Posts Tagged ‘Aaron Barruga’

Gunfighter Moment – Aaron Barruga

Saturday, May 27th, 2017


Aaron Barruga
May 2017


By his 20th iteration, an Afghan guerrilla with minimal marksmanship training was shooting the 2x2x2 exercise just as efficiently as Instagram tactical celebrities. Only an hour earlier had we discussed some key points of marksmanship, then I gave him a crate of ammo and coached him through each repetition of the exercise. Two weeks later, that same guerrilla fled his checkpoint during the initial phase of Taliban attack. So what happened?

Obviously there is no link between how quickly we can shoot an exercise and our performance in battle. Regardless, as tactical shooters we can be notoriously bad at searching for significance where there is none, or misreading the real importance of a shooting drill. We see this happen quite a bit with speed. Everyone wants to be faster, which is fine, but faster does not always correlate with better.

For novice shooters, static speed shooting exercises help develop confidence and proficiency. For experienced shooters, speed exercises become a measurement of how well we can learn a sequence and perfect our movements. Neither of these are bad, however, the seductiveness of a rapid rate of fire can cause shooters to focus on the wrong aspects of their performance. Moreover, while pursuing speed it can become easy for us to neglect the development of discipline that forces us to proactively see our sights.

We retroactively see our sights by hijacking our natural point of aim. I see this happen a lot at the seven yard line. Whether with a pistol or carbine, shooters just point and squeeze their trigger as soon as they “feel” their sights are in the right spot. We become so focused on beating a time standard that we neglect the unintended development of bad habits. Although it is important to understand where your body naturally presents your sights, it can build a false positive regarding performance feedback.


I experienced these effects as a junior team guy. As a novice, I obsessed over how quickly I could shoot a string of five rounds at two targets, perform a reload, and then shoot the exercise again. Although I was developing confidence, it was at the expense of incredibly sloppy speed. During a force on force scenario I rushed my shots in a shoot house and either missed or landed wounding shots that would fail to neutralize a threat. The cadre pulled me aside and told me to discipline my fire and see my sights. Roger that, see my sights, no issue. The next run through I continued to rush my shots and not enforce any discipline because I had performed so many garbage reps shooting for speed.

Because I had developed quick, but sloppy hand speed, I assumed that the cadence at which I shot rounds against cardboard represented how quickly I needed to shoot a gun against a real threat. The next day, the cadre demonstrated their run through the force on force scenario. None of their shots were rapid fire and their cadence was entirely sporadic. They only shot when they saw center on the OPFOR, and instead made up for speed with efficiency moving in between rooms.

From a tactical marksmanship standpoint, everything comes down to whether or not you can present your sights, and then exercise discipline when squeezing the trigger. That’s it. Marksmanship exercises ensure we understand how to use a weapon, but it is actually really hard—as demonstrated by the Afghan guerrilla and myself—to design shooting exercises that create a reliable baseline for real world performance. Yes, trim the fat and sharpen your mechanics, but do not assume a sub one second draw, or a sub two second 2x2x2 signifies the most important aspects of training.

Unfortunately, it can be incredibly difficult to convince a shooter of the aforementioned. The martial nature of combat marksmanship encourages us to seek out sequences, and then shoot those sequences as fast as we can. Learning a sequence, then following all of the steps to perform that sequence makes us feel good about ourselves. This is also why so many shooters never break their plateau. Because they have a pre-shooting sequence, and a post-shooting sequence, shooters can poorly perform a shooting exercise by shooting as fast as possible, but because they did their pre and post sequences, they mentally check the box and reward themselves for following a list of steps. Pre and post shooting sequences are not bad. However, assuming they signify proficiency is akin to assuming that the pre-lift act of adding weights to an olympic bar, then the post act of removing them signifies our ability to power clean.

We must encourage shooters to develop speed through exercises such as 2x2x2, but all speed must be followed up with discipline. Aggressively driving our sights to the center of an easy hit target helps develop novices, but plateaus the seasoned marksman. Worse, it is easy for experienced shooters to slip into auto-pilot in which they are not truly seeing their sights, and are instead seduced by the rapid rate of fire in an exercise.

