In a haze of gunfire, laughter, smoke and sunlight, Remington Little confidently approached the makeshift twine-marked firing line; a CMMG MK47 Mutant rifle in one hand, and a magazine loaded with 7.62x39 rounds in the other. Under the watchful eye of a company representative, the young man inserted the magazine, pointed downrange, and with a determined gaze, flipped the safety selector switch, and squeezed the trigger.
His smile told the whole story, and everyone around him shared his infectious enthusiasm. He’d found community in the fray of firearm vendors, gear hawkers and gun media types amassed in the sprawling Georgia farmland. He’d found a second family.
Little, this year’s NRA/Brownells National Youth Shooting Sports Ambassador for the National Rifle Association, made the voyage from sleepy upstate New York’s Clarkson University to the fields of Lavonia, Georgia, as a guest of Eric Blandford, the U.S. Army veteran and southern gun aficionado behind YouTube sensation IraqVeteran8888, to participate in his fourth annual YouTube Range Day on Oct. 1 and 2.
The invite-only event united fellow firearms culture YouTubers, bloggers, gun news hounds and industry representatives for a weekend on the range, putting the latest and greatest guns and gear to the test while furiously filming, posting, tweeting and snapping videos and photos for the collective millions of social media followers.
Having met Blandford and IV8888 cameraman Chad Sims at the NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Louisville, Kentucky, earlier this year, the 19-year-old mechanical engineering major looked forward to attending the event, which has grown steadily in scale each year.
More family reunion than industry expo, Little was quickly embraced by those in attendance, enjoying conversation and shooting with everyone from reps from Faxon Firearms, Freedom Munitions and Kel-Tec to YouTube mainstays 22Plinkster, Hickok45 and Top Shot winner Chris Cheng.
“Being able to be part of this community is an amazing feeling,” Little said. “One thing I have learned from going to some trade shows is the firearm community is like a big family. Many of these company representatives go to the same events, so they form good friendships with each other and look out for one another. I’m blessed to be a part of this family now.
This NRA/Brownells Youth Shooting Sports Ambassador Program provides cooperative youth groups, including Boy Scouts of America, National High School Rodeo Association, Royal Rangers, Venturing and USA Shooting, the opportunity to select the outstanding youths 16 to 21 years of age to represent them across the nation at events. Remington's selection as the NRA's youth ambassador not only allowed him to attend events like the IV8888 range day, Great American Outdoor Show and NRA Annual Meetings, but opened doors of opportunity for him to meet and interact with gun industry and media personalities and staff.
That chance to speak one-on-one with industry professionals was a key opportunity for Little. The Crosswicks, New Jersey native aspires to become a firearms research and design engineer upon graduating from Clarkson, and used the range event to network and build relationships with gunmakers in the hopes of earning a summer internship and, with any luck, an eventual career.
While he wasn’t in attendance to film review videos or show off gear, Remington found his station as a Youth Ambassador a perfect fit for the range day crowd, as he confidently and professionally represented both the NRA and Brownells to a big group of key influencers in the gun media community, passing along the story of the program and the positive impact it’s had on him and his contemporaries.
More importantly, he served as a perfect representation of the future of young Americans in the shooting sports.
“Representing the NRA’s investment in youth shooting sports is one of my proudest accomplishments. Coming from a family where I am the only one with involved in shooting, I relied on NRA’s youth programs to teach me the basics of marksmanship and to provide me the platforms to compete,” Little said. “It is an absolute honor and privilege to now represent those same programs that gave me my roots in the firearm community.”
If Remington Little is any indication of what the future of young Americans in the shooting sports will be, it is much easier to rest knowing that future is a bright one, and that our current crop of gun media torchbearers like Eric and Chad have the foresight to bring tomorrow’s firearms leaders into the community today.