Daryl Parker is a US Marine turned law enforcement officer who lives in the North Texas area just outside of Dallas. While he initially hadn’t even heard of the History Channel’s reality TV show Top Shot, one of his fellow officers heard about it and, knowing how skilled Daryl was with a rifle and pistol, encouraged him to apply for the show.
Daryl took the opportunity, and proved his skills as a marksman on the Blue Team, until he was eliminated by Jay Lim in the .22 LR steel plate challenge. We had the opportunity to talk to Daryl about his experience on the show and found out that he’s working on opening up a series of Top Shot themed shooting ranges where anyone can try their hand at similar challenges.
Listen live to the original interview below.
Cheaper Than Dirt Did you grow up in a family of shooters, hunting and shooting and that sort of thing?
Daryl Parker Yeah, on my Mom’s side I’ve got a lot of military relatives, primarily in the Marine Corps. Then, on my Dad’s side, it’s basically just a bunch of good ‘ole country boys. That’s kinda how I was raised. I was brought up in rural areas in Arkansas and I’ve been shooting since I was a little kid.
Cheaper Than Dirt Did you have much experience with competitions or shooting sports?
Daryl Parker No, not at all actually. It was all recreational and hunting. I really didn’t compete at all as a kid.
Cheaper Than Dirt How about after you joined the Marine Corps?
Daryl Parker Yeah, in the Marine Corps we had annual qualifications for your weapon system. With both the M16 and the Beretta 9mm I qualified numerous times as an expert. That eventually leads to [someone asking] “Hey, are you interested in shooting competitively?”
The Marine Corps, just like all of the other services, fields marksmanship teams that compete at various levels, and eventually I became the captain of a competitive Marine Corps rifle and pistol team. We competed in both the Pacific Division matches and the Eastern Division matches.
Cheaper Than Dirt At what point does a Sheriff’s Deputy decide to sit down, get out video camera, make a short video, fill out the application, and audition for a reality TV show?
Daryl Parker *laughs* Well, out of the police academy I was the Top Gun. It’s kind of like an award they give to the top shooting cadet there. Through my qualifications with my law enforcement agencies, I had a reputation as being a good shot.
I didn’t actually seek out the top shot application. I didn’t know anything about it. My Chief Deputy saw this email where they were casting for Season 2 and he ordered that email to me, and the rest from there is kinda history.
Cheaper Than Dirt So, you were pretty much encouraged by your fellows on the force.
Daryl Parker Yeah.
Cheaper Than Dirt You obviously have a background in the Marine Corps and law enforcement as a shooter, you’ve shot somewhat competitively there, but have you done any league shooting such as USPSA or IPSC?
Daryl Parker No, I have not. I haven’t shot with either of those organizations, but based on my Top Shot experience I definitely think that that’s something that I get into.
Cheaper Than Dirt Tell me about your experience going onto the show. You show up there after a couple of days filming commercials for the show, and Colby Donaldson basically says “All right, this is it!”
What’s going through your head at that point when you’re stepping up there to the line for the first time
Daryl Parker Well, the first thing is that it’s a weapon that we’re all unfamiliar with, a Sharp’s Rifle. I don’t think that any of us had ever fired the Sharp’s rifle. The first thing was “Let me just manipulate this weapon in a way that I don’t look like an idiot.”
You know, it surprised me how much having the cameras and all of that there kinda increases your anxiety, so we’re all nervous. We wanted to shoot well, particularly our first shot of the entire show. Another thing that surprised me about Top Shot is that there’s very little practice time. We all thought that once we got onto the show that we’d be shooting at the range every day and putting a lot of rounds down range, but that wasn’t the case.
Cheaper Than Dirt That’s something that not a lot of people realize about Top Shot is how much down time there is and how little time is actually spent shooting. You can actually take a full three days to film an entire episode.
Daryl Parker Yeah, and shoot one shot.
Cheaper Than Dirt If you even shoot that. We have some shooters like Brian Zins who would go days and days and days without shooting anything.
Daryl Parker Correct.
