via press release:
18 skilled marksmen take the shot of a lifetime – the chance to go pro.
The stakes have never been higher on HISTORY’s next season of…
Season Four of the Competition Series from HISTORY®
Returns on Tuesday, February 14 at 10pm ET
Hosted by Colby Donaldson
New York, January 10, 2012– If a $100,000 prize package and bragging rights as “Top Shot” aren’t enough to tickle a marksman’s trigger finger, consider this: one sharp shooter will also walk away from the new season of TOP SHOT with a professional contract with Bass Pro Shops. The hit competition series will be fully loaded with more twists and history-inspired challenges than ever before when it returns for a 4th season on Tuesday, February 14 at 10pm ET on HISTORY.
The 18 competitors vying for the Top Shot title represent the broadest range of shooting backgrounds ever featured on the series. From a 21-year-old world champion pistol shooter to a hard working high school custodian who makes his own ammunition and spends his spare time at the range – these marksmen and markswomen are out to prove they’re the best. Some of the finest self-taught shooters in the country are coming out to prove themselves this season – there’s an IT specialist from California, a knife maker from Georgia, a chemist from Massachusetts, and a grass-fed cattle farmer from upstate New York. Ranging in age from 21 to 50, contestants were carefully chosen from among thousands of applicants to compete in TOP SHOT.
Season four begins with the biggest twist in TOP SHOT history: two competitors are sent packing immediately after a surprise shoot-off in the opening minutes of the first episode. To claim the TOP SHOT crown, $100,000 prize and a Bass Pros Shops professional shooting contract, the remaining competitors will have to conquer punishing challenges based on real-life battle scenarios: from navigating back alleys to rappelling down buildings to hitting moving targets from a speeding WWII style motorcycle sidecar. They will also attempt to hit a target from 1,500-yards – the longest distance in TOP SHOT history.
Along with enduring physically grueling tests, the shooters will have to demonstrate mastery of weapons from all eras of human history. Highlighting this year’s arsenal are an M32A1 grenade launcher, a massive 1898 cannon from the Spanish/American War, a semi-automatic FS2000 bullpup rifle, and a 1919 vehicle-mounted Browning machine gun. High-speed HD cameras capture the skillful execution of each trial in extreme slow-motion.
Colby Donaldson returns as host of HISTORY’s fourth season of the elimination series.
TOP SHOT is produced for HISTORY by Pilgrim Studios. Executive Producers for HISTORY are Zachary G. Behr and Paul Cabana. Craig Piligian is Executive Producer for Pilgrim Studios.
Meet the “Top Shots”
LOCATION: Belle Vernon, PA
OCCUPATION: Financial Advisor/Former Dept. of Homeland Security Agent
An energetic former Department of Homeland Security agent, Augie Malekovich was one of three children of a low-income, single mother in a small town. Augie says one of his best qualities is his ability to remain cool under pressure – staying focused no matter what obstacles stand in his way. His determined attitude has earned this former Marine several shooting titles including the famed triple nickel – an elite honor that requires extreme speed and accuracy. The father of four kids, Augie says he’s a “logical guy with strong integrity.” He’s worked his way to the top and won’t tolerate false pride. Augie is now in the process of switching careers. In his words, he’s going from a Homeland Security Agent to “the world’s deadliest financial advisor.”
LOCATION: San Gabriel, CA
OCCUPATION: Range Master
Chee Kwan knows the value of hard work. A 23-year-old range master for the L.A. Gun Club, Chee and his mother arrived in the U.S. from Malaysia with only a couple hundred dollars and the clothes on their backs. As Chee says, “I'm here so that I can win this competition for my mother and show her that she's raised a good son.” Like many kids, Chee became fascinated with guns through video games. He quickly took up recreational shooting and joined the Marines, where he became one of the best infantrymen in his battalion. Now, Chee is a three-time rifle and pistol expert who is proud to earn his living as a California state-certified firearms instructor. “I can shoot pretty damn well,” he says. “I learn quickly and have an extraordinary sense of motivation.”
LOCATION: San Francisco, CA
OCCUPATION: IT Professional
Chris Cheng may not work in law enforcement and he’s never served in the military, but this IT professional and opera enthusiast loves to shoot. Ever since his dad taught him to fire a weapon at the age of six, Chris has been steadily improving his skills on the range. From pistols to rifles to shotguns, Cheng is a self-taught marksman out to prove he’s got the edge on the competition. He may spend all day in front of a computer, but Chris says his amateur status gives him an advantage over everyone else in the competition. “I don't have any titles or reputation that I need to live up to. I'm just here to have fun. And I think that's what's really gonna separate me from most of the competitors.”
