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For the Love of Competition

Top Shot Season 3: Interview with Winner Dustin Ellerman

by Iain Harrison   |  October 26th, 2011 78

After a long and grueling six weeks of shooting with both guns and cameras, the final four contestants of Season 3 of History’s Top Shot faced off for the last time tonight. As you probably already know, the show has catapulted competitive shooting into the mainstream in its first three seasons and has become a staple of the History Channel lineup.

After the thrilling season finale of Top Shot, I’m proud to welcome Dustin Ellerman to the Top Shot Champion fraternity that now includes the new champ, myself and Season 2 winner Chris Reed. We now have a Christian camp counselor, country boy from down South and well, me, for whatever that’s worth.

I got to talk with winner Dustin to get his take on events and the inside scoop on his showdown with eventual runner-up Mike Hughes.

Iain Harrison: Why did you apply for the show?

Dustin Ellerman: It looked like fun! Any time you can get to ride a zipline or a get hauled up on a crane while shooting guns, well I want to play.

IH: What’s the first firearm you’re going to get now that you’ve won?

DE: Actually there are two. That Larue OBR is such a sweet shooter, I had to have one and the 10/22 is one of my favorites, so I had to have one that Volquartsen perfected.

IH: What other plans do you have following the show?

DE: I’m going to be signing a lot of autographs! Seriously, though, I’ve had such great support from kids, that I’m going to be headed to a bunch of schools and churches to talk with the kids and have photos taken with them. I’m also planning on running a youth marksmanship camp in the Spring, once things have died down a little.

IH: Now, for the final episode, tell us about the dueling tree challenge – seems like they threw in a twist this time around.

DE: Yeah, the plates were a little bit bigger, but they were moving. That was the fourth time I’d shot a Glock, so that was cool, and I was kinda glad that Gary beat me because I want people to feel safe & it wouldn’t look good if this DHS agent gets beaten by a nobody from east Texas.

IH: At the HORSE challenge, why did you pick the golf balls as your first target?

DE: At home, one of my favorite targets are golf balls; I’d set them at 100 yards & check zero my rifles with them. I’d mentioned this in the house, so when we walked up, Gary said, “Hey Dusty, there’s your golf balls.” When Mike chose the AK one handed we were like, “are you nuts?” I tried to take up the trigger to the end of the first stage, but I was totally unprepared when it went off, but that’s what happens when you have an 8 lb. rifle on the end of your arm.

IH: The final shoot off wasn’t even close. What happened?

DE: Yeah, we had go back and reshoot parts the next day because I left the cameras behind. I caught Mike on the rock throwing part of the course because I’d been practicing back at the house, throwing rocks for maybe an hour a day then it was on to the Benelli. I had to throw in maybe four or five extra shells and then took off. Going into it, I gave Mike an 80/20 chance of winning, but he told me later that buried the front sight in the bottom of the ghost ring on that Benelli instead of centering it and kept repeating his mistake.

IH: Planning on heading to SHOT Show?

DE: Yeah, I read about the party you guys had last year. While I’m not a big drinker, I’m not missing out on that!

Who watched the show this season? Let’s talk Top Shot in the comments section.

  • Derrick Muck

    Congratulations Dustin, I'm almost ashamed to say that I've only seen you shoot on your audition video. Everyone from Cornerstone Church of Cleveland, Texas was rooting for you. I am looking forward to watching season 3 of TopShot on DVD when it comes out and also I hope to meet you some day soon. God bless you in your future endeavors. By the way I'm a US Army soldier stationed at Ft. Polk, Louisiana.

    • SgtSilbaugh

      I guess we can call Dustin "THE MACHINE GUN PREACHER"!! HAHA, I just watched that in theaters just a few days before the final episode of Top Shot and thats the first thing that came to mind!

  • Southern Dad

    Just a dad and husband here in south Louisiana but I love Top Shot and honestly think the best men won each season :) I'd love to give it a go, looks like a great challenge and lots of fun!! Congrats and God bless you for displaying to the world a humbleness and attitude that should be emulated :)

  • David Atherton

    A true sportsman and a great role model. Congratulations. Thank you for reminding us that nice guys CAN finish first.

