Visiting an Appleseed Project event brought back memories of his own early shooting training in the Soviet Union.
Marco Vorobiev was a member of the elite Soviet Spetsnaz in Afghanistan in the 1980s. He's a U.S. citizen now and conducts training courses that draw on his special forces training. He'll have a new installment every Wednesday.
I recently visited one of the Appleseed Project (www.apppleseedinfo.com) events in Michigan. A little research on the Internet provided the bare minimum information, giving me the idea this was another rifle class. With that in mind, I got in my truck and drove to Dundee, Mich.
As a firearms instructor, I had my doubts whether I'd discover any new material at this event. Man, was I wrong! What was taught there was nothing new to me, but rather good old long-forgotten marksmanship basics. And that was news to me.
Growing up in the Soviet Union as a child, I was exposed to guns at early age. First, it was competition-style air rifles, moving on to sporting single-shot .22 cal. guns and finally graduating to the AKs. It is easy to imagine that I grew up in the iron-sight era. No collimator sights were available and optical scopes existed only in World War II patriotic books.
So, I was taught basic marksmanship skills from the get-go. Many may not know this, but individual marksmanship in the Soviet Union was highly praised skill: one you could put on your college entry application.
It all started in the 1930s when Soviet Minister of Defense Marshal Kliment Voroshilov was visiting an officer qualification course near Moscow. He observed one officer shooting his Nagant revolver at the 25-meter target. The officer did not hit his target once. When asked about his unsatisfactory performance, he cited the poor workmanship and overall quality of his sidearm.
Voroshilov grabbed the "faulty" revolver, loaded and placed all seven shots into the center of the target. This incident made national news thus giving a birth the new youth movement — "Voroshilov's Marksman". Millions of young boys and girls rushed to rifle ranges to qualify for the badge and title of "Voroshilov's Marksman." My own mother did as well. It was truly a mass movement. Every city and town had a range. Most of inner-city schools had a range in the basement.
Basically, any Soviet youth could get involved in firearms activity from an early age. Almost everyone I knew had shot a rifle or pistol. What's more important is that at every instance there were instructors teaching Soviet kids the fundamentals of marksmanship.
Vorobiev will be writing more about the Appleseed Project in an upcoming issue of SGN.
Kliment Voroshilov, Soviet Minister of Defense and founder of the "Voroshilov
Marksman" youth movement. He was a wily survivor of the Josef Stalin era.
The "Voroshilov Marksman" badge could be proudly displayed by high school or
college students and was an object of admiration. Vorobiev's mother held one.
Voroshilov with high school girls — resent "Voroshilov Marksman" qualifiers.
Personal marksmanship was valued; it's just that very few could own guns.
Soviet high school students hone their skills with rifles at their school's range.
Youngsters started with airguns and worked their way through .22s to AKs.