View Full Version : Close Range Gunfighting class in Abiline, TX

11-20-2003, 11:41 PM
This is by no means a complete review or summary, but here are *some* details and impressions on Gabe Suarez's two day closerange gunfighting class which I took last weekend.

It was held outside of Abeline TX, where I went for the weekend, in a tiny town that reminded me of the roadtrip to the Roadhouse in the movie From Dusk Til Dawn.

The course was titled close range gunfighting and it covered gunfighting from contact range to about 20 feet and included a lot of engaging targets at close range and incorporating striking before that were off to the side and behind us, as well as engaging targets at slightly longer range in the same conditions. It was a 2 day course with about 600 rounds fired.

About 18 students took the course, of whom 3-4 were LEO's and about 3 people in the course had been involved in a shooting. We briefly went from person person and briefly mentioned our training backgrounds and I was surprised to see the level of training that most people had--probably more than any other shooting class I had been to. Most people had been to several major shooting schools.

The guns used by the students were almost evenly split between various caliber Glocks and various models and manufactures of Colt 45 Automatic. I Believe 1 person used a H&K USP Compact 40 Caliber, a Walther P99, a Sig Sauer, and me who alternated between a .38 special S&W Centennial Snubnose, a Kahr PM9 supersmall 9mm, and a Glock 26 9mm Subcompact (more on all of this later). I used a pocket holster, while almost everyone else used a belt scabard or duty rig in the case of the LEOs.

Before going into the detailed work the course briefly reviewed the fundimentals of drawstroke, shooting, malfunction clearing, etc.

A major feature of this course was the emphasis on safely moving and shooting and engaging targets at 360 degrees as opposed to just in front of us. Real life attacks are not limited to our front quadrant as targets are on the range, so to this extent we spent a lot of time faced away from the firing line and turned to engage targets that were to our sides and rear, often at close distances, sometimes so close that we incorporated strikes to the target before drawing and engaging.

Two key things in safely moving and shooting at 360 degrees while on a range with other people were not drawing the gun until you faced the target so as not to muzzlesweep anyone and employing position SUL while moving and turning after the gun had been drawn.


Position SUL (www.suarezinternational.com/sul.html) involves keeping the non-shooting hand placed thumb up over the navel and keeping the gun in the firing hand pointed down so that the slide rests against the support hand's knuckles.

We spent a lot of time utilizing the Sul position for moving around with the gun. This position is misunderstood as it is not a ready position or one to assume when you are directly engaged in a gunfight. Instead it is utilized to be able to move around without covering your teammates or innocent people with the gun muzzle. It also allows you to move in tight spaces and minimize the profile of having a gun in your hands, so that someone not directly in front of you might not notice that you have a gun out. Gabe went over how to modify it by using your non-gun hand to hold a hat over your gun.

But I still do not like SUL. I am not going to be walking around in a crowd with my gun out, nor will I be participating in the stack of a tactical team. So if I have my firearm out in my hand, it is for a reason and I may need to use it. So I prefer it to be in a variation of a low ready position, the ready position illustrated in Kill or Get Killed, or to have the gun tucked at hip or armpit level.

Gabe went over some alternate sighting techniques (point-shooting). As well as firing the gun from a retention position we practiced using the hands as a reference at eye level for very vlose targets and the slide for somewhat further targets. Gabe, however is a firm believer in using the sights even at close distances when possible, but he also says it is about, as he describes it, "seeing what you need to see."

We practiced engaging silhouette targets withing arms reach in front of us by first delivering a palm strike to the target's face as we drew and fired from the retention position to the target's pelvis area. The firing hand was braced on the firer's ribcage with the thumb and pinky touching it for indexing. The gun is canted slightly downward to fire at a cloe in attacker's lower body. This is done because in such a situation your non-firing hand may be delivering a palm strike or something to the face, so it makes sense to fire downward so as not to risk shooting your own hand or arm. We also practiced striking the tagets, engaging it from a close in shooting position.

We covered night shooting and Gabe gave an impromptu lecture on flashlight selection, using the ones that people had brought as examples. Gabe favored something not too expensive and with a pressure switch that would disengage if the light leaves your hand. Otherwise, you could drop the light and it might stay on and fall to a position where it might illuminate you.

As well as doing night shooting we also stood downrange about 30 feet perpendicular to where one person at a time would fire at a target. The person would state the caliber and ammo that he was using and fire a few rounds. This allowed us to observe the muzzle flash from a front angle and compare the muzzle flash of different ammo.

