Thursday, July 29, 2010

Brad Engmann: USPSA Grand Master and Top Shot Competitor

Following up on our interview with Kelly Bachand, we tracked down Brad Engmann and asked him if he could sit down and talk with us about his background in the shooting sports as well as his elimination this week from the History Channel's reality TV show "Top Shot".

Living in San Francisco, there aren't many gun ranges or shooting clubs to be a part of, but Brad showed an interest in shooting from an early age. It wasn't until years later that he discovered USPSA and action shooting, and this late discovery led him to wonder why it doesn't have more exposure in the Bay Area. His drive to help move the shooting sports into the mainstream of society is part of what motivated him to apply to be on Top Shot.

Here's what he had to say about his early years shooting and his experience on the show.

Cheaper Than Dirt: How long have you been shooting and how did you get started shooting? I know being in San Francisco you probably didn't grow up around firearms. Brad: What ended up happening was that I convinced my dad to take me to the range when I was 13. There is obviously not a very big firearms base out here in San Francisco, but just thought that it'd be cool to go and he took me. That was nice of him. We actually ended up making it kind of our weekend thing, so we'd always go to the range. It was just a static range, there was nothing particularly special about it.

What I ended up doing was that I was into car racing for a while and I'd take my car up to the track and I'd end up working on cars and building them and all that type of stuff. One thing that I kind of liked about shooting was that when cars got really expensive there was the same racing appeal where you could just go out and try to go as fast as possible. It kind of played on my previous experience at the range for a while. I picked up USPSA about three years ago I would say.

Cheaper Than Dirt: It's funny that you should mention car racing, I know that John Bagakis had a background racing cars before he got started in the shooting sports. Myself and a number of us working at Cheaper Than Dirt! who participate in the shooting sports like IDPA and IPSC also raced cars until we discovered that bullets were less expensive than tires. Brad: Yeah, and if your gun blows up you're out only $900 to replace the whole thing, versus taking out your car in a wall.

It's interesting to see how many competitive shooters have made the transition from racing to shooting. Tell me, did your family own a firearm before your dad took you out to the range that first time? We actually rented one for many many years. We didn't own one. I would shoot, ironically a Beretta 92F.

Similar to the one you complained so much about on Top Shot- Well, there's a little more to the story than that-

OK, we'll get into that in a little bit- But yeah, there was that and then I ended up buying a 96 in .40 S&W, it was the Brigadier version with the heavier slide and I kinda scrapped that in favor of a Sig P226 later on. That's what I shot my first USPSA year with was the 226.

How old were you when you got your first pistol? My dad bought it when I was I guess 16 or 17, because I said "What's the point of us renting the thing..." It wasn't really necessary for us to have a gun, but it was more of a cost issue. I liked to go shooting and it was just practical to just have our own firearm.

It's always been a sport thing for me. I was never really particularly concerned [about self defense]. Obviously the arguments are sensible and everything else, but my main concern was the sporting aspect. It wasn't the defense issue.

So, you're racing cars. You're going to the range and shooting on the weekends. At what point did you decide to take up shooting as a competitive sport? I actually quit shooting altogether for about 4 years or so. The reason was because I really wasn't aware of USPSA. this is something I think is an issue with the shooting sports in general. There's not a lot of information that's propagated throughout just the mainstream shooting community as far as what's available in terms of sports.

I'll talk to people about USPSA and they're amazed that this thing even exists, that they let us go running around with guns and shoot stuff. They've never even fathomed that there would be something out there like that. So I just wasn't aware, and I got bored just shooting at paper at a static range. Racing was more fun, and of course you pick up more girls with cars than you can with handguns. I just kinda stopped shooting for a while, but once the racing element got really expensive I got really frustrated with it.

I started looking into more sports and actually, I saw something on the History Channel in a Mail Call episode where this guy was shooting a plate rack, and he said "I'm from USPSA," and I thought "What's that?" and I looked them up.

You can blame the Gunny then for getting you started in USPSA. I can blame him, that's exactly right.

As you got into USPSA, I'm sure you had to have picked up a mentor or a coach, or even just someone you looked up to within the sport. Who is someone who you look up to, who you try to model yourself and your shooting style after? And who are your mentors? Actually, the interesting thing about that is that while there were people who I met at the club who were helpful and would give me pointers, I never really had a coach. What happened was is that I didn't really know anybody at the club. I just thought it would be fun and I just drove out there by myself and took the class.

I shot the first match by myself. Actually the first stage that I ever shot I was so nervous that I forgot to put in my earplugs. It was an IDPA match fortunately and it was only 16 rounds [on that stage]. I was so focused on hitting the targets, and at the end of the stage I unloaded and showed clear and I remember wondering "What the hell was that ringing sound?" I thought something was wrong with my hearing protection until I realized "Oh! It's not there!"

But I never had a mentor per se. Pretty much what it's been, is that I discovered it was fun, and I discovered it was something I want to be good at. I worked as a range officer at my local club so that I could go out and practice whenever I wanted, but it's just been essentially me figuring it out.

It's kind of difficult to figure out exactly if you're doing everything right. As far as the top guys, I just knew that I wasn't shooting as fast as some of these guys could, especially Vogel and Sevigny. They're both in production, they're both shooting the same gun that I was at that point. I would just constantly watch videos of them and try to discern what techniques they were using. I remember there's a video on the GSSF Foundation where Sevigny is aiming a Glock at the camera and I would freeze frame that and then look in the mirror to see if my grip angle was correct on my left hand. It was just a lot of careful scrutiny trying to figure out what the right thing to do was.

It's a lot like golf. There are a lot of small adjustments that can be made within the hand and hand position, the grip strength and everything else, that will have a dramatic effect on your shooting. With the absence of a coach and even with the difficulty of trying to analyze it on video, those little adjustments are very important to make. So I had to look to a lot of the top guys to see what they were doing so I could just try to, for now, emulate it.

Let’s talk about training. Do you still train regularly? I do. One of the guys in my club is a really top level shooter, his name's Keith Garcia. He shoots 3-gun a lot but he's a Grand Master in Limited and just became a Grand Master in Production. He's a really really excellent shooter and he's been helpful to me in the past. He's pointed out some things that have kinda been wrong that I've had to work with.

As far as training is concerned, one of the things he turned me on to is airsoft training and shooting every day. Which, even if I'm not shooting live fire I'll try to get the airsoft gun out and shoot some steel targets in my garage. I've got a full setup in there, much to the chagrin of my girlfriend.

Some people are content shooting for fun, they're hobbyists and they're going to do what they want to do. But some people who are really driven, who really want to be at the top of this game, are going to have to carefully analyze every iota of it because if you lose by a second in this game you're going to lose by a lot. Everything has to be tuned to such perfection. At the higher levels you're really trying to squeeze every bit of performance out that you possibly can.

For new shooters, I think that people are sometimes afraid to try new things, because what you see in a performance curve you see a dip in performance, even if it's something that's worthwhile to try out. You're obviously going to screw up for a while when you're trying to adapt. Vogel has a good quote in his video which is "You'll try something in practice again and again until finally you'll be in the middle of a match and you'll just realize that you've been doing it and that it's finally sunk in to your subconscious." That's when you know that you're going to be able to adopt it well. But what a lot of people do is they will fall into a comfort zone and they'll refuse to either listen to advice or try new things because they don't want to have that dip in performance and fail for a brief period of time and experiment. I think that's a very essential component.

You mentioned airsoft. We've spoken to Dave Sevigny and Caleb Giddings who both promote dry fire. How comparable do you find airsoft to be to dry fire practice? I think there's two elements to that. The first of which is that airsoft is just more fun. My buddy who's an SF Sheriff produces a bunch of targets called Bam Airsoft. They have Texas Stars, they have plate racks, they have timers, they have a full steel challenge course that you can set up. You get the reciprocating action of the gun, and it's fun to watch the targets fall down. The problem with dry fire for me is that you have to rack the gun for each trigger pull. Unless you want to move around the house practicing your footwork and not pulling the trigger, I don't think it's mentally engaging. You don't know what limits to push.

In the absence of anything else, it's a good thing to try.

Do you find the simulated recoil of the airsoft to pretty closely replicate live fire? You can't really practice recoil that well. It's the equivalent of somebody going out there with a .22 LR. Because there's no recoil on the gun you should be able to shoot that much faster. You can focus on your transitions and you can focus on your splits and pulling the trigger as fast as you possibly can. When you go out to the real range, make sure that you have the grip strength and that you get your timing down. There are certain things that you can practice really well with airsoft that are superior to dry fire in a lot of ways.

What type of training do you do? What’s an average week of training look like for you? It's a lot. Some times I burn out a little bit. I was shooting live fire about 3 times a week or so, and I would drop about 1,000 rounds a week. Then I would shoot a few hundred BBs every night when I wasn't on the range. If I didn't go to the range I would come home and I would, even if I didn't want to and I was tired and had to get up for work, I would still go out to the garage and shoot a few hundred BBs in about 15-20 minutes. That really helps.

There are these elite guys in shooting like Vogle, Leatham, Sevigny, even Blake Miguez and J.J., those guys are the elite of shooting and I'm not there. I realize that. So, the way I practice is I'm trying to- you know Sevigny, who you inteviewed, said he only practices sometimes once a week, and I can understand why because he already has the skill. He's doing a lot of maintenance. Obviously he's trying to figure some speed elements out, but I'm still trying to figure out how to get up there. That's why I practice so often.

Let’s move on and talk about Top Shot for a bit. What prompted you to apply to be a Top Shot contestant? You get to be on TV dude! {laughs} But, ah... shooting needs a big mainstream appeal. Getting back to what I mentioned earlier, a lot of people aren't aware of my sport. I think shooting in some places, in particular out here [in San Francisco and California in general], kinda gets a bad rap. People I think will dismiss it outright in some areas, either the defensive elements or the sportsman elements, or generally they'll just look at you [strangely]. When I explain to some people what I do, like say when I just get back from practice and I'm meeting my girlfriend's friends or my coworkers and they ask "Oh, what are you practicing?" expecting me to say "Softball" or "Bowling" and when I say "Oh, I'm a competitive pistol shooter," they go "Really?!"

