AAR: Suarez International Low Light Gunfighting 10/19-20/2012 (pics)

esrice

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Suarez International USA, Inc.
What:
Suarez International's Low Light Gunfighting
October 19-20, 2012 - Low Light Gunfighting - Rochester, IN

When:
Friday, October 19th and Saturday, October 20th, 2012
5pm-12am

Where:
Sand Burr Gun Ranch in Rochester, Indiana
Sand Burr Gun Ranch: Home

Who:
Randy Harris (Randy Harris) - Lead Instructor
Instructor Randy Harris



Michael Swisher (cedartop) - Host/Assistant Instructor
Instructor-Michael Swisher



Jeff - Meat Puppet/Comic Relief



Students:
Two from Michigan
Three from Indiana
Ages 29-60+

Why:
Although this was my 4th low-light course, it was my first with Suarez International. With Rochester only being 2.5 hours away I jumped at the chance to take 2 courses together in a weekend (AAR for Fundamentals of H2H Combatives is in a separate thread).


***AAR disclaimer*** In an attempt to leave the integrity of the course material intact, this AAR will cover my own personal experience and will only cover general concepts covered in the course. If you find this information interesting I strongly encourage each and every person to seek out training on their own. Please keep in mind that some of the pictures below only represent a frozen moment of time during dynamic demonstrations and testing. As such, they cannot always accurately represent a specific technique to the reader. I'd be glad to answer any picture-specific questions one has, but please refrain from posting any opinions that are based on assumptions about such pictures.

This past weekend included a few "firsts" for me. It was my first time training with Suarez International (SI), and it was my first time training at Sand Burr Gun Ranch in Rochester.

Registering for the courses was easily accomplished via the SI website. Once that was done I needed to find a place to stay. There are two hotels in Rochester-- a Comfort Inn and a Super 8. I picked the Comfort Inn because I get an industry discount, but the Super 8, which sits right next door, looked like the nicest Super 8 I've ever seen. While neither hotel is lavish, either is more than suitable for a weekend of training. My room was clean, the Staff was friendly, and I had no issues to report.



Two right turns and 10 minutes away I found Sand Burr Gun Ranch. It's nestled back in a beautiful piece of property surrounded by tall pine trees. Ranch owner Denny Reichard and Range Manager Ashley (Reichard) Gibbons were found in their small on-site retail and gunsmith shop. While nothing about Sand Burr is "high tech", it's the perfect location for firearms training of all kinds. With 3 large bays reaching back to 150+ yards, and a wide pistol range complete with an array of steel targets, my mind was reeling with all kinds of ideas for possible training opportunities. I already look forward to training there again.







Class started at 5pm on Friday evening. This gave us time to get the range set up in the daylight, get a medical action plan in place, as well as time to go over some concepts and theory on fighting in the dark with guns.





One often-misunderstood single-hand gripping technique involves canting the pistol slightly inboard. This was referred to as "half-homie", as opposed to the "full-homie" that's often seen in TV and movies. :D We did several exercises with blue guns that showed how this technique can be slightly different with each shooter.





We also covered MANY other topics, like:

  • Types of flashlights and their operations
  • Handheld lights vs. weapon mounted lights
  • Using lights to hide oneself
  • Using lights to stun/blind/distract an attacker
  • Using lights to fake our position
  • Striking with a light
  • Searching with a light
  • Incandescent vs. LED lights
  • Too much / Too little light
  • Backsplash
Unfortunately the weather wasn't too kind this past weekend and we got cold temps and rain on Friday night. :xmad: Even with some last-minute changes to my packing list I still found myself cold and wet. It sucked. But real life can suck too so we shuffled on.






Once we got on the line I started to warm up a little. This was due to SI's core principle of exploding off the X and incorporating movement into all of our actions. We covered such dynamic movement, moving at oblique angles (2 o'clock, 5 o'clock, 7 o'clock, 10 o'clock).


























We also talked about several different techniques for incorporating a handheld flashlight, and their strengths and weaknesses. From there, the course diverged somewhat from those I've taken in the past. Where most of my previous low-light shooting has been done with a light illuminating the target during strings of fire, Harris works from the concept that gunfights are close and dirty, and that the light is best used for IDing purposes, with the shooting being done "in the dark". I say "in the dark" because you quickly find out that "the dark" isn't as dark as you might think. Even under a partial moon in rural Indiana I could make out the silhouette of my target quite well. Adding to that is the fact that we weren't going for sniper shots. These were close-in, rapid, point-and-shoot shots.

Although the targets we used weren't 3D, you can clearly see that hits in the "dark" while on the move weren't difficult-- even when shooting from oblique angles.