Although we need to develop the confidence to shoot quickly while under stress, we must always reinforce discipline. Shooting a string of five rounds at a cardboard target only requires us to drive our sights back to a single plain, and thus we can unintentionally hijack our natural point of aim. But remember, real flesh moves. Shooting five rounds at a living breathing target causes the target to move after each round, and results in five separate plains where we acquire sight picture. If we’ve spent our range time chasing speed and building sloppy habits, we can set ourselves up for failure when we encounter a real target that requires a slower rate of fire in exchange for more precise shots.


Aaron Barruga is Special Forces veteran with deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Pacific Theater of Operations. He has trained foreign commandos, police officers, and militia fighters. He is the founder at Guerrilla Approach LLC, where he consults law enforcement officers on counter-terrorism and vehicle tactics.

Gunfighter Moment is a weekly feature brought to you by Bravo Company USA. Bravo Company is home of the Gunfighters, and each week they bring us a different trainer to offer some words of wisdom.

Guerilla Approach – How We Construct Tactics For A Real World Fight

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

Athlon Media Announces Aaron Barruga As Tactical Field Editor

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

Athlon Outdoors, the leading producer of firearms and tactical media, has added Aaron Barruga as Tactical Field Editor.

Barruga, one of the premier names in the firearms industry and a respected military veteran, will contribute to Athlon Outdoors’ extensive print and digital properties, which include 24 magazines, five websites, and 18 social media channels, as well as a growing network of videos.

Following the tragedies of 9/11, Barruga, owner and founder of Guerrilla Approach LLC., enlisted in the military and served in Special Forces. Through deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Pacific theater of operations, he learned the importance of adaptability.

“Environments in the Global War on Terror were never similar; we needed to be proactive learners, and recognize that in a second everything could change,” Barruga said.

Barruga trained and executed missions with foreign commandos, police agencies, and militia fighters, and utilizes these experiences as a framework for his training methods.

“Aaron is part of the vanguard of Global War on Terror vetrepreneurs that are shaping the future of the firearms industry by sharing his lessons learned from not only success, but also failure,” said Athlon Outdoors VP/ Group Publisher and Content Director Nick Seifert. “That’s the type of forward thinking Athlon Outdoors wants to be a part of. Aaron Barruga is a rising star and one of the most experienced, interesting and intellectual people in our industry.”

SureFire – Field Notes Ep. 8, Vehicle Tactics with Aaron Barruga

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

SureFire Field Notes is a multi-segment informational video series with tips and techniques from subject matter experts of all backgrounds. In this episode, Aaron Barruga of Guerrilla Approach discusses low-light vehicle tactics.

Guerrilla Approach:

Filmed and edited by Eugene Nagata of Kiri Studios.

B-roll from Silent R Productions.

Craig ‘Sawman’ Sawyer Gets Real with Firearms Industry, Veterans

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

One of the most well-respected veterans on the planet, Craig ‘Sawman’ Sawyer, speaks with fellow Special Operations veteran Aaron Barruga (Guerrilla Approach LLC) on issues regarding veteran exploitation in the private sector, the VA, and PTSD.

Check out the full writeup at, and the full video below:

Gunfighter Moment – Aaron Barruga

Saturday, January 14th, 2017

We Can Do Better At Training Leaders

One of the most important ass chewings I received in the military was at Robin Sage. During the final phase of tactical training in the Q-Course, I experienced a case of senioritis that impacted my performance. As the patrol leader for a routine ambush mission, I apathetically presented an operations order to my evaluating cadre. Because the ambush is the baseline for teaching military planning and tactics, Green Beret candidates are drilled to the point of exhaustion (and boredom) in the science of mission preparation and execution via ambushes. This familiarity led to a presentation in which I tried to demonstrate how confident I was by delivering a halfhearted mission briefing, classic “too kool for skool” behavior.

Critical to these briefings is the execution portion in which every element confirms its specific tasks with adjacent friendlies and the broader scheme of the operation. This requires precise detail so there is no confusion, but is unavoidably dry and boring in delivery. I thought I could speed through this section by using phrases such as “situation dependent” or “context will dictate”. The evaluating cadre let me get about halfway through before he cut me off.

