Dawsonville resident Tristan Melton, 13, has garnered national recognition for his performance in various recent rifle competitions.
A rising eighth-grader at Dawson County Middle School, Melton has earned three first-place medals, been named a state champion and set a National Rifle Association record in his sub-junior class. All since April.
The rifle competitions are part of a seven-match series sanctioned by the NRA, of which Melton is a member.
Due to his success, Melton was recently invited to participate in the NRA National Rifle and Pistol Championship at Camp Perry in Ohio.
Although he has been shooting guns his entire life, Melton did not compete until 2011.
"Last year when I first started shooting, my dad and I would practice a few nights before the competition," Melton said. "We would go out to the range and set up the 50-foot targets and shoot.
"We would get me using my arms and making sure I have the strength."
To make the top scores at the rifle competitions participants must hit within a certain proximity to the eye of a target.
In order to make such shots, Melton said a rifleman must be mentally focused and calm.
"You have to have upper arm strength because you have to hold the gun steady," he said. "You have got to be mentally prepared and you can't get down on a bad shot so you keep missing. You have to get over it and make better shots."
Melton said he currently shoots a Smith and Weston MP 1522. For his first year competing he didn't use the scope in hopes it would better his natural aim.
Wayne Melton, Tristan's father and a 22-year Dawsonville resident, said shooting is in his family's blood.
"Guns have been a part of my family since before my dad," he said. "Every boy or girl born into the family gets a gun bought the day they are born."
He recalled the first time he taught Tristan to shoot.
"He was 13 months old when I took him on our back porch, sat him in my lap, put earmuffs on him and wrapped my hands around his on a little pistol," he said.
"I let him shoot and he looked back at my wife with the biggest smile. She said, ‘You just ruined him.'"
Tristan Melton hopes to use his rifle skills for a future career.
He said he looks to join a collegiate shooting team after high school and then either join the military or get a job with the NRA or a gun manufacturer.
Outside of NRA-sanctioned competitions, Melton said he enjoys hunting and skeet shooting.