Chris Reed and Dustin Ellermann are both about as down to earth as two human beings can be. On screen, Dustin won the hearts of many with his youthful enthusiasm and devout faith, which seemed to sustain him throughout the drama-infused isolation of filming. Chris Reed’s story is one of overcoming seemingly impossible hurdles through strength of will and the support of his family, a story that was touched on only briefly during the show. Here he tells it in his own, soft-spoken Mississippi drawl.
“Top Shot” Season 2—Chris Reed
Chris Reed recently moved back to his boyhood home of Greenwood, Miss. He’s presently in the midst of opening Top Shot Sporting Goods, a full-line archery and gun store where his new-found notoriety and local connections will be put to good use promoting the venture.
Harrison: Chris, how were you introduced to the shooting sports?
Reed: Growing up, dad worked for the railroad and mom stayed home to raise me. My dad, uncles and cousins all shot and hunted, so that was our pastime; we hunted everything from big game all the way down to shooting rats at my granddaddy’s house with a .22 rifle. For shotgun shooting we’d throw dirt clods, spent hulls, you name it. We shot a lot and somewhere along the way at around 12 I got my first bow and arrow, which introduced me to whole different world.
Harrison: What have you been doing since we last met at the NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Pittsburgh?
Reed: When we were invited back on Season 3 as honorary team captains, I mentioned in an interview that after the show I’d signed Red Rider BB guns by the dozen for little kids. Two days after that aired, Daisy airguns contacted me and flew me out on a private jet to its plant in Arkansas, where I got to build Red Riders on their production line for my two little girls. I’ll be working with them to promote their products on their website. Recently, I’ve been in the woods a lot with my bow and video camera, trying to make some animals famous, but that thing is like kryptonite; as soon as you power it up, everything disappears!
Harrison: What’s your most important shooting tip?
Reed: I had one uncle in particular who was known for his marksmanship skills, and he took me under his wing and had me shooting his 7 mm Rem. Mag. at 9 years old. It was then that I learned that you just have to let the gun do its thing, no matter how big it is, and that if you try to anticipate recoil, you’re going to miss. I try to have as little influence over the gun as possible and try take as much of the human element out of it as I can.
Toward the end of “Top Shot” Season 2, it was revealed that Chris Reed had to overcome some fairly serious medical problems in order to compete. After leaving the Marine Corps due to a knee injury, Reed returned to Mississippi State, majoring in civil engineering. For the next few years he built a successful career in the construction industry and found time to start an award-winning repossession business, all the while he was assembling the pieces to open a sporting goods store, acquiring 40 acres of property, a building and putting in place contracts with his suppliers. Then bad luck came knocking.
Reed: Two weeks after my daughter was born, I had a call to go repossess a Mercedes. The vehicle was located on a public street downtown and, as I was loading it onto the wrecker, the supposed owner started making a scene. Despite his name not appearing on the registration or title, he insisted that I return the car, which by law I was not allowed to do. Eventually the police showed up, and I discovered that the guy jumping up and down on the back of my truck was a judge. Without getting into too much detail, in the minutes that followed my head was struck against the pavement. I suffered an aneurism and had to undergo emergency brain surgery. I spent the next five or six years in rehab and court, suing the guy that put me there. I won, he was disbarred.
Following hospitalization, Chris had to relearn to speak and his vision was badly compromised due to the effects of the surgery. His plans for his store were destroyed due to having to pay medical bills. Recovery was painfully slow, though the therapy that seemed to help the most was concentrating on the sights of his bow, which was how he eventually overcame the double vision that plagued him for years. After moving to Tennessee, he started hunting and shooting competitively again, eventually placing second two years running in the Total Outdoorsman Challenge, a phenomenal achievement for someone who recently had been close to death. I asked him how he came to learn about the television show that was to make him famous.