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Top Shot All Stars, Episode 12: Season Finale


August 28, 2013

This episode of Top Shot All Stars was titled "Last Man Standing." Very appropriate, since it was the season finale.

We had four shooters left...

Chris Cerino, who came in second in season 1.
Brian Zins, who made it to the final in season 2.
Gary Quesenberry, who came in third in season 3.
Phil Morden, who had previously competed in season 3 and was the only shooter who hadn't been in the final four before.

The episode opened with the four shooters walking up to their tent and camp site, where they would stay the night together and eat MREs rather than enjoying a nice meal and warm bed at the house.

The next morning, they learned that three challenges were to be run until only one shooter remained. The slowest shooter in each challenge would be eliminated, until only one remained.

Challenge 1

This challenge consisted of four obstacles, through which each shooter would tote an AK-47 loaded with a dummy magazine ("for safety"). After each obstacle, the shooter would have to shuck out the fake mag, insert a loaded mag, chamber a round, drop into the prone position, hit a target at 75 yards, clear the gun of ammo, insert the dummy mag, and proceed.

The obstacles were:

  1. 25-foot corrugated steel pipe.
  2. 25-foot ditch, with waist-deep water and floating logs.
  3. 25-foot belly-crawl through mud under camo netting.
  4. 25-foot belly crawl through sand under barbed wire.
The shooting order was picked randomly, but the other guys got to watch. Hmmm. Did this give them an advantage? Possibly...

Gary went first. He had magazine trouble at the first two stations, but he hit each target with just one shot. He was fast with the mag at the third station, but had mud caked all over the front sight, so he couldn't see it to aim. This made me wonder whether there was mud in the muzzle, but apparently there was not. He cleaned off a bunch of mud, missed, then cleaned it some more and hit. He hit the fourth target in one shot; every time he could see his front sight, he hit the target.
Gary's time was 2:14.

We viewers didn't get told about it, but someone must have fiddled with the rifle's front sight after this, to clean off the mud - and the front sight must have gotten moved. That was a raw deal for everyone who went after Gary, as they all missed and the sights were clearly not zeroed.

Brian went second. He missed seven times in a row at the first station, and then instead of checking the sights he unloaded the gun and removed/replaced the magazine. What was he thinking? He finally hit the first target with the timer at 1:53, and he had some misses at every station. It sucked to be him.
Brian's time was 5:09.

Chris went third, and had many misses at station 1. He also had some misses at station 2, but hit both 3 and 4 with his first shots.
Chris's time was also 2:14 - but he was 0.2 second faster than Gary.

Phil went fourth. He was very fast in everything, and took three fast shots to hit the first target, two fast shots to hit the second one, and hit targets 3 and 4 with one shot each.

Phil's time was 1:30, making him the clear winner again. (You may recall that on the previous episode, Phil was the overall winner and the only one who could rest easy after the first challenge.)

I feel like Chris and Phil had some advantage, because they were able to watch Brian miss and had some idea of where the gun was hitting in relation to the sights. Really, the gun should have been properly zeroed after the mud incident.

Brian gone.

After the challenge, the remaining three shooters headed back to the shack for a shower and meal.

Challenge 2

This one was from season 1... each shooter had to run up a hillside to four platforms, and make a different shot at each one.

  1. Glock 19 pistol, target at 50 feet.
  2. HK93 rifle, target at 100 yards.
  3. Mosin-Nagant bolt-action rifle, target at 125 yards.
  4. SVT40 semi-automatic rifle, target at 150 yards.
Chris went first this time, and was very impressive. He was confident and able; he only loaded one round in each gun, and hit each target with just one shot. He is considerably more musclebound than he was last time he competed, and I think that showed him down. He was fast, but all that bulk had to have cost him something.
Chris's time was 1:15.

Phil went second, and in the sidebar said he had decided to load two rounds in each gun. He hit each target in one shot and didn't need the second, but spending the extra time to load two rounds didn't hurt him.
Phil's time was 1:07.

Gary went third. He hit the first three targets with one shot each and was on a roll, but at station 4 he had a lot of trouble chambering a round, and then he missed. He hit it on second shot but it was just too much.
Gary's time was 2:02.

Gary gone. And that actually felt overdue. After all, he'd been performing poorly since the beginning, when he did the worst in the very first challenge and went straight to elimination after not shooting well at the proving ground. He'd made some other sizable blunders this season, but had always managed to squeak by - until then.

They headed back to the house for the evening, and Colby told them there would be a "nice little surprise waitin' on you guys tonight." The surprise? The four previous winners of Top Shot came to visit them. Whoopee!

Final Challenge

Colby had promised an epic challenge, and they certainly put one together. This one had seven stations:

  1. Remington 1875 revolver, 6 targets (in a grid, like the dice challenge) at 35 feet, then cross a 20' rope line;
  2. Ruger 10/22 rifle, 20 shooting gallery targets at 50 feet;
  3. Schofield revolver, shooter must make two perfect runs of 6 targets (miss one and all 6 pop back up), 7" and 6" in diameter, at 35 feet;
  4. Stryker crossbow, three moving targets at 30 yards;
  5. SVT40 Soviet semi-auto rifle, 12" exploding target at 150 yards (wow, the slow-mo showed the end of the barrel really droop after the shot);
  6. Beretta 92F semi-automatic pistol, must shoot through a 2" tube at 25 feet;
  7. Hotchkiss mountain gun (CANNON!), 40" target at 200 yards.

At station 1, Phil took a nice lead when he didn't miss and Chris did. Phil held his lead through the shooting gallery, but at station 3 he faltered when he missed the last plate of the first row. All the plates came back up and he had to start again. He cleared that row but then missed the last one on the bottom row and had to begin again. And then he did it again! Right after that, Chris cleared his final steel plate and moved on. Phil's lead was gone.

The next station was the crossbow, which was good for Phil and bad for Chris. Phil had used a crossbow to win the elimination challenge in episode 9, so he was well versed in its use.

Phil cleared his plates and got to the crossbow station just as Chris missed with his first arrow. Now they were tied again. Phil hit with first shot, then Chris hit, Phil missed, Phil hit, Chris missed, and then (while cocking his own crossbow) Phil gave Chris encouragement! Wow again.

Then Phil hit his third crossbow target, thus clearing that station. Chris remained behind, trying to hit the aggravating moving targets with spring-flung sticks. Phil took two shots with the SVT40 and hit, then grabbed the Beretta 92F and hit with his first shot. Chris still had two crossbow targets remaining as Phil started with the Hotchkiss mountain gun.

Phil aimed the cannon, attached the rope, stepped to the side, and pulled the rope. It didn't go bang! Turns out, he had failed to load the cannon. Oops! The previous Top Shot winners, standing on the sidelines to observe, made fun of him. Phil then loaded the gun and showed them what was what by hitting the target with his first shot.

And just like that, Phil Morden become the fifth person to win Top Shot, beating out some very good shooters during this All Star season. Congrats to Phil, who consistently did well and deserved this win - and who very kindly went straight to Chris to console him. Definitely a good sport.

Will there be another season of Top Shot? I kind of hope so. It was nice to see a real shooting competition for a change.

- Russ Chastain

Top Shot All Stars

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