Tim Norris I was in the top ﬁve for the Ruger and NSSF Rimﬁre Challenge World Championships from 2008 to 2014. I was also the 2013 Briley West Coast Steel Championship riﬂe champion.
ASJ How did you get started in shooting?
TN I was 8 years old the ﬁrst time I pulled a trigger. I was on a family camping trip in the mountains just outside of Phoenix, Ariz. My father put a 1911 in my hands, helped me support it and bang! It was the greatest thrill of my life up to that point, and I was forever hooked.
ASJ So, your parents clearly encouraged you?
TN Yes. My parents saw how much I enjoyed it and knew how important it was for me to learn ﬁrearm safety and discipline. They enrolled me in a hunter-safety course. Then it got good. My Christmas gifts between the ages of 9 and 10 were ﬁrearms: a .410 shotgun, .22 riﬂe and .22 pistol. I still have those guns today, and every time I handle them they bring back fond memories.
ASJ What made you want to continue?
TN When I was 18, I joined the US Navy and spent six years on active duty. The Navy is where I was introduced to a new world of really fun ﬁrearms, from the M14 to the M2 Browning and everything in between.
ASJ Thank you for your service, Tim! When did you decide you wanted to compete?
TN In 1988 I joined a local club that ran a combat-pistol match every month. Combat shooting, as it was referred to in less politically correct times, was still a fairly new sport and as such was still evolving rapidly. Back then there were few veteran shooters, let alone pros around to draw experience from, so I just had to jump in with both feet and hope for the best.
ASJ What was your ﬁrst competition like for you?
TN My ﬁrst tournament-level competition was the 1991 World Speed Shooting Championships, and it was intimidating. Back then you would pick up the leading shooting magazines and read about the pros and world championship events, and it looked like a lot of fun. The problem was that I didn’t have a clue what it took to compete, so again as before, I jumped in head ﬁrst and hoped that the water was deep enough, but not too deep.
ASJ What did you learn from your ﬁrst event?
TN At the ﬁrst Steel Challenge, there were 30 pros and the other 250 competitors were just like me. Most of us who shoot competitively started just like this, and we continue to compete for the love of the sport. It has become less daunting after a few trips to the shooter’s box. Even though we were novices we had a reliable support network.
ASJ What type of events have you competed in over the years?
TN Over the years, I have shot many diﬀerent kinds of competition, but I am most active in NSSF Rimﬁre Challenge, United States Practical Shooting Association – pistol and riﬂe – and 3-Gun. I love to compete because it pushes me to improve, and I get to hang out with some of the greatest people around.
ASJ When did you get sponsored?
TN In 2009 I realized a lifelong goal of becoming a sponsored shooter and have been on the Volquartsen Firearms team ever since. One of the best side eﬀects of being sponsored is the ability to teach clinics for novice shooters to help them enter the world of competitive shooting.
ASJ It’s great that you take the time to help others. I know you said you are very involved with the NSSF Rimﬁre Challenge. I have heard wonderful things about those events. It is a .22 riﬂe and pistol program created to introduce new people to the shooting sports and provide a pathway to competition. Everyone will want to know what types of ﬁrearms you shoot with and why.
TN I use a 4½-inch Volquartsen Scorpion pistol with a custom Volquartsen compensator, a C-MORE Systems railway dot sight with an 8-minute dot. The sight is attached to a Bearcave Manufacturing 90-degree mount. The pistol has Hogue 1911 stocks that are modiﬁed to ﬁt, and the magazines have a VC spring-loaded magazine ejector. My riﬂe is a Volquartsen Ultralight with a Boyd SS Evolution stock, C-MORE Systems RTS red-dot sight with a 3-minute dot. The sight is mounted scout-riﬂe style on the front end of a VC Picatinny scope mount and has an Alchin Gun Parts rimﬁre riﬂe compensator. I shoot Fiocchi 22FHVCRN high-velocity ammo.
ASJ Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today, Tim. Keep us in the loop on your progress – we will be watching.
TN Will do. Thank you.
Editor’s note: If you have questions for Tim Norris, please send them directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Her first rifle was an S&W MP15-22, initially fired off the bench and later unsupported. Alexis is small for an 8-year-old, so gun weight has been a concern. Constant physical exercise and good technique have allowed her to run adult-size firearms effectively. After she attended several rimfire matches, Tandemkross, a New Hampshire company specializing in parts for customizing competition guns, sponsored her. In the summer of 2015, I was introduced to the Welch family, who live in Owensboro, Ky., which is along the Ohio River across from Indiana, and have been following Alexis’ progress ever since.
