We love Project Appleseed! If you haven’t heard of it, read on. It is a great event!
The cost is incredibly low.
The quality of instruction is amazing.
I highly recommend attending an Appleseed event!
What is Project Appleseed?
Appleseed events teach basic rifle skills while weaving in stories from the Revolutionary War. Learning rifle marksmanship skills in this historical context makes the learning experience more meaningful.
- You will learn how to shoot a rifle.
- You learn about the Revolutionary War.
- You’ll leave with a renewed appreciation of the freedoms the founding fathers fought for.
You will enjoy the experience regardless of which political party you align yourself with. They are a non-partisan group. They purposefully don’t talk about modern day politics. They aim to awaken a sense of patriotism without skewing it toward a political agenda.
They do sell merchandise on their website, but they do not sell merchandise at the events. They said they have decided not to sell items at the events because they don’t want sales pitches to degrade their overall mission and message. It is a respectable decision. But it means that if you want any of the Appleseed products you will have to order it from their online store before your event. (For a procrastinator like me that’s easier said than done! And it’s why I ended up with the wrong type of sling at my first event.)
Types of Appleseed Events
Most events are 2 days (Saturday & Sunday). Some are 1 day events.
The traditional Appleseed event is a 2 day rifle course. Most of these events are conducted on the firing range at 25 yards. (The targets are scaled in size to simulate shooting at 100 yards.)
In this article I will be talking specifically about my experiences at traditional Appleseed events. But you should know that there are some other types of Appleseed events:
- Some events are LadySeed events. These are similar to the traditional rifle events but just for women.
- Some events are ‘KD’ (Known Distance) events. At these events you shoot at longer distances out to 400 yards. (You have to have attended at least one regular Appleseed rifle event before you can do a KD event.)
- In 2020, Project Appleseed introduced Pistol events.
You can go to their site to see the upcoming events in your state. Here is a screenshot of some of the upcoming 2022 events in Ohio. Notice there are Pistol Clinics, Ladyseed and Known Distance events. The traditional events are just refered to as ‘Appleseed’.
Pick your state on their website to see a listing of events in your state. Take notice of which type of event it is. Then click the “info” area to see more details for the events you are interested in. On the info section it will tell you more details like which calibers are allowed at that event and if there are any extra range fees that will need to be paid to the hosting range.
The Shooting Positions
In the rifle Appleseed events you learn to shoot from 3 positions over the course of the weekend:
- prone (lying on the ground)
You learn proper techniques for each individually. The key to all 3 positions is understanding “Natural Point of Aim.” It took a while to really grasp it. Once it clicked it was transformational. Instead of moving your arms to line up your sights, you learn how to shift your hips to make micro-adjustments to shift your aim.
I wasn’t excited about lying on the ground at first but it became my favorite. It was definitely the easiest. (Notice the black areas on our shooting mat. They get super hot in the sun! I have a tip for that in the tips section!)
I expected this would be my favorite position. Surprisingly, it was my least favorite. I didn’t like the elbow on the knee area. (I concluded I have fat knees and bony elbows because this position was super uncomfortable and difficult for me to achieve properly.)
Since you don’t have ground or knees to support for your elbows while standing, this is the most challenging position. (It was doable when I was shooting our .22 rifle but much more difficult for me with my heavier AR.)
I highly recommend supporting Appleseed and the work they do by buying gear from their website when possible. Their prices are very reasonable (often cheaper than you would pay elsewhere).
They do not sell any items at events. So plan ahead and allow time for shipping!
You don’t necessarily have to own a rifle to participate. They will try to get a loaner rifle for you if you communicate with them ahead of time. Several participants in our session were using loaners. (The instructors involved in Project Appleseed LOVE sharing their passion with the participants. In my experiences, they are happy to loan rifles.)
Some events allow only .22 rifles. Other events allow .22 and centerfire. I wanted to become proficient with the AR I already owned so I looked specifically at events that allowed both.
Kevin and I both took ARs. We brought two .22 rifles for our boys. I quickly learned that my AR was heavy! One of the friendly instructors had an extra .22 in his car that he was more than happy to lend me.
Most participants were using .22 caliber rifles with scopes. The most popular was the Ruger 10/22 rifles. Kevin had researched it heavily before our first event and had decided to buy the Thomspon Center T/CR22 for our boys. It is almost identical to the Ruger 10/22. It can take the ruger 10/22 magazines. (This was one of the more helpful articles we read comparing these two similar rifles.)
The loaner I used was a Ruger 10/22. It did feel very similar to the T/CR22. One difference is that the Thompson is designed so the bolt stays open when the magazine is empty when using the Thompson magazine. The Ruger doesn’t. The bolt is much harder to lock to the rear on the Ruger.
For the AR15 we mostly had 30 round magazines. But this created a problem when shooting the prone position. The magazine was too long and would get in the way of the position.
The most you’ll load in a magazine is 10 rounds so you don’t need the large magazines. You will need extra magazines as some drills include magazine changes.
