The marksman is part of an all-star lineup on the show
By GUY D’ASTOLFO
Brian Zins did so well the first time he was on “Top Shot” that he’s getting another shot at the title.
The Girard man was part of the second season of the History Channel series that pits top shooters against each other in a series of contests. He finished second.
Because of his skill — and popularity with viewers — Zins was invited back for Season 5 of the show, dubbed “Top Shot All-Stars,” which premieres at 10 p.m. Wednesday.
Zins will be pitted against 15 other master marksmen for the grand prize of $100,000 plus a speedboat.
He will hold court this Wednesday — and every Wednesday — at the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in Austintown Plaza to promote the show while it airs. Zins will talk to fans, dole out swag and maybe serve up a few cold beers.
On “Top Gun,” contestants go through a series of challenges involving a multitude of weapons. Players are eliminated until only one is left standing.
Contestants were divided into teams in past seasons, but that won’t be the case for “All Stars.”
“The format is completely different,” said Zins, who is a Canfield native. “There are no teams. It’s all individual competition.”
As a result, politics and alliances will also have no place in the show this season.
The shooting tests will also be different — and harder.
“Every ‘Top Shot’ challenge [from the first four seasons] is on steroids [for this season],” said Zins. “They gave it an all-star tweak.”
The episodes were filmed last summer on a ranch in California.
Zins, 43, is a 10-time National Rifle Association pistol champion. The former rifle instructor in the U.S. Marines also worked as a national manager for pistol programs for the NRA.
Currently, Zins represents Cabot Guns, a high-end maker of pistols based in Butler, Pa. He also teaches concealed-carry classes and seminars for gun clubs and at NRA conventions.
As in past seasons, rare and elite weapons will be mixed in on “Top Shot All-Stars.”
For example, Wednesday’s season-opener will require mastery of a Soviet semi-automatic rifle used in the Nazi invasion, a Tactical OBR with 20-round magazines, a Milkor M32A1 grenade launcher, and an FN-FAL self-loading selective fire battle rifle, popular among NATO troops.
“It’s a pretty good mix of weaponry,” said Zins. “A very diverse selection that we get to play with.”
Competitors must also conquer a mortar-rigged barbed-wire fence, an unstable platform and a bull’s-eye target where elimination is just a fraction of an inch away.
While “Top Shot” has always been popular among the sport shooting community, Zins said its fanbase is surprisingly much wider.
“I wish I could say there was such a thing as a ‘typical’ fan,” he said. “You would think the profile would be a 2nd Amendment-supporting, red-blooded American type, but it’s so much broader. I don’t know how many people I’ve run into who said ‘Oh, I am a huge fan.’ You never know.
“One viewer wrote to me and said ‘My grandmother loves you. You are her favorite shooter. She has never had a gun but now she wants to buy one and learn how to shoot.’
“Plus, kids love it, probably because of the video game culture, but on our show they get to see real people doing it.”
Guns are a constant target of groups seeking to halt street violence, but Zins said the History network does a good job of portraying shooting sports in a positive light.
“We get back to the root of gun culture,” he said. “We do a lot of crazy shooting, from old vintage revolvers to automatic machine guns, and nobody gets hurt and we enjoy it. We have a good time and never harm anyone.”