This girl’s main talent goes beyond pure shooting ability: she’s enthusiastic, effective and friendly. Articulate and unaffected, Alexis can work with adults, as well as play with kids. Picking up where Tryce started, firearm coaches Gary Welborn and Bob Sanders volunteered their time to train her, and during her first public shoot, Dani Bryan, a female firearms instructor and competitive shooter, took the time to coach her too. Alexis is very popular with teen marksmen as well, many of them treating her as an honorary little sister, and helping her learn more about the sport. She’s recently gained the affectionate nickname “Monkey,” and ran with it.
After Tandemkross, she was discovered by many sponsors to include Volquartsen Custom, Leupold Optics, Striplin Custom, Owensboro Rifle and Pistol Club, Sound Gear, Beck Defense, Gemtech, Weapon Shield and, unofficially, Trijicon. Besides institutional sponsors, Alexis has also been supported by the Bragg family, Richard and Carol Stokes and over 1,750 other fans who hail from as far away as Brazil and Russia. A custom rifle maker, Fighting Sheepdog, just joined in with a truly unique, pint-sized AR-15 that has a hydraulic-recoil compensator and other personalized features to make it just right for this diminutive shooter. Tryce supplies the chauffeuring and the ammunition.
My first photo shoot with Alexis was a pleasant surprise. There aren’t too many adults, much less preteen kids, who can keep focused and enthusiastic about work for over 10 hours with only a few short breaks. Alexis could, and she did it with good cheer. Her images proved to be marketing gold, equally for promoting shooting sports, the right to bear arms and her increasingly numerous sponsors. Her eagerness to surmount every available challenge energizes her fans and supporters.
Starting with Steel Challenge in May, Alexis has participated in NSSF Rimfire Challenge, USPSA and multi-gun competitions. She’s had a good start on her future titles by winning the Indiana State Steel Challenge Champion Ladies 12 and under open category. Most recently, she was a guest at an event organized by Hunter “Nubbs” Cayll, known for shooting competitively even though he does not have hands, and shot her first event with a full-sized AR-15. Just prior to that, she helped in the production of a video for a veteran fundraiser, competently running M249 and M60 machine guns, as well as firing a 7.62mm SVD sniper rifle that intimidated some of the adult participants. She’s a member of Ozark Mountain Lead Slingers youth group, USPSA Juniors and a noncompeting member of 4-H Shooting Sports. Not limiting her interests to gunfire, Alexis plays soccer and softball, sings, plays music and practices gymnastics. Proving wrong many who perceive kids who shoot as hillbillies, she’s also a straight-A student. She’s already giving back by helping her 5-year-old brother learn gun safety and marksmanship, and often helps instruct adult novices as well.
Alexis’ plan for the future is to excel in shooting sports, get a college education and serve in the military. She will probably do well with it, given a history of challenges such as being born deaf and having to do speech therapy after successive surgeries. She’s already an effective ambassador for gun rights and shooting sports. To expand on the saying that the mind is the weapon and everything else is just a tool, I would estimate that the personality and mind of Alexis Welch will play a large role in the next generation’s work to retain our firearms freedoms. ASJ
Editor’s Note: You can follow Alexis on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/alexisnicolefanclub.
The American Shooting Journal was proud to have Alexis Welch on the cover of our February 2016 issue.
Posted in Shooters Tagged with: 4-H Sports, Alexis Nicole, Alexis Welch, Beck Defense, Blackhawk Axxiom Stock, Bob Sanders, Carol Stokes, CMore Sight, Dani Bryan, Fighting Sheepdog, Gary Welborn, Gemtech, Hunter "Nubbs" Cayll, Leupold Optics, M249, M60, NSSF Rimfire Challenge, Oleg Volk, Owensboro RIfle and Pistol Club, Ozark Mountain Lead Slingers Youth Group, Richard Stokes, S&W MP15-22, Sound Gear, Striplin Custom, Tandemkross, Trijicon, Tryce Welch, USPSA, Volquartsen, Weapon Shield, Youth Shooter
The original function of the basic Ruger 10-22 was reliable shooting with passable accuracy. Over time more specialized models appeared, such as heavy-barreled target versions for utmost accuracy, and lightweight take-down designs for portability. Gunmaker Scott Volquartsen’s genius was to find a way to combine light weight with high accuracy. His UltraLite .22 is a featherweight even by rimfire standards, with the barreled action massing under 2.5 pounds, and the lightest of the stocks adding less than a pound to that. The lighter weight is mainly attributed to the materials used for the barrel: a carbon-fiber tube with a thin steel liner.