They did play a game during our first event to see who can shoot out all the red on the target within a time frame. So for that you might want larger capacity magazines.
You might also want something to help load the magazines. Depending on your gun there are some tools that can help to make it easier. Here is an example of the Maglula loader. These types of loaders can help save time and your thumbs.
We didn’t have scopes on our boys’ .22 rifles. We thought a scope defeated the purpose. We thought we were going to learn to shoot like the founding fathers. Well we were the only participants without fancy scopes!
You’ll be much happier with a scope and you’ll do so much better. Everything is more fun when you feel successful!
I meant to get scopes for our .22 rifles before our second Appleseed but procrastinated. I will definitely get scopes before our next one!
I bought us shooting mats the night before. (Are you seeing the trend yet? I’m a procrastinator.) They were $60 each and were my only option at that point because it was the only thing I could find local. (Actually I could only find 3 mats in stock so Kevin used his opened rifle case paired with a red yoga mat as a make-shift solution!)
SMART TIP: Don’t get a mat with black areas. They become very hot in the sun!! (But if you already have a shooting mat with black areas, I have another tip later!)
The Appleseed Shooting Mat available on the Appleseed online store is nice and half the price! Almost everyone at the events has the official Appleseed mat. I was wishing I had planned ahead better and got us 4 of those. I would have saved money and wouldn’t have had burning elbows.
You’ll also need a “sling.” I went out the night before our first event to buy slings. I wasted money buying 4 of the wrong thing.
This is the proper style of sling. It’s not a sling that you use for carrying the rifle. It’s a sling you use to attach the rifle to yourself while shooting. It acts as a stabilizer. You make a loop on one end and attach it around your bicep area.
Don’t worry too much about how to set it up before the event. The instructors will be happy to set it up for you at the training. They also spend a lot of time teaching how to use the sling.
It’s a pretty big part of the training. You might think “eh, I’ll be fine without it.” Once you get there you’ll wish you had it.
Make your life easier…. just order the slings off the Appleseed website! I was better prepared for our second event and had the right slings for all of us.
Kids & Appleseed
Project Appleseed allows kids to participate as long as it is legal in that state for the child to handle the rifle. (And kids are only $30 instead of $75!) My boys were 10 & 12 years old the first time we attended an Appleseed in 2019. It was a really neat family experience.
I’ll admit having the kids there made the weekend a little harder for me. It split my attention at times. I wanted to focus on my own skills and learning but I also wanted to help my kids be successful.
Our first year we left the training 2 hours early on the second day because the kids just hit their limit. In all fairness, it is a long weekend even for adults! There is so much to soak up. They were mentally fatigued by mid-day Sunday and weren’t shooting as well. When you aren’t doing well you kind of lose interest. The next year, the kids also wanted to leave early. We arranged for family to pick them up so Kevin and I could stay the full time.
Overall I’m glad I took them with us both times. It was a worthwhile learning experience for them. And we made good family memories.
The instructors were very patient. They were always friendly toward the kids.
At one point when my kids seemed to be getting bored with the standard targets and standard course of fire, one of the instructors went to his car to get a splatter target shaped like a duck. Instead of doing the normal course of fire where we went from prone to sitting to standing doing a designated number of shots in each position before going to the next, he told my son to just do sitting (his favorite) and shoot the duck target.
The Appleseed Instructors
There is a team of instructors at each Appleseed event. The instructors are volunteers. They do it because they love it and they want to share their passion with as many people as possible. For being such a low cost training experience, the quality of the instruction was mind blowing. The 2022 prices are $75 for a 2 day training. That’s crazy cheap!
Each lesson is very short and then followed up with immediate hands on practice of that concept. They cut rifle marksmanship skills up into bite sized pieces that are easy to digest.
Because the lessons are short and the day is mostly hands on, the experience is engaging and fun. They are intense weekends but you learn a ton and have fun in the process!
They rotate between rifle instruction, practice and stories from the Revolutionary War. They tell the stories with passion and make history come alive. They use props and charts to really make it immersive. There are lots of short story times weaved throughout the weekend.
Safety is a big deal at Appleseed events. I never felt uneasy. (I have visited other training events that made me feel uneasy! I often feel uneasy at the local ranges.) Appleseed has safety paramount.
Everyone has to leave their rifles in their cars until after the safety brief is completed. They communicate the expectations clearly and they work diligently to enforce those expectations. They are specific in those expectations. For example, they showed us exactly how they wanted rifles (even those in cases) carried.
At our first even in Wilmington, Ohio in October 2019, there were 4 instructors for our group of 22 students. These 4 instructors were actively monitoring the safety the entire time. If we were down range hanging targets and someone approached their mat to pick up something, an instructor would quickly remind them (as friendly as possible) not to go near the guns while people were down range. They watched the line like hawks.
Like I already explained, the instructors offered my kids some alternatives. They let them shoot in the seated position even when we were doing other positions. And they offered them different targets.