LOCATION: Wichita, KS
OCCUPATION: Police Sergeant
Colin Gallagher may be the smallest guy on the Wichita, Kansas Police Department, but don’t let his lightweight frame mislead you – he can shoot. He consistently ranks as an expert in his department and routinely trains the new recruits. It helps that his father was a Range Master and a Marine. Colin is never afraid to speak his mind, and that’s why most of his friends refer to him as the “little guy with a big mouth.” But he’s more than just talk. Colin plans on using his special training in criminal profiling to get inside his opponents’ heads. Coming from a family of police officers (his dad was a Kansas cop and his cousins are in the NYPD), Colin says he thrives in high-pressure situations. Unable to give his wife a proper honeymoon, he says if he wins Top Shot, the first thing he’ll do is treat her to the vacation of their dreams.
LOCATION: Sandisfield, MA
When it comes to competitive shooting, Craig Buckland knows how to win. As a member of a major manufacturer’s shooting team, Craig has won at least one national championship title every year since 2007, earning more titles than any of the other contestants. He has shot competitively for the last 10 years, traveling throughout the U.S. and Europe competing in a variety of action shooting events. He holds three world and four national titles. He is an IDPA 5-Gun Master and one of only three people worldwide who can call themselves a “Stock Service Revolver Distinguished Master.” For his day job, Craig’s a chemist for a major consumer products company and sees many parallels between chemistry and marksmanship. “Being a scientist and being a marksman are one and the same. My chosen professional field is analytical chemistry, where accuracy and precision and speed are very, very important.The same is true of a marksman.”
LOCATION: Alphretta, GA
Dylan Fletcher learned how to shoot rifles and small handguns from his father before he could ride a bike. He also picked up a few tools of the trade from his mother and grandfather, both long bow champions. After working as a graphic designer at an IT firm for five years, and then at motorcycle shop for another five, Dylan grew tired of answering to higher-ups. In 2010, he opened his own custom knife making business, Fletcher Knives. As you can imagine, Dylan considers himself pretty skilled with throwing knives, as well as with most pistols and rifles -- specifically old battle rifles and anything with iron sights.
ERIC “IGGY” KEYES
LOCATION: Chicago, IL
OCCUPATION: Police Officer
Eric “Iggy” Keyes has seen it all. Having served on the homicide unit, he also worked as a narcotics detective and SWAT team member, Eric feels he knows how to handle anything that comes his way. Eric is comfortable with a wide range of weapons and is particularly skilled with the 1911 pistol and the AR15 Rifle. When he’s not working or out shooting at the range, you’ll find Eric at the gym lifting weights or making music with his friends. A father of two and an aspiring hip-hop and R&B singer, Eric says he loves to make people smile.
LOCATION: Middle Island, NY
OCCUPATION: High School Custodian
Don’t underestimate Frank Melloni because he’s a self-taught shooter. This Long Island high school custodian has been training to compete all his life. When his family moved from urban Brooklyn to the “country,” his parents decided to “bribe” the reluctant Frank with something he’d been wanting for a long time: his first gun. His new hobby quickly became a passion, and Frank now shoots weekly at his local range, where he hand reloads his own ammo with amazing precision. He also collects WWII firearms. When it comes to winning, Frank thinks being a self -taught shooter will be an advantage in the competition. “It’s gonna make me the sleeper in the house. Most people aren't gonna see this coming. They're gonna get driven home by a custodian. They're not gonna see that coming at all.”
LOCATION: Houston, TX
OCCUPATION: Kinesiology student
At 21, world champion pistol shooter Forrest McCord has accomplished more than most marksmen hope to achieve in a lifetime. He’s been racking up wins ever since his mom took him to the range for the first time at age 13. In 2008, Forrest represented the United States on the Junior Team in Bali during the IPSC World Shoot and earned a gold medal. Now, as a USPSA shooter, he competes monthly and shoots twice a week despite his hectic school schedule. Forrest hates to lose, and that is what drives him to stay on top. While he’s had numerous instructors – including Top Shot’s Athena Lee – he admits that he can be “bull-headed” when it comes to taking advice from others. “Competition and winning is what fuels me,” he says. “I will not stop until I have achieved my goal.”
LOCATION: Doral, FL
OCCUPATION: Firearms Instructor / Business Owner-Gun Accessories
Gabby Franco doesn’t like losing – and she’s got the skills to lead her to victory. At the age of 19, she was the first female to make the Venezuelan Olympic Shooting Team and represent her country at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.. She took silver at the Pan American Games in 1999 and gold at the South American Games in 2000. In her last international competition, the 2002 South American Games, she took three gold medals. After moving to the United States, Gabby began competing in tactical and IPSC competitions. When she’s not on the firing line Gabby loves dancing meringue, salsa and flamenco.
LOCATION: Reno, NV
OCCUPATION: Fire Arms Instructor
A former gun library manager and current Civil War re-enactor, Gary Shank collects historical firearms and appraises them in his spare time. Like his father before him, Gary now works as a firearms instructor at an indoor shooting range in Reno, Nevada. Because of his work as an amateur weaponry historian, Gary has picked up skills with tomahawks, archery, throwing stars, and blowguns. And of course, he has experience shooting cannons during Civil War re-enactments. Gary also shoots in local IDPA, USPSA and cowboy action 3-gun matches, where he goes by the nickname “Corporal Punishment.” He says his Top Shot competitors should fear him. “Without any major titles over my head or any true specialty area, they're gonna look at me and go, ‘I don't know…’ And the unknown is kinda scary.”
