When You Are Called On To Change History: Counter-Terrorist Proactive Shooting with Gabe Suarez


The final part of Suarez International’s Pistol Gunfighting School completes the paradigm shift from Tactical Clue 1997 – the old Modern Technique of the (Defensive) Pistol – to Tactical Clue 2017 – the New Modern Technique of the (Offensive) Pistol.

As noted in my last post, rather than imagining the typical counter-ambush defensive scenario, Suarez is suggesting the students prepare themselves mentally and physically for a counter-terrorist offensive scenario.

Suarez International Pistol Gunfighting School. Photo by David Yamane

The same principles of gunhandling and marksmanship that Suarez taught on day 1 still apply, but now the skills employed shift from reactive point shooting to proactive precision shooting. In a proactive event, the shooter needs a good sight picture and index, more focus on breathing, and a better trigger press and follow through.

The level of precision required is much finer in the proactive event than in the reactive one. For the proactive event, Suarez offers the following levels at different distances: inside room = eyeball, across parking lot = head, 100 yards = torso.

Suarez actually introduced this continuum on the first day, having the students alternate between shooting 6 inch steel plates at 15 yards and shooting torso sized steel targets at 60 yards. Later in the class, he emphasized how “technology allows you to exceed what you can normally do with a tool.” He was talking specifically about the red dot optics that he is well-known for.

As I noted in an earlier post, in the context of Suarez’s Pistol Gunfighting School curriculum, paying $1,200 to put a red dot slide on your pistol makes perfect sense.

Suarez International student shooting targets at 60 yards. Photo by David Yamane

Of course, needing to make a head shot from 25 yards or a body shot from 100 yards only makes sense if you buy into Suarez’s broader idea: “You are a modern day civilian warrior.”

In terms of mindset, the appropriate response to a terrorist/active shooter situation is not, “Oh God, now we’re all going to die.” Rather, Suarez suggests, “You want to say, ‘Thank you Lord for putting me here to stop the slaughter of kindergartners.’”

Your mental conditioning for combat must be such that when everyone else is running away from the gunfire, you will run toward it. This puts the private citizen gun carrier in a much more military or LEO role. It extends the idea that “you are your own first responder” beyond the individual and those in her or his immediate care. In a terrorist attack, the civilian warrior is everyone’s first responder.

Some people seem to have innate or trained dispositions to run toward trouble (e.g., my wife, who after serving in the U.S. Coast Guard became a nurse). My own disposition is risk aversion, running away from trouble (hence my comfortable position in the ivory tower).

So I left the Suarez International Pistol Gunfighting School wondering what I would do in the scenario Gabe Suarez asked his students to imagine: “When you are called on to change history…”


  1. Reblogged this on and commented:
    Duty, as cited in Psalm 31, when you are placed into harm’s way, and have faith to muster strength to do what must be done. The reality of it all, is that as time goes by in America, You really could be, Called, upon.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “Is this my fight?” is a big question.
    2 feral mouth-breathers stabbing a woman in the parking garage?
    20 jihadis in a mall with rifles?
    Am I alone or do I have my spouse and 2.5 children with me?
    One maniac who just moved down thirty on the sidewalk and is now on the street with a machete?

    I’ve answered for myself in these scenarios. Maybe as responsible civilian warriors we should all determine what our level of participation would be and be okay with it.

    Taking four of twenty with me in a blaze of glory may be the heroic choice for some.
    Maybe just getting one’s self and family out of danger would be the most heroic for others.

    Tough Qs.


  3. http://blog.suarezinternational.com/2017/05/should-you-act-get-involved-or-get-away.html

    Should You Act? – Get Involved Or Run Away?
    Monday, May 15, 2017

    Whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt.

    Every so often we get a thread at Warrior Talk asking about what a CCW person should do if he sees a crime, or some apparent victimization. The implied question of course is the quest for justification of the desire to jump in with both feet to save the day. That inherent desire, while noble, may also be quite foolish and self-destructive. But staying out of everything doesn’t have to be the mantra either. Like many things – it depends.

    So I am not saying to default to doing nothing, merely that you should have sufficient information on what is happening before reacting. Lacking sufficient information, minding your own business may be a better option. Your decision will be based on three factors – location, companions, and information. Let’s discuss it.

