I first saw the SUL position around the year 2000 during an advanced handgun class I was attending. (See photo for a visual of SUL.) Alan Brosnan and Max Joseph created SUL, Portuguese for south. They were teaching in Brazil with guys who didn’t have holsters. Once the problem was solved they needed a “safe” position to hold the handgun and the ability to work around others without muzzling anyone. After a short time people began using SUL for a variety of other applications, and this is when things got distorted.
The SUL position is a “safety” position, only to be used once the action was over; it’s basically an administrative position, an option to holstering the weapon. I’ve seen SUL used as a ready position, for clearing corners while searching buildings, for inside vehicles and as a retention position. SUL was never designed to be used for these applications, and in fact can put you at a disadvantage and be downright dangerous.
I remember reading about SUL way back then, (I think it was in SOF magazine) where the author commented that they needed a way to keep the guns pointed safely because the students had a nasty habit of shooting their fellow learners as they could not stop playing with the guns. Typical of South Of The Border countries, not a whole lot of Gun Safety traditions mixed with unhealthy doses of machismo resulted in extra body holes applied without permission.
That SUL somehow became a tactical darling can only be explained by the stupid urge to look cool and be the kid/instructor with the new toy/tactic that nobody has. As time passes, I am more and more convinced that the Basic Pistolcraft as taught by Col Copper and Clint Smith is the way to go if you wanna have a solid foundation and effective combat skills.