Front Sight Resorts Interviews Student Russ Albro
June 25th, 2006
Interviewed by Jim McMahon
Russ Albro is a Sheriff Deputy for the County of Kern in California, one of twelve firearms instructors for the Department, and has been for the past eleven years. Russ is also a Gold Front Sight First Family Member, one of the early ones to sign on back in 1998.
Russ’ wife, Dana, is also a Sheriff Deputy for the County of Kern. And she also is a firearms instructor for the Department, as well as a Gold First Family Member.
Russ was kind enough to meet with me and share his well-founded insights into firearms training.
FSR: What event or reason prompted you to search out firearms training?
Russ: No specific event, other than our chosen profession, both my wife, Dana, and I are deputy sheriffs for the County of Kern (California). We both work in metropolitan Bakersfield, and we are firearms instructors for the Sheriffs Department. At the time I started at Front Sight my Dana and I were firearms instructors, and have been for the past eleven years.
FSR: Did you have any previous firearms training experience prior to attending Front Sight?
Russ: We are obviously gun enthusiasts, and we’ve gone to classes all over in the state of California.
The first firearms course I took, when I was 18, was at Grossmont College. They had a pistol class that I took twice a week. It was an actual college class. From there I went into law enforcement, whet into the academy when I was 22.
Dana’s father was on the U.S. Army pistol team. So she did quite a bit of shooting before she went into law enforcement. We actually met each other in the academy, in ’88 or ‘89. She is an outstanding shot.
We were firearms instructors for the city of Ridgecrest. Are you familiar with POST, California Peace Officers Standards in Training? It’s a state-run organization, mandated by California, that requires all peace officers in the state to have specific training in domestic violence, child abuse, etc. All of our academies in California are regulated, so if you take an academy in San Diego county it’s just like taking an academy in northern California. All the training is based on what the state wants each officer to have. The majority of other states in the country do not have a standardized program like this. An academy three miles away from another academy could have completely different training. So the state of California requires that all training is regulated throughout the state. This includes firearms training.
If you want to be a firearms instructor for the state of California, you have to go to what’s call POST-certified instructor courses. Both my wife and I have our rifle, shotgun and pistol POST certifications for instructors. I believe I have twelve or thirteen different classes regarding firearms, full auto guns, tactical rifle, tactical shotgun and pistols, the majority of them through certified through POST.
We have twelve instructors that work our range, Dana and I are two of the twelve. I myself, have had the opportunity to write a number of different POST curriculums for academies, for reserves, and for detention officers.
FSR: How did you find out about Front Sight?
Russ: We got involved with Front Sight when they very first moved to Nevada, in ‘98.
We heard about it from a friend of ours who became a First Family Member when it was in Bakersfield. We had done recreational shooting together. He came across Front Sight and said we should come out and check out this training institute. We tried it out and we’ve stuck with it ever since.
FSR: What made you choose Front Sight over all the other choices in the firearms training industry?
Russ: It was the first training facility that had more of a membership aspect to it. As a First Family Member you wouldn’t just be showing up to attend a class, you would be a member, you would make friends, there are other benefits. It’s a more friendly way to continue on with long-term training, than to just go to a shooting school, and then go to a different shooting school six or eight months later, and not really form any bonds or have any type of input. Front Sight seemed to be more open to people’s ideas and people’s philosophies.
FSR: What course did you first attend?
Russ: The first course that we took was the One-Day Free Sub-Gun. That was when Front Sight had like two dirt banks out there in Nevada, that’s about all they had. And a tent, a real tent, I don’t think it was air conditioned. It was just a tent out there.
Then we did the Four-Day Defensive Handgun Course.
FSR: What was your impression of your first course?
Russ: It was good. It was excellent. It had a nice flow to it. What I mean by that is, it walked you through the aspects of handling a handgun, as far as starting at the beginning and working your way up to becoming more advanced. Some schools leave students a little behind I feel. If you didn’t have a good, solid grasp of the firearm you were shooting before you started the course, you could find yourself behind. But at Front Sight they walk everybody through the specific handgun that they have. Start them at the beginning and work their way up. So, it has a very nice flow to it.
FSR: How did the initial training impact your life?
Russ: If you go through a police academy today, then you are shooting extremely well. Your tactics are high, you can clear houses with shotguns, you can do everything that you can think of. But seven years from now, if you only went out to the department’s range during mandatory qualification, or mandatory training, and you never really went out and sought out your own training, then you lose that really quickly. The simple truth is a lot of agencies only shoot once a year. Front Sight provides an excellent environment for this continual training.
