Friday, August 5, 2011

Our Appleseed Shoot Last Saturday

Brendan and I were pretty hyped up, last week, thinking about the then upcoming Appleseed Shoot on this past Saturday and Sunday. I was pretty amazed when he was up and at em at the prescribed time, one at which the sun itself was still looking pretty sleepy. Yes it was early for us, we planned on leaving by 6:30 at the latest and were up close to 5. Since we had gotten all our gear ready to go the night before, we were running right on time, even a little early. It gave us enough time to hit a local deli to get some breakfast and coffee and to pick up some sandwiches for lunch. I had been planning on making all that myself, but was really zonked the night before (I have been really run down lately and did not get a lot of sleep for the last 3 nights) so, I did not get to go to the supermarket to pick up cold cuts and such. That cost me dearly at the deli, live and learn I prepped well for day 2 on Saturday night but I am getting way ahead of myself.

Sooner than later, we were on the road headed to the range at Calverton, NY. That is about a 53 mile drive for us, one that during the normal course of our day would be a drag but that was not bad at all so early on a Saturday morning. There was no rush hour traffic as there would have been on a weekday, no beach goers (too early), hardly any speed traps set up, and not even just the normal amount of traffic of midday on any day. That made for a drive of just about an hour or a bit less.

When we got there, the gates were open (I won't talk about Brendan driving past the entrance, turning around, then missing it again before getting it right) and we drove right in. There were some cars parked to our left, all in a row, with a lady wearing a RWVA cap and we pulled in behind them. She greeted us with a big friendly smile. We had a nice chat while we waited for everyone else to show up. Soon after that, we were all headed toward the range. Once at the range, Brendan parked next to the guy who pulled into a space before us. As it turned out, the sand in that spot was loose and our front wheels dug in! Not a good sign but I got it out later on after a little effort. For now (for then?) we ignored it and got our gear, minus rifles, out and set up on the line. The rifles had to wait for safety reasons. The set up was a typical range, this one had an orange firing line and another orange line behind it which was a safety line we had to be behind whenever not on the firing line or forward of it such as when changing targets. I was surprised and somewhat , no not somewhat but very dismayed to see it was only a 25 yard line (though I believe the distance to have been debatable at a more likely 30 to 35 yards, so did Brendan and a few other seasoned shooters to who I spoke about it). I had believed we would be shooting out to at least 100 yards, maybe further, on an actual range of that distance. Instead, I discovered, again to my disappointment, that we would shoot at reduced sized targets at only 25 yards. Those tiny targets are all well and good for games and fun but they do not replicate what it is like to shoot at targets over real distance in my opinion. The real disappointment here was that we both had truly hoped to learn how to shot at distances greater than 50 yards (which is the farthest we usually shoot) while considering ballistics, wind and so forth. No big deal though, just a personal disappointment and  we would live with it and shoot at make believe distance using scaled targets.

The Calverton Range is what I would call fairly primitive along the lines of what is called a primitive campsite for comparison. Yes there are some developed aspects of it, it does have a backstop -basically the range was dug out of a hillside, target hangers consisting of poles with wire stretched between them and very flimsy cardboard backers strung along the target line, a firing line and a safety line but that was about it for our range. There were no benches, no tables, no overhang for protection from the sun, no restrooms (although there was a single port-a-potty about 50-75 yards from us). At another range we passed in the same complex there were benches for individual shooters (an addition since I was last at this range years ago). There is a reason this place is referred to as The Sand Pits, other than being on a gravel company's property from what I can tell, and it pretty much lives up to its name.  While we set up though, I got a lesson in what an Appleseed Junkie brings to a shoot. Many  seasoned shooters had pop up canopies. A great idea for a range like this one. They provided needed protection from what turned out to be a pretty hot and glaring sun. Brendan and I were invited to share the shade with a bunch of folks I would guess were of Chinese descent. A young lady named Ivy, among that group, and also one of the RWVA volunteers was nice enough to offer. Most folks also had those nylon fold-up chairs (sport's chairs?) and most had coolers full of icy cold goodness. We had lunch and water aplenty but no cooler. My forgetfulness on that one. Some folks also brought folding tables on which to set up their spotting scopes and other accessories and supplies. For the line, almost everyone had a shooting mat. We only had a single campers mat that sufficed and the RWVA guys lent us another. Just about everyone had other necessary items too, like sunscreen, hats, sunglasses and the like. I also brought along some bug spray for ticks. The east end of Long Island is notorious as a hot spot for Lyme Disease and having had it twice I did not want to get it again nor did I want Brendan to ever get it.

I can say this, it pays to be well prepared for such a shoot. Of course, Brendan and I had our guns & ammo, food, water (though I had to buy more water at lunchtime), sunscreen, hats, shooting glasses and muffs, and so on. We were ready and prepared to shoot but not prepared for the shoot as well as we could have been. So, on Saturday, I figured I had best correct that for Sunday and on Sunday I was better prepared.

Well, once everyone was set-up, the RWVA volunteer instructors, they are all volunteers, got the show underway with some range rules and safety training. They also brought up some history and would interject history into the firearms training at various points of the day. Most, if not all, of the history centered on April 19, 1775, the day the American Revolution commenced as a shooting war. (April 19 is also my wedding anniversary, the day a war of another type was commenced.) The safety training was fairly decent to pretty good, the history was just fun. I am always amazed at how few people have a clue as to our Nation's history; not that I am a historian but I do know some of the facts. Some people at this shoot did not know any of it from what I could tell. They know now though, and that is a good thing. Maybe, if it sank in a bit, or if they attend an Appleseed Shoot again when they will hear it all again, they will be ready to take up arms in defense of our Nation and the Constitution if ever needed here within our own borders or on foreign soil.

