By Eric Tull
A Suarez International Force on Force class is the single best class you can take to quickly improve your gunfighting skills. Simply put, it’s the closest you can come to real gunfight without having bullets whiz past your ear. But it’s true that the airsoft gear requirements and unconventional nature of the class can be a bit intimidating for potential students. To help overcome this, I’ve put together this guide to ensure new students get the most out of their first FoF class—and all the ones they take after that. (Because after you’ve taken one, there’s no going back.)
GEAR YOU’LL NEED
Quality Airsoft Gun and Magazines
After taking a weekend off and spending good money on a class, you don’t want to have to sit out because your gear doesn’t work. You’ll need a quality gas-powered airsoft pistol. Do your own research on airsoft brands, but Tokyo Marui and KWA/KSC are an excellent starting point. You’ll also want three magazines for the gun, so you won’t have to reload as often (and also because magazines are the most likely part of the airsoft gun to break).
As a side note, it’s important to treat airsoft pistols with care. They break fairly easily, so you don’t want to throw them around or do disarms with them. For that, get a rubber gun or blue gun.
Proper Gas and High-Quality BBs
Make sure you have the proper gas for your gun. Some use propane/green gas, others use keyboard duster gas, and some use CO2. You may need to purchase silicone to lubricate the O-rings. Make sure to purchase high-quality BBs for your gun; the containers at big box stores aren’t as accurate and are harder on your gun. Purchasing from online airsoft specialty stores is a good bet. Also, be sure to research the proper BB weight for your gun.
Proper Clothing and Mask
I’m a big fan of hoodies for FoF. They provide enough protection that you won’t start bleeding when shot, but not so much that you won’t feel rounds impact. A standard paintball mask works perfectly against airsoft rounds; bonus points if it comes with thermal lenses, which prevent fogging. Underneath, I wear a very thin balaclava to protect my neck and head, which inevitably get hit. A shemagh also works fine, but may start to slip off after repeated drills.
As is true for most other SI courses, you’ll need to wear good shoes. Obviously, FoF isn’t some square-range class where everyone is in a line standing still. You’ll be spending two days moving very dynamically. Choose footwear with good arch support and tread. Also, keep in mind that the instructor won’t cancel class because it’s raining. You’ll still need to be able to move quickly on wet ground.
WHAT YOU WON’T NEED
Admittedly, I’ve never tested this with my own vest, but I doubt wearing one will allow you to feel when you get shot—which is a major benefit of FoF. Feeling a little pain when you get shot is important. You learn from getting hit; it keeps you from doing unrealistic things.
Multiple Layers of Clothing
While there’s a little pain involved, airsoft doesn’t hurt THAT much. So there’s no need to have a bunch of restrictive layers on. I prefer wearing just an undershirt beneath my gun and a hoodie. That way, I’ll still have a bit of coverage if someone shoots me in the stomach while I’m clearing my garment to draw my gun. People tend to worry too much about the pain involved in airsoft and end up wearing too many layers. If 10-year-olds playing airsoft in the woods can handle getting hit, I’m sure you can, too.
Shooting gloves can mess up your drawstroke. Most students start the class with gloves, then get rid of them within a couple hours of training. Yes, you’ll probably get shot in the hand at least once, so bring athletic tape with you to wrap the wound. The only time I wear gloves is when I’m playing the role of the bad guy and charging at someone with a knife. When doing this, you’re much more likely to get shot in the hands, because people tend to instinctively shoot at the weapon. Cheap work gloves that you can remove quickly work well for drills like that.
Test your gun 2-3 weeks before class to make sure everything works. It’s important to test it well in advance, because if something is broken, you’ll need time to order new parts. Also, the night before class, load your magazines with BBs. You’ll spend a lot of time getting your gear together when you arrive at class; arriving with loaded magazines means you’ll have one less thing to do that morning.
Experiment with different techniques. We firmly believe the side step is stupid, but make sure to try it yourself. The best part about FoF training is that you learn which techniques actually work and which are range tricks. Gabe often talks about the Latin phrase “in ferro veritas”—loosely translated, when swords clash, you shall know the truth. This is FoF in a nutshell. You’ll be able to tell right away if some Youtube instructor’s flashy trick works—or doesn’t. That’s not something you want to test when real bullets are coming at you.
Be a good training partner. The easiest way to be a poor training partner is to start gaming the drills. If the instructor asks you to do a certain thing, make sure to do it. It’s surprisingly easy to start gaming drills when you’re playing the bad guy, since you’ll already know what your partner is going to do and where he’s going to move. But in real life, a criminal has no way to know this. So you need to act as if you don’t. Remember, the point of being the bad guy isn’t to win, but to help your partner learn. In Judo, we follow the principle of “Mutual Welfare and Benefit” whenever we train. Both you and your partner need to learn and improve from the drills. Keep this in mind when you’re the bad guy.
Be okay, but not too okay, with losing and getting shot. This is not a good class to take if you have a fragile ego. You’ll be in well over 100 simulated gunfights, and you’ll mess up a bunch of them. Just remember, it’s much better to get hit with airsoft BBs in training than with bullets in an actual gunfight. Learn from your mistakes, and watch how quickly you improve in just two days. If you follow the advice in this article, you’ll learn more in FoF than in any other class you’ve previously taken.
Eric Tull is the Suarez International Staff Instructor for Iowa.
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