Invariably I can get them interested once I kind of explain it, but there's not a lot of mainstream exposure. One of my side elements, aside from becoming rich and famous, was to hopefully promote the sport a little bit and to get people more aware that shooting competitively is a sport. It's something that a lot of people, families, and whoever else can enjoy. It's not like we're training for the apocalypse out here. We're shooting targets and we're doing so in a very athletic way.

Did you do any particular training or preparation prior to your appearance? Well, the funny thing was when I was in between racing and shooting my hobby was a lot of weight lifting. I mean a lot. I blew out my left knee playing football and what I ended up doing was when I was rehabbing it was that I got really heavy into weights. I got up to dead lifting 425, squatting a ton of weight, bench pressing a lot, but the problem was that wasn't really doing it for me. It was kinda like shooting at a static range. I didn't know what I was training for.

So, I took all the time I was putting into weight lifting, which was 4-5 days a week, and put all of that into shooting. Which was why I went from barely making B-Class in 2008 to becoming a Grand Master a year and a half later. It was just all the time. What I ended up doing was neglecting my physical shape. I ended up putting on a big paunch because I wasn't lifting weights. Pulling a trigger doesn't really burn too many calories. So yeah, I had to hit up the gym, but J.J. still made us look like a bunch of sissies, walking around there like freakin' Superman all day.

You didn't do any extra pistol work or pick up a rifle or a bow and arrow in preparation for the show? The thing was we didn't have any idea what the show was going to be like, we just knew it was a competition show and that the History Channel was doing it, and that there might be some mystery projectile weapons.

A buddy of mine shoots SASS (that's Single Action Shooting Society or Cowboy Shooting), so I went and borrowed his Peacemaker, his single shot shotgun, I borrowed his double barrel shotgun, I borrowed a Winchester 73, and then I took out my own AR (which I don't shoot too much) and was drilling targets there. It turned out, after having been on the show, that a lot of the challenges were accuracy based and didn't require movement, at least when I was there.

My training was organized a little bit more around speed shooting I think, but I just wanted to get familiar with all of the types of guns. I think I got the reload down for the single action pretty good, but it's difficult to train when you don't know what the contest is so I just tried to get as familiar as possible.

Obviously those who might be applying for Season 2 are going to have a distinct advantage. Oh yeah, because they know exactly what it is they're getting into. We didn't. We didn't know there were going to be teams until we were on the day we went up to the mansion and I started noticing the sound people had carts and one of them said "Red" and the other said "Blue" and I'm thinking "What the hell is going on here?" Then they walked us up and of course Colby came in and said "You guys are on a Red and a Blue Team."

I had no idea. I kinda assumed it was going to be the kind of show where you would have a given weapon for that week and then the people who performed the worst would be eliminated. I didn't know there was going to be much of anything, but the same producer who did Survivor also did Top Shot, so maybe it should have been more in the back of my mind.

Did you go into the show with any particular strategy in mind? I refuse to vote for anybody based on politics, I just did not want to. I voted exclusively based on performance. Much like what Caleb did, even though percentage wise Blake and J.J. are better shooters, if you were to take just a random shooting competition they would end up beating me. I still wouldn't want to vote them out, I would want to shoot against them even if there was the hundred grand at stake.

I made a point of trying not to talk trash about my fellow competitors, and not to play politics once I found out there was the team voting. What you saw in Episodes 2 and 3 was I wasn't entirely sure the direction the competition was going in, and then there was just a little bit of frustration there.

Let's get into the first elimination challenge you were involved in with Frank on the MGM Ironman style zipline during episode 2. You had to be pretty happy seeing that challenge, it seemed to play right into your strong suit. Yeah, I was happy about seeing that. Either way, even if I lost, I thought it was going to be awesome that I had to go down a zip line on national TV. That's not something that you can say that you did every day.

I knew that it played to my strengths in transitions, and then there were a couple of strategy elements going in there on how to shoot the course. I thought that I pretty much had it in the bag when I was introduced to the challenge.

Stop for a second and tell me a bit about your strategy going into the challenge. Did you have any idea where the targets were before you got on there? We had no idea where the targets were, but I kinda anticipated it was going to be a left to right. I could see a bunch down at the bottom of the hill, but the first ones that popped up were a surprise.

What the legal team told me was that if you hit the target, it's going to shatter, and that's going to count as a hit. They said they were made out of glass. So I come down the zip line and I shoot the first target on the right and it has just a center bullet hole, and I'm wondering "Is this supposed to shatter?" so I shot it twice and I missed the one on the left because I was too busy shooting the first one twice. Afterwards what I did was I shot a bunch of rounds at each one of the targets because I wanted to make sure that I claimed the hits because they couldn't really see them. I wasn't sure entirely with the gun.

If it was completely dialed in, like in USPSA, you call your hits. You shoot the target once, you know what your sights looked like, and you move on. But there, I wasn't entirely sure of point of aim so I made sure to throw three rounds at each one. I took a conservative run on the first one. I went to slide lock too.

I got a few edges which weren't called as hits, so they were close, but they have the arbitration team and everything else. What ended up happening in the second run once there was a tie was I knew that I could do a single shot with each one. They took out the first two targets and we went down and there were eight targets and two bonus targets. I came out of the gate and just go one for one in each of the three, and this is like a 40 yard shot or so. I just went 1, 2, 3, on the first three targets, shooting just over my feet.

Then I was kinda stupid, and you can see this in elimination interview. I thought I had plenty of time I can hit all of these, so I threw two rounds at the bonus target on the left. The problem that I had was that the zip line picked up in speed. I was so focused on hitting the bonus target that I then had to swing back and I had shoot two more targets on the right. At that point, because Frank had done pretty well on the first challenge, he's a good shooter. I know people have been questioning his Weaver stance, but you're strapped into a chair so you can't move your shoulders at all. You couldn't pivot your body. You can only move your hands, so the Weaver stance doesn't matter. It's only whether or not you can deliver a single shot on a target accurately. That's certainly something Frank could do, he's a very good natural shooter.

I thought I'd lost at that point because we both hit five targets on our first run, and I had an opportunity to clean all of them and I got stupid and chased the bonus one, so I thought Frank was just going to go down there and run me. I really did. That was a very bad feeling when I had to wait for 45 minutes to an hour for them to reset everything so Frank could shoot. When I heard him fire about 8 or 9 shots, I thought "I'm toast..." but he didn't get it. I just think he had a bad run, he had a good chance of winning that time.

One thing that people don't realize is, they're so used to the 4th wall on television, that when they watch things they assume that the participants are unaware of what's happening and how they're going to be perceived. I knew that if I lost that challenge, the pistol challenge, that as a USPSA guy I was going to get lit up. Absolutely lit up. Furthermore, I was eliminating Frank who I'd met in casting, and we'd hung out a lot. I knew him pretty well and he's a really good guy. I really thought I was going to go home and I eventually won on a wing and a prayer. I had to eliminate a good guy that everybody liked, so there was a lot going on and I just went back and kinda crashed out.

Photo by Photo MotionMoving on to the bow and arrow challenge, that seemed like a pretty frustrating challenge for everyone involved and the red team ended up losing. What went into the process that resulted in you being chosen on the nomination range and sent to the next elimination challenge? That I wasn't too sure about. I know there were some personality issues. The thing is that the conflicts are going to be enhanced on television. You have to figure that you're living with somebody for a while, and even if there's a little bit of a disagreement going on that might motivate the voting, you're still living with them. You're still eating with them, you're still hanging out with them, you're sitting in the van for 2 hours waiting to be on set with them.

There wasn't a huge amount of tension or animosity there, and for me I didn't mind. The bow and arrow challenge I thought was more of a crap shoot because nobody really had any advantage there. If you could deliver arrows accurately on target you were in good shape. The difference between Kelly and J.J.'s shot was determined by a myriad of factors. Skill is one of them, but there were a number of others that went into them making that shot. As I said, I didn't really care if they were going to vote for me. That didn't matter to me.

As I said I'm not going to play politics. If you're going to vote for me, whatever. I'm here because I want to shoot, I'm not here to sit out and not be there in the challenge. I'm not going to try to shy away from a challenge. This is what I do. This is why I'm on the show.

Still, it seemed like your tone changed once you realized that you might be eliminated after the bow and arrow challenge, with your now infamous quote being repeated across the internet. You know, that quote was made into a T-shirt by James Ong who's a grand Master Open Class shooter. So, at the California Golden Bullet this year, everybody showed up with a shirt [with the quote], and under there was a picture of a bow and arrow shooter with a circle and a line through it. I'm actually wearing the shirt right now.

If I knew it would have been cross bows, I would have been happy, but I thought there was just going to be another bow and arrow thing. To me it just seemed entirely a luck issue. I mean, if you're shooting at a target 30 yards away that's one thing, but we were shooting with this long bow at 100 yards with literally about 15 arrows practice. At that point I'm saying I'm happy to shoot against whoever. That's why I'm here, but to put me up against somebody in a bow and arrow challenge, it's like "What's the point?" I mean, if I got eliminated there then I would have been like "Well, why even bother?" Anybody could get eliminated at this thing. You're taking skill out of the equation if it was bows and arrows at that point.

That's something Caleb touched on in one of our interviews. It was a marksman challenge designed to have competitors be able to pick up virtually any projectile weapon and be proficient with it. As I said, I thought it was going to be, when I first went on the show, an event where it was going to be multiple weapons with the worst performer in each particular genre, or in that particular episode, would be going home. That's how I thought they were going to eliminate everybody.

I knew I was going to be shooting a bow and arrows, don't get me wrong. I read the description of the show. The thing was I thought that the bow and arrows were going to be one of many factors in determining somebody's overall performance and whether or not they're out of there. Which is fair. For me to go on the show and represent shooting and have a lot of background in practicing shooting and then to not just compete in this thing, but have the chance to be eliminated and leave the show and go home on something, it seemed to me that was like rolling dice or something.

