Front Sight Resorts Interviews Student Michael Gutterres
July 4th, 2006
Interviewed by Jim McMahon
Michael Gutterres has taken just about every firearms course at Front Sight, most of them more than once, and Distinguished himself in rifle, shotgun, and a number of times in pistol. He first came to Front Sight in September of 1997, and one month later he signed on as one of the early First Family Members.
Michael has been shooting guns all his life, and has a lot to say about becoming skilled in the proficient use of firearms for defending oneself.
He is a Gold First Family Member, as is his wife, and his baby daughter.
Michael was kind enough to give me part of his busy day, at his business in Stockton, California, to interview him.
FSR: What event or reason prompted you to search out firearms training?
Michael: I was interested in defensive training and making myself a better shooter overall. Pretty much both, I think they kind of go hand in hand really.
There was no event that occurred, but I’ll tell you what, living and growing up in Stockton (California), I hate to say it but this is a pretty rough town. We used to joke about it, growing up here. We all know people who have been shot, or shot at. And, you get kind of jaded to it, but it’s a pretty scary place.
You know, we’ll be talking about this and that, and it will come up that someone we know got shot. We don’t know criminals who got shot, we know people…like my friend Billy was driving in his car, and got hit by a random bullet. Who knows where the hell it came from. Caught him in the leg, he went to the hospital, there was a police report taken. So, that’s pretty much why.
FSR: Did you have any previous firearms training experience prior to attending Front Sight?
Michael: I’ve pretty much been shooting all my life. Never had any real formal training. My dad taught me how to operate a gun, but I never really knew anything in terms of the draw stroke, or any of that stuff.
When I was in college I had a roommate that started getting into IPSC, and I thought that was pretty neat. They have all kinds of different things, like shooting metal plates, humanoid cardboard targets, and just all sorts of different things. So my roommate got into that, and I just thought it was really neat, the whole shooting from the holster, and combat-type shooting. So, I wanted to learn how to do that properly.
I had a BB gun since I think nine or ten. And I think my dad took me shooting .22’s when I was 11 or 12. My dad owned two .22 caliber pistols and that’s what we went out to shoot with. Basically we just shot targets, you know, city kids, we just shot paper targets.
My dad has a High Standard .22, and that’s pretty much what I grew up shooting with. We’d maybe go shooting five, six times a year. Now I go once a month religiously.
Shooters are a really interesting breed of people. We kind of find each other wherever we are. And so when I went to UC Davis, I just turned 18 for my freshman year, and I hooked up with the UC Davis Rifle and Pistol Club. There’s actually a little known fact, there’s a rifle range on the Davis campus. ROTC guys use it. So I hooked up with them and shot competitively for a couple years. When I turned 21, the day after my 21st birthday, I bought my first pistol. I bought a Taurus Model PT 99 9mm automatic.
The rest is just kind of history. Growing up in college my roommate was a shooter. We hung out with shooters. We’d eat cereal all week just to be able to go to the range on Saturday. You know, the bullets cost money.
So I never really had any formal defensive training in firearms before Front Sight. When I shot on the Davis team there was a U.S. Army Sergeant who taught, that was all target stuff. It was absolutely no defensive or tactical type shooting.
FSR: How did you find out about Front Sight?
Michael: I looked out on the net and there weren’t a hell of a lot of things back in 1997. But Front Sight was there.
FSR: What made you choose Front Sight over all the other choices in the firearms training industry?
Michael: I looked some other places, and I chose Front Sight because of the proximity. Front Sight was close, and it seemed like it was a good place. I could drive to Bakersfield from Stockton. And so I basically tried it out on a chance.
FSR: What course did you first attend?
Michael: The first course I took was Four-Day Defensive Handgun in September of ’97.
FSR: What was your impression of your first course?
Michael: Just absolutely loved it. It was eye-opening, frankly. It was just amazing, all of it. The level of instruction. The people. Just all of it. It was just a wealth of information.
This was way back when they were teaching out at an old B-2 bomber research place. Very, very Spartan. No air conditioning. No heating. Concrete and steel building. Lots of unimproved roads. Basic dirt mound ranges. But the people were all really great. The instructors were outstanding. And the information was priceless.
FSR: How did the initial training impact your life?
Michael: At that time it really just opened my eyes to the level that I wanted to be at. You know, I shot all my life and thought I was pretty good. And relative to my friends I was pretty good. And then I got to Front Sight, and this whole level of operating was just light-years ahead of anything I’ve even known about before. So I got sucked right into it, and started going every month, sometimes twice a month, to progress as fast as I could.
FSR: What aspect of the training have you found most valuable?
Michael: What really stood out was the practicality of it all. I mean I first took the Four-Day Defensive Handgun Course. And then I basically just started taking Two-Day Tactical Handgun, Two-Day Advanced Tactical Handgun, over and over, and over, and over again.
I really liked the different scenarios, the home invasion, the getting carjacked. Just different situations you might find yourself in when you would have to use a gun. And being able to go through it, you know this is what you did right, and this is what you did wrong. It gives you things to think about.
One of the things that really stood out in my mind I think more than anything else, is what one of the instructors said, and I’ll never forget this: “Don’t be in a hurry to go get shot.” We would have these tactical problems we would have to solve. And I’m a classic “Type A” personality…everything has got to happen right now, and I get the adrenalin going, and I would want to get in there and take care of things. And inevitably the first couple of times I would make really stupid mistakes. And he’d say, “You’re the good guy. Unless there’s somebody screaming, there’s no rush here. Do everything methodically, and do it all right.” And that stuck with me all these years.
