Instructor and Hosts:

This was my first class with Dave Spaulding from Handgun Combatives. Dave has 36 years of Law Enforcement & Federal Security experience and was a founding member of his Agency’s SWAT Team and he spent 12 years as its training officer.  Dave was awarded the 2010 Law Officer Trainer of the Year award at the The International Law Enforcement Education and Training Association (ILEETA).  Dave’s teaching style is very relaxed, he is very open, making it clear that he is giving his opinion or saying what he would do based on his experiences, not saying that it is absolutely what you have to do.  As with all good instructors that have an extensive real world background, Dave was able to provide a number of real world “why’s” for doing almost everything he showed us.  

David Timm - Owner and Lead Instructor, Learning Firearms & Patrol Tactical

Dave is a full time law enforcement officer and has been since 2002.  Currently he is a night patrol supervisor. Previously he has worked as an investigator, field training officer, school resource officer and in community relations.  Dave is the lead firearms and use of force instructor for his department and oversees firearms inventory. He has been a firearms instructor since 2003 and has taught responsible citizens, law enforcement officers, and first responders in firearms, use of force, and personal safety.

Mike Davis - Director of Training and Lead Instructor, Learning Firearms

Mike has 14 years of military experience between active duty and the army national guard.  Mike has a 21 month Iraq deployment under his belt and has been in law enforcement for 17 years, currently working full time as a deputy sheriff in the patrol division.  He is a certified LE firearms instructor, Glock and AR-15/M16 armorer.  

Learning Firearms through Dave and Mike were playing the roles of both hosts and students as they took the entire course the same as the rest of us.


TD1 – 40’s in the am to low 70’s in the afternoon, mostly sunny all day, minimal wind

TD2 – 40’s in the am to low 70’s in the afternoon, sunny to partly cloudy all day, minimal wind

Perfect training weather, comfortable temperatures with low humidity and little wind.


There were a total of 20 students in this class with about an even split between LE (including a great group of guys down from the Winnipeg, Canada PD) and average Earth civilians.  


As this was a handgun only course, there is not a lot of gear involved.  The LE folks mostly used their duty belt rigs with some running vests as well.  Civilians ran a combination of OWB open rigs to IWB concealed set-ups.  I ran the following;

Glock G17 gen 3, with KKM Precision barrel, Vickers extended magazine release, Glock Triggers “The Guardian” trigger group and Trijicon HD Night Sights (orange).  Glock magazines with Vickers base plates.  Raven Phantom holster and double magazine pouch.  CCI Lawman 115gr FMJ ammo (approx. 700 rounds used).


Training Day One started at 0830 at the range which is a working gravel quarry that offers a great deal of flexibility in setting up various shooting course layouts.  Dave Timm and Mike Davis of Learning Firearms made all of the normal introductions and got the paperwork to make the lawyers happy completed, after that they turned it over to Dave Spaulding.  Dave did a whiteboard talk of his training philosophy and gave us a summary of what to expect over the next two days.

The range work started with Dave splitting the group up into two relays of 10 students each and working some basic accuracy drills at varying distances from 3 to 20 yards shooting at 3x5” size card silhouettes.  Dave had us start working in his 360 degree scanning technique before returning our gun to its holster and making ready for the next iteration.  Dave then had us work on shooting from the various ready positions (high, low and “third eye”), followed by draws from the holster.  Additionally, we did drills shooting from two handed and single hand strong side, as well as single and two handed weak side.  We next moved into doing some lateral movement drills with the emphasis on “exploding” movement off “the X”.  This then led us to both advance and retreat movements with both move and shoot, and shoot on the move techniques.  The day ended with an exercise intended to simulate you advancing through a group of no-shoot “friendly” targets to engage a couple “bad guy” steel plate targets using some of the basic advancing and lateral movements learned earlier in the day.  

All of the basic techniques that we spent most of TD1 covering would be put to good use as we moved into TD2.


Training Day Two again started at the range at 0830 with a short lecture and review of what had been covered the prior day.  We then moved to the range for some warm ups and refreshers of the basic techniques from TD1.

As most LE involved shootings take place primarily within 10 feet, in the area known as critical space or “the hole”, the remainder of our training was centered on those close, to contact distances.  Dave had us do a number of exercises shooting from a no sight picture “retention” position close to your body and on out to full arm extension.  We next moved into various contact positions showing us how to combine elbow/hand strikes and grabs along with simultaneously drawing and firing the gun into the bad guy target using the afore mentioned retention shooting techniques.  The final technique Dave showed us was a hit and retreat, while again simultaneously drawing your handgun and shooting the bad guy target as you broke contact.

TD 2 ended with the class taking turns running through Dave’s 2x2x2 drill.  This drill is a great way to end a class with a little friendly competition against your fellow students and a chance to earn a position as a Handgun Combatives “coin holder”.  Congratulations to one of the civilian shooters, shooting from a concealed carry position to be the only student able to join that club.

The Good:

     -     The instructor, hosts and facilities.

     -     The students, it was a pleasure to train with all of these guys.

     -     The weather which was absolutely perfect.

The Bad:

     -      I honestly cannot say a thing bad about anything to do with this class.


     -     I had practiced a number of these drills in previous courses over the last couple of years, but this was the first time I had taken a course specifically on gun fighting within “the hole”.  Dave Spaulding is a great instructor and certainly knows his craft.

     -     This was my third time training with Dave and Mike at Learning Firearms and they have really come a long way in the set-up and operation of these hosted classes.  I thoroughly enjoyed the experience from beginning to end and will be back up in Brainard next month when the “Yeti” invades Minnesota!

Critical Space Pistol by Dave Spaulding - After Action Review by Steve