Thank you to everyone who submitted an essay telling us why they took the 1 Million Gun Challenge. Almost 1,500 essays were submitted for the "I Took the Challenge" contest and selecting only eight finalists was a challenge in and of itself. Below you can read the essays of the eight finalists — each won their choice of a Ruger® Gunsite Scout Rifle or Ruger® SR1911™. The grand prize winner, Cassie Evins, traveled to St. Louis for the 141st Annual NRA Meeting to present the final 1 Million Gun Challenge check, along with Ruger, to NRA Executive Vice President, Wayne LaPierre. Congratulations, Cassie!

Reclaiming Myself with Ruger
I never thought I would be a gun enthusiast. I wear pink, I love stilettos and enjoy getting manicures. I also never thought I would be the victim of a violent crime that would leave me feeling abused and fearful, but I was. Over the years, I found many outlets for my fears and frustrations stemming from this assault. None, however, gave me the confidence that shooting did. I purchased my first Ruger®, a Mark III™ 22/45™. Everything about it felt right in my hands. It was a natural extension of my body. When I fired that Ruger for the first time, I felt my "victim" mentality transform into a confident survivor lifestyle. Where I had once felt powerless, I was now powerful. With every bullet that hit the bull's-eye, I reclaimed a small part of me that had been forcibly taken away. This confidence carried over into every other aspect of my life. Ruger is so much more than a firearms manufacturer to me. It is a company that has returned a lot of joy to my life.

I had decided to wait to purchase another firearm until I graduated from Texas A&M, until I heard about the 1 Million Gun Challenge. I am a Second Amendment advocate and a supporter of concealed carry on campus at Texas A&M University. I am a firm believer that responsible gun ownership leads to a safer society. I think the fear of guns is one of the most dangerous themes in society today. We should all respect firearms, but not fear them. The NRA does an excellent job of educating the public, and defending our God-given right to defend ourselves. Ruger has been such a big part of my growth as a gun owner that I wanted to help the company reach its goal. For this reason, I purchased a Ruger 10/22® on February 21, 2012 in support of the 1 Million Gun Challenge and the National Rifle Association. I want to continue to support a company that gives Americans jobs and brings pride to our nation. I bought this firearm to show support for Ruger, the National Rifle Association, and to continue my journey as a survivor who has reclaimed herself.