Fortunately it was crossbows. Those crossbows were bad ass. They were dialed. They had cool triggers. It was an interesting thing to shoot, and it was based on a skill set that I think both of us had.

On to the challenge. It looked like it was windy that day. How did that affect your performance? There were a couple of funny things about that challenge. The first of which was that we didn't shoot at 10 yards. I talked to Bill Trowbridge who was the expert. Just before we went to shoot at 10 yards he said "You might want to use the top of the triangle on the reticle." I convinced them to let us look through a scope to figure out what the hell he was talking about.

My first shot I used exactly what he said but I didn't hit the target. It went over it, so I had to aim at the bottom of the apple to hit it at 10 yards. The second part was about the wind. At 40 yards it was less predictable because the wind was swirling a little bit. What actually happened was I got on that 40 yard target very fast, and I dropped a couple of arrows at it and I finally hit the target. You can see the apple spinning on the show. What happened was, there are people who are supposed to call out the hits. They didn't call it as a hit. Bill was saying "I think that's a hit," and then I say "I think that's a hit," and then Bill Carns is still reloading to shoot again so I'm like "Is that a hit? Is that a hit?" Meanwhile I'm reloading the crossbow, thinking how hilarious would that be to spin the thing and then hit the next target. What I actually had to do was I picked the same point of aim, which was about the left edge of that circle and I drilled it right through.

After that show, the Red team had a pretty good run and won some team events. Still, the team was pretty small at this point, it was just you, Kelly, Peter, and Denny. Going into the single action shooting challenge ya'll had a small team and suffered another loss. It looked like Denny had put in a pretty poor performance but still didn't get nominated for an elimination challenge. We've heard from Denny and Kelly to get their point of view, but what did you see? Why Kelly and Andre instead of Denny and one of those two? Well the thing was at that point, Kelly and Andre looked the worst in the challenge. The thing for Denny was that he had a few bad habits he developed from doing his cowboy mounted shooting.

The difference that appeared to me in my mind, and this is something that you can't pick up on television, Kelly and Andre seemed very uncomfortable with the Peacemaker. When you watch them shoot it, Andre had two ADs. He had two of them in a row. Kelly was missing, he missed some of the biggest targets, 8 or 9 shots I thought. It wasn't just having a bad day, because everybody can have a bad day. I don't think people should be judged on their shooting performance just for having one bad day.

The reason Andre accidentally discharged was because his finger was in the trigger guard when he pulled back the hammer and he let the hammer fall onto the chamber. The reason J.J. accidentally discharged is because we were told we could only load the gun with 5 rounds instead of 6. What happened to him was that in practice they were doing it a different way, whereas in the challenge he loaded in the 5, except instead of skipping a chamber and loading them all in, he loaded them all in and then skipped a chamber. Or maybe it was the other way around. The point is, he had to cock the hammer and then rotate the cylinder over, when he actually didn't have to. He ended up dropping the hammer onto a loaded chamber, it was just a reloading thing because he lacked the familiarity. Not his fault at all. That could happen to anybody.

Andre accidentally discharged twice, and I could see just watching him that he looked like he was in Never-Never Land out there. The same thing goes for Kelly, he looked a bit like an inexperienced shooter at that point with the pistol. That kinda stuck out in my mind a little bit when I said, "Well, this is a challenge that requires multiple shot engagements. It's a handgun, and it requires some speed." Just watching them I thought "This is why the two of them should go," because Denny, it just seemed like he had his act together but he just had a bad run. He looked comfortable behind the gun, whereas Kelly and Andre did not.

In this most recent episode, it came down to yourself and Kelly shooting shotguns, and of course you got sent home after that one. Tell me a bit about the team performance leading up to the elimination range. I had a great practice session. I shot really well on the double action, I think it was the Smith & Wesson. It had like a 9 pound trigger. It was probably the worst trigger you could ever feel for a revolver you had to shoot accurately with one hand. A lot of us did pretty well with that. The next one was the mirror shooting, which I did not do incredibly well with. Kelly, Denny, and Pete all did well, they all drilled exactly what they were looking for.

Then it came to be the cabbage challenge. I read your interview with Kelly, I actually was the first person to hit. I got two hits on the cabbage. The first one was a graze, the second one I drilled. Pete was terrible on it, Kelly hit one, and Denny didn't hit any. When we got back there was the Bocce ball thing, I actually was out there practicing for a little while. They had this picture frame that you stack on a desk and it holds the picture flat.

I'm not sure if [Kelly] was out there at the same time, but it's that type of thing where they'll have the camera on there and somebody will be out there for a limited period of time. We were out there a bunch. I didn't practice nearly as much as Pete and Kelly did. That's certainly true, but when it came time for the team challenge the reason I went for the "Play It Safe" strategy is because I didn't think Chris was going to hit two out of three for the nails.

But one thing I must say is that there's been a lot of single shot stuff and there's been a lot of memory stuff that didn't involve very difficult shots. The Peacemaker challenge where Chris performed he hit 12 for 12 out of that, and he also was able to hit 2 out of 3 nails. I think that it's, surprisingly to me, the least talked about performance out of everybody on the show. Chris impressed me a lot with how he was able to deliver on those two challenges. Nobody expected him to go 2 for 3, we thought maybe he'd get lucky and get 1.

Things obviously didn't work out quite the way you had planned on that challenge, the Red team lost, and you and Kelly were sent to the elimination challenge. Going into that elimination, when you saw you were going to be shooting shotguns, what was your reaction? Have you ever fired shotguns at clay pigeons before? I've done a little bit. I've shot skeet maybe three times in my life. Once I learned the technique of it, just putting the little bead on the target, I got pretty good at it. The only other time I've shot skeet was hanging out with Blake Miguez in Louisiana with Pete down there a couple of weeks ago, and we were out in the pouring rain and Blake brings out these humongous boxes of skeet and shotgun shells. I actually tried the trick again, but I actually discovered there was a different way of doing it which actually worked out a little bit better, but I'd never really thrown a skeet before.

But I was confident going into the challenge. In the practice itself when Scott was throwing for me, in one instance I went 5 for 5 on his throws, and I could hit 4 pretty much every time out of the 5 that he threw up. My throws were good too. The caveat was when I got out there and attempted to make the throws. Scott emphasized throwing them up very very high and using your legs a lot. What I would do was get into a crouch like I was doing a lunge, and I'd just whip them up into the air. The problem was when I had the shotgun on my left hip it ended up causing me to short stroke the throw. What you'll see there is the skeet don't go very high at all, and they go all over the place because of the short stroke.

What I discovered when I watched some videos of Tom Knapp, is that it's actually a lot easier to hold the shotgun without it touching your body just with your left hand. Then hold the skeet so that instead of holding them with your thumb on the top and your fingers on the bottom and then trying to twist, instead you rotate them around so that they sit lengthwise in your hand and just keep your left thumb on the edge and just roll them off of your fingers. Then without using your legs a whole lot you just come up and shoot them.

I think that Scott had us going over a more advanced technique which probably works really well for exhibition, but I think that as a novice it was more difficult for me to pick that up while shooting the shotgun. We weren't able to practice throwing while holding the shotgun in practice either.

During the challenge itself, Kelly was the first to have a miss when he only claimed 1 bird out of 2. At that point, did you think you had a pretty good chance of winning? Yeah, I thought I had it in the bag. He went up and he threw one and I thought "OK, I got this. I'm just going to go up and claim my lead and keep moving." But when you look at that throw, if you watch I threw the first one and it hovered at the horizon and I drilled that, but the second one went like 30 feet into the air above it, so I had to track this thing and it's falling at like 30 miles per hour. I had to shoot it right in the middle of a fall. I'm thinking that I can hit these, but if I have another throw like that, I'm in trouble.

I threw three and only hit one and I was kinda pissed off because the three went pretty much about as far spread out as you could possibly get. So I hit the first one on the left and then swung around and the second one was already dropping below the horizon. So, we were pretty much split at that point. When it came to 4, I remember this like it's burned into my mind, Kelly threw up an absolutely perfect group of 4, and I just remember standing there, I was surprised he didn't hit all 4. At that point I already knew that I had lost it because when I came up to 5 I was already debating about throwing the skeet a different way. It was going that badly for me. I just took in a breath and looked out at the mountains and I threw up my 5, determined to shoot them as fast as possible. I shot all 5 shots, but I only hit 2 targets since I was chasing the third below the horizon again.

Unfortunately, it wasn't enough and you ended up eliminated by just one clay. What was it like to be on the set, in the heat of competition, at one moment, and then almost quite literlly on a plane heading home then next? It was very surreal to me. It's not like there's a cool down time, there's no readjustment period. You're living in fantasy Hollywood-land for a while, you can't talk to people when you want to, you can't go online, you can't do this, you can't do that, and then all of the sudden I'm sitting in the middle of LAX having my first beer in three and a half weeks. I'm just thinking, "I was just on a reality TV show just 2 hours ago, and here I am on my iPhone having my beer. I'm suddenly back in civilization.

I was looking forward to getting back and seeing my girlfriend, and then kinda getting back into the world. Believe you me, I went out and threw up some skeet on the range the next day and tried to do the "Mental Sanity Test." I still couldn't throw them very well. The only time I could throw them well was when I shot with Blake and he had me try his technique.

What did you learn, what did you take away from the Top Shot experience? I'll put it this way: There is a lot of pressure involved when shooting on television. There is a lot of pressure. There have been a couple of things that I learned. Immediately after the show, one thing that I realized is that you have to calm down and shoot your game.