  • Kevin

    A modern day David over Goliath! Great job Dustin. Hope the winnings help further your ministry. It's great to see a nice guy win. God is Great!

  • Randy

    It's really refreshing to see Christians do support the 2nd amendment and enjoy shooting. Wish more did since freedom of religion, gun ownership, and freedom of speech are the cornerstones of our democracy. Too bad some want to take those freedoms away.

    • PTL-n-Pass the Ammo

      Randy, there are way more religious believers out there who understand the RKBA than anybody realizes. Where I worship it is CCL country. You have to be careful when hugging the brethren to avoid bumping into all the CWs. The Second Amendment is well understood by many in our Schule as the teeth the Most High hath granted us to ensure "Never Again!" is more than just an empty slogan.

      • Mitch

        That's some good news right there. God bless.

      • nedrgrn


        • PTL-n-Pass the Ammo

          Right to Keep and Bear Arms

  • Jill York

    My sisters attended Orange Community Church with you. So I was introduced to the show while on a visit. Fantastic job- shooting everything under the sun and representing Christ! Another marksman who lived for Jesus is WW1 hero, Sgt Alvin York. You should read his biography or watch the old Gary Cooper movie.

  • K.C.

    Dustin was a Macjhine. He might struggle for like a second but he's the quickest learner ever. Once he gets it's down he mows through. WOW! Great Job man. Thanks fr the story Ian. Hey Ian, could you have beat Dustin in the final challenge?

  • Doug Neiner

    Congrats Dustin – super happy to see you win. You were a great testimony for Christ, and were a role model for the term "sportsmanship". I just got my first gun ever, a Ruger 10/22 – so I hope to practice and I'd love to even come close to your skill level some day!

  • Kevin Montgomery

    AMAZING JOB! I was rooting for you all the way, I just had this gut feeling that with how fast you could pickup on ANY weapon system that you could probably take the whole thing… It was great to see someone that was just a down to earth sportsman win it and by doing so you proved that you don't have to be former Military, Police, or a professional shooter to be able to handle shooting with the big boys and coming out on top!! I too like shooting golf balls with my 10/22, I like to put a hole in them and use string to hang them and then hit them while they swing. I've not tried doing it from a 100 yards but I have done it from 75, you should come to Ohio and we'll give it a try…LOL

  • Paula Muck

    Dustin what an awesome season, Geoffrey and I watched you with pride. We are all so excited for you and your family. I know so many of us here at Cornerstone of Cleveland have been following this season. The kids will be pumped this year so get ready…..Love you guys and everything you all do for these kids.

  • Dustin Ellermann

    Dude, you made it sound like I was gonna go drinking with you, lol. Not gonna drink, but I'll hang! Thanks for the writeup!

    • Iain

      Aww, c'mon – it's Vegas :)
      Pleasure talking with you mate! See you in January and good luck with your post-victory ventures.

    • ExKev

      You were a great competitor (and more importantly) a great witness. Congratulations on your victory!

    • Cindie

      Glad to hear it! You are a great role model :)

  • Brent Wallace

    Dustin, it was great to be able to watch a man with Godly values rise to the top. Thanks for standing up for what you believe in, and congratulations!

  • Randall Dunning

    Dustin, the livingroom erupted into pandemonium as all four girls, Karen, and a friend lept to their feet cheering when you blasted the last target with the "Big Smith". Your victory blessed our family as your camp has blessed our kids over the years. Perhaps we can bust a cap or two, providing appearences ever die down. ;-D I also cannot wait to se details on your shooting camp. Mazel Tov!

  • @DavidScarbrough

    Dustin, What a fantastic run you had! Your character was a bright spot in the season. I am so happy for you and your family! The Lord has truly blessed you.

  • Steve T.

