By Lars Dalseide | April 30 2012 07:53

Gabby Franco at the NRA Convention in St. Louis
Top Shot's Gabby Franco at the NRA Convention in St. Louis.

St. Louis, Missouri - Two competitors were there to keep me up to speed on the ins and outs of History Channel's Top Shot this season: Terry Vaughan and Gabby Franco. Though Terry has proven to be as elusive as any British Commando, Gabby put herself front and center this month at the NRA Convention in St. Louis. I took the opportunity to learn more about the Venezuelan Olympian.

You won't believe how it all began.

"I started by dry firing for a year," said Franco.

A year. One full year of pulling the trigger only to hear a whack instead of a bang. Now she laughs about those simpler times, but they must have been maddening for an eleven year old. Yes she was small. And maybe like most children her age she'd ultimately move on to something else. After all, there is no way her father knew that trip to a Barquisimeto range would launch his little girl on such a journey.

"My father went down there to get a pistol permit," Franco began. While there, he discovered there was a junior shooting team. He thought, ahh, well I have three girls, so there you go."

Setting aside dreams of swimming, modeling and even gymnastics, Gabby pressed forward with her pistol practice.

"I was always thinking when am I going to shoot? When is bullet finally going to come out of the gun? Once it happened … I was hooked."

Hooked enough to spend the next three years following her father to the range. Practice on the range followed by more dry fires at home, there was practically no way to separate Gabby from her old school, break-top air pistol. Then it was time to put her skills to the test.

"I was just having fun," Franco beamed. "My father entered me in my first competition; a National. I finished third overall with that old air pistol. Everyone else, like shooters on the National team, they had their fancy pistols but I finished third."

That's when the magic really started. For in the audience that day was a representative from the Venezuelan National Team. Soon enough, Gabby found herself competing side by side with the best shooters in the country. It was her chance. Her chance to show what a year's worth of dry Top Shot's Gabby Franco poses with a fan at the NRA Convention in St. Louis firing and three more on the range could do for a determined competitor.

"It was exciting. I was competing, I was traveling and I was representing my country."

Her first test would be at the Bolivarian Games in Peru.

"I won the Silver," Franco exclaimed. "That just made me even more excited."

We'll have more on Gabby next week here on NRAblog.

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