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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Course Review: Pat McNamara, TMACS, Inc. Sentinel; Become the Agent in Charge of Your Own Protection Detail; December 16th & 17th, 2017 – Swansea, South Carolina (Host: Panteao Productions)

Earlier this year I finished reading Pat McNamara’s book, T.A.P.S. – Tactical Application of Practical Shooting. Immediately after that, I started  reading, “Sentinel – Become the Agent in Charge of Your Own Protection Detail.” Once I finished that book I knew that I wanted to attend a course with Pat sometime in the future, better yet host him for a course here in Florida. (We’ve got that scheduled, T.A.P.S. Pistol & Carbine Combo course on March 3rd and 4th, 2018 here in Lakeland)

Checking the TMACS, Inc training schedule, I found a Sentinel course listed in South Carolina at Panteao Productions and signed up immediately. So, two weeks ago I set my GPS to the SandLapper Rifle Range & Gun Club and arrived in the mid-afternoon the day prior to the course. Upon my arrival, I was greeted with a friendly Hello, and given a gift bag for attending the course, I thought this was a nice gesture from the Panteao Productions folks, if I lived in the Columbia area, I would definitely become a member of their gun club. My reasoning to stop at the facility first was it was on the way and I could gauge how long it would take me to get there the next morning from my hotel.


Next, I was off to my hotel just outside Fort Jackson to get checked in and then like magic, my GPS mysteriously found its way to Palmetto State Armory, Sportsman’s Warehouse, and Academy Sports. It must be nice to have all three places within a few miles of one another where you live, and if you can’t find something to buy in these three places, you’re not an outdoors person or a gun person.

On Saturday morning I woke up to 28° weather, yes 28° weather. A little cold for this Florida boy, but it was all mind over matter, I didn’t mind, so it didn’t matter. I grabbed some fruit, chicken and a few bottles of water at the local Walmart, filled my gas tank, and made the twenty-minute drive down to Swansea arriving a little before 8:00am.

When I got on the property I was once again greeted by the Panteao staff and I signed a standard participation waiver and one for Panteao Productions itself because this course was being taped for a new DVD that they will release soon. You can find more information about that by clicking on the Panteao Productions hyperlinks I have embedded in this posting.


(Photo courtesy of Panteao Productions)

When I arrived at the range I was greeted by Pat with a firm handshake and a thank you for coming. I took the opportunity to thank him for setting up a course with me in Florida and then I was off to make sure I had my gear squared away. As each student arrived, Pat made a point to greet them, thank them for coming and he also asked where everyone came from as well. We had students from “Free America” and some from “UnFree America.” I believe one person flew in from California and one from Chicago, one or two from Virginia and the rest were all southerners from states like Alabama, Georgia, North and South Carolina, and yours truly from Florida.

Once it warmed up a little, Pat started with a short bio and then explained his philosophy on Outcome Based Training versus Performance Based Training.

Outcome-Based Training: Execution with consideration of the consequences, will I succeed, or will I fail? Outcome-Based Training is how many, how much, how fast.

Performance Based Training: How well can I perform a task. Performance is measured by doing what we can with what we have. It also requires the student to be introspective and to perform an honest self-assessment of where your skills are, not where you wish they were. The probability of achieving the outcome you desire will increase once you let go of the need to have it.

The Sentinel course is a foundational skills course with pistol and carbine at the forefront. There are also four additional blocks of instruction on Vehicle Preparedness/Urban Survival Skills, Combat Strength Training, Your House/Your Fortress, and Fighting.

Pat then went over his interpretation of the four safety rules, and then we started with getting some dope with our rifle optics. (Pro Tip: Show up to Gun School with your rifle properly zeroed.)

After each of us had a zero we then confirmed our zero with our iron sights. Moving forward we performed a simple “call your shot” drill from the standing position and then we shot five rounds resting our barrels on a fixed object, turning the rifle 90° and lastly using a forced parallax with our optic.

I took a photo of Pat’s target and posted it below so you can see his “storyboard.” He uses this storyboard to collect empirical data from his training sessions and takes a photo of it so he can refer to it in the future, this is similar to a system that I use; however, Pat takes it to a whole new level. As you can see this target has all of his zeroing information.

  1. Date
  2. Location
  3. Distance
  4. Temperature
  5. Wind Speed/Direction
  6. Rifle or Weapon System
  7. Ammunition
  8. Optic


Next, we shot a “BRM Payoff” this is a 200-point scored course of fire done on four NRA B-8 bulls-eye centers from standing sitting, kneeling and prone. I have an excellent video of Pat transitioning through these positions that I will post shortly to my Facebook and Instagram accounts, links to those are at the bottom.

My BRM Payoff scores were 181 and 185, incremental improvements are good if you are focused on performance-based training and I was happy with these scores; however, even though they showed incremental improvement, there is room for a whole lot more.

This brought us to the first mini-block of instruction on vehicle preparedness. Most of us attending the course were surprised to learn what Pat has for his everyday driver, I would have never guessed it. Again, without giving away the entire POI or the contents of his book, let’s say Pat keeps a “Trunk Gun” or “Truck Gun” in whatever he is driving with an “I’m coming to get you” bag and another bag that he called his “Batman Bag.” The second bag being somewhat of a “Go Bag” with a few hours supply of survival essentials, a little food, water and some other things that you would need in case you got stranded or you were going to help a loved one who was stranded.

