May 3rd, 2007 08:55 PM
Suarez Course Blog
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!
May 4th, 2007 10:22 AM
Thanks for doing this...I have been wanting to get to a Suarez course for a while now and am VERY interested to hear your experiance. I just need Gabe to hold a course a bit closer so I can drive to it!!!!
May 4th, 2007 03:48 PM
Excellent!!!! I've been thinking about doing more training and I think Suarez is going to be the way to go for me, as well. His costs aren't as high as Gunsite - besides - I'd love to get different opinions and try new techniques to add to my own personal toolbox. I'm looking forward to the rest of this, especially the stuff this weekend! That sounds great!!!
Thanks for the nod. haha Hopefully more people decide to do mini-blogs like this. I love getting other people's opinions on these courses.
The Gunsite Blog
ITFT / Quick Kill Review
"It is enough to note, as we have observed, that the American people have considered the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon." - Justice Scalia, SCOTUS - DC v Heller - 26 JUN 2008
May 4th, 2007 09:50 PM
First off, a weather report: the morning was partly cloudy and warmer than yesterday. By afternoon, on the other hand, it resumed raining and the temperature dropped considerably. Again, it was not the best day to train, but as we work with what we can get.
The class started off this morning with a repeat of some of yesterday's shooting drills. Thanks to the better weather, we had targets up. Gabe is a big advocate for photorealistic targets, rather than silhouettes This is intended to help get us used to shooting at things that look like people.
Because of the wet weather yesterday, this was my first opportunity to see how well I was shooting with these techniques. The drills involved shooting while moving at a pretty brisk clip, using point shooting techniques, and shooting one handed when moving towards the weak side. The drills all started at about 5 yards, and on some we moved toward the target, some parallel, and some further away, so shooting ranges varied from 3-7 yards. Out of about fifty rounds, only 2 or 3 were outside the picture of the BG. Most were concentrated in the central core of the body and head. Quite frankly, I was surprised at how accurate I could be shooting on the move, without using a sight picture. This is only my second day doing this, after all, but the vast majority of my shots are on the target and in places where they would have a telling effect on a BG.
After going through the point shooting/get off the X drills, we went in the classroom for Gabes" Three Phases of a Gunfight lecture. Despite the "three" in the title, the talk focused mainly on before and after the fight. The phase representing the gunfight itself was pretty brief, and mostly about focusing intensely on the gunfight (rather than, say, watching your life flash before your eyes). The "before" portion of the talk covered preperations that could reduce your uncertainty about the outcome of a gunfight and covered things like thinking about the legal consequences, what sort of opponents were possible, and the dynamics of a gunfight, as well as traditional preparations involving your gear, skills, and mindset. The after the gunfight portion was mainly a discussion on how to call 911 and deal with the police (though it also covered a bit on things like first aid and dealing with family reactions).
The 911 stuff was something I've never head discussed before. Since 911 calls are all recorded, and the dispatcher is passing information to the responding officers, it definitely seems important not to say anything that would either get you thrown in jail or cause the responding officers to treat you as the BG. Gabe's advice is don't just call and say "I just shot someone," since that makes you look like the BG. Instead, give prominent mention to the crime the BG committed (home invasion, robbery, whatever), the fact that there's been a shooting, and that you need police and paramedics. After you get that information across, stay on the line, but try to avoid answering the 911 operators questions without looking like you're avoiding answering their questions (suggested excuses include, "My kids are running around in a panic, I need to calm them down," and "I feel like I'm going to be sick, I need to go to the bathroom."
When it comes to talking to the police, Gabe advocates a middle ground approach between the "say nothing until your lawyer arrives" school and the "I'm a good guy, I've got nothing to hide school. Go ahead and talk to the cops, explaining what happened in terms of what the BG did, emphasizing that you only acted in response to his illegal actions. If the questions turn toward you (particularly if they get into territory beyond the immediate events, like how many guns you own, or how long you've carried a gun) then it's time to shut up and wait for your lawyer.
After lunch, the weather had turned sour again, but training continued regardless. We talked a bit about multiple attackers, and moved on to a drill involving shooting three assailants while moving off the X. Since this one involved a lot of movement and shooting at a fairly extreme angle to the firing line, we ran it one at a time, rather than as a group.
