Remembering The Rifle
Updated: May 27
Facing the reality of the self-defense enthusiast's neglect
I caught the end of a recent Next Shots® class (our intermediate handgun fundamentals course), and walked with GTAC Director Gary Glemboski to the next lane to check out something which had caught his eye. A small group of students were working with some instructors on rifle marksmanship principles. After Gary chatted with them for a moment, he picked up a brochure for me and told me about their program, Project Appleseed. In short, I discovered that Project Appleseed is a non-profit organization which conducts clinics to not only teach rifle marksmanship, but also educate Americans on our long heritage of freedom through the sights of a rifle.
Later, I found myself enjoying a movie I hadn't watched since I was a little kid: Walt Disney's Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier (1955). I basked in nostalgia and patriotic fervor as I watched Davy and his musket, "Old Betsy", lead American troops in The Creek War and later the last stand at The Alamo. Of course, the Disney film gave the historical congressman and frontiersman the Hollywood treatment, but the man beneath the legend and my encounter with Project Appleseed revealed a concerning reality. Amidst all the complaints we patriots have about what we've lost in America, we self-defense enthusiasts have been equally guilty of one in particular: the abandonment of the American rifle.
The modern obsession with handguns
I'll say this at the start - I'm preaching to myself as I lecture everyone else. Although I have a variety of firearms, ~ 90% of my training and attention has been solely on pistols. From my experience, this is the rule (not the exception) for the self-defense aka EDC crowd. While the hunters reading this won't relate to the problem, I would wager most of the rest of us who own or train with firearms spend the lion's share of our time and money on handguns.
Maybe it's Hollywood's fault. After all, most of our favorite gun-toting movie heroes use handguns. Picture these action heroes in your head:
What kind of firearm are they holding?
Maybe it's the cool factor. Handguns are sleeker, sexier, and more mobile. There seems to be so much more personalization and variation in handguns. With the way we talk about our favorite brand, series, or caliber of firearm, it sounds a lot like an extension of our personality. Doesn't seem you can do that with rifles or shotguns.
Handguns > rifles because of laziness?
One potential reason we might favor handguns over long guns is apathy towards marksmanship. Think about it...the reason we prefer handguns over rifles might be the same reason we prefer steel over paper targets. We civilian "sheepdogs" like to go to the range and shoot our sidearm at sub-45 ft distances to the sweet ring of steel. I for one have never taken my bolt action or semi-automatic rifle to practice on distances beyond 50 yards.
Like you, I don't practice at longer distances because I've always been told that deadly encounters happen at short distances. Why bother, right? That's the attitude of apathy about marksmanship.
But is there actual cause for us self-defenders to start practicing at 300 yards with our rifles (which we bought only because we thought Uncle Sam was about to ban 'em)...or is this just a self-flogging sermon? The former is the answer for two reasons...
Rifles > pistols in nearly everything
I've covered most of these points in a previous post, but it bears repeating that rifles are superior to handguns in nearly every way, so we should consider them for more of our needs. Rifles are superior to handguns regarding tyrannical threats, foreign threats, and home defense. They can't be tucked under a shirt, but they shine everywhere else. You add in the utility of hunting, and it's a no-brainer - people who want to be shooters should be riflemen and riflewomen.
The Rifle is the true Americana
Much of the story of this nation was written with the rifle. It was the rifle (or its father, the musket) that made the "shot heard 'round the World". The gun that won the west was not the Colt Peacemaker, but the Winchester 1873 repeating rifle. What was the "greatest battle implement ever devised" according to General Patton? The M1 Garand.
Edward R. Murrow once famously said "...remember that we are not descended from fearful men..." Our forefathers won their freedom, multiple wars, and conquered the Wild West with the rifle as one of their chief tools. I think gun enthusiasts of every stripe should make a point to renew this legacy of the American rifle.