I met up with former Top Shot competitor Jake Zweig this weekend on a range just north of San Antonio, Texas. RF had some questions that needed answering and I had an itchy trigger finger. So off we went . . .

Checking into the range and paying the toll gave me instant insight into Jake’s life since Top Shot. The owner of the range was standing behind the counter taking people’s money, wearing a t-shirt with the Top Shot logo. As soon as we walked into the shop, Jake (and his football buddy who was meeting us there) took one look at the shirt and started snickering.

The guy behind the counter looked at him for a second before declaring “I know you from somewhere.” All three of us did our best to not point at his shirt as he stood there trying to figure it out. According to Jake, he gets a lot of C-list celebrity recognition. In the drive through line at a Whataburger the guy behind him started screaming “Hey! Top Shot!” From the way Jake tells it, the attention doesn’t seem entirely unwelcome.

Once we left the office and headed out to the range, Jake shared one of the more memorable incidents during the filming.

During the episode with the Volquartsen custom rifle (Episode 7), as the competitors headed downrange, Colby Donaldson decided to pick up the .22lr rifle and aim it downrange. Competitors whose lives were in imminent danger protested Colby’s actions. Colby dismissed their concern by pointing out that the gun was unloaded.

Obviously, that little moment didn’t make the final cut. Equally unsurprising, Jake says Top Shot was edited to emphasize the drama in the house. Not that there wasn’t drama; Jake made no bones about his “psyops” campaign against the other shooters, and credits it with keeping him out of elimination challenges. But Jake insists that he was demonized post facto.

In addition to the editing-related knee-capping, Jake hinted that there may have been some “issues” with the equipment. Specifically, he highlighted the mucho expensivo raceguns that led to his abrupt departure from the show.

Jake said that the competition with the SV Infinity Sight Tracker race guns was one of the only times where each competitor had their own gun. No one was allowed the time to properly tune them; they were fresh out of the box.

That led to failure to feed malfunctions that varied depending on the luck of the draw (which gun Top Shot‘s producers assigned to a competitor). Jake reckons he got a dud, which cost Jake the event. Jake doesn’t go as far as Ashley (who claimed that the show was rigged), but he does think that the contest was inherently unfair.

More generally, Jake sees Top Shot as soap opera with some shooting thrown in for good measure, rather than a true marksmanship contest. He says producers use the competition give the show gravitas–-that it doesn’t deserve.

When we opened up our gun cases Jake whipped out one of his prize possessions: a Ruger P-85 that he’s owned since he was 16. Jake says that the ability to carry the P-85 without engaging a manual safety combined with the magazine size (being a double stack 9mm) makes it his ideal carry gun. I’ll agree to disagree on that point, but one thing I can’t deny was that it shot like a dream. Well, better than my 1987 Sig P226.

As we’ve advised before for anyone running a DA/SA gun for self defense, Jake spent at least half of the range trip working on that first double action trigger pull. Jake said it: the first shot is the one that counts the most. He wanted to get it right. After shooting at some standard targets, the Z Man moved on to some slightly less abstract targets.

Jake claims this is the way the SEALS practice; shooting real people seems much easier after practicing with a person’s head actually in your sight picture.

As we shot the breeze between strings, I learned that Jake’s first gun was a single shot .22lr rifle. He prefers 9mm over 45 solely for capacity reasons. His first range trips were some unauthorized visits to the local military base organized by his father.

But the most important thing I learned was that Jake isn’t quite the monster he appeared to be on national TV. He’s a down to earth kind of guy, someone who will gladly share his ammo or guns with fellow shooters and offer constructive advice wherever he can. In short, he’s a good guy who fell afoul of his own hype, egged on and edited by a TV crew bent on impugning his character.

At SHOT show this year, Crimson Trace held a get-together on the show floor with free booze and just about every Top Shot competitor. A number of the former cast members have been shilling for gun companies; nearly all of them have been offered deals to be spokespeople.

I asked Jake if he had received any similar offers. He shook his head. Jake’s slipped back into his old life, working as a football coach at UIW under his mentor Larry Kennan. Except now he gets recognized on the street. It’s too bad Jake’s casual admirers didn’t get to see the Jake Zweig I saw on the range. I think they’d like him.

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20 Responses to TTAG Exclusive: A Range Trip with Top Shot’s Jake Zweig

  1. Good to see someone give him a chance to voice his side of the story. As for his getting recognized not in a good way in public, I would hope that a former sailor was smart enough to know that was a risk he was taking signing on to a reality show. If I where him I would use that as a litmus test for people, if they are not smart enough to know that they saw only what the editors wanted then I know I don’t want to waste my time talking to them anyway.