Our second exercise of the afternoon involved transferring the pistol from one hand to another (for use in the event your shooting hand was injured, going around a corner to the weak side, to get a better shooting angle while running away from the BG, etc.). Gabe's got a technique that actually seems pretty secure against dropping the pistol. Basically, you pull the thumb of your shooting hand back off the pistol and slide the thumb of your non-shooting hand in underneath it, so you've already got the non-shooting thumb wrapped around the grip of the pistol before you begin to loosen your fingers on your shooting hand. This keeps the pistol fairly securely gripped at all times during the transfer. Despite doing this in the rain, with cold, numb fingers, we didn't have any dropped guns.
The last exercise was doing some contact range shots from position sul. On one hand, these exercises put to rest a lot of my concerns about sul, on the other hand, they convinced me that it's a pretty uncomfortable position to hold for any length of time. I may use it for a quick check behind me in a post-shooting situation (to avoid sweeping any bystanders and lessen the chance of getting shot if a cop happens to be coming up behind me) but it's not going to be my standard ready position. The drills involved shooting at targets from sul at a contact distances to our front, right and left sides, and behind. The combination of the close range muzzle blast and wet paper targets meant that most of them had totally disintegrated by the end of the drill (we all ended up with little bits of target on us). The drill was also evidence of quite a lot of trust in us on Gabe's part (or maybe just trust in his liability waivers). In order to avoid shooting into the sidewalks on the range (with a substantial risk of ricochets) we had to move the targets closer together in the gravel areas between the walks. So we were doing these drills where it would be very easy to sweep your neighbor with just arms length distances between shooters. I have to say that this level of trust was probably well earned. During the entire class everyone seemed to have very good muzzle and trigger finger discipline.
At the beginning of this class, I was a bit worried about my skill level. As I mentioned in the Day 1 post, I was one of the least experienced shooters in the group and, to be completely honest, I'm a fairly mediocre shot. However, I think I've acquitted myself fairly well over the past two days. Of course, a big part of this is the fact that point shooting and shooting on the move were new to most students in the class. Since we did very little sighted fire, this kind of leveled the playing field.
While I feel I held my own when it came to shooting, I was surprised to find that I'm actually ahead of the curve when it comes to some of the non-shooting stuff. During the past two days, I saw several of these much more experienced shooters just standing there when their gun jammed, either staring at their gun, or looking over at Gabe with a, "what should I do?" look on their face. I also saw quite a few empty guns being put back in holsters. Shooting with our local Polite Society group for the last six months has really trained these habits out of me. At our meets, if the gun locks up during an exercise, the people watching back behind the firing line will start yelling, "Fix it! Fix it! Fix it!" until you start clearing it. I had one jam during the course (a doublefeed). It surprised the hell out of me (it was my first ever jam with my HK, after more than 1400 rounds) but after a moment of shock, I stripped the mag, worked the slide, and shoved a fresh one in. Since the other students might not be as used to comments from the peanut gallery, I tried to hold my tongue, but I did end up yelling "Fix it!" at one guy today. Same deal with topping off your gun at the end of the fight. It's something we emphasize at our shoots, and during this course, the only time I holstered my gun without a full magazine is when I didn't have a full one to feed it. This assessment of my fellow shooters may be somewhat over-critical, but I think it goes to show that knowing how to fight effectively with your pistol encompasses a lot of things beyond just knowing how to shoot it.
Tomorrow: Force-on-force! (and hopefully better weather).
May 4th, 2007 09:51 PM
We had some people in our course that came quite a long way. There was one guy from Tucson, Arizona, one from California, and two from eastern Montana.
Originally Posted by vernonator
May 4th, 2007 09:56 PM
While I haven't been to Gunsite, from other people's descriptions of the way things are done there, taking a class from Gabe would definitely expose you to some different ideas.
Originally Posted by SixBravo
I loved reading about your trip to Gunsite. I just hope that others get as much out of this writeup as I did out of yours. I'd definitely like to see more people talk about their training experiences. Hearing from people who've taken the course is a great way to decide if a school or trainer is right for you. Part of what got me to sign up for these courses was the good things I've heard about Gabe from other people.
