When Peter Palma was growing up, his father didn’t approve of guns so he didn’t begin learning to shoot until a friend’s father took him hunting when he was 12 years old.
Flash forward to present tense and Palma is a Marine-trained sniper who is a contestant on the History Channel’s “Top Shot All-Stars,” which airs every Wednesday at 10 p.m. beginning May 29.
Palma, 32, served two tours of duty in Iraq in 2006 and 2008. During his first tour, Palma was a machine gunner, riding in the turrets of Humvees.
Palma had left home at 18 after graduating from Spring-Ford High School in Royersford. He headed to California, where he took classes and worked. At age 24, he decided to move back to Pennsylvania, to work as a plumber for his uncle and join the Marine Corps as a reservist.
When he learned that his unit was going to be deployed again to Iraq, Palma decided to try out for the Marine’s sniper school.
“Machine gun was low man on the totem pole,” said Palma. As a sniper “nobody bothered them and they had a bunch of cool guns and they did more fun stuff. More of the casualties, when I was there, were from improvised explosive devices (IEDs). As a sniper, you’re in a building and not as likely to be blown up.”
He aced the Marine sniper training, coming in second in his class. Out of 24 would-be snipers, only 12 passed, he said.
“In 2006, when I had gone, things were terrible and hot and people were trying to kill you,” Palma said. He was stationed in Fallujah on his first tour. “It wasn’t a huge battle, just constant small arms fire and sporadic mortars. In 2008 it was slower.” During that tour, Palma was in western Iraq in a less densely populated, desert area, he said.
After he left the Marines, a relative told him about a casting call for the History Channel reality show “Top Shot.”
Palma made it through the first season until he was eliminated in the final episode, he said. He’s been recalled to compete again for the new “All-Stars” series.
Palma was excited when he learned that he’s been chosen to be on the show out of thousands of applicants. He and his friends had quickly put together an audition tape, he said.
For the “All-Stars” competition, the 16-shooters also include a federal police officer, the first female member of the Venezuelan Olympic Shooting Team, a video producer who taught himself to build and shoot weapons, a Homeland Security agent, a construction worker with 26 state titles and the NRA’s 11-time pistol champion. The show will be hosted by Colby Donaldson.
While the players receive a weekly stipend, they can win sporting goods and Bass Pro Shop gift cards. The first place Top Shot All-Star will win $100,000 and a special edition Tahoe Q5i speedboat, provided by Bass Pro Shops.
Palma, who had visited a friend in Louisiana and liked it there, is now living in Baton Rouge. He’s using the G.I. Bill to study construction management at Louisiana State University. Once he has his degree, Palma would like to work in construction abroad. Palma is the father of an 8-week-old baby, Milo, who lives in Virginia. Palma hopes the construction gig will allow him to spend time with his son when he is in the states.