We also spent a bit of time talking about shooting around barricades and how using a light offers some additional challenges to be overcome.



In every course I take I look for "lightbulb moments" or moments of true learning. Here are a few of mine, in no particular order:

  • Using muzzle flash to get a "flash" sight picture is actually possible. By the end of Day 2 I could recognize it.
  • Moving at oblique angles means manipulating the gun in some ways that I've never seen or tried before. After trying them I found that I could make solid hits quickly.
  • SI is the first "mainstream" training group that I've found that doesn't overemphasize the use of sights in a gunfight. They don't disregard them, but they show how they aren't always necessary. "Only use as much sights as you need". Because of this, I also learned a few techniques that can aid in faster shooting in situations where speed trumps hole-touching accuracy.
  • This course reconfirmed for me that lanyards on lights are unnecessary.
Those familiar with SI and Gabe Suarez know that he's a big proponent of red dots on fighting pistols. Two instructors and one student had RMR'd Glocks so we all got a chance to play with them a bit. They might not be requisite, but I believe they are the wave of the future and we'll be seeing more red dots on pistols in the future, along with smaller units designed specifically to solve the current issues associated with them. If you haven't had the chance to try one, I would recommend it.













All-in-all it was a great weekend filled with great instruction by great people. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the courses Suarez International offers and will look for more opportunities in the future. I appreciate Mike Swisher (cedartop) and all he's done for INGO and for his efforts in getting Hoosiers trained up and better prepared to defend themselves and their families. Many thanks to Randy Harris (Randy Harris) for coming up from Chattanooga Tennessee to take the reins on these courses. If you like a no-nonsense approach with a laid-back attitude then Randy is your guy. I recognize that different instructors have different styles and Randy's teaching style is different than that of Steve Fisher (Magpul) or Shay VanVlymen (Mindset Laboratory). I like training with different people because I learn different things. I learned a lot from Randy and I appreciate the time and energy he puts into teaching.



If you are looking for firearms training that is realistic and with little "fluff", then I'd recommend Suarez International. If you look at firearms as tools then SI is for you. If you question some of the mainstream dogma that exists in current firearms training, you would fit in well in an SI course.


If you've been on the fence about training in general or Suarez specifically feel free to ask here or get in touch with me via PM. I'm always glad to share my experiences with INGOers.



:ingo:
 
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the1kidd03

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This was referred to as "half-homie", as opposed to the "full-homie" that's often seen in TV and movies. :D We did several exercises with blue guns that showed how this technique can be slightly different with each shooter.
Was this part of the curriculum? If so, is it a technique which was "accepted/promoted" or rather "debunked" in the course? Only curious as to comparison to military training and reasoning behind different opinions.


I say "in the dark" because you quickly find out that "the dark" isn't as dark as you might think. Even under a partial moon in rural Indiana I could make out the silhouette of my target quite well.

I agree with the fact that low light is not necessarily "no light" but IME that's not ALWAYS the case. Certain geographic locations and weather/lunar conditions can make it truely "no light." Just another reason to seek variety of training, practice, and simply "add to your toolbox" IMO. Don't expect there to be light and don't expect there to be "no light." Just be prepared and aware regardless of the situation you're in. Also, to point out the targets with white backings are considerably easier to spot/ID in low light conditions as opposed to "more realistic" targets with a less drastic color contrast and reflective properties. If you get the opportunity, try practicing on dark targets or even a torso draped in old clothing in neutral or dark colors.:twocents:

If you question some of the mainstream dogma that exists in current firearms training, you would fit in well in an SI course.
Care to elaborate as to "mainstream dogmas" which don't necessarily fall in line with the teachings here?


Overall, excellent AAR as usual esrice. I always enjoy reading them. The only thing I might recommend adding in the interest of sparking a training interest in others might be a "break down of associated costs" (if you don't mind disclosing.) For some people that could be a big deciding factor and likely the only question they may have. You might spook some when you start talking about hotels, two day courses, ammo count, etc. when in fact it may still entirely fit into their budget. Just a suggestion, but excellent write up none the less. :twocents:
 

esrice

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Was this part of the curriculum? If so, is it a technique which was "accepted/promoted" or rather "debunked" in the course? Only curious as to comparison to military training and reasoning behind different opinions.

Yes it was "accepted/promoted" and taught as part of the curriculum. It varies from person to person. To test this, we were each asked to close our eyes, bring up the gun, and point it to our target. When we opened them we were left with the position that felt most "natural" to each of us. To further test it we started shooting at angles, which brings the arm across the body or away from the body. We tried this with both a straight up-and-down grip and the "half homie". We were then left to use the method that worked best for us individually. For me the "half homie" is MUCH more natural and intuitive.

