by John Boch
(GunNews) - I joined about 15 other shooters on Saturday, November 12th for a fast-paced and very enjoyable one-day American Marksman rifle shooting course put on by the United States Rifleman’s Association.
Mother Nature treated us to a blustery fall day with lots of sunshine early and no shortage of wind or increasing clouds as the day wore on.
The kind folks at Dewitt County Sportsmen’s Club hosted us, with club VP Ed Adcock not only shooting much of the day, but also playing a wonderful host and making lunch for those in attendance.
There were seven shooters using center-fire rifles, which included ARs, a FN SCAR and a pair of Mini-14s. The balance were almost exclusively shooting Ruger 10/22s. Students ranged from about eight years of age to maybe fifty, with about a half-dozen being college age or younger which is always good to see.
Who is the US Rifleman’s Association? They are a new organization dedicated to teaching safe and effective shooting skills to Americans in order to foster patriotism, good citizenship and self-reliance among families, neighbors and communities.
The American Marksman course is their first offering, with an introductory class on the defensive use of handguns coming soon along with a CMP marksmanship clinic and a precision rifle class.
The class was a mere $25, plus $10 for the range fee and an additional $20 if you wanted to join the USRA. Was it worth it? Heavens yes. It would have been a steal at several times that price.
Three experienced rifle instructors led the class: Bill Essling, John Papineau and Steve Davis.
After the safety orientation lecture, class began at 25 meters with firing ten rounds into five bulls-eyes as an initial skills assessment. From there, the instructors demonstrated and discussed the proper prone position and we began shooting one-inch squares. BRASS (breath, relax, aim, take up the slack, and squeeze the shot off) and NPOA (finding and moving your natural point of aim) were next, each with five shots following the lesson.
Shot group analysis and a discussion of sight adjustments (IMC – inches, minutes and clicks for Appleseed veterans), were covered. Sitting, kneeling and standing positions were demonstrated, discussed and fired by students before lunch at noon – an impressive and exciting pace – especially considering there were a couple of breaks during the morning.
Two of the younger ladies were brand new to shooting – as in had never shot before or had shot a couple of hours the day before. They received a lot of individualized attention and came along very well and never seemed to be struggling with the brisk pace of instruction. The roughly eight-year-old girl shot from a forearm rest and by mid-morning, she was driving tacks – consistently shooting about five minutes of angle or better! And while there were new shooters, several of us were experienced rifleman and/or instructors with the Appleseed program, with Rifleman patches sewn on our jackets or in our back pockets.
It was evident this course shares a lot of similarities with Project Appleseed. I recognized many of the teaching points as an instructor with Appleseed.
Over lunch, the instructors told us a little more about themselves and the USRA’s mission in teaching these classes. They emphasized family, friends and community as well as the role in personal readiness and preparedness for emergencies and adversity is important towards making us all better Americans. They also had the students say a few words about themselves as well.
After lunch, we moved back to 100 yards firing on an SR-1 target. After shooting two sighter strings, we shot a 40-round Army-qualification-style course of fire. This was a lot of fun.
The gusty, heavy winds cut down on some of the scores later in the day, especially while shooting the standing position, but scores were still impressive overall.
This new course was created by a number of individuals in Illinois who were formerly very active in the Appleseed program. It has been joined by current Appleseed instructors as well.
As good as Appleseed is, I believe the USRA has put together something better, by a fair margin. USRA wants to take this show nationwide, as Appleseed has done with their class in recent years.
USRA has got a winning recipe in this course to make that goal a reality.
Overall, I liked the single-day format of the class a great deal. The price was ridiculously affordable and the instruction excellent. Most importantly, it was very enjoyable – downright fun from start to finish.
I strongly recommend everyone break out their rifle along with a couple hundred rounds of ammo and visit a USRA American Marksman course next spring or summer. You’ll be glad you did - and then some.
Reprinted from the December 2011 issue of GunNews