Rising Shooting Stars: Katie Blankenship

What started as an after-school activity to support her hunting passion turned into a passion all its own.

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posted on July 6, 2023
Blankenship Lede

Twenty-five-year-old Katie Blankenship was one of three women to represent the United States as a member of the F-Open Rifle Team in the 2023 F-Class World Championships. She traveled and competed with her 20-year-old sister, Kaycie Blankenship, also an accomplished shooter.

For years Katie’s main interest in shooting came from hunting. She began shooting a BB gun around age five with her dad and hunted small game in Arizona until she was old enough to hunt deer and elk. She is incredibly grateful to her father and values the time they spend outdoors together. “He taught great safety and appreciation for firearms and marksmanship. He will always be my favorite hunting partner and outdoorsman,” she said.

Katie began shooting F-Class in 2012 as a member of the Wickenburg High School Rifle Team in Arizona, joining the team to further her long-range shooting abilities for hunting. She was the team’s top performer all four years of high school, and as a high school senior claimed High Junior and High Woman awards in the Arizona state championships ... and even helped set a Junior Team NRA National Record. She graduated high school in 2016 and took over as assistant coach of the Wickenburg team while continuing to compete until 2018.

What started as an after-school activity to support her hunting passion turned into a passion all its own. “Dedication and perseverance are two things that come to mind when I think of my shooting journey,” Katie said. “Over the course of 11 years, marksmanship has rewarded and humbled me many times on the range as I learned my equipment, reloading and the wind. F-Class requires not only complete focus and discipline on the range, but a special dedication outside of the competition in countless hours of reloading and science-based load development to perfectly tune your rifle for the utmost accuracy. Most F-Class shooters are looking for ¼-minute accuracy on the target to be competitive on the range. This sport has taught me to be patient, precise and extremely dedicated to precision and accuracy on and off the range. Failing or losing is just another opportunity to learn and try again.”

Katie’s impressive shooting resume includes NRA national records, Mid-Range and Long Range High Master classifications, third place at the U25 National Championships in 2019, first place at the El Capitan Regional in 2020, and first place individual at the Desert Classic Invitational in 2021.

Though these are only a few of Katie’s accomplishments, she says traveling to South Africa with the USA F-Class Rifle Team is her proudest achievement. She earned 13 medals between the South African Nationals and the South African F-Class World Championships in March/April 2023. She was the Overall High Woman, 2nd Place Junior and on the 1st Place Chairman’s Team at the South African Nationals. She was the 3rd Place Junior and on the 2nd Place Rutland Team at the worlds. It was also special she was able to experience it with her sister, Kaycie, who also shot on the 1st Place Chairman’s Team and 2nd Place Rutland Team.

Like many other juniors, Katie’s favorite part of shooting is the camaraderie among fellow shooters. At the highest level, it can be easy to envy your teammates and be jealous of success. Katie attests that even though “F-Class shooting is a highly competitive situation between determined and skilled individuals, everyone celebrates each other’s wins.”

Besides being able to depend on your teammates, you also need to be able to depend on your equipment. Katie’s current F-Class rifle was built by Blake Barrel and Rifle of Phoenix, Arizona. It features a Cerus Rifleworks stock, Borden Rifleworks BRLXD action, 7mm Blake Barrel chambered in FClassProducts wildcat cartridge (7 FCP), Bix’n Andy Competition Benchrest Trigger, R.A.D System and a Nightforce Competition scope. She also uses a Dima sandbag and a SEB Mini front rest.

While her current competition setup may be intimidating, Katie encourages new shooters to just start shooting. “Many established shooters in this sport have spent a lot of time and money building their custom rifles and acquiring their equipment,” she explained. “Do not be discouraged or feel that you need exactly what they are using to begin, use what you have and start shooting, as you gain experience in your shooting form, reloading and wind reading abilities you will see the areas to build on. Experience is the greatest teacher so take what you have to the range, and you will learn what you need to be competitive.”

Katie has also turned her shooting experience into a career, working for FClassProducts/Blake Barrel and Rifle. She aspires to represent the U.S. again in London in 2026.

 

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