But by the end of the day, I could definitely say that I learned something.
Awake at 5AM and on the road before the sun was even up, Mike and I managed to arrive at Sandusky County Sportsman's Club on time. The instructors and organizers were mulling around, getting everyone signed in. I was bleary from the long, early drive on too little caffeine and even less sleep. I kept giving Mike the "I'm not sure about this" look because I was also slightly nervous. I'd shot a rifle less than a handful of times in my life (with a scope, no less - not the iron sights required for an Appleseed) and had never even shot anything at an outdoor range. I was in a new place, with new people, trying a new activity...well and truly out of my comfort zone, I chose to make the best of it. I would smile and learn and try to do everything asked of me.
There was a short briefing on range rules and safety, how to clear and ground your rifle, and the commands that would be given by the shoot boss. By 9AM we were on the firing line and my first Appleseed had begun. One of the instructors was nice enough to loan me his Ruger 10/22 for the day. It had the recommended sling and sights and since I was already familiar with 10/22s, I felt fairly comfortable using it.
Before we began shooting, I was given a quick lesson on how to properly use a loop sling. It felt tight and awkward but at the same time I could feel how it steadied the rifle and stopped the effects of recoil from changing my sight picture. I'd just have to get used to it.
We were told to go downrange, put up our target and load up our magazines. The first target of an Appleseed shoot is highly symbolic - the initial 13 rounds serve as a reminder of the original American colonies and the red (as in redcoat) silhouettes allude to how riflemen won our freedom during the Revolutionary War. Rifles in hand, we're all part of history and responsible for protecting our liberty.
Shooting from the prone position, first time with a sling and iron sights, I got all my shots on paper but with no evidence of consistent grouping. I did get some of my shots in the red and was told I had excellent trigger follow-through and body geometry, so I was pleased.
After a lesson on the other positions we'd be using we were back on the line, shooting a target designed to help us sight in our rifles. Then things started to speed up - we transitioned through standing, sitting and prone positions and combined those with mag changes. For example, we were instructed to fill one magazine with 8 rounds and one with 2. We'd start in a standing position, load the rifle with the 2 round magazine, transition to prone and then begin shooting. The first silhouette would get two rounds, then we'd do a mag change and shoot 3 more. Then we'd shift to the second silhouette and shoot the last 5 rounds. The focus was on consistently being able to find your natural point of aim and sight picture despite mag changes or transitioning from different positions.
I was becoming better at using the sling and my shots were starting to group. But the sun, high in the cloudless sky, was merciless. Finishing 10 rounds in a prone position, I cleared my rifle, put on the safety and put my head down next to it. I was so tired and hot. I opened my eyes and looked downrange - I felt a little dizzy and my vision wavered.
(stay tuned for pt. 2)