192 — Top Shot Dustin

On this week’s episode of The Mag Life Podcast, we have none other than one of the most energetic and entertaining firearms content creators out there, Dustin Ellermann. Better known as Top Shot Dustin, he is the winner ofthe third season of History Channel’s Top Shot, an incredibly popular Youtuber, a firearms enthusiast, writer, and youth mentor.

Dustin joins Daniel as they cover the firearms influencer space, social media censorship of the 2nd Amendment, becoming an entertainer, training, and dealing with negativity.

Host: Daniel Shaw

Guest: Dustin Ellermann

Introduction/Timeline: Eric Huh


00:24 How did you get into guns? What led to you going into Top Shot and Youtube?

Daniel starts off by asking Dustin how he got into firearms in the first place and what eventually led him going into entertainment content creation. Dustin explains that he was always fascinated by guns as a child, having been raised on The Gospel Bill Show and obsessing over the featured cowboy western aesthetic pearl gripped revolvers. Eventually a casting call came out for History  Channel’s Top Shot, looking for people into competitive shooting. The show offered an opportunity to use iconic historical firearms. For Dustin, this was a chance to live out his boyhood dreams of shooting guns for free. He had no real intention to become famous or a top competitor, Dustin simply saw the show as “Disneyland with guns.”

Top Shot Dustin Ellerman
Dustin has had a fascination with firearms since childhood. The only difference now is that he can get his hands on them!

06:54 After Top Shot and Becoming a Youtuber

Dustin recalls how he had no grand plans after his time on Top Shot — especially no intention of becoming a prolific YouTuber. He was only concerned with completing each new challenge on the show and avoiding elimination. In his day to day life, Dustin and his family run a children’s camp for young marksmen looking to improve their skills and build character. His priority has always been to build a foundation for future competitive shooters and gun enthusiasts above all else. Upon requests to make videos, Dustin found that Youtube content creation allowed him to take his love for shooting recreationally. Through the YouTube platform, he has been able to teach new shooters, and express his high-energy personality to new heights. Also, the ability to make some money on the side from the viewership certainly didn’t hurt.

09:15 Marksmanship Camp

Daniel inquires further about Dustin’s Marksmanship Camp for the youth. The Ellerman family has owned the camp since Dustin was 13. By the time he was a young adult, Dustin knew he wanted to commit his life to firearms at some capacity. He found was that by setting up a camp in which he had total control of the grounds, the struction and atmosphere allowed him complete freedom in running a firearms training facility. Children ages 6-12 come in large groups, often with their church affiliation, with attendance averaging 2,000 per summer.

Young archer at Dustin's Marksmanship Camp
Dustin’s Marksmanship Camp is the perfect melding of family bonding, team building, and skills crafting.

Dustin structures his camp programs to be both fun and educational for not only children, but their families as well. In his Marksmanship Camp, Dustin essentially created Top Shot — but for kids,  where various firearms and challenges are set up in a very accessible manner.

For example, Dustin will setup user-friendly firearm builds such as CMMG Banshees SBRs in .22LR with suppressors, making shooting that much more enjoyable. Dustin observes that the kids shoot better because there is no fear of the muzzle flash, recoil, or noise.

Without a doubt, Dustin believes his camp program is the perfect family bonding experience for those who attend. Eventually, Dustin would love to put together an adult-centric version of his camp. Ideally, it would include bigger caliber guns and grander challenges.

16:37 The Power and Censorship of Social Media Firearms Content

Dustin describes the continuing frustration he has for Facebook’s utterly ridiculous censorship standards for firearms content creators. It is nothing short of an attack on 2nd Amendment advocates and influencers, as major platforms such as Facebook search for anything that can be used as an excuse to restrict content or even wholesale remove pages.

“They actually deleted my page. Just, you know, the normal, ‘Oh you’re against our community guidelines!’ ‘Ok, what post?’ A link on my page for a flash light sale! But there’s a pistol in it, so they just deleted my page… What surprised me was they admitted, ‘We are limiting your reach on your page.’ I was getting close a million followers [and now people] can’t even find me… I couldn’t even find my own videos!”

Top Shot Dustin Ellerman, 2nd Amendment content creator
Dustin, like many 2nd Amendment content creators, are constantly hindered by social media censorship. Ultimately the goal is to spread a positive and responsible culture of firearm ownership. (Photo credit: AR Build Junkie)

Dustin also notes how the settings on Facebook basically give each page a strike system, where each continued violation accumulates and only serves to further harm the traffic and reach of the page to users. There is no denying how vital social media is to the firearm industry business owners and content creators like Dustin. As such, it is devastating to have it suddenly cut off.

Daniel also notes that despite not being very active on his own Facebook page, just by making one profound post on the situation in Afghanistan, he suddenly garnered an enormous uptick in social media engagement. Dustin adds that the major value of social media platforms is not just to simply make money but to also spread the pro-gun message to everyone. Gun influencers like Dustin do a fantastic job of humanizing gun owners to a wider audience, showing that guns can be safe and fun. Clearly, the community and it’s voices are present on social media but big tech executives and owners continue to stifle them.