Cheaper Than Dirt Let’s talk about the team dynamics on Blue Team. It seemed pretty interesting right out of the gate, what was it like right after the team was formed as everybody was getting to know each other?
Daryl Parker Well, to be honest I thought that he [Jay] made some good choices in terms of skill level and background, I mean, we had a pretty talented Blue Team put together. He made his choices based on the criteria he had set, and I don’t really think that it was a bad criteria.
Team dynamics? I would say that we didn’t know each other and we were kinda feeling each other out, but we were all very positive about it. In the very very beginning everything looked good.
Cheaper Than Dirt The Blue Team seems to be more of a team of specialists. You have a lot of competition shooters, you have Kyle Frasure who was a shotgun specialist, meanwhile on the Red Team you’ve got a lot of generalists, a lot of military guys who have experience with a wide variety of weapons. Do you think that Blue Team’s specialization had anything to do with some of the early eliminations?
Daryl Parker Absolutely. You know, when you talk about specialization, like on our first challenge the pool ball challenge and our second challenge the prohibition challenge which was also a pistol challenge, those specialists didn’t have their best days there. When you have a team that has so many specialists on it, I mean, if they have an off day it really doesn’t do us any good.
I think the generalists, for the show Top Shot, and for this venue, and for this concept of a show, I think the generalist is going to beat the specialist every time.
Cheaper Than Dirt Simply by virtue of the fact that you’ve got so many different challenges and so many different firearms that you’ve got to adapt to very quickly, you don’t see any advantage to being extremely skilled in one form of shooting or another?
Daryl Parker No, in fact I think it’s your handicap. It’s great when you get to that thing, but for the other 8 or 9 challenges that you go through, what else are you going to rely on?
Cheaper Than Dirt One thing that a lot of people have been commenting on is Jay Lim, and I know you had some interesting interactions with him early on. What was really going on there, because we know that, through the casting and through the editing process, that sometimes people can be made out to appear other than how they are. We saw you and Jay admittedly have some conflicts on camera, but what was going on there with his reluctance to accept expert advice, and your and his later head to head?
Daryl Parker Well, I would chalk it up to a misunderstanding. Jay, his reluctance to take advice from the experts, I’ll tell you a secret: his reluctance to take advice from the expert is what resulted in him hitting the bullseye with the Sharp’s rifle.
You have 16 marksman of the caliber that we were, and only one person hit the bullseye? How could that happen? I’m going to chalk it up to the sighting instructions that we received from the expert on the Sharp’s rifle. We all followed his instructions, and we all missed the bullseye. The only person who didn’t follow the expert’s instructions, as normal, was Jay, and he got a bullseye.
I think Jay is much more internally confident in his own abilities. Basically, he’s going to say “Look, I know how to shoot, and I’m going to shoot it my way. I’m just looking for some little tips that I can incorporate that don’t change my entire shooting style.”
And, you know, it’s served him well. That’s what has got him this far already.
Cheaper Than Dirt Something he repeated over and over, after commenting on the expert instruction, he said “Don’t reteach me the fundamentals, teach me to shoot faster.” Was that an accurate statement?
Daryl Parker I think people misunderstand how he means that. What he means is “Yeah, I get it, I understand that my stance and my pistol grip may be unorthodox, but I don’t have time to correct that right now. I’ll correct that later on. Right now, are there other tips that you can tell me about coming up on my target quickly, acquiring my target quickly, trigger control, something else I can use that I can incorporate quickly?”
People are mistaking him saying “Well, I’m not going to do that,” with a reluctance to be coached. He is not reluctant to be coached, he just is good enough that he knows what he can incorporate in the short time that he has.
Cheaper Than Dirt We saw him actually lending his advice to other shooters. Early on it sometimes it was not exactly welcomed, but later in episodes like the archery challenge we saw his much needed and very skilled advice actually help the team significantly.
