Friday, July 19, 2013

Interview with Randy Harris: Suarez International Staff Instructor

 I believe that if you are going to carry a gun for self defense, or even use a gun for home defense, you should get some professional training.  I am a country boy, I grew up around guns my whole life.  However, I have found the saying, "You don't know what you don't know" to be true.  After taking some training I realized I didn't know half the stuff I thought I did about shooting.  It took me about 4 years after I got my carry permit before I actually got training.  I kept putting it off, making excuses, it was too expensive or I just didn't have time.

That being said, when I did finally get around to taking some training I had researched all the different schools within a 2-3 hour drive.  During that research I found Warrior Talk, Suarez International's web forum.  After reading for a few months I really liked what I found and finally got around to signing up for my first class: Defensive Pistol Skills through Suarez International.  Randy Harris is the closest Suarez instructor to me, and had a date coming up.  Randy ended up being a great instructor, and a good guy to talk to.  I bet I asked him 1000 questions whenever we had a break, or lunch.  I reviewed that class here.

I asked Randy to do an interview for Tattooed Gunner and he was kind enough to give me his time:

First off Randy, thanks for doing this interview for Tattooed Gunner.

Thank you for the invitation.

Randy, tell us what you do?

In my day job I work for a shooting sports wholesaler. Most weekends I'm either teaching Concealed Carry, Self Defense, or Weapons and Tactics classes or shooting matches. I'm a Tennessee state certified Handgun Carry Instructor, NRA certified Pistol Instructor, and Staff Instructor for Suarez International.

Can you tell us how you got started as an instructor with Suarez International?

Back in 2003 when Warriortalk went online I was one of the first 125 members. It was a different place than most other "gun forums" on the web because SERIOUS students of the art could go there and discuss and develop things without constantly having to deal with the silliness on some other sites. In 2005 Gabe Suarez decided he wanted to hire some instructors and put out the call for resumes. He knew me from the forum and told me to send a resume and to come to the 4 day Ultimate Combat Skills class he was running in Nov of 2005. So I went to Atlanta to the class and when it was over I asked him what he thought....he asked "When can you start"? So I guess I must have done something to make him feel like I'd be a good instructor and representative for his company.

Have you been around guns your whole life? If not, what got you into them?

Yes and No. I was always playing with toy guns as a kid and watching westerns and cop shows. Gunsmoke was on every night in syndication and was my favorite show. But my parents were not into guns really. My dad had served in the military and by all accounts was an excellent shooter, but that was just not something he did as a hobby or anything. It was pretty much bb guns for me. So I really did not get into shooting real guns until I was about 20. But I was the kid reading all the gun magazines at the grocery store while my mom was shopping. I already knew quite a bit about it , just did not have the opportunity until I was a little older.

I know you have shot a lot competitively, tell us a little about that. What all types of matches did you shoot?

 I'm a Master class IDPA shooter. I've done Cowboy Action Shooting, 3 Gun, Subgun, and GSSF (Glock Sport Shooting Foundation). I've probably won more than my fair share of matches. Now though, due to my teaching schedule, I don't get to shoot nearly as many matches as I used to.

In your cowboy action shooting, you go by Cruel Hand Luke, is there a story behind that?

In SASS (Single Action you Shooting Society) everyone shoots under an alias. I probably agonized over an alias for a month before joining SASS. I wanted something cool. I finally came up with Cruel Hand Luke. I wanted something cool but also maybe a bit sinister. A "cow hand " or a "ranch hand" was a cowboy. So Cruel Hand Luke is actually a bit of a play on words and it fit my Cowboy shooting persona.

What would you say is your favorite thing about training, whether instructing or as part of taking classes yourself?

I enjoy taking classes and the camaraderie of hanging out with like minded people. But probably the biggest thrill is, as an instructor, taking someone who is not very confident with their abilities and making them more competent and confident with their ability to defend themselves and their families. That also translates into other areas of their lives. They become more confident and I believe that enhances their overall quality of life. We are not just teaching people to shoot. We are teaching people to think and to take control of their lives.

What is your favorite gun that you own or have owned?

Wow...where to start??? Maybe the M-60 I used to have? That is a tough question.....a couple of favorites would be the 1911 my great grandfather used in a gunfight in 1920, my RMR equipped Glock 17 with custom grip work that I carry, and my Colt 653 (that is a factory M16A1 carbine). Those are few of my favorites. 

(TG note: I have shot the Glock 17 mentioned.  It is a sweet pistol.)

Any insight on what your EDC is?

These days I generally roll with a G17 with custom grip work done by my friend Jeff Bishop at Grimm Brothers Armory carried in either a Blade Tech or Dale Fricke IWB holster, a single spare mag in Blade Tech mag pouch, Ka Bar TDI LE knife on my belt and Spyderco Delica in my back pocket, Surefire E2D flashlight, and Cav Arms Tourniquet.

I use the Spyderco to open boxes, cut rope , and other mundane tasks. The TDI is a fixed blade accessible with either hand to get me out of a clinch or grounded problem if I can't get out of it with empty hands. The TQ is there because there is no guarantee that we or a loved one will not be injured in a confrontation (or a car wreck for that matter). Being able to stop massive hemorrhage is a good thing.

What do you enjoy besides shooting?

You mean there is something to do BESIDES shooting? Just kidding. I like to read , mostly historical stuff, and I like to travel with my wife. We love a good trip to the beach either here or abroad. We really like the Caribbean.

If you could give only ONE tip to improve somebody's shooting, what would it be?

Take a class from ME. Just kidding....

Seriously, my one piece of advise is get professional training as early on as you can. That way you do not waste time learning bad habits and then have to unlearn them. I pretty much taught myself to shoot pistols, but it was a process of trial and error in shooting matches that could have been quicker if I'd had professional training earlier on. It took me years to come to the same conclusions about grip and trigger control that I could have learned from a good instructor. That is part of why I teach now. I can teach people how to do it right from the beginning and save them the frustration of figuring it out on their own.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Just like to thank you for the interview and hope to see you in class soon! If anyone is interested in what classes I have coming up you can check here.....http://www.suarezinternationalstore....px?find=harris

Thanks again Randy!

Thank YOU. 

If you are looking for some training I highly recommend Suarez International, and Randy Harris in the Chattanooga, TN(and other) areas.

Thanks for taking the time to read this interview.  If you like what you read, check me out on facebook at

Pictures courtesy of and

1 comment:

  1. I remember linking 200 rounds for that M-60 at night after work.