I agree with the fact that low light is not necessarily "no light" but IME that's not ALWAYS the case. Certain geographic locations and weather/lunar conditions can make it truely "no light."

It's not even that complicated. Simply being indoors can often leave one in complete darkness.

Care to elaborate as to "mainstream dogmas" which don't necessarily fall in line with the teachings here?

The biggest "mainstream dogma" that I saw bucked was "you MUST see your sights". Even in regular light levels this isn't necessary. The human body can do a fair amount of accurate (combat) shooting before it requires aligned sights.

The other would be the idea that your target must be illuminated while shooting it. Versus illuminating to ID and then engaging in "darkness". Obviously this is situation dependent, but it was different that what I had been exposed to in the past.

A smaller busted dogma would be "never face up-range". Not only did we search and assess 360 degrees, but at one point we even did so from behind the targets. (in controlled unison without breaking any of the 4 rules)


The only thing I might recommend adding in the interest of sparking a training interest in others might be a "break down of associated costs" (if you don't mind disclosing.)

You know me, I don't mind. ;)

Tuition for Low Light Gunfighting was $450.
Tuition for Fundamentals of H2H Combatives was $225.
Tuition for taking them together was $600.
We shot about 300 rounds. In 9mm at $.20/round that is $60.
Hotel cost for 2 nights for me (industry rate) was $77.00 total. A regular rate with tax for 2 nights would've been about $158.36.
I drove about 270 miles so my gas cost was about $42.
I ate 4 meals and spent $51.

So Regular Joe coming from Indianapolis would've spent about $913 for 2 courses (4 sessions) over 3 days, including food, travel, and boarding. That's roughly equivalent to 2 Glocks/M&Ps/XDs or 1 Kimber 1911.
 
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cedartop

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Was this part of the curriculum? If so, is it a technique which was "accepted/promoted" or rather "debunked" in the course? Only curious as to comparison to military training and reasoning behind different opinions.




I agree with the fact that low light is not necessarily "no light" but IME that's not ALWAYS the case. Certain geographic locations and weather/lunar conditions can make it truely "no light." Just another reason to seek variety of training, practice, and simply "add to your toolbox" IMO. Don't expect there to be light and don't expect there to be "no light." Just be prepared and aware regardless of the situation you're in. Also, to point out the targets with white backings are considerably easier to spot/ID in low light conditions as opposed to "more realistic" targets with a less drastic color contrast and reflective properties. If you get the opportunity, try practicing on dark targets or even a torso draped in old clothing in neutral or dark colors.:twocents:


Care to elaborate as to "mainstream dogmas" which don't necessarily fall in line with the teachings here?


Overall, excellent AAR as usual esrice. I always enjoy reading them. The only thing I might recommend adding in the interest of sparking a training interest in others might be a "break down of associated costs" (if you don't mind disclosing.) For some people that could be a big deciding factor and likely the only question they may have. You might spook some when you start talking about hotels, two day courses, ammo count, etc. when in fact it may still entirely fit into their budget. Just a suggestion, but excellent write up none the less. :twocents:

Kidd, I was going to respond to your questions, but Evan did a great job. I will say you are correct when you point out that it is easier to see a target with a white outline around it. Good call. We also shot at some 66% IPSC steel that I got from Bobcat Steel. It was harder to see but still doable.

As to no light/low light. You are correct again, there may indeed be certain situations that are completely dark. However, in most of the context's we are looking at here, there will be some type of ambient light. We are not talking about a military battlefield, but places most of us frequent where bad stuff can happen. Parking lots, ATM's, etc..
 

the1kidd03

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Yes it was "accepted/promoted" and taught as part of the curriculum. It varies from person to person. To test this, we were each asked to close our eyes, bring up the gun, and point it to our target. When we opened them we were left with the position that felt most "natural" to each of us. To further test it we started shooting at angles, which brings the arm across the body or away from the body. We tried this with both a straight up-and-down grip and the "half homie". We were then left to use the method that worked best for us individually. For me the "half homie" is MUCH more natural and intuitive.



It's not even that complicated. Simply being indoors can often leave one in complete darkness.



The biggest "mainstream dogma" that I saw bucked was "you MUST see your sights". Even in regular light levels this isn't necessary. The human body can do a fair amount of accurate (combat) shooting before it requires aligned sights.

The other would be the idea that your target must be illuminated while shooting it. Versus illuminating to ID and then engaging in "darkness". Obviously this is situation dependent, but it was different that what I had been exposed to in the past.

