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Sara Ahrens in ‘OffBeat’: Reliving ‘Top Shot’ … not such a bad thing after all

Who knew that I would feel more stress and anxiety watching the first episode of Season 3 of the History Channel’s Top Shot, than I did participating in it? Even though I know the outcome of the competition, I had no idea how the producers would edit the footage to make a show.

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Sara Ahrens on TV at the Central Christian Church's benefit for the season 3 debut of Top Shot, held in Beloit, Ill. Photo by Mike Ahrens.

One week prior to the premiere, I arranged a viewing for my family and friends at my church. About a hundred people came out on a Tuesday night to watch the premiere with my family and me. We were touched by the turn out.

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Sara Ahrens with her father, Joe Greene. Photo by Mike Ahrens.

As the competition played out on the large screen in front of me, I wondered if this whole Top Shot experience had caused me to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.  As I watched the competition, I began to feel physical symptoms associated with excitement, nervousness, anxiety and worry.

When the time came in the show for Amanda and me to compete, I felt immediate embarrassment … again. I had to relive a moment, where for the first time in my life I fired a weapon that I could not physically control no matter how I positioned my body. I vividly remember that my first shot with the Smith and Wesson 500 physically pushed me backwards. As if that’s not bad enough, I experienced this in front of my co-competitors (with whom I had yet been permitted to speak) and more than 100 camera crew and staff members. I remember thinking to myself sarcastically, “This was a great first impression.”

So here I was reliving this horrible moment in my church. Now everyone (all 2.2 million viewers) was going to know that this gun owned me!   Watching the competition unfold I knew I was going to win, but that didn’t seem to matter. As it continued to play out, I felt an urge to cover my eyes.  I sucked it up and forced myself to watch it. All I could focus on was the stress and embarrassment my facial expressions conveyed. For a brief moment I thought in horror, “Oh God, I’m going to hear all about this at work.” But the real shocker is that in reality no one else seemed to notice my goofy expressions. They seemed to understand exactly what I was going through and it didn’t seem to faze them. What a relief! For once my husband was right … maybe I am too critical of myself. I began to relax and for the first time in a week I started to think this premiere thing was a good idea and it was actually therapeutic.

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Gabe Mankarious, Sara Ahrens and Alex Mankarious at the premiere of Top Shot, Season 3. Photo by Mike Ahrens.

As the first competition continued, I hit my second target (This is the point in the competition that I realized I was going to win, and I started to calm down.). I placed my sights on the third and final target and pulled the trigger.  Click!  “Oh, sh@#!”  I ran out of ammunition!  The crowd of spectators in my church broke out in laughter as soon as my profanity was ‘beeped’ out, which was quickly followed by Amanda being “beeped.” Ha!  Even though Jake was the “potty mouth” of the group, the producers figured out that portraying the females as the only “potty mouths” on the show would be funny. They were right. I reloaded the Smith and Wesson 500 and hit my third and final target — giving me the win. Everyone erupted in cheers and applause. It was awesome!

The excitement and cheering continued throughout the entire show. And even though the producers edited out a huge mistake made by one of my teammates, (which resulted in a Blue team penalty during the team competition), I felt fortunate to be watching the premiere surrounded by people who support me unconditionally.

P.S.  Keep an eye out for a future blog on the Smith and Wesson 500.  Smith and Wesson is loaning me one so I that can learn to conquer it!  I look forward to turning the tables on that beast or go broke trying!

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

Editor’s note: At last look, ammo for that revolver runs at least 60 cents per round. If you missed any of the episodes of any of the seasons of Top Shot, you can find them (after they’ve run on prime time, of course) at History.com.

OffBeat is sponsored by Otis Technology.

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Mr. Joe Greene and his daughters: Jennifer Greene, Sara Ahrens and Kathy Sukus. Photo by Mike Ahrens.

The Conversation

  • JT says: August 28, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    We are all proud of you Sara… I saw the S&W 500 and thought, Oh $%#^! That thing is bigger than she is… You may think that gun beat you up, but I’ve seen large guys not deal with it that well. Make $#%^ sure you keep your crumb grabbers away from that forcing cone. 🙂 I know you know, just say’n.

    Anyway, Jake’s a tool…

    We miss ya, get down for Thursday night when you can.


    • Barbara Baird says: August 29, 2011 at 11:12 am

      Hey JT! We agree. We couldn’t ask for a better representative of a “female shooter” (what’s with that? what a category on Top Shot … a female, really?) than our Sara. I’d want her to show up on a call to the police ANY day! Thanks for chiming in here.

  • Bonnie VanDam says: August 21, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Hi Sara,

    We met at the 2010 Babes With Bullets camp in Michigan. It was an honor to meet you and share meal conversations with you. It was immediately apparent to me that you were a quality human being with high moral character. It is reassuring to meet people like you who serve the public as police officers.

    I watched Top Shot for the very first time because I heard from facebook BWB’s girlfriends that you were going to be on the show, so of course, I went to your page to see what you had to say about it.

    When I saw that S&W 500 I nearly flipped out. I was talking out loud trying to coach you. “Sara, brace your legs like a fencer and extend your arms full out”. So funny, it was a recorded show and you couldn’t hear me anyway! Nevertheless, I had palms sweating watching you fight the flinch factor(FF)and brace yourself to take the pain. “Sara, make every shot count because every shot is gonna hurt”. And you stood in there and got the job done in front of everyone. And a few of the brawny males took as many shots as you did.

    Episode 3 had me tearing my hair out and I went to Facebook to ask you for details. I already saw where you said “things are not as they seem” so I was glad to see the link to the radio interview which I listened to in full and you explained everything.

    In shooting camp you won the accuracy contest for experienced shooters and I won the novice. Btw, what a thrill and honor that was for me to stand next to you for a picture! Your group was really tight and I saw you shooting the stages fast and accurately so I couldn’t help wondering why you were shooting so methodically on the Top Shot elimination challenge.

    You couldn’t afford to shoot a friendly and that makes perfect sense. And people who have never shot under that kind of pressure have no idea what it’s like and should just keep quiet. Unfortunately, the ignorant are usually the loudest so pay them no mind. They don’t matter. Just making the effort and getting chosen to be on the show is a great achievement that few others can claim so enjoy it.

    I must make a comment on the Top Shot show. Hey guys, AK-47s are cheap and plentiful so it seems to me your show’s budget could have included a half dozen of those lunkers in case of malfunction. LOL

  • Mike Ahrens says: August 18, 2011 at 10:46 am

    Can’t wait until you get the Smith & Wesson 500 and conquer that beast.

  • Tammy says: August 17, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    You’ll always be a hero in my eyes, Sara! I’m so proud for you that you’ve had this opportunity! AWESOME!

  • Beth Cowgill says: August 17, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Congratulations on getting onto the show Sara! That’s really great that S&W is letting you borrow the 500. Can’t wait to read that post.