WON Landing Page March 2022

OffBeat: My ‘Top Shot’ experience — worth far more than the $100,000 prize

When the opportunity to appear on Season 3 of the History Channel’s Top Shot fell in my lap, I had many reservations. I didn’t feel as if I had won the lottery, like many people might think. I spent many, many hours contemplating that decision. I completed a mental checklist of the potential outcomes stemming from my appearance on a reality show. I performed a mental activity common in law enforcement, it’s called the “what if”’ game. I admit that I play this game really well. I sometimes overplay my hand and I have a tendency to over-think things. This can sometimes lead to some unnecessary paranoia and stress for me.

Sara Ahrens_Top Shot_pistol.png

Sara Ahrens on Top Shot Season 3. Photo courtesy of History.com.

The decision to participate was a family decision. Had my husband or my children asked me not to participate, I would have withdrawn from the casting process. I would not have felt any regret or resentment in making that decision for my family. When you think about it, I was facing being away from my family for four to five weeks with no communication except in extreme cases of emergency. For a family that interacts all day long, this was certain to be a difficult adjustment for us all. I wasn’t sure my husband and children (I have a 15-year old and a 10-year old.) could endure my absence.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure I could endure it! I didn’t realize how supportive my husband and children are to me, that is until I felt ostracized and alone (See episode two.). The revelation of my dependence on my family’s support was worth participating on the show. Little did we know that we were all going to learn some valuable lessons throughout this experience.

Michael and Emily Ahrens.jpg

Michael and Emily Ahrens. Photo by Sara Ahrens.

For a couple months I had plenty of thoughts regarding my contemplated participation in the competition.  My head was cluttered with possible scenarios and outcomes. The most obvious thought was the one that, “I could win $100,000!” (In reality, it is only about $53,000 … or so I’ve heard.) But what might surprise a few people is that the money had little to do with my decision to participate in the competition. In my mind, the risks definitely outweighed the benefits and during the whole process I found myself feeling very vulnerable and exposed.

In addition to the absence from my family, I struggled with the idea of expending all of my time off from work for 2011. Say what? No family vacation? Not to mention that I wondered if I could even get permission from my employer to be gone that long (Our staffing levels are low.). I wasn’t sure if I could abide by the confidentiality agreement regarding my participation. (As it turns out, the $1,000,000 fine per breach is pretty sobering and I have had no trouble with that one.) I struggled with self-doubt. I knew my strengths and weaknesses regarding my abilities with certain weapons and in certain conditions. I also worried about letting down female shooters, or confirming the low expectations held by some of the harshest critics of women. (I have been on the receiving end of opinions like that my whole life; I certainly didn’t want to contribute to that image.) Most of all, I feared doing or saying something that would cause me to be embarrassed, jeopardize my reputation, or worse yet … cost me my job.

Top Shot - Season 3 - group shot with Colby.jpg

Top Shot - Season 3. Photo courtesy of History.com.

So why did I participate? As I said before, it definitely wasn’t for the money. I ultimately decided to compete to take advantage of an opportunity to learn from some of the best marksman, to network with others with a common interest, to test myself and to show my children to take challenges head-on. (OK, OK, getting out of work was in the “benefit” column of my mental checklist.)

Sara Ahrens. Photo courtesy of History.com.

Even though some of my fears were realized, they weren’t as bad as I had imagined. I saw my mental toughness emerge after having stowed it away a few years ago. I wasn’t the only one who benefitted from this experience. My children learned some valuable life lessons. Not all of my experiences were positive, but that’s OK, because even bad situations provide valuable opportunities to learn. For example, my kids learned that some people can be really cruel and hurtful (both on the show and in the online blogs). They began to see things from a different paradigm. For example, my Facebook friends were so excited and proud with how I stood up to Jake that my daughter wanted to see the reaction of the people on the History Channel’s Top Shot Facebook Fan Page.

