Gabriel Suarez

Gabriel Suarez


Exerpts from his books.


Gabriel Suarez Enterprises

An excerpt from the upcoming "The Tactical Advantage" by Gabriel Suarez


One of the deadliest misconceptions in tactical circles is that a single operator can safely negotiate an entire area (indoor or outdoor) alone. This point is easy to illustrate when you realize that you cannot look in two directions at once. Searching alone often requires doing just that! A single operator must often turn his back on one danger area in order to search another. The rule is to AVOID SEARCHING ALONE.

A police officer or tactical team member will have the option to call for reinforcements to help in the search. A single individual, such as a home owner, generally does not have that luxury. If he is certain an invasion has occurred, he is better off to barricade himself in a "safe room" and lay in wait for the invaders to come to him. This way he can deal with them by surprise and from behind cover. MOUT Principles (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) teach us that built up areas (such as buildings) overwhelmingly favor the defender over the aggressor. Thus, Plan A for a private-citizen/homeowner is to take a covered position and call the police. The same plan for a single police officer would be to take a position of advantage outside and call for a back-up...or two.

But, what if that homeowner is not sure enough to call the police. Reality tells us that a citizen who cries wolf at every little sound in the night will be receiving increasingly delayed police responses (if at all). What if he isn't sure whether that sound of breaking glass was the cat knocking over a vase, or if it was something more sinister. Let's be honest, you probably won't call when you're not sure. Similarly, neither will you stay ensconced behind cover with your Benelli Super-90 pointed at the triple locked door, barricaded until the sun rises. Another more sobering consideration: What if that strange sound of glass breaking came from your child's bedroom across the house? I will go out into the darkness alone to make sure, and unless you are a spineless liberal coward, so will you.

With that decision out of the way, let's discuss some tactical principles that will help minimize the already considerable amount of danger. Remember the reason you are searching, because that will determine the intensity and method of your efforts. If you are simply investigating the sound of glass breaking at the far end of the house, you won't necessarily be looking into closets or under furniture...not yet anyway. You will be moving carefully and stealthily toward the source of the sound. On the flip-side, if that sound of glass breaking was followed by your child screaming and a stranger's foul language ordering her to shut up?! You will be conducting a dynamic hostage rescue, and be attacking the problem violently and aggressively. Just as you match the speed of your shooting to the difficulty of the problem at hand, so do you balance the level of aggressiveness and degree of speed to the tactical situation before you. Regardless of the type of search you conduct, these principles will help you immensely.


1. Use your senses to look for target indicators. Primarily, you will rely on your sense of sight (eyes) and your sense of hearing (ears). Do not, however, dismiss the other senses. Your sense of smell as well as touch will provide essential data about the whereabouts of the enemy to you during your search.

Target Indicators are anything that will indicate the presence of an adversary. They are often categorized as Shine, Movement, Sound, Smell, Shape, Contrast, Human Sign, and Tactical Sign. Some indicators may be very obvious like the sound of a careful footfall on a creaky wooden floor, the reflection of a hidden adversary on a light fixture, a shadow on the floor in front of you, a flicker of movement in the darkness, or even a gun muzzle protruding from around a corner. T.I.'s may also be subtle such as the sound of fabric scraping against a wall, careful breathing in a darkened room, or an open door that was previously closed.

Target indicators may also be olfactory. For example, the smell of a smoker in a non-smoking residence is difficult to miss. Weapon's solvents, cologne, body odor, and the more primal human scents may also alert you to the presence of a hostile. Human Sign and Tactical Sign are indicators left behind by sloppy adversaries. Fresh muddy foot prints on a clean rug, smoldering cigarettes in an ashtray, or palm prints on a foggy glass window are good examples of Human Sign. Tactical Sign are any indication that the adversary has modified his environment to his presence. Open windows on a cool day, furniture stacked against a door, booby traps, are all examples of Tactical Sign. There are others.

