Top Shot Series Finale

I have a few minutes to put together my thoughts on the series finale of Top Shot; which for the two people that haven’t yet seen the episode are posted beneath the jump.  If you’re not up to speed on Top Shot, go watch the finale at History.Com then come back and read the re-cap.

Now that was a great episode.  Guns guns guns and more shooting than several previous episodes combined.  I first and foremost want to congratulate my former teammate and friend Iain for his dramatic win – when I was eliminated I was betting on it being either JJ or Iain that won the whole shooting match, and I’m glad to see that he did.  I watched the finale from Portland with Iain, his fans, and another Blue Team alumnus Tara.  That environment was phenomenal and I haven’t had that much fun in a bar in a long, long, long time.  Also, here is Iain’s official fan page – don’t you think that the Top Shot champions should have more than 300 fans?  Go do something about that, my million annual readers.

Back to the show – the first challenge opens up with the four remaining shooters (Chris, Iain, JJ, and Pete) facing off with dueling trees.  The goal is to shoot your color plates and have more of the other guy’s plates showing than yours at the end.  Each shooter had 40 seconds and 4 ten-round magazines to do this, so there was a certain amount of strategy involved.  JJ was up first against Chris, and you could see the look of relief on both Pete and Iain’s faces.  JJ quite predictably beat Chris hands d0wn.  As excellent a marksman as Chris is, that particular challenge is what JJ is renowned for.  It would be like putting a high school swimmer in the pool against Michael Phelps.  The high school swimmer is really good and better than 95% of the rest of the world, but they just happened to up against part of the 5% that’s better than they are.  With Chris losing, he was going to face the loser of the Pete/Iain shootoff to see who would go home.  In the Pete vs. Iain match, Iain took a commanding lead over Pete and maintained it for the duration of the match.  This left us with Pete vs. Chris to see who would go home.  An interesting match-up actually, as Chris beat Pete as badly as JJ had beaten Chris in the previous round.

Moving on to the next elimination challenge, the contestants played a game of HORSE…except with guns.  Each of the three shooters got to pick a gun, a target, and a shot and the other shooters had to replicate the shot.  This was the challenge that ultimately put JJ away for good, bringing it down to Iain and Chris in the final showdown.

This was cool.  I mean super cool.  The final contestants competed head to head, re-creating some of the best challenges from the entire show.  First person to complete each stage wins.  They started throwing knives at a target 11 feet away, then moved on to a 50 yard shot with the longbow.  From there, they moved to 5 bottles at 25 feet that had to be shot with the Colt Peacemaker; next after the Peacemaker was the ’73 Winchester repeating the shot where they had to sever a rope.  5th up they had to shoot the Beretta 92 at the 2nd smallest tube from the Beretta challenge, 6th (probably my favorite) was 6 dinner plates with the AR15 at 100 yards.  The final station was the venerable M14 at exploding targets, the first at 100 and the second at 300 yards.

The guys were neck and neck through the whole challenge.  Iain got in to the final shooting bunker just a little bit before Chris, which gave Iain extra time to load the magazine on the M14.  Because of his lead that he’d built up through the course, the extra rounds in the magazine were the deciding factor.  Chris had to perform a reload while shooting the 300 yard target, and while he was reloading Iain made his final shot, ending the challenge and winning the $100,000 prize.

I’m very happy for Iain – he was a great competitor on Top Shot and is a good guy as well.  Throughout the entire competition he played his game well, and deservedly came out on top as the first Top Shot.

Tomorrow night on Gun Nuts Radio, I’ll be summing up my thoughts about the entire Top Shot experience, season 2, and the impact it has had on the shooting sports.  Join me at 9pm Eastern time to share your opinion at!


  1. I thought the “horse” challenge was particularly inspired, as it boiled competitive shooting down to its essence: Can you shoot within your limitations and do so under pressure?

    The final competition had more of a “Greatest Hits” feel for me, I would have liked to seen something more original-ish.

    And the whole show had one shotgun stage, and one that was for a trick shot on an elimination challenge. Kind of surprising, considering how popular scatterguns are.

    Last question – The $100k prize: Is that in cash, or cash and mechandise?

