Chris Cheng is an American sport shooter and The History Channel's Top Shot Season 4 Champion. Along with the title of "Top Shot", Cheng won a $100,000 cash prize and a professional marksman contract with the show's sponsor, Bass Pro Shops.
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Hey there Redditors, I'm really excited to chat about my new book "Shoot to Win" which details how someone like me, a self-taught amateur, went on to beat the seasoned pros and win $100,000, the title of "Top Shot" and a pro marksman contract with Bass Pro Shops. I'm also an NRA News Commentator and provide my opinions, perspective, and commentary.
I'm also a proud member of the LGBT community.
Feel free to Ask Me Anything!
Proof it's me, and not some other guy: https://twitter.com/TopShotChris/status/522062927680245761
UPDATE Thanks everyone for your awesome questions! I hope you enjoyed this AMA, and if you want to learn more about my adventures at Google, Top Shot, the NRA, and beyond, check out my book "Shoot to Win" on Amazon, iTunes, and wherever books are sold. I'm off to catch a plane to head back home, cheers!
As a gay man, how can you work for the NRA? NRA opposes domestic violence protections for same-sex couples. NRA dropped King & Spalding after they decided not to defend DOMA. NRA supported anti-gay marriage amendments in the 2000s.
This is a really great question, and it implies that if you are thing #1, then how could you support an organization that is another part of you (thing #2), but against thing #1?
Part of my personality is I'm the type of person that believes change can come within an organization. It's hard, and it's a slow slog, but the hard work that goes in can pay dividends.
There's a higher likelihood that the NRA will listen to LGBT concerns from NRA members, vs anti-gunners. I believe engagement, open communication, and fearlessness are all vital to building bridges between different groups.
I would also add that the NRA bringing me on as an NRA News Commentator should be a pretty clear sign that the times have changed :-D
What was it like having to hide the fact that you won Top Shot from your friends and family for so long?
It was a bit tough, I was under NDA but I'm sure if I told my parents, sister, or boyfriend that it would have been OK assuming they didn't post about it online. I was motivated to keep winning a secret because Season 3 was spoiled for me via Facebook when with 10 minutes left in the season finale, I signed onto Facebook and saw that Dustin Ellermann had won before I saw it live on the West Coast.
I didn't want to spoil the end for anyone, since that's no fun :)
What was the real story behind that 'vote' where that other asshole tried to get you booted? Seemed like there was some editing going on behind the curtain.
I loved how you hammered him in the following atlatl challenge.
First off, I'll say that Tim and are friends. We had our duel, and thankfully we were able to resolve our issue through competition, which is a really neat human dynamic.
What you saw on TV is what happened, but what you didn't see was the stress taking its toll on competitors who were away from their families for such a long time. We had no internet, no phone calls, no TV, etc and we lived in a bubble. That kind of stress can result in people saying/doing things they may not normally do. Stress management is an extremely important skill in life- and I talk about this in my book using anecdotes from Top Shot, as well as my job at Google providing customer support for angry customers.
The atlatl was a ton of fun. I had never heard of it before Top Shot, and if you have a chance to shoot one, definitely do it!
Favourite caliber to shoot and why?
Also you are a beast on the range, and my inspiration! Cheers from Slovenia!
.338 Lapua Magnum for its long-range accuracy. If you haven't shot it yes, please do!
Thanks for your support, and #ShootToWin!
It's refreshing to see you and Colion Noir, as well as the other commentators on the YouTube channel. I think it was a good move on the NRA's part. Will you be at the firearms festival in Texas next month?
Thanks for your support! Colion is a great guy and it's been so awesome seeing the positive impact he's having in the community. He's actually the guy who recruited me for NRA News Commentators team.
Wish I was able to make it to the Texas festival. I'm here in Texas often so maybe another time!
How did it feel beating a guy who competed with grenade launchers by just a single grenade?
It was really incredible to see how the stress of a competition can sometimes level a playing field. That winning grenade launcher shot will forever be ingrained in my memory. It's been so awesome to share that experience with you and other Top Shot fans.
What has been your personal experience with other shooters being an openly gay man?
Most people don't care. That's equality. That's awesome.
Hi Chris! Thanks again for talking with us at this year's SHOT Show. We talked briefly about your political aspirations, any immediate plans, or has your sponsorship and spokesperson duties taken a priority?
Proud to be an armed ally, and hope to see you again next January.
Hey there! Great to see you here. Right now my focus is on the book and my NRA News Commentators work. Good things come to those who wait :)
There are some shots not meant to be done. I would rate that one as such.
Some wise words from JonathanRL
Give some advice to the guy that wants to get into the professional firearms industry. Where would you start now? Or if you had not gotten on top shot?
