Friday, May 4, 2012

AAR: Suarez Intl. Point Shooting Progressions - April 21-22 w/ Roger Phillips and Greg Nichols

Suarez Intl. Point Shooting Progressions
April 21-22, 2012
Big Springs Range – Searsboro, Iowa
Roger Phillips and Greg Nichols

First and foremost, I will say that I am writing this with the intent to post it at multiple venues and that some comments may be made to certain groups of individuals and not the member base of any one particular forum etc. Also, please excuse any typos or errors, while I usually go through great lengths to use proper spelling and grammar, I've been writing most of this with my 4 month old daughter on my lap and it's been kind of hard to type...

It seems that whenever I see a review of a Suarez Intl. Course posted outside of Warrior Talk, Gabe Suarez’s forum and meeting place for his students, customers, and colleagues; that some will take to condemning the organization for elements of Gabe’s past.

I do not care about Gabe’s past, it was in the past and that is it. If you have some beef about Suarez as an individual, I would ask that you not air your issues where this class review is being discussed as it’s not really about Gabe Suarez.

I did not take this course because of Gabe Suarez, I enrolled in this class mainly because of Roger Phillips. I’ve been reading Roger’s writings for years at and have always found his pieces, well written, technically and tactically proficient, valid and quite informational. To this day, every time I shoot a shot looking for maximum accuracy (yes that does mean using sights), I do so using information that I obtained from Roger and his writings.

I have wanted to take this course for years, particularly under the instruction of Roger, for many reasons I was never able to make it to this class until this month, I have taken a few training classes with other instructors but I've still wanted to take this class.

The final straw driving me to this class was when I was attending a course at the Tactical Defense Institute of Ohio (TDI) one of the instructors, Greg Elfritz made mention of a study on movement and other factors and how they altered the results of modeled gun fights using AirSoft Force on Force training. Near the end of this study, the following can be found.

"This clearly identifies a need for additional training and highlights the critical importance of making yourself a moving target during a gunfight. If highly trained shooters hit their opponents’ torsos with only eleven percent of rounds fired, imagine how much worse the average street thug with no training and minimal experience will perform under similar conditions!"

"I’ll simply say that we as trainers need to do some more work. We need to find a better solution to allow our students to hit their targets with a greater percentage of rounds during the stressful, fast-evolving nature of a gunfight. Whatever that solution is, be it training in point shooting techniques, an enhanced sighted shooting curriculum, or stress-inoculating scenario-based training, it is our collective responsibility as trainers to find it."

While some of the material from the Point Shooting Progressions Course, hereafter referred to as PSP had been covered in those classes other classes, PSP is just the class to fill the gaps referenced above from Greg’s article and I highly recommend it. I have no qualms referring friends, family, and my own students to Suarez International (SI) and after reading this after action review (AAR) in its entirety, neither should you. 

~Day 1~
The class was hosted by Suarez Intl. Staff Instructor, Greg Nichols. While Roger did a majority of teaching the course, Greg did his fair share of giving feedback to the students and word is that he is doing quite well inside the SI Organization. I have a feeling I'll be seeing more of him in the future and have some friends and prior students looking to take the Defensive Pistol Skills Class with Greg this June. I will be eagerly awaiting more feedback from this class.

It will surprise a lot of readers to learn that this class, which is often thought of as the “must have” of point shooting classes did not start off with a sacrifice along the lines of sights being sawed off from pistols and thrown into the trash, after all the paper work was filled out, mags were loaded, eyes and ears in place; we started with…

…An exercise in accurate shooting. That’s right, the first shots in POINT SHOOTING CLASS were shot using our sights in a “One hole drill” where the goal is to try and shoot five (5) shots into as tight a group as possible with a single hole being the desired result. Range was only about three (3) yards and the “target” was a small piece of blue tape no bigger than the fingernail of my little finger. This is just to see if anyone is having any issues regarding the fundamentals of shooting a pistol.