I think the most useful thing is basically the knowledge that if you have to think about it, you probably shouldn’t be doing it, in terms of shooting somebody. Just all the criminal and civil liability that’s associated with it. Even if you’re a 100% in the right, you are still going to have to go through just a cesspool of garbage if you actually shoot somebody. And I think that’s the most important thing. Just hey, you know, if you have to think about it, don’t do it. Naish always says, “If it’s not worth killing or dying for, it’s not worth fighting for.” And that is, I think, the biggest deal.
FSR: Have you used any of the training to protect yourself, family or friends in a real life situation?
Michael: Yeah! Yes I have. You think you can go your whole life without using it, but when you need it, you need it.
This happened probably about a year ago. Somebody broke into my wife’s car in the driveway, and opened the garage door. We woke up at three in the morning to the sound of the garage door opening. So, I rolled out of bed and grabbed the shotgun, went down and cleared the bottom room in the house. I opened the garage door, and while I was clearing the garage I saw a guy drive off in a white pick-up truck. I didn’t shoot him, which is a good thing. But, later come to find out, that this guy had stolen this truck from a construction company. He was a transitional construction guy, who had stolen a truck from the construction company, and was basically going around breaking into cars trying to find things to steal.
Apparently, he saw me come out of the house into the garage with a shotgun in my hand, and decided to take off. But that was pretty freaky.
FSR: How many courses have you attended at Front Sight to date?
Michael: Pretty much everything. I’ve done rifle, shotgun, pistol, the Simunitions™? classes. Last year I did rope and rappel. I’ve done precision rifle, the sub-gun class, the M-16 class, pretty much everything out there.
I’ve done up to Combat Master Prep in handgun. But I’m nowhere close to getting my Handgun Combat Masters certification. I’ve shot Distinguished in Advanced Tactics a number of times, and also in shotgun and rifle.
FSR: How many other students have you directly or indirectly referred to Front Sight?
Michael: A dozen probably, that have actually arrived. I try to sell Front Sight to everyone I talk to.
FSR: What is the biggest challenge you find in trying to encourage friends to attend a course at Front Sight?
Michael: My biggest challenge is ignorance, frankly. I mean, people just don’t realize what they don’t know. And it’s the classic example, they think if they buy a gun, and place it by the nightstand with a box of bullets, they’re OK. They’re not! And most people, it’s not a priority for them.
It’s funny, you know, because I have these conversations with people. Wow, a thousand dollars is really expensive, and how can you justify that, they’ll say? And my answer is always.. “Well, what’s your life worth?” My life is worth a hell of a lot more than a thousand dollars. A lot of people just don’t see it that way.
FSR: When did you become a Front Sight First Family Member?
Michael: I signed up for my First Family Membership in October,1997. I went to my first course in September. I thought, here is this program I can go as many times as I wanted for basically a flat fee. So, I jumped on the bandwagon and the rest is history. Signed up for First Family. I’m First Family Member #93, which is pretty cool. Exceptionally cool.
FSR: What level membership did you purchase?
Michael: At that time there was only one level, which converted over to Bronze. I am now a Gold. My wife is also a Gold.
When I got my baby her Gold Membership, she was less than a year old. So I might have the youngest First Family Member. I’m definitely looking at her getting her lifetime use out of it.
FSR: Why did you choose to become a First Family member?
Michael: I love shooting. I love the shooting sports. I think it a very useful skill to have. Here was a way where I could go and do this thing I love and get training to a level that I wanted to hit, all for this one price. So that’s why I did it. I knew I wanted more training in shotgun and rifle, and here was this opportunity to do it. So, I just jumped on it.
FSR: What is the purpose of the Front Sight Organization?
Michael: I think the overall purpose is to change the nation’s views on firearms ownership and firearms owners.
FSR: What does Front Sight, and your participation with it, really mean to you and the future of firearms ownership in this country?
Michael: I’m just happy to be a part of it in terms of hopefully shifting attitudes of the average person with regards to firearms and firearms owners. I mean, we’ve had a lot of news folks come out to Front Sight and do their articles, and pretty much anyone who goes out and actually sees the people out there realizes we’re not a bunch of nuts. There’s doctors, lawyers, engineers, they are just normal people who enjoy shooting and shooting sports, and who want to take responsibility for their own safety. And I think the more that gets out there, the better it’s going to be for the Second Amendment.
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?
Michael: I’d say it’s a dangerous world we live in, and I hate to say it but it is true. If you want to learn how to protect yourself, to take responsibility for your own safety, and the safety of the people you love, you need to go here and you need to learn how to do it properly. Just buying a gun and putting it by the dresser isn’t enough. You are going to have to know how to properly use it, and this is the place to do that.
FSR: What course are you going to attend next?
Michael: I’m still looking at it, I haven’t decided yet. I really love the place. I really love the people there. It’s amazing to see it grow, from renting space to what it is now. It’s really amazing to be part of it all.
I’m looking forward to when it’s going to be it’s own little community with condos, and houses, and retail and commercial, and the safest town in America!
FSR: Thank you Michael, we’ll see you at Front Sight!