Awesome that you want to join the industry, I have met some really amazing people and I recommend that you meet as many people as you can. This could mean going to:
Most importantly, tell people you where you want to take your career. In my new book, I talk about my career path and how a PDP (Personal Development Plan) has helped guide me. Again, most important is to tell people about your aspirations, because if you don't tell them, they'll never know!
How long did it take to film Top Shot? How many days between competition?
Six weeks, and some days we had no days between competitions, but other times we had 1-2 days off. Just depended on if your team won or lost.
On the one hand, we had so much down time that some competitors were almost happy their team lost because that mean more trigger time and more challenges for them, while the winners had to ironically suffer watching the losers have a ton of fun trying to shoot their way back into the house.
Do you have an opinion as to why the LBGT community generally seems to be anti-2A?
While there are a number of pro-gun, pro-LGBT folks like myself, there are people who buy into the false dichotomy that if you are one, then you must be anti the other.
It's interesting to me that especially in the LGBT community, a community that has been stereotyped for this and that, there are some gays who stereotype others. Even within the LGBT community, we see discrimination amongst different groups (Otters, Twinks, and Bears, Oh My!) that isn't healthy. There's plenty more discussion on that point, but I'll leave that for another time.
You'd think that if you've ever been discriminated against that you'd be less likely to discriminate against others, and that welcoming people instead of driving them apart would be a common goal.
What is your best most direct advice for a beginner in competition shooting?
Focus on the core fundamentals. That's generally good advice when learning anything new.
Shameless plug: my book Shoot to Win can help you :)
how different was it, going from being an i.t. man, to being known as a top notch shooter, not as a computer nerd?
Throughout my life I have always felt comfortable in different groups. On a baseball field, in a Symphony, amongst computer peeps, or gun folks.
I guess I don't think about it too much, and just focus on having as much fun as I can squeeze out of life :)
And what efforts, if any, have you taken to change the politics of the NRA, regarding LGBT issues or otherwise?
My strategy is composed of two parts:
Chris, Have you been able to apply your grad school education to your current professional endeavors? International business I think.
Great question, I was actually talking about this to prospective students for my grad school, the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. The policy experience I gained in grad school has been immensely helpful in learning not just about gun policy, but LGBT policy as well.
A great skill I gained was learning how to take these often complex, challenging policy problems and narrow them down to policy solutions. Most important is focusing on solutions that have an actual chance of happening given a particular political climate.
Sometimes the "best" policy solution is simply unfeasible at that particular point in time. Think about "Don't Ask Don't Tell" when Clinton signed that in 1993 and how unfeasible passing same-sex marriage would have been at that time. But after years of a sustained campaign by LGBT groups, DADT/DOMA/Prop 8 are now in the trash-bin of history. The times have changed!
Chris - love you, love the book - I just ordered it today! I'm not a marksman (woman?) yet, but I am getting some pushback from my golf-lovin' hubby on my 'hobby.' How can I keep peace?
I think in any healthy relationship it's important that couples share some interests, but then also have some separate interests as well. My first inclination is to advise you to take him to the range more, but if he isn't interested then perhaps sharing stories with him about all your awesome experiences and people you meet at the range could color his perspective in a good way.
Hope you enjoy the book! SHOOT TO WIN!
What is your opinion on gun control and how to solve all the school shootings that have happened in the past few years?
I support policies and approaches that will reduce illegal crime, and I have yet to see many gun control proposals that can accomplish that goal. The data on gun control is not compelling- and if you're going to restrict rights and freedoms, you better be able to prove that a restriction produces the desired effect.
One thing I learned at Google having worked with engineers is their focus on the "root cause" of a problem. I don't think guns are causing the school shooting problem. Look at the UCSB killer who used his car, a knife, and a gun to injure people. Remove the gun and he's still lethal. The criminal use of firearms point to a deeper psychological problem - mental health - which is where I believe we should focus our efforts.
What was the most challenging firearm to learn to shoot well?
For me, the Ruger Vaquero was a really difficult pistol to shoot.
The small pistol grip didn't naturally fit in my hand, and so you'll see me in the very first team challenge struggling to get my rounds on target. Of course, had I had more time to practice I could correct that, but Top Shot is all about not having a ton of time to practice and then competing in crazy fun challenges :)
How did you prepare for top shot? What advice can you give to a new pistol shooter? If one would like to participate in top shot, how would one begin? How much is long range marksmanship emphasized? I am a younger F class shooters but it seems as though some of the stuff you guys do is outside my wheelhouse.
I was working full time at Google, 45-50 hours/week, and I treated Top Shot training like a part-time job at 25 hours/week. The internet was a huge free resource that helped me train. I talk more about this in my book, Shoot to Win.
The main thing I focused on is the basic fundamentals of marksmanship. Yes, I also shot out to 1000 yards in training, but really the core fundamentals can translate to multiple weapons platforms if you just focus on the basics and not get too distracted by the intricacies.