    The shooting sports need competitors like Dustin, Iain, and Chris who are super positive influences on the way firearms are viewed by the masses. From the midway of each season, I rooted for all three winners and I am very pleased with how all of you have represented the firearms world that I love so much. Thanks Dustin, Chris, and Iain!

  • Daryl Billings

    Dustin, your humbleness accents your giftings. The Lord has elevated your platform in order that you may speak with authority and passion. I hope our paths cross some day so I may shake your hand. Well done, good and faithful servant!

  • Rebecca

    It was such a blessing to watch you, Dustin, this season on Top Shot. My husband and I rooted for you throughout the show. It is not every day that you see a professing Christian on national television having "fun"! I pray the Lord continues to bless you and your family. Maybe you can schedule a trip down to South Louisiana to teach our boys a few tricks about shooting!

  • Antonio

    Is it a coincidence that all three Top Shot winners are men that show great humility? So far, they all seem to be good role models and the type of firearm spokesmen I'd like to see.

    And, speaking of dignity, what a contrast against all those other vulgar and egocentric reality show personalities.

    God Bless.

  • Sam

    You shoot wonderful!!…i live in houston,tx so I may see you one day:)

  • Wesley Scott

    From day one of the season, I was pulling for you. I too was a foster parent – we adopted our two foster kids. I'm also in full time Christian educational ministry – and I happen to be a USPSA shooter – like Mike. Great to see a fellow believer, full-time ministry worker, foster dad, adoptive dad, and shooter win. All here in the Scott house in south Florida are VERY proud of you. God bless you my friend.

  • J. R.

    I was pulling for you. You were the anti-Jake. He was such an jerk. The best man and shot did win. Congrats

  • Mitch

    Congratulations Dustin, may God use this victory for good and for his purpose. God bless you and yours.

  • Terry

    What else can be said Dustin. You were great, Pretty good with the firearms as well . God Bless you and your Camp. Great win for the Nice Guys… Be Safe.

  • Daniel Moore

    Congratulations Dustin. I am a retired Army M.Sgt. and presently serving as a pastor and chaplain of a Baptist church. I love to shoot and hunt. You were a wonderful example to others throughout the season of good sportsmanship, humility and Christ-likeness. Well done good and faithful servant!

  • PappyCrux

    Great job Dustin. I love the way you show that being a Christian and a shooter can be fun. I used to shoot some competitively, and quit because it took the fun out of it for me. Back in the 1960's my grandfather taught me how to shoot, handload, and enjoy it. God Bless and keep your powder dry.

  • Trent Bohl

    It was a great accomplishment Dustin, I am completely wow'd by how humble, and what a good sportsman you are, Not to mention your skills as a shooter. I will be buying season three, Just to show my son how a person and winner, should act. You are a great role model.

  • Mike

    Dustin was definitely a refreshing change to the show (and reality show genre) as a whole. Not that there was anything wrong with most of the other people on the show (except Jake). Dustin's attitude and skill were amazing compared to most of the contestants. Congrats Dustin!

  • Lisa

    My entire family watched every season of Top Shot and have rooted for all of the winners. My teenage girls picked Dustin on the very first night as their favorite and actually cried when he won. How wonderful to see a christian young man show the world what we know. A christian can be humble and christ-like while still having a great time!

  • Dylan van Dijl

    That was awesome! You are an amazing shooter. You see all these titles like : Grand pistol Master, and michael with his shotgun competitions, cliff with the pistols.. and then you see Dustin. A self-taught shooter just looking to have some fun, You have truely been great throughout the whole season.

    Greetings from Holland =)


    I very much enjoyed the show. I was happy to see you win. Your lets have fun was the cornerstone of the event. I enjoyed the contestants, save one, who exhibited the epitome of the American sportsmanship. The hand shake and good luck, and admittance of loss as a credit to the competitor is what the American male should be. It is what i have seen in competitions. Good luck with your children's camps. I grew up with Boy Scouts and if all children went through shooting camps we would have none of them using firearms irresponsibly. God Bless.

