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 Watching last might’s episode of Top Shot, I kept expecting to see a crane shot of a large tank of water with a shark swimming idly from side to side. Followed by the show’s contestants on the back of a motorcycle shooting at exploding targets as the bike jumped the shark. Instead, I watched the remaining contestants run an obstacle course—some of them some of it, two of them all of it—-and then fire an AK-47 at targets 50 and 75 yards away. Feet? I really should rewind the DVR to check. I’m afraid that running Episode Two at 5X would be five times more boring, rather than less. Seriously. I’ve seen sailboat races with greater drama. Watching continental drift is a pacier prospect. Anyway, the guns . . .

There was a lot of AK love last night. Given American gunmakers’ sensitivities, I was bit surprised to hear The Unshaven One call the AK-47 an “assault rifle.”

If the scriptwriters meant a rifle that can or has been used to assault someone then all rifles are assault rifles. In the same sense that all baseball bats are “assault bats.” By the same token, as all rifles can be used for defense, hunting or target shooting, all rifles are home defense hunting sporting rifles. Or, if you prefer, rifles.

OK I quibble. There is a working definition of “assault rifle” and the AK-47 meets it. The hive mind at sets us straight:

It must be an individual weapon with provision to fire from the shoulder (i.e. a buttstock);

  • It must be capable of selective fire;
  • It must have an intermediate-power cartridge: more power than a pistol but less than a standard rifle or battle rifle;
  • Its ammunition must be supplied from a detachable magazine rather than a feed-belt.
  • And it should at least have a firing range of 300 meters (984 feet)

Selective fire, as in both semi-automatic (one bullet per trigger pull) and automatic (lots o’ bullets per trigger pull)? Fail. Top Shot’s AK was your basic neutered civilian semi-auto only model.

Why? Running through a genuine obstacle course shooting at targets with an AK-47 in machine gun mode would certainly liven things up at the danger-free zone known as the Top Shot gun range. Note 1: not all the competitors hit the water with guns in hand. Note 2: prolonged exposure to overhead electricity cables is the competitors’ biggest safety threat.

And what’s up with box fresh AKs? I would have liked to have seen the competitors try a full-auto crapped out AK from a pile of broken ass guns captured from the Taliban. Scooping a handful of bullets of an indeterminate age and provenance from a heap of ammo poured onto/into sand. Historical accuracy demands it.

But no. The Top Shots ran the obstacle course with brand new semi-automatic AKs zeroed to a nano-millimeter of their lives. In fact, the Top Shot drones ran the obstacle course with unloaded guns and empty magazines—they had to swap mags when they arrived at the sandbagged shooting area.

I bet that wimp-out was ordered by the same lawyer who mandated that the course be low to the ground, in case someone should fall off a rope wall and sprain their ankle. Was that barbed wire even barbed?

Anyway, you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about the AK-47 (and the rest) by reading ace war reporter CJ Chivers’ excellent tome The Gun. Or you can click here for The History Channel’s Weapons Rundown. Or click here and watch the AK competition recap. Done.

Also in Top Shot Season Three, Episode Two, Part Two, Verse Seven Hundred and Eighty-Five; policewoman Sara Ahrens faced off against Christian Camp Counsellor Dustin Ellermann. (After some sexist remarks about Sara’s size.) Facing elimination, the competitors shot a Smith & Wesson M&P .45 at a line of rotating blue and red lightbulbs.

The SWAT cop’s “Meet the Marksman” page declares that “Sara Ahrens doesn’t feel like she has anything to prove.” She certainly lived up to her expectations. She blamed her piss poor performance on competition nerves. I repeat: an eleven-year Army vet with 15 years on the Rockford, Illinois police department—four of which were spent on their SWAT team—complained that shooting next to another human was too much pressure.

At least she didn’t blame it on the gun. Why would she? As long as you don’t buy Smith’s semi-automatic striker-fired M&P in The Bay State—where its safety-minded “Massachusetts trigger” does for accuracy what Adriana Lima does for celibacy—the M&P is a terrific piece. Top Shot made the Smith seem like a military and police model that somehow managed to “seep” to mere mortals. Fair enough. It did. And it’s great to see the old girl in action.

God knows there’s a lot of inaction on Top Shot. I reckon a large part of the boredom is down to the fact that Top Shot is more Survivor than History Channel. Trash talking is nowhere as interesting as actual real-life blood and guts stories of firearms used in anger. Or competitions based on same. But that requires creativity, risk (i.e. insurance) and money.

