Chris Cheng — An Unlikely Top Shot
Chris Cheng is one of the more unlikely people I can think of to become a top shooter. He not only breaks many shooting sports molds, but rumor has it he even has the mold-makers on the run. Cheng is a techno-nerd, an Asian-American and openly gay — three things the stereotype monitors tell us you’re not supposed to find in the shooting sports.
Top Shot Time
Here’s a guy who tells me that, while his father took him shooting occasionally when he was younger, he actually relied on blogs and YouTube videos as a “key resource” when preparing to compete in the History Channel’s “Top Shot Season 4 Championship,” a championship he went on to win despite being arguably a novice and matched up against seasoned competitors, military and Olympic shooters.
“We didn’t shoot very often,” Cheng says of the range time with his father, but adds that the experience was a real opportunity to learn how to operate a firearm safely and also have quality father-and-son time.
Find the Gun That Fits
Surprisingly, he didn’t even own his first gun, a SIG P226, until later in life while working in tech at Google.
“A lot of people, when they buy their first gun,” says Cheng, “are often just being directed by a friend or family member … . They’re told to ‘buy a Glock,’ ‘buy a SIG,’ but I didn’t take that approach when I bought my first gun.”
Instead, Cheng shot a lot of different makes and models trying to find the one that best fit his hands and that pointed and shot the most naturally for him.
“I went with the SIG. It’s kind of a tank, it’s got a lot of heft, but it fits my hand really well and it shoots great,” he explains.
After that first purchase, Cheng sort of stumbled into competitive shooting. While discussing his involvement in the shooting sports, I was surprised to learn that, at Google, there’s an employee gun group he was a part of.
“Many of the employees were ‘gun-curious,’” he says.
It was while at a local range he witnessed his first IDPA and USPSA events.
“I actually thought that these [competitors] were military or law enforcement people. I really didn’t understand these were civilians, that it was a training thing,” he says.
While watching a match, Cheng asked a competitor what the event was about. That competitor was kind enough to explain the IDPA sport to him, as well as how to get started.
“So far as getting into competition,” he says, “it was all about stumbling upon that match.”
Since that match and then becoming a History Channel Top Shot, shooting has literally altered Cheng’s life.
“My whole world pivoted,” he says explaining how he went so far as to quit his job at Google and joined the shooting industry. “It completely changed my life for the better, and I have met some of the most amazing people in the industry,” says Cheng.
Though he has since returned to the tech field, Cheng says shooting allows him to have balance in his life.
“I’m online for most of the day during my day job, but the shooting sports is a way to be offline. I like that dynamism of online/offline. It helps me disconnect from my phone and my laptop. That has been a nice and unexpected change.”
In addition to the balance and personal relationships Cheng has forged in the shooting industry, he likes how diverse the shooting sports are in terms of the people and their backgrounds. “The people are different races, and there are a lot of women, which is wonderful. There are more white-collar workers than I was expecting when I first began shooting competitively,” Cheng says, calling the shooting sports a “cross-section of America.”
Own Your Own Safety
As part of embracing that cross-section, advocating for the LGBTQ community within the firearms industry has become a main focus for Cheng. He says that if you’re part of a marginalized group, firearms ownership is an empowering concept to consider. According to Cheng, he’s a believer that “armed gays don’t get bashed,” and that it’s a similar dynamic for women and other ethnic minorities.
“If you’re armed and the bad guy knows that, you’re less likely to get attacked, so we’re trying to shine a light on personal protection,” he says of his passion for helping people feel more in control of their personal safety.
Lead the Way
Cheng is also doing what he can to make it easier for people to enter the shooting sports. “I wished there had been an easier way for me to get involved in the shooting sports,” he says of his fortunate exposure to competitive shooting. He says it “was harder than it needs to be,” and responded by writing a book on shooting, “Shoot to Win,” as a way of giving back to the shooting community.
“There are a lot of concepts I didn’t quite grasp as immediately and easily as I wanted to — concepts like trigger control and breathing control. In my book, I really wanted to try and simplify these core concepts for the new shooter.”
Recruiting and helping new shooters continues to drive Cheng. In that respect, he has created several videos in partnership with NSSF that he calls a “fun project” and another opportunity to give back to the community that helped him win Top Shot. He has a vision of every gun owner training at least one new person every year, because doing so would not only increase the number of shooters but also spread gun safety and share the enjoyment he has received from the shooting sports.
Seven Things You May Not Know about Chris Cheng
- Though ethnically Asian, Cheng’s mother and grandmother are from Cuba. He speaks Spanish, and connects more meaningfully with the Latino community.
- On match days, Cheng wants to stay light on his feet and usually starts his day with oatmeal. For lunch he will have something light like a turkey sandwich, and he snacks on beef jerky.
- Because many of his matches are in hot environments, Cheng stays hydrated by drinking Pedialyte for the added electrolytes, minerals and vitamins.
- Cheng’s nickname since childhood is “Chenger.”
- Cheng is a “foodie” who tends to cook simple things.
- One of Cheng’s hobbies is to find ways to “game” travel points for upgrades to First or Business Class.
- Cheng always wanted to write a book — he just didn’t expect it to be about shooting.