There are cues for when a season of a reality show has “peaked.” On Survivor, that would be the “eating disgusting things” challenge. With Scrapheap Challenge it was usually the hovercraft episode. And on Top Shot, pulling out the .50 BMG rifle seems to be when the fat lady receives her cue from the conductor. I’m not saying the show always gets worse, but it’s the beginning of the end and they seem to have chugged through their best ideas. This week’s episode of Top Shot saw the McMillan TAC-50 and the Walther P38 used in competition.

The TAC-50 is a bolt action rifle in .50 BMG, much like the Armalite AR-50 we reviewed not too long ago. It’s big, it has a MASSIVE muzzle brake, and it fires extremely accurately. Colby claimed a 0.5 MoA accuracy, but their website doesn’t back it up. For comparison, the AR-50 claims around 0.7 MoA accuracy for about $4,500 less. The only big difference between the two guns is that the TAC-50 has a detachable box magazine.

The challenge was shooting a moving target that seemed about 3 feet in diameter from 500 yards away with a stiff crosswind. Hangtime for a .50 cal at 500 yards is about half a second, so a “walking speed” target of that size should just need to be “lead” to the outside edge. One of the shooters mentioned that as his point of aim, so I guess it was right.

500 yards is far, but in the grand scheme of things it’s not really all that far away. Draw a one inch square on a piece of paper, then draw two sets of two parallel lines like you’re making a tic tac toe board. If you can hit the middle block from 100 yards you can hit the whole square at 500 yards. If they wanted a real challenge they would have set the target at 1,000 yards, and I think the fact that so many were able to hit the target in one shot was evidence that the challenge wasn’t very challenging.

Fiddy cals are fun guns, but they can beat the hell out of your shoulder after a few rounds. I didn’t have that problem through 90 rounds with the AR-50, but then again I have some extra, um, padding. One of the shooters became intimately familiar with that drawback, and the image of him lying in bed with an ice pack on his shoulder later in the episode seems to indicate that the TAC-50 was less than comfortable. I’m going to try and get one of these for review, so stay tuned.

For the elimination challenge, the Walther P38 was the weapon of choice. Colby said it was designed for the German army, but he conveniently left the “Nazi” off the front of that name. This was the main service pistol during World War II for Hitler’s forces, and I have to say it gives me the creeps. I don’t collect German WWII firearms, especially used ones, for a very good reason — you never know who they killed.

If they were going to use a pistol for this competition and had their hearts set on a German one, a “Broomhandle” Mauser C96 would have been my first choice. One thing is for sure: it would have made reloading a lot more interesting. The P38 is a very modern pistol, using a short recoil action and detachable magazines. The C96, on the other hand, is loaded using stripper clips. Loading firearms from stripper clips is a lost art (especially on a Mosin Nagant m91/30), and it would have been interesting to see whose hand-eye coordination was the best with this completely alien method of reloading.

Now that I mention it, a “run and gun” with Mosin Nagant m91/30 rifles would be interesting. 30 targets and ammo on stripper clips, first one to perforate all 30 wins. Although it might be easier to just run up and bayonet the targets at that point…

25 Responses to The Guns of Top Shot, Season Three, Episode Nine: McMillan TAC-50 and the Walther P38

  1. What’s with your irrational fear of German arms? Farago has it, too. Do inanimate objects conjure up monsters or something? That’s the kind of thinking that animates gun-grabbers.

    • +1
      Mostly the Walther P-38 didn’t kill anyone. Only the American armed forces considered a pistol to be a useful combat weapon. In the German army they have served mostly as a badge of rank.

    • It is human nature to ascribe human traits to inanimate objects. The P38 is a gun and like any other gun it is incapable of doing anything without the intervention of a human. Still, the P38 was a Nazi issued firearm and because we are human, we ascribe the traits of the human to the object. The p38 is guilty by association.

      It is of course irrational to think this way – but we do. We are irrational creatures.

    • +1 Yep, saw this before on Himmler’s shotgun. It’s a big case of superstition I think, and pretty irrational.

      Hell, what about the K98? I’d love to get my hands on a beautiful rifle like that, just to have some fun, but will that bring out the ghouls and ghosties too?

  2. No one fears any German gun, most of us just hate the Nazi scum that used these weapons to murder innocent people.

    • Every nation has had a firearm or set of firearms that killed a specific set of people. Americans had the Indians, Russians had their “traitors,” and Nazis had their undesirables.