  • Dan

    I said to my friends when this started "wouldn't it be great if the nice kid won". We cheered for you the whole time. It is great to see a person who does not spend half his life telling everyone how great he is prove he is one of the best by his actions and his sportsman like attitude. You have no idea how many kids you impressed not with just your win but with your conduct as a man and not a loud mouth. I coached the weight events in track for 31 years and that is the way my throwers acted. In those 31 years they won nearly 100 state medals,obviously not all first place, but each showed the type of conduct you did. They made their school proud just as I am sure you make your friends and family proud. Good luck to you and keep up the good work.

  • Joe Cat

    Congrats Dustin, you and Cliff were my favorites. I don't like the big mouth's who think they are special. That guy Michael rubbed me the wrong way the first time he opened his mouth, and Jake makes me ashamed to say I was in the Navy. Dustin you are the kind of person I like to see as a representative of the shooting sports world. Congrats again and good luck with all of your future adventure's.

    • Joe Cat

      More of a PS than reply. Question were you guy's really firing 500 magnum ammo in the S&W 500, the recoil seemed minimal. I don't have a 500 mag but I do have a 454 casual (Ruger super red hawk) and it seems to have much more recoil.

      • Frank G in Tennessee

        Quick note on this end. I shoot S&W sister relover the 460 XVR. I thought the same when viewing the first round. At that "short" range and weight of the wheel gun You could use “relatively” light loads to accomplish the task. Rather perceptive on your part, good question.

        • Joe Cat

          Thanks for the reply Frank, I thought they may have been shooting 500 special ammo.

      • Dustin Ellermann

        It was Hornady 350 grain.

  • Jon

    Congratulations Dustin, well done!!!! It was so good to hear you speak of your ministry and especially to hear you speak of "praying harder". You did an awesome job representing Christian "shooters". Thank you and God Bless you and your family!!!!

  • rexpointe

    Dustin, congratulations on your victory!!! You were the underdog from the start and few of your fellow competitors took you very seriously… at first. Of course after a few competitions and your first elimination challenge victory even loud mouth Jake suddenly realized you are a talented shooter and serious competitor. I think the elimination voting in Season 3 was handled much better than the collusion that went on in Season 2. You guys used performance as the sole criteria and didn't fall into the "reality TV" trap of becoming a bunch of drama queens (with the exceptions of Michael and Jake). So congrats to you and your fellow Season 3 competitors on "keeping it real and based on marksmenship".

    I also want to say I admire the way you guys handled Jake's final departure. Most people would have taken the opportunity to trash him (as he so richly deserved) but you guys rose above that temptation and handled the situation really well. As it turned out, bringing back Mike Hughes was a great addition to the final few weeks of the show. But in the end, you clearly earned the title of "Top Shot". Best of luck in your future endeavors.

    • Joe Cat

      Rex, I would have loved to see the expression on Jake's face when he found out he was responsible for Mike Hughes getting back in the competition.

      • Randy D.

        Mike and Jake, it appears, have stayed in touch. Jake posed for some "bad guy" targets Mike sells on his website. LOL!

  • James

    Great shooting, Dustin. Congratulations.

  • James R. Ellerman

    There are quite a few Ellermans around these parts. Just maybe we're kin somewhere down the line. Congratulations on your win.

  • V h Gold

    My husband and I are so glad you won Dustin! I remarked that God was watching over you as you seemed to be such a good sportsman and also a kind man. Congratulations and God Bless!

  • JAMOS0311

    I wanted Dustin to win since the first show. A shooter with no professional pedigree, who just loved to shoot and compete. In the end I really think the last four shooters were the best examples of what the show represents. A former Marine, a homeland security agent, a professional competition shooter, and a guy who just likes to play…and the best part NO JAKE!! That guy was a turd, and not even close to representing the show, much less himself. Congrats Dustin, great job!

  • Hank

    Dustin,congradulations on a great win !!! You showed us all what a true sportsman is .
    I was glad to see how much you enjoyed the fun of the sport.
    God bless you and yours , keep the faith and best of luck in the future.

