Competitive Shooting

Cheaper Than Dirt! Interviews Top Shot Competitor Travis Marsh

dark haired man in medium blue shirt shirts his 44 mag, with handgun facing the viewer and trees and mountains in the background

Former Olympic hopeful Travis Marsh saw a chance to redeem is lost chance at glory when he first saw the History Channel’s new reality TV show Top Shot Season 1. When the announcement came that they were auditioning for a second season, Travis didn’t hesitate to send in his application for the chance to prove his mettle. Unfortunately his bid fell short, and while he beat out thousands of other applicants and 50 finalists during the qualifying shoot-off, he had the dubious distinction of being the first contestant eliminated from competition.

We had the chance to catch up with Travis just before he caught a flight back out to California to meet back up with the cast and crew from Top Shot Season 2 for some additional filming, which we’ll presumably be able to see later this season.


dark haired man in medium blue shirt
Travis Marsh

Cheaper Than Dirt!: Let’s start with a bit of background about yourself and how you got started shooting. Did you grow up with a family of hunters or shooters?

Travis: My father was in the U.S. Marines, and he taught me how to shoot. I grew up living in the country out literally in the middle of nowhere. We were so far out there that if you wanted to go to the grocery store or something you would have to drive more than 150 miles to the nearest town. We were surrounded by about 200,000 acres of U.S. National Forest, so there was pretty much a gun in my hand or nearby all the time.

Cheaper Than Dirt!: How did you first find out about Top Shot and what prompted you to apply to be on the show?

Travis: I’ve always been an avid hunter, and I really enjoy watching shows on TV about hunting and shooting. One day I cam across this show Top Shot and I said “Hey! That’s pretty cool!” and then as I watched more I decided that I could do that, so I made a video that pretty much laid out who I am and what I could do and sent it in. Not long after that I received a phone call asking for me to fill out and send in an application, so I did that as well.

Cheaper Than Dirt!: Let’s discuss the audition process for a bit, because we haven’t really heard much about it. It’s got to be exciting to head out there for the first time and be surrounded by all of these talented shooters and meet your competition for the first time. Walk us through the process of the audition and tell us what it was like to meet everyone for the first time.

Travis: Well, first of all we didn’t get to really talk to each other. The producers told us all not to talk or socialize. Now I’m a Marine, and so if you tell me not to do something, I’m just not going to do it, so I didn’t really talk to anybody. I was polite and cordial, and if someone walked up and said “Hi” I’d say hello as well. But other than that, there wasn’t any conversation. There were a number of events at the audition and they broke us off into pairs for each each event.

Cheaper Than Dirt: So, you got the call that you’ve made the show. You fly out there, drive out to the site, meet up with everyone for the first time and you walk up the hill and there’s Colby and it’s your first challenge right off the bat. What was going through your mind right then?

Travis Marsh with the Sharps.45-70
A former member of the Olympic rifle team, Travis Marsh felt right at home with the Sharps .45-70.

Travis: It was a bit like buck fever. It’s exciting. Your heart’s pounding, your mind is racing. All of us had watched Season 1 so we were all stoked and all excited. We got out of the vans and walked out of the van and Colby said “Welcome, everyone, to Season 2 of Top Shot. This competition starts right now,” and I was like “Are you kidding me? This is it, I guess we’re shooting cold.”

They had the expert come out and told us where the rifle was shooting, that it was about two feet high at 200 yards. That’s all we had to go by but, you know, everyone has a different hold. One person may pick up the gun and have it shoot two feet low and someone else may pick it up and have it hit dead center. Me, I picked it up and held two feet low and that was just where it hit. The wind was really wicked up there and blew it a little bit to the right, but I figured with that 405 grain bullet that it wouldn’t affect it much, so I just ignored the wind, and that’s why it blew a bit over to the 5-o’clock postition.

Cheaper Than Dirt!: Had you ever fired a Sharps .45-70 rifle before?

Travis: No, I’d never fired one before. It was funny, for Christmas this year, after we were done filming the show, my dad gave me a Sharps .45-90 and I was so excited but I couldn’t tell him why. Finally when the show aired Tuesday I could tell him that I was so excited to receive that rifle was because it was the same type that we’d used on the show.

Cheaper Than Dirt!: After the first challenge, everybody headed back to the house before the selection process. Jay took a very different and quite bold approach with his decision to sit down with each competitor.

Travis: Jay was very deliberate. He’s a smart kid, I mean he’s got a book out about golf, and he’s just very meticulous. He sat down with everyone, one on one, and interviewed every single person. He went into this with a plan and he had it all planned out in his head. He went through and found out what everyone’s strength and weaknesses were and decided who he wanted.

Cheaper Than Dirt!: Chris didn’t do that though.

Travis: *laugh* No, Chris was much more relaxed about the selection process. It was funny, Chris is a smoker and all of the first people he picked were smokers. Chris pretty much just picked the people he got along with.

Cheaper Than Dirt!: During the team selection process, you were one of the last ones picked, kinda the stereotypical last kid to be picked for the kickball team at school. Did it worry you at all to be passed over until the very end?

Travis: Of course it did. I was pretty disappointed.

Cheaper Than Dirt!: Moving on to the team challenge, we saw the Red Team struggle right out of the gate. Did their difficulty engaging the targets cause you to change your strategy?

dark haired man in dark blue jacket shooting a 1911 with multiple people in red jackets in the backgroundTravis: What you have to realize is that those platforms we were shooting off of were really small, and it was difficult to shoot around the striped ball that was blocking the shot. We actually incurred a 10 second penalty if we accidentally hit a striped ball. They left that part out.