Releasing a sigh, he looked me straight in the eyes and said, “STOP… Everything in life is situation dependent. Stop speaking in generalities like some bullshit chapter from Sun Zsu’s the ‘Art of War’. Everything about a combat operation is uncertain, that is why we attempt to be as precise as possible during planning” (this was an Army ass chewing, so there were of course a lot more expletives). I was kicked out of my own mission briefing and left to wonder if I had just failed the final phase of Special Forces training.

A few months later, I was on an ODA learning SF’s brand of CQB. During breaks, the other new guys and myself would debate the validity of the different CQB techniques being taught. This was ridiculous. The entire time we misused phrases such as “situation dependent” and “shooter’s preference”. We thought we were adding context to our arguments, but were instead failing to clarify our viewpoints. In reality, we didn’t need to have opinions, we needed to keep our mouths shut and learn. Unlike my use of vagueness in Robin Sage to demonstrate confidence, in the shoot house we failed to clarify our statements because we couldn’t substantiate our opinions with any real evidence or experience. This type of behavior is best described as the “contextual fallacy”.

There is nothing wrong with adding context by declaring “shooter’s preference” and “situation dependent”. For some instructors, it’s a passive habit developed through public speaking. However, there is a difference between framing a concept through contextual statements, versus hijacking these phrases so that we can weasel out of critical thinking. Although shades of grey exist in every situation, it is the job of instructors to clarify uncertainty. After all, you are paying them in part to do so. When they utilize the context fallacy, instructors typically get a pass because their non-committal stance is perceived as a zen-like state of mind. This appeal to authority fools the amatuer, inhibits the growth of the professional, and shifts the norms of the tactical community as a whole towards accepting mediocrity.

In fairness, it is exhausting to approach all new information through a lense of robust analysis. But if that information is gathered for the purpose of being utilized in tactical engagements, in which our lives or the lives of others will be put in danger, shouldn’t this signal a decrease in our willingness to dwell in uncertainty? The contextual fallacy also fools us when it is used to critique procedural rigidity and behavior that discourages adaptability. Yes, we must remain vulnerable to new concepts, but this shouldn’t come at the expense of declaring what we know to be more true than false. Wallowing in vagueness by proclaiming “context!” affords lukewarm arguments a safety net that deteriorates one of our most critical skills as tactical leaders, decisiveness.

Decisiveness does not imply a willingness to reject new information, and instead establishes a foundation that allows us to analyze new details. If we fail to take a stance, we can confuse good luck with good tactics, and jump to haphazard conclusions with incomplete data. We must always ask: what is the evidence, how good is the evidence, are there real world examples that disprove the evidence? Well rounded leaders ask these questions and do their best to falsify unvetted concepts. This does not always need to be a lengthy task, but it does require scholarship beyond browsing 15-second Instagram videos. Absent of this approach, we simply collect facts that can be contradictory, confusing, and catastrophic when used in real tactical engagements.

During battle, leaders must immediately recognize patterns under ambiguous and exigent circumstances. Acting with too little information can be dangerous (e.g. getting baited into a larger attack), but delaying action, when in fact recognizable patterns have occurred, is just as dangerous. Organizations that permit the contextual fallacy as an acceptable line of thinking will inevitably produce individuals that are incapable of assuming leadership during time sensitive operations or crisis management. In these situations, rarely will you possess the desired amount of information and resources; yet decisions still must be made and acted upon. This indicates the importance of promoting the development of decisiveness as a part of tactical learning. We do not create leaders capable of adapting to harsh environments by shortchanging them in training that discourages critical thinking.

But what kind of organization would willingly permit the context fallacy? Most typically do not, and the context fallacy is an undiagnosed cancer that goes unobserved until an agency participates in large-scale training exercises such as active shooter. This is best displayed when a team spends fifteen minutes running through a scenario, then fifty minutes arguing about how they should have attacked the problem. Although discourse should be encouraged, all opinions are not equal and hierarchies of knowledge must be enforced. Ignoring these truths ultimately fails to develop new recruits into potential leaders. Worse, if left unchecked in an organization’s culture, few individuals will be capable of differentiating between ideas that sound good versus ideas that are actually actionable.