  • Southernshooter

    Congratulations Dustin!!! Somehow had a feeling from the start you were going to win. All the gun nuts at New Life Christian Fellowship in Taylorsville NC were rooting for ya. As a self taught shooter and fellow believer in Jesus Christ I'm so proud of you! You are a outstanding representative for the faith and the U.S.A. I'm so glad you didn't get caught up in that self centered Jakes game. He is a disgrace to himself, his family, the SEALs and his country. He showed his real mettle, he gave up. Thank God the majority of our soldiers aren't like him. Did he ever speak a sentence without a curse word? Maybe he ought to try pro wrestling? I wish you well with your plans for a junior markmanship camp. Teach them also about God and country and the constitution. I believe that in all three seasons you are the best overall marksman ever on the show and that you were put there for such a time as this. The God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob is an AWESOME GOD!!! May God bless everything you set your hand to do. Simply outstanding.

  • bontai Joe

    Congratulations Dustin. I am very glad you won. You not only represented the shooting sports safely and with great sportsmanship, but you made every event you were in look like fun. And competition shooting should be fun and seen as fun. Too many think we shoot targets only to prepare for bad times. So I thank you for showing the best possible side of competition shooting, and enjoying yourself in the process.

  • Lopaka Kanaka

    Dustin: "Congratulations" We at Cornerstone Church of The Serrias in San Andreas,CA were all praying for
    your :WIN". We knew God was answering out prayers when Big Mike was missing with the shot gun second event. What a great way to use your winning for your youth at your camp. We in the Army call you an "Expert
    Shooter" above a Marksman and a Sharpeshooter metal. God had plans for you and how to get American
    back on the right track. We at Cornerstone are all gun owners and know our rights on the 2ND ammendant
    in this Great Country. As a Life Time member of NRA I will do all that will keep our guns from being taken away by leaders of this country. Our Gov. Brown just signed some new gun laws that make it difffcult to purchase long guns and ammunition in this state. Dustin, keep shooting to win!

  • Frank G in Tennessee

    Outstanding Dustin,
    Without a doubt you have become a gold standard for moral and ethical values representing the vast majority of “True Sportsman”.

  • Rick

    Congratulations Dustin! If not for you, I would have given up on this season when the drama was at its highest point. Congratulations also goes out to Chris, Gary and Mike. All of these guys were great sportsmen and brought the show back to where it needed to be.

    I think History Channel should do a special show with the winners from the first 3 seasons. Start out with the call your weapon and shot game for the first elimination and then on to the obstacle course.

  • Bob

    Congratulations Dustin! My wife and I were hooked on Top Shot and were cheering for you from the start…. You truly were a blessing to Christians everywhere by demonstrating your Faith throughout the competition. Thank you.

  • Robin

    Thank you, Dustin, for your spotless example of good sportsmanship, humility, honor, and joy! May God continue to bless you. Your values will be an example, and will continue to touch many young lives, and for that we are thankful.

  • Penny Kipper

    I have really enjoyed watching the series (I started at season 2). Dustin — I am proud of how you represented yourself and your beliefs> You were a joy to watch. Congratulations!

  • Rick Edwards

    Totally love the show! I was pulling for you all along, Dustin! Once it was down to the final 6, Dustin through Phil, it would have been great to see anyone win, since you all were good sports and men of character. I was amazed watching the 'behind the scenes' show at the end, that Mike stopped shooting when Chris had trouble with his Glock! Wow what amazing character you final four showed! In the end I was excited to have my favorite, Dustin, a man who was humble, having fun, and lived life on the show representing his beliefs, a wonderful man of God, win it all!

  • Lopaka Kanaka

    We would all like to see "The Top Shot" Winners have a shoot out in the next season and see who is the "TOP GUN"? It would be great if it came down to who had the most points after all the shoot out. Members of my church are voting now who will be the "TOP SHOT" for next season. You have my vote Dustin and I know many would like to see you do it again as "TOP GUNNER" for 2012.

