASAP when you can afford it.)

  26. Josey Wales Says:

    blogtalkradio.com/appleseedradio, it was a great show Massad, thanks so much for your time…..JW…….

  27. Winston Smith Says:

    Did anyone watch the biathlon in the Olympics and get inspired to do Appleseed? I did.

    Mas: I’m wondering if it’s possible for you to discuss the particulars of those biathlon rifles. I had never seen a straight bolt action like that and the backpack style sling was very interesting (I guess I ignored them in the past). I’m also wondering if the reason the U.S. didn’t fare too well in biathlon had a lot more to do with us losing our heritage as marksmen more than our ability to cross country ski– hopefully Appleseed can help fix that, too.

  28. dart67eb Says:

    I have three riflemen in the family and we all shot it on a Marlin 795. It was on sale at Dick’s for $99 and had a $20 Marlin mail in rebate. (currently on sale for $119 plus a $25 mail in) $20 more for an extra mag, $13 for a sling and $30 for a Walmart 4x scope, some value pack Federal ammo and we’re good to go. I had to cut 2″ off the stock for my 10 yrd old, but hey het made rifleman, too.

  29. oldgrunt Says:

    Sure was a treat to see you in Tulsa at the tac conf.Maybe the next time you come out we can shoot a few AQT’s..I enjoyed watching you at the surefire bay you had skills just from looking at your form..Thanks for coming to USSA we look forward to the next time your at our range

  30. Joe Says:

    Thanks so much for the info on Appleseed. You got me interested and I have been to 3 shoots so far with no regrets and looking forward to 3 more before the end of the year.

  31. ferrari328gtb Says:

    Mas,
    I just finished my second Appleseed and managed to shoot Rifleman (Expert) and earn my badge. After my first Appleseed attempt using an M1 Garand I decided to switch to something that loads faster and has a better sight picture for my ancient 53 year old eyes. I shot the course using the fairly new Sig Sauer 522 (22LR) and a Trijicon Acog 3.5x red chevron scope. Ammunition for practice had been CCI mini mags but at the course I switched to Eley Match Black Box 22LR. Using the tip of the red chevron was critical to shooting the Redcoat targets AND the 3/4 x 1 inch square clean (all 5 targets). I also modified the magazines my sanding the inner surfaces and making them just a fraction narrower for faster magazine releases. Finally I used a synthetic USGI web sling. Altogether this really made the difference as the rifle functioned flawlessly with the ACOG scope. The scope was expensive but really made the difference as I was able to shoot well from the different positions.

  32. elielevin Says:

    This is a great write-up.

    I just attended my first Appleseed this past weekend at the beautiful NRA-Whittington Center near Raton, NM. I had never shot a rifle in my life, and it was a great experience. I cannot say enough about how good the coaching from the teachers was, and their dedication and care was remarkable, especially considering that they are all volunteers.

    I brought a borrowed Rugar 10/22 and my son brought a tube-loaded rifle. We both had problems–me because of my age and myopia (I needed scope)–and my son had some mechanical problems. The Appleseed teachers were quick to see the problems, and gave us loaner rifles. They also were very willing to spend time helping us think about what types of rifles to buy for ourselves.

    I have arthritis and the teachers were excellent about helping me accomodate the shooting positions without injuring myself.
    We had a great time–and although I have muscle soreness from using positions and muscles I haven’t used like that for a loooong time, the only injury I got was when I twisted my knee on a clod walking out to the targets to collect one of my AQTs. No injuries at all came from the work we did together.

    The whole weekend was a great experience, and I saw notable improvement in my AQTs, and I enjoyed the historical stories! They are vivid and each one included information from an American rifleman’s perspective. It was great fun and I highly recommend it.

    This was my first Appleseed, but it will not be my last!

  33. Lamar Says:

    Thank you for writing about the Appleseed Project. As a result of your article, my wife and I attended our first Appleseed two weekends ago. We had a great time, met a lot of nice people, and we learned so much. Neither of us earned our Rifleman patch, but we’ll be back after we’ve practiced their techniques some more.

  34. B52 Says:

    Marlin 795 is a great rifle.
    I qualified on it as a loaner after day and a half of frustration with Thompson Center Classic (jamming with cheap Fed ammo every 10-20 rounds, front sights and trigger plate almost falling off as the heat loosened the screws).

    Marlin 795 – reliable and accurate enough to score high 230s (and all for $99). The only thing was the fit – it seems to have 13″ LOP and best for smaller people.

    Will attend the next Appleseed in my area with a bolt and open sights next time.

    Appleseed – great people, great time for the whole family.

  35. GianLuigi Piacentini Says:

    Dear Sir,
    really a pity that here in Italy there are no equivalents to Appleseed events, as far as I know.
    I wish you all the best

  36. SGT V Says:

    i’m thinking of setting up a 1022 for my daughters to use. is there anything i need to be concerned with on cutting down the stock?

  37. Mas Says:

    Sgt. V, I don’t see a problem with it at all.

    best,
    Mas

  38. Mikey Says:

    Signed up for an AS in New Smyrna Beach next month, and in looking over my “collection” I find a tube-fed Savage 6 and a bolt Savage 4C, neither of which sounds like a great choice, but they’ve both got 24″ barrels, which might help my shaky hands steady the shots.

    I was considering buying a 10-22 Target model, but it’s not set up for iron sights. It was my impression before reading this thread that everything at AS was done with iron sights, but here I read scopes are OK? I guess that’s good news for my shaky eyes…

    Looking forward to it in any event.

  39. Kelley Says:

    When i put a scope on my rifle will someone be able to zero it in for me and teach me how??

  40. K Says:

    Kelley – as a part of the first day at Appleseed, you will be taught to zero your own rifle. :)

    Mikey – scopes are indeed okay.

  41. mark gregorski Says:

    just got back from my first appleseed fantastic but humbling this is real marksmanship. cant wait for the next one instructors realy know their stuff. two shot rifleman scores. don’t know what was better the shooting or the history part. going to have to practice techniques I was taught. I WANT THAT PATCH!!!!!! PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN!!!!

  42. James Says:

    I got the patch with a 10-22 on my third trip to an Appleseed. Wind, rain, blistering heat, or whatever the condition…you will shoot! I went to Davilla, TX all three times, and the men and women I met gave me some much needed hope for the future of not only Americans, but for all mankind. I sleep better at night knowing that we are still a nation of(more and more!) rifleman. Please, attend one. Even if you just got back from sniper school, attend one! Even if you bought your first rifle on the way to the Appleseed, attend one! You’ll learn something, and you might make a few friends, too! I wanna go back with my AR and an acog and try my hand at the distance range! Keep your powder dry!

  43. Sharky Says:

    Could you post a link or part number for the Blackhawk cushioned shooting mat / rifle case discussed in the review? I don’t see an item on the Blackhawk site that matches the photo above.

  44. Gail Says:

    This is the one pictured, in black:
    http://www.blackhawk.com/product/Stalker-Drag-Mat,172,1396.htm

    we also used this one:
    http://www.blackhawk.com/product/Long-Gun-Pack-Mat-wHawkTex,698,1396.htm

    Evil Princess

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