She’s established herself as a force to be reckoned with in action pistol and long-range rifle competitions. But there’s more to Krystal Dunn than bullets and bullseyes. In fact, the story of how this Federal brand ambassador got here, what trips her trigger, and how she encourages others to embrace their personal passions offers inspiration for us all.

“My introduction to the shooting sports is kind of a funny story,” she begins. “I grew up having occasional pistol range days with my dad and other family members, but that was the extent of my firearms experience. I never shot any sort of long guns or hunted—hunting seemed to require a lot of being quiet, which wasn't my strong suit.”

A Fresh Start

At 24, she opened her own beauty salon. While helping customers improve their image, she also dispensed advice on expanding their personal horizons. “I made it a point to encourage other young female clients—especially those who needed post-breakup counseling—to learn to truly enjoy their time alone by pursing passions that somehow enriched them or their lives,” she recalls. “After my own breakup, I decided to take my own advice.”

Dunn tried her hand at a variety of activities from woodworking to break-dancing before eventually settling her crosshairs on competitive shooting. “It only took a couple of YouTube videos to convince me I needed to try it,” she says. “I did more research, picked up whatever gear I could afford at the time, took a firearms training class and set out to the range solo for my first match.”

Today she competes in pistol competitions via the U.S. Practical Shooting Association and Pistol Caliber Carbine matches, along with long-range rifle matches including the Precision Rifle Series. “I shoot locally, regionally and nationally whenever possible,” she says.

Dunn’s list of accomplishments is impressive, though she says her proudest moments are not limited to high scores and victories. “I’ve had various class and high-lady wins at major matches in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska and Texas,” she reports. “But I think my biggest achievement might be a split decision. Technically speaking, learning to self-analyze and practice is one of the most important things I've implemented that has translated into direct results.

“More than anything, I'm proud that embarking on this journey into shooting sports and simply following my passion has allowed me to inspire others, especially women, to look at trying something they never even considered,” she continues. “I've had people reach out to me on every end of the spectrum—from those who enjoyed occasional range days and now want to try shooting sports, to those who never thought they would pick up a gun. Seeing someone they can relate to enjoying shooting sports with family and friends really lowers the intimidation factor, and makes some people think differently about what positive experiences they might have from braving their first trip to the range.”

Dunn also enjoys a variety of other aspects of the competitive shooting experience. “I’ve met people on the range who have become life-long friends and family,” she says. “We travel together, train together, and just hang out and have fun together. That has really been invaluable to me. As far as shooting itself, I love that it is a sport where you are always challenging yourself—it’s you versus you, really. I’m always trying to beat my last match performance, my fastest practice run, and so on. There is such measurable improvement in shooting and that really drives me to want to do better.”

Training Day

Toward that end, she follows a targeted practice regimen. “I'm currently trying to get dry fire in at least three days a week and to the range for a live-fire session at least once a week,” she reports. “Most of the time, you can train the fundamentals and have your bases covered. But many matches have their own flavor, so I try to keep that in mind while preparing. If they list stages ahead of time I take note of any odd start positions or gun handling and practice that as well.”

She also offers straight advice to fellow shooters hoping to improve their game. “Get organized and have a plan,” she says. “There are lots of great resources shooters can utilize—from YouTube videos and Instagram to books and classes. Video yourself practicing and at matches as often as possible. This helps you learn to self-identify and analyze weak areas in your game that you need to work on. Structure your live- and dry-fire sessions in an organized way, so you have a plan and are ready to go once you put on your gear. This helps you make the most of your time and avoid getting bored with your training.”

Reaching Out

Dunn’s day job is still at the salon. And she still encourages young women to follow their passions. But these days, she also has specific advice for those interested in the shooting sports. “I tell them not to overthink it think it and just go for it!” she says. “I think many of us get intimidated or talk ourselves out of trying new things. Most of the shooting community is overwhelmingly welcoming. If you follow the safety rules and aren’t afraid to ask for direction, most people are more than happy to help make sure you have a great experience at the range.”

Along with encouraging others to give shooting sports a shot, Dunn has a number of other personal goals in her sights. “I would really like to shoot an international match in the future,” she says. “IPSC has a slightly different rule set and style, so I think that would be an exciting new experience. I also have practice goals including frequency and technical marks, as well as match performance goals. Time management will be key for me. We all have things we have to juggle, so just building the practice into my schedule will really set me up to take advantage of our short practice season here in Minnesota.”