Keep shooting, and Shoot to Win!
Hi Chris! How did you start getting involved with firearms? When was your first shot? I started out in the Boy Scouts, myself!
My father taught me how to shoot when I was six. We only shot once every 3-4 years though so it wasn't something I did very often, as much as I would have loved to shoot more. I learned on a Ruger Single-Six revolver:
So I thought about a reality TV spin off you can host. It's called "bulls-eye for the straight guy" The premises is: You work with a homophobic person who can't shoot well. Through your teaching he learns to be a better marksman and person.... Thoughts?
> You work with a homophobic person who can't shoot well
Hate to be honest but the structure of [person who hates someone] being trained by [person being hated] is something worth reconsidering.
Perhaps if instead of the person being homophobic, they could simply not have many gay friends. That's more analogous to how Queer Eye for the Straight worked, if I remember correctly.
Overall though, interesting idea of bringing two groups together!
Hey Chris, whats your choice- Kimber 9mm compact, Glock22 gen 4 or Springfield XD single stack? Or your choice.
Sorry, this is like me asking you, "which of your three children is your favorite?" :D
What's your favorite range in the SF area, and where did you train for Top Shot?
I trained at the Richmond Rod & Gun Club in Richmond, CA. The NSSF is releasing 20+ new #ShootToWin training vids that we filmed there.
It was really cool to film at the range where it all began for me. Shoot to Win!
What's your favorite way to celebrate a win?
Besides ultimately winning the contest, what is your favorite memory from your time on the show?
Definitely the people, and spending undistracted time with friends which is such a rare thing these days. Imagine if you didn't have the internet, your cell phone, your email, your job, or any distractions for six straight weeks.
We all spent a lot of time eating dinners out on the back patio, stargazing, and counting satellites in the Los Angeles sky. It was so refreshing to get to know people on a deep, personal level.
As someone in the IT field who is on call 24/7, that sounds amazing. Thanks for answering, good luck in your future endeavors.
I used to be on call for the weekends, tethered to a pager. I don't miss those days at all.
Thanks for your support!
I'm a reasonably good marksman, but I've never shot competitively. What advice can you offer for someone who is thinking about getting into competitive shooting in general?
You just gotta go and compete. Don't worry about the equipment you have, just get whatever safety training the range may require and go compete. You are going to love it.
Shoot straight, and Shoot to Win!
Do you have a daily carry? If so, what holster do you like to use with it?
One thing I learned after coming into the firearms industry is that in many states it's completely normal for people to carry a firearm. I grew up in California where that concept was completely foreign. I also learned that many states issue non-resident CCW permits and so I can carry in 35 states. But get this, I can't carry in the states I live in?! How in the heck does that make any sense that other states trust me to carry, but my home state won't?
What makes California any more special? Thankfully, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that California's CCW restrictions were unconstitutional and thousands of Californians have already applied. However, the law enforcement folks where I live in San Francisco are waiting for a final ruling before changing their policy.
Oh ya, and after all that I'll finally answer your question :) Glock 42 using a Gary Quesenberry Q Holster.
Here's an article I wrote on it: http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2014/09/26/q-series-holster-conceal-carry/
Who was your favorite shooter overall throughout the seasons?
Man, I loved watching JJ Racaza from Season 1. I was rooting for him and was so bummed when he got eliminated. He had a really great attitude and can shoot so fast.
I've had the pleasure of meeting him in person and he's also an awesome dude.
Hi Chris, random questions, boxers or briefs? Beach or mountains? Coffee or tea? Socks or barefoot? Mani or pedi? Why/why not? :))
Did shooting stuff had any influence on your becoming a member of LGBT?
I'm going to assume this is a serious question that is not clearly written :)
What does gun shooting have to do with history and why would a show like that be on the history channel? Wouldn't it have been better on some outdoor channel?
It sounds like you may not have watched Top Shot on the History Channel? Assuming the answer is no, the show was about teaching the history of the world through the applications and uses of firearms. If you're like me, I struggle sometimes to learn about history through reading, but having a tangible item like an M1 Garand can help me remember things about WWII that words on a page can't convey as well.
Top Shot reinforced history through a fun learning device- the crazy shooting challenges.
Why would anyone be involved with the NRA since it has been taken over by the gun manufacturers with the sole focus of selling more guns?
The NRA has five million, individual dues-paying members. They are an organization whose origins were about promoting firearms safety, and they now play a prominent role in American politics.
An interesting thing I've learned over the past two years looking at the trends and gun sales data - is do you know what group of people elicit these large gun sales spikes?
Anti-gun politicians and groups. Post-Newtown with all of the gun control talk, gun sales spiked through the roof. Now that the chatter has died down, so have gun sales.
This cycle has repeated itself throughout history with the 1994 so-called Assault Weapons ban, the Reagan assassination attempt, and other events.