Originally Posted by SixBravo
May 5th, 2007 02:46 AM
May 5th, 2007 03:47 AM
Based on the last two days, I agree that point shooting is best in the context of rapid movement. Point shooting is often presented as an end in itself, but even after the last two days I would be pretty skeptical about the usefulness of point shooting if you're just going to stand and deliver. For instance, I probably wouldn't point shoot from behind cover. If I'm not moving, I might as well get at least a rough sight picture before letting off a shot. It may take a little bit longer, but I think the advantage of accuracy would probably be worth a bit of extra time in that context. When you're trying to move, on the other hand, it's really impossible to move quickly by using the sights. Sure, you can do the sort of slow, shuffling, crab-walk that you see the IPSC guys using, but that doesn't allow you to move fast enough to throw off the BG's aim. Point shooting seems primarily like a foundation for getting to movement. This is pretty much the way Gabe taught the course, now that I think about it. After the morning of the first day, we never did any more point shooting drills while standing still, it was all about motion.
Originally Posted by Sweatnbullets
The other thing that I've been thinking about is how much point shooting builds on good (sighted) shooting mechanics. Everyone in this class seemed to have enough sighted shooting experience to have the basic mechanics down pat. I think having this muscle memory built up makes the transition to point shooting a lot easier. Give the exact same point shooting training to someone who hadn't had any training in sighted shooting and I doubt they'd do nearly as well.
I just got done watching Gabe's force-on-force video, and from that it's pretty clear that I'm going to get hit a lot the next two days.
Originally Posted by Sweatnbullets
May 5th, 2007 07:42 AM
I too have found point shooting to be the most accurate when on the move.
Also..since Roger, 7677, Dave James and myself have always stated that point shooting is a compliment to aimed fire/just another tool in the tool box, may I ask which instructors you have heard stating that
point shooting as, "An end to itself?"
May 5th, 2007 10:07 AM
Good read. I've been thinking about signing up for his early August class in Ohio (that's the closest he's came to me yet) and probably will after reading this.
...He suggested that "every American citizen" should own a rifle and train with it on firing ranges "at every courthouse." -Chesty Puller
May 5th, 2007 01:14 PM
I just want to make sure that I am clear on this one point, and then I will move past it.
I've taken 4 of Gabe's courses. It is his courses that got me looking at point shooting as I am now. Before that, I had 45 sight focused courses. Getting to my sights is my default....it is what I want ....it is what I try to do. But wanting and trying does not equate to reality all of the time.
Sighted fire is just a tool....point shooting is just a tool....without both tools you are not really as prepared as you may think. You can learn sighted fire from hundreds of thousands of different guys. You can learn quality point shooting from a substantially smaller pool. That is why I teach what I teach in the vocal manner that I do. To make sure that the good guys have the skills and the knowledge to make it home at the end of the night.
Muscle memory is great, but from my experience, will only get you less than 20% of the point shooting skill level that is available. I had muscle memory from 45 courses and hundreds of thousand of draw strokes and shots down range. I did not acquire the remaining 80% until I had formal training in point shooting.
This is just a heads up from somebody that took the same path that you are on, five or so years ago. Do not mistake muscle memory from the ultimate goal....hand/eye coordination.
Point shooting is great for movement. It is also great when you are behind in the reactionary curve and when you have the physiological response to focus on the person trying to kill you.
But once again....my default is to use my sights.
Have fun in Gabe's Interactive Gun Fighting (IGF) course today. I consider this the best course that I have ever taken in 50+ courses.
After this weekend "things will never be the same." The lessons and realizations that come out of this course usually has a quantum shift effect on what and how people train and think. I do not believe that I have met one person that did not have their whole world turned upside down by the IGF course.
It is such a good course that I've taken it twice and will take it a third time when it comes back into town.
My "Progressions of Point Shooting Course" is specifically designed for the lessons that are taught in the IGF course. My course is a direct product of that course. It is specifically geared to the guys that have had the epithany and want to be the very best that they can be in regards to the lessons of this quality FOF training. It is a natural progression. Once you have the epithany, people want to get better with their point shooting skill set.