Daryl Parker Yeah, and you’ve alluded to some of the friction we had in the first place, you know I’m an accomplished shooter, Jermaine is an accomplished shooter, Kyle is an accomplished shooter, we all have our strengths and we were all there for a reason. We were picked out and we did our pre-qualification, we shot against all the other applicants and that sort of thing. We felt like we all deserved to be there, and I think the thing that kinda caused some friction was Jay’s coaching without being asked to coach.
To be fair, there were other members who did ask Jay to coach them, but once we kinda talked that out and had that understanding, after that it was all fine. We haven’t had any conflict since.
Cheaper Than Dirt Let’s talk about once of the incidents at the nomination range, and I’m pretty sure you already know where I’m going with this, when everybody was going to nominate Jermaine and then Jermaine was going to choose one person to go to the challenge with, you stepped up there and you shot Jay’s target, and that kinda started a cascade of events there with Maggie eventually being drawn to choose who was going to the shoot-off with Jermaine, and she chose Jay. What happened behind the scenes that we didn’t see on the episode?
Daryl Parker Well, we kinda made the decision that we would all shoot Jermaine’s target, and then he gets to pick the other person that goes with him. But you know, Jermaine had just had a major mental fumble on that challenge, he was already feeling lousy about it, that he had to go into the elimination and that he made our team lose, so he was feeling pretty crappy about it.
I didn’t think it was fair to put the decision on his shoulders, to pick the other person to go with him, because then Jermaine has to go elimination and essentially eliminate that other person. I felt that as a team we kinda chickened-out by taking that decision and putting it in his lap. We should have chosen the second person. Some of the other team members thought that same way, and so we started talking about, well, who?
We didn’t know enough about each other’s skills or what we all brought to it, so the only thing we could point to was, if there was a friction point, where is that friction point? We decided that was Jay, and so my shooting Jay’s target was entirely 100% a team decision.
Cheaper Than Dirt Except, obviously, Jay wasn’t privy to the conversation, and we assume Jermaine wasn’t aware of it either.
Daryl Parker Yeah, and you alluded to the 3-day filming schedule, this kinda happened in a short-fused kinda way, and we really, with all the cameras in the house and not wanting the Red Team to know what was going on, we really didn’t get a chance to pull Jay to one side and tell him.
We knew this was going to be a surprise to him, and we knew it was going to look pretty bad, but we had decided that this was what needed to happen.
Cheaper Than Dirt The episode after that we saw you and Jay get into it a bit after that elimination challenge when Jay returned victorious. Did everything settle out after that?
Daryl Parker Yeah, really after that we had talked about it as a team and what they showed in the episode was basically myself telling Jay off, but there were other members involved in that and it got pretty heated. After that, it all went away. That kind of let all the air out of the balloon and after that we never had a problem.
Cheaper Than Dirt We talked to Kyle after his elimination and he mentioned the fact that after that little head to head with Jay where everything got resolved, Blue Team never left a meeting without knowing who was going to the nomination range.
Daryl Parker Yes, we said that, from now on. In the entire thing, that one vote that I took – and that was a team decision – that one vote that I took was the only vote that was an unconsolidated vote. After that, every single vote was two people and two people only.
Cheaper Than Dirt Do you think that really helped the team spirit? The morale of the team?
Daryl Parker Well, I really think that it helped that everything was above board and we didn’t feel that anyone was being schemed against or preyed on in a Survivor-like fashion. It was all on the up-and-up, and those decision were made based off of performance. When we got into the team meeting to talk about who should go, who should be nominated, we were very up front with each other, saying “Hey, I don’t think you performed,” or “I don’t think I performed.”
Cheaper Than Dirt Let’s move on and talk about the most recent episode. The Blue Team already had a very small team, only three people if I recall. Does that give you any inherent advantage or disadvantage when you’re going into a team challenge?
Daryl Parker Going in with only three people means that we get to sit two of the Red Team out, and we couldn’t sit Brian Zins out, but we could still sit two of their best generalists out. I think we sat out two of their best marksmen, Chris Reed and Joe Serafini. I’m still comfortable with that, and I think it was the right decision. It was a very close competition, and if we had fired just a little bit faster, things would have been different.
