You've likely seen the video: A young girl, slight of build, donned in tactical gear. Her strawberry blonde hair pulled into a short ponytail that wags eagerly as she maneuvers an outdoor 3-gun course. She sashays with rifle, then shotgun, then pistol plucking targets along the way with the same confidence you'd see in a Peter Berg movie, albeit if Mark Wahlberg were smaller and a girl.
Millions continue to marvel at this young woman's swift and commanding precision sufficient to get to share the range with countless LEOs and operators. Yet beyond the camo and sponsor-emblazoned kit, she still relishes finding the perfect prom dress which, incidentally, is pink, poofy and sparkly! It's also the frock she poses in on her Facebook profile. Clearly she finds accessorizing easy when it's a Ranger Proof AR. Such is the life of Katelyn “Katie” Francis who has spent much of her 18 years with a firearm in one hand and the occasional Starbucks in the other.
Rightly described as a phenom, Francis is an unassuming young woman who now attends university and is preparing to take her MCATs, the requisite test of all medical school admissions. Despite Francis' acclaim including serving as tactical brand ambassador for 5•11 and boasting sponsors like Fiocchi, Benelli, and Vortex Optics, she is earnest and refreshing. Charm likely cultivated from growing up in a small town in Missouri with a father who himself is an accomplished retired Army veteran.
The eldest of three girls, Katie's father was a stickler on rules. They couldn't even hold a weapon until they fully understood the importance of safety and responsibility. It was clear that Katie not only loved the sport but possessed a prodigious talent. “I started learning the safety and how firearms work as well as starting to shoot them at the age of 5 followed by local pistol competitions at the age of 9 and 3-gun at the age of 12,” she recalls.
Katie grew up in a hunting community so girls with guns weren't unusual. With an increasing spotlight, however, she knows there are some ingrained perceptions still at play. “As women we are looked at as weaker and fragile so I think it's great when a woman goes to the range and shows the guys up!”
Such perceptions are waning thanks to trailblazers like Katie and one of her biggest thrills is when young kids and women approach her and tell her she's the reason they're now involved in the sport. It doesn't hurt that Katie's accomplishments include representing the US in the 2015 World Shotgun Championship in Italy, and this summer she will travel to France to do it again.
Opportunities to enjoy a global audience wouldn't be possible without the support of sponsors and Katie has particular praise for her longest. “Since I became a 5•11 Tactical Brand Ambassador it has opened so many doors to me. I've gotten to meet so many great people and have gotten to travel to some really cool places.”
The retailer is no stranger to providing ambassador platforms for role models who embody the precepts of honor, courage, and pride, which is also one of the reasons Katie loves the company. “I love that they will do anything to help those who have sacrificed for our country and they [5•11] have supported Folds of Honor the last couple years and I always wear my Folds of Honor t-shirt proudly,” she exclaims.
Still a young woman, Katie has an exciting future that includes plans to become a doctor. While academics will be a priority for now, don't think she'll be hanging up her holster any time soon. “I have made so many great friends and connections in the shooting community that I can't imagine my life without it!”