People saw a lot of me on the show, and it looked like I was getting mad at equipment issues or whatever else. Really how I am is I'm very hard on myself. If I go out there and mess up a stage, if it costs me the match, I kinda go on tilt. I stop caring about the match and get pissed off. People on my squad would notice a complete 180 switch. I would be jovial and happy when I was hanging out with people and cracking jokes or whatever, but after I threw a couple of mikes [misses] for about 45 minutes I'm not somebody you want to talk to. I wouldn't be very friendly.

Just thinking about that, and thinking about it in context with the show, reading the comments and seeing myself on television, one thing I said in a post in the forums is that people are going to remember your character a lot more than they're going to remember your shooting performance. What I was too concerned with during the show is that I knew what people were going to think. I knew people were going to think as a result of that rifle challenge in episode 1, I knew what people were going to think as a result of the Beretta, but the funny thing was what I really got hammered on was my personality. Obviously it was a caricature that I didn't think was entirely fair, but I was getting hammered for my worst elements. I wasn't getting hammered for my shooting performance. People started criticizing my shooting performance because they didn't like me as a person on the show.

What occurred to me is that I need to tone it down and stop being so intense on the range. It's the same drive that's driven me to become good at my sport that also can sometimes cause me to go on tilt and get irritable and start not being the best teammate somebody could have. Nobody wants to hang around a guy who's pissed off. I need to relax and enjoy it more. Calm down and enjoy the shooting more. That's part of the competitive mindset that guys like Enos will talk about in his book.

It sounds like quite the life changing experience then. I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to us about your background and your experience on Top Shot It's been a pleasure. Hope to see you on the range some day.

Brad Engmann is a Project Manager in San Francisco. He's also a USPSA ranked Grand Master in the production class, and he competes regularly at Area level competitions.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cheaper Than Dirt! Begins Selling Firearms Online

Cheaper Than Dirt! announced Wednesday that they have begun selling firearms online in addition to their broad selection of ammunition and firearms accessories. The move follows two years of rapid growth for the Fort Worth based company. Robust sales of ammunition and firearms accessories in 2008, 2009, and the first part of 2010 have prompted the company to expand into pistol, rifle, and shotgun sales.

CEO Michael Tenny was very happy to announce the new online offerings, saying “This is something we’ve worked towards for some time. We’ve now implemented a system that allows customers to browse, select and purchase a firearm online. With more than 3,500 firearms available online, we have one of the biggest selections on the internet. Firearms are shipped via 2nd Day Air at a very low $7.99, so it arrives extremely quickly after we confirm a valid FFL to transfer the firearm to.”

Federal law requires firearms to be shipped to FFL Dealers. Purchasers can browse, select, and purchase a gun online and, after submitting FFL information, the firearm will be sent to a local dealer who will complete the federally mandated background check and transfer the firearm to the customer for a small fee.

An enormous variety of firearms are available at “Cheaper Than Dirt” prices. The broad selection of guns includes more than 70 manufacturers and millions of dollars worth of inventory in stock and ready to ship directly to your local dealer. Users can easily browse by manufacturer or by firearm type and caliber to locate their desired purchase and checkout online.

The process for ordering a firearm is very straightforward. After finding the shotgun, rifle, or pistol they wish to purchase, customers simply add it to the online cart, and checkout online as they would normally. They will receive an email confirming the order and providing further instructions. At that point, purchasers will need to contact their local gun dealer to arrange for transfer of the firearm. It’s easy to locate a dealer near you usingCheaper Than Dirt’s online dealer locater.

Transfer fees can vary so it is a good idea to check with the FFL Dealer ahead of time to request a quote on the fees associated with your firearm transfer. If the customer feels that the fees are too high, it’s a simple process to search for another FFL Dealer. The FFL dealer or the customer will then fax or email a copy of their ATF issued license to Cheaper Than Dirt, and upon receipt the firearm will be shipped to the dealer who should contact the customer to let them know that their new purchase has arrived.

You can see the full selection of firearms available for purchase by going to the Cheaper Than Dirt website at

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Kelly Bachand: Long Range Rifle Shooter and Top Shot

Kelly Bachand is young, still in his early 20s, but he's made quite a name for himself as a long range rifle shooter. He's won numerous national competitions, as well as the World Championship long range rifle match. Lately you might have seen him on the History Channel's new reality TV show "Top Shot".

Kelly is still a college student, and has a busy schedule between competition, classes, and his part time job he uses to pay for his education. Still, he managed to make time for us to sit down with him and talk a bit about his shooting experience as well as give us some insights behind the scenes of Top Shot.

You've been shooting since a very young age. How did you first get involved in the shooting sports? I've been shooting ever since I was about 5 years old. Like many I got a Red Ryder BB gun for my 5th Christmas, but the very next day we had to take it back and return it for one that was a little more accurate.

I guess it's safe to say you didn't put anyone's eye out? I put no one's eyes out. I mean, this was back when we took the BB gun out Christmas day and we were shooting at pop cans and stuff at a local park. Now I'm pretty sure if you brought a BB gun out there someone would call the cops.

So I shot recreationally for many years with my dad, we'd go hunting, target shooting at the range. My grandpa would always give me guns, he gave me a .22 rifle for my 10th birthday and a .22 pistol a couple of years later.

It was in high school that I first started competing. I saw when I was signing up for classes that I could take a class about shooting and that it fulfilled my P.E. requirement. For three years in high school I did Marine Corps JROTC Marksmanship and I did all right. I won some things, lost many things as well and then after graduating from high school there was a couple of months when I didn't shoot at all competitively. I didn't really know that there was more to do after I shot air rifle in high school until a buddy from church invited me to come out and start shooting High Power.

I shot High Power for a year, which is an AR-15 at ranges from 200 - 600 yards and I did well so I was encouraged to start shooting more long range, 600 yards and farther using open sights. Then, in 2006 is when I tried out for the USA Young Eagles Team, which was the under 21 long range rifle team. I ended up making it and I won a couple of things. I believe I was high junior in the Leech Cup and the high junior in a couple of other things. I think I won a 600 yard match where I was the high expert. I'd have to check back to remember what exactly I won that year.

Sounds like a busy year. It seems you've pretty much stuck to rifles in competition. Why did you choose rifles instead of another shooting sport like International Free Pistol, IDPA, or IPSC? It's just kinda the way it happened. I did shoot a little bit of air pistol in high school. We had a couple of months where we set down the air rifles and picked up the air pistols. Kind of like when you do Free Pistol, 10 meters one handed, so I did to that for a little bit. It didn't really grow on me as much as the rifles did, simply because the rifle portion was made easy for me. People were lending me rifles and encouraging me to come out and shoot matches.

As in most shooting sports I was able to get into it and succeed because there were many more experienced shooters with extra equipment lending me their rifles, lending me their spotting scopes so that I could get started.

Now when you got started in Palma you got Mac Tilton to donate a gun for you. Yes, but that didn't happen for a few years. In 2007, 2008, and the first part of 2009 I was actually shooting a Washington State Association rifle. It was a Savage, kind of an older rifle, but that was what I shot in the World Championships in 2007 and that's what I won quite a few things with from 2006-2008.

Then when I turned 21 I was no longer considered a Junior so I was no longer able to borrow that rifle. I wrote a couple of letters and sent them out to people that I thought could possibly sponsor me and Mac responded. That turned out to be a very very good relationship. Just a few months after he built me the rifle I won the Canadian Nationals with it.

Let's talk about training. What type of training do you do? What's an average week of training look like for you? I probably don't train as much as someone like an Olympic shooter might. I typically practice once a week, sometimes twice a week. I have a 600 yard range not too far away and I go there every other week with my team. I shoot somewhere between 40 and 80 shots from prone, the same sort of thing I'll do in competition.

We do things to simulate long range, because the 1,000 yard range is quite a ways away. I have to drive out of state to get to the closest one. We shoot a target at 600 yards that's been scaled down to look like a 1,000 yard target, so it's really a very small target we're shooting. Then, when I'm on my own, I will go out to a 200 yard range and just plink away by myself.

Now, as far as someone without a whole bunch of natural skill becoming competitive? They absolutely can do it with some discipline. Getting instruction is extremely important so they can learn the proper fundamentals. As far as being competitive and winning at a national or international level, I do think there is a little bit of innate skill that's needed.

You've referred to yourself in the past as a prodigy... I haven't referred to myself as that, but I'll accept it if people want to call me that. I am a little more modest than I'm sometimes portrayed on TV. I've kinda grown into being the kind of person who just lets my shooting score speak for itself. But yeah, being as young as I am and being good at a sport that is typically dominated by much more experienced shooters puts me into an area where people are going to call me a prodigy.

Let's talk about those more experienced shooters. Who is someone who you look up to, who you try to model yourself and your shooting style after? And who are your mentors? In the long range game there are a couple of people that are typically dominating. The thing that I look for and the thing that I strive for is to be able to win or lose and still make and keep friends. Some people aren't good at that, and you'll see some really arrogant people out there winning all the time, but no one wants to talk to them. That's not the person I want to be.

I've got a couple of friends, people that I look up to, one of which is Michelle Gallagher. She's won at long range matches all over the country, internationally also. She does it always with a smile on her face. I definitely look up to her as a friend and a competitor, I talk to her all the time. We bounce a lot of good ideas off of each other. Another good friend and competitor is Bryan Litz, and then someone who just shoots like a machine is Tom Whitaker. He's pretty much set and holds all of the records in the Palma shooting world. If you can hope to shoot like anyone, that's the guy you want to hope to shoot like.

What do you see yourself doing in the future? Do you see yourself going out for the Olympic team or anything like that? That's a good question. A lot of people ask me "If you're on the US National Rifle Team, are you going to the Olympics?" Unfortunately, no. There is not an Olympic event for long range rifle shooting. I guess it's just a land issue. Not too many countries can host 1,000 yard shooting because there's so much land required.

But there is .22 Rimfire... There is .22. Now, I could get started in that, I could go that way, but right now as a college student I don't really have the ability to do that. If someone wanted to buy me the equipment, get me started, I'd be all over it. The truth of the story is, in long range shooting there is a tremendous amount of skill needed on the shooter's part just to break good shots. The people who win though, they don't just break good shots, they break a lot of really good shots, and they call the wind better than anyone else.

