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We already know that Top Shot isn’t “real.” The bullets you see hitting the targets are not fired by the competitors. The competitors’ strings are edited to remove malfunctions (which may or may not be mechanical). But TTAG’s heard from courageous sources—production workers bound by NDAs so punitive their reproductive organs are at risk—that there have been safety issues on the set. As I value both my balls and my business (and I promised confidentiality to my sources) I can’t tell you everything I’ve heard. However . . .

I searched the net and found this: a video of firearms expert Ryan Cleckner shooting a Top Shot exploding target with a Barrett .50 caliber rifle from what looks to be 30 yards. He seems to be blown backwards. And have a look at that berm . . .

There isn’t one. Apparently, Top Shot is shot in the middle of a desert. Even so, I’m not sure that a sloping hillside is the best backstop for a .50 caliber bullet.

There’s a proper backstop in the episode featuring the .50 cal. Rumor has it the berm was constructed after complaints. What firearms “expert” wouldn’t have figured that out beforehand?

We also hear there’ve been safety-related personnel changes behind the scenes. As in people who decided not to participate due to safety concerns.

Top Shot is the most prominent shooting program on TV. It promotes shooting as a fun, safe and challenging activity. It would be a genuine tragedy if negligence brought Top Shot and thus shooting sports into disrepute.

[Note: we’ve scraped a copy of the video in case it suddenly goes down the memory hole.]

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  1. The shooting blanket flew back so there seemed to be a wave of compressed air moving toward them at a pretty good rate… and then you can hear debris falling all around. I’d guess they were a little too close to the target.

    Why so close anyway? It’s a fiddy!

  2. Let’s make a list of ranges that opened up and never found any safety issues after the fact.

    Quite the list, isn’t it? 😉

    I’d call Top Shot unsafe if they found issues and didn’t fix them. They found that while they were doing stuff that no TV show had done before them, they had to change a few things to remain safe.

    No biggie.

    • In theory, correct. In practice, who doesn’t know that a .50 bullet goes a long, long, long, long way?

      • Are you there Robert? Can you CLEARLY see the surrounding area behind the target like the firearm experts can? Why do you post this sensationalist garbage? Seriously… also “blown back”… yeah I’m sure it was that conflagrating target that did that… the 50BMG had nothing to do with him being blown back…

  3. I think the blanket on the table was affected by the back-blast from the muzzle brake. And the apparent movement of the shooter backwards looks more like the camera panning to the left as the shot is fired. His position relative to the table doesn’t appear to move.

  4. Ken’s right about the back blast, and I’ve seen 50’s do this when shooting at plain ole targets.

  5. Colby uses bleach like we use listerine. Whilst very few of us can call it safe, very many of us call it amusing.

  6. Blown backwards? He stays right where he is, the camera pans left.

    And berm? He’s firing in front of several very large, sandy hills. You could sit there all day with a Ma Deuce and not have a stray round.

    There’s nothing remotely unsafe in that video.

  7. “Even so, I’m not sure that a sloping hillside is the best backstop for a .50 caliber bullet.”
    Do you ever shoot anywhere other than a man made “shooting range”? Up here in the north land (Mercer county, ND) we shoot at “sloping hillsides” pretty much every weekend and haven’t had a single issue in 30 years. Not trying to be a prick but your comment sounds exactly like something an ignorant Lib would say, sorry but it’s true.

  8. I have to agree with Ken. Having fired a few different .50 rifles, and M2s from tripods and vehicle mounts, the blanket was moved by gas from the muzzle break. Never liked rearward projecting muzzle breaks, much prefer Barrett’s side projecting breaks, myself.

    As for Top Shot itself, I don’t especially like it. Wifey put it on the DVR and I skip through all the chickified crap in between the actual shooting sequences. And yes, Virginia, it is “faked”. This is a TV show, not an actual competition.

  9. Oh, and as for the berm, the hill into which they are firing is a couple of hundred feet tall, pretty sure it is sufficient to backstop .50 rds.

  10. This is much ado about nothing. The video shown is showing the reward blast of the 50 cal muzzle break. If you notice, there is a blanket covering equipment between the shooter and the target. It NEVER moves. Also, there is no dust being kicked up from this mighty explosion. Odd that there is no dust or dirt kicked up between the shooter and the target. Yet we are expected to believe in a magical blast wave that only affects shooting mats? I don’t think so.

    I suspect there is some other reason for this drummed up “hit peace” of a report.

  11. If you stop the video at 11 seconds, you can see the blanket in motion, but the target is still untouched. The blanket is definitely being put in motion by the muzzle brake.

  12. The blanket is lifted by the blast from the muzzle brake, the camera panning to the left obscures the shooter (making him appear to move more than he does), the exploding target is up off the ground with the heat traveling upward (its essentially a fireworks display), and I’m sure a .50 will not penetrate the hilside (which isn’t shown directly behind the target).

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