Yes, there is that. Or isn’t. I’m not saying that the program suffers from a lack of financial resources, but I am saying that Top Shot must be amazingly profitable. I’d also like to state for the record that Top Shot is generally devoid of interesting firearms shot in interesting competitions by interesting people with what’s commonly known as a sense of humor. Still, the season’s young. We have rock throwing to look forward to.

[Click here for The Guns of Top Shot Season Three Episode One]

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  1. I hope they have a super-soaker course! Or maybe they could use olde-fashioned dueling pistols and shoot at powdered wigs.

  2. Yawn. (That’s for the show, not the review.) Very few shows can stay fresh for more than a season or two. After that, ‘Franchise Wasting Disease’ sets in as the producers run out of creative ideas and rely on formula and gimmickry to line up the advertisers and protect their coveted time slots.

    What’s next? Probably pub darts and paintball. Simunition would add some real excitement, but even lawn darts are probably too risky for the producers and insurers to handle.

    Oh well, back to sleep.

  3. I just directed my entertainment pod to stop recording Top Shot. Boring, boring, boring. Used to, I would fast forward through the whiny, bitchy man-huggy crap to get to the shooting competitions, but even those became lame. Back to random History Channel shows showing Americans kicking Nazi ass.

    You really can’t see enough of that.

  4. “the competitors shot a Smith & Wesson M&P .45 at a line of rotating blue and red lightbulbs”

    They should have a shoot-off using the same gun with a Massachusetts trigger. Now that would be a challenge.

  5. the Ak was not the first, this is fairly basic information, it is however the most produced still to this day:

    “the World Bank now estimates that out of a total of around 500 million firearms in circulation around the world today, around a fifth are Kalashnikovs – and something like 75 million are AK-47s or counterfeit knock-offs.”

    that’s a statistic the ar15/m16/m4 will never match.

    “Pulling an AK at random from a pile of broken ass guns”.
    with something like that they would of never been able to pull of the accurate shots seen last night.
    arsenal sgl 21’s are stamped receiver weapons that are capable of 2 inch groups at 100 yards, i thought the targets were a little close, it should of been 75 yrds and 90-100 yards respectively . They are clones of the ak 103 series rifles. These “Top Shot’s AK are your basic neutered civilian semi-auto only model”. yep, i have the model with the plum furniture (sgl 21-62) and i can vouch for the accuracy of these guns. This is in comparison to your average POS wasr 10 which does not even come close.

    Sara Ahrens fell apart under stress, end of story, i hope this does not happened in her SWAT career ever time a BG shoots back. her excuses were laughable as well, she got CRUSHED by a camp councilor. I thought it was totally lame how she interjected herself into the jake vs ginger mike (that guys is a dbag by the way) argument (it would be hilarious to see jake pop him in his new york mouth btw) Sarah MYOB, you are not their mom.

    “Top Shot is generally devoid of interesting guns shot”

    i think part of what we are over looking here is that part of TS’s mission is to sell the firearms they shoot on the show, think about why the razorcat race gun or whatever its called only appeared last season. So IMHO they shoot weapons that viewers might potentially buy.

    • “her excuses were laughable as well, she got CRUSHED by a camp councilor.”

      This actually doesn’t really surprise me one bit. Its not uncommon for ex-military, current military, SWAT or LE to be bested by civilians. Happens all the time in competition. To quote Col. Jeff Cooper. “Amateurs train until they get it right, professionals train until they cannot get it wrong.”

      Different mindset. I’m not stating police and mil don’t have tough jobs to do, but marksmanship skills aren’t the top priority. Heck I remember taking an advanced tactics class last year with 2 marines between tours of duty. I asked them why they were taking the class since they had seen combat? They simply stated that military training was sufficient, but not really enough. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know. But they left better shooters. YMMV

    • hmmmmm. and…. just how manu rounds do you shoot a month???
      just sayin. if all you do is crunch numbers and you done actually shoot then shhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

  6. “Did you know that the AK-47 was the first assault rifle ever produced? ”

    I believe Colby said ‘one’ of the first. And there should be no doubt that the AK has been a huge game changer with regards to small arms development. Heck, the US classified it as a sub-machine gun for years misunderstanding the jump forward. Built largely via competing committees, successful as a design, and as a system continues to be widely dispersed throughout the world.

    “CJ Chivers’ excellent tome The Gun. ”

    Really an excellent book highlighting the different mentalities at play leading to the development of assault rifles in common use today. I also found the book enlightening with regards to how the West fell decades behind by holding onto the premise of a battle rifle large powerful cartridge. Big mistake. Our unwillingness to adopt a suitable intermediate cartridge for today’s needs is still argued ad infinitum with the .223 vs .308 vs something else. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy my FAL, M1A and AR’s but its hard to argue that the West isn’t still playing catch up.

