New Season of Top Shot

Reality-type TV shows about guns and shooting can be a bit of a divisive subject for gunnies, and I’m personally not a fan of any of them – with one exception. The problem is that the shows are, as a general rule, manipulated to be all about drama instead of the nominal subject matter. They rely on being flashy and doing things that will look really impressive to people who don’t really understand what is involved. Many people are of the opinion that as a result, they give a pretty negative impression of shooters and gunnies to the general population who watches. At best, they are littered with technical errors and interesting only in the “train wreck; can’t not watch” vein.

The exception to my mind is the History Channel’s show “Top Shot“. If you haven’t ever watched it, the basic premise is a marksmanship competition between 16 shooters, eliminating one each week until a single winner remains. Pretty simple. What I really enjoy with Top Shot is that there is an extremely wide array of guns used, fantastic challenging shots, and genuinely outstanding shooters. Previous seasons have used guns from flintlocks to vintage Hotchkiss breechloading cannons to tactical black ARs and everything in between (the first episode this season used an SVT-40, FAL, and AR). The shooting has involved things like Annie Oakley’s over-the-shoulder mirror shooting, blindfolded shooting, wobbly platforms, moving targets, and much more. Thanks to the production budget of the show, they can set up really amazing shooting scenarios that would be hugely impractical to replicate on a private individual range.

Top Shot Season 5 Episode 1 screen shot

Anyway, lest I sound too giddy about the show, it always had some negative elements. The shooters were divided into teams, and there was always some TV-style sturm and drang over choosing who was to be eliminated from the running. But! Apparently they listened to some of the grumbling feedback, because this season that’s all gone. The setup is now that the bottom 50% of shooters in each episode (per time or accuracy, however the scenario is scored) are in danger of being eliminated. They each get a single shot at a bullseye, and the worst two shots on that target go to a head-to-head competition to determine who stays and who goes. All purely based on objective skill and performance. It looks like we’ll get the juicy fun shooting without the gum-on-the-shoe of the hyped-up drama!

This season was cast entirely from previous competitors, and I’m really looking forward to seeing new episodes each week. For the record, I’m rooting for Kelly Bachand, who has been my favorite personality on the show since I saw him in the very first season. He does a great job of demonstrating how formal bullseye competition can make a great foundation for all-around shooting. Good luck, Kelly!

(and no, I’m not writing this just as a brown-nosing attempt to get myself into the next season’s cast – unless that would actually work…)


  1. I have not seen the show as I can’t get History Channel in my area, but I did take a look a the web site. The unusual guns and challenges sound like they would really find the great all-around shooters and not the one-trick ponies, a neat idea, but I do have to make one gripe. Sixteen competitors and they could only find ONE woman?!?

  2. I supposet it would be to much to ask for them to be given a Finnish M39, freezing cold tempatures, blowing snow and Russians shooting at them? If they could replicate some of the shots made by the old WWII and Vietnam era snipers using period weapons, ammuniton, equipment and as realistic conditions as possible, it would be more interesting than trick shots. Cold, wet, hungry and dehydrated would be good touches too.

  3. I’d given up on Top Shot a couple seasons ago. If the whinging and fake drama are out, though, perhaps I’ll try it again.

  4. Hi,
    To be honest – the show is really crap. What an earth has knifethrowing, throwing axes and such have anything to do with beeing a sharpshooter? And the tests with firearms with those distances and by their nature make me laugh. Producers should find a real pro to make impressive enough tests and stop showing these tivoli-shooters. By god – shooting with rifle to 50 or 75 meters or less – I did 50m with 22 cal 99 pts out 100 when I was 15! Ans theese persons in the show a professionals – I just wonder. And guns they have selected…

    • I did wonder about the incongruity of apparently outstanding shooters missing what seem like relatively easy shots, and I think it comes down to stress. Most of the time, the shots required on the show are out of the shooters’ normal area of expertise, and they have the pressure of competition and national television. Shooting under those conditions is a much different animal than comfortable practice at the range, and it’s even different from a competition style that you’ve gotten yourself used to. If you watch for the times when shooters run into challenges that match what they do in their normal competitive lives, you generally don’t see them have trouble – take for instance when the IPSC guys (I don’t recall their names offhand) were competing on a steel dueling tree with open-style 1911s – their performances were amazing. The flubbed shots come when you take a Steel Challenge expert and have him running a 1919 from a moving halftrack – oh and by the way a million people are going to point out every little flaw you make on TV. To me, that makes the show more interesting; see how people can perform under duress and out of the comfort zone (which, incidentally, is why I enjoy the local 2-gun action match, because it takes me out of my comfort zone).

  5. Although I generally dislike and avoid “reality’ shows, which are anything but what they purport to be, Top Shot does have some interesting and redeeming features just as Ian mentioned. However, as Matt has also pointed out, an accurately replicated battlefield scenario challenge with all the attendant exigencies would be far more challenging and realistic. The silly, cheap melodrama that Ankle and SVaaka rightly criticize absolutely has to go. I think the problems don’t lie so much with the participants as they do with the producers, directors, editors and ultimately the financiers, who are mostly interested in marketing what they think will sell to a gullible public ( and this unfortunately includes a fair number of less-than-knowledgeable gun enthusiasts and wannabe-gun enthusiasts ) in order to boost ratings and profit margins. The supreme irony, of course, is that hard reality, a.k.a. the factual truth, is the first casualty of the vast majority of so-called “reality” shows.

  6. It’s the closest we’ll get on a major channel, fellas. And it’s not the worst thing in the world. Not like “Doomsday Preppers”… Good God, what a freakin’ mess. Now THAT’S an example of intentional, gross misrepresentation. In any case, I’m sure I’ll find somebody to root for this time. I just wanna see some fancy shootin’!

  7. You don’t want on the cast.

    If’n I recall correctly, you lose the rights to a lot of the gun related stuff you do. Hicock45 was offered a spot, but because he would have lost his channel, he declined.

    Just what I heard, don’t quote me, and no proper citations to give.

  8. The History Channel has become a joke of a network. Most of its programs have little to do with history and many are outright speculation or lies. I would rather drink gasoline and piss on a brush fire than waste an hour of my life helping the corporate nazies at the history channel make another dime.

    • I used to mock the History Channel for is obsessive focus on World War II and Nazi Germany, as if they were unaware of the thousands of years of other recorded history that could be covered. Called them “the Hitlery Channel”. But at least that was ACTUALLY HISTORY. Sure, it would’ve been nice if World War I, the Napoleonic Wars, etc had gotten some coverage, but at least it hadn’t been contaminated by “Ancient Aliens” and reality shows back then.

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