U.S.A. –-(Ammoland.com)- Two firearm stages included in Path Less Traveled’s second annual BF Goodrich 36 Hours of Uwharrie off-road competition—which took place on Uwharrie National Forest in North Carolina—are yet another signal that firearms are more mainstream than ever before. Competitors from across the nation gathered in August to pit their four-wheeling, winching, navigation, boating, and emergency-repair skills to the test, but they were also required to shoulder Stevens shotguns to shatter clays and hit the target with a Ruger AR-15.
“Teams must be self-sufficient as they navigate their vehicles to compete in events including Hi-Lift Jack Challenges, Extreme Degree Hill Climbs, Low Visibility Fording and Self-Recovery Winch Challenges, and much more,” the event’s website explains. “Teams must also complete a series of paddling and shooting objectives before teams are eligible to compete head to head in the ‘BFGoodrich Final Assault’.”
Billed as an “off-road triathlon,” organizer Jon Mapes told ShootingIllustrated.com, “The main events are off-roading, canoeing and shooting. The shooting fits in well with the adventurist lifestyle and the challenges give the competitors the opportunity to show they are not just off-roaders, but they are the complete package.”
That fact, and the under-explored market it was opening, didn’t escape one of the industry’s leaders. Brownells sponsored a couple for the competition—Holly “Yolo” Freeman and Johnathon “Yeti” Norvell, who competed in a 1997 Jeep. “Yeti and Yolo embody Brownells’ corporate vision,” said company CEO Pete Brownell. “Brownells hopes to inspire the spirt of freedom and independence. While we understand that not everyone will take it to the extremes that Yeti and Yolo do, their lifestyle is symbolic. They inspire others to live life every day—don’t take the gift of time for granted. They’re bold and fearless wherever they go.”
“We both yearn to experience everything life has to offer,” said Freeman. “About one year ago, we sold everything but my Jeep and ‘The Yeti.’ Literally everything—including our homes. Our life is on the road, camping in national forests where people haven’t likely been in years.”
“We’re used to the rugged lifestyle,” Norvell added. “Camping, hiking, shooting, and putting the Jeep in crazy situations is what we do frequently.”
The average citizen doesn’t consider a nomadic lifestyle punctuated with extreme competition their dream job—much less uprooting to pursue that passion—but Freeman and Norvell are “Pros” in a sport that attracts and eagerly accepts weekend warriors with nine-to-five gigs and more mainstream careers. Guns filtering into the sport sends a strong signal that firearm enthusiasm and ownership is more accepted than ever before, and growing.
Safety was foremost during the firearm events, something even novice shooters in the mix found comfort in noting. Multiple range safety officers on hand explained the rules and answered questions (without the stopwatch running), then diligently stood nearby to ensure proper handling and ensure there were violations. The staff was professional, courteous and, rightfully so, unbending in their singular mission during the competition.
Skill levels varied considerably and more than a few off-road enthusiasts were behind an AR-15 trigger for the first time. Some expressed shock at the lack of recoil and, more than likely, a few will be share that experience as they talk about the event with friends and family, spreading the enthusiasm and acceptance for firearms to an audience that may never visit a gun website otherwise.
“I’d encourage every outdoor media outlet to give the event and its shooting stages some publicity,” said Guy J. Sagi, a writer who produced a short YouTube video on the firearm competitions. “If it catches the attention of other organizers…who knows where it can lead?”