We covered using the pistol as an alternate force impact weapon if it happens to jam or run out of ammo while you are in close proximity to the threat. Gabe mentioned an incident in which he was observing a SWAT team in training where one of the members started exectuing a malfunction clearing drill when his handgun jammed within lunging distance of a target rather than using the gun as an impact weapon. Gabe observed that the person was gun fixated rather than focusing on the fight as a whole.

Other tidbits:

In a developing encounter Gabe stressed watching the person's hands and chceking out his waistline and centerlin, as that is where most weapons are carried for reasons of convenient access. Also good to check out the waistlines and centerlines of suspicious people.

We Practiced engaging multiple targets, including with the shooter moving laterally and in on the targets.

We went over failure to stop drills where after 2-4 shots to the chest we fired at the head. Gabe is not a believer in shooting the pelvis as pistol calibers are unlikely to break it.

We discussed stopping power and how most stops were due to psychological reaction as opposed to

We got Gabe's Aftermath of A Gunfight Lecture - what to do after you have engaged in a gunfight and must deal with the police, etc.

Gabe pointed out that most silhouettes killzones are too low. The vitals like the heart and lungs are in the upper chest whereas most silhouette targets have the kill zone over the solar plexis.

We practiced firing in both one-handed and two handed non-dominant hand hold and transitioning from strong hand to weak hand. When firing 2 handed with the weak hand, three people sustained minor injuries when they wrapped their support hands thumb over the back of the hand holding the gun and the slide scraped accross their thumbs during cycling.

This was be one of the fastest paced shooting courses I've ever attended. We had to stuff our pockets with ammo and reload magazines a few shots at a time between firing sequences when Gabe gave instruction or commentary. It was a simple matter to slip a partially empty magazine out of the holstered gun (holstered for safety reasons as we were often gathered in a circle or otherwise not facing the firing line) and replace it with a full one.

Gabe shared with us some of his own personal experience gleamed from his own real life gunfights. Of all of the various instructors that *successfully* retired from the military or police, he's gotta be one of the most candid I have ever met.

11-21-2003, 02:40 PM

You seem to be holding back a little, did you really like the class or are you just pretending?;)

Gabriel Suarez
11-21-2003, 04:03 PM

You seem to be holding back a little, did you really like the class or are you just pretending?;)

V42 was a great student. He asked about what he should carry to the class. True to our mission, I asked him how he carries in the real world. He said "in the front pocket of my pants". There's your answer. He shot the majority of the course with a Kahr 9mm or a S&W 640 in the corner pocket. AND, did quite well.

The most enjoyable part, of course, was the brotherhood after the training for the day was over. We even avoided an internatonal incident at a local establishment with some of our "southern students" :D :D ;)

V42 - you are welcome at any training event I have. Would that all my students were so serious!

Charles Rives
11-21-2003, 06:32 PM
I certainly enjoyed V42's input in the class and in the sideline conversations.

11-21-2003, 07:18 PM
Gabe, thanks for the compliment and it was a pleasure to meet you and train with you.

Obviously I enjoyed the class, and especially meeting everyone.

One regret and embarrassment is that the class was so fast paced over the 2 days that I really did not get to meet many posters in depth or associate handles with people I met.

11-21-2003, 09:04 PM
V42, what would be the one area, that you wished you would have dry practiced more on, before the course?

Easy, drawing out of my pocket holster more. I do practice and it seems smooth, but it did not seem as smooth on the firing line when people were firing.

Also, I am sorry that I did not fire some sequences starting with my hand in my pocket on the gun, as since I carrying in a pocket holster, I have in the past slipped my hand in my pocket and gripped the gun to be able to get the gun into play faster if necessary.

I also need to thank Gabe for being good enough to let me use the pocket holster in the course. Most other schools would have wanted me to use a standard belt holster.

Gabriel Suarez
11-23-2003, 07:16 AM
V42 or Gabe,

While shooting support side only are you permitted to draw the weapon from around your back? If not which technique is taught?

Is the non standard response something that is done during most of the training or it only during the FTS drills?

What would some of the other techniques be, that you wished you would have dry practiced more?

1). ....are you permitted to draw the weapon from around your back?

As long as you do it safely, we don't care. The method is more dependant on where you carry and holster design....and how thick your torso is in comparison to your arms.

2). .....Is the non standard response something that is done during most of the training or it only during the FTS drills?

Personally I don't like the term NSR. It really means very little unless you know what a Standard response is. We teach "Shoot Em To The Ground". This is enforced by not requiring a round count per drill, but rather a standing guideline of at least 2, but not more than 4 or 5 to the body. I, unlike some others, very much favor head shots.

3). I'm in the process of developing curriculum for Close Range Gunfighting - Level 2. More on that in a lter post, but on paoper it looks like a smoking weekend of fighting and shooting.