If I go up to a 50 yard line shooting .22 against somebody, I've just taken away one of my huge advantages: my ability to know what's happening with the wind. Will I do well? I might, I could probably learn it and do pretty well, but right now I'm excelling at doing well in long range shooting because of that added element. For some reason it's something that I pick up intuitively. It's really just a guessing game, reading the wind and deciding what it's worth. If I start shooting in small bore or air rifle, I take away that advantage and then it just becomes an equipment game: who has the best equipment.

Then there's controlling variables. You're there [shooting small bore] as a shooter with all of your equipment, you want everything to be exactly the same. Whereas with long range shooting, I might be shooting in a mud puddle one week and the next week I'm shooting on concrete.

Those are some good points. Let's move on and talk about Top Shot for a bit. What prompted you to apply to be a Top Shot contestant? A local friend that I shoot with in long range matches actually told me "Hey Kelly, I think you'd be great for this. You should audition for the show." We both auditioned for it together, and oddly enough we were both picked for the top 50 selection.

We both went down there and they have whatever hoops they want us to jump through to see if we are qualified, and so they can pick who they want to be on the show. I kinda felt like I had it in the bag. When I went there I saw I was the youngest person, and I was the youngest by a couple of years. I went into an interview and I felt like I just did really well. I came out of the interview with people telling me they really liked me, they liked my attitude, and I had a lot of fun with it. I fully expected to get a call back a couple of weeks later to tell me that I'd be on the show.

And of course you did get that call. Did you do any particular training or preparation prior to your appearance? I didn't do any training in preparation for Top Shot.

Other than your normal training routine? No, I did shoot a little bit with a .22 conversion kit on my 1911. About 50 rounds or so. But, without having an instructor, just going out and shooting by myself isn't much in the way of training.

Still, you did take the time to re-familiarize yourself with handguns. I tried. I tried, now I was quite busy. I'm in electrical engineering at the University of Washington, and I actually had to finish a quarter of three classes at 300 level engineering two weeks early in order to be on the show. I had to take all of my finals early, turn in final projects early, and my professor wasn't very cooperative. He wanted me to just fail all of my classes and retake them. So, I had quite a nightmare just even getting prepared to get on the show.

Once I finally finished everything and got on the plane to go down to LA I just breathed a big sigh of relief. I was just relieved, it was vacation time now.

You went into this just looking at the competition as a vacation? Yeah, when I'm here at home working, going to school, sleeping very very little, it's kind of a grind. I've got a little bit left of engineering school and I'm paying for it with a part time job, so that doesn't really leave a lot of time for sleep. When I found out I'd be in sunny California, no alarm clock to wake up to, be able to eat whatever the heck I want, I was really looking forward to it.

You know, that's one thing that both Caleb and Denny mentioned was the inordinate amount of down time, long stretches where ya'll really weren't doing anything. There was a lot of down time. Which is why you see some of the shenanigans we got ourselves into. All the arguments and bickering, when you have 16 alpha personalities in a house and you don't have music, you don't have TV, stuff's going to happen.

Did you go into the show with any particular strategy in mind? I thought I had a strategy, but as I continue to watch myself on TV I think I'm finding out I really don't have a lot of tact sometimes.

You did seem to have the ability, for better or for worse, to be able to tick off just about anybody on the show. Yeah, I don't know how I did that. I really am quite a nice guy, a lot of fun, but I guess I just had a way of getting under people's skin sometimes.

How much do you think your lack of experience and young age played into people's perceptions of you? I'd say that lack of experience, that's just an excuse. Now my age? Sure, people definitely I'd almost say discriminated against me and singled me out because of my age. But I don't think anyone could cite my experience as a reason to not like me or to single me out and vote for me. While I am young, I've been shooting quite a while and my intellect and natural talent allows me to pick things up maybe a little faster than the average person.

During the first elimination challenge you shot rifles and sent Mike Seeklander home. That was a pretty stunning defeat and seemed to surprise everybody. Do you think that their estimation of you went up after that? I think some people were surprised, but in my opinion I don't see that they have begun to respect me anymore, seeing as how I just got thrown under the bus. Again. In the last two episodes.

That's a good point. You've been on three elimination challenges so far, and it seems that a couple of your teammates may have it out for you. After the third elimination challenge, what's your mindset like? I was a little shocked really. If you look at my face during the show you can see I'm just a very expressive person and I'm going to wear my emotions on my sleeve. You see just me being appalled, being angry, just leaving my team, walking over to be with the blue team, grabbing my Bible, just trying to relax. I was very appalled, I was very bewildered that Denny hadn't stepped up or asked for some votes.

You know, that's surprising, the last two episodes we saw Denny put in what are quite frankly poor performances, really not contributing anything to the team, and yet he's not been sent to a single elimination challenge. Is it just his good looks and affable personality that have kept him safe? You know, I really couldn't tell ya. I voted for him one episode ago, and I think the reason I voted for Brad is that I was looking at Denny and Brad in last night's episode and I remember thinking that both of them hadn't contributed anything to the team. But I saw that Brad had helped us even less. Not only did he miss all of the shots, but he talked us out of taking the aggressive strategy that really could have helped us win.

We really didn't get a good idea of the alternate "aggressive" strategy. Can you fill us in? Sure. The "play it safe strategy" was what you saw. That helped us lose. The aggressive strategy was an attack plan and it would have gone like this: Denny would have shot the Annie Oakley shot. Apparently that's something he does in his exhibition shooting, so it wouldn't have been very difficult for him. Among the exhibition shots that was the easiest. In practice, Brad shot the smallest group with the Smith & Wesson .38. I think he even hit the little dot twice. I hit it once, Denny hit it once, and Peter never hit it.

How big were those dots? In practice, the dots were about quarter sized. I think we shot it from 8 yards. Not that hard to hit for an experienced pistol shooter. I believe the Smith & Wesson had pounds, 8 maybe 10 pounds trigger pull when you pull right through double action like that. One handed, that's a tough feat.

But it's not nearly as hard as shooting the nails. Oh no, no, I mean the targets we practiced with were 2-3 times as large as the nails. So then I would have shot the large cans we had thrown and Peter would have shot the small cans. Now in practice it only showed that Denny nicked a cabbage. I also nicked one in practice, Peter never did and I don't think that Brad did either. But Peter and I did go out and practice with the Boccie balls for hours.

Yes, we saw you with J.J. and Peter practicing outside, and then later Tara, J.J. and Blake inside practicing with the water gun. Yeah, so we all got in a lot of practice but Brad, oddly enough, never came out and practiced with us with the Boccie balls. So, it wouldn't have made sense really to have him shoot on the aerial target when he really only practiced it 5 times. We got I think 5 throws in practice.

So, the attack plan was Denny on the bottle, Brad shooting the nails, me shooting the large hand thrown cans and Peter shooting the smaller ones. Had we done that, who knows what would have happened, but I've got to think that if I had hit one of the small cans I probably could have hit two or three of the big ones. I think if anyone could have hit the small ones, and more than one of them, it would be Peter. He practiced throwing those Boccie balls for hours. I mean, he had that down pat.

During the soda can toss, you whispered "Just like practice" - what was going through your mind as you prepared for the shot? That's just something I do. I like to put myself at ease any time before I take a shot that someone might view as a high pressure shot. If you had tested my blood pressure and heart rate right then and there it would have been low. I was calm, I was cool, I was collected. I was ready to take the shot, and I fully expected myself to hit it. The funny thing is, I said "just like practice" and in practice I only hit one out of five, so it really was just like practice.

The "just like practice" mantra is something I've done for a while. It's something one of my coaches Gary Rasmussen taught us. When he's at nationals he just tells himself "Ahhh... it's just another cool day here on the practice range. Everyone knows, and you do it all the time, you go out to shoot practice and you shoot the best you've ever shot in your life. Then, lo and behold, you go out and you shoot a match and maybe you're just not mentally there and you just goof up. It happens a lot. Everyone has done that.

It does seem like your mental attitude has really helped you through all of the elimination challenges you've been through. Do you think it's just your mental attitude that has allowed you to be so successful? I do have a certain mental ability that I've kind of picked up and practiced and begun to get better at over the last year, year and a half, to kind of shut other things out while I'm actually shooting. I'll be extremely nervous up until the point I'm actually shooting, extremely extremely nervous.

At the Beretta Xtrema challenge I got up to the line, and I'm way outside of my comfort zone holding this Beretta. I've fired it all of about 20 times now, and I got up there, I focused on what I need to do, and I make the shot. It all kind of goes away. What I do is I just repeat a mantra in my head. I just ask myself, "OK, what do I need to do to make this a perfect shot?" Then I tell myself over and over what I need to do. If I'm continually force feeding myself thoughts, good thoughts positive thoughts about what I need to do to make it perfect, I typically make very good shots.

That's some really great advice there for anybody in any of the shooting disciplines. That's right out of Lanny R. Bassham's book "With Winning in Mind". I read that a year and a half ago and it's a great book.

You'd recommend that book to any competitive shooter? Definitely.

Let's talk about the last elimination challenge against Brad. Did you have any shotgun experience prior to that? Well, I used to work at a shotgun range actually. My first real job when I was 15 I worked at a shotgun range. I used to leave my shotgun there and then go shoot some on lunch breaks. Now, I didn't ever compete or anything-

Still, one could argue that gave you some advantage going into the last challenge. One could argue that, but I would argue in return that the shooting wasn't really the difficult part of that challenge. Sure, it mattered, but the throw was really the difficult part and if you didn't have the throw it didn't matter how well you could shoot a shotgun.

For example in my last throw when I threw 5 birds, I had a particularly awful throw and one of the birds actually ran into the other right after it left my hand and broke. Once it breaks leaving your hand you're not allowed to shoot it. So when that one broke, it made it so I couldn't even shoot those. They were out of play because my throw was so bad.