    I really liked this second episode. Was only surprised Jake didn’t get more votes. I will keep watching. IMO – The show is still attractive to causal shooters, does a good job of showing firearms in a positive fun and responsible light, and quite frankly whatever drama included (much like other reality shows) draws others into the entertainment. My mostly non shooting spouse would never watch such a show except for the ‘human’ aspect and the free advice she shares with the TV. hehe 🙂

    Besides, the show gives me ideas for drills and welding up swinging targets for excursions to the nearest national forest/BLM land. Who doesn’t like training on the move and or doing more than just bench shooting? 🙂

    • Jake is by far the most accomplished contestant on this show to date. He jumped to vote sarah off because she did hit her target as quickly as needed, she took the most shots in a speed based challenge. She was the weakest link and the other blue team people recognized that, Jake reminds me of a black version of a lacrosse coach (who was also a ex- SEAL) i had in high school, who would motivate us with stories of how much it sucked to sweat your @$$ off in a jungle (in a nameless country) when we would complain about the heat. These are some of the most intense types of people you will meet.

      “Besides, the show gives me ideas for drills and welding up swinging targets for excursions to the nearest national forest/BLM land”

      man that is cool , i wish i had that option in my state.

      • I agree, Jake is a competent shooter. But remember, in this episode he was also the last guy up on the blue team. Except it looked like his AK jammed and was not able to fire a shot. AK….. jammed…. huh? doh!

        I understand that Navy Seals would be naturally aggressive types, but given that he’s been a football coach for what, 7 years, it seems to me he takes himself just a bit too seriously. I don’t really know. Its just my impression. He may end up being the George this year. Maybe someone here more familiar with SF types will chime in.

        I don’t know which state you live in (CA here). Practically fill a pick up truck with all the targets and barriers my buddies and I have built over the years. We steal a lot of ideas from Nut N Fancy, IDPA and other TV shows. None of us hunt and 3 gun opportunities are too far away. Add in a hand thrower for shotgun clays and the weekend becomes a really fun time. 🙂

        • MD native here, I don’t have land to go to where you could shoot openly like that. From what i’ve seen from nutn having that as a choice would be F****** awesome. Possibly in the more rural western area closer to VA or WV there is more unoccupied open space. the closest non outrageously expensive center fire rifle range is an hour and 1/3rd away for me.

  7. I was guffawing at my DVR when I heard Sara’s excuse of being “unnerved” when someone was shooting next to her. I immediately started thinking “Man, her SWAT training must be with Nerf guns. That or the cool “double barrel” , clothes pin, rubber band guns I used to get on vacation when I was 8 years old.” Methinks she has never done a dynamic entry ala flashbang etc.. That and the fact she supposedly carried a M&P on duty, ouch… It goes to show that just because someone says they are ex-mil, SWAT, high speed low drag, spec ops, sniper, does not make them automatically a crack shot. Watching the camp counselor shoot and watching his crazy-fluid reloading ability shows an average Joe who practices the fundamentals (and is good at them) can out gun a “shooter” who’s time is probably not focused on the range mainly anyway, with all the other job requirements they have like patrol, court, and other non-firearms training. The exception in this competition is the SEAL, Jake. He has no excuse if he doesn’t perform. Being from a Tier 1 unit, his shooting ability better be good.

  8. The History Channel and cable in general doesn’t have a lot of money for shows.
    With that, reality television doesn’t cost a whole lot – about half as much as a drama.
    So it isn’t surprising they don’t have a lot of money on Top Shot and they get a lot of donations of product which they then have to showcase – much like why The Price Is right is pretty much the last gameshow standing.

    The interpersonal crap is forced on the participants, to make for a show. They’re encouraged to speak out and develop, and emphasize, a personality. They are required to give those reaction shots to the camera. It’s in their contract.

  9. Okay Robert, did I miss the sarcasm here? A couple of months ago, you shit your pants because someone did a one-handed slide release and now you are complaining because some gameshow contestants didn’t follow each other down a sewer pipe with locked and loaded AK’s? I’m guessing you are joking because you usually are nearer the safety-nazi end of things.

    I’m actually relieved to see that Top Shot is making things more physical. Remember last season when the middle-aged guy quit because of a torn tendon after jogging for 25 yards? I still think they should do their long-range shots after carrying a heavy pack for a few miles.

  10. She’s an embarrassment to her police dep. even as a SWAT operator. Her excuse for loosing was the intensity of the situation and not being use to shooting next to another gun. Are you kidding me????!?!?!?!? What kind of a SWAT operator is she???

    Perfect example why cool letters infront or behind your name mean nothing until you perform.


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