Colin Gallagher is sworn to secrecy.
He spent weeks in a northern California desert last summer as a contestant on Season 4 of the History Channel program “Top Shot,” which pits top marksmen against each other in a “Survivor”-style reality show. The new season premieres Feb. 14, and he can’t tell anyone how it all turns out.
“When I watch it with the rest of America, it’s going to be the first time I’ve seen any of it,” said Gallagher, 35, who is a sergeant with the Wichita Police Department. “I hope my father’s proud of me. That’s my number one goal. I am pleased with how well I did.”
Gallagher was one of 18 contestants – two of them women – who plied wits and marksmanship against one another. The contestants included a cattle rancher, a janitor, a special forces soldier and a member of the U.S. Olympic shooting team.
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Going up against such accomplished competitors was “very sobering,” Gallagher said, yet he believed he had an important advantage.
The contestants were all lodged in a large house with no television, no clocks, no newspapers, no books, no Internet.
“You remove all of the distractions, and all you’re left with is the people,” Gallagher said. “These people all have strong personalities – all Type A.”
While he had to fight a sense of awe going up against such formidable shooters, Gallagher felt he was able to make up for it in other ways. He had received extensive training in criminal profiling, and he said that helped him size up his competitors.
“I had fun watching these guys,” he said. “You get to know where their weaknesses are. Some guys in the house really missed their wife and kids. That’s a weakness.
“For some, their wife and kids were their motivation. If you talk about his family or his kids, he did better. Once I found this out, ‘Don’t bring his family up before competition.’ ”
Gallagher had watched the show’s first two seasons and enjoyed it, and when he spotted the online application process, he decided to take a chance. That included a video of him shooting and talking about his experiences and personality.
The show’s representatives contacted him and asked him to shoot another video within three days, but Gallagher didn’t have time. Along with his job with the Police Department, he has multiple positions with Wichita Area Technical College. That means he works 75 to 80 hours a week, he said.
The show decided to fly Gallagher and about 60 other people to California for interviews and tests. Among the tests was firing four weapons at a shooting range within specified time limits.
“I had used two of the four weapons before,” Gallagher said.
After all the shooting and the tests, it was, “Have a nice day, we’ll get back to you in two weeks,” he said.
But two weeks became three and then four, with no word.
“You start getting nervous,” Gallagher said.
He and his wife were on vacation in New York when a package arrived for his wife. She was instructed to film his reaction as he read his letter of acceptance. He was asleep when it arrived and was not happy when she woke him up for what he thought was a prank.
When he found out it was legitimate, “I was shocked. I was speechless. My arms were trembling. My legs were trembling. ‘Wow, I made this national TV show.’ ”
He had a week to get to California for the start of shooting. Normally, contestants aren’t supposed to tell their employers where they’re going or why. But Gallagher was given special permission to tell his supervisor and Police Chief Norman Williams.
He had to keep it secret from the WATC, though, and he said that was difficult because he wasn’t sure how long he’d be gone. It could be anywhere from a few days to several weeks.
He landed in California on Aug. 3, and shooting began immediately.
Gallagher’s father, Jack, was a Marine Corps drill instructor who fought in Korea and Vietnam, then retired after 20 years and joined the Salina Police Department.
Jack spent 23 years with the department, including time as a detective and range master and instructor at the weapons range. He began teaching his son how to handle guns at the age of 6. The first lesson was always respect.
“We spent hours on an unloaded weapon before we’d ever put bullets into it,” Colin said. “It was step-by-step instruction. I loved it.”
Though his father never encouraged it, Colin was determined to become a police officer.
“It’s absolutely in my DNA,” he said. “From Day One, that’s all I ever wanted to do.”
Though he reveres his father, Colin won’t break confidentiality, even for him.
“When I’ve asked him how he did, he would say ‘You’ll have to wait and see’ – and this is dear ol’ dad,” Jack said.
“I’m very, very proud of my son regardless of whether he was first or last. He’s a class act in any case.”