We were given an allotted amount of time to practice. you have X minutes of practice or 25 rounds. I used like 80%-90% of my time with Scott Robertson, he was the expert, just practicing my throw. Because I knew that was what it was going to be all about, but they wouldn't let us practice the throw while holding the gun. They wanted that to be something we'd never done before. They wanted to keep throwing us tricks and stuff. So that's why when we went back to the house I grabbed the gun off the mantle, it was a little prop gun, and I went and grabbed the Boccie balls and went and threw Boccie balls up on a hillside to try to get a motion down. It was really all about the throw.

Did you ever let your guard down? After the elimination challenge, did you ever just stop and go "OK, now I've got a break"? Honestly, I was just excited I got to unpack my bags again. When they voted for me I was as much pissed that I was going to the elimination as I was pissed that I had to pack my bags again. That's just frustrating...

...because you've done this three times now and you've had to pack and unpack every time- Yeah! Now granted, Brad had done it the same number of times; he went against Bill and he went against Frank. Brad and I both were packing our bags for the third time. It was just so aggravating. Mentally, you're packing your bags, it's just a sign of going home. So, you think "I'm packing my bags. Am I going to unpack them at home? Am I going to unpack them back here in the mansion later tonight? I don't know." It's just very mentally draining.

That's one thing Caleb mentioned was just how difficult it was to get mentally in the game what with the drama and the threat of getting sent home. Obviously with your ability to focus you've really been able to get in there and stick with it. Sure, so on the firing line it was a whole different story if you talk to me. But in the house? There's a lot of drama, I'm even involved in it most of the time. I'm pissing people off left and right, inadvertently albeit. I'm making people angry here or there, but get me on the firing line put a firearm in my hands and I'm going to forget about all of that, I'm going to focus on what I need to do to make a perfect shot.

And and the end of the day, it really doesn't matter what drama or interpersonal conflicts are going on. If you simply show up and continue to out shoot everybody and make those perfect shots, you'll go right on until the end. Yeah, you know that's the theory. Chris on the blue team actually said, "Kelly, if I was you I wouldn't even shoot for the team any more. I'd put my bullets in the dirt."

And for a second that seems for a second, that seems like a vengeful "these guys are out to get me" tactic that might work. I'm not a vengeful person, but for a second or two something like that really seems like an attractive idea. Now, it's not something I could do, I'm much more sportsman-like than that, and I think that's been shown. But it would be hilarious.

Well, thanks for taking the time to talk to us about your experience in the shooting sports and for giving us some insights into Top Shot. Hopefully we'll get to talk again after you've won the $100,000 grand prize. I sure hope so.

Kelly Bachand is a college student attending Washington State University where he is studying electrical engineering. He competes in Palma rifle competitions and is currently a member of the US National Rifle Team.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Purchasing a Used 1911

ohn Moses Browning’s iconic 1911 pistol is one of the most well known and widely recognized handguns ever produced. It served in the US Military for well over 70 years, and many insist that it is still a superior handgun even today.

The 1911 remains a highly sought after handgun, with used models often selling for more than $1,000 in excellent condition. But how do you spot an original Colt 1911A1 specimen in excellent condition? Or, if you’re simply searching for a reliable shooter, how do you identify someone else’s problem gun that they’re trying to pawn off onto an unsuspecting buyer?

First, know what you are looking for. If you’re looking for an original Colt M1911A1 make sure that you are familiar with the slide markings that are found on that pistol. Be wary of an old collectors piece that looks brand new: that should raise some red flags. Older guns will usually show some wear and generally have a nice patina. Anyone attempting to pass off an antique collector’s piece that appears like it just rolled off the factory floor should be questioned as to how their pistol retains such an original finish.

Give the pistol a once over, checking the grip screws for damage and inspecting the rest of the gun for scratches, marring, or tool marks that may indicate incompetent work having been done perpetrated on the pistol. Make sure you have adequate lighting, as damage may have been concealed by having the finish retouched. Normal holster wear along the slide is perfectly acceptable and can indicate a well loved and well cared for gun. I bring a small flashlight along with me when shopping to help highlight any flaws in the pistol.

Ask the seller if you can field strip the pistol or, if they protest, if they would field strip it for you. This will help you check that all the parts are original and allow you to see any excess wear and tear or damage to the pistol. If the seller refuses to allow the pistol to be broken down this should again throw up some red flags. There is no reason a 1911 pistol, even a 99 year old collector’s piece, can’t be field stripped for inspection prior to purchase. If you find some replacement or non-factory original parts, don’t dismiss the gun. While this may lower the value of the gun, it shouldn’t preclude a purchase unless you are dead set on having a perfect all-original collector’s piece.

With the pistol field stripped, check for replacement parts and excess wear and tear. If all you want is a good shooting pistol, replacement parts should not dissuade you. Check the frame and slide rails for straightness and smoothness. Look for burrs along the rails and check for any bulges on the rail and slide that may indicate that the pistol may have been damaged by overpressure ammunition. At the same time, inspect the barrel for any bulges. Inspect the bore and make sure that it is clean and the rifling sharp. Keep a sharp eye for any tool marks or scratches inside the bore, around the crown of the muzzle, on the feed ramp, or inside the chamber. Examine the breech face for any scratches, excess wear, or peening. The feed ramp on Government model 1911s should have a small 2 millimeter step at the top of it; many amateur gunsmiths get dremel-happy and grind this smooth, but it is necessary for the proper feeding and performance of the pistol.

Some 1911 pistols have a hole where the back of the slide stop enters the frame, and cracking may be present in the rail just above the hole. This is actually normal, so much so that most modern 1911 handguns have this entire section of the rail cut out. If you find cracking here don’t panic, just be aware that you may want to have a competent gunsmith cut out that section of the rail.

Reassemble the pistol and, using your own Colt Factory magazine or high end aftermarket magazine such as a Wilson or Chip McCormick (unloaded obviously), insert the magazine and check for fitment. The magazine should fit snugly without wobbling around, but should still be able to drop freely when you hit the magazine release.

Next you will need to function check the pistol. Check with the owner first to make sure they are OK with you dropping the slide and dry firing the gun. If they refuse, offer to use a snap cap (I find it useful to carry a couple of snap caps when hunting for used bargains at gun shows for just this reason.) If the seller still refuses to allow you to dry fire a used pistol, even with a snap cap, it is safe to assume that the gun is defective and that the seller is hiding known flaws.

With the empty magazine still inserted, pull back the slide and see that it locks back securely. Using the slide lock lever, release the slide so that it snaps forward. Make sure that the hammer does not follow. Repeat this a couple of times. After double checking to ensure the pistol is unloaded, perform a dry fire and keep the trigger pulled to the rear. With the trigger still pulled, pull the slide back and release it making sure the hammer still does not follow the slide (it should remain locked back). Release the trigger and pull it again: the hammer should fall. When dry firing the pistol, pay attention to how much pressure is needed on the trigger to trip the sear. One common problem found on 1911s is a sear that has had too much material stoned off of it in an attempt to lighten the trigger pull. If the sear hooks are ground too far, the pistol can be extremely dangerous, able to fire even with the safety on. While this can be fixed with a replacement sear, it should send up a red flag and cause a potential buyer (you) to look for other modifications that may have damaged the pistol. After dry firing the pistol, lock the slide back and examine the breech face to make sure the firing pin is not protruding.

Almost all 1911 models are equipped with some form of a half cock. Test the half cock by pulling back on the hammer until the first engagement. Pull the trigger: the hammer should not fall on older 1911s. On newer Series 80 models, the half cock is very close to the firing pin and the hammer will fall when the trigger is pulled, though it will not have enough force to actually fire the gun. On older military style 1911s the hammer should never fall from the half cocked position.

Test the pistol’s safeties by first engaging the thumb safety. With the safety engaged and the hammer cocked back, push forward on the hammer with your thumb. It should not fall. When you attempt to pull the trigger with the safety engaged, it should feel solid and not budge. If it feels mushy, or if the hammer falls, there is sear damage and the pistol is not safe. With the thumb safety disengaged, test the grip safety by holding the gun without pressing down on the grip safety lever. With the hammer cocked, pull the trigger: the hammer should not fall. If it does, the grip safety may be excessively worn, or may have been disabled. Another way to check for excess wear on the grip safety is to depress the grip safety and pull the trigger. Keeping the trigger firmly pressed to the rear, release the grip safety and then the trigger. The grip safety should stay depressed until the trigger is released whereupon it should pop back out. Finally, check the disconnector by cocking the hammer and then pushing the slide about 1/8″-1/4″ back. With the slide pressed out of battery, pull the trigger: the hammer should not fall.

Examine the sights on the pistol. Aftermarket fiber-optic or tritium sights are a nice addition to a fine pistol, but take a moment to see that they have been professionally installed. Marring or tool marks on the sides of the sights may indicate a less than professional install. The same can be said for the grips. Unless they are night sights or ivory grips, such add ons do not enhance the value of the gun, but cheap or poorly installed grips and sights can certainly devalue a pistol. Learn to be able to spot cheaply manufactured and poorly installed aftermarket parts. The presence of these parts or accessories can be a red flag that indicates that the previous owner did not have a healthy respect for the gun and couldn’t be bothered to invest in professionally installed quality parts.

There are literally millions of Colt 1911 pistols and clones made by dozens of manufacturers. While manufacturer quality does vary some, the biggest things to look for when shopping for a used 1911 are modifications made or damage done by the previous owner. Whether you are looking for a good carry pistol or an old collectible Colt 1911A1, it helps to be able to spot the gems among the junk.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Denny Chapman: Horseman, Marksman, Top Shot

It’s hard to miss his big cowboy hat and wide grin. Denny Chapman is quite the character, and if you hadn’t heard of him before now, you’ve probably seen him on the new reality TV show “Top Shot” on the History Channel.

Denny was kind enough to take a few minutes out of his day to talk to us about his background in the shooting sports and how he came upon the cowboy mounted shooting sports.

