Article submitted by Mark Hatfield.
Advanced Close Range Gunfighting, a class.
That Don Robison is cruel. The nerve of him, expecting a student to be able to shoot AND think at the same time. Later, even to shoot and think while moving, yet he got me doing it. With Dons coaching in this class I performed at a level I might have scoffed at had someone told me so earlier.
This fourth and final class I was able to attend this year was Advanced Close Range Gunfighting by Suarez International, founded by Gabe Suarez. Don Robison is one of the S.I. certified instructors. Mister Robisons military and other training and background are substantial enough that he really needed no other certifications and listing them might look like the dream list of many serious shooters.
One week earlier Mr. Robison assisted with a class taught by Dr. John Meade. At the end he asked if any of us were attending his class for the following weekend. When I learned that less than a handful of students had signed up, I asked if it was to be canceled. No, he replied, S.I. tried to avoid that, and that he lived only 20 minutes from the range to be used. The first morning arriving onsite I learned it was a small class, the other attendees had since canceled, I was the only one.
The weather was perfect, I neither shivered nor sunburned nor was rained upon as in previous recent classes. Surrounded by cotton, bovines lowing in the distance, it was wonderful there in the bottom-most of Alabama just above the ‘panhandle’ of Florida.
The class Close Range Gunfighting introduced methods for getting out from under an attackers gun while presenting and using your own. This class took it much farther, with more options, and with more attackers. Options of at which angle to move, and whether to close with the attackers, make distance, or flank them are quite valuable. Further presented was a method for movement while in a confined space such as a hallway, this is a definite aid to ones survivability.
There are some other schools which teach movement, which is good, but it is not dynamic. There are others which teach movement which is unnatural and actually makes it more likely for the defender to fall. I learned that it is possible to run off at an angle in one direction while shooting in the opposite direction and get good hits while doing so. Sounds like television BS but it works, and far better than I would have thought, if you do it as taught.
There was also a drill for weaving around bystanders or objects to address the target from changing angles and distances, quite interesting, but even more interesting was the emphasis on…precision.
Many used to teach that a hit on an attacker anywhere was good enough, one self-proclaimed expert even used to teach that the ability to hit a pie plate at 5 feet was all the skill one needed. As described in the course description, Don worked me on precise shots, from the holster from 5 yards, to 10, 15, 20, 25, 40, 50, 60, and 75 yards. We would have gone to 100 however that was not practical at this specific range.
There are a number of reasons why a fast precise shot may be needed even at close range, or any range. The level of accuracy desired, and obtainable, for the other drills, was already greater than most official police qualification tests. Even when shooting while moving, the S.I. accuracy standard was stricter than most police ‘quals’.
We started and ended with precision drills. Precision work was also used as a break from the fast moving drills. It was easy to start shooting just a fraction too soon or without quite the desired alignment on some of the movement drills and miss the balance between speed and accuracy. The intervals for precision work were also included to help students restore their focus after fast drills.
I’ve never had an aptitude for precise handgun shooting. I don’t have the natural steadiness that many other people have. One friend who shot only twice a year could shoot tighter groups with any of my own guns than I. Add to that, age, injuries, older eyes, and nerve damage affecting my dominant hand and arm, I was surprised at the level to which I performed with Dons problem analysis and coaching.
I’ve sometimes shot perfect scores (unofficial) on the F.B.I.s qualification test. That target has no numbered ‘scoring rings’ or areas, shots are only recorded as ‘hit or miss’. I use this as an example as at the longest distance fired I might get all my ‘hits’ but all over the target, however with a number of hits nicely clustered at the center. This told me I had the potential to do better but was inconsistent.
Don had me shooting at a target narrower and half the height of the F.B.I. target and I was consistently nailing it at twice the maximum distance of the F.B.I. requirement. At 3 times the distance (75 yards) I was only hitting it half the time, but I could feel and recognize what I was doing.
During my own practice, I all too often, have shots are quite off from where I wanted them. Many organizations would still consider them to be ‘good enough’ by their standards but they are not by mine. The ‘good enough’ mentality also assumes that minimum standards are good enough. One should always remember that the ‘minimum standard’ is usually not based upon the real level of skill a person needs, but based instead upon how much money and time an organization has or wants to spend on its employees. ‘Minimum standards’ aren’t good enough in this class.
In the dynamic movement drills it was evident when I kept a good focus on the task at hand or tried to go a fraction too fast, or could have gone faster. In the precision work, it was a kind of breakthrough. In my own training, when having a poor shot, I rarely know what went wrong. With Dons analysis and coaching I could feel when a shot had gone right even before we heard the ‘ringing’ sound of the bullet hitting the steel target. I knew also when it was not right and was more frequently recognizing why/what had gone astray. I was learning/developing a much better feel for what I was doing. This improved ability to ‘self-diagnose ‘can help me to continue to improve on my own.
This is one of those courses where I see the value of retaking it occasionally. For those considering themselves serious shooters, I seriously recommend working up to and taking this course.