Course Review: Suarez International Close Range Gunfighting


Mark Hatfield submitted this article.

Close Range Gunfighting,
A Course Review and other observations.

This weekend I was able to attend the class titled Close Range Gunfighting. This class is given by Suarez International, founded by Gabe Suarez. The instructor was Don Robison who was assisted by Dr. John Meade. Both men are approved to teach the Suarez material and bring a variety of personal experience and background.

The material is dealing with situations which have already gone bad and require a dynamic, even explosive response. This class is not about how to shoot, it is not about how to shoot faster, it is about how to get out from under the attackers gun then destroy them.

Locally sponsored, this presentation of the course was conducted at a private range in Lake Wales, Florida and in sight of the beautiful Bok Tower, which was built on the highest point in Florida. It was said that the top of the berm was the second highest point in Florida. Sunburned the first day and rained upon the second day, it was normal Florida weather, at least the rain was mild. Very much to their credit, the instructors were proactive about concerns of dehydration and possible heat stress.

The first day was rather uneventful, mostly examining the students current skills and preparing them for the second day.

Of the fifteen students, the grey and white haired were well represented, no one seemed younger than thirty. This was not a class for the beginner, one does not take this class who does not already have some skill. Poor gun handling and unsafe practices did not seem to occur and though there was much movement, often vigorous, with guns, loaded or unloaded, the program was structured to provide safe and efficient means of doing so. These movement practices were not just for the range, but intended for the situations where one is doing it ‘for real’ in a high stress situation where ones coordination often disintegrates.

I have been studying this topic for some time so for myself, most of the material was something which I already knew, or which I knew of other variations. Some of this, due to circumstance or injury, I have not practiced for a while. To my embarrassment, they presented three useful techniques which I had forgotten, things which I should have remembered and been practicing. Furthermore, there is a critical and absolutely vital technique for getting out from in front of an attackers gun. I have read many descriptions of this, I have seen videos of it, and even seen it demonstrated by an acclaimed teacher, but it never made any sense. When demonstrated and explained here, it ‘clicked’ for me. I don’t know if this was because it might have been described slightly differently, or this was actually a slightly different variation, but this now works for me. Turned out that the critical ‘missing’ portion was something which I already do as part of other unrelated exercises. This movement is so important, that for me, this one thing alone was worth the price of the class.

An interesting aspect of the teachings was the emphasis that techniques do not have to be done exactly as the teachers do. This does not mean that an unsafe practice would be allowed, but that each person may discover some variation which works better for them personally. In my case, each instructor observed that I use a grip which they didn’t seem to be familiar with. Taught for years by a different major school, I have returned to this method after testing other more current methods. The thinking here is that if it works for me, I understand what I’m doing, and of course not unsafe, there is no need to do exactly as the instructor does. As everyones body and abilities are different, this thinking works out very well.

Those people who carry a handgun for defense, those who recognize that sometimes one must shoot in order to live, need to realize that such situations may develop very rapidly and simply being able to stand and shoot can leave you dead. This class teaches you to live.

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