Next Pat talked about “dryfiring your vehicle” making sure you can debus in a hurry if you need to and that you should think of ways to escape, remember that mobility = survivability. Dryfiring your vehicle is particularly important when you rent a car or use one that you typically don’t drive much.

Once we finished lunch we started with some basic drills with the pistol.

Remember what the basics of pistol shooting are, sight alignment and controlling the trigger properly. All of us including Pat started at the seven-yard line from a ready position shooting single shots using the hole of our first shot as an aiming point for the rest. We then shot controlled pairs and ended with strong hand only.

It’s important to note that Pat is one of those trainers who could be training military units at Fort Bragg, or a SWAT Team one day and responsibly armed citizens the next, he is a rare breed who understands the differences in training these diverse groups of people and what their training needs are, unfortunately, many who make the transition from military to civilian life do not and they hang out a shingle professing their skills and they fail miserably.

We then had a block of instruction on Combat Strength Training.

The program breaks down tasks into four categories:

  1. Strength: How Much
  2. Power: Rate of Force Production; How Much, How Fast
  3. Speed & Quickness: Speed = Fast in One Direction/Quickness = Fast in Multiple Directions
  4. Hypertrophy: Muscular Development

My takeaway was that Combat Strength Training is not about building rock hard abs or a huge chest and biceps, it is about self-preservation and creating some longevity. It is also about making sure you are “fit to fight.”

TD1 wrapped up with an overview of what we accomplished and a short question and answer session.

We started TD2, at the same time, and with the same BRM Payoff Drill we did on TD1, my score was 188. Once again an incremental improvement and I was pleased with that because you are either getting better or you’re getting worse, you never stay the same.

We then cleared our rifles and shot a “National Match Mod” pistol 75-point course of fire twice for a score. This course of fire used a standard IPSC target using the following scoring method, minus 1pt for C zone hits, minus 2pts for D zone hits and -5 for misses. Make note of that because the next few drills had the same scoring method.

I found the National Match Mod to be an extremely challenging course of fire especially since it was shot at 50 and 25 yards. My 53-year old eyes are not as sharp as they used to be and so my first run was not very good, I only managed a 64. Then I spied what Pat had done to his target, and now I know why he always keeps a sharpie in his pocket. Pat had outlined the A zone of his target, in doing so it made a huge difference for me, I scored a 71 on the second go around. Little things like that give yourself an advantage and if it is within the rules, why not use it?

Our next course of fire was a version of his “Running and Gunning” drill. This was also timed and scored on an IPSC target as well. A good way to understand “Running and Gunning” is to watch the man himself explain and demonstrate it in the link I have provided here. Running and Gunning

We then shot “The Hellion” this one requires you to be a thinker and not just a shooter. I haven’t seen it on any of his videos, and because it is something that is difficult to explain in the written word, I’ll just do a video of it in a couple weeks and post it to my page and edit this blog posting with a link.

Lastly, we shot the four-position rifle timed course of fire at the same IPSC target used for the National Match Mod, Running and Gunning and the Hellion. We also used the same scoring system, total time plus penalties.

The reason we shot the same target was simple, first so we didn’t waste our resources and second to record empirical data, remember that from my comments on TD1? The photo below is of Pat’s target and scores after shooting these four courses of fire twice.


TD2 also had the two remaining blocks of instruction in the Sentinel course, “Your Home/Your Fortress” and “Fighting.” These were very good presentations with a lot of discussion on defending your home and a lot of interaction in the fighting presentation with Pat showing us some basic boxing moves and then pairing us up with partners and us working on skills together. I found all four blocks of instruction worthwhile and very informative on subjects that we all need to know in being that agent in charge of our own protection detail.

We ended the day with Pat setting up some steel targets and shooting some drills that he is famous for on YouTube, like the Grinder, Steven Gilcreast’s “Blaze X” and also Grid of Fire, and a new drill he set up during lunch called “The Scanner.” This Scanner drill has a lot going on as you can see from the photo below. I can’t give the entire drill away, that would ruin the surprise when you run it the first time, but needless to say, I am going to steal this one. Of course, I will give the appropriate reference as to where I got it.


We also had one steel target set up to time our presentation to first shot from standing and facing the target, then after turning 180° in both directions and lastly, while making a lateral move to the left.

We finished TD2 the same as TD1, with an overview of what we accomplished and a short question and answer session.

For this course, I used my every day carry gun and equipment and ran all drills from concealment. My Sig Sauer P320 X-Carry ran flawlessly with Federal American Eagle 115gr TSJ Syntech ammunition. I also used my Henry’s Holsters AIWB set up with a Sig Sauer brand magazine pouch.

In summary, the Sentinel course helped me to identify some areas in which my skills need some improvement and that’s what it’s all about. Seriously, having those performance-based training objectives helps me to be introspective and realistic about my own skills, it also allows me to set goals in order to make improvements in those skills.

Sentinel was my last course of the year, and honestly, I wish it had been my first. Pat McNamara is an excellent trainer and he constantly offered tips to all of us so we could improve our performance. I tend to gravitate toward trainers like Pat, and this is a course that I recommend without reservation.

You can find the TMAC’s Inc training schedule by clicking on the link below and if you are in Florida, consider joining us for the T.A.P.S. Pistol/Carbine Combo course on March 3rd and 4th at Firearms Training Club of America in Lakeland.


Until next time…

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

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