National nonprofit Project Appleseed resurrects exceptional American marksmanship in Como, Mississippi
Story by Tonya Thompson | Photos by Ebben Raves
It was only May, but the morning was already turning up the heat across the flat fields and sporadic berms at the Desoto Rifle and Pistol Club range in Como, Mississippi. To one corner, seven students — all enrolled in the weekend’s Project Appleseed clinic — gathered around the speaker in a red shirt, listening intently. They had each brought rifles, scopes, and 500 rounds of ammo, as requested, and were ready to embark on a two-day, intensive course in the quest to become expert marksmen.
After laying down the rules and reviewing safety protocol, Ebben Raves, a 56-year oldArmy veteran and the day’s designated shootboss, assured everyone they’d do fine. Dry humor breaks the ice. “I consider any Appleseed clinic a success when attendees learn something, have a little fun and most importantly, don't leave with any more holes in their body than they came with.”
Then, with the call of “shooters to the line,” the instruction began. Assisted by two designated shoot bosses-in-training, Raves walked up and down the line of prone shooters, correcting improper positioning of gun, sling and posture. Ranging in age from 16 to 60, each participant had varying levels of experience holding and shooting a rifle, but with successive rounds of instruction and practice, the holes in the targets 25 meters away began to cluster closer and more accurately on the shapes of Redcoats. American marksmanship, although rusty, was indeed alive and well, thanks to the efforts of Project Appleseed.
Project Appleseed is a non-partisan, nonprofit group spearheaded by the Revolutionary War Veterans Association. At the core of their work, they are committed to civic responsibility through rifle marksmanship — a skill that, according to the group, is the foundation of American freedom today. “I shot expert in the Army and Appleseed taught me more in a weekend than Uncle Sam did the whole time I was there,” says Raves, who spent almost 10 years as a helicopter crew chief before moving to Memphis in 1998 and joining the organization.
However, if attendees to Appleseed clinics are expecting a political slant to the organization, they will be disappointed. “We don't discuss any politics newer than 230 years old,” says Raves. The politics he’s referring to are those that predated the American Revolution against the British army, which was a world-class fighting machine — a topic discussed in depth throughout the two-day clinic and between rounds of gunfire.
“The mere sight of the British army taking the field was enough to make other professional armies retreat,” says Raves. “Now what would cause them to break and run at Concord bridge at the hands of some colonial farmers and shopkeepers? The answer is marksmanship. American marksmanship.”
According to Raves and the curriculum taught during Appleseed clinics, marksmanship is the reason the Revolution was won, but is a skill that seems to be fading in the general American population. “Also slipping from the collective memory are the stories of the sacrifices those men and women made so we could enjoy our freedom,” he notes. “The true tales of Lexington, Concord and Paul Revere may get a few lines in current history books, but an Appleseed marksmanship clinic brings the real story of April 19th, 1775 to life in a way that’s much more exciting than what is taught in school. You'll come away even more proud to be an American.”
The best part of Project Appleseed’s aim is its inclusionary vision. “I've had an 8-year-old girl, an 80-year-old man and everything in between on my firing line,” says Raves. “I've awarded Rifleman patches to men, women, boys and girls. Hipsters and survivalists… this is a family-friendly event.”
In addition to being an Appleseed volunteer and running clinics, Raves has also served as a guest speaker for numerous organizations, has been on radio, and has contributed as a writer to Americanthinker.com. He takes great pride in his work with Project Appleseed, and considers the marksmanship taught and learned through it to be a matter of civic responsibility. “The colonists had the choice between submitting to the king or war,” he says. “Their blood gave us a third choice — a republic where we can determine our destiny.”
For those interested in taking part in upcoming Project Appleseed clinics, the next clinic at DeSoto Rifle and Pistol Club will be April 2018. Meanwhile, there are clinics all over the country and can be located on the Project Appleseed website at appleseedinfo.org. Or, for groups with a place where participants can safely shoot at 25 meters, Project Appleseed can bring the clinic to you. Instructors are also available to tell the story of Paul Revere's ride to any group free of charge. For more information, visit libertyseed.org.