Cheaper Than Dirt You were selected to shoot at the moving targets within the shooting gallery. Do you think that if you had focused on some of the stationary targets instead that you would have been able to engage them a bit faster and have a higher score?
Daryl Parker No, actually the moving targets were worth two points. The stationary targets were worth one point. Because I had done well with the moving targets in practice, I shot the moving targets. My moving target score was nine. The other team had a couple of their members shooting at moving targets, so I at least tied their score with nine targets hit. Then, in my second rotation through, I moved on to the stationary targets.
I hit the nine movers and then, I don’t know, maybe six or seven stationary targets. I think my overall score accounted for a good portion of our total score.
Cheaper Than Dirt We mentioned earlier that there were only three people on the Blue Team. After the Blue Team’s loss during the team challenge, it seemed pretty obvious that you were going to be heading to an elimination challenge, simply by virtue of the fact that you’ve got only three people, two of whom have to go.
Daryl Parker Well, I think that my performance thus far on the team had been strong. I’d been one of the strong performers, Jay had been one of the strong performers, and Ashley had done well also. We kinda looked around at each other and said “Hey, we all did our job. How can we pick? Well, we won’t pick. We’ll just leave it to chance.”
Cheaper Than Dirt You went into the nomination range with the plan of everybody shooting the other person’s target which, I thought, was pretty ingenious, but Colby kinda threw a little wrench into the works there.
Daryl Parker Yes, he did. In the elimination nomination with Jermaine and Jay, the way they settled that, if there was a tie, was that they picked a name and then that person went up and shot another target. That’s when Maggie shot Jay’s target. We thought they were going to do that same thing with us.
We’d all shoot each other’s target, Colby would pull a name, and the person who’s name he’d pulled would go up and shoot the same target they’d shot before. That’s how the two people would be selected.
Cheaper Than Dirt Do you think the producers were back stage going “Ha ha! We’ll throw a wrench in their plans!” or was this something they had already laid out and planned before hand?
Daryl Parker I think it may have been already planned out because of our numbers. There were only three of us. They may have made the determination beforehand that that was how they were going to handle that.
Cheaper Than Dirt This wasn’t somebody looking at the footage that was shot that day and going “OK, what do we do about this?”
Daryl Parker It’s possible, I mean I’m giving them a lot of credit to say that they had the forethought to think of it ahead of time, that “If there are only three players what are we going to do if they all tie?”
So, I’m giving them the credit for thinking of that ahead of time, and I think that’s how it went, but they could have discerned our votes and come up with this different way to handle it.
Cheaper Than Dirt When you were going through the expert training after the nomination range, it seemed like you were struggling a little bit with cocking the hammer back on the revolver. Had you shot much revolver before that?
Daryl Parker I had, but not generally for speed. I knew this was going to be a head to head elimination. I just knew it was. When I’ve shot revolver before, I always cocked the hammer with my strong hand, with my shooting hand. With this one I needed to stay on target and acquire the targets fast, so I needed to cock that hammer with my weak hand.
It wasn’t a huge transition. It wasn’t a skill that was difficult to incorporate.
Cheaper Than Dirt Moving on to the elimination challenge itself, you’re shooting .22s still, the same as we saw in the team challenge, trying to eliminate these plates that are stacked up from largest to smallest, all in a row. We’ve already established that you’ve got a lot of experience shooting a rifle and a handgun. What about the Ruger 10/22 specifically, have you shot that quite a bit?
Daryl Parker Well, I’d never fired the Ruger model. Normally it’s a Remington .22 or something like that. I’d never tried the Ruger model. Sight picture, there is no difference: it’s a standard .22 rifle. The difference for the Ruger 10/22 was the magazine, it’s a box magazine. During practice it was a little glitchy for me.
Sometimes it would slide in and there would be a satisfying physical “click” and you knew that the magazine was fully seated. Other times, you’d slide it in and there would be no “click” but it was seated. I did notice that during practice, and I actually made mention of it to some of the other guys, but it wasn’t a problem in practice. It didn’t show up as a problem.
