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…