The boom of a rifle can be heard from all over Tennessee Future Farmers of America (FFA)’s Camp Clements on any given summertime afternoon. Since 1927, Camp Clements has been training and developing leaders in agriculture. The Camp Clements rifle range has been a staple of FFA members’ camp experience for decades. Students, teachers, guests, and volunteers have made countless memories, fostered growth, and developed healthy competition at this range. The rifle range is undoubtedly one of the camp’s most beloved activities.
The NRA Foundation, through funds raised by Friends of NRA, has played a key role in the quality and safety of the shooting range in both large and small ways. In 2015, The NRA Foundation provided supplies and materials to construct shooting benches for every lane when, previously, students were having to lay in a prone position. In 2020, grant funds were used to build a berm and new target wall. Camp Clements has also received new rifles, a gun cabinet, earmuffs, ammunition, and targets for an overall quality experience. Turner explains, “Without these NRA Foundation grants, we would not be able to provide the quality of rifle range that we have.”
Many teachers and FFA advisors, like Josh Felker, attend Camp Clements with their students and look forward to visiting the rifle range every year. “It is one of the most important aspects of camp,” Felker explains. “The greatest part of the rifle range is that it provides the opportunity for students who have not had much experience with firearms to gain a safe exposure to them. Exposure takes fear away. This can acclimate students to rifles and often instills a love for shooting that leads to students obtaining their very own hunting license. Teaching these kids how to handle firearms safely directly impacts conservation.”
Felker is not the only teacher who has been impacted by the rifle range at Camp Clements. Teacher and FFA advisor Robert Meadows from Greene County reminisces on his times there very fondly, “As a camper, I spent many afternoons at the rifle range. I was able to take the safety knowledge I learned there to enjoy using firearms recreationally on my own. Now, as an advisor, I get to see students who never had the opportunity to experience firearms be able to come to camp and learn firearm safety.” He is right. Out of the 1,200 students who visit Camp Clements each year, most of them have never shot a firearm before. Camp Clements has certified firearm instructors volunteer to help run the rifle range each week. One of these instructors is Adam Cooke who has seen the rifle range progress and improve over the years thanks to the support of The NRA Foundation.
Camp Clements has seen its fair share of fantastic shots as well. Mallory Johnson, a junior from Putnam County, has been shooting competitively for years, won countless titles, and is even training to shoot competitively at the Junior Olympics. Since she is the daughter of an agriculture teacher, she began shooting at the Camp Clements rifle range as a little girl. “The rifle range really grew my love for shooting. It is something I look forward to every year. I remember going as a kid, so it kind of feels like it’s a part of me. I learned about gun safety there at a young age, and I still use those skills in what I do now,” Johnson says.
Advancements and equipment updates at the Camp Clements rifle range have given so many students a learning experience they otherwise would never have had. With The NRA Foundation’s support of Camp Clements, they have invested in the future of safe firearm operators and have helped make recreational shooting at Camp Clements a tradition for many to enjoy.
The 2024 NRA Foundation grant application will open in early August. To learn more about The NRA Foundation, go to https://www.nrafoundation.org/