GUSTINE - A Gustine resident has incorporated his military and emergency medical training and experience into a business offering courses on firearm safety and use, personal protection and CPR/first aid.

Gustine resident Richard Martin launched Rescue74CPR in 2014 with a focus on providing life-saving CPR and first aid courses. He has since expanded into a an array of firearms and personal protection classes which now comprise the majority of the enterprise.

The demand for those courses mirrors a surge in firearms ownership and growing concern for personal safety, said Martin, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who is assisted by fellow firearms instructor Ryan Rogers.

The common thread among the courses, Martin reflected, is preparing clients to properly respond in the event a crisis arises - be it a medical emergency or threat to personal safety.

In recent years, Martin said, the demand for firearms and personal safety courses has skyrocketed.

“Interest is huge, and it is only going to (grow),” he commented. “People need to take their self-defense personally. People need to take responsibility for their own safety.”

Martin and Rogers teach a variety of firearms courses. They include beginner, intermediate and advanced defensive courses for handgun owners, as well as the courses required to obtain concealed weapons (CCW) permits.

Other safety courses have emerged as well.

“I added a women’s only physical self-defense course to try to get more women involved and teach them how to defend themselves properly and legally,” he said. “I also added a home defense course that goes through everything that could happen, and how to plan so that when an emergency does occur you can act appropriately (and know) what weapons to use in the event of an intruder.”

Martin is a Second Amendment supporter and an advocate of gun ownership.

But, he emphasized, owners should be trained on safe proper firearm handling and operation - and know the laws, potential liabilities and responsibilities that go with owning a gun.

“The laws in the last eight to 10 years have completely changed. They have added so many laws that if people don’t look up the right resources they don’t know what they can or cannot do,” Martin explained.

Martin said he and Rogers typically teach courses every weekend.

About 70 percent of those enrolled are women, he added.

The pandemic and strong interest in gun ownership have impacted the venture in various ways.

Ammunition required for the training sessions can be hard to come by, for one thing.

And with the pandemic, he has limited class sizes to allow for greater distancing.

Many students are first-time gun owners, Martin noted.

He strongly encourages those considering a firearms purchase to thoroughly research their options and try to go to a gun store with an indoor range and pistol rentals so several models can be tried. A good fit for the owner is essential for a pistol to be used properly and accurately, Martin noted.

Martin said he was trained by top level marksmen in the Marine Corps and went on to train others in the service.

He later became an EMT, and launched Rescue74CPR with a focus on providing critical medical skills.

“I started doing CPR and first aid courses just as a way to start getting people aware of the things that they should probably know to save a life,” Martin explained. “I started getting some good responses, and picked up some contracts. I have been continuing to do that with different schools districts and businesses that come to me for their (required) training and certifications.”

He also arranges group sessions of individuals wanting CPR and first aid courses.

Knowing how to respond in a medical emergency while awaiting the arrival of ambulance and fire crews is essential, he said.

“The biggest part of it all is starting the emergency response,” said Martin, who is a Gustine volunteer firefighter and Merced County paid call firefighter. “If people can get trained at a basic level they can help us out a lot, and that person out a lot, by starting critical care before we even get there.”

When looking for ways to expand the business, Martin turned to firearms courses, drawing on his experience and expertise gained in the service.

He obtained the necessary certifications, and began incorporating that experience into training geared for civilians.

“It just took off,” Martin said. “We added class after class.”

At one point, Martin shared, the firearms and medical courses had each comprised about 50 percent of the business. Now, he said, the firearms and personal safety courses represent about 70 percent of the business, which draws from about a 90-mile radius.

Martin said he hopes to continue growing the business.

“Taking the knowledge I have and giving it to people and seeing them learn is one of my biggest passions,” he stated.

To learn more about the courses offered, visit the Rescue74CPR website or Facebook page.