I don’t think she has ever had any idea that there may be someone who doesn’t like her mom!  How sweet is that?  When we started reading the comments there, we found some unimaginable comments and it hurt – OUCH! My daughter ran to her room crying and begging me to shut off the computer.  I admit that for a few moments, I regretted my decision to go on Top Shot. A little later, from her room, my daughter sent me an email apologizing for having me to go to that webpage. She was heartbroken because I really think it was the first time she had been exposed to the nasty side of people.

I could almost hear that bubble she lives in pop. Her world of rainbows and butterflies had come to an end!  After reading her email, I realized that this was an opportunity for her to grow. She now knows how undeserved, hurtful words impact people and their families. We talked about the need to have thick skin and that in life not everyone will like you and it’s normal. It was an overdue conversation.

I would like to think that my Top Shot experience taught my children how to accept a challenge and how to handle defeat, how to assert one’s self and how to forgive.  I certainly hope they learned the importance of good sportsmanship. But above all, I hope they learned that anything is possible. I spent the past six months trying to figure out why God provided me with this opportunity.  Now I think I get it … maybe God’s purpose for this experience wasn’t about me, but about my children? Hmmm.

Learn more about Sara Ahrens at History.com. OffBeat is sponsored by Otis Technology.




The Conversation

  • Taylor Kaufman says: September 7, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    Is that a trap field behind your kids I see?
    I was rooting for you and had hoped to audition for Top shot the next time it comes around but you put a few more things into perspective. More than a month is a long time to be away from people, if that doesn’t throw off your mental game then I don’t know what would. You’re good enough to have gotten that far and that is what a lot of people on those boards don’t recognize (half probably can’t shoot themselves but like to dish out the comments). Anyways, I was super happy when you stood up for yourself against Jake, your kids have a good role model to look up to-don’t let anyone put you down for being who you are.

  • Beth says: September 1, 2011 at 9:58 am


    Thank you for sharing this wonderful piece of yourself and your family. I am a fairly new woman shooter and was “introduced” to your ‘Top Shot” appearance by the gals at Babes with Bullets ( I attended the Plainfield, IL camp in July 2011) They were all very excited for you) I am saddened to read some of the post that you see on the TopShot forum and find myself beyond aggravated at the game playing that goes on.. I understand it is TV but goodness shooting well is exciting enough that we do not need the drama:) Even though I don’t know you I was proud of how you conducted yourself on the show and now after reading this wonderful article wish I did have the pleasure of knowing you!

    All the best to you and yours!!

    Beth C

  • JulieG says: September 1, 2011 at 8:22 am

    Just getting a chance to read this. As a mom, I teared up reading this. One of the great things about our nation is that people are free to say what they think. Unfortunately that also means some people don’t think things through before they speak. Your daughter has someone to look up to, that’s for sure – a strong and talented woman with a love for her family. Congratulations on all you have accomplished!

    • Sara Ahrens says: September 3, 2011 at 12:22 pm

      Thanks Julie. I think part of my motivation with this article was an attempt to shift people’s paradigms a little with who I am as a shooter, mother and human being. It at least felt good to write it.

      Lenee, My daughter thought she actually won the lottery lol. She’s going to be emailing you. Thanks!

  • Lenee Landis says: September 1, 2011 at 2:50 am

    Sara, you rock! and so does your family. Don’t forget I want to put you in the next Hot Brass–if your daughter feels like it, have her e-mail me and write about her awesome mom–we will battle the negative people!


    • Sara Ahrens says: September 3, 2011 at 12:14 pm

      My daughter thought she actually won the lottery lol. She’s going to be emailing you. Thanks!

  • Gretchen Steele says: August 31, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    Wow! What a story – such a good look at the other side of the coin and what folks on the reality shows go through. I especially like how your family was such a big part of your “process”. Although there was a tear in my heart when I read the part about your daughter learning about some of not so nice folks in the world. It’s so hard isn’t it when we watch our children learn the harder lessons.

    • Sara Ahrens says: August 31, 2011 at 7:31 pm

      Gretchen you are so right! They need to be prepared for the real world. My daughter truly sees the good in people and although she knows bad people exist it always shocks her. That’s what I love about her. My son is less shocked. The process definitely strengthened our family, which is always good.

This site is protected by wp-copyrightpro.com