From Mozambique to Istanbul to Sutherland Springs

Earlier this year, the colorful Sheriff Jim Wilson published a colorful history of the famous Mozambique drill on the website of Shooting Illustrated.

From 1964 to about 1974, Mozambique was going through a serious difference of opinion called the Mozambican War of Independence. Mike Rousseau was one of the mercenaries hired to fight in that war. In the course of the conflict, Rousseau was engaged in the fighting at the airport in the city of Lourenco Marques (since renamed Maputo). During that scrap, Rousseau, armed only with a Browning Hi Power, rounded the corner of a building and came face to face with an enemy combatant armed with an AK-47.

Rousseau made a quick combat presentation with his pistol and planted two bullets in the area of his opponent’s breastbone. In a fighter’s worst nightmare, the soldier not only stayed on his feet, he managed to hang onto his rifle. Rousseau, having lowered his pistol to the ready position, assessed the situation and decided to deliver a third shot to the man’s central nervous system. Aiming for the head, Rousseau either fired too soon or jerked the trigger, because his third shot hit his enemy in the throat. It did, however, sever the spinal column and neutralize the threat.

Sometime later, Rousseau made the acquaintance of Col. Jeff Cooper and told him about the incident. Cooper realized this would be a good training aid for his students and named the drill the Mozambique, after the country where the shooting occurred. By the late 1970s, Cooper had incorporated it into his training at the new Gunsite Academy.

As part of his new evolution of the Modern Technique of the Pistol, Gabe Suarez (a.k.a., Jeff Cooper 2.0) teaches an updated shooting drill based on a more contemporary airport conflict scenario.

In June 2016, ISIS-inspired terrorists armed with guns and bombs attacked the Atatürk Airport in Istambul, Turkey. 45 people were killed and over 200 injured.

Surveillance camera video from inside the airport showed one of the terrorists walking through the airport shooting an AK-47. He suddenly falls to the ground, shot by security. Moments later, a security officer approaches the fallen gunman only to run away, apparently having seen a suicide bomb vest or belt. The gunman then successfully detonates the bomb.

For Gabe Suarez, this requires a different sort of drill than Mozambique, what he calls the “Istanbul Drill.” In this drill, the shooter moves forward toward the target from 7 yards away taking headshots. (Recall from the last post that in this type of proactive shooting at this distance, Suarez expects eyeball level accuracy.)

The shooter shoots the attacker to the ground, but unlike at the Atatürk Airport, in this drill the shooter shoots the attacker several more times in the face to ensure there is no possibility of detonating a bomb.

Suarez reiterates that this is a proactive assault on an active shooter. “Do we do this to the mugger in the parking lot? No. That is a different paradigm.” This is Tactical Clue version 2017, not version 1977.


You can hear students laughing after Suarez demonstrates the Istanbul Drill, as he “signs his work with a head shot.” After the students have run the drill themselves, he observes that everyone is smiling. For Suarez, this is the feeling of joy people should have after stopping a criminal or terrorist attack. “This is a feeling you should store in memory for when you need it.”

Coda: Sutherland Springs Church Massacre

The three-day Suarez International Pistol Gunfighting School was almost over when news of the Sutherland Springs, Texas church shooting broke. During a short break for water and reloading right after shooting the Instanbul Drill, Suarez pulled the group together to say he has been getting some news about a church shooting in Texas.

The ebullient mood of the group immediately turned somber. “This study has been real for me for a long time,” Suarez told his assembled students. “Hopefully it is real for you too now.”

Suarez Pistol Gunfighting School church hostage scenario. Photo by David Yamane

Suarez and his team quickly used the available target stands and targets to set up a scenario: A church shooting in which white supremacists had taken kids hostage.

Students each ran through the scenario once, finding their own solutions to the problem at hand. The level of determination and seriousness among the students skyrocketed during the drill. Afterward, Suarez and his fellow instructors did not analyze or criticize the students’ tactics or skills. The point was to facilitate the mental conditioning necessary for them to be willing to take the fight to the terrorists if for some reason they were given the opportunity, as Suarez had previously said, “to change history.”


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