Machine Gun Fun
By Iain Harrison
This season of Top Shot has seen a gradual introduction of Point-of-View cameras to capture the action from the shooter’s perspective. Although not as impressive in their own right as the high speed Phantom cameras, these cameras have added another perspective to the show that illustrates what’s going on as the competitors press the trigger. One of the reasons the show is so expensive to produce is the size of the crew needed to service so many pieces of recording equipment, although it wouldn’t be anywhere near the same viewing experience without them. The footage this week of cases being ejected from the M1919 was a case in point, as was the exploding shaving cream can as it spun ribbons of white foam in a graceful arc during the elimination challenge.
Shooting a machine gun from a pintle mount can be pretty easy. Shooting a machine gun that is missing a buttstock from a moving vehicle is much, much harder, so I wasn’t surprised at some of the scores that were turned in for this week’s challenge. All concerned seemed to have difficulty striking the right balance between conserving enough ammo to last the entire run versus sending enough fire volume downrange to hit the targets. One thing that was brought home was that in that particular application, the machine gun is very much an area firearm—think of it as a shotgun where the shooter determines the shell’s payload by how long he presses the trigger. Sure, hits are determined to a great extent by accuracy, but without enough projectiles, there will be gaps in the pattern. Greg Littlejohn used his experience behind the M240 to shoot fast doubles and triples, which made good use of the available ammo and controlled the dispersion to earn him an impressive lead.
Augie and Kyle wound up in the elimination challenge, shooting the PS90, which I was hoping, given the previous challenge, would have a happy switch. In contrast to the Browning, the little FNH gun is amazingly controllable on full-auto fire and features a two-position trigger to select full- or semi-auto when the selector dial is rotated.
The Kim’s game that Craig Sawyer taught both shooters may indeed be used by the U.S. military as a training tool, but I humbly claim its origins for my country of birth. Rudyard Kipling introduced it to the world in his 1901 novel about the Great Game between Russia and Britain that played out in south Asia, and is well worth a read. In it, a young boy is schooled in espionage by his mentor through learning the contents of a tray that is set in front him. Both men chose entirely different strategies for memorizing the contents of the box that held their target items, with Kyle studying intently to maximize the amount of information he could retain in one run. During practice, this earned him the best quote of the show from Craig Sawyer who wryly observed that Kyle “abandoned any sort of pride” in his quest to stay in the game. Augie on the other hand decided that his brain would be full after cramming five objects in there, so elected to come back for another look.
One of the advantages of having fewer players at this stage is that more time can be devoted to each, and the audience gains more of a feel for the characters on the screen. In both instances, Kyle and Augie came across as solid, down-to-earth guys, and this season as a whole has so far distinguished itself with good sportsmanship and a lack of histrionics. Next week’s finale promises to follow in the footsteps of its predecessors, with all of the firearms showcased so far returning for an encore, along with a little head-to-head dueling tree action.