When I first met newlywed Kim Heath-Chudwin, 4 years ago at the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), I noticed her petite, fit size and great smile. She looks like the average, plain Jane, girl next door. Then, my eyes fell on her sleeved left arm and that image changed … just a bit. I’ve talked with her briefly at ILEETA each year, but never knew a whole lot about her, until recently.
This month I attended Center Mass Inc’s National Patrol Rifle Conference (NPRC) in Novi, Michigan, I had the chance to watch Kim compete in the Magnified Optics Division. This all law enforcement competition had 117 competitors (only 3 women), with 41 in Kim’s division. Oh, did I mention Kim finished in 1st place last year? Yeah, out of 130 competitors, Kim was the first women to win the entire competition.
Since Kim and I didn’t have the opportunity to chat during the NPRC, the following interview took place though email.
Michelle: What makes you such a great competitor?
Kim Heath-Chudwin: I do it for the fun and as a learning experience. The lessons I learn along the way to becoming a better shooter – whether it involves marksmanship, speed, efficient weapon manipulation, or mental discipline – are all training points I can pass along to the officers I teach. I’ve found competition makes me a better instructor. The better job I do teaching, remediating, polishing the skills of my fellow police officers, the safer we all are.
I’ve also found that being a competent and successful shooter has made an impression with the younger generation. I didn’t set out to be a role model, but I had quite a few people approach me after last year’s NPRC win and tell me how cool their daughter thought that was, or how their wife/girlfriend has taken a new interest in shooting. I think society is pretty equal when it comes to opportunities for men and women, but it is still very different for boys and girls. Girls should be proud to shoot like a girl, throw like a girl, punch, sing, giggle, kick, dance, fight or run like a girl.
Michelle: Do you practice for your competitions?
Kim Heath-Chudwin: Depends. Sometimes a lot, sometimes not much at all. Because I teach firearms classes as part of my regular job and through my state-training organizations, I can get a little burned out on shooting sometimes. When that happens, I don’t approach it from the standpoint of “going to the range to shoot,” but I pick 1 skill and think, “I’m going to the range to practice X and that’s it.” I do have the opportunity to shoot quite a bit in the classes I teach, so I get a lot of trigger time demonstrating basic drills and shooting alongside the students.
Michelle: What is your practice routine?
Kim Heath-Chudwin: When I go to the range to “practice,” sometimes I pick specific skills to work on. I will pick a fun drill and try to see how fast I can do it while still maintaining a high level of accuracy. Sometimes I practice purely for marksmanship and other times to try and push the speed envelope. One of my favorite things to do is run a drill for speed, but for each run use a slightly smaller target than the time before. The target keeps getting smaller and smaller, or I move the target a little farther away each time.
I make sure to spend time throughout the year to regularly hit all the basics: Positions, speed, accuracy, support side shooting, longer distances and very close distances. Most importantly, it has to be fun. On days I don’t feel like shooting, I may sit in chair and shoot, one-handed, while holding a cup of coffee in the other. I also like to bring out my Ruger Mark IV 10-22 takedown on days I’m lacking motivation, because you can’t shoot one of those and not have fun. One thing I have learned to recognize, though, is when my range session turns from productive to just making noise. When that happens, I muster up whatever mental focus I have left and perform whatever drill I’m working on 1 or 2 more times to end the session on a productive, professional, focused and proficient note.
Michelle: Tell us about the rifle you shoot.
Kim Heath-Chudwin: My rifle is a “Franken-gun” now. It started as a basic Rock River about 8 years ago, but everything except the upper and lower have been replaced. I’m on my 4th barrel, a Wilson Combat lightweight match [barrel]. It has a B5 systems stock, Troy handguard, BCM grip, Savvy Sniper sling, LaRue MB Trigger, MGI buffer, Yankee Hill Phantom flash hider and a Trijicon Accupoint 1-6x. I shot a 1-4x Accupoint for about 6 years and absolutely loved it so I bought a 1-6x. I like the simple triangle reticle. Since I don’t have occasion to shoot past 300 yards, I don’t need a busy reticle. The triangle is 4 MOA wide and tall, so should I need to shoot something 300 yards away with a cross wind, it’s still easy to make the necessary corrections. Also, I like that it isn’t a heavyweight. I get super-clear glass and amazing durability, without adding a lot of weight to my rifle.
Michelle: Tell us about the Women’s Tactical Association.
Kim Heath-Chudwin: The Women’s Tactical Association (WTA) was founded in 2009 by Karen Bartuch, as a conduit for training and education for female law enforcement officers. Over the years I have taught several women’s pistol and rifle classes for the WTA. We have hosted classes by Derrick Bartlett of Snipercraft, Paul Howe, Danny Halligan, and Steve Claggett, to name a few.
I’m currently the president and am trying to recruit some law enforcement women to attend the Great Lakes Law Enforcement Challenge by Armor Express, www.gllec.com, in September at the Richard Davis range in Central Lake, Michigan. Armor Express, along with the state tactical officers’ associations from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin have partnered to put together a training conference for officers in the Midwest.
There will be relevant debriefs, multiple courses of fire for all skill levels, teams as well as individual officers, and a huge treasure chest of prize giveaways. The events page has not been updated to accurately represent the individual officer courses of fire. The team courses have been modified to allow individuals to shoot them as well. I will be there and would like to not be the only woman. The standard response I get is, “I’m not good enough to shoot that,” or “I’m not on a SWAT team.” This isn’t about your ego and you don’t need to be on a team. This is about challenging yourself and improving your skills so you can perform on demand when it happens in real life.
Oh, did I mention Kim Heath-Chudwin came in second place this year at the NPRC? Way to go, Kim!
Michelle Cerino, aka Princess Gunslinger, is the managing and social media editor at The WON. Michelle is the president of Cerino Consulting and Training Group, LLC, a firearms training company she built with her husband Chris in 2011. Her path in the firearms and outdoors industries is ever progressing. She is writing, hunting, competing and doing contract work for major manufacturers. View all posts by Michelle Cerino