27:07 Training Classes

Daniel inquiries about future projects or initiatives for the Top Shot Dustin brand. Dustin replies that there will be more tree chopping videos, of course, but he also intends to take more training classes. Impressively, even the winner of Top Shot continues to seek training and refinements of his skills. Daniel notes how often he hears the tired excuse of people claiming they don’t need further training because their family member’s friend was once in the Army and that’s all the advice they needed.

“Ten years ago, that’s when Top Shot was… and oh ok, what I’ve been doing… and winning with for ten years, we can still improve and fix… We are always learning; the whole industry is always finding better ways to do things.”

Top Shot Dustin Ellerman, training
Continued training is still very much a priority for Dustin, despite his already stellar shooting accomplishments. (Photo Credit: 5.11 Tactical)

Daniel agrees wholeheartedly, further adding that there are different levels to skill improvement, depending on the experience level of the individual. New shooters with about 20 minutes of instruction will see an immense increase in improvement in terms of their accuracy, timing, and confidence. With more experienced shooters like Dustin, what aspects they do improve upon will be minute and harder to see. But the point still stands, everyone, no matter the skill level, can still improve that much more.

34:55 Everyday Carry Guns and Working with Gun Manufacturers

Daniel asks Dustin he carries everyday? Dustin reveals he carried the Springfield Hellcat as part of his summer EDC loadout. He enjoys the micro-compact series of 9mm handguns that can hold a sizable amount of rounds per magazine. The trigger he felt was lacking and had virtually no wall but could still manage very impressive groupings with it. Additionally, it has a Shield red dot sight that came with the gun. More recently, Dustin has been carrying the Walther PPS M2 and very much enjoys the trigger.

Daniel recalls having written a review for the Springfield Hellcat and did not hate the experience of shooting it. He found the gun overall to be very easy to shoot, but it did have a sluggish trigger pull and the slide serrations were too smooth to the point where racking it became an issue if his hands were sweaty. He also recommends the Sig P365 series of the same category. Dustin experienced issues with the earlier models of the Sig but has found he is not against trying it again.

Both Daniel and Dustin have worked extensively with firearms manufacturers in the realm of product reviews. They note how certain companies are simply thankful for the positive press and sales that a review article or piece of content generates on their behalf, offering the product for free as a show of good faith. Other companies, however, always demand back their product or charge prices that are even higher than wholesale.

Top Shot Dustin Ellerman, shooting
Coming into the firearms scene, Dustin only sought the opportunity to simply shoot guns for free. Now it’s what he does for a living.

Daniel changes the topic towards favorite rifle and carbine builds. Dustin’s first thought flashed to the Larue Tactical OBR in 7.62 which was what he used on Top Shot and was in fact given to him after the season’s conclusion. Dustin personally attests to the sheer durability of the Larue rifle. Once, he dumped 1,000 rounds back to back and only after a short cool-down period, saw his groupings resume to an 0.8 in group at 100 yards.

42:13 Advice for Aspiring Gun YouTubers

Daniel ponders his experiences with YouTube content and the rise of new firearms influencers on the platform. He has observed and dealt with all manners of unsafe firearms content creators who, for the sake of increasing views, attempt to do more than they understand at the range. He also sees generally ignorant statements in the comments of his videos. Daniel asks Dustin for advice for aspiring YouTubers looking to make their way in the firearms space.

Dustin deals with negativity in his comments section on a regular basis. His advice is to either ignore them completely or have fun with the haters. His channel is family-friendly so Dustin sets his comments settings to put any comment with profanity in it under “requires approval” folder, which in turn automatically rids of the majority of negative comments. For commenters that continue to attack Dustin, he’ll take screenshots of their comments and publicly post them for this audience to make fun of. Essentially, he turns the negativity into a fun and engaging experience for his fans.

To learn more about Dustin Ellermann,
Visit his website: https://www.marksmancamp.com
Follow him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TopShotDustin
Follow him on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/topshotdustin
Subscribe to him on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/c/TopShotDustin

Articles/Show notes by Eric Huh

Gunmag Training's Chief Instructor Daniel Shaw is a retired US Marine Infantry Unit Leader with multiple combat tours and instructor titles.  Since retirement from the Marine Corps, Daniel teaches Armed Citizens and Law Enforcement Officers weapons, tactics and use of force. Daniel takes his life of training and combat experience and develops as well as presents curriculum to help Law Enforcement, US Military and Responsible Armed Citizens prepare for a deadly force encounter.  When he isn't directing marketing for Gunmag Warehouse, Daniel travels the US teaching and training under Gunmag Training, and discusses all things hoplological and self-defense related on The MagLife Podcast.

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