Wouldn’t you know it, it showed up as a problem later.
Cheaper Than Dirt Watching the elimination challenge, we saw that you struggled with the magazine. If you’re not getting the proper feedback from that magazine, you insert it and slam it home and you don’t feel that click, you don’t know for sure that it’s seated or not. An unseated magazine is not going to feed.
Daryl Parker When I had unloaded my previous magazine, I had intentionally left a round in the chamber, so that I knew that when I threw that magazine in I could go ahead and fire without having to rack the bolt and take an extra second. I had dropped that first magazine, leaving a round in the chamber, and threw the second magazine in. I didn’t feel it click, but I thought it had seated.
I threw it up, took that first shot, and the recoil from that first shot knocked the magazine out of my weapon.
Cheaper Than Dirt At that point, you were already running behind…
Daryl Parker Jay had stopped firing and was reloading. He was changing magazines. I was up and on target and starting to fire. I was behind, but I was on target with a full magazine. I think if my magazine had stayed in, it would have been a very very close run to the end.
After I felt that magazine drop out, I didn’t have a chance. I knew that.
Cheaper Than Dirt It kinda just took the wind out of your sails.
Daryl Parker Yeah, as soon as the magazine dropped I went ahead and grabbed another magazine and tried to reload, but inside I knew that there was no way I was going to have time to reload, rack a round, get back on target, and finish off my plates before Jay did.
Cheaper Than Dirt Ashley has called Jay a “magician.” He doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of skill, his methods are unconventional, and yet time and time again we’ve seen him show up to competitions and just walk away with a win. Is he just a great generalist, or is there something else that we’re not seeing that contributes to his consistency in winning?
Daryl Parker I think, first of all, that a lot of people don’t know about Jay’s background. They keep calling him a golf instructor, and that’s what he does for a living. A lot of people don’t realize that he is an Olympic qualifier for archery, for skeet, for air pistol, and for air rifle. Air pistol and air rifle are very similar to shooting .22 for example.
No, I think that Jay has a lot of natural talent and abilities. I think that he’s also accustomed to competing at that elite level of competition. I mean, we’re talking about an Olympic level competitor. That’s not small potatoes.
I don’t think that he’s like a child prodigy who sits at home and plays with a rubber band gun and comes out and out-shoots all of us. I think he’s an elite, high level competitor who may not be as generalized as most of us, but because of his natural skill and abilities, he picks things up pretty quickly. He’s very dangerous.
Cheaper Than Dirt You know, there’s been some speculation that Jay’s strategy going into this was get sent to every elimination challenge so that he could walk home with a bunch of $2,000 gift cards.
Daryl Parker Yeah, it’s tempting to think that Jay had that kind of skill, but I don’t think that’s the case. I’ve talked to Jay, and Jay and I are good friends. Knowing the anxiety that he felt before the elimination challenges, the same that we all do when we go into those, I have no doubt that he wanted our team to win in each of those challenges.
Cheaper Than Dirt Given the chance, if you had the chance to do it all over again, would you take the opportunity?
Daryl Parker Oh yeah, in a heartbeat. I mean, it was a fantastic experience. I got to shoot these crazy challenges that they come up with, I got to meet these people who were on the show with me. They were the most personable, skilled, dynamic people I’ve ever met as a group. It was a fantastic experience.
Then, you mentioned them, all the people who follow the show, the fans of the show, I mean it’s just amazing how many people have reached out to me and left positive comments. It was fantastic, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Cheaper Than Dirt We’ve been doing these interviews for quite a while now, starting with Season 1, and we’ve interviewed nearly everybody who has walked off the show. One thing that they have all agreed with is just what you said, that is the level of friendship that is earned through the camaraderie on the show that is unlike anything else.
Daryl Parker Yeah, you know I was in the Marine Corps for 21 years, and one of the main staples of being a Marine is the camaraderie with other Marines. It’s a bond, a kinship, and it’s life long. Somewhat less, but a similar situation exists with the 16 of us. I think that most of us will remain life long friends.
