Katie Olson is a natural. Or about as close to it as a sharpshooter’s bullet is to a bullseye.
Olson, a 28-year-old Sheriff’s Special Officer for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, won the Top Female Shooter award at the 5th annual Law Enforcement Association of Asian Pacifics Shooting Competition in September.
Fellow OCSD women’s team member Maria Bowman took second, and their team — the OCSD’s Ladies’ Trigger Team — out-shot women’s teams from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles Police Department.
Olson also finished fifth overall against a field of 72 male and female shooters — a remarkable feat for someone who only learned to shoot three years ago.
“Actually, I think I shot once in my childhood,” Olson laughs. “I was so bad in the academy.”
Despite growing up the daughter of an avid hunter and the granddaughter of a U.S. Marine markswoman, Olson was not used to handling a firearm. And because of it, she admits to watching too many YouTube videos of women hitting themselves in the face with the kickback from a pistol.
“The instructor took me aside and said, ‘Don’t white knuckle it,’” she says. The moment she figured out shooting was more a matter of finesse than muscles, “The light went ding!’”
To earn Top Female Shooter, Olson had to succeed in two stages of speed and accuracy. The first requires shooters to fire two shots each at four targets of staggered distances, then reload and repeat — hitting as many A zone, or near bullseye, shots as possible in the shortest amount of time.
The second stage requires the shooter to alternate one-to-two shots between steel and paper targets for a total of six shots, then reload and repeat — hitting as many A zone shots as possible in the shortest amount of time.
Olson, when not serving as a bailiff in a criminal courtroom in an Orange County courthouse, often is practicing. She is at the range once a week, and much of the rest of the time “dry firing, sometimes sitting at home watching TV.”
She believes her success, and that of her team, at the range has changed perceptions about not just women’s abilities in law enforcement, but women in general. Starting with her own.
“It was very intimidating going to a competition with a bunch of guys, some even with military experience,” she said. “I’m still nervous, but I’m not intimidated like when I started. The guys are very supportive and always willing to offer a helping hand.”
The OCSD team’s success has encouraged others, with eight-to-10 law enforcement agencies in Southern California forming women’s shooting teams in the last few years. Interest within OCSD has grown substantially as well, with 25 total participants last year.
Olson admits friendly competition exists on the team, but “we actually encourage each other very much.”
And it’s paid off, because their success is based on their own hard work and talents.