A smaller busted dogma would be "never face up-range". Not only did we search and assess 360 degrees, but at one point we even did so from behind the targets. (in controlled unison without breaking any of the 4 rules)




You know me, I don't mind. ;)

Tuition for Low Light Gunfighting was $450.
Tuition for Fundamentals of H2H Combatives was $225.
Tuition for taking them together was $600.
We shot about 300 rounds. In 9mm at $.20/round that is $60.
Hotel cost for 2 nights for me (industry rate) was $77.00 total. A regular rate with tax for 2 nights would've been about $158.36.
I drove about 270 miles so my gas cost was about $42.
I ate 4 meals and spent $51.

So Regular Joe coming from Indianapolis would've spent about $913 for 2 courses (4 sessions) over 3 days, including food, travel, and boarding. That's roughly equivalent to 2 Glocks/M&Ps/XDs or 1 Kimber 1911.
:yesway::yesway::yesway:

Good amount of training for the cost and all commensurate with my level of training/experience...and all for the price of a Sig, HK, or descent 1911. ;)
I only asked about the "half-homie" because some instructors have very differing opinions on it.

Looks like everyone had a great time. :yesway::yesway:
 

the1kidd03

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Kidd, I was going to respond to your questions, but Evan did a great job. I will say you are correct when you point out that it is easier to see a target with a white outline around it. Good call. We also shot at some 66% IPSC steel that I got from Bobcat Steel. It was harder to see but still doable.
Indeed. It's still doable just pointing out it can change the difficulty enough to desire practicing in variation.
As to no light/low light. You are correct again, there may indeed be certain situations that are completely dark. However, in most of the context's we are looking at here, there will be some type of ambient light. We are not talking about a military battlefield, but places most of us frequent where bad stuff can happen. Parking lots, ATM's, etc..
Indeed and agreed. Even though I have had to utilize my training as a civilian, I still tend to think of scenarios "in the field" more so than in "civilian" applications when discussing training/tactics. Just my achilles heel when in discussion. I think I was thinking of more "in the field" because I would consider that scenario to be considerably more fitting of the "low light" description, whereas parking lots and such seem to have considerably more adequate lighting. Perhaps, enough as not to hinder one's ability as much IME for the most part. Depends on the person and circumstances though. :dunno: Just different scenarios being interpreted on my part.

Glad to finally see an AAR involving you though. I don't think I've seen anything regarding your training previously.
 

iChokePeople

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Excellent review, thanks for doing it. This course is high on my to-do list. Especially if they run a two-fer with something like h2h again.

Mike, nice to see your truck doesn't have any new holes.
 

Randy Harris

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Thanks for the AAR esrice. I really enjoyed working with you guys and even though the weather was...less than optimal...on Friday night, it was still manageable and cleared up nicely by Saturday.

The general consensus in the gun magazines seems to be that if you don't have a 300 lumen light that you cannot see or shoot if it is 1 minute past sundown. We see in this class when we stop THEORIZING and actually get out and PRACTICE that a couple of things become apparent.

1. It is almost NEVER 100% dark. There is almost always some ambient light unless you are inside a structure with no windows. Even in a rural area with no street lights you could still see well enough to make hits at real world distances without having to use the light to see the target.

2. Criminal assault is a close up affair, not like searching for sappers in the wire 100 meters out. Criminals have to get close to you to rob, rape, and pillage. Different paradigms require different solutions. A battlefield solution in Gardez does not always apply in an ATM robbery in Indianapolis.....

Depending on your own level of preparedness you will either put a light in your hand when you venture out into a low light environment or you will not. As such you either have the light in hand when the fight starts or you don't . No one is gonna fast draw their light and gun at same time.... If you DO have the light in hand when the fight starts...then you have a powerful tool to disorient and restart their OODA cycle. Combine that with moving your feet and acquiring better position, and you have a real advantage.

If you do not have light in hand when fight starts , then you really need to get off the X and get quick hits on them. Neither of these situations ,largely due to the REAL WORLD distances involved (usually closer than 5 yards), require either a light to shoot with or even a picture perfect sight picture. The light is used to ID them as a threat and determine what is in their hands. It is also a powerful tool to deescalate a situation. But keeping the light on acts as a target indicator for the bad guys.

If you flash and move you can see what you need to see in that momentary flash of light and then move and engage. The momentary flash causes the BG to focus on where you WERE, not where you moved to. Due to the distance involved and our ability to shoot without having to have a perfect sight picture we can score fast fight stopping hits without the light on.

Now obviously if the BG is 18 yards away you will need light to see him ....but at 5 yards the light just is not needed unless it is pitch black....and it is almost never pitch black, especially in an urban environment. And again, if he is 18 yards away you need to look at getting to cover first if you can and then use the light and sights to help you shoot. Distance (and cover) changes things.