Carbon fiber has been used in the aerospace industry since the 1970s. Light, strong and distinctive looking, it has more recently become the prestigious and coveted component of fast cars, super-light bicycles, portable but rigid camera tripods and last, but not least, competition rifles. Thermal expansion of carbon-fiber parts is half steel and a third aluminum. That’s a great plus for all carbon-fiber constructions, but presents additional challenges to mixed-metal and composite designs. The same challenges are, of course, present whenever any two materials are mixed in an area subject to intense heat. More importantly for the shooters, carbon fiber conducts heat half as quickly as steel and nearly ten times slower than aluminum, protecting the shooter’s hands from burns. Wood insulates even better, but a much greater thickness is required for the same strength. The insulating quality of the material is terrific for hunters who don’t subject their barrels to intense heat. This is also true for rimfire shooters whose guns burn miniscule amounts of powder with each shot.
On the down side, carbon-fiber composites are expensive, and machining them uses up drill bits fast! That’s partly the reason why the Volquartsen UltraLite lists for $1,100. The other is the adjustable 2-pound trigger which, by itself, sells for $260. The fit and finish of this gun is far ahead of the standard 10-22, which the UltraLite shares an overall design with, but the details are much finer. The muzzle, for example, may be threaded for a sound suppressor or for Volquartsen’s well-designed muzzle brakes. Since the 22LR has little recoil, much of the brake function is to divert the noise of the report away from the shooter. Other options include extended magazine releases, numerous hard-anodized colors, a variety of stocks, and either a Picatinny rail or threaded holes for direct mounting of the industry-standard C-More red-dot sight. All said and done, one of these rifles will cost from $1,400 to $2,000. What kind of performance would you get for that much money?
Practical accuracy is often unachievable even with mechanically accurate lightweight rifles because pulling the trigger would disturb the aim. With the crisp, highly adjustable triggers of the UltraLite, the entire potential of the precision barrel proved easy to realize with good ammunition. With bulk loss-leader cartridges, groups were as huge as 2 inches at 25 yards. The CCI Mini mags shot slightly better than 1-inch groups at 25. Eley Match grouped pretty much on top of each other, with 2/3-inch groups at 50 yards! It pays to put premium ammunition into this premium gun. The other contributor to accuracy is the rigid laminate thumbhole stock, which locks the rifle securely to the shooter’s hold.
The emphasis on weight becomes important in two venues: hunting and competition. Meant mainly for rimfire steel challenge and similar fast-paced disciplines, the UltraLite swings quickly and easily. The greatest benefit accrues to kids and smaller-statured women. With Blackhawk Axiom’s collapsible stock and a red-dot sight, the UltraLite used by eight-year-old competitive marksman Alexis Nicole is still under 3.5 pounds, and fits her tiny frame perfectly. When she grows up, the same stock extended will still fit her. For now, variable length means the ability to fine tune the length of pull for standing, sitting or prone positions. Without the carbon-fiber barrel, she would have had to use a thin, sportier-weight steel barrel, get less accuracy and still struggle with more weight up front.
Lightweight rifles also give an advantage to hunters who use bigger scopes and sound suppressors. Even with a hefty varmint scope and a rimfire silencer, the resulting rig is portable and not excessively front-heavy. Placing the same accessories onto a bull barrel 10-22 would have resulted in a barely portable rifle that would also be difficult to steady offhand. Ruger’s own target model weighs more than twice as much! Could a big, strong male wrestle this rifle along? Sure. But it would be less fun for him, and next to impossible for the bantam-sized rifle operators like Alexis. Since weight and balance are critical for teen and preteen competitors, the extra cost is hardly optional. Without the investment of this specialized tool, the next generation of competitive shooters would have to wait a couple of years before starting out. ASJ