After the safety training and some history lessons came the shooting. We began with a volley of 13 rounds apiece at a redcoat target. Then we got serious and we fired at targets that were representative of a human torso at distances of 100 yards out to 400 yards. It was a single piece of paper with various sized target torsos on them, if I remember right they were scaled for 100, 200, 300 and 400 yards. I am guessing we shot at least 240 rounds at that target on Saturday. Almost all of the shooting was done from the prone position though some was also from the standing position. For the life of me I cannot recall if we got to the seated position on Saturday or if they was only on Sunday. All of the shooting was to be done with the shooters utilizing GI type adjustable slings and they showed us a few ways to use slings for support.  I was happy that Brendan got his first taste of using a sling for support and that I was reintroduced to it. They did not only teach use of the sling, they taught the basics such as sight alignment, sight picture, breathing, natural point of aim, trigger control, follow through and so on. They also included info on misfires, hangfires, sqibs, etc. and what to do if you encountered one. Safety was always the number one concern The instructors took turns in giving range commands or acting as range safety officers. It was all done very well.

If a shooter qualifies with a score of 210 or higher, then he or she gets a patch. neither Brendan or I achieved that score. Either one or both of us may actually have gotten that score but we did not realize that our early targets were being scored and tossed em out.Realistically though neither one of us probably qualified. I was shooting my SKS (which malfunctioned on Sunday and needs repairs for a problem I will not describe until it is fixed) and Brendan was shooting an AR. His batteries, in the red dot scope, failed and he had to switch to his other AR. He did well with both but better with the one with the red dot scope. I did okay, surprisingly good on some rounds and not as well on others, not keeping up any consistency. I was having some difficulty getting used to the scope and a lot more dealing with the sun and the temps in the low 90s (I am pretty sure it hut 93). All day in the sun just got to me and as the day wore on so did my eyesight wear down. By the time we were almost finished  I could barely see the front sight let alone focus on it. Getting older sucks. I think next time I go, I will bring a scoped 22 as quite a few folks had with them. Maybe my Marlin in 22 magnum. Yep, it is a bolt action. While it would be hard to shoot this course with a centerfire bolt action because it is timed, and the time is fairly brief, it could probably be done with a bolt action rimfire. Now there is something I forgot to mention earlier - while RWVA says you can bring any rifle, you probably are better off if you bring a semi-automatic and that uses removable box magazines that are at least of 10 round capacity (where legal). They give the shooter no consideration for loading time if you are loading individual rounds into something like an SKS or a Mosin-Nagant. I know already, that I can operate the Marlin bolt action fast but am not sure it would be fast enough for this course. I will practice with it between now and the next Appleseed I attend to get my speed up.  If I can get is fast enough, I figure I'll give it a try and save a lot on ammo costs - otherwise I may just throw a scope on my Ruger 10/22 and bring that along.
Lots of folks do pass the course with a qualifying score but I don't know if anyone got it on Saturday. They make a big deal about every accomplishment so I would have thought they would have made a big deal of it if they had awarded patches but I did not notice them doing it. So, I have to guess no one qualified. I will go again. Heck, I did go again on Sunday, because I liked it on Saturday.

On Sunday, as I said, my rifle failed and I switched to my SKS. I quit about 2/3 of the way through the day because trying to keep up while loading individual rounds into the SKS was futile. Besides that I was totally worn out. Day two would have been much more fun had Brendan come along. On the way home on day one, he had to pull over and had me drive the rest of the way home because he was passing out. The long day, the blazing sun, the heat had all gotten to him. When we got home I complained I was stiff and achy and he laughed at me. A couple of hours later he had the same complaint for himself. Oh the youth of today. I just smiled at him. He also had one heck of a sunburn regardless of the fact that he applied sunblock several times over the course of the day and I do mean several like about 8 to 10 times in about the 6 hours that this shoot lasted. The event day should have been longer but classes on both days were cut short, which I think was pure bullshit for the reasons given such as they had the range reserved for someone else on Sunday after 2:30, yet all of us had paid for full days - but I digress. As it turned out, probably mostly because of the sunburn, Brendan opted out for day two. I do not blame him, I have seen how badly he can burn and it is just as bad as I can burn or worse. Me, I also got some color, but I spent more time in the shade under canopies of other shooters than did he. I guess that made the difference because I was not badly burned.

As for Sunday overall, it was more of Saturday with a bit more advancement thrown in. As I said, I cut my day short for a few reasons but I still had fun. I am pretty sure I will go again but in cooler weather. Regardless of the minor annoyances I mentioned, it was truly a nice experience and the people running it made it that way. They were serious about safety and training but also made sure to throw in a few fun shoots each day, like shooting at an instructors old hat (he was just promoted from orange to red hat) and shooting at watermelons. As I mentioned above, all the folks from RWVA were volunteers. They had red hat instructors (veterans), orange hat instructors (new instructors), and blue hats (non-instructor volunteers). They were all great at getting their tasks done and doing it safely. They were also very personable. The shooters who attended also seemed to be mostly very nice folks. I am pretty sure if we keep going to these shoots we will be sure to make plenty of new friends among the instructors and the shooters.

If you are serious about improving your shooting skills, or about doing something patriotic regardless of your political stance) or if you just want to have a nice day shooting, I strongly recommend an Appleseed Shoot,

All the best,
Glenn B