Notes and pictures from last weekend’s trip to the Appleseed rifle training class at Arnold Air Force Base in Manchester, TN.
Gun-wise, way more than half of the shooters were using the Ruger 10/22. It’s accurate, affordable, shoots cheap .22 LR ammo, you can buy one at your local Wal-Mart, and there’s a smorgasbord of aftermarket accessories. All of the 10/22s had Tech-Sight aperture sights except for a few scope users. There were also a couple of AR-15s, some SKSes, an M1 Carbine, and a few bolt-action .22s. Someone had an M1A, but it seemed like it was just being shot every now and then for fun.
The 10/22s in Manchester went from mostly off the shelf except for the ubiquitous Tech-Sights to models customized with bull barrels and benchrest-style thumbhole stocks. A heavy benchrest barrel is probably an impediment at Appleseed. It won’t shrink your groups much, but it will tire you out over the course of hundreds of rounds fired each day.
The only person to shoot rifleman the first day was Sean, who was shooting next to me. He was using a mostly-stock 10/22 with a carbine-length, tapered barrel that he bought used at a gun show. The only mods he was aware of were the Tech-Sights and Hogue overmolded stock (which is also a factory option). He’s active military and is a scout for his squad. He didn’t use the more-stable loop sling because he felt that he wouldn’t have time to get into it, but he managed to easily shoot Rifleman using the hasty sling.
On the second day Yvette, a mother of six, shot rifleman. (She’s the lady in Oleg’s pictures.) She was also shooting a 10/22 with a few minor modifications (I dig that extended bolt handle), but with a factory stock and tapered barrel.
Lance was the third person to shoot rifleman. As I recall he was shooting a blued, wood stock 10/22 with a tapered carbine barrel. I think he may have been using a scope. Lance and Yvette both shot with a loop sling.
Going into the first day I had all seven of my magazines stoked, thinking I’d have a hard time keeping up with reloading. It turns out there was always plenty of time to reload magazines between courses without rushing.
I had the impression that I’d need high capacity magazines for Appleseed, so I brought three Butler Creek Steel Lips 25 rounders to go with four factory 10 rounders. When I was sighting in the week before I had some jams with the Butler Creek mags, so I was disinclined to use them.
It turns out you never need more than 10 rounds during an Appleseed course of fire, so the 10 rounders were fine. You do need at least two magazines for courses that require magazine changes (loaded either 2 and 3 rounds or 2 and 8 rounds). A third or fourth magazine is a good idea in case one magazine develops problems.
Speaking of which, my Ruger factory 10 rounders worked fine the week before and on the first day, but I had failures to feed on two magazines the second day at Appleseed. I’m new to the 10/22 so it’s possible I didn’t clean or lube the gun properly, so I need to work on that. An instructor told me he has had problems with factory 10/22 mags so he always keeps a spare on the mat in case of magazine issues. That’s good advice.
My factory magazines did not go into the gun very smoothly. I had to wrestle with them a little to get them in. I need to see what I can do to improve that. One nice thing about the 25 round Butler Creek magazines is that they stick out of the gun far enough that you can can get a good handhold on them to stick them into the rifle.
The only thing that’s absolutely critical to replace on the 10/22 is the sights. The standard folding leaf sights are too hard to see and they can’t be adjusted precisely. Every 10/22 shooter at Manchester who wasn’t using a scope was using Tech-Sights.
Tech-Sights use an aperture rear sight. Normal leaf or open sights use a flat rear blade with a notch cut out. To align the sights you place the front sight in the notch. That requires your eye to do the impossible: focus on the nearby rear sight and the faraway front sight simultaneously. You can’d do it, so one of the sights is always fuzzy.
An aperture rear sight is a circle that you let go blurry. Just position the front sight at the center of the circle. Your eye does this naturally, so you don’t even have to think about it. The Tech-Sight is mounted farther back than the factory rear sight, and adds about eight inches to the sight radius to increase accuracy.
Tech-Sight installation and adjustment
To install the new front sight tap out the old one. The instructions say to use a brass punch and hammer. I don’t own a brass punch, so I used a steel punch I had handy and covered it with two small pieces of duct tape to keep from scratching up the old sight. A half dozen mild taps were enough to push out the factory front sight.
The new front sight didn’t want to go in. After repeated taps failed to nudge it in I used a file to lightly file down the leading edge of the new sight using about as much pressure as you’d use to file your nails. One stroke didn’t do it – it still wouldn’t quite go in. After the second stroke of the file I was able to get the front sight into the dovetail. I only took a tiny, tiny amount of material off to make it fit. After the front sight was in I used the supplied set screw and hex head wrench to screw it into place so it wouldn’t come loose, with a dab of blue Loctite threadlocking compound on the screw to glue it in place.
The rear sight gets screwed into the holes in the receiver for the rear scope mount. Just remove the filler screws and screw in the rear sight, again using a little blue Loctite to keep the screws from backing out. You can fold down the factory rear sight and leave it in place, or drift it out with a punch just like you did with the front sight. I left mine in for now, and it never got in my way.
If you buy Tech-Sights you’ll want the sight adjustment tool, which is the same as an AR-15 sight adjustment tool. To adjust the rear sight for windage rotate the adjustment wheel clockwise to move the bullets to the right, and counterclockwise to move the bullets to the left. To adjust the front sight for elevation turn the sight clockwise to move the bullets up and counterclockwise to move the bullets down.
I liked the Tech-Sights on the 10/22 so much I want to get a set for my SKS.
Appleseed teaches use of the sling in all shooting positions. They recommend a military web sling, which I bought in preparation for the class.
Then I got jammed up. Two nights before I hit the road I discovered the sling was slightly too wide to fit into the factory sling mounts on my rifle. The next night after work I scrambled to find some that were wide enough, but couldn’t, so I bought a Gander Mountain hunting sling that came with mounts.
The hunting sling was wide at the top to spread the weight over the shoulder. That extra width made the hunting sling a bit unwieldy to get my left hand around it in a hasty sling setup. The second day an instructor offered me some sling mounts to work with my GI web sling (thanks, Steve). The narrower military sling wraps easily around my hand and doesn’t get in the way. By unclipping it from the back of the gun you can wrap it around your bicep for a loop sling setup.
P.S. In this long post about guns there isn’t a single gun picture. During the class there was too much to do and think about when we were shooting or getting ready for the next course. During the day my camera never left the car. Other people took pictures, though, and you can see them at the Appleseed forums.
P.P.S. Many thanks to the all-volunteer staff of Appleseed for running a great class, and thanks to Dave D. for helping me get the 10/22 ready for the class.