The context fallacy is so seductive because it allows individuals to bargain way beyond their means and level of experience. Even better, the moment firm opposition arises, they can retreat back into obscurity with no consequences. This behavior is the antithesis of attaining knowledge because it doesn’t require any discipline, and more importantly, it doesn’t allow for failure. An individual simply observes what others are doing, stands on their shoulders to accomplish something, and then if he fails, he doesn’t take any of the responsibility for it. We must recognize that context frames a situation, but the context fallacy should not be used to bailout weak ideas and cherry-picked information.

Aaron Barruga is Special Forces veteran with deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Pacific Theater of Operations. He has trained foreign commandos, police officers, and militia fighters. He is the founder at Guerrilla Approach LLC, where he consults law enforcement officers on counter-terrorism and vehicle tactics.

Gunfighter Moment is a weekly feature brought to you by Bravo Company USA. Bravo Company is home of the Gunfighters, and each week they bring us a different trainer to offer some words of wisdom.

Aaron Barruga – Enough Is Enough: A Tactical Training PSA

Monday, November 14th, 2016

(Author’s photo circa Afghanistan 2012. The stretcher held a patient fighting for his life after an ambush. The red markings on the floor are his own blood)

I get it, the cargo pant commando training culture of the 90’s and early 2000’s just isn’t compatible with the current generation of tech savvy tactical shooters. Millennials–who aren’t just teenagers and can be adults in their 30’s–are accustomed to a simple message they’ve heard their entire life “mainstream isn’t cool.”

I understand the frustration with legacy Special Operations instructors that are elevated to celebrity status, despite their complete inability to articulate a thought, or present information in a non condescending manner. There is nothing more painful than watching a commando, rich with experience, fumble through talking to a camera to convey a point, or interact on Instagram in the same manner as our grandparents.

This is why audiences gave hope and promise to the mediocre instructor–with no experience–made popular by social media. His neglect of tactical cargo-panted-velcro everything signaled a direct message, he is relatable, he is like me. It is also intoxicating to watch these individuals challenge conventional wisdom. When a mediocre instructor with no credentials whips a sarcastic quip at a career commando, it causes audiences to applaud in uproar of a counterculture instructor that has “beat the system”.

Although this might be clever marketing or culturally punk rock, it is dangerous for the transfer of knowledge. Despite any legacy SOF instructor’s inability to speak in front of a camera, or generate viral social media content, his lessons are hard learned in the real world with real blood and the real loss of brothers and sisters in arms.

What he lacks in social media charisma, he makes up for in battle hardened intestinal fortitude. His scars are both physical and emotional, not “training scars” from shooting at cardboard. So proceed forward shooters, elect your “instructors” because of their cool factor, just don’t expect them to have any answers for you when you pay hard prices in the real world.

Aaron Barruga is Special Forces veteran with deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Pacific Theater of Operations. He has trained foreign commandos, police officers, and militia fighters. He is the founder at Guerrilla Approach, LLC, where he consults law enforcement officers on counter-terrorism and vehicle tactics.

Gunfighter Moment – Aaron Barruga

Saturday, October 8th, 2016

Natural Instinct


A “combat snapshot” refers to how much information a shooter can process in his environment. This is both a proactive and retroactive process. For example, if an individual proceeds into a room from a hallway, he identifies the layout of the new room while remembering the layout of the hallway. This mental process is what helped our ancestors avoid becoming dinner for lions, and is what helps us perform other tasks such as texting while driving.

Our minds default to pattern recognition. If we enter an unfamiliar room (whether in combat or at a dinner party), our eyes will be drawn to motion. Our brains then employ a friend or foe heuristic that indicates whether we can remain calm or if other action should be taken (e.g. get out, there’s a lion at this dinner party!).