The instructors adapted the experience for other participants as well. There was an older couple at our event. The instructors set this couple up at a table and adapted the instruction for them. You can see that table by the purple arrow in this picture.
The teal arrow shows an instructor down on the ground helping a student.
We were the only first timers at the first Appleseed event we attended . We showed up the first day with 2 folding chairs. The days are long. We should have had a chair for each of us.
The second day we brought more chairs and this table. As a family of 4 we had ALOT of gear! It was nice having tabletop area. We were the only ones with a table but I found it very helpful.
The event we attended the next year in Carroll, Ohio was set up very different. We left the table we brought in the car because there were areas for us to put our stuff under the shelter. Whether a table will be helpful will depend on the range facility.
Consider a staple gun a required tool for the weekend. I bought one the night before our training. In hindsight I wish I had bought two. I kept our staple gun and extra staples in this bright plastic pencil box on the table so it was easy to find. (I like when everything has a home!)
I bought this Stanley TR45 light duty staple gun from Walmart around midnight the day of our training. Have I mentioned that I am a procrastinator? It was around $10. It did the job.
It is a fast paced day. They are passionate about teaching you as much as they can. You constantly go down range to staple up targets then hustle back to get ready to shoot. We were always the last ones back. Waiting to get the staple gun from each other to get our targets hung made us slower during target changes.
The instructors were kind but were annoyed. They told us more than once to hurry. Having kids with us definitely made it more challenging to be quick during target changes. More staple guns would have made it faster.
When you are stapling targets for 4 people you go through staples really quick! I walked all the way down range several times just to realize the staple gun was out of staples! Ooph! I got smarter about it as the weekend went on.
Towels or Blanket
In the summer time the sun can beat down on your mat and gun and make it unbearably hot. One participant was dedicated to finishing his round and ended up burning his arm from his hot gun.
Before using this tip it is best to first discuss with the instructors on how they want you to use the towel or blanket to cover your shooting mat and/or gun. Some instructors where also folding the shooting mat to protect it and the gun from the hot sun. But this has to be done carefully so that you don’t disturb the gun and have it pointed in an unsafe direction. Some instructors might not like having the gun completely covered because then they can’t see it for safety.
We brought 4 pairs of our favorite electronic ear muffs to our first event. I love these muffs when shooting pistols. I quickly realized I don’t love muffs when shooting rifles! Trying to get your face right up on the rifle with ear muffs on was kinda awkward.
Before our next event I invested in Walker’s Silencer Bluetooth Earbuds so I had an “in ear” option. If you normally wear muffs, I recommend thinking about having an “in ear” option with you, even if just inexpensive disposable foam ear protection.
Name Tag Markers
The instructors gave us colored numbers (like the green 8 in the photo below). You staple the number near your target so you can tell which target is yours when shooting. You are shooting from much farther back than you do with handguns so it’s harder to tell at a distance which one is yours.
Well I was an idiot and messed up a few times and shot the wrong target. I had so many other things to remember to do while shooting. Thinking to check the number didn’t always cross my mind. Kevin printed our names on colored paper for the second day. I found my name rather than a random number helped keep me shooting only my target. 😉
Hot Casings / Clothes
That American Flag Under Armour hoodie my son is wearing in the picture above got a hole in it during the event. He was shooting in the prone position and hot casings from my gun flew over onto his mat. (I was on his left.) One worked its way under his arm and burnt a hole in his sleeve. Having those long sleeves meant his arm didn’t get burnt at least.
Later in the day, a hot casing worked it’s way under his shirt while in the prone position. It left a burn mark on his belly. A tucked in shirt could have prevented that.
I occasionally got hot casings under my arms/elbows in the prone position. The first day I had on a new hoodie I loved and I was nervous about getting a hole in the sleeve like my son had in his. The second day I made sure to wear something I didn’t care as much about just in case.
Their “What to Bring” PDF says to wear long sleeves and long pants. That was easy at our first event because it was in October. Our next one was in July on a weekend when it was unbearably hot out! I wanted to have a tshirt on during story time and other down time, but still have long sleeves for when on the shooting mat. My DIY elbow protection was perfect.
DIY Elbow Protection
When shooting in prone position, your elbow can get irritated from the mat. Especially if your mat has black areas on it that get really hot in the sun.
I made this to keep my elbow protected. I took a really thick ‘cabin socks’ (the kind that are 2 layer) and cut off the toe area. Kevin made fun of it. But my elbows thanked me.
You Should Try Appleseed!
Appleseed is truly an amazing experience. Both times we attended an event, the vast majority of participants were returning students. They wanted to come back for more. After you try it once I bet you’ll want to do it again too!
I hope you’ll give it a try!
Project Appleseed uses “rifle marksmanship instruction as a gateway to help bring our nation’s history to life and to show that many of the values that our forefathers relied on to win our Independence are still very much in demand today.”Read more on their site