At a recent shooting competition, Brittany Harth hit the target.
Some would say she gave it her best shot.
From June 5 – 22, the Blackwell High School junior was firing away on the gun-range in Ratone, New Mexico at the National Rifleman’s Association’s Whittington Center.
The event, the NRA’s Youth Adventure Camp, was “fun,” according to Harth.
“Basically, you just shoot all kinds of guns and have competitions,” she said.
The camp, which is packed full of shooting-sports, firing-practice sessions, and seminars about gun safety and education, is designed to promote “patriotism, leadership, and marksmanship” in young people ages 13 – 17, according to the event’s website. The NRA calls it “America’s best outdoor youth camp.”
Being accepted into the camp is difficult – of the hundreds of students from across the U.S. who apply, only 60 are admitted each year.
And trying to apply is another story.
“Everyone goes on scholarship,” said Harth. “The camp costs around $1,200, and I won the Tyler Juden scholarship, which pays for me to go to the camp.”
To receive the scholarship, Harth went to a shooting competition in Cowley County, Kansas, and later wrote an essay. The scholarship is named after Juden, a military sniper from Arkansas City who was killed in Turan, Afghanistan when he was attacked by heavily-armed enemy forces.
“You had to place in the top five in the shooting competition. After the shooting competition, the five of us had to write an essay about concealed carry and open carry of weapons. Then, the top two writers win the scholarship,” she said.
In her essay, Harth analyzed the practicality of concealed-carry and open-carry of handguns for the purpose of self-defense. And she had it turned in before the deadline in January.
“The scholarship is a big deal to the people in Ark City. Juden was a hero,” she said. After she won the scholarship, it was merely a waiting game until the June camp.
But finally, the day came.
“They picked me up from the airport in Colorado Springs, and then we drove to Ratone,” she said.
Once they arrived, the participants began setting up camps, where they would demonstrate their cooking and outdoor-survival skills.
Most importantly, they would also have to prove their ability to lead others.
Campers were divided into four groups, with each group participating in different activities each day. No official leadership positions were given, so it was up to the youth to lead themselves. And whoever took charge and led the group to success in the various competitions would be rewarded.
Each day, campers would spend their time firing different guns on the practice range, competing in shooting competitions, and attending lectures.
Competitions were held in several different categories, with the winner being determined by how many times he or she accurately hit the target.
“There was a competition for archery, muzzleloaders, rifles, shotguns, and pistols. The winner in each gets a prize.
“I won my group in archery,” she said.
Individually, Harth took home some hard-earned commendations. She won the Top Camper Award, as well as an award for cooking, hunting, and leadership.
For the cooking and hunting awards, she competed against all 59 campers. She received the leadership award for being the best leader in her group.
The prize for winning the top slot in the camping category was a new Ruger .308-caliber rifle, featuring a 22-inch barrel and a matte-black finish.
“The Top Camper Award isn’t so much about marksmanship, but it is a factor. It’s about being a leader, being nice, and helping everyone,” she said.
The same was true for the rest of the awards at the camp, the winners of which were revealed in a banquet at the end of the week.
While the competitions and awards banquet took up a lot of time, there was still room for leisure. Or more leisurely shooting, rather.
“We would shoot big guns for fun,” said Harth. “I liked the .50 caliber.”
“I liked it all,” she added. “Shooting is one of my favorite hobbies.”
For the young hunter and markswoman, the shooting was enjoyable. But it was the relationships she built that mattered most. “I made some good friendships, lifelong friendships,” she said.
When asked if she left the camp as a better markswoman, patriot, and leader, Harth didn’t hesitate in her answer: “For sure.”
Although Harth’s time at the camp is over, it won’t be her last time there. “I plan to return next summer as a counselor,” she said.
And even though she was sad to leave, Harth remained grateful that she was able to go. She won’t be forgetting it any time soon. She has a slew of pictures, taken both on and off the gun range, saved on her phone that she’s happy to show.
And, she’ll have those lifelong friendships.
“It was an honor to be there,” she concluded. “I had the time of my life.”