***Note: My notes may be somewhat scattered and we may very well have gone over the following material prior to the One Hole Drill***

From there we started delving into the background of point shooting and some of the information that has driven it, mainly the accumulated data of Fairbairn and Sykes and the text of their book “Shooting to Live”(which is now residing on my Kindle), of note within that text is:

The records of the particular force of the semi-Oriental city referred to earlier show that the force, consistently trained in the methods of this book, has to its credit in twelve and a half years no less than 666 armed encounters with criminals. The following table, referring only to encounters in which pistols were used by the police, give the results:­-

                                                             Police                        Criminals
Killed.            .            .            .            .   42                           260
Wounded.            .            .            .          100                          193           

That’s pretty impressive as this was law enforcement going against the Triad, or Chinese Mafia.

Other information was covered, such as content regarding Jelly Bryce and other gun fighters that had impressive records of winning gun fights against armed felons.

Regardless of the time elapsed from then till know, there is always something to be learned from the success of those that have been there and done that time and time again and have come out on top.

So, at this time, some may be wondering, just what exactly is point shooting? And why is it important?

Put simply, point shooting is simply shooting at an object while maintaining focus on the object rather than focusing on the sights. There are different point shooting positions and I think we reviewed every one of them in class.

More modern scientific studies are delving into what happens to humans during fight or flight situations (on a side note not related to this class, for more information on some of this material, “On Combat” by Col. DaveGrossman is highly recommended reading) shows that we will revert “mid-brain” thinking and that the sympathetic nervous systems starts taking over, one of the things that is effected is eye sight in that the pupils dilate, which hinders our ability to focus. Tunnel vision is a common symptom of fight or flight incidents and in such an incident, being able to focus (as best you can) on your attacker is probably a good thing.

As for why it is important we have to look at the data we have on shootings. Statistically we have the “Rule of 3”, Three yards, Three shots, Three seconds.

In the FBI reports on officer involved shooting fatalities we see the following:

So we have data that shoes that inside of 0-10 feet that you’re more likely to get killed than beyond. Inside of that 0-10 foot range we see a lot of double digits in officer fatalities. Inside of that range, we can pretty much guarantee that we’re not going to have time to get into a nice solid shooting stance and find our sights.

And here’s where we have our problem in most carry related shooting courses and even some “shooting schools” very little time is spent working at these close in ranges, most of what is taught is using your two handed, static shooting positions, at a target somewhere between seven and ten yards. About 10 years ago Roger Phillips saw the errors in this and started building the curriculum and the results of this are a more natural and instinctive reactive response to a close range (inside of 10 yards) gun fight.

The seven (paraphrased) concepts focused on in this class were:

The Reactionary Curve
The Take Off Continuum
Draw Stroke
Visual Reference
Grip and Trigger

Reactionary Curve:
When you look at the fight continuum, either as a Law Enforcement Officer or Armed Citizen that is being attacked you will be responding to an attack that is all ready being enacted against you. You will not have time to get into a perfect stance, take aim, and fire a two round burst to the “down zero” of your attacker.

The Take off Continuum:
If we’re unable to just stand there and try and get into a stance, that means we need to move, and MOVE FAST!

Draw Stroke:
As you’re moving, or “getting off the X”, you need to be accessing and removing your firearm in order to counter attack. Cover garments matter. I made it a point to wear what I would normally wear cover garment wise and it made a BIG difference as opposed to what I would typically wear to an IDPA match etc., especially while incorporating movement. I think that was one thing that really set this class apart from some of the other classes I took. I think all but one or two students were working from concealment and I can say that every draw I performed that weekend was from concealment.

Pending on distance, fully extending the firearm is the last thing you want to do, we reviewed and practiced several different retention positions. We also practiced starting from retention moving to an extended position and string from an extended position and working to retention as we closed with our target.