      I guess for me it’s the fact that those guns were about to kill people who I sit down for Passover with. The tattoos, those you don’t forget.

    • Someone needs to engage in some serious psychohistory and puzzle out why people generally consider Hitler to be the king of 20th century evil, even though Mao and Stalin were right up there with him.

      • Hitler was a blip on the radar compared to the devastation of Stalin and Mao. But for various reasons, German Nazis are the West’s ultimate evil, while being a Communist is considered in certain circles as rather chic, or even morally progressive.

      • My guess is that it has something to do with the fact that the Nazis caused/helped cause the last World War. Yes Stalin and Mao killed more people and caused smaller scale wars, but the Nazis took a world-wide war to get rid of them.

  3. A couple of things.

    1. I share the “ewwww” factor with old German guns. However, the first pistol I shot was a West German police surplus PPK, and I must say the durn thing was a lot of fun. That “eeew” factor is there with Mosin’s, too. You never know if the gun you’re holding shot at Nazis or Ukrainian peasants…

    2. There’s been some chatter on other boards that the guns on the show were actually Walther P-1’s, manufactured well after WWII. I don’t know how to tell the difference, so I’ll leave that for others.

    3. The “Horse” challenge has been the highlight of the last two seasons for me. Let’s face it, who doesn’t want to try that someday: Pick yer shot, choose yer weapon and have at it with your buddies.

    4. I think this season, the best has yet to come. There’s a challenge they’ve been teasing in the opening that looks in-sane, and it looks like the drama llama may finally be put to rest.

  4. Oooh! The Mosin Magant would be a great gun for a challenge.

    I like the idea of them having to bayonet targets.

  5. Personally, I enjoy collecting WW2 arms, whether Nazi, British, Russian or US. Italian and French WW2 arms are usually in pristine condition — never fired and only dropped once. Combloc weapons are also cool, and a reminder that there no longer is a Combloc, outside of American universities. And I still can’t stand Top Snot.

    • +1 on both points.

      I’ve got a few firearms from WW2 that I am sure were used in action. I am pretty sure that two of them were probably pried from dead hands too. My k98 is one of the supposed “Stalingrad Capture” versions and my Arisaka was made in the mid 1930’s, was a GI bring back and still has the mum on it. I don’t get bent out of shape about out on who they may have dispatched because I apply the same rationale as the “guns don’t kill people” argument, it is an inanimate tool. The gun didn’t kill a prisoner or a civilian, the bastard operating it did. Therefore, I do not have a problem with former Nazi, Soviet, or Imperial Japanese weapons.

  6. I wonder if the rules prohibited “prestaging” additional rounds near the rifle, if followup shots were needed.

    Gary’s handling of the P38 was pretty impressive.

    • For the the “Fiddy”? I thought I saw a standard block of ammo sitting there right next to them. It seemed the only thing you couldn’t do was load up a full mag.

  7. Hey Nick, I think your math might be off on the target scale at 100yds. By my math, a 3ft (36″) wide target at 500yds is going to be the equivalent of a 7.2″ wide target at 100yds. So that’s more like taking a regular piece of notebook/printer paper and putting it at 100yds, if you can hit that you could hit the target.

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t last season’s fiddy shot take place at 1000yds?

    • You’re right about the scale of that specific target, I was just trying to illustrate the difference in size between 1 MoA at 100 and 1 MoA at 500.

      The target was gigantic for what they were doing. Last season’s 1,000 yard shot was made on a target that looked about twice the size, but the gun being used was less accurate as well.

  8. Really? Nobody suggested the p.08? The Luger is the most iconic of German military pistols. Designed for the Kaiser’s army(not that offensive), unique action and the start of what may be the most influential pistol cartridge of all time. Broomhandles are interesting, p38’s can be offensive, so go with the Luger.

  9. Nazi weapons give the ‘eew’ factor because we associate the tools wIth their masters, and the refined, cultured sadism they tried to impose on all of Europe.

    Most Com-bloc weapons, at least the ones we can get here, are too new to have played a part in the pogroms and mass killings of the Soviet Stalin era. 91/30s might be the exception, but so many millions were made that the odds of mine being a Cossack or KGB murder weapon are very low.

    I’m getting tired of people making excuses for one murderous despot by pointing out that another murderous despot may have been ‘worse’! Once you’ve killed a million people you’re nothing but a sick twisted fuck, and the existence of more prodigious murderers doesn’t make you any better. Neither does trying to deflect culpability to your enemies; these ‘moral equivalency’ arguments are the purest bullshit.

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