  2. You know, I don’t know if it’s cash or merch. I believe based on conversations that it’s a cash prize though.

  3. Since Tara is female, she would be an alumna of the show.

    It’s sad the way she went out. I would have liked to see her compete more.

  4. On one of my regular forums, we have a some pics of you guys at the bar. Shoot me an email if you want the link.

  5. Question – did you know the winner prior to seeing it on Sunday or did you have to wait too?

    1. After the show, it would have been a violation of their NDA for any of the contestants with knowledge of the winners to share that knowledge with eliminated contestants, as such we were all in the dark.

  6. Damn, that was a good finale! I wonder what the future of steel plates is now that we’re all lusting after targets that explode or shatter colorfully spraying glass shards everywhere. And HORSE with boomsticks is just too cool.

    Amazingly, the sometimes-hokey alternative challenges that popped up during the series seemed wonderful and suspenseful during the final challenge. Kudos to the History Channel, I’m sure they’ll get lots of applications for part 2.

  7. At the end of the show, the credits said Caleb now works for the NRA. What do you do for them Caleb?

  8. Oh man..I LOVED the 2nd seemed like too much fun. Personally I would have picked the Mosin-Nagant….mainly because I own one and love archaic weapons.

  9. I suspect cash – the tax impilcations are easier. Apparently for reality shows the tax implications can get mighty complicated; particularly if there’s non-cash items.

  10. @JD – It doesn’t hurt that Iain in a rather elite British Army unit. Letting Iain shoot a Sig 226 clone seemed a bit unfair to me.

  11. Grr, that didn’t work very well. Let me restate.

    @JD – It doesn’t hurt that Iain served in a rather elite British Army unit. Letting Iain shoot a Sig 226 clone seemed a bit unfair to me.

  12. The numbers are out for the finale.

    “… the series finale of TOP SHOT on Sunday, August 15 at 10pm ET posted the highest audiences ever for the series in all key demos with: 2.8 million total viewers, 1.6 million Adults 25-54 and 1.5 million Adults 18-49.”

    Almost three million people watched a prime-time competitive shooting show. How cool is that?

  13. Well Llama..Andre is in the US army and he should have totally decimated with both the AR15 and should have been better with the 92F. But he wasn’t. 😛

    Btw I saw that Bill had Kelly on his radio talk show…I wonder how THAT went.

  14. I thought the HORSE game was great. A very simple game that non-shooters can relate to that provides a bit of natural drama and suspense while making my inner gun-nut tingle with thoughts on what I’d have picked.

    I’d think the History Channel could get a lot of mileage reusing that type of show-down in future seasons.

  15. Nick:
    Bill and Kelly were starting to thaw before Bill left, and said goodbye to each other civilly–that just wasn’t shown in the episode. They seem to get along OK now, judging by Bill’s show.

    As for merchandise vs. cash prizes, it sounds like this season is cash, but George Hill says he got pretty far in the selection process for Season Two and was told the prize would be $100K in merchandise. Who knows?

    Just thought I’d share something that happened at new teacher training at my new district yesterday. We were modeling an icebreaker called “Two True, One Lie.” You write down three statements about yourself, one is a lie, and the others have to guess which one. I wrote, as my lie, “A friend of mine won a $100K reality show recently.”

    Of course, I knew that was a lie, because Caleb was eliminated, and Caleb would probably point out that we’re not friends. . . . anyway, the interesting thing was when one of my groupmates asked which show.

    He’d seen a few episodes of Top Shot and really liked it. He remembered Caleb for the “rat” drama . . . but he’s a new shooter who just got his first shotgun and started shooting clays locally this year. He’d fired a Springfield XDM and his friend’s new 9mm pistol this weekend, his first experience with handguns.

    Just for grins, I asked whether he knew anything about USPSA, IDPA, three-gun, or even competitive clay games. He knew of the shotgun clay leagues, but had never tried or watched a competition, and he’d never heard of the others except on Top Shot.

  16. So, a few questions…

    Did you really go home empty handed (I mean, the show didn’t pay you at all?)

    Who did you expect the final 2 to be? (I thought it would be a JJ vs Kelly kinda showdown… both of them are swift learners, and have incredible performances)

    Good luck with the NRA job!

    1. Honestly, I expected the final two would be JJ and Iain. No insult to anyone else, I just sort of guessed it would be those two guys.

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