Reality Show Pits Cops Against Civilians

By Roman Gokhman, STAFF WRITER

Article Last Updated: 02/01/2007 09:04:14 AM PST

Dave Clark paints in his Livermore home studio.
(Jay Solmonson/Tri-Valley Herald)

LIVERMORE — Viewers will soon get a chance to see retired middle school art teacher Dave Clark display his talents on a TV reality show.

But he won't be painting or drawing. He'll be shooting.

Clark, 64, has been interested in firearms since he was a child growing up with a father who was an Army colonel.

This interest led Clark to take several firearms courses in the last six years, and to be a contestant on a new reality TV show that tests marksmanship and strategy.

Clark, who worked as an art teacher at Junction Avenue Middle School in Livermore for more than 40 years, recently participated on Front Sight Challenge, now showing on the Versus Network. In the show, 40 law enforcement officers go head-to-head against 40 highly trained ordinary people, Clark among them.

"I thought it would be a neat idea for police officers and civilians to compete against one another in a firearms survival show," Clark said.

Clark said he won his first-round competition but that episode of the show has not yet aired.

Law enforcement on the show was represented by sheriff’s deputies, police lieutenants, federal government agents and even a po-lice chief from New Vienna, Ohio, The "private citizens" included a San Jose homemaker and computer engineer and a San Francisco attorney.

Other participants from around the country were a 15-year-old, a grandmother of five, a computer consultant, a surgeon, several doctors, a Las Vegas entertainer, a school teacher and several real estate agents.

The show was taped at the Front Sight Firearms Training Institute, on the outskirts of Las Vegas.

The program was started in the 1990s by Ignatius Piazza, who had no military or law enforcement training before being certified as a marksman on four different firearms.

Clark said in addition to firearms training, the institute offers courses in self-defense and team-building "for large corporations."

"They have a very large curriculum," Clark said. "The gun community is a small community and (when there is a large successful program), word spreads fast."

He said he has taken courses at the institute during the last six years in self-defense, along with rifle, pistol and shotgun shooting.

Piazza said the training "private citizens" receive at his institute surpasses that of police standards.

The show’s format is simple in that all eliminations are based on skill level — not on personality or someone’s opinion of talent.

In each episode there are four contestants: two officers and two people who trained at the academy. There are three challenges in each episode and one contestant is eliminated in each.

All of the contestants use the same weapon: a handgun, shotgun, rifle, and M16 semiautomatic rifle.

The winner of the show moves on to a play-off, and then a championship, where he or she will use all of the weapons.

The first challenge is called the "Do or Die," a speed and accuracy test — "Who can get the best hit in the fastest time," Piazza said.

The second challenge is called "Run and Gun."

"They have to move through a series of obstacles and shoot different targets, to see who can get the targets the fastest," he said.

The final challenge is either a mirrored course, where both contestants have to complete the same tasks, or the "Shooting House," where they hunt each other with real weapons that fire paint bullets.

The five winners of the playoff move on to a championship in the last episode.

"The challenges become more difficult with exploding targets … heights, and balancing acts," Piazza said.

East Avenue Middle School Principal Vicki Scudder, who worked with Clark for more than 30 years at Junction Avenue Middle School, said that while she knew Clark had an interest in swords, she had no idea he had was interested in firearms.

"He was into Conan (the Barbarian) before Arnold Schwarzenegger did Conan," Scudder said. "He was a Renaissance man. He had a tremendous interest in Samurai swords. … But, revolvers?"

Front Sight Challenge airs twice a week on the Versus Network — channel 74 on cable. The show is on Fridays at 2:30 p.m. and Sundays at 11 a.m.

Roman Gokhman can be reached at (925) 416-4849 or at [email protected]