After watching the Red Team, Jay leaned over to us, got us in a huddle and said, “OK, here’s what we’re going to do.” He had it all laid out. If the first two shooters missed, we decided to have the third shooter intentionally take out the striped ball that was blocking the shot and take the 10 second penalty. Then, the next shooter has a clean shot at the next ball. We figured that the red team had wasted more than 30 seconds on running time alone.

Cheaper Than Dirt!: We didn’t really get to see that in the episode, but that’s a good idea. With the Red Team taking over 12 minutes to complete the course, 10 seconds just isn’t that much time.

Travis: Exactly.

Cheaper Than Dirt!: So you actually hit one of the striped balls?

Travis: Two actually. I did hit two of the striped balls, on purpose, to clear them out of the way for the other shooters. Maggie, Chris, and Kyle hit no striped balls, and no solid balls. The didn’t hit anything. But, obviously we still sucked because it took us more than 23 minutes to finish and they managed to do it in 12.

Cheaper Than Dirt!: We saw a number of injuries when the Red Team shot their stage. The weather was wet and nasty, was the terrain just that bad?

Travis: It was rainy, it was foggy, and they were literally shooing cattle away from where we were shooting. But on top of all that, it was cold. Really cold. When we saw the Red Team start to pull up with injuries, we all started stretching and limbering up.

Cheaper Than Dirt!: After the competition, after the Blue Team lost, everybody headed back to the house. I’m sure there was some discussion then that went on over who would be sent to the elimination range.

Travis: We got back and sat down to have a bit of a round table. We all got together and Jay kinda led the meeting over in what we called the girls “oasis,” their little private area, and we decided to just vote based on performance.

Cheaper Than Dirt!: But that’s not what we saw unfold at the elimination range. What was going through your mind when Kyle nominated you?

dark haired man in medium blue shirt with a frown on his face from being eliminated from the competition
Travis reacts to being voted for elimination at the nomination range.

Travis :Honestly? That was when I just saw red. I’m not going to lie, I was so angry. When we got back to the house I went into the shower and stayed in there for about an hour. I just couldn’t talk to anybody I was so mad.

Cheaper Than Dirt: But you still had the chance to redeem yourself at the elimination challenge with the .44 Magnum. Now, you’ve mentioned that you’re an avid hunter. Have you ever had the chance to go handgun hunting with a .44 Magnum or handle or shoot one at all?

Travis: No. I’d been hunting with a little .44 Magnum rifle when I was a kid but, before that practice session, I had never shot a .44 Magnum pistol before. That was the first time, and I have to tell you, when they pulled it out and said “We’re going to use Dirty Harry’s gun,” and then seeing Mr. Davis there, that was pretty cool.

At first, I wasn’t that confident with it and didn’t think that I would do so well, but after a bit of practice and some coaching from Mr. Davis, I started to get the hang of it. I felt really good that I could do pretty well.

Cheaper Than Dirt!: Now, at the final elimination challenge, you have moving targets that are advancing at different speeds before they fall off the wire at various distances. What was your strategy going in?

Travis: Well, there were eight targets, and we had a revolver with only six shots, so we knew going in there was going to be at least one reload in order to clear all the targets, even if you hit the first six with all of your shots.

Immediately I was looking at where the stops were to see which targets were going to drop off first. The other thing to keep in mind is that we didn’t know going in how fast the targets were going to be moving. There is a lot running through your head and you’ve got to make a lot of decisions on the fly as they all start moving toward you.

Then, when Chris went first, Colby turned to me and said “OK Travis, Chris hit 5 targets. You need at least five to keep from being eliminated,” I was really worried, because that meant I had to hit six targets with the first round on each one in order to get enough to win without needing to reload. That’s when the pressure hit.

Then, my first shot missed, and the pressure was really on then, because then I’ve got to hit all five with no misses just to get them all without a reload.

My next shot, my second shot missed, and I finally connected on the third shot. Now, I’d never shot the gun before, and I’d certainly never used a speed loader before, so I knew the reload was going to be crucial and might cost me some time. At this point, I was playing catch up. I got another, but then I went back to the right to get another one but then it dropped, I mean it was just frustrating. I reloaded, managed to get another shot off, and then as I swung back to get two more that were in the middle they both dropped at the same time and I knew I was sunk.

Cheaper Than Dirt!: After the loss, after being eliminated, you had to be disappointed. That had to be a crushing defeat. Would you do it all over again?

dark haired man in medium blue shirt shirts his 44 mag, with handgun facing the viewer and trees and mountains in the backgroundTravis: Absolutely. In a heartbeat. You know, I was doing an interview with Caleb Giddings over at Gun Nuts Radio and one of the questions asked was “If you could pick any Top Shot competitor to shoot against, who would it be?” And of course I chose Iain. Not at pistols of course, but I’d like to go up against him on a rifle challenge. There’s no fun in competing unless you’re going up against someone who is at the top of their game, and that’s what I want to do, and that’s how I got eliminated. Chris is a fantastic pistol shooter, and he managed to beat me that day.

It was a great experience and if I had the chance to go back and shoot again, absolutely I would do it. In fact, when I got back from the show I even went out and picked up a pistol and have been practicing a bit so that if I do ever get the chance to go back, I’ll be better prepared for the competition.

Being eliminated is never fun…how do you think Travis handled it? Share your opinion in the comments section.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (2)

  1. I thought he did well. I didn’t think the targets would be running different speeds and such. I think he got a case of the Team Screwed me over to keep someone they knew better. Bottom line Marines adapt and over come. We just aren’t used to out own teammates screwing us over. Good Job!

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