I’ll start with what I’m most comfortable with. I didn’t invent this wheel, but I’ve ridden on it a bunch, hit the curb with it a time or two, and adjusted the spokes to true it up. Okay, I have to acknowledge that I’ve taken the analogy way too far. Suffice it to say that I’m familiar with it.
I think of this spectrum of rifle shooting as a generally 100 to 500 yard distance, although that can be adjusted shorter or longer depending on target, perhaps terrain, and maybe some other circumstances. Time is typically a concern at this distance, the range not being so distant that the shooter is undetectable by sight, sound, or smell, but hopefully we can rule out touch and taste. This is also within the lethal range of most small arms, so the ‘social’ marksman has to consider the two way effect as well.
The ‘general’ aspect of this skill spectrum connotes a “pure marksmanship” type of shooting. It’s to be a test of shooting and gun handling under time. This is more of a sterile test of skill, rather than an emphasis of interaction with the shooter’s immediate environment. We can leave out considerations of movement, cover, concealment, and use of what is available externally for support. In my mind this also means that we leave out what cannot be carried, accessed, and employed in a practical manner by a shooter in the field.
This spectrum of rifle shooting is, in my opinion, nearly adequately addressed by the Appleseed AQT, but with a few caveats. Before I discuss which caveats and why, I feel like I should discuss my qualifications to make this discussion.
I’ve been shooting “Rifleman” scores on AQTs since day 1 of my first Appleseed. I’ve been shooting scores in the 230s since my first shoot way back in aught-niner. At my last shoot my scores on all the AQTs I shot were day 1: 246, 247, day 2: 247, 243, 229 (full distance), 244 (full distance), average score = 242.667 using 55 grain FMJ handloads. Overall, I feel that I can say without reservation that I am ‘good’ in this niche of shooting, and that is coming from a person who is extremely self-critical. I don’t know if you have to be good to define what good is, but it helps.
Also, I am not advocating here that Appleseed needs to change their scoring system or how they do things. This is purely a discussion of modifying the AQT for a more general test of abilities.
The first caveat I would make for using the AQT as a means for evaluating a shooter in the medium range, general marksmanship spectrum is that I don’t believe that the shooter should have the luxury of preparation beyond that of having a loaded rifle at the ready. That would necessarily exclude the luxury finding one’s natural point of aim prior to the command to begin. It would also rule out having the sling on the arm, and the shooter allowed to be ‘set’ in position (as is allowed by Appleseed in stages 1 and 4). I think that a standard ready position, probably standing in a relaxed position, should be mandated for the test to be more meaningful. As mentioned above, equipment would be limited to what the shooter can carry and use in the field. Gamers gonna game, game, game, game, game, so if you have to make them walk 5 miles to shoot (walk it off, walk it off), so be it (and remember, no prep time!).
The second modification I would make is that I would allow for the shooter to address each stage in a ‘freestyle’ manner. If you have a bipod you can use it. If you want to ‘monopod’ using the magazine, do it. If you want to utilize stackfoot sitting, have at it. Kneeling or squatting would be permissible instead of sitting. Perhaps Hawkins instead of prone is your thing. The limitation would be that a position of “like height” to the intended position be used (this is to simulate dealing with obstructive intermediate terrain, so it’s important). Why freestyle? If the shooter is able to deal with the problem of terrain, he connects bullet with target, and does so in the permitted time, do we care exactly how the bullet got there? Results are paramount. Methods are secondary.
Thirdly, I don’t believe that attaining a score of 210 is adequate to define a great shooter in this niche of shooting. I have seen some mediocre shots score a 210. I think that 225 is getting closer. 225 is 90% of 250, which if we’re going to be arbitrary, is at least a nice round number, an A-. I would not consider a score of 225 acceptable for myself. I could plop right down, right now and shoot a score better than that cold. And that would be my final requirement- that the shooter can do it on demand, utterly cold, without any preparation or coaching beforehand. Also make that a clean score with no “30 cal rule” (seriously, if you were to scale up the reduced ‘400’ yard target to actual size, a .22 hold would be close to 4″). Under those conditions, a score of 225 is actually pretty good. I would consider that person a good shot within that realm of shooting.
If you read carefully above you may have noticed that I said the AQT nearly adequately addresses this niche of rifle shooting. The only real possible deficiency I’ve been able to think of so far is that I could conceivably bomb stage 1 (standing) and still come out with a decent score. One way to deal with that would be to say that no stage can have less than 43 or 44 points. I haven’t really crunched the numbers, I just threw that out there.
What I actually like better is having a reference of group size according to position. It’s pretty easy for me to throw numbers out that I would consider decent for myself (not the crazy numbers I would have expected early on, but those that I might expect on an average day). I’ll just throw out some numbers for 10 shot groups in MOA.
Prone, unsupported with sling: 1.75 MOA
Sitting, unsupported with sling: 2.75 MOA
Kneeling, unsupported with sling: 5 MOA
Standing, unsupported: 6.5 MOA
I would consider those good, but not great numbers.