The quality at which we perceive information determines whether we receive data that is actionable or just noise. Entering a crowded room, you can scan the environment by simply moving your eyes within their sockets. Moving your head left and right may be necessary to gather data at different angles, but if we jerk our heads too quickly, any information about our surroundings becomes a blur. Another gift passed on to us from our ancestors is our body’s preference for expending the least amount of effort possible to accomplish a task. Unnecessary movement expends precious energy, but can also signal to predators our location.

Excessive movement also distracts our ability to obtain a combat snapshot. Recall any time you’ve been in the woods hunting or just hiking with family. Regardless of being a soldier or civilian, if you hear something that doesn’t sound right, you naturally slow your movement and alter your posture to scan your surroundings. Your eyes scan in their sockets, and your head moves in a methodical manner to assess the environment.

Consider that natural behavior in the woods and apply it to range training. Although tactical shooters are taught a variety of techniques for gaining a combat snapshot or regaining situational awareness, some methods tend place greater emphasis on performing pre and post shooting rituals. Unfortunately these movements provide no advantage in the real world, or worse, actually contradict our natural survival instincts.


Search and assess theatrics are heavily critiqued among instructors with extensive combat or use of force experience. Although it is important to maintain situational awareness, unnecessary head whipping movements do little to provide a shooter with actionable data. The sister action to theatrical search and asses is a movement I’m going to coin as “spider monkeying”. This occurs when barriers or vehicles are incorporated in flat range training. Rather than reading the terrain and modifying their posture, shooters begin to bob and weave their head around obstacles. This is accompanied by excessive pushing and pulling of a pistol in and out of ready positions (e.g. position three to position four, back to position three, etc).

At full speed, spider monkeying looks like a shooter continuously bobbing and weaving like a boxer, combined with the push-pulling of a pistol into and away from his chest. This behavior occurs for two reasons. First, the shooter is attempting to maximize perceived cover while mistakenly assuming that the extra bob and weave movements are causing the enemy to remain reactive. Second, the shooter knows where all of the targets are located and isn’t required to alter his approach. Instead he can just shoot the scenario similar to a USPSA stage with no regards to application of cover and minimizing his silhouette.

Spider monkeying emphasizes the importance of adding blind shoots to range training. When a shooter must interact with a tactical scenario similar to the real world, it decelerates his movements. Instead of exaggerated bobbing, a shooter obtains a combat snapshot through purposeful action and throttle control. Although a shooter might transition between moving quickly and slowly, these are still deliberate actions as opposed to random head jerking. Why? Because in an uncertain environment, excessive movement will either visually give away your position or inhibit your ability to read data in the environment.

Further examination of throttle control can be observed in certain war movies and combat helmet camera footage. This week marked the 23rd anniversary of the events that would become famous through “Black Hawk Down”. Despite the movie’s delineation from actual events, the actors did do justice through their tactical portrayal of Rangers and Delta Operators. Weapon’s handling and fire team movements appeared similar to the real world. No unnecessary head bobbing or peek-a-boo, just methodical clearing of sectors.

Throttle control is also observed by watching helmet camera footage of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. When soldiers make contact with the enemy there is chaos and ambiguity as platoons attempt to identify where the enemy is located. What is not readily observable is unnecessary movement. During the initial phases of a firefight, it is very hard to tell where enemy fire is coming from unless you are amid the enemy’s formation. This is why soldiers minimize their silhouette and scan their sectors to find new data to add to their combat snapshot. Unnecessary movement is not only disorienting, but it might attract the attention of a PKM machine gunner.

Our instincts represent the culmination of handed down survival mindset from our ancestors. Every lion evaded, spear dodged, or musket ball avoided has fined tuned our senses. To our advantage, we are genetically hardwired to avoid threats. In preparing for violent encounters, we should utilize as much of these senses as possible during range training events.


Aaron Barruga is a Special Forces veteran and founder at Guerrilla Approach LLC. He teaches vehicle tactics and speed shooting for tactical marksmanship.

Gunfighter Moment is a weekly feature brought to you by Bravo Company USA. Bravo Company is home of the Gunfighters, and each week they bring us a different trainer to offer some words of wisdom.