  • Keith Smith

    I don't know how Jake performed while as a Navy Seal, but he sure didn't display the value of team work that is drilled so much in training. His actions were a discrace to the Seal program. A Seal never quits. He continues until the mission is completed. So I thought it was sweet justice to bring back Mike after the way he was treated by Jake. I can't wait til next season

    • Joe Cat

      What do you think the players and their parents think of there coach Jake now. I wouldn't want any kid of mine influenced by that jakeazz.

      • Keith Smith

        One word "Looser"

    • Annie Lorenzo

      I agree to you Keith:) It was a great come back for Mike and did a great job. But I know Dustin will be the winner:)

  • J.S. Mccrary

    You did a great job of showing that as a Christian that you give up nothing in life. You demonstrated excellent skills, razor sharp adaptabliity, coolness under pressure, a positive attitude and good sportsmanship. You will be seen the world round and I am proud that you are representing all Americans. In this show we had a good example of both sides of the coin – how to be a good role model and how to be a terrible one. Your victory as a 'self-taught'shootist gives creditiblity and hope to all of us amatures out here. May all your endeavors be blessed as your spread the word of the Lord through your shooting skills and your positive Christian attitude.

  • Shannon K

    Congratulations! We were rooting for you the whole show and what an ending! You not only did it with grace and sportsmanship, but what a great role model you are! Bless you and your ministry.

  • Mack Missiletoe

    The Christian guy won? COOL I was rooting for him when I saw one of the shows :D JESUS LIVES!

  • Joseph a Barbknecht

    You are a fine man those ,of us inTexas are proud of that and your shooting. You are the good positive face of all of us ,who are amateur shooters. How do we contribute to your camp. Would like to see your attitude spread to others?

  • selam

    Dustin wow u where great I told my boyfriend u was going win I don't know I just believed in u. And Jake wow I'm lost of words. No sportsman/wojmenship.

  • Matt

    Honestly, the first season of Top Shot SUCKED. However, it seems that the History Channel listened to all the criticisms and now I can honestly say it's a pretty good show, and I'm very happy to see guns coming into the mainstream instead of being treated like an odd "cult" that should be shunned.

    Congrats on winning!

  • Smiley

    Dustin, what a great role model for our youth. Did I see you at the Houston Gun Show on 1/7/12?

  • Les & Cindy

    Happy to say the guy with the solid Christian values and conduct was our favorite from the start. We watched every episode and marvelled at Dustin's consistent character and outstanding shooting. The show was a great illustration of character and humility from a true understanding of our purpose in our lives. Stay true to your faith. Blessings.

  • Farouq

    Dustin! you are a real deal man!!!

  • Eric

    Dustin, what can I say congratulations to you, you really deserve it. Yes I am a fan of the show since season 1 and seeing you display your shooting skills is amazing and I have to admit I can't do what you've done ( especially when you're strap on a wheel and let it turn one rotation and then start shooting; if you let a novice or amateur do that they will only hit blanks and maybe they'll get dizzy; that for me is the most insane skill of all).

    I thank God that you won and also out of all the past 3 season you are the BEST. Well good luck and God bless in what you'll do in the future and I know that there are a lot of parents who wanted to have their kids attend your summer camp not just in southern Texas but the whole state.

    Well I live in the Philippines and there was one time in season 1 that there was a competitor who is a pure Filipino, I believe his name is J.J. and fortunately we have History Channel here and just saw the season finale, it was really outstanding. Well I'll wait for the next season coming and I heard that its over in the states, I don't want to know who won it really kills the suspense and hopefully the winner of the next season will be like you.

    Thanks for reading and once again God bless.

    Phil. 4:4

  • Annie Lorenzo

    I didnt missed the top shop from episode 1 upto the 2nd to the last show, Unfortunately i had an emergency and mised watching Dustin on the final episode. He deserves to win:) And the best thing in joining a contest is enjoying it, that you dont feel like competing at all like what Dustin showed on his games, He just enjoyed every task:) and end up winning and enjoying the game.. It seems a better future looks ahead of you Dustin. Congrats!

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