With two tours as a Marine in Iraq and two appearances on History’s show “Top Shot” as a marksman — all within a seven-year period — it’s not a stretch to think construction management junior Peter Palma would be exhausted by now.
But the veteran and reality star is now taking on the roles of inventor and business man.
Palma juggles his time between
schoolwork and teaching marksmanship classes to make room for his newest project: a gun cleaning kit designed for AR-style weapons.
He started MS Clean LLC with business partner and co-owner Trevor Jordan with a goal of creating a cleaning kit to replace the current system soldiers currently use in the field. According to Palma, the soft outer shell of current cleaning kits used by soldiers often results in spilled cleaning oils, which can ruin equipment and other items in a serviceman’s bag.
Palma’s solution was simple: a cleaning kit in the shape of a magazine with a hard case to keep the contents inside protected while offering a convenient way to carry the kit.
“Since it’s in the shape of a magazine, there’s readily accessible pouches that this kit can go in, and that’s the whole idea behind it,” he said.
The kit is in the beginning of the production process now and will be available for sale via kickstarter.com in January 2014, Palma said. The product will be primarily manufactured in Louisiana to continue to support Americans and the service men and women still fighting overseas, he said.
Palma’s road to inventing his cleaning kit was paved by a series of events, starting with enlisting in the Marine Corps in 2005 where he was able to take his natural ability for shooting and hone it into a remarkable skill.
“Once I joined the military, it stood out that I could shoot,” he said. “I had a natural ability, but I needed formal training.”
Palma went to Iraq in 2006 as a machine gunner, operated in a combat environment near Fallujah, and returned home to Pennsylvania in 2007. He was called to action again in 2008 and deployed as a sniper working near the Syrian and Jordan borders in Iraq.
Again, Palma returned home and looked to what the future would hold. He found it in a casting call from History around 2010, which called for expert marksmen to compete in a large-scale shooting competition for $100,000. Thousands entered into the contest, but the number was quickly narrowed down to 50, Palma said.
“They flew 50 of us out to Los Angeles where we did a battery of interviews with producers and psychiatrists — we also shot, too,” he said. “So, they chose the people who had the most character and the people who could shoot. They chose the top 16.”
Palma was assigned to the red team, but ended up meeting an outspoken member of the opposing blue team: political science alumnus and President of Iberia Marine Service Blake Miguez. The two quickly realized they were alike in many ways and became friends, Palma said.
“We complement each other real well,” Miguez said. “He tells me everything I need to know about guns, and I just shoot them fast.”
Challenges on the show ranged from the “Annie Oakley” shot, which features the shooter using a mirror to shoot a rifle pointed behind the back at a target, and others that called for a vast array of weapons like pistols and bows.
Both Palma and Miguez made it to the final episode of the first season of “Top Shot” before they were eliminated. The two remained close friends, which prompted Palma to visit Louisiana for two weeks after filming concluded.
“[Palma] came down and he had a chance to eat some of our Cajun food,” Miguez said. “He figured out that everything is really laid-back down here. It’s really a sportsman’s paradise.”
Palma helped Miguez with a University ROTC event where he also spoke with University officials. Palma said his mind was made up to pursue a degree in the construction management program.
But before doing so, Palma again participated in “Top Shot” alongside Miguez for the fifth installment where all-stars from previous seasons competed for a cash prize. Though neither Palma nor Miguez took the top spot, they both said they are thankful for the valuable experience. The fifth season concluded Aug. 28.
“Being on the show has opened up my horizons to shooting,” Miguez said. “I was always just strictly a handgun guy that went hunting with a shotgun here and there. But since the show ... I’ve learned to be a better shooter all the way around.”
As for Palma’s future, he said he’s looking forward to continuing to grow MS Clean LLC and graduating from the University in 2015.
“I want to take advantage of all the programs offered by LSU, there are so many things they offer,” he said. “I really appreciated the opportunity to go to a school like LSU.”