Cheaper Than Dirt Instead of being stuck on a boat with a bunch of other Marines, waiting for somebody to say the word “Go” you’re stuck in a house with a bunch of other competitive shooters, pretty much doing the same thing sitting around waiting.
Daryl Parker Right, except that all of these people were all hand picked, it’s a bunch of really dynamic people. There is a lot of footage that was taken inside the house that they don’t have time to show on these episodes, but we really had a lot of fun together. It was a blast being there. I wish everybody could have a chance to do something like that.
Cheaper Than Dirt It certainly seemed like quite the experience. You know, Top Shot has done a lot to bring the shooting sports back into the mainstream. You’ve been around hunters and shooters your entire life but, for a lot of the rest of the nation, they haven’t had much exposure to firearms and the shooting sports that we see on Top Shot. What else can we do, and how can we use Top Shot and leverage this to help bring the shooting sports back into the mainstream?
Daryl Parker Well, the first thing is that I think that a lot of people, after seeing the show, are realizing that firearms are not just this dangerous piece of hardware that sits in your house and is a threat to everyone. I think that they are realizing that the shooting sports are fun, and that you can shoot for recreation. It’s fun!
It requires a sense of discipline. There’s a lot of attention to detail in it, and you can excel in a shooting sport and you don’t have be an uber-athlete. You don’t have to be Lance Armstrong to be able to shoot well. It’s something that can apply to people of all ages, of all fitness levels and economic backgrounds. There’s nothing more American than firearms.
I think another thing we can do is open ranges that encourage recreational shooting as a sport, as opposed to shooting just to get good at shooting.
Cheaper Than Dirt You’re doing something just along those lines, am I correct? You’re looking at opening up a “Top Shot” style shooting range?
Daryl Parker Yes, here in North Texas I’m going to open up a range. It’s going to be called the “Top Shot Challenge” and it is going to be a range that offers all of the standard fare, firearm safety classes, basic marksmanship, that kind of thing, but it will also incorporate Top Shot challenges. Some of the challenges that you’ve seen on TV, and some other innovative challenges that we’re going to come up with here, are going to be available on the range. I think people are going to flock to it. They’re going to have a lot of fun, and it’s going to go further in educating people and enhance the thrill of shooting as a sport.
Cheaper Than Dirt Do you foresee this turning into a type of Top Shot training academy where future competitors can go to train for the show?
Daryl Parker Well, I think it’s very possible. You know, I’m talking to other Top Shot alumni, and this may be something that we’re able to start up in other locations across the country, sort of in a franchise sort of way. If it is done correctly and overseen correctly and done safely, then these can become training grounds for the Top Shot experience.
Cheaper Than Dirt That sounds really exciting, and it sounds like a great way to get people excited about the shooting sports and give them a chance to learn about it in a safe way.
Daryl Parker Yeah, and I’ve already kinda made known my intentions, and I’ve already got people from as far away as Canada that have already signed up to come to the range as soon as we’re done with construction.
Cheaper Than Dirt Cheaper Than Dirt! is also located here in North Texas, and I can’t wait to go see it and experience it myself.
In addition to your career as a law enforcement officer and your side projects with Top Shot and starting up a shooting range, you’re also a talented author, is that right?
Daryl Parker Well, I hope people will think so. I just published my first novel. It’s called “Sacrifice of the Season” and it will be available on Amazon.com and it’s also available at my website, DarylParker.com.
Like I said, it’s my first novel. It’s a work of fiction, and if you enjoyed the Harry Potter series, I think you’ll enjoy this book. Thus far I’ve had a lot of fans who are really excited about reading it and have already pre-ordered their copies. I’m thankful for that.
Cheaper Than Dirt We can’t wait for it to come out, and I’ll be one of those people waiting for it to show up on Amazon so that I can get my copy.
Daryl Parker Alright, I appreciate it.
Cheaper Than Dirt I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to us today and giving us a little bit of insight into your background and into what goes on on Top Shot and your experience on Top Shot. It’s been very enlightening.
Daryl Parker My pleasure, thank you very much.