Killing the Active Shooter Book Review

| July 30, 2014 | 4 Comments

Nearly 8 years ago I stumbled upon a fight focused class that would change how I looked at training and personal defense forever.

It was the Terrorist Interdiction class from Suarez International.

The class had a few pre-requisites that I didn’t have at the time, and those classes had pre-requisites, and by the time I was qualified I moved away from places where SI taught frequently.

As time went on fewer people were concerned about terrorist attacks and more people were thinking about active shooters. The Suarez course adapted.

The Kenya terrorist mall incident happened, and while that was the kind of thing the Terrorist Interdiction class was built for there were active shooting incidents happening in America. The coward at Sandy Hook, and then the murderers in Las Vegas prompted Gabe Suarez to write a book on handling active shooters.

At $15, I figured “Killing the Active Shooter” by Gabe Suarez was worth a read. Despite having rough edges, the messages inside the book are sharp.

Numbering 90 pages in length, Killing the Active Shooter is more like a long-form essay than a tactical manual or comprehensive study on the active shooter phenomenon.


General themes

I’m not going to recap the book for you — at 90 pages I think you should just read it through and through — but here are some of the top themes covered in the essay:

  • Analytics about mass shootings. The average length of the active shooting incident, how many are stopped by civilians, how many are stopped by law enforcement, how many kill themselves, etc. I found this very interesting, especially the part about the duration of the shooting event.
  • Philosophies about when to engage a threat or get out. Suarez doesn’t have any hard and fast rules, but challenges you to come up with your own code of ethics. In short, his stance is “God, Family, Tribe” in that order, and when the shooting starts Suarez’s primary goal is to get his loved ones to safety.
  • Thoughts about how to engage an active shooter vs a “typical” criminal attacker. I wonder if Joseph Robert Wilcox would have survived his encounter with the two Las Vegas murderers if he hunted the active shooters instead of trying to challenge one of them.
  • How to identify if someone with a gun is a threat in an active shooter situation. After all, if you’re in plain clothes and engaging the bad guys, are you sure if the other folks with guns are good guys are bad guys? Suarez specifically references the Trolley Square shopping mall shootout (I used to shop there), and how the first responder was an off duty police officer in regular clothes.
  • How to present yourself to police officers as they respond, to help you from being the good guy in regular clothes who got blasted by accident.
  • A basic overview of tools, especially the red dot sight pistols Suarez’s One Source Tactical company has sold for years.

Key thoughts

The book does not put on any airs — the cover is plain, the photos are black and white, and the book already shows signs of wear from being shipped to me and from my initial reading.

I believe the design and the production value is intentional. Suarez does not have a romantic view of encountering the shooter. He continually cautions the reader that their duty is to their family and loved ones first, and your priority should be to get out of the situation.

The book was written very quickly in response to the Las Vegas shooting. Suarez didn’t have time to finish the book before another shooting happened at a high school in Oregon. I know from reading Suarez’s thoughts on WarriorTalk (the Suarez International Web forum) that his thoughts weren’t new for him, but I do feel like the Wal-Mart incident in Vegas really prompted him to put something on paper.

This rush to market — even though the advice is timely and relevant — is also my biggest knock on the book. There are spelling and grammatical errors throughout, and despite a very logical and well structured table of contents some of the anecdotes and maxims are repeated in different chapters. I look forward to an edited second edition.

Should you buy it?

Yes. Buy “Killing the Active Shooter” from One Source Tactical.

You’re reading this blog, which means you’re already in a niche of fight-focused practitioners who are in turn a niche of the people who own firearms. Yes, there are some editorials mis-steps and the cover isn’t made of the most robust card stock in the world, but the purpose of the book is important. The information is good, and even if you don’t agree with 100% of the philosophies within, you should have a good starting point to have a discussion with yourself about what your ethos is.

If you’re really lucky, you will be able to discuss this book with your friends and loved ones — who hopefully are just as armed as you are when the next murdering motherfucker decides to pop off at a school or mall.



I don’t get anything from recommending this book and I’m not affiliated with Suarez International or One Source Tactical except from my past as a student. I have received no compensation for this review.

About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.

4 Comments on "Killing the Active Shooter Book Review"

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  1. Tom says:

    That’s always been a struggle of mine to think about, my life is definitely worth putting in danger for my family and loved ones, but it’s a tough thing to think about, but in a situation hesitating can also be fatal.

    I also like your niche term “fight focused practitioner” I may borrow that.

    • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

      Thanks! I coined it out of respect for my friends, family, and fellow students who really are gunfighters and warriors.

      I’m just a regular guy trying to be the best I can be.

  2. B R Kurtz B R Kurtz says:

    A GREAT book on a topic we all need to consider BEFORE we are faced with the problem.

  3. Derek says:

    Thanks for bringing this info to us… I will be ordering the book..

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