Indebted as he is to Col. Jeff Cooper, Gunsite, and the Modern Technique of the Pistol, it is not surprising that much of what Gabe Suarez teaches in his Pistol Gunfighting School is quite conventional.
As with so many gun training courses, the class begins with a safety briefing, a medical briefing, and an administrative briefing.
As the first day goes on, Suarez covers a number of many elements of the Modern Technique, often with his own particular spin.
Suarez advocates a shooting position rather than a stance, which he thinks connotes “stationary.”
“Get in position like you’re going to get in a fistfight,” he suggests. “Your body will take care of it. You want to shoot Weaver, go ahead. It doesn’t matter. Everyone will have their own position. You don’t fit the system, the system fits you. Some schools make you get in a box. We don’t.”
Suarez spends 3 minutes total on the topic.
Flash Sight Picture?
In terms of sight alignment and sight picture, Suarez departs from the Modern Technique’s “flash sight picture” when he discusses Fairbairn and Sykes’ Shooting to Live, which advocates point shooting. Suarez tells the students to take a magazine out and point it at someone. “Do we need a sight picture in an elevator?” “No,” he answers his own question, mockingly covering his mouth with his hand like he accidentally let everyone in on an important secret.
Continuing on, Suarez maintains, “Sights don’t align the gun, they verify alignment.” The further away from your target you are, the more you need to use the sights – especially a strong front sight focus – to verify. While close up you can point shoot with 2 eyes open, further back why you need a more precise sight alignment and sight picture, you close one eye.
(Note: On point shooting close up and sighted fire from further back, Suarez sounds exactly like Rob Pincus’s Combat Focus Shooting methodology.)
Compressed Surprise Break?
Suarez doesn’t use the language of the compressed surprise break, but he does teach the students to take up the slack on the trigger then continue to add pressure until the gun fires.
Suarez uses a conventional approach to teaching this, one I experienced when I took Massad Ayoob’s MAG-40 course. One at a time, Suarez has students align their sights and then he pulls the trigger for them. Next, he has the students align their sights and put their own finger on the trigger, then Suarez puts his own finger on top of theirs and pulls the trigger for them. Last, the students align their sights and pull the trigger themselves.
Having practiced these aspects of marksmanship from the compressed ready position (which Suarez favors over the low ready position taught at Gunsite), he moves on to the presentation. His presentation is simplified from the one taught at Gunsite, consisting of just three (or four) steps, depending on how you count.
Suarez describes the presentation process as “grip, clap, point,” though it might be thoughts of as “grip, pull, clap, point.” In any event, Suarez suggests taking the sharp angles out of the traditional draw and emphasizes drawing the gun like a “J” not at a right angle. This is a simpler, more fluid draw stroke than others.
In terms of re-holstering, Suarez is emphatic about looking the gun into the holster. “If threat is still present,” he reminds the students, “you are not re-holstering so there’s no need to worry about taking your eyes off the threat.”
Already here we see some of the very traditional aspects of gunhandling and marksmanship that Gabe Suarez teaches in his Pistol Gunfighting School, albeit with some twists in new directions. In my upcoming posts, I will further discuss the distinctiveness of Suarez’s contemporary take on civilian firearms training, highlighting the ways in which he makes more radical departures from the conventional approach.