Visual Reference:
We need some sort of visual feedback when point shooting, we were taught to use different, and I use the term loosely, sighting planes of the pistol that have been called by some to be “rough sighting” these included references such as using the profile of the slide of the firearm being visually “inside” the target, or what is referred to metal on meat. We also used the firearm with the sights of the gun just below eye level so that they were in our field of vision  but our visual focus was still on the target. This is called

Grip and Trigger - Per Roger
"You are only capable of working the speed of the trigger dictated by the distance. At 12 yards the cadence (of shots on target) was slow, but it picked up as we moved in due to our ability to guarantee the hits is a much quicker succession.

The grip concept is the typical physiological response due to the urgency of the encounter. The further away we are the more we can relax and bring in our fundamentals of marksmanship. As the urgency rises as we get closer the grip will tighten due to stress. That also allows us to recover from recoil quicker and work the trigger faster.

So the grip and the speed on the trigger work in conjunction with each other, dictated by distance, urgency, and stress. The closer we get, the tighter we hold the gun, and the faster we can pull the trigger and recover for recoil."
 Basically, up close if you fudge your trigger pull, it's not going to matter as much. As has been taught in other classes. Skill negates greater distance, but closer distances negate skill.

We did some various drills using these techniques with a sort of “walk back” drill using the metal on meat and other types of visual reference such as “Type 2 Focus” (more information on Types of Focus can be found in Brian Enos’ book, Practical Shooting, Beyond Fundamentals ) for when one is better suited then the others as distance increases. 

One of the key things taught was finding a focal point on your target and driving the gun to that focal point, while keeping some part of the gun in your field of vision to keep that visual feedback working for you.

All throughout class there were brief little discussions going on in between relays and drills and while everyone was thumbing rounds into magazines we’d have little mini-discussions.

Some of those topics included combat accuracy and how being the 1st to make a hit in a gun fight can greatly turn things in your favor and while nice tight little groups are neat and tidy and all, in FIGHT a wider group may be favorable as you can damage more vitals in different areas.

We discussed “Shooting to stop the threat”, a term that is always a pet peeve of mine, I will only say that the Roger’s perspective on this term mirrors my own and it is always refreshing to see it being taught in class. There is no "politically correct" way to win a gunfight.

This pretty much summed up day 1. I’m not going to cover the particulars of some of the drills we shot, other to say that they were unique to this class and I will definitely be incorporating them into my practice routines, IDPA matches, and drills that I conduct with my students.

After class, a majority of us met up for dinner at the Grinnell Steakhouse, if you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend it. We fellowshipped for a few hours and after that it was time to head home.

Day 2

Day two was pretty much all movement related, things such as making yourself a harder target and really driving off the X were covered.

Typically we shot these drills at greater distances than one would expect. The theory behind this is that by making it harder in practice with the greater distances, it would be easier when done in practice at closer ranges give us more confidence in these new skills.

Again I’m not going to get into too much details on the drills, but for those that plan on attending some of our IDPA matches in Waterloo, you can expect to see some really good movement drills.  If you want to learn more about these drills, you’ll just have to take the class, you’ll thank me later.

So that’s what we were taught in class, but what’s even better is HOW we were taught in class.

Roger was a pleasure to study under. He was very understanding that any bad habits or “training scars” that we may have accumulated over the years would not be worked out of our systems in the two days that he had us. I need to work on my reloads and a lot of us that have had previous professional training or experience in competition shooting had a heck of a problem with hasty rearward movement. 

With every class there is good and bad, I can honestly say that the “bad” of this class was so superficial that it hardly needs mentioning, but how unbiased would I seem if all I had was praise?

My only little gripe, and again it really doesn’t matter was that Roger liked to reference some of the hostility toward point shooting early in his career and kind of poke fun at certain…. disciplines? I suppose that word will fit.

But I get it. I’ve witnessed a lot of animosity toward point shooting over the years and I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Roger is nursing a chip on his shoulder, but I could have gone without some of the commentary. It just kind of soured what was otherwise and exemplary learning experience.

