Kevin Nevius—Champion Rifleman and Gunsmith

posted on May 19, 2017

Champion shooter Kevin Nevius grew up in a household that did not allow firearms, an unlikely beginning for one of the United States’ premier prone rifleman and gunsmiths. Once out on his own he fell in with his brother who enjoyed long-range varmint hunting. His natural bent for things mechanical (he is a professional structural engineer) soon had him tinkering with rifles, which eventually led him to building his own.

Kevin Nevius on the line during the 2014 Smallbore Championships at Bristol, IN.

In the late 1980s, a hunting companion, who shot smallbore rifle competitively, dragged Nevius into the gallery to shoot in a three position league. Badly bitten by the smallbore bug, he was frustrated and struggling with standing and eventually gave up position to focus on prone. Soon afterward, he discovered long-range high power prone. The transition was easy, for belly shooting skills are the same no matter the caliber or distance. All it really required of him was to build a center-fire prone rifle. He soon became quite adept at both disciplines.

Living in the heart of Ohio, Nevius was fortunate to be associated with a host of great rifleman such as Paul Gideon, Carl Jooss, and Gerald “Mouse” Wise who advised and encouraged him. By 1996. he won the first of his numerous Ohio State Conventional Smallbore Prone Rifle titles. which include a record-setting run of eight consecutive wins. The smallbore championships were on the horizon when he shot his way to the first of his many Ohio State Long-Range titles in 1998.

Nevius broke onto the national scene in 1999 when he finished in the top 20 in the metallic sight championship at Camp Perry, and was named to the U.S. Dewar Team—a feat he has since accomplished several more times. He was also a firing member of the Ohio State Team that won three prone titles at Camp Perry.

Living in a small hamlet close to Camp Perry, Nevius found it easy to shoot both smallbore and long-range nationals. He made the short ride home from Perry in 2005 with two trophies safely belted into the shotgun seat of his Corvette: The Sierra Trophy, emblematic of winning the 1000-yard Palma aggregate, and the Doc Aitken Trophy, which was won at 1000 yards with a match and shoot-off total score of 398-11X. The following year, the Sierra Trophy again made the same trip.

Kevin Nevius hefts the Critchfield Trophy for the second time, making him the 12th person to have won the coveted trophy more than once in its storied 80-year history.
Everything fell into line for him in smallbore during the 2008 season. After shooting a series of training matches in which he was most successful, he arrived at Camp Perry at the peak of performance and won his first National Smallbore Rifle Conventional Prone Championship. It was a most auspicious win, as it also earned him a place on the 2009 U.S. Pershing Team, his first shoulder-to-shoulder international team.

While 2009 was a bit of a letdown after the high of 2008, he came back strong in 2010, winning the inaugural individual National Smallbore Rifle Metric Prone Championship, as well as the team title at Bristol, IN. A few weeks later, and 175 miles further east at Camp Perry, he chalked up another major victory as he joined a very exclusive club. There are only 14 individual trophies awarded in national long-range competition and only one person can be the winner of the inaugural match. Nevius outscored all those using a Palma rifle in the NRA National Long-Range High Power Championship to be the first to take possession of the Bert Rollins Memorial Trophy.

Along the way, Nevius has won some impressive national records. In conventional competition he co-holds the 1200-shot metallic sight aggregate record of 1200-102X. He was just one shot short of perfection in the 480 aggregate, where he holds the civilian record of 4799-412X, just one point behind, and 11 Xs ahead of, Joe Hein’s 4800-401X open record.

Nevius was back on his game in 2014 with an amazing conventional championship experience. After dropping a point on the first day, he fell into second place behind Olympian Eric Uptagrafft. When you are behind the likes of Uptagrafft, you are behind one of the hardest holders on the globe. Over the next three days Nevius was perfect, while everyone else was not. His 4799 gave him his second conventional title and his third national crown in six years. To add whipped cream and a cherry to his week, he teamed with Remington Lyman to win the Randle Double/mentor Match with a perfect 800X800, and then was the high scorer on the U.S. Dewar team, shooting an outstanding 397 on the difficult International target.

One of his goals is to build a rifle that will shoot a 3/8th inch group at 100 yards.
Nevius, a soft spoken gentleman, is generous with his time and knowledge to all comers. He vividly displayed the very special shooting sportsmanship when, after clearing the line, he would neatly pile his gear under his pop-up and then entertain Uptagrafft. They fraternally discussed, in exquisite detail, how to build a winning rifle, for the rifle each man shot in the tournament was a product of their own ingenuity and skill.

The pair would go head-to-head over the course of the next several days: Nevius first in conventional, Uptagrafft second, while Uptagrafft took Metric, and Nevius was second. A casual observer would never guess the ferocity of their competition, while watching them nonchalantly discuss such arcane subjects as lard-based cutting oil or the delicate use of a number five file during barrel chambering.

Nevius claims he owes his accomplishments to four people. The foundation of his success, he is quick to brag, is his wife Dianna and his two children, Zachery and Kelsey, who have supported his obsession with good-natured tolerance through all times, good and bad.
Building and shooting accurate rifles is his passion, but he is a devoted husband and father who enjoys a good dark beer, pasta in any shape or form, and following the travails of the Cleveland Indians.
The fourth is his mentor, fellow Ohioan and two-time prone champion Paul Gideon. Nevius claims that Gideon channels another two-time national prone champion from the Buckeye state, Dianna Ron West. Within the smallbore prone community, known for its meticulous attention to detail, Gideon stands head and shoulders above the rest for his absolute intolerance of anything less than perfection. Gideon’s high standards drives Nevius, who knows that to have any hope of beating his close friend, he has to mirror his expectations in performance, equipment and ammunition.

While shooting occupies a good deal of his free time, Nevius is multidimensional. Building and shooting accurate rifles is his passion, but he is a devoted husband and father who enjoys a good dark beer, pasta in any shape or form, and following the travails of the Cleveland Indians. Before embarking on his successful engineering career, he misspent a small part of his youth playing piano in a rock band. Normally calm and measured, he will occasionally slip into the fast lane to unwind with a spin in his Corvette Z06.

Sporting a resume that would equal the lifetime achievement for most shooters, he still has goals. His first shooting love is smallbore and in that arena he aims to win more prone titles; earn a slot on the 2021 U.S. Pershing Team; and build a rifle that will shoot a 3/8th inch group at 100 yards—the Holy Grail of a smallbore gunsmith.

Kevin Nevius is very much like the groups he shoots, well rounded and centered.


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