Tell me Denny: did you start out as a horseman or as a shooter? I was probably shooting before I was riding. In fact, I’m sure I was. I grew up in southern Illinois in the Midwest. I definitely had my hands on a gun before a horse. I was brought up in a rural area, a very small town of about 800 people called Cambria. I grew up hunting and fishing. My dad and my Grandfather brought me up shooting. In our family, guns were common and typical. A tool.

You’ve been around firearms your whole life, growing up with them. Yeah. A gun was no different than a hammer or a screwdriver to me when I was a kid.

So I guess it was a natural transition to combine shooting and horses, having grown up in the country and already knowing how to shoot. Yeah, I would say exactly so. When I was old enough to start chasing girls most of the girls were horse crazy, and I soon found out I liked them too, so-

The girls or the horses? {laughs} Well, I never stopped liking the girls but I soon found out I liked the horses as well. It was a natural thing for me to pick up horses as a hobby.

You didn’t get started riding until you were in your teenage years then? Exactly, about 13 years of age.

Tell me a little bit about that. How did you find out that you had a natural talent for it, and when did you decide to start integrating shooting into it? Well, it was an evolution of many years actually. It wasn’t until about 1999 when I discovered the sport of cowboy mounted shooting. The Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association didn’t come about until the early 90s. It was kinda’ isolated to the Western United States, you had to stumble on it out in Arizona in the Scottsdale Phoenix area. It was very small. The first world championships were just a handful of people.

By 1999 I was competing in IDPA and USPSA, IPSC, I had already-

Let me stop you for a second there. You were already competing in action shooting when you discovered cowboy mounted shooting? Correct. I had already competed in probably half a dozen different organized shooting disciplines before I discovered mounted shooting. And I was a horseman already. I mean I was a cowboy per se, I was team roping and competing in quarter horse association sanctioned events like Working Cow Horse and Versatility Ranch Horse, and doing all the things a cowboy should be able to do on his horse.

My IPSC partner, Gary Stevens, was in Kentucky at the time and Gary was a retired Kentucky State Trooper. We were traveling to matches together. He had heard about mounted shooting before I did and he said “Man, you need to look into this mounted shooting stuff, it’s right up your alley. You’re already a cowboy, it’d be a great transition.” So, I got online and started searching. Lo and behold I found a small CMSA club in central Kentucky. I called ‘em right away and said “Hey, I want to come and see what this is like,” and they said “Yeah, we’re having an organized practice match. Come on down.”

So, I went down there. Now I knew they were using blanks because I’d researched them a bit online before I went down there. For those who don’t know, Cowboy Mounted Shooting is a sport that combines marksmanship and horsemanship. The marksmanship end of it uses a single action cowboy revolver such as a Colt Peacemaker or a replica of a single action Army Colt shooting .45 Long Colt blanks. The brass is crimped shut with just the powder only. The burning embers of powder then burst the balloon out to about 15 feet before the shot dissipates. It has a little bit of spread to it similar to a shotgun, but not much, you still have to maintain that specific degree of accurracy…

Just like one would aim a shotgun, right? Yeah, because you’re runnin’ by the target on a horse as fast as you can, you want to aim as close the target as you possibly can. It’s not as easy as it looks. Especially once you climb up on a horse and go running around trying to do it.

This is a timed event, correct? It is a timed event, so when you cross the timer line the timer starts, it’s just like a barrel race with guns. Except there are sixty some-odd different patterns you’re shooting. Five targets with one gun, five with another, and the hammer rests on an empty chamber.

So you don’t do reloads, you actually carry two separate guns? That’s right, we shoot five targets with one gun, holster, draw the other gun, and shoot the last five. There’s a lot to think about. Not only the riding, the shooting, but the gun change. The horsemanship, the horse that is, is probably 75% of the sport. Then, for every missed target you get a 5 second penalty.

If you miss a target then, you can pretty much write off any chance you had of winning that competition?Yes, absolutely. You have to shoot clean. I’m a level 5 and it only goes to level 6. If you’re comparing it to USPSA I’d be like a Master class level shooter.

I’ve done so many shooting sports, and been on a horse for a decade and this is still the most fun I’ve ever had. I feel as strongly today about the sport as the first day I climbed up on a horse. It’s hard to explain the exhilaration you feel. I’ve been in IPSC, USPSA, and various run and gun competitions, I’ve been in 3-gun and I loved it it’s great, but I pretty much gave it all up for mounted shooting because the horses took up so much extra time for the training. It eventually became a business for me. I’m the go-to-guy in the southeastern United States for mounted shooting horse training. It probably makes up about 75% of what I do for a living, just desensitizing and training horses.

I’m glad you brought up that topic because I’m sure we’ve got some people wondering about safety and how you train a horse to do this. Obviously you’ve got a working firearm which can be dangerous or even deadly and you’ve got very loud noises around horses which have incredibly sensitive ears. Tell me a bit about how you train a horse and what kind of safety equipment they use.

We’ve been pretty lucky throughout the last decade or so to come up with a pretty good plan of action. First off, we use ear plugs with the horses. They have ear plugs that are a soft neoprene rubber. They get rid of a lot of noise. I really don’t know what the NRR (noise reduction rating) is on them but I would say it’s probably similar to something in the 20-25 db noise reduction rating.

So, we start them with that. You know, the horse training is difficult and it’s time consuming but it’s something I really enjoy. I found out quickly that we get much better results when we introduce the noise and the smoke very slowly. So, I would start out shooting primer loads around them and work my way up. Sometimes I find a horse, and I can evaluate them pretty quick to find out if I need to stay light on them before I can step it up. I might have a horse for 60 days that I just shoot primers from their back.

That’s got to be difficult to get a horse that you can control well. Many people don’t understand that it’s really a marriage, and you and the horse have to come to an understanding and an agreement to get the horse to do what you want it to do. With IDPA and IPSC, you basically go out on the course and shoot it how you want to shoot it. You can’t exactly do that with mounted shooting. Talk to me about how important it is to get that bond with the horse, where the horse can perform as well as you can. It’s a time consuming chore. The most important thing is that the horse has the proper training first. We don’t just get on a horse that’s never been ridden before. The first thing that I do when someone drops a horse off with me for training is to evaluate the horse’s knowledge and the horse’s confidence in me as the handler and the rider. If the horse isn’t properly trained, I finish their training before I ever attempt to make any noise. Once the horse has the “handle” that I feel is safe for the rider, in other words the horse has to walk when I ask him to move, turn right, turn left, and he has to neck rein because we’re riding with one hand, move off laterally off my leg…

So you do use some cutting horse training to get them to move with leg pressure? Yeah, that’s a good point. The horse needs to be able to do everything a good working ranch horse can do. The horse needs to move off it’s haunches, doesn’t necessarily need to do a spin but it does need to do all those things a versatile ranch horse does because we’re negotiating through patterns. They need to be able to move like a good cutting horse. Once that “handle” is on the horse and I’m satisfied with it, then we introduce the horse to the world of mounted shooting. We desensitize them to the balloons, we have to be able to ride the horse up to the balloons, pick them up and set them down, and we’ll pop it in front of them. The noise is obviously a major thing…

And even the smell of the burnt gun powder I imagine… Absolutely. I’ve got a great video right now. I shoot for Taylor’s & Company Firearms, who are importers of Colt clones made by Uberti. Taylor and I have even designed a couple of new guns for us, specifically for our sport, which I’m particularly proud of.

It’s a process though. We get that “handle” on the horse first, then we start the noise training and all that’s involved with that and put it all together. You know, if a horse has a pretty good handle on them when they come to me, I can turn them back over to their owner in 30-60 days and have them have confidence.

Moving on, one thing I always ask all of the competitive shooters we interview is “How do you train?” What does a normal week of training look like? Do you take the horse out everyday, do you focus more on riding and getting that kinship with the horse or do you focus on shooting? How much shooting practice do you actually do? I do very little shooting in my training, but I give a lot of lessons and do a lot of clinics. As I’m demonstrating to my students the foundation techniques and things I need to do to be successful, I get to reinforce my own training. I literally give lessons three or four days a week at the ranch here. I’m on a horse while I’m teaching, I’ve got my rig on so I can demonstrate, say if my students are having difficulty with a gun change, or the proper draw, or some aspect of marksmanship. I can demonstrate that or the horsemanship. So essentially I’m getting a lot of personal training and reinforcement as I’m teaching, and I literally don’t have a lot of time to practice, so I have to take advantage of my teaching time to reinforce my skills. I’m very blessed and fortunate to be making a large part of my living through the sport, unfortunately it does take up a large part of my time and I have to be disciplined about it. If I decide that I’m not going to give a series of lessons, maybe I have two or three students a day, if I decide I’m going to take a day off of teaching and just train, I have to be willing to give up that part of my income. I very rarely do that because quite honestly I enjoy the teaching just as much as I enjoy participating in the sport.

And yet you do have to maintain some level of proficiency as a sponsored shooter as well as to maintain your ranking as a level 5 shooter, correct? I certainly do, and so it is important for me to consistently get to matches, perform well, and earn points in the ,World Points Qualifier. I’m already qualified for the World Championships, but since I’m a professional shooter it looks good to my sponsors. I want to keep them happy and show that I’m still serious about the sport. I don’t have to win all the time but I need to be there and maintain my good reputation, and while I’m there I’m promoting their products and their guns. I have a holster sponsor, Rod Kiblear Saddlery out of Alto Georgia who sponsors my gun rig and my rifle scabbard, I’m also a very successful mounted rifle shooter. Actually I enjoy the mounted rifle shooting as much, maybe even a little bit more than just the basic mounted shooting with the revolvers.

With the rifle, are you still shooting blanks? Yes, we’re firing 5-in-1 type blanks. They’ve got a little bit extra range. In the rifle shooting we still engage five targets with one revolver, but we’re drawing the rifle as we turn barrel and shooting the last five targets at a dead run as we’re coming home. No reins, we’re just steering from our seat and our legs, with both hands on the rifle. It’s really exhilarating. I’ve been doing it for ten years and the hair stands up on my neck just talking to you about it.

