Training Reports

Super Dave Harrington - Integrated Weapon Systems

Dave FiringOver the past three days, I've been getting some awesome range time in with Super Dave Harrington. If you don't know who Dave is, you should do a quick internet search on him. He's one of the foremost and sought-after instructors in the country. Here is a little bio section on Dave from Panteao Productions:

Dave Harrington (a.k.a. “Super” Dave) is the President of Combatspeed LLC which is located in Tampa, Florida. Dave is a two time retired senior weapons instructor from the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. He has 23 years of military experience, the last 16 of which were spent in the Army’s Special Forces. He qualified as an expert infantryman, conventional and HALO (high altitude, low open) paratrooper, Ranger, and finally combat weapons craft instructor at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, N.C. Some of the nation’s most elite counter terrorist fighters trained under Harrington there.

I was fortunate enough to get into the Integrated Weapon Systems course with a specific focus on Instructor Development hosted just a few miles from my house. The course itenerary was nearly as intense as Dave is... See the breakout of each day's itinerary below.

In short, this course was reserved for seasoned shooters, and the pace was very intense. This was the most challenging course that I have participated in to date, and the amount of information that I came away with is mind-boggling. I truly believe that Dave has forgotten more about shooting and fighting with firearms than I could learn in five lifetimes. He is truly a master of the craft.

During the course of our three days with Dave, he ran us through a multitude of exercises with increasing levels of complexity. Virtually all of our shooting was done while moving, and there was an amount of shooting in/around/past other shooters that was in higher volume and sustained rates of fire than anything I had previously done. Remember, this was an advanced group of shooters, and the drills/exercises that we were involved in were far more challenging than those which would be found in most ranges. We were at a private range, with a private group of highly skilled shooters, under closeful watch of one of the foremost instructors in the world. Therefore, we were able to push the limits of (and downright break) the famous 180° rule which is constantly enforced at most ranges. Gun fights are not fought in 180° environments, and that means that all the guys on your team won't be standing in a static line and firing from the same position during the fight... Therefore, Super Dave got us very accustomed to trusting our teammates and having live fire happening on all sides of us.

As I always do, I'd like to provide more insight as to the specifics of the course. I'll summarize my thoughts with my usual format of "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly."

The Good

There is no way to possibly list out all of "The Good" for this course. Dave is the highest level shooter that I have ever trained with- and it was both humbling and inspiring to learn from him. He has trained some of the most elite warriors that our country has ever produced, and he has forgotten more about fighting with a firearm than I could ever hope to know. He doesn't just know everything there is to know about shooting a firearm, but he couples that knowledge with virtually all you could hope to learn about winning a gunfight. This is far more important than just shooting accurately. Here's the bottom line, the United States military chose Super Dave to provide instruction, Standard Operating Procedures, and tactical advise based on his personal experiences to our Special Forces. He was the lead instructor for Range 37. To think that a man of that pedigree spent three days teaching me to be a better firearms instructor, better shooter, and more equipped to win a violent confrontation including firearms is incredible.

There were also a series of quotes that Dave dropped on us that really stuck with me... Below are some of my favorites and which were appropriate enough to dictate on a public site.

  • "When communication fails, violence always works."
  • "We measure time in battle as 'the rest of your life.' How long do you have to get that malfunction cleared? How long do you have to perform that reload? You have the rest of your life."
  • "Everything is important. Everything matters. It's up to you to decide the who, what, when, where, and why of this."
  • "At the precise moment when the shot goes bang, capture a visual snapshot of the front and rear sight and simultaneously capture a snapshot of the working relationship of the sights and the target. That's how you 'call your shot' effectively."
  • "The one thing that will effect the way you choose to move will be the overwhelming need to maintain visual contact on the threat area."
  • "It's just a shooting problem... Time, speed, distance, man..."

The Bad

There was a minimal "bad side" to this training. On the first day we were blessed with perfect weather. The second and third day lead to a little higher temperatures, but nothing unbearable. If anything, then I'd say that my being one of only two civilians in the training lead me to having to personally pay the tuition and the ammo costs out of pocket. No agency costs, no department ammo... Being as we had a minimum required round count of 4,000 rounds- it resulted in an expensive weekend. Between two cases of 5.56, two cases of 9mm, and the tuition of the course, I was out almost $2,000. Was it expensive? Yes. Was it worth it? HELL YES.

The Ugly

Let me start by saying that Dave Harrington is one of the most sought-after instructors in the world, and for good reason. He has trained some of the most elite warriors in the history of our country. So to even populate "The Ugly" section of this AAR is really reaching... With that said, here we go. Super Dave has quite an eclectic style of instruction. His instruction often goes off in tangents which do always come back to the primary point that started the tangent. The ugly part of this is that it requires that you stay "switched on" (a term that Dave uses frequently) in order to pick up on the point and how it is applicable to the conversation at hand. If your attention span isn't on point, and your mental discipline isn't strong enough to balance heat (or cold, depending on your weather), intense volumes of fire, and intense training exercises- then you might want to re-consider an advanced training session with Super Dave. Granted the course that I took with him was geared toward advanced shooters, and his pace, expectations, and level of instruction was on par for that group. He demands the very best that you have to give, and he will draw it out. This isn't an "ugly" result, but the style that he uses is very direct. If you have thin skin, you might want to re-evaluate your choice of trainers.

The Bottom Line

I walked away from this course as a better instructor and better shooter- but most importantly, as a hungrier student. I want more knowledge that I can use to supplement my own personal skills as well as the lessons that I pass on to students who receive instruction from me. I want to increase my effectiveness both in a violent confrontation as well as in a classroom. I have a limited amount of time for my own training as well as with each student that I encounter. I am hungrier to learn more ways that I can enhance that amount of time to make sure that we are as prepared as we can be for the event when all communication fails...

Clark Sparrow of Sparrow Defense and Guest Instructor of Shooting Strategies, wrote a great After-Action Report for this training. I encourage that you check it out on his site.

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