  2. this is an awesome post Mr. Leghorn, cool as hell. Jake was one my favorite people on that season. he has been a victim of selective editing, and stereotyped behavioral pattens of military people in the media. This dude is a hyper type A, and a trained asskicker. His attitude reminded me so some of the best (but most scary) coaches i had in my athletic career. say what you want about the “psyops stuff” anyone who get through BUDS and all the subsequent training, and get assigned to the teams is a straight killer in my book.

    “Colby Donaldson decided to pick up the .22lr rifle and aim it downrange. When those whose lives were in imminent danger protested Colby’s actions, Jake says Colby simply stated that the gun was unloaded and didn’t seem bothered by the rather blatant violation of the safety rules.”

    very telling. has anyone seen the spin off of TP on the “history 2” channel. colby does this all the time for some reason when they are describing the guns they will be shooting, it is bizarre and serves no purpose other than to show colby with a gun in his hands?
    additionally, they have brought to of the biggest dbags fro the show thus far, Jay lin and Jamie, the crybaby rescue swimmer. Odd choices IMO.

  3. He’s the old dude.

    Doctrine, gun, and technique right out of the ’80s. Hasn’t changed with the times, not even a little. Which probably makes him pretty darn good at putting shots on target. I pity the fool who goes up against him, to use an ’80s catch phrase.

    But when it comes to being a spokesman for the latest and greatest, it makes him less than an optimal candidate. If he is the old dude, I doubt he minds. All he wants is for you kids to get off his lawn.

  4. I’m not surprised that he can’t do any ads, because no one wants to hire a jerk to represent their company.

  5. The world of professional sports is full of jerks that do endorsements, but their million dollar salaries buy a lot of tolerance around them.

    • Yes, and those professional athletes are generally pretty good at their respective sports, and generate a lot of revenue for their respective teams, clubs and organizations. That, and that alone is the only reason the more flamboyant personalities are tolerated at all.

  6. I remember Jake preferring to sleep outdoors on the lawn furniture, because he didn’t want to be around ANYONE in the house. In my amature opinion, his psyops tactics against his fellow team mates indicated to me that he ain’t quite right in the head, and probably someone I would not want to meet. I’m glad you had a nice day shooting with him, and maybe my opinion is dead wrong, but Jake did a lot of weird stuff to try to blame it ALL on editing.

  7. Jake sees Top Shot as soap opera with some shooting thrown in for good measure

    That’s what “reality” programming is all about. Sons of Guns takes the whole soap opera thing to new heights (depths?), American Guns is less soapy but has it’s moments (OMG! Paige wants a tattoo!).

    Without the sturm und drang, these shows would be as dull as the finish of a new Glock.

  8. Editing or not, nobody made him whine like a small child and generally embarrass himself. Even the best shooters have off days–they shake it off and learn from it. My 2 year old niece usually handles disappointment better than Jake did on the show, and makes smaller scenes when she doesn’t.

  9. i wish i would have known about this. i would have gladly went there just for a chance meet him rather than going to my normal range this weekend.

    • Hit me up on facebook and twitter so you know when Im going to be there. shooting again next week at some point!!!!!

  10. Jake whipped out one of his prize possessions: a Ruger P-85 that he’s owned since he was 16. Jake says that the ability to carry the P-85 without engaging a manual safety combined with the magazine size (being a double stack 9mm) makes it his ideal carry gun.

    I have heard from owners that actually the P-85 is a decent gun. I have a friend who has the .45 version ( cannot remember the model number) and he thinks it is a great gun.

    • i have an older P95 and my buddy has a P89, both are amazing guns. My P95 was my first handgun purchase. the only thing i dislike about mine is that it isnt the “newer” model with the rail on front

      with that said: i would love to read a P-series gun review on here.

      • P91 for .45… and I have one of those too but it only holds 9 with one in the pipe….not enough to do anything but protect the house with the SHOTTIE

  11. C-list Celebrity? That’s being incredibly complimentary. If there were more letters in the alphabet the list he’s on would be past Z

  12. Honestly, I would sincerely hope that we are all able to separate TV personalities from the actual person playing the role. “Reality” TV actors are still actors, they are playing a role and pegged to an archetype either willingly/knowingly or through some “creative editing”. The truth is that I bet most of the contestants were acting like DB’s at least some of the time. The problem with being filmed 24/7 is that the producers decide who looks like a DB and when. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jake is similar to most men in the military, myself included, and is usually a nice guy but can throw the alpha switch hard and fast.

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