A big thanks to Mike Swisher for hosting and making this class happen. Thanks to all the students for working hard and staying focused.It is always more difficult to administer a low light class than a daylight class and I appreciate everyone doing what needed to be done. I hope to see you in the Zero To Five Feet Gunfighting class in Bellevue Mi in April !
 

Indy_Guy_77

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(My uneducated & unasked for opinion on "half homie": A) I've learned a new term. I wholly like it. B) From an anatomical standpoint, the non-vertical hold in a one-handed stance situation, is actually stronger/better than forcing the gun into a more traditional upright & squared up position. This has to do with the alignment of the shoulder innards and supporting musculature. If Rhino sees this and cares to comment, I'm sure that he can 'splain the anatomy better than I)
 

rhino

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(My uneducated & unasked for opinion on "half homie": A) I've learned a new term. I wholly like it. B) From an anatomical standpoint, the non-vertical hold in a one-handed stance situation, is actually stronger/better than forcing the gun into a more traditional upright & squared up position. This has to do with the alignment of the shoulder innards and supporting musculature. If Rhino sees this and cares to comment, I'm sure that he can 'splain the anatomy better than I)

I shall oblige!

When you hold the pistol vertically, your medial deltoid (one of the three heads of the muscle in your shoulder) is doing most of the work. When you arm/wrist even just a little, you involve the anterior deltoid (and sometimes pectoral) to help, which gives you a better foundation.

Another thing that helps (which is advocated by DTI/Farnam and Fortress Defense) is to lock your thumb upward when shooting one-handed. It helps "lock" your wrist in minimize movement of the gun.

Both of things really help when you can't choose how you're going to stand and position your body (which would be most of the time).
 

esrice

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Do you explain terminology like these in classes like this one? Or do you just assume that your more advanced students have a background in defense training?

Honest question because I don't know what they mean.

Both were covered in such a way that was assumed the student already had a basic understanding of the concepts.

That's not to say that they wouldn't have delved deeper if a student was unclear on anything.

Here's a primer on the OODA Loop.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66bdznhrZ4g

"Get off the X" is simply a way of saying "move" or "get off the line of attack". "X" being where incoming rounds are hitting, or where your aggressor is striking, etc.
 

cedartop

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Do you explain terminology like these in classes like this one? Or do you just assume that your more advanced students have a background in defense training?

Honest question because I don't know what they mean.

There have been entire books written on both terms, but I'll give you the short version.

OODA= Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. This was codified by fighter pilot Colonel Boyd. It is a natural progression we go through when reaction to an unexpected situation. We are trying to reset our opponents loop to the beginning, while not letting ours be reset.

Getting of the X. The X is is where you happen to be when the altercation starts. It is better if you move off of that spot for many reasons, the first being so that you are not there when the bullet, knife, club, fist, or whatever arrives.

Again, these are just brief explanations. Yes we do teach them in class.
 

iChokePeople

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There have been entire books written on both terms, but I'll give you the short version.

OODA= Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. This was codified by fighter pilot Colonel Boyd. It is a natural progression we go through when reaction to an unexpected situation. We are trying to reset our opponents loop to the beginning, while not letting ours be reset.

Getting of the X. The X is is where you happen to be when the altercation starts. It is better if you move off of that spot for many reasons, the first being so that you are not there when the bullet, knife, club, fist, or whatever arrives.

Again, these are just brief explanations. Yes we do teach them in class.

And, more important, cedartop will help you really understand why they matter and how to improve your chances of surviving a bad day.
 

JBishop

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One of the other helpful reminders that "get off the X" gives is the angles that can give the most advantageous position as you progress in skills. Get off the "+" or the "I" doesn't produce the same results. The most important thing is to not back straight up.

A SI Close Range Gunfighting class would do a great job emphasizing /enhancing this concept. The CRG class was the biggest eye opener I've ever had in defensive shooting and personal protection. Some people are afraid to take this class because it doesn't look like training they've had before. My question would be, "Why would you want to take the same training you've had before?"
 

iChokePeople

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One of the other helpful reminders that "get off the X" gives is the angles that can give the most advantageous position as you progress in skills. Get off the "+" or the "I" doesn't produce the same results. The most important thing is to not back straight up.

A SI Close Range Gunfighting class would do a great job emphasizing /enhancing this concept. The CRG class was the biggest eye opener I've ever had in defensive shooting and personal protection. Some people are afraid to take this class because it doesn't look like training they've had before. My question would be, "Why would you want to take the same training you've had before?"

+1 on close range gunfighting. Take it.
 
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