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on becoming a rifleman

I would like to introduce you to The Appleseed Project, and it’s grand uncle, the Civilian Marksmanship Program.

In their words, “The Appleseed Program is designed to take you from being a simple rifle owner to being a true rifleman. All throughout American history, the rifleman has been defined as a marksman capable of hitting a man-sized target from 500 yards away โ€” no ifs, ands or buts about it. This 500-yard range is traditionally known as “the rifleman’s quarter-mile;” a rifleman can hit just about any target he can see. This skill was particulary evident in the birth of our country, and was the difference in winning the Revolutionary War.”

There is another organization dedicated to creating instructors and expert rifleman: The Civilian Marksmanship Program, or CMP. CMP affiliated clubs throughout the USA have training and matches to teach people how to shoot and teach riflemen how to share that skill. Local, regional and national matches are held.

Rifles are all military-patterned; meaning they are either as-issued military or semi-automatic versions of as-issued military with iron sights. Targets on the standard course of fire are at 200 yards for standing slow-fire and sitting rapid-fire, 300 yards for prone rapid-fire and 600 yards for prone slow-fire. Twenty rounds are shot from each position for a total of 80 rounds plus 2 sighters at each station comprising a match.

AR-15s using .223 ammo are far and away the most popular, but many competitors use .30 caliber like AR10, M1A and M1 Garands. Some still use 1903 Springfields. Again, all have a front post and rear peep sight (Okay, only 99.99% for those who saw someone once using a rear blade sight).

Not to denigrate Appleseed shoots which I think are a wonderful contribution and strongly encourage, but regular CMP participation is the next level.

80%-83.99% = Marksman
84%-88.99% = Sharpshooter
89%-93.99% = Expert
94%-96.99% = Master
97%-100% = High Master

The club I currently shoot with has some of each. All of them are eager to share every bit of knowledge and every trick they know to help you shoot your best. Riflemen competing “against you” in your own classification are likely to share rifle parts, ammo and even their rifle if you need it to complete a match.

I have never seen the attitude of one competing against others, but rather all competing against themselves, their equipment and the weather to shoot their best, and congratulating all who had particularly good days or even gave it a good go.

The club I started with had a local classification they called “Bolo”. This came from the old US Army where one who couldn’t get 80% was more of a hazard with a rifle than boon and should therefore be given a bolo (thowing weapon) instead of a rifle.
bolo throwing weapon

That group of guys then proceeded to help me progress from Bolo to Sharpshooter. Years later in another time and place, I broke into the next level where my really good days find me shooting within my expert classification, but more often than not I learn from the experience of having one or more mental, physical and mechanical malfunctions keep my score down and humility up.