Perspective. Sometimes that’s all it takes. Sixteen-year-old Kaitlin Benthin of Waldorf, Maryland says that shooting has given her a more positive outlook on life. She also noted it’s taught her firearm safety, patience and good sportsmanship. “This isn’t a sport where you use other peoples’ bad days or malfunctions to your advantage. People will help you, lend you their gun, spare parts, etc., so you can get back up and back in the competition as soon as possible.”
Shooters are generally good people—great people actually—and Kaitlin’s entry into competition was no exception. “One day (I was 9 at the time) one of my dad’s friends called him and asked if we wanted to come try shooting a Rimfire match, and so we went out that Sunday and I shot my very first match. After that I kept going back again and again and the rest is history!”
Kaitlin’s first experience with firearms actually came much earlier. She began shooting BB guns with her father at age 3, working up to a .22 LR by age 5. By age 7 she was hitting water bottles in the backyard with pistols.
Kaitlin’s father, David Benthin, said it’s hard to sum up his daughter in a few sentences. Overall, she’s well-rounded: a flute player in the marching band, participates in theater and 4-H, hunts, and has been an honors or high honors student since the third grade.
She’s been a force on the range since she began, winning the youth category in the Rimfire Challenge Shooting Association’s Worlds at age 12. She also placed first in the youth category for the East Coast Steel Challenge Championship RFRO/RFPO the same year. The year 2020 brought her 1st A Class in Area 5 Steel Challenge PCCO/RFRI.
Each year, Kaitlin has progressed through the ranks, earning more and more titles (with more and more acronyms). Last year she was the Area 7 Steel Challenge Ladies Champion RFRO/PCCO/RFPO, 1st Master Class RFRI/RFRO/PCCO, and 1st A Class RFPO. She took first master class, and the ladies and junior champion titles in the Area 8 Steel Challenge.
This year Kaitlin gave a repeat performance, holding onto to her Area 8 Steel Challenge Lady’s championship title. She placed 13th out of 243 competitors and advanced to Grand Master classification in rimfire rifle open and pistol caliber carbine open. Her list of titles from the event is overwhelming:
- Pistol Caliber Carbine Optics (PCCO) 1st Master, 1st Lady, 4th overall
- Pistol Caliber Carbine Iron (PCCI) 1st GM, 1st Lady, 1st overall
- Rimfire Pistol Open (RFRO) 1st Lady, 2nd Master, 8th overall
- Rimfire Pistol Iron Sights (RFRI) 2nd Lady, 3rd GM, 4th overall
- Master Class 2nd and 3rd Overall
- Grand Master Class 18th and 19th Overall
- Fastest PCCO and PCCI times on Outer Limits
Next on Kaitlin’s list is shooting in the 60’s. Right now, she is shooting scores in the mid-70’s and wants to be faster. She also aspires to place in the top three in the ladies and junior categories in all upcoming matches.
Even so, Kaitlin doesn’t believe in being upset. “So many people get down and upset after having a bad run on a stage. This whole sport has shown me that there’s no use in being upset or mad over that because you can’t change it. So why not have fun with it and try to make up time and do better on the next stage!”
Her father and coach echoed the sentiment.
“If she has a bad day on the range, she is still smiling and having fun … Always encouraging younger kids and her competitors, she is genuinely happy for other shooters, even if they beat her.”
Kaitlin has several great sponsors: SK Ammunition, Tandemkross, Hunters HD Gold, Palmetto State Armory, Hogue and Steel Target Paint. She uses SK Rifle Match, SK Standard Plus, SK Magazine and SK Semi-Auto in her Ruger 22/45 Lites and Ruger 10/22s. The internals come from Tandemkross and the exteriors are outfitted with Hogue grips and Striplin Custom Gunworks sights and sight mounts. She also shoots custom-built Palmetto State Armory 9mm Pistol Caliber Carbines. (She’s also “sponsored by Dad,” as her father handloads 102-grain cast bullets powder-coated to match her gun color.)
Though not everyone has this much support, Kaitlin stresses there is value in shooting for everyone. “The people are amazing and you’ll create so many new bonds. And you may not be shooting as fast as everyone else your first few times out, but the speed will come with practice and time. Just stay positive, do the best you can do, and have fun!