Season 4 begins on Tuesday, but History has already released profiles of the 16 contestants vying for this season's top prize. I want to break down the contestants in two parts. Part One will profile the contestants based solely on the descriptions on the Top Shot website, Part Two will be published after the first episode airs and we get a real feel for the contestant's personalities.
Top Shot has followed the age-old adage of it if ain't broke, don't fix it. Its contest formula is tried and true and so we see a very similar mix in Season 4.
Two women (likely to be eliminated early). Check.
Two black guys. Check.
Two Asians (yeah two). Check.
And a bunch of white dudes of varying ages and backgrounds. Check.
Let's go a little deeper:
Augie Malekovich - Male, 34, works for Homeland Security. Homeland Security has brought some strong contestants to the field but they tend to fizzle out. He is the winner of the Triple Nickel shooter award, but the Wikipedia page says that any standard issue firearm can be used, so unfortunately I can't assign him a specialty at this time.
Chee Kwan - Male, 23, works at a shooting range, with possibly the coolest title of any job I have heard of, Range Master. Being a range master implies a familiarity with a variety of arms, and having that title at such a young age means he must know his way around weapons. He is also a Marine, and apparently a bit of a mama's boy. He wants to win the competition for his mother, which may be putting his priorities in the wrong place. Contestant's who have put their families first in the past, often see that come back to bite them in the ass. (See Season 1 Contestant Tara Poremba or Season 3 contestant Billy Rogers).
Chris Cheng - Male, 31, IT guy. Our first amateur, but one who has been raised with a weapon in his hand. He is familiar with pistols, rifles, and shotguns, which covers him in the basics of shooting guns, but I suspect this guy is going to stumble when Colby starts throwing the curve balls. (Early prediction: This is the first guy to complain about the possibility of being eliminated by a tomahawk challenge.)
Colin Gallagher - Male, 35, Police Sergeant. His profile doesn't offer much about his shooting skills, except to say he is good, which at this point should be a given (although aren't we all waiting for that season where they just hand over some high powered weapons to people who have never even touched a gun?). His profile seems to suggest his personality is going to set him up as this season's Jake Zweig or George Reinas.
Craig Buckland - Male, 47, and get this, he's a chemist. From his profile, Craig seems to be this season's big threat in terms of competitive experience, having won a national title for the last four years running. However, Top Shot has shown us time and again that titles can mean nothing out on the range.
Dylan Fletcher - Male, 30, Knife Maker, that's right, a guy who makes knives. Dylan seems to be an all around solid competitor. Comfortable shooting guns, familiar with a bow, and an entrepreneur who makes his own knives, and knows how to throw them. Versatility is key in this game, and Fletcher seems to have it.
Eric "Iggy" Keyes - Male, 39, Chicago Police Office. Keyes has had his fair share of experience in the Chicago police force, working homicide, narcotics, and SWAT. He seems skilled in pistols and rifles. Based on his description he also seems like a guy with a gruff exterior, who is really just a big softy on the inside.
Forrest McCord - Male, 21, Student. This guy looks like his name sounds. Preppy as hell. However that doesn't mean he isn't a world class shooter, winning a world title. The most interesting part of his bio is that one if his instructors was Season 3 contestant, Athena Lee, which based on her performance in the competition, may do him more harm then good.
Frank Melloni - Male, 29, Custodian and Firearms Instructor. Unfortunately the double L in his last name means he is of no relation to famed special victims unit officer and summer camp cafeteria worker Chris Meloni. Melloni is another amateur whose skill seems to be in his ability to reload his weapon quickly which can be the deciding factor in a challenge.
Gabby Franco - Female, 30, Firearms Instructor and Business Owner. One of two women in the competition, Franco is a Venezuelan who participated on her country's Olympic team during the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. However, it doesn't say she won anything. She found success at other competitions around South America and has competed recently in the United States.
Gary Shank - Male, 28, Firearms Instructor. Another potential winner for most well rounded in this competition, Shank is familiar with a variety of older weapons, being an appraiser and collector on the side. He is a Civil War instructor (that's right ladies) and also has experience with primitive weapons. His wide knowledge may keep him out of elimination if his teammates believe he can help them.
Gregory Littlejohn - Male, 31 Federal Police Officer. His bio offers no information on whether he is a descendant of the Little John, or whether he is proficient with a bow. It does mention he is a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and has skill with a Beretta, a weapon that always turns up in some form in this competition.
Keith Gibson - Male, 28, Cattle Farmer. Boy, you have to love these occupation descriptions. Clearly a man worthy of this competition Kieth has worked in the National Guard and the army. He has won a rifle competition, beating 400 other competitors, and is skilled with a bow. The guy is also a clear fan of the show, describing his prep work by using weapons he is unfamiliar with and trying to duplicate the conditions the shooters have faced in past challenges.
Kyle Sumpter - Male, 50, Police Commander. Surprisingly at 50 he is the oldest contest ever to participate in Top Shot, but with age comes experience, having served 12 years on a SWAT team. We'll have to see if his age makes or breaks him in a competition that as gotten progressively physical and focused on speed.
Michelle Viscusi - Female, 21, MP. Tied for being one of the youngest contestants of the competition, Viscusi, she also seems to be on of the less experienced. She joined the National Guard and became an MP protecting the border. Her weapons training has come exclusively from her military experience, which may leave her deficient when the competition breaks out from more traditional fare.
Terry Vaughan - Male, 40, Professional Speaker. Another foreigner, this time from England. Oh, and a member of the British Royal Marines. Season 1 winner Iain Harrison hailed from the British Army, so we'll see of the Brits can keep churning our winners. This guy may have the most intriguing background, at one point being a dancer, the man now works as a speaker educating people on their rights and safety. He's a curious character, and I can't wait to see what he brings to the table.
Tim Trefren - Male, 34, Big Game Guide. Trefren has been around guns and hunting all his life. He knows how to hit his mark, but Top Shot can bring the most skilled marksmen to their knees. It's about being able to adapt and react, and Trefren better have that in him if he wants to succeed.
Willaim Bathards - Male, 47, FBI (there's a longer title, but I didn't feel like typing it). Here are three things you might expect from this guy, being a Top Shot contestant: FBI firearms instructor, 3-gun champion, former Marine. Here are three things you might not expect: church deacon, Corvette restorer, and real-estate agent. That's the great thing about this show, you need to expect the unexpected.
So there we have a good mix or military and civilians, men, women, ethnicities, and ages. Top Shot is one of my favorite shows, and when one season ends I can't wait for the next one to start. It's been a long wait but Season 4 is just around the corner.