Last edited by Sweatnbullets; May 5th, 2007 at 05:39 PM.
May 5th, 2007 09:30 PM
Quite frankly, point shooting as the "be all, end all" is the way that some of you guys come across on this forum. It's like "POINT SHOOTING" is written in fiery letters 1000 feet high with "is a complement to aimed fire" written in tiny type underneath it. Despite having some interest in the subject, I've pretty much given up reading any point shooting threads on this board because they all seem to degenerate into round-robin debates between the same three or four people.
Originally Posted by Matthew Temkin
May 5th, 2007 11:28 PM
Weather report: It was colder today than the last two days, with light snow on and off. However, this was actually quite a bit more comfortable than the freezing rain we got the first two days.
We started the day with some talk about the purpose and structure of the airsoft force-on-force drills. After this we all disposed of all live weapons (including any knives or impact weapons in addition to knives) and had a partner verify that we were clean.
The first drill we did was called the "suicide drill". Essentially, this was an old west style quick-draw showdown. The two participants stood about seven yards apart and each tried to peg the other on Gabe's command. Unless somebody flubbed their draw, the usual result was an airsoft BB arriving on each target with no more than a quarter of a second interval between them. Unless you hit the BG's CNS, they're not going to be forced to stop fighting before they shoot you.
Throughout the day, we actually had quite a few flubbed draws. Guns got caught in coats, people didn't disengage safeties, etc. One guy even sent his gun skittering across the pavement. A lot of this was probably due to people not being used to shooting in heavy or many-layered clothing. Some of us have been shooting once a month on this range all winter, so we're used to shooting from beneath coats and while wearing gloves. Of course, the folks who came to the class from the warmer parts Arizona and California didn't have much practice shooting in cold weather gear, but I was surprised at how many of the folks from colder climes didn't have experience shooting in the cold.
The other big contributer to problems on the draw was the fact that many of the people who were borrowing Gabe's airsoft Glocks for the course didn't have a holster that fit them. They were carrying Mexican style instead. If anyone is thinking about taking an airsoft force-on-force course, I would highly recommend getting your own airsoft gun, preferably one that's as close to your carry gun as possible. If it fits in your carry holster, great. If not, get a decent holster to carry it in. My EDC is an HK USP Compact .45. For the course, I bought a KWA USP Compact. Since the airsoft gun is intended to represent the 9mm version of the USPc (which is built on a slightly smaller frame than the .45) it's not exactly the same as my carry gun, but it's pretty close. It fits quite securely in my holster. I'd also recommend getting a gas blowback gun. We've got one guy shooting an electric (a Glock 18 airsoft that has full auto capability, though he's thankfully refrained from using that feature in the drills so far). The gas blowbacks seem to be the most realistic when it comes to weapon manipulations, and they have the higher velocity.
The rest of morning was occupied by a series of gun versus knife drills. We started off with the standard Tuller Drill: the guy with the knife charges from 21 feet while the shooter tries to get off the X and hit him with the airsoft. At seven yards, this isn't that hard unless you flub the draw or trip and fall (a particular danger when you try to backpedal, rather than turning and running forwards). As the day went on, we got progressively closer and closer. We wound up doing the drill at 4 yards, and most people were still able to put 2 or 3 rounds into the knife wielding attacker before he caught up with them. Since airsoft pellets aren't actually going to stop anyone the way a good hollowpoint would, the standard for success is how many rounds you put in your opponent before he stabs/shoots you.
After lunch, we moved on to gun versus gun drills. One student plays the BG, and just stands there and shoots while the other plays the GG and gets off the X. After doing this once, you switch. In the real world, your opponent in a gunfight probably isn't going to expect rapid movement. In the class, however, the person playing the BG has just gone through the same training you have, so if they're smart, they'll just draw immediately to the right or left, rather than experiencing the surprise that a real BG would. To simulate this, the 'BG' is instructed to fire one round right at the 'GG's' original position before they start tracking and shooting at the moving target. In addition to helping to simulate an actual BG's reaction, it also encourages you to move quickly, since you know your position is about to be occupied by enemy fire.