The average officer who does not go out and seek out their own training, will find that their trigger finger and all the other aspects of shooting really degrade as time goes on. That is what you really run into in law enforcement. I have found that firearms skills tuning is something that you have to do sometime in your career, but there are so few people that focus on that. They focus on their formal education, they focus on their writing skills, on their speech skills, on their driving skills, things that you do every single day, to where some of them choose not to look at shooting as such a perishable skill, and just kind of let it go after time.
FSR: What aspect of the training have you found most valuable?
Russ: For me as an instructor I think the most valuable thing that I have found is the chronological order in how Front Sight instructs. I have been able to take that back to our agency, and our agency now shoots, on long-term courses, following somewhat along the lines of what Front Sight does. That was probably the biggest that I’ve gotten from it, how Front Sight starts at the basics and works their way up, we’ve kind of adopted that.
FSR: Have you used any of the training to protect yourself, family or friends in a real life situation?
Russ: I have a real life situation just about every night that I work. Yeah, I could say that I definitely have, clearing houses, clearing buildings, using the tactics to get through doorways, around corners. Absolutely.
FSR: How many courses have you attended at Front Sight to date?
Russ: We’ve taken about six courses so far. After the Sub-Gun Course, then we did the Four-Day Defensive Handgun, we’ve taken that one twice. We’ve done the Advanced Tactical Handgun Course, Four-Day Practical Rifle, and the Two-Day Night Pistol.
FSR: How many other students have you directly or indirectly referred to Front Sight?
Russ: We just took a couple deputies over with us a few months ago who wanted to take the four-day handgun.
We’ve talked to a ton of people. Three other of our firearms instructors have come to Front Sight. And one was our sergeant, who is the range master.
FSR: What is the biggest challenge you find in trying to encourage friends to attend a course at Front Sight?
Russ: The people we associate with are pretty much pro-gun. Not really any obstacles talking to anybody that we know. We don’t know too many anti-gun people. It’s not something that we run into.
FSR: When did you become a Front Sight First Family Member?
Russ: Dana and I became First Family Members back then in 1998. It was a leap of faith. We both signed up at the same time as members that first day we were there.
FSR: What level membership did you purchase?
Russ: Copper. The bottom membership at that time. We have since both just gone to Gold.
FSR: Why did you choose to become a First Family member?
Russ: We liked the philosophy behind it, and we though it would be a good program to get in on at an early time. Front Sight was offering what we thought would be the best deal. The most economical way that we could continue our training, would be to join in on a membership. Nobody else that I know of offers it. Anybody else is one course at a time.
Continued training is something that we feel we need to do just for our occupation. It is just so much more cost effective to join a membership, instead of purchasing course after course. We have other friends that have gone to Front Sight, it just made more sense to us.
FSR: What is the purpose of the Front Sight Organization?
Russ:For average, everyday citizens to go out and receive quality training regarding firearms. And by average, everyday citizens, I mean people in general as far as citizens of the United States having the ability to go out and seek training that can bring them up to a level that will make them comfortable with firearms, as well as able to defend themselves if they needed to.
There are very few training organizations out there that actually offer training to your average, everyday person. In California, everything is regulated by the state or different law enforcement agencies. There are only so many different training institutes out there that allow civilians to walk on to their ranges and be trained. And with some of them you have to be affiliated with a government agency to go to their ranges. But at Front Sight, it definitely seems to be geared more towards benefiting your average, everyday person, and bringing them up to a level where they will be comfortable with firearms.
FSR: What does Front Sight, and your participation with it, really mean to you and the future of firearms ownership in this country?
Russ: I would think that what I do as a profession can somehow lend Front Sight some type of credibility, and for me I am more than happy to do that.
As far as the state of California is concerned, for people to purchase handguns or people to have CCW’s, even for the mere ownership there are training requirements. And obviously the training requirements the state has put on them, (1) makes it harder to own handguns, which is true. But (2) the state is also trying to make people more aware of firearms safety. The way that things are going, I believe California is going to require more and more training. But people that have gone out and sought out training on their own, at a facility like Front Sight, definitely are willing to do what they feel is necessary to make themselves safer gun handlers.
FSR: If you were standing at the speaker’s podium in a large stadium, addressing 100,000 people, and you only had one minute to tell them why they should attend a course at Front Sight, what would you say?
Russ: I have had the opportunity to train at any number of firearms training facilities all over the western United States, and I found that Front Sight in its philosophy, is better than all of them. And as far as what it has done for me personally and professionally, it definitely makes me feel more comfortable with what I do on a day-to-day basis. I feel I have a pretty solid grasp of what a firearm can do to protect myself and the lives of other people. And use it tactically and soundly.
FSR: What course are you going to attend next?
Russ: We are going to take the Two-Day Night Tactical Rifle Course, and then the Two-Day Night Tactical Rifle Skillbuilder.
FSR: Thank you Russ, we’ll see you at Front Sight!