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The Next Generation

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Photo by Lauren Morrow/

We'd like to thank Robby and Hattie Johnson for lending us their daughter, 11-year-old Jenavee, for the cover of our Next Generation-themed issue.

When we decided on the next-gen theme for the first RECOIL of 2017, we wanted it to be a tribute to the people most important to us all – those who'll pick up where we leave off.

We spent weeks searching for the right cover model when a friend of the magazine suggested Jenavee. We'd come to find out she was born and raised by a couple of true American shooters.

Hattie Johnson learned to shoot with her father and began competing at age 11, qualifying for the Junior Olympics in her first year of competition. Laser-focused on becoming an Olympian, she hit the range four days a week, and on nights too cold to shoot, you'd find her in the family basement with an airgun.

She continued to compete throughout her teens and enlisted in the Army, landing a spot on the prestigious Army Marksmanship Unit. A few years later, after meeting Robby on a blind date and subsequently marrying him, she finally made it to the Olympics in 2004, competing in Athens while pregnant with Jenavee.

Robby Johnson started shooting at 7 with his father. They both hunted, and his dad and uncle competed in benchrest matches, so long-range shooting was part of his upbringing. The combination of a Remington 700 under the Christmas tree and a 500-yard shot on a groundhog ignited his ambition of becoming a military sniper. In high school, he worked at the local gun shop and took advantage of slow periods to practice on the indoor range.

He enlisted in '97 and bounced between the 75th Ranger Regiment and the AMU, serving as a service rifle and action pistol shooter in the AMU and a sniper in the Regiment. He was a sniper team leader during the seizure of Haditha Dam in 2003, where he was presented with a Bronze Star with V Device for his actions. Later, he'd rack up more than a dozen titles and wins. Here's a few: First Place '08 and '09 International Sniper Competition, '05 All-Army Long Range Service Rifle Champion, '03 Top Team and High Shooter, Special Operations Sniper Competition. He now works for Q LLC, a new firearm company based in southern New Hampshire.

Jenavee was the couple's firstborn, with Clayton, 8 years old, and Lawson, 5 years old, following.

The Johnsons are raising their children as they were raised – not to fear firearms, but to respect them. “Guns and ammo were always laying around,” says Hattie. “My dad taught us the safety behind them, though, and it's the same thing with our kids.”

As parents ourselves, we can attest that a kid's first emergency room visit is a right of passage. Hattie recalls her E.R. scare when a .38 Super round went missing from the kitchen table and they feared Jenavee had swallowed it. It turns out she didn't. But, when this happens after she'd already attended her first Olympic shooting match in utero, it's not hard to wonder if fate took an interest in Jenavee's shooting career early on.

She says, even as the oldest, her brothers sometimes still steal her thunder on the range. Jenavee will practice positional shooting until her back hurts.

Her mom says she's both a pink, girly girl and a tomboy. She races motocross and puts on her own fake eyelashes for dance and figure skating competitions.

“We've lost a generation of kids who grew up having to hunt and fish,” says Robby. “Now, kids don't keep score – everyone gets a trophy. But in shooting, there's only one way to compete, and that's by keeping score.”

Thanks again to the Johnsons for nurturing the next generation of freedom-loving firearm enthusiasts.

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