According to the show's publicist, the first "Top Shot" episode of this season will include mastering a Soviet semi-automatic rifle used in the 1941 invasion by the Nazis as well as other weapons while competing on everything from an unstable platform to negotiating a mortar-rigged barbed wire fence as well as hitting a bullseye that is a fraction of an inch from the shooter's face.

Benson has billed himself to the show's producers as "the last American hero" and has been nicknamed "Bam Bam" for his in-your-face style.

As little time as he spends shooting compared to bowhunting, Benson said, "I'm the best shooter with the least effort." He admits that he is "a bit of a ham," which also helped get him an invite to the inagural season of "Top Shot."

"There hasn't been anything meant more for me than a reality television show about guns," he said. "It was a calling."

Benson compares himself to Bruce Jenner, the former Olympic decathlon champion — "before all the plastic surgery" — and a reality television star on "Keeping Up With The Kardashians."

"Shooters are like doctors, there's a specialty for everything," Benson said. "Bruce Jenner couldn't beat someone in the 100-yard dash, but he was good at a lot of different events. I'm the same way with shooting. "

The first time the producers at "Top Shot" called, Benson returned to a local gun range "to get my finger back. It was like cramming for finals." He figured he shot about 1,000 rounds in six weeks. This time, he had even less time to prepare.

Benson said two of the guns used on this season's shows are on Maryland's banned lift "and we won't get to practice." He is passionate about the politics of gun use as well, and he even admits to getting into a little bit of a row with Gov. Martin O'Malley "during a private meeting of the Gun Task Force."

Benson is a strong advocate of the Second Ammendment and thinks politicians are taking stands on it for their own gain, not because they necessarily believe in banning all automatic assault weapons.

"There's a lot of negative publicity, but they also do good things like preserving freedom," he said. "We're using them on a TV show, responsibly. The people on this show are all-American heroes, good guys. Do you know that more people die from peanut allergies every year than from assault rifles?"

The winner of this year's competition will receive $100,000 and a speedboat.

Though filming is complete, Benson won't divulge the results — "Let's see if I survive the first show and we can talk next week," he said — but he said he enjoyed the competition and cameraderie of spending six weeks cooped up in a house an hour north of Los Angeles.

"They take away everything — no radio, no TV, you go into isolation, but you have this bond with 16 Type-A personalities talking about guns, telling crazy stories, cracking jokes," he said. "I even fought a rattlesnake to death. It's not like 'Survivor,' a bunch of high school guys eating berries. There are manly men."

don.markus@baltsun.com