Course Review: Dave Spaulding – Handgun Combatives – Adaptive Combat Pistol Course; April 21 & 22, 2018 – Watkinsville, Georgia.

I hate to start off by apologizing; however, it is easy to see that this course review is long overdue. The reason, my trusty write in the rain notebook has been missing in action ever since attending this course. All was right with the world when it was found yesterday afternoon under the rear seat in my vehicle, no idea how it got there, but sure am glad it was only temporarily misplaced as there were a lot of good notes from a few recently attended courses in there that would have been a shame to lose.

Ever since attending the Handgun CombativesVehicle Combatives course in Coffeyville, Kansas last September it has been a priority for me to try and take as many courses with Dave as my schedule will permit. Call it a thirst for knowledge if you will; however, Dave’s teaching style and his self-admitted warped sense of humor suits me well. I leave with better skills and also with some excellent information that I am able to transfer to the students and instructor candidates that I train in the process.

The day before the course I made the eight-hour drive to Athens, stopping to have a late lunch with a friend of mine just outside Atlanta. I arrived at the Comfort Inn & Suites on Atlanta Highway about 5:30pm and after grabbing dinner and making a stop Franklin Gun Shop I filled magazines and made sure all my gear was ready to go for the morning.

On TD1 of Handgun Combatives Adaptive Combat Pistol, we met at the range and Dave started with a brief introduction and presentation on his training methodology as most of the class had never taken a course with him before. If you follow Dave on social media you will see him with his trusty Webster’s dictionary by his side every so often on “Thoughts from the deck with Crown Royal” his definitions of the following are key to the program of instruction in this course.

Adapt = Change as required by circumstances.

Adaptive = The ability to change as required by circumstances.

To be Adaptive = To be able to change as required by circumstances.

Combative = Be ready and willing to fight.

After explaining these definitions and why he uses the words he does Dave went into Fundamentals vs. Essentials. Fundamentals are needed to form a foundation. Essentials are what is absolutely necessary and you should have a mastery of the essential skills.

Developing a combative mindset is first, followed by a list of things we all understand, e.g., grip, stance, presentation of the pistol on target the same way each time, etc… Dave went on to emphasize that in order to develop your essential skills, you need consistent, significant practice that is directed at fighting, also having an imagery of real-world threats and understand what violent encounters really are, not what you see in movies or the stages of a USPSA match.

On the range both days we started out with a three-round fade-back drill. Personally, I feel that I had a few too many “yips” on TD1 as you can see by my target below. In case you have never fired Dave’s fade-back drill it’s pretty easy, all you need is a 3×5 card target like the one pictured below, some ammunition and a range that allows you to shoot out to 25 yards. Start at 3 yards and fade back to 25, things get a little tough hitting that 3×5 card back at 20 and 25 yards. The course host, Chief Lee Weems shot a clean target on TD1, he was the only student to do so.


The rest of TD1 was chalk full of one-handed shooting drills and the one-handed gun manipulations that go with them. The drills presented were excellent for establishing that foundation of skills Dave talked about prior to the range portion of the course. (Yeah, his program of instruction is well thought out) I liked the bucket drill and let’s face it, I like drills that help me identify things that I need to work on and those that I can share with others to make them better practitioners/students of pistolcraft.

Ever the coach, Dave keeps a watchful eye on his students offering some well-placed tips on how to get better with what you are working with. He also splits the class into two relays allowing himself time to give some individual coaching on the range, leave no doubt he gives his students 110% during the entire course.

Once we adjourned for the day the majority of us had a little BBQ at a local restaurant in Watkinsville and then a touch of Crown Royal at Chops & Hops.

On TD2 we did a lot of work behind simulated cover and some distance shooting. For the simulated cover drills, we used both plastic 55-gallon drums and a VTAC barricade working through the latter using many unconventional shooting positions. the distance shooting went out to 25 yards and culminated with the 5 in 5 drill, 5 rounds from 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 yards in 5 seconds from the holster. You can see an explanation and demonstration of the drill by the man himself in the video linked here.

The very last thing in the course of fire was to shoot Dave’s 2x2x2 drill. 2 rounds in 2 seconds from 20 feet from the holster on a 3×5 card target. Current LEO’s are allowed to use their duty gear, responsibly armed citizens all must start from a concealment holster. Those who are skilled enough to get two solid hits on target in the time allotted earn a Handgun Combatives engraved belt buckle and belt made by Ares Gear.

Unfortunately nobody earned a belt and buckle from this course; however, several students came very close. My effort produced two hits on target; however, I was overtime by .12 seconds. My mistake, letting the front sight settle a little too much looking for that perfect sight picture instead of just getting an acceptable sight picture and pressing the trigger. Maybe next time…

In summary, this is a course that tests your cognitive thinking abilities through the entire course of fire, Dave presents you a problem and you have to solve it, period. Same as a gunfight, your assailant will present you a problem and you will need to solve it or possibly die during the process. I mentioned it above, Dave’s course content and interactive personality (That will probably make him laugh) are what I enjoy about attending Handgun Combatives courses. Would I recommend this course? You bet I would and I think there are several Adaptive Combat Pistol courses on his remaining 2018 schedule that have a seat or two left in them.

Speaking of the Handgun Combatives training schedule, 2019 is published on his website and has only half of what 2018 had on it, Dave has been very public about teaching a more compact schedule in 2019 and beyond, so if you want to train with him I suggest you look at his schedule and make it happen, you can thank me later.


Gear used in the course is listed below:

Sig Sauer P320 X-Carry

Henry Holsters AIWB with V-Development Group AIWB Large Wedge

JMCK AIWB Mag Pouche(s)

5.11 Operator Belt

Surefire E2D Defender Ultra

My training ammunition was Federal American Eagle 147gr Flat Nose FMJ purchased from Target Sports USA.


(Featured Image Credit to Dave Spaulding and Handgun Combatives)


Until next time, be vigilant, be the best…

As always, live life abundantly; train hard so you can fight easy!

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