It certainly sounds exciting. Let’s talk about Top Shot for a bit here. What would prompt a horseman and a mounted shooter to want to apply to a reality TV show? I mean you’re an entertainer as well, but what exactly was your thinking going into this? I first saw the ad for Top Shot as a banner ad on the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association website for the casting call. I was immediately intrigued by it. I’m a self employed wild west entertainer and mounted shooter and long ago I realized the importance of promotion and publicity. That was a big factor in my decision to apply for the show. I knew that just my appearance on the show would result in increased visibility for the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association, for myself, for my sponsors, and not to mention there was the $100,000 on the line. Who couldn’t use $100,000?

But you know, I really wasn’t there for the money. I was really there for this once in a lifetime opportunity to shoot a bunch of weapons using somebody else’s ammo, get on national TV and get some exposure, have a good time and create memories that money can’t buy. And I made some good friends doing it.

We’ve already interviewed Caleb Giddings and that’s one thing that he brought up was that it wasn’t just the shooting and the chance to win the money but it was just an incredible experience and the chance to meet a bunch of other top level shooters. How was it for you walking in to be among the likes of J.J. Racaza and Blake and some of these nationally known top ranked shooters? I wasn’t intimidated I was excited. I’m used to a lot of pressure, I’m used to being the center of attention, I’ve done some media work prior to this and been in a few TV commercials, and I’ve been in the Western Shooting Horse Video Magazine. So the cameras and all that stuff didn’t intimidate me. The guys didn’t intimidate me, but I was just excited to be in the same group house with these guys, I knew I was going to be on the same range with them, shoot guns with them, and I just wanted to see how I’d stack up against them. I was very excited.

With the exception of the last episode with the single action revolvers and the shooting gallery, we’ve seen you kinda hanging in the background so far, which is presumably a good thing since it means that you’ve avoided any elimination challenges and any drama or friction with other team members. How do you feel your affable personality has helped you? You know, I never was much for drama. How many cowboys do you know who are drama fans? {laughs} You know, when I went on the show I decided I was just going to be myself. I’m not going to act, I’m not there to be an actor or to do anything unnatural or anything I wouldn’t normally do. I was just myself.

Here recently there was some drama between Caleb and Adam and it was so unnecessary. It made me uncomfortable. You don’t expect grown men to act like that.

And yet the drama is still an integral part of the game. We do have Colby hosting the show, he was on Survivor, and the personality conflicts and drama there really kind of made up that entire show, so you had to know going in that there would have been some drama. Did you have any tactics or strategies going into it as to how you would handle something should it come up? You know, I figured they would cast a couple of guys for their personalities for their potential for conflict. But no, I had no tactics or plans for how to react to anything like that or any kind of strategies, or any strategies at all for that matter. I didn’t form any alliances. I guess a lot of people are telling me “Hey, you’re flying under the radar,” but I’m just not a big fan of drama or going over the top on things. You know, I got a feeling that they cast the different teams on purpose that way. If you notice now, most of us red team guys, we don’t have a team leader and we don’t think that it’s necessary at this time. I think they kinda’ cast us that way on purpose, red team and blue team. We’re kinda’ the underdog, the red team, because there are fewer of us. I consider myself friends with all of those guys. Obviously I get along with some of the blue guys. I was sad to see Caleb go. He went out very classy and dignified.

Going into the show, did you do any special training? You’re going to get a kick out of my answer. Here it comes. {laughs} I hadn’t shot live ammo in about 10 years before I went on the show. I literally hadn’t shot anything other than a little bit of .22 rimfire just fooling around.

I did find myself time to shoot a recurve bow with a friend and I did some cardio training, to kinda get in shape, and that’s about it. I knew that it might affect my performance to an extent, but so far so good.

Quite frankly, I just didn’t have that much time. I had a lot of obligations to my students and to some mounted shooting competitions. I literally flew into LA the day after I competed in the Atlantic Classic Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association competition. I had obligations, and you know that’s the kinda guy I am. I’m pretty comfortable just backing up the truck to the horse trailer, hooking up and going to a match on the spur of the moment. I enjoy things like that. Maybe it’s the cowboy in me but it’s what I like to do.

Now I didn’t go in there and tell my red team buddies, “By the way guys, I haven’t shot live ammunition in 10 years,”

You just kept that little tidbit underneath your hat? I sure did.

This most recent episode featured single action revolvers. I know you had to have been really looking forward to that challenge. Of course, my sport really revolves around that specific type of weapon. You can see the smile on my face when we walk up to practice. What cowboy isn’t going to be happy to walk up there and see a Colt single action revolver sitting up there?

And yet, you seemed to struggle right out of the gate in the team challenge. What happened? You know, I definitely had a hard time. It was a tough one for us. I really wanted to lead off strong for us.

I guess I gave a little more credit to my mounted shooting experience and thought it would translate to shooting live ammo there in the competition. I was sure that at some point in the competition we were going to shoot cowboy guns of some type, whether it be something like a Colt Peacemaker or a ‘73 Winchester or something. And even though I’ve never shot any live ammo out of my cowboy guns, I thought I had some pretty good basic skills with the other firearms that I have shot live ammo out of. I don’t know, I guess the combination of the pressure of the competition and my lack of experience didn’t help much.

That day seemed very cold and wet. How much did weather play into the performance We spent about 20 minutes jogging around off camera just trying to warm up while they were resetting targets between blue and red. It was really cold. You saw a lot of the competitors shivering and shaking, it was that could.

Do you feel that played into your performance some? Nah, I’m not really going to say it did, no. Once we got going our adrenalin was going, we didn’t really feel the cold so much once we started. I can’t make that excuse.

I’m sure you were disappointed after the red team loss, and it was apparent that many on your team seemed let down. This challenge really played to your strong suit, but you still struggled. I think a lot of them thought I was a cowboy action shooter. I think because of my image a lot of them expected me to perform like a cowboy action shooter. [That episode] obviously showed that I’m not. I’m not a cowboy action shooter. I’d never shot live ammunition out of any cowboy guns prior to Top Shot, and unfortunately that was detrimental to my performance.

The first time I’d ever shot live ammo out of a Single Action Colt Army was when they called the top 50 out to narrow it down to the 16.

How did the recoil compare to the blanks you’re used to? There’s no recoil when we shoot our blanks.

This was markedly different then? Oh yeah. Whole different ballgame. You know, if I’d have been smart I’d have probably tried to get a feel what live ammo felt like out of those cowboy guns.

After the team event you pretty much turned to your team gathered in the kitchen of the house and told them “Hey, I screwed up, send me to the elimination challenge,” but they didn’t do that. Do you feel you should have been sent to the elimination challenge instead of Andre? You seemed to say as much, and yet it was Andre and Kelly that were voted in. Yeah, I was surprised. I’m glad I wasn’t sent to the elimination challenge. But you know, that wasn’t something that was really in my control. Adam and Chris both said that I should have demanded it. Adam played a lot of games and he tried to manipulate me a bit and I tried real hard not to let him.

I tried to stay on a steady even keel and not get caught up in [the drama] and Adam was trying to catch me up in it. My Top Shot watching party goers last night told me I shouldn’t have even acknowledged him. But it’s not like me to just duck out on a question all together. I’ve got to acknowledge him and answer his questions.

I don’t know, I felt bad enough coming right back from the nomination range and when Adam said “Well why didn’t you demand that you go,” I still had a bad taste in my mouth from Adam demanding to go against Caleb in the whole terrible “rat fink” scenario. Honestly, I didn’t even want to acknowledge Adam, but I felt it was the right thing to do and the gentlemanly thing to do.

Well, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. I hope to interview you again after you’ve won the $100,000 prize on Top Shot. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

First, I’d like to give a big “Thank you” to all of my Facebook fans. After the episode last night, I got literally hundreds of emails and messages of encouragement, and that really meant a lot to me.

I would also like to plug a couple of things. I just want to mention a couple of guns I helped design for Taylor’s & Company Firearms. The guns I helped design for them are the Runnin’ Iron. It’s the latest greatest mounted shooting revolver on the market and I’m proud to have helped design that for Taylor’s and Company. These are firearms custom designed from the ground up for cowboy mounted shooting, we’re finding that the cowboy action shooters are liking them for what we call “ground shooting” as well.

The rifle I helped design is called the Runnin’ Comanchero, it’s a companion to the Runnin’ Iron, based on the ‘73 Winchester and customized for the sport of mounted shooting. We shorten the barrel and use a short stroke action job, it’s awesome. It’s just now hit the stores and I’ll be shooting mine for the first time this weekend.

Well we hope you do well. Thanks. And if anyone wants to check out some video and see what mounted shooting is all about I have a really neat point of view video where you can see me running the course with the hat cam. And you can see more information at where I’ve got a bunch more videos and pictures along with a schedule of appearances. My sponsor, Taylor’s and Company, and of course we want to mention the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association.

Thanks so much for your time. No problem, and I hope to speak with you again soon.

Denny Chapman is a professional announcer, equine entertainer, trainer and clinician. Denny has served as clinician and performer for many major fairs and equine events including Equine Affaire in Columbus OH and the Can-Am Equine Emporium in Ontario, Canada. He has entertained at professional sporting events and has also served as the featured performer in the famous Kentucky Horse Park’s “Best of the West” show. Denny has been featured in numerous television and radio commercials, horse and western-lifestyle magazines, promotional videos and various other media productions. He is known for his “singing cowboy,” voice-over and event announcing work and is an experienced equine technical advisor with direct experience in handling more than 40 breeds of horses. He is a sought-after clinician and guest speaker at horse fairs, training clinics and schools around the country. Denny is sponsored by Suncoast Bedding, Straight Arrow Co’s MANE N TAIL products, Impact Gel Saddle Pads, and Taylor’s & Company Firearms. Learn more about Denny