LOCATION: Waterloo, IL
OCCUPATION: Federal Police Officer
At 6’5”, the irony of Gregory Littlejohn’s last name is not lost on him. Called “L.J.” by his co-workers, Gregory is a Federal Police Officer with over nine years of USAF military experience. He served three years in the Air Force Security Forces and six years as a weapons instructor, and is a veteran of both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Shooting competitively with the Air Force, he served on two separate teams and was the World Champion Grenadier in 2003. In an IPSC competition, he placed second in the open class with a 9mm Beretta. The father of two young children was taught to shoot by his father. Greg is intimidating in stature but endearing in person – a giant of a man with outsized skills to match.
LOCATION: Ghent, NY
OCCUPATION: Grass-Fed Cattle Farmer
This farmer is no stranger to competition. When Keith was a 19-year-old National Guard combat medic, he bested 400 competitors in a rifle competition. In 2008, his passion for hand-carving wooden bows landed him on the cover of Primitive Archer Magazine. The 28-year-old cattle farmer grew up hunting and attended a Junior Olympic shooting camp. He then joined the Army where he qualified expert and won the Basic Rifle Marksmanship Award after competing against every man in his battalion. Today, Keith teaches private pistol classes on his farm and recently took up IDPA shooting after qualifying as expert in just 5 days. In preparation for his time on Top Shot, Keith has been throwing knives and tomahawks and shooting from unstable platforms. Regarding his competition, Keith says, “I think that the other competitors might view me as not quite up to their level, because I don't have any specific discipline. And I hope they do. I'll prove 'em wrong. We'll go in and see who walks out.”
LOCATION: Kent, WA
OCCUPATION: Police Commander
After breaking his neck in a near-fatal accident 12 years ago, Police Commander Kyle Sumpter has a healthy appreciation for the little things in life. With over 20 years of law enforcement experience under his belt – 12 of those years on SWAT – Kyle always finds a way to excel in anything he does. He’s currently a commander at his agency. He has won several Washington State IDPA and Steel Championships, competing with only police service weapons. Kyle, 50, is the oldest marksman ever to compete on Top Shot and he’s ready, boasting that he’ll “spank the young guys on the firing line.”
LOCATION: Gilbert, AZ
OCCUPATION: Military Police
From the age of 15, self-proclaimed tomboy Michelle Viscusi wanted to follow in her dad’s footsteps and be a cop. She joined the Army National Guard right out of high school and is currently a Military Police officer with the Border Patrol. All of her weapons training has come from her military background. Michelle is confident that her mastery of the fundamentals will make her a force to be reckoned with on Top Shot. When she’s not securing the border, Michelle works as a model for a weapons accessories company. With no shortage of determination, Michelle says she’ll win Top Shot because of her “confidence and accuracy in shooting.”
LOCATION: Charlotte, NC
OCCUPATION: Professional Speaker
Terry Vaughn is a gregarious Englishman and former member of the British Royal Marine Commandos. He spent his university years as a dancer (although he won’t say what kind). Now a certified NRA pistol instructor, Terry works as a professional speaker for personal safety, teaching the importance of understanding body language and knowing your Second Amendment rights. Dabbling in Crossfit, boxing and weight training, Terry says he is “opinionated, stubborn, sarcastic...and proud to be built like a British bulldog.” He loves working out with his wife and three kids – sometimes running stadium stairs as a family.
LOCATION: Thayne, WY
OCCUPATION: Pro Big Game Guide
This 34-year-old professional big game guide is not your average hunter. For Tim Trefren, shooting is a way of life. He is the owner of Trefren Outfitters, a professional hunting camp and second-generation family business. Growing up in his dad’s gun shop, Tim has been handling firearms from day one. Tim is also a two-time world champion moose caller with a perfect record in bison and bear hunting. He practices shooting every single day and even has an indoor range at his house. In addition to firearms, Tim is a skilled archer and was trained by some of the best bow hunting experts in the world.
LOCATION: Fredericksburg, VA
OCCUPATION: FBI Law Enforcement Specialist
William Bethards has done so much in his life, it’s hard to keep track. A former Marine and ex-Virginia state trooper with national and state 3-gun championships under his belt, he now works as a firearms instructor in the FBI. This smiling sharp shooter also works as a real estate agent, serves as a deacon in his church and rebuilds classic Corvettes on the side. William spent 11 years on the Marine Corps Shooting Team and even served as the team’s coach. He won the coveted Gold Lauchheimer Trophy in 1994, which is awarded annually to the top rifle and pistol shooter in the entire Corps. He is currently the FBI shooting team national record holder in 3-gun. Oh, and he also shoots Olympic-style compound bow…but he just does it for fun in what little spare time he has.