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Author Topic: The Journey to Rifleman: A Woman’s Perspective by Terri “T.J. 8” McDaniel  (Read 1738 times)

Offline DrRichP

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“The Journey to Rifleman: A Woman’s Perspective” - by Terri “T.J. 8” McDaniel

     It was hot, August in Alabama hot! I was extremely nervous - no, terrified really. Everything about that weekend was outside my comfort zone. This would be my first time ever firing a rifle. I had no clue what to expect, well, except that it would probably be mostly, if not all, men. I worried that I would embarrass myself. I worried that the guys would make fun of my lack of knowledge and experience. There was only one familiar face, Rusty Bonkoski, the Alabama State Coordinator, Shoot Boss for the event and the one who introduced me to Project Appleseed in the first place. It was Rusty’s rifle that I would borrow and take those first fateful shots.

    It was almost a full year after hearing Rusty speak that I attended that first event. The seed had been planted but like so many others, life got in the way. When I attended that first Appleseed, my only goal was to learn to shoot a rifle...and hopefully hit a target smaller than the side of a barn! My body rebelled against the unfamiliar and uncomfortable shooting positions. I fumbled with preparing the magazines. I was awkward and slow. No one complained. The instructors were infinitely patient while still encouraging me to improve. The occasional, “Whose rifle is this!” was a little embarrassing but all in the name of safety and not meant as a personal affront. 

By the end of a scorching, humid, Alabama August Saturday, my muscles ached, my elbows were chewed up and I seriously questioned my sanity! But there was a phrase that kept being repeated, “A rifleman persists.” I didn’t really know at the time whether I wanted to be a rifleman or not but I did know I wanted to persist. Sunday morning I rolled out of bed and headed back to the range. I didn’t earn my patch that weekend but still I felt like I had accomplished something. I had overcome some fears and wandered out of my comfort zone. Soon after, I purchased my own rifle and signed up for the next event.
In the end, it would take me a total of 8 Appleseeds to earn my rifleman’s patch.  I had more than a few mechanical malfunctions, more than a few shooter malfunctions too. I became frustrated at times, disappointed as well, but a funny thing happened on the way to becoming a rifleman, it became less and less about “getting that patch” and more and more about something else, something bigger. I knew there would be history given about the events of April 19th, 1775. Sad to say, I didn’t know much about that day or the entire Revolutionary War really. I was not prepared for how profoundly I would be affected by the stories that were being told so passionately. They were more than just stories about Generals, military maneuvers and bloody battles, they were about people, ordinary people, shopkeepers, farmers, husbands and wives who were willing to fight for, die for, liberty, freedom and the birth of a new nation. The very rights that we all hold so dear but also take for granted. I began to wonder.     

In the journey to becoming a rifleman, I found that many of the skills were applicable to daily life. Sight alignment, sight picture, the ability to remain focused on what was directly in front of you while keeping your eye and mind on the goal. The rifleman’s bubble, not allowing outside chaos to distract you from “making the shot” and “hitting the target”. The rifleman’s dance, even when you seem to be doing everything “right” and “by the numbers” , you can still be missing the bulls eye and need to make quick adjustments.  Persistence and practice do eventually pay off. Don’t give up, anything worth having takes effort and a willingness to venture outside your comfort zone.  Ordinary people can rise to the occasion and make a difference.  One decision can change the course of history.
On July 12, 2015, I became a rifleman. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. I also took an orange hat that day hoping to give back, in some small way, to the organization and people who taught me so much. I’ve accomplished a lot since that first day; and even persisted long enough to change out my orange hat for a nice red one. Maybe there was something to taking the long way around, maybe the organization itself, maybe the history, maybe the patience and passion of the Appleseed Crew or maybe a combination of all of those things, my experience with Project Appleseed, transformative!


Project Appleseed welcomes all ages, races, religions and sexes to our events; however, we do recognize that women, especially those new to shooting, can be intimidated by what may have traditionally been seen as a men’s sport. To help dispel this myth and to welcome female shooters into our ranks we developed the idea of a “Ladyseed”.

A Ladyseed is an Appleseed designed specifically for ladies. The women who attend a Ladyseed event will learn much more than how to fire a rifle, they will also learn American heritage and the history of how women actively aided in the fight on April 19, 1775. Many ladies walk away from an Appleseed event with a renewed sense of their country and of themselves. For many women a rifle range is unfamilar territory and can seem daunting, but the instruction at a Ladyseed event creates a comfortable learning environment. Whether you've never fired a rifle before or you're already a competitive shooter, most women walk away glad that they attended and ready to sign up for the next Appleseed event!


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