The Armory Life Interviews:
March 26th, 2023
7 minute read
The Armory Life is honored to recently have had the opportunity to conduct an interview with Chris Cerino of Gun Talk Media and Range Ready Studios. Chris is a decorated long-time LEO professional, competitive shooter, firearms trainer and two-time runner-up on the hit TV show “Top Shot”.
The Armory Life (TAL): Please tell us about yourself for those who may not know you.
Chris Cerino (CC): Before moving to Louisiana, I grew up and lived in the Cleveland, Ohio, area for 52 years. I’ve had a varied career in law enforcement and training, but before that and even during the beginning, I was never really a gun guy. I was just a punk kid that appeared to have a future in pumping gas and cleaning windshields. Honestly, when most of my friends found out I was a police officer, they said they thought I would end up on the other side of the bars.
TAL: How did you get into law enforcement, and how long were you in LE?
CC: Throughout school and in college, I had a hard time with math and geometry (who knew I’d end up needing it so much in the shooting sports?). Counselors said I could switch my major to Criminal Justice Studies and take a language to get around math classes. Better grades resulted, and I was recruited by the National Park Service in Montana. That was 1992, and I was 22 years old. At 30 years later, I wrapped up a very full career in a small town in Ohio.
TAL: What do you think kept you rising in the ranks as an LEO instructor?
CS: Right from the beginning I was able to shoot better than most. I had no idea why I was able to qualify once a year, but it afforded me many positions. Always the best of the “bad lot,” I was offered opportunities to become a firearms instructor, SWAT officer and department trainer. It wasn’t until I worked for the Federal Air Marshal Service that I really started to get good, though.
TAL: How did the “Top Shot” television show opportunity come about?
CC: I was working for the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy when “Top Shot” came about. The History Channel was looking for “ultimate marksmen with big personalities.” Dozens of friends bombarded me with these emails and said that I fit the bill and should apply. I applied… and got in. It’s a long story, involving a few cocktails, a careless attitude and whole lotta luck. That was in 2010. It catapulted me into the firearms industry, inspiring me to start the Chris Cerino Training Group. I’ve never looked back.
TAL: Where did your skills come from to be able to participate in “Top Shot”?
CC: By the time I left the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS), I was a helluva shooter and trainer. I spent many weeks and thousands of rounds remediating agents who needed help. It wasn’t enough for me to be a really good shot, I had to get others to be as good as me. This meant I had to learn to diagnose my own successes and failures to best impart knowledge. It really all comes down to solid fundamentals, and beyond that… it’s grip, sights and trigger.
After leaving the FAMS, I became the lead firearms instructor for the north division of the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy. I applied what I had learned to every gun you can imagine in that position. I had to teach precision rifle, AR-15, revolver, shotgun and submachine gun classes. You can learn fast when you have no fear. To teach is to learn twice.
TAL: What was the most difficult part of “Top Shot”?
CC: The most difficult part of “Top Shot” was learning how to compete. I knew how to shoot, but I had no idea what it took to compete. So I just did my best. I wasn’t a cheater or a gamer, and I’m still not. I just want to have fun and do well. Winning was never a motivator.
My motivation was wanting to see the next challenge, participate in it and not have to watch it from home. It’ worked because I can say that I have been in more episodes and challenges on “Top Shot” than any other competitor in the history of the show. And, of course, I suck at archery, too!
TAL: How long have you been a firearms trainer?
CC: In 1999, the police department asked if I wanted to be a firearms instructor for the agency. There was no way I could say no because nobody else wanted to do it. I personally owned three guns at the time. Over the past 24 years, I’ve attended many courses and obtained some certifications, but much of what I do and teach is based on my time as an instructor.
TAL: What is it like to be the Director of Training for Range Ready?
CC: My actual title is Producer of Training Content/Host, and it’s a position I’ve worked towards for the past 11 years. I’ve been a contract trainer and talent for about 10 years with Gun Talk, and I’ve always loved it. I get to meet people, travel, make television and pass on knowledge. And, they pay me to do it! Now I get to do it full-time.
TAL: It seems as if you guys stay extremely busy at Gun Talk. What are some projects that you have been a part of that gives you a great sense of pride or accomplishment?
CC: We are constantly working at Gun Talk Media and Range Ready Studios. We’re constantly filming or recording something. In addition to the classes on the range, we have the new TV show, “Build Box”. I’m actually really proud to be part of both of those, but training comes easily to me. Being a producer on the “Build Box” show was a real treat. It was very challenging, time-consuming and hugely satisfying; but not as satisfying as seeing my students succeed and smile.
TAL: What are some of your favorite Springfield Armory firearms, and why?
CC: When I was writing and working for myself, I’ve always had a great relationship with Springfield Armory and am thankful for it. My favorite SA gun is a 6” 10mm TRP 1911. Of course, the XD-M 10mm is equally awesome. The accuracy is beyond comprehension. With hard-cast bullets, it’s a true hog slayer.
TAL: Whom do you look up to in the firearms training community?
CC: The trainers I like, trust and generally agree with are mostly previous mentors of mine. One man, in particular, was my instructor as a young cop. A Vietnam vet and former Ohio State patrol officer, he was rough, demanding and unapologetic. He said, “the responsibility for preparing men and women for battle should never be taken lightly.” That applies to everyone I train because you never know what anyone may have to do.
TAL: What are you most excited about for the future of firearms training?
CC: The future of firearms training is filled with “flavor of the day” frauds that, even if they could shoot their way out of a wet paper bag, couldn’t impart the knowledge of how and why. Personally, I look forward to teaching new students and mentoring future instructors. I’m always searching for the next person I can make as good or better than me. Being an instructor/mentor has been my mission since around 2005.
TAL: Why do you train others to shoot?
CC: Whenever I train civilians, especially lunch ladies and teachers, they ask how their training differs from my LE and military classes. The answer is, it doesn’t! I give everyone what they can absorb in a fashion that I believe they can handle. There’s no advanced training, only advanced applications of the basics.
I am continually amazed by the performance I get from students whom I’ve trained for as few as three days. Men and women who’ve been in shootings days and years post-training impart stories of success and survival to me. That’s why I train shooters. Shooting can be a lifesaving skill. But it’s also a skill that can be fun. It’s even more fun if you’re good at it.
TAL: After taking a class with you, I can see how much you care about your students and their growth. What drives you to see students succeed?
CC: Of course. I do care about my students. It’s hard sometimes, but I usually get around to inspiring everyone in the end. I give every student individualized attention, and I give the class 110% of my energy and enthusiasm.
TAL: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with us.
CC: It was my pleasure.
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