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Top Shot Trench Wars Bring Out Brownings and Grenade Launchers

Top Shot Season 4 Competitor Gabby Franco taking a shooting break in her 2000 Olympic souvenir. Photo: Gabby Franco

There was a great deal of excitement heading into Sunday night’s episode of Top Shot. Not only was History Channel bringing out the big ‘ole Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), there was also talk of throwing a grenade launcher into the elimination round. How’s that for taking things seriously?

As with almost every obstacle competitors face of Top Shot, there are several that will be performing the task or firing the gun in question for the first time. Olympic shooter Gabby Franco experienced that very obstacle when they brought out the Browning.

“That was the first time I shot that rifle,” said Franco. “Not the first time I shot a rifle, but the first time for the BAR.”

Although all found their shots in the practice rounds, several experienced a flub or two during the actual challenge. Gabby, like fellow female competitor Michelle Viscusi, found the target with relative ease. That was surprising given her lack of experience with the BAR.

“It wasn’t difficult maintaining accuracy because the fundamentals are the same for handguns and rifles,” Franco explained. “What was critical was my upper body position. I needed to lean forward as much as I could in order to recover my sights quickly and shoot faster. I knew that recoil would not be easy so I learned to control my finger in order to avoid shooting unnecessary and inaccurately rounds down range .”

But it wasn’t that easy for everyone. Red Teammates Keith Gibson and Kyle “Papa Bear” Sumpter suffered from a variety of complications. The same could be said for Team Blue’s Terry Vaughan, but his misses were more the cause of poor teamwork than poor aim. When Terry (the final Blue shooter) found his target, Team Red was left with several competitors still at the starting block. Then they brought out a big gun. Well, not a big gun, but definitely a bigger bang.

The Big Bang came courtesy of the Milkor USA M32A1 grenade launcher. Six cylinders of style and grace, the Milkor was placed in the capable hands of the elimination nominated Keith and Kyle. The trick, it appeared, would be the reloading.

While Kyle battled through the smoke of the explosions, it was Keith’s fumbling of the reload that made the difference. After only producing a series of clicks when pulling the trigger, Keith scrambled to find one of the filled cylinders in his partially loaded Milkor ask Kyle blasted his way back into the house.

After the all the excitement, and obliteration of the countryside, I asked what I asked many a competitor who witnessed (but did not shoot in) an elimination round. Did Gabby get to shoot the grenade launcher?

“I did,” she exclaimed. “But only once and in my dreams that night. I hit all my targets and I had a lot of FUN! Then I woke up.”

So Kyle is back with Team Red, Gabby is dreaming grenade launching dreams and there’s a whole mess of shotgun shooting scheduled next week for episode #3. We’ll load up on shells and see you then.

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