    Location. I have traveled in places that I refer to as Non-Permissive Environments. Those are areas where the legality of being armed may be questionable, yet where it is so dangerous that going unarmed would be stupid. In such places getting involved in anyone else’s problem is a bad decision unless what you are witnessing shocks the consciousness of mankind.

    Look at it this way, will you trade your freedom, and finances to save strangers? That is what it boils down to. It is easy to be indignant at my suggestion from the safety of the internet in your living room, it is also quite easy to disagree when you carry the “Badge of America” card as an LEO with the full umbrella of protection your agency provides, but it is another matter altogether when you are sitting in the defendant’s chair, a civilian paying your own way, looking at a lengthy trial because you decided to “do the right thing”.

    Again, I am not saying to default to do nothing, but neither is everything worthy of your risks. If you don’t have a gun its a moot point. If its legal for you to carry its also a moot point…for the most part.

    In a free area where you are legal to carry your pistol, again the choice is clear. Good guys can intervene in times of danger and victimization secure that if they act properly, they will probably be fine afterward. That is the reality of why places where gun laws are lax are far safer than places where gun laws are strict…because good guys are not afraid to be good guys when circumstances present themselves.

    Companions will also have an effect on your decisions. I spoke to an LA County Deputy once whose daughter was shot and killed by two armed robbers when he elected to intervene at the store they were robbing. Listen people…if you have your family with you, everyone else is on their own. Unless the bad guys have targeted you and them specifically, go on your way. Whatever is happening is none of your business. Certainly, call 911, but leave and keep them safe. Sorry to sound “cowardly” but anyone who says they will risk their family to save someone else’s money is a fool.

    But companions may also slant the balance of power the other way. If my staff and I are at an eatery after a training course, some twelve of us, former military or police, well-trained, fit and armed…well, that changes the possibilities.

    Whether you act or not also depends on how much information you have about what is going on. The information present and available to you may over ride the presence in an NPE, or the desire to not get involved in other people’s business. The less information I have, the less likely I am going to do anything but leave. The more information and certainty I have the better decision I can make. What you see may not give the total picture.

    Active shooter terrorist problems are easy. When you see a man with an assault rifle shooting kids in the kindergarten playground, you can venture a guess that that is the bad guy and that he is the one that needs to be shot. And I do not think that I could justify in my soul simply running away…specially if I could skill him from ambush without a single word spoken. But those are not the ones that cause us problem are they.

    Two guys fighting? None of my business. Unless one of them is wearing a police uniform.

    Two guys beating up a third guy? Do you act now?

    Honestly, for me it I need more information. If they are two gang-type thugs beating up a defenseless old lady, the choice is pretty clear. That shocks the mind and I would have to intervene. But if two gang-type thugs are beating up a third gang-type thug, its none of my business.

    I may make a 911 call, or not – but either way I don’t plan to jump in to intervene. Is the fight you see two cops beating up a gang-thug? Cool, but still nothing to do with you. How about two homeys beating up a cop? Now we are back to things that shock the mind and that we consider unacceptable. All different stories, eliciting different responses aren’t they. Here are a few more.

    One guy slapping a girl? None of my business.

    “Hey wait a minute!”, I can hear the chivalrous crowd yelling from across the nation. Chivalry demands the presence of a lady. Is the apparent victim a lady? Are you willing to risk your life for her? Think with your brain and not your sword. Just on the face of the description I do not have enough to get involved, sorry.

    Make the guy a gang-thug and the girl a typical soccer mom…or a grandmother? Things just changed because of the information I have. Make the guy a gang-thug and the girl a meth-mouth whore? Sorry…not my fight.

    The only time I will get proactively involved in where I am not the focus of the event is if what I am seeing shocks the conscience of mankind, such as the active shooter or terrorist, or when I have enough information about my situation and what is happening to determine the reality of what I am seeing, and what I personally should do about it.

    If there is any doubt, there is no doubt.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Gabe – I purposely did not read your blog in advance of my observation so I could see what you were teaching “with new eyes.” Seeing your descriptions from earlier this year, I feel (hope) I have done an adequate job of conveying what I saw and what you meant. That at root is my goal here.


  4. […] My last post about Paul Howe on “combat mindset” highlighted an important difference between the responsibilities of military and law enforcement compared to regular armed citizens. Military and law enforcement are required “to go into harm’s way, against great odds if necessary” (Howe, Leadership and Training for the Fight, p. 11). Although armed citizens may choose to do this, rarely are we obligated to (but see Gabe Suarez). […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.