I first met Dave Spaulding in the 1990s. I took his class on concealed carry at an IALEFI Annual Conference. It was frankly one of the best presentations I'd ever seen and I've learned a lot from him. Always willing to help people improve, he did this piece about selecting your training. - Rich Grassi
"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to."
"I don't much care where."
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go."
- Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland
"If you don't know where you are going, then any road will take you there."
I entered the basic police academy in 1976 knowing nothing about gun fighting. I have no idea why, but after finishing the firearms block of instruction, I questioned what I learned. Almost 40 years later we realize what was taught back then was lacking, but no one knew that in 1976. It led me on a journey that took over 30 years with many hours spent talking with veterans of WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. Law enforcement officers, armed citizens and yes, felons...as they, too have thoughts on armed conflict and one thing I can assure you is they do not think like you or I. While I have never had the opportunity to talk with a member of the Taliban or any other insurgent, I can imagine they think much like a criminal in that it is nothing like how we law abiding citizens think.
While involved in this informal research study, I spent over 30 years in law enforcement and security working in a wide variety of assignments including corrections (where I was involved in far more open hand confrontations than I ever as on the street), patrol, investigations, undercover work, surveillance operations and SWAT. While in SWAT, I was involved in three hostage recovery situations; one that ended text book, another we saved a child and lost a child (killed by his own father) and a third that ended in all parties dead. I have seen and investigated death; I understand violent behavior and confrontation, not just from a stand back and research point of view, but from having been involved in violent confrontation. For me, it is not some intellectual exercise or something viewed on a video game screen...it is the reality I lived.
It is because I have spent a life time comprehending what happens in armed conflict that I have become greatly concerned about current firearms training in the United States. I have spoken out about my concerns and have been condemned by those who know far less than I about the subject for no other reason than I question what some people are teaching the ill-informed. There is big money involved here and no one wants their cash cow threatened by fact. When trying to lure students to your training course, it is about being "different", "new age" and not "old school" even though old school is proven in battle and new age is not. The study of armed conflict is not new...in the 1980's it was called "Survival Research," while in the 90's it became "Force Science" only to evolve into "Warrior Science" after 9-11. They are one in the same as all study human performance under stress, much of which is based on sports physiology (and the book MOTOR LEARNING AND PERFORMANCE
by Dr. Richard A. Schmidt) and how the human organism prepares for competition of conflict.
As both Lewis Carroll and George Harrison have pointed out, if you don't know what you are looking for any road will work. Recently I monitored a pistol training course directed at new shooters. These folks had no idea what they were doing, so they could be told anything and would think they were learning "magic". The instructor took great advantage of this as he filled them full of useless information that was overly complex (but sounded really cool!), fired a huge number of rounds but never actually taught the students required skills to be a better shooter! His excuse for this was "In a fight you will not be able to achieve a certain stance or proper grip, so we are not going to worry about it." In a nutshell, each student fired 1,000 rounds over two days no further back than 12 feet with no instruction on how to shoot...just grab the gun and smack the crap out of the trigger "because at close range trigger control does not matter!" At the conclusion of the course, the students lined up and praised this instructor, telling him they felt "empowered" or "much safer" due to this course. He even autographed their targets! In reality, he took their money and gave them license to suck and feel good about it, but due to some pretty cool sounding jargon, made them feel enabled. When you don't know what you don't know it makes it easy to lead you down the primrose path.
Something else that disturbs me is the desire to look cool while shooting. Way too many shooters are learning their skills from You Tube from people who have a particular look versus having skill and experience. Just because an instructor has a beard, wrap around glasses and tattoos does not mean he is an "operator" even if he does talk the lingo. Nonsense cool sounding terminology does not mean the instructor has greater skill or insight, it just means he/she spends time making stuff up. A "non-diagnostic, linear stoppage manipulation" is still just a "tap-rack" and giving it a cool sounding, complicated name does not make it better. In reality, it makes it more difficult and if you take the time to truly study armed conflict
you will understand that simplicity is often times the key to prevailing in the pandemonium that results. It is not "dumbing down" training to try and make it simpler and easier to accomplish.
Look and feel cool or prevail in a situation that may cost you your life?! It's up to you but choose well because you will only get one chance at it and it is nothing like a video game...
-- Dave Spaulding
Dave Spaulding is a retired law enforcement officer with 36 years of law enforcement and private security experience. A graduate of many of the nation's premier firearms training courses, he is also the author of over 1,000 articles that have appeared in newsstand gun magazines and law enforcement trade journals. He is the owner and chief instructor for Handgun Combatives LLC , a training concern that focuses on "the combative application of the handgun" Handgun Combatives