History Channel’s hit TV show this summer is Top Shot, a firearm related reality show that has pitted 16 contestants against each other in one hour episodes each Sunday night. Finalist Chris Cerino answered ten questions for Tactical-Life.com about his background, training and experience in Top Shot and what he believes led him to be successful on the show.
Chris Cerino is a full-time law enforcement instructor. His background includes county and municipal law enforcement as well as experience as a SWAT operator. After 9/11 Chris began working for the Federal Air Marshals as a firearms instructor. For the past several years Cerino has worked for the State of Ohio. Chris is a friend of mine and fellow instructor. Over the past few years we have conducted countless firearms courses including pistol, subgun, shotgun and carbine as well as officer survival and SWAT related courses. Let Chris’s experience in training and on the show benefit you in your quest for competency.
T-L.com: Chris when you came back from the competition you mentioned that being a good overall shooter helped you in Top Shot can you expand on that point?
Cerino: I can’t emphasize how important the fundamentals are. No advanced shooting here. Just advanced applications of the basics.
T-L.com: Explain to Tactical-Life.com readers how your belief that focusing on the basics and learning the fundamentals of shooting helped you in the competition and how they can help them as well.
Cerino: Fundamentals are what wins any game, challenge or gunfight. The ability to apply them at speed and under stress is what will make anyone victorious. In our training we try to teach officers how to shoot comfortably. Once you can shoot comfortably it builds confidence in the shooter. Soon they don’t care about their comfort levels because they know what it takes to get the hit required regardless of the situation.
T-L.com: Prior to Top Shot you’ve done well in regional law enforcement competitions in the State of Ohio. What roll does competing have in a shooter’s preparation for a gunfight?
Cerino: Stress is stress and being able to control your emotions and your physiological responses to it is very important. We emphasize breathing and its importance in training. You breathe to reduce stress and focus on the task at hand. For us it’s not just scan and breathe, it’s breathe to break tension first then breathe to break tunnel vision. In competition you get performance anxiety and stressors that you just can’t duplicate in most training.
T-L.com: Some people say that competitions can’t help you prepare for defending your life. Do you train your law enforcement students any differently than you’d train yourself for a competition?
Cerino: No. We can attempt to artificially inflate heart rates but, unless we start shooting at our students they don’t get the full effect. The SNS (Sympathetic Nervous System also known as fight or flight) response it what we need to prepare them for.
T-L.com: In one segment you mentioned the effects of the Sympathetic Nervous System on shooter performance. How pumped up did you get in the competition and how did you control the effects?
Cerino: Several ways. Being well trained, competent and confident in that training. Combat breathing and being able to recognize SNS response starting. And lastly having no fear of taking on the task at hand. I guess that part comes with the confidence I mentioned earlier.
T-L.com: We’ve shot a lot together over the past few years with a large variety of firearms. Did this help prepare you for the show?
Cerino: Fundamentals apply to what ever you shoot. The big thing is controlling anticipation of recoil with new weapon systems. That’s hard to do.
T-L.com: You stated on the show “If it’s got a trigger and sights I can shoot it,” how did you achieve this confidence?
Cerino: Teaching! When I teach I get to shoot many weapons. Not just my gun
but everyone’s else’s gun. I never pass an opportunity to try a new weapon system. Feeling the trigger and recoil helps in understanding why a shooter may be experiencing problems or success with it.
T-L.com: In your Combat Marksmanship class you focus on a lot of close range accuracy drills. Why and how did this help you in the competition?
Cerino: If you can’t do it up close, you can’t magically slow dawn and apply the fundamentals at distance. Most people freak as distance increases. Fact is nothing changes. Build a solid motor program up close slowly and smoothly. Speed comes with all that practice.
T-L.com: We’ve trained patrol officers as well as SWAT Team operators in firearms together. Do you believe that one should be trained differently than the other?
Cerino: Negative! The way you run the gun doesn’t change depending on your uniform. There is no shortcut to having one good solid motor program for manipulating your weapon system and equipment.
T-L.com: What physical practice you’ve engaged in over the years led most to your success?
Cerino: Understanding of the importance of sights and trigger. All else can fail or falter in the fundamentals but what it comes down to is, align the sights squeeze the trigger and shoot on shot at a time.
Although the competition was filmed earlier in the year I, like other viewers, have yet to know who wins. I’ve been rooting for Cerino each week and he has done extremely well so far. Chris is a highly skilled shooter and instructor. If you wish to train with Chris Cerino you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org