You may even feel the adversary's body heat as you search a close quarters environments such as a small hiding place. I experienced this firsthand during a search for a narcotics suspect. He'd fled our initial room assault and run to the rear of the house. After a meticulously s-l-o-w and thorough search, we reached the only room remaining...the bathroom. He'd been hiding in the cabinet under the sink for over an hour, and I distinctly remember feeling his body heat emanating through the cracks in the door of the cabinet as I moved to open it. Too bad for him! These subtle, and not-so-subtle clues will be easily noticed IF you are looking for them. They denote attempts at concealment by those whom you are searching for. They are hostile and dangerous indications that someone is there, hiding...perhaps waiting for you!

2. Avoid producing target indicators. Just as you seek target indicators during your search, you must strive not to produce them yourself. Searching a building for a hostile is 50% hunting, and 50% avoiding being hunted, At such time, stealth is king! Unless you are forced to rush into a confrontation (hostiles in your kid's bedroom for example), take it slow, careful and methodical. Be quiet, be careful, move slowly, and handle each tactical problem individually. If you make an unintentional noise, stop - look - listen for any reaction by the adversary before proceeding. Wait and listen for about sixty seconds before proceeding.

3. Do not assume something is secure until you've checked it out yourself. Do not rationalize something that is out of place, check it out and be sure. I was once searching a residential area for a madman with an ax who'd tried to lobotomize a couple of citizens in the best Viking tradition. I was moving along the front of a residence with my back-up man when we heard a slight metallic sound coming from the driveway area. We alerted to the sound (audible target indicator) and began moving down the driveway. Halfway to the backyard that lay beyond it, we heard a clothes dryer operating inside the house. It sounded like someone had forgotten to empty the change out of their pockets before washing their clothes. We rationalized that sound was the metallic sound we'd heard and dismissed the possibility of the villain's presence. After a superficial scan of the yard, we retraced our steps back to the street. As we reached the next driveway, our boy ran out into the street, away from us, ax in hand, from the yard that we'd just "cleared"! Doom on me! Luckily, everything turned out fine, but don't you make the same mistake! Remember, be Dead Sure, or be Dead!

4. Maximize your distance from potential threats and minimize your exposure to them. Stay away from corners and any other area that you cannot see beyond as far as the geography will allow. Do not let your muzzle (or feet) protrude into the unsecured space in front of you. Doing so will not only betray your position and intentions, but it may get your weapon snatched away from you. It may even get you killed.

5. Move Tactically. Keep your balance as you move from one problem to another. Keep your weapon in a position to fire instantly at any threat. The purpose of any tactical maneuver is to allow your muzzle to cover the potential danger areas as you encounter them. Observe the Three Eye Principle. This means that your weapon must be oriented at whatever it is that your eyes are looking at. Where ever your eyes go, your weapon must also go. Keep the weapon in a ready position or "hunting" attitude so that it does not obstruct your vision while you search. When moving through open areas do so briskly, but do not run unless you are already under fire. Move at a brisk walk unless approaching a specific danger area. When closing in on a potential danger area, move by using the Taylor designed "Shuffle Step". Avoid crossing your feet at such times because it will impair your ability to respond in all directions.

6. When it is time to shoot, pay attention to the basics. My associates and I jokingly call these the "Three Secrets". They are no secret at all. They are sight alignment, sight picture, and trigger control. These "secrets" will allow you to get fast solid hits on your adversary in the least time possible in order to keep him from doing the same to you. Remember,. you cannot miss fast enough to make a difference! You cannot miss fast enough to win a gunfight! If you cannot hit on demand, all the tactics in the world will be of no use to you.

Whether you are a homeowner checking a noise at 0300 hours, a police officer responding to a burglary alarm, or a SWAT member conducting a covert search, these principles will help minimize the danger and keep you one step ahead of your adversary.

