Today was the first of four days of training with Gabe Suarez here in Salt Lake City. Inspired by SixBravo's excellent Gunsite Blog thread, I've decided to post on my experiences and impressions from these courses as they happen. I know there are a couple of other members of this forum participating in the class and they're welcome to post their thoughts here as well (comments on what I've got to say are also welcome, of course).
The training is actually a pair of two-day long courses. Today and tomorrow are Close Range Gunfighting, while Saturday and Sunday will be an airsoft force-on-force course called Interactive Gunfighting. This was pitched as an advanced course, and everyone was expected to know the basics coming in. I was a little nervous about this, since I haven't really been shooting that long. Gabe had us introduce ourselves at the beginning of class, including what weapon we'd be using (Glocks being the largest group, followed by 1911s, with a few SIGs, HKs, and one S&W) and how long we'd been shooting. I'm definitely at the low end of the scale in the class when it comes to the amount of shooting experience.
The most notable feature of the first day was the weather: cold and wet. For most of the day it couldn't quite decide whether it wanted to rain or snow, and ended up alternating between the two and brief periods of dry weather. Temperatures were pretty low. Just yesterday it was in the mid-80s in Salt Lake and many of us weren't really dressed warmly enough (including me). Despite this there were few complaints and training went on as scheduled.
As far as actual training material goes, the day started off with one string of sighted fire before moving on to point shooting. Point shooting is a pretty controversial topic, and I think the way Gabe presented it was interesting, especially since it contrasts to the way some of the more militant proponents of point shooting come across (including some of the people on this forum). The way he put it is that sighted shooting is always the preferred technique, point shooting is just something we are forced to use by circumstances. Rather than being presented as part of some super-duper this will always win you the gunfight "system", it was presented as just another technique for the toolbox. Exercises started with doing some point shooting at full, three-quarters, and half extension, then moved to smoothly transitioning from the holster to full extension.
The second major skillset of the day was getting off the X and shooting on the move. This really emphasized a natural walking movement, rather than the odd sort of crabwalk that you see the IPSC guys doing. We practiced moving in all directions except directly towards and away from the target enough times that I got fairly comfortable with the mechanics of shooting while moving.
While those were the two big topics for the day, the class also covered some after-action drills, including scanning for additional threats and tactical reloads (or as Gabe prefers to call them, preemptive reloads). The scanning technique included turning and looking behind you using position sul. Gabe seems to be a big advocate of sul, which I'm not entirely sold on yet. However, one of the things that was promised for later in the course are methods for defending from disarms and pins from sul, so my opinion may change before the course is over. The day was rounded out with some malfunction clearance stuff, including a simpler technique for clearing a doublefeed than the one most places teach.
The only real negative so far has been a lack of feedback on accuracy. Because of the weather, we didn't use any paper targets, just cardboard backers on the target stands with garbage bags over them to keep them from dissolving in the rain. Paper targets would have quickly ended up a dissolved mess. Unfortunately, the bags and cardboard got so shot up by mid-morning that it was impossible to tell which holes were the new results of your latest string. Hopefully the weather will be better tomorrow, because at this point I don't feel like I've got much idea how accurate I am with the point shooting and shooting on the move.
On the plus side, I really liked the fact that Gabe took the time to explain why he was teaching certain things or why he thought something should be done a certain way. Knowing they whys makes it a lot easier to assess a technique and put it into context. He also took pains to point out when we were doing something for range safety purposes that wouldn't actually be advisable in a real gunfight. A lot of this seems like it will tie into the force-on-force stuff this weekend, when we really won't be constrained by a lot of these safety concerns.
So, despite the weather, I had a really great time today and I'm looking forward to the next three days!