By Lars Dalseide | March 28 2012 18:12

While waiting to hear from my regular Top Shot compatriots … NRA Certified Instructor Gabby Franco from Red Team and Terry Vaughan from Blue Team … here’s what happened last night’s episode of History’s Top Shot.

Top Shot's Gabby Franco taking rifle practice
"I performed well during rifle practice on the farthest target. That's how a pistol shooter ended up on the rifle stage." Gabby Frano - photo courtesy of History

Trick shots.

There’s a gleam in your eye and a spring in your steps when hear there are going to be trick shots. It brings back childhood memories of an Old West show or a black and white episode of Roy Rogers and Trigger. Least those are the memories it use to conjure … now it conjures thoughts of last night’s Top Shot.

Blue Team was rolling like a well-oiled machine. Red Team, meanwhile, was desperate to break the momentum and reclaim their once impressive lead. It was time to pull every possible trick out of the hat.

Red’s trick shot practice was uneventful — especially in comparison to Blue’s. While Red had no problem figuring out who was going to shoot what stage, Blue broke out in disarray on the subject of rifle shooting. Though Virginia’s William Bethards was easily the best shot, he argued that pistol was the place to be.

William Bethards protests being chosen to shoot the rifle stage
Blue's William Bethards explains why he should be shooting pistol instead of rifle - photo courtesy of History

“I told you guys right up, you can count on my trigger,” Bethards said on the show. “I can put the needle right on the record. Hey diddle diddle right down the middle.”

Reluctantly, Bethards gave way. Agreeing to go rifle, the rest readied for their assigned stage and headed to the competition grounds. But dissention had already set in. The teamwork inspired by Terry Vaughan’s week four pep talk had all but evaporated. Colby called for the first round of shooters and we were off.

Bottle tops, gumballs and paint cans serve as trick shot targets

While the first two stages were tricky enough, the true spirit of the challenge didn’t appear until the third ‐ hitting a bottle opener from 75 feet in such a way that the top pops off the bottle.

"Once I saw what I was going to have to shoot, bottle openers at 75 feet standing unsupported in high wind, I desperately wanted to be on a cooking show," laughed Blue Team's Terry Vaughan. "The Volquartsen rifle is such a fine piece of equipment, that if hadn't of been for the wind gusting I might have hit two out of three instead of one."

Then it was Franco's turn. As impressive as she's been on the television screen, apparently her performance is even more impressive live and in person. That's when Vaughan preceded her performance with, “Gabby follows me up, and she’s the Ice Queen of the Universe. Apparently she doesn’t get rattled about anything.”

But the winds got to Gabby too. Hitting one out three, teams were still tight as the competition turned to the paint cans.

Stacked one of top of the other, shooters were tasked with hitting the bottom can in a way that would launch the top can up in the air. Once airborne, the can had to be shot before hitting the ground. Talk about your moving targets.

Top Shot's Gary Shank hits a paint can flying through the air
One of Shank's bullets pierces a flying paint can - photo courtesy of History

Leading by a score of 6 to 4, Red Team sent Civil War Reenactor Gary Shank to the line.

"Gary did incredibly well during practice, told us that he had done trick shots before and was confident about the stage," said Franco.

Well those cans must have looked like Grant's Army storming the fortified positions of Robert E. Lee during the battle of Cold Harbor because he didn't a thing. Going three for three Gary put the Red Team back into the lead. Unfortunately for Blue, Dylan Fletcher fell to wayside after his try at the cans with a 0-3 performance. Now it was all up to William. Let’s see some of that hey diddle diddle.

All you had to do was hit a gumball at 35 feet with the Volquartsen Ruger 10/22 rifle. Should William score two out of four, Blue would have a one point lead. Four for four and Red’s Chee would need three for the win. William, however, went one out of four. As Gregory Littlejohn said, hey diddle diddle just left the building. Blue was headed to elimination.

Blue Team returns for a "Hey diddle diddle" trick shot elimination round

Elimination is never fun. But the team meeting leading up to elimination, according to Vaughan, wasn't all that much fun either.

"Team meetings typically weren't a fun thing to do for Blue team because our "leader", Will, didn't have the first clue about what he should do to actually lead. Discussions devolved into arguments between us creating even more tension - the one thing we did not need."

That's when Dylan stepped up to the plate. Realizing his performance was one of the worst, he suggested a Flether/Bethards battle in elimination. The others agreed. All that was left was the shooting.

Rotating between a SIG Sauer P229 and a Browning Buck Mark pistol, the two were challenged to hit ten bowling tens at 35 feet within two minutes. But there’s more. The top of the pin has been completely sawed off and placed back on the body. Hit the top with the Browning and the bottom with the Sig. It wasn’t even close.

Top Shot's Bethards barely misses a shot in the elimination round
Top Shot's William Bethards eventually takes over the elimination - photo courtesy of History

Dylan, bless his heart, had yet to clear the tops by the time William cleared the board. But he took it all in good spirit.

“I don't come into the competition with any accolades. I'm just some knife making dummy from Atlanta.”

Now we’re down to nine shooters. Red may have a slight advantage in numbers, Blue is now struggling to find a common ground. A place where individuals will work to benefit the whole. Although there will ultimately be only one winner, it does take a team to get them there.

If Blue hopes to make a performance, Bethards better put his hey diddle diddle back in the fiddle case ... it's too long a road to hoe on your own.

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