An excerpt from the upcoming "Perfect Practice:A Guide to Excellence in Tactical Pistol Shooting"


Getting hits on a target is easy to do once you know how to do it. Like any other control and dexterity dependent skill, there is a proven and correct way to shoot a pistol. I am not talking about Bullseye Shooting, although some of the skill involved in that discipline also corresponds to tactical shooting. We are primarily interested in self-defense shooting. This means that we want the ability to place solid hits on an adversary from a condition of unreadiness under urgent time limits. There are several fundamentals to marksmanship, but of these, three are most important. It is these three which must be focused on by the tactical shooter. They are Sight Alignment, Sight Picture, and Trigger Control.

Sight Alignment is the relation between the front sight, the rear sight, and the shooter's eye. Sight alignment is established by placing your visual focus on the front sight and aligning it with the rear sight irrespective of any target). The top of the front sight must be seen as level with the top of the rear sight. Additionally, you must see equal amounts of light visible on both sides of the front sight as viewed through the rear sight notch. This describes perfect vertical and horizontal alignment of the sights. This is the sight alignment that we always would like to have. Sometimes we will settle for less if the target is close enough. Generally, the closer the target is, the less perfect your sight alignment must be. Conversely, the more distant target, or the smaller target at close range, requires greater precision in the alignment of the sights. In practice, however, we must always strive for perfect alignment.

Sight Picture is the sight alignment as it is seen super-imposed on the target's center of mass. Center of Mass describes the central portion of the visible target. Now let me ask you something. How many things can the human eye focus on at any one time? The human eye is similar to a camera and it can only focus on ONE thing at a time. With regards to the sight picture, there are three things that we want to keep in alignment - the target, the front sight, and the rear sight. Now imagine looking at these three points through a camera. If you focus the lens on the front sight, you can still see the target well enough, although it appears somewhat out of focus in comparison to the front sight. Additionally, you can still see the rear sight well enough, although it too appears slightly out of focus in comparison to the front sight.

By focusing in on the Front Sight, you can see both the target and the rear sight well enough in the peripheral vision, (although not as clear and focused as the front sight) to keep all three points in alignment. That is the "secret" of sight picture. The more difficult the shot is (i.e. distant target or small target), then the more precise that sight picture must be. The visual and mental focus must always remain on the front sight.

Another very important aspect of the sight picture is closing the non-dominant eye. The simple fact of the matter is that you cannot focus on the front sight as well if both eyes are kept open. You must close one eye. But which one? We all have one eye that is more "dominant" than the other. That eye is the one you want to use for sighting. Here is how you find out which eye is dominant - Make a small "OK" signal with your primary hand, and look at a target through the opening with both eyes open. Now close the eye that is opposite to your primary hand. If the target disappeared from view, your support side eye is dominant. If it did not disappear from view, your primary side eye is dominant.

If your primary side eye is dominant, you simply close the support side eye when focusing on the front sight. If your dominant eye is on the support side, you have two options. Either close the eye that is opposite of your primary side and learn to sight with the non-dominant eye, or close that non-dominant eye and angle the head slightly to allow the support side eye access to the sights.

This is the Sequence of Events - Your eyes are initially focused on the target, specifically, on the center of mass. The pistol is raised up into the line of sight between the eye and the target. The non-dominant eye is closed to allow the dominant eye to focus better. The Sight Alignment is verified by bringing the visual focus to the front sight, as seen through the rear sight notch, and as the two points of reference are aligned on the target's center of mass. As the eye focuses clearly on the front sight, the rear sight and the target will be visible in the foreground and background, but will be slightly out of focus. You must see the front sight with crystal clarity and sharp enough focus to be able to count the serration's on it. This keeps the pistol on target.

The third fundamental, and probably the most important, is Trigger Control. Proper trigger control allows the shooter to fire a shot without disturbing the sight picture. The trigger must be pressed smoothly to the rear, without any disturbance of the sight picture, until the pressure suffices and the pistol discharges. Two key elements to this are Finger Placement and the "Surprise Break".

Correct Finger Placement on the trigger is dependent on the type of trigger you are operating. The placement should allow you to press straight to the rear without any lateral divergence in pressure. Placing too much of the finger, or conversely, not placing enough finger on the trigger will cause your shots to string laterally on the target. Such extremes in placement will cause you to exert pressure to the side as well as the rear, with poor results on target.