We started off doing these drills at about seven yards, with both students drawing on Gabe's command. Barring a flubbed draw, the 'GG' was almost always able to put 2-3 rounds into the 'BG' before receiving any return fire. After moving this up to four yards, we started letting the 'BG' initiate the confrontation (rather than drawing on command, the BG initiated the exercise by drawing) putting the GG behind the curve. Surprisingly, even when the 'BG' got to draw first, the 'GG' could generally get a couple of rounds into the 'BG' before recieving any in return if he had a smooth draw and got off the X real quick.
The last drill of the day was at just three yards, and both participants were allowed to use movement. This really eliminated the edge that movement offers versus a stationary target, and thanks to the close range, both guys ended up taking a lot of hits. The only exception to this was when one of the participants decided to go hand-to-hand. Grappling generally resulted in one of the participants taking a lot of hits, with the other coming out unscathed. However, which participant took the hits and which came out all right was pretty variable. Sometimes the one who initiated the grapple came out well, sometimes he got clobbered by the guy he tried to grapple with.
Going into the training today, I was a little concerned about how all those incoming pellets would feel (you tend to absorb a lot of them, especially when playing the BG). Between adrenaline and the heavy clothing I was wearing because of the weather, I didn't really notice any of the incoming rounds (I do have a few red welts on my chest, but I don't really remember getting them). I actually consider this a bit of a problem. Not knowing when you're hit doesn't do as much to encourage avoiding incoming fire as a good hard hit would. When the weather gets better I'd like to run some force-on-force drills wearing just a long-sleeve t-shirt, rather than a t-shirt, thick sweatshirt, and jacket. The only time the pellets really hurt was if you got hit by a bunch in the same spot in a row (which happened sometimes when we got up close) or when the pellet hit a thin layer of flesh backed by bone (like the hands or skull). Since we did the drills wearing paintball masks, head hits were pretty rare (a few guys got hit in the top of the head while playing the knife wielding BG when they lowered their heads and charged). Unfortunately, the hands are one of the more common areas to be hit, and because the flesh is so thin there in really hurts. I was wearing gloves and it still hurt like hell when I got hit there. One of the hits on my pinky raised a pretty good blood blister.
Tomorrow: more force-on-force!
May 5th, 2007 11:55 PM
BlackEagle you said
While point shooting threads do tend to have an evolution , and advocates of point shooting can be and are somewhat defensive a lot of it comes from just that perception from folks like ME . I am a huge proponent of useing sights if at all possible . Now in a phone booth you obviously can not , and some folks can show amazing accuracy at extended ranges with no sights at all on the pistol . Both the above examples are extremes . Some form of point shooting has been taught on every LE range in the country at least as long as i have been an adult . It is a viable technique best suited to IMHO close ranges . Feel free to read the " point shooting threads " on this forum since proponents of both sides behave . The guys here who espouse point shooting have a point in that its a neglected skill , not magic , and also they are carefull here to be clear that it is a tool , not the tool for any situation you may face . Personally I dont feel a need to extend my point shooting skills further than they exist today so i am not in the market for a course that instructs on it . I do feel that most would benifit from a course dealing with the subject tho. At the worst they will discover that unaimed fire is not for them , and more likely they will discover that they have the ability to hit smaller targets at longer ranges , in a more compressed time than they ever dreamed of . On other forums , and with other folks I will squabble a bit on the issue , On this forum and with the instructors we have there is no longer any point to a fuss , we all are saying the same thing tho i come at it from a " sights " perspective and they come at it from a point perspective . Its a matter of how you phrase it , Me saying " Use your sights unless you cannot " and them saying " Use your sights if you can " is really the same thing .
Quite frankly, point shooting as the "be all, end all" is the way that some of you guys come across on this forum. It's like "POINT SHOOTING" is written in fiery letters 1000 feet high with "is a complement to aimed fire" written in tiny type underneath it.
Make sure you get full value out of today , Do something worthwhile, because what you do today will cost you one day off the rest of your life .
We only begin to understand folks after we stop and think .
Criminals are looking for victims, not opponents.
May 6th, 2007 11:31 AM
Sounds as if your having a good time with Gabe, the course you have posted so far should stand you in good stead
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