Does it really bother me? Nope. Would I take another class with Roger, all commentary included? Yes, yes I would. Will I promote this class to others? I wouldn’t be taking the time to write this if I wouldn’t.

Some other points regarding the class:

Safety: The gun handling displayed by the students was exceptional and Roger was dedicated to safety and very vocal near the end of the day when minds like to lapse.

Again, almost every student was working from concealment.

There was only one gun that experienced a malfunction resulting in a temporary stoppage. Near the end of day 1 as I recall, of all pistols, a Glock locked up but was fixed on scene requiring no tools.

The squads moved smooth, mags were kept loaded. No delays due to students or instructors.

We typically had 40 minutes or more for lunch, I would highly recommend bringing your lunch with you. While there was ample time to run into Grinnell for a meal, it was pushing it.

All the students were actively drinking water and staying hydrated. While it was cold and rainy, the sun was poking out every now and then. Make sure to hydrate starting a day or two BEFORE the class. At one previous class, while I was pushing a lot of water, it wasn’t enough to keep up with the heat and by the end of the day I was sick as a dog. DRINK WATER

The drills were fantastic and reality based. There was only one drill where I had issue and that is due to the fact that I have all the grace of a smashed up oil drum being thrown down a spiral stair case. I will definitely be working on my footwork.

During class, I don’t think I heard a single discouraging remark made about a students gun. This was a first in class that I have attended, there’s always one, student or instructor that wants to spread their opinion around on someone’s gun. Didn’t happen here, or at least I didn’t here it.

Most of the students were using Glocks or M&Ps. One student was using a Ruger LCR and he did a heck of a job keeping up with the rest of us.

This was my first class running a high capacity 9mm. The 1911s and Hk45 stayed home this class and I used my HKP30. I fired approx. 1200+/- rounds of Winchester Ranger 124gr NATO without a single hardware faulted malfunction.

I did experience two malfunctions while actively switching grip / orientation to the target as a result of engaging the slide stop prematurely. All of a sudden the subdued slide stop of the Glock, M&aP and Sig Sauer handguns seem like a pretty good idea. A slicked up M&P may very well be in my future.

This was my first time seeing a lot of people working from the appendix position, mostly Appendix-In-Waist Band or AIWB and while I knew it was faster than on the hip or behind the hip, I was blown away at just how FAST it was. While it’s not currently allowed in IDPA and some classes, I think I may have to start experimenting with this mode of carry. Obviously there are some inherent risks related to this mode of carry, do not enter into this method lightly and take your time and do lots of dry practice.

So if all that wasn’t inspiring enough, it gets better.

Not only does Suarez Intl. have it’s own discussion forum, Warrior Talk which provides a venue to interact with your instructors and fellow students, the instructors put together “training groups” in their regions. Think of these as miniature classes or work shops where the group can meet and work on certain aspects of what is taught in class.

In browsing around the topics @ WarriorTalk, I am greatly impressed with the sense of community therein, behavior wise, it seems to be better than a great many of the forums I’ve visited.

In summary, this class fills a very important need in the training of those looking to legally carry a firearm; the curriculum is solid, the techniques proven. The instructors and students are top notch. There are methods in place that allow for the continuing growth of mental and physical skills.

If you can’t take this course, Roger has materials available for home study.

But knowing now what I’ve missed out on for all these years, I would start planning on how to get in this course if I were you.

So what’s next? I’m looking at attending Suarez Intl’s CloseRange Gun Fighting, hopefully this fall if possible, and Advanced PSP some time in 2013.

For more information on available courses in Iowa, you can see Greg Nichols’ schedule.

For Roger Phillips’ schedule can be viewed HERE

 For more reviews of this course, you can read THIS THREAD at Warrior Talk.

1 comment:

  1. Will be linking this valuable info and posting soon.
    Thank You,