Now, naturally, some triggers are easier to operate than others, but all can be managed with enough training. With Colt/Browning single action triggers that area of the first pad of the finger seems to work best. When using a Glock pistol, the area between the pad and the first joint will allow you the best control. Finally, if you are using a double-action pistol, you must place much more finger on the trigger in order to provide the leverage necessary to operate the heavier trigger. For these shooters the area just above the first joint will work best.

The shooter now applies smooth and constant pressure to the trigger, until eventually and almost unintentionally, the pressure is sufficient to "break" the trigger. This is called a Surprise Break. Pressing the trigger in this manner may be likened to using an eyedropper. Think of the process involved. You "align" the dropper above your eye, you get the proper "sight picture" by focusing on the end of the eyedropper, and finally you gradually begin increasing pressure until one drop forms and falls into the eye, by surprise. If you force the drop out by mashing the eyedropper, you will flinch, close the eye, and get the eyedrops everywhere except in your eye. The same process applies to operating the trigger on a pistol. First, align the sights with the target and establish an appropriate sight picture. Next, focus visually on the front sight while building constant smooth pressure on the trigger until, eventually the pistol fires, by surprise.

Of paramount importance is that the "break" of the trigger is not specifically expected by the shooter. He knows that it is going to go, and is continuing constant pressure on the trigger, but he does not know the exact precise instant when it will "break". The trigger must break almost unintentionally. If the shooter anticipates the break, or forces it to occur, he will invariable bear down reflexively on the weapon and flinch at the final moment. This will cause the shot to go errant.

In a combative situation, you will not have an open ended time interval in which to press the trigger so very c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y. This does not, however, invalidate or change the process. Going back to the eyedropper analogy. Those of you who put a drop in your eyes on a daily basis know that it becomes quite easy as you get used to the procedure. As you become accomplished at using the eyedropper, you do not require the lengthy time interval to "align", "focus", and "p-r-e-s-s". On the contrary, it happens very quickly due to practice. Operating the trigger on a pistol is the same. Through perfect practice and programming, you will operate the trigger in the same fashion as with the surprise break, but you will do it in less time. This is called the Compressed Surprise Break.

A final aspect of trigger control which is often ignored is Follow Through. Follow Through is controlling the pistol and the trigger after the trigger breads (shot is fired) in order to avoid disturbing the alignment of the pistol. When the trigger breaks, maintain your focus on the front sight, and keep finger contact on the trigger as you hold it to the rear. When actually firing a shot, you will visually lose the front sight momentarily on recoil. Regain front sight focus immediately as soon as the recoils dissipates. Additionally, do not release the trigger until the recoil cycle is complete. Maintain finger contact on the trigger and hold it to the rear as the shot is fired. Release it only after you have reacquired the front sight. Even then, only release the trigger far enough to "reset" it. When the trigger release is begun, you will eventually notice a slight "click". This is the disconnector resetting the trigger. This is as far as you need to go in order to fire a second shot. Allowing the trigger to move any further forward increases the recovery time between shots.

The ability to fire an additional controlled shot is extremely important in a tactical situation. Except for special circumstances, such as single precise head shots, you will usually fire twice. The reasons for this are to enhance the damage on the target as well as to insure at least one hit in stressful situations that may cause missed shots.

The way to fire that second shot quickly, is to release the trigger only far enough to "reset" it via the disconnector device in each pistol. The trigger will be reset when you hear the audible (and feel the tactile) "click" as you begin to release. At this point, refocus on the front sight as you did for the first shot. Simply begin the pressure build-up with the trigger finger again. You must experience a second surprise break for the second shot. This is called a Controlled Pair. Each of the two shots is a controlled, individual shot. Each of the two shots requires a separate sight picture, and a separate surprise break...even if executed very quickly.

These are the Three Secrets of Marksmanship study them well as they are the key to hitting. In the end, they are the key to your survival.