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Thoughts on Long Guns and Handguns

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Earlier this morning Dave Spaulding of Handgun Combatives posted his thoughts on handguns and long guns on his Facebook page. As usual he presents some very articulate and well-thought arguments; I don't necessarily agree with all of it, but if everyone always agrees, no one is thinking and no learning occurs. Here's what he has to say (pictures courtesy David Merrill from the recent Optimal Snubby Skills class).

Thoughts on Long Guns and Handguns

Dave Spaulding

I founded a training company that focuses on the “Combative Application of the Handgun” and while I am flattered that people believe I should teach carbine classes I just do not feel qualified. You see, I never used the AR-15. When my agency formed its SWAT Team, we started with Ruger Mini-14 carbines before moving to HK MP-5's (entry) and Steyr AUGs (perimeter). To me, it is a bit disingenuous to teach a weapon system I never used.

I really like the AR platform as I see a great deal of “continuity of manipulation” between the semi-auto pistol and the AR…I even toyed with teaching an AR pistol course that emphasized this continuity… before ATF did their flip-flop decisions on the SIG Brace and made me table the idea. That said, I believe the hard emphasis many shooters are placing on the AR and the multitude of military-style training courses is misplaced. Why? Because the carbine is NOT the gun the armed American citizen or cop will have when trouble breaks out, so only training with the carbine is a mistake.

Let me put this in perspective…should you know how to shoot the carbine/long gun? YES! But not for the reason(s) you may have in mind. I know many of you believe it is the gun to have for home defense, “bugging out” or the Zombie Apocalypse but I just can't wrap my head around these. I think the Zombie thing is ridiculous and bugging out is romanticized. The idea of grabbing your gun and gear and taking your family into the mountains sounds good, but where do you think the other almost 300 million citizens are going to go if out urban areas falter? Going to get crowded…

Truth be told, staying in might be a better idea than leaving, which brings us to home protection. I have performed a large number of entries and raids and I can tell you a long gun can become a liability in close confines with corners. The long gun would be great if your house is being attacked and you are shooting folks on the front lawn, but how realistic is that? Up to you, of course…

Where do I see the carbine fit in? The protection of our great nation! Years ago I attended a police training conference and got the opportunity to talk with a former Soviet Soldier who told me one of the great concerns of the USSR when it came to invading the USA was the large number of guns in the hands of our citizens. The Soviets saw an insurgency as a real threat to any occupation of the U.S and I think we should keep that perception alive!! Look at how well guerilla/insurgency tactics worked against our military and Iraq and Afghanistan…it would work just as well for us! If some nation thinks our military is the only threat they face, let them think again! If you bought a carbine in a panic and are now looking to sell it as you don't know why you bought it in the first place? Think about this and hang on to it! If you don't have one…buy one!

For that reason, everyone who is capable should have a military-grade carbine, equip it properly and have 1,000 rounds of ammo on hand. You should attend a training course, learn how to “run the gun”, use tactics and basically fight with the weapon. I have come to like a variable power (1 x 4 or 1 x 6) scope on my AR so I can use it across the combat spectrum…close and far. It has BUIS, a light, a sling and multiple magazines. I try to shoot the gun a couple of times a year and work with it from cover and while moving. Since it is not my primary personal security weapon, I do not train with it as much as I do with my daily carry handgun.

The handgun is the gun you are likely to have when trouble breaks out domestically and I believe this should be your training focus. Otherwise you are just a “fantasy gunfighter”. You are far more likely to be attacked by a criminal than a terrorist, something the CIA realized years ago even for their personnel serving overseas! Unless you are in an active war zone, the handgun is the gun you will have with you. It is as simple as that. If you need carbine training I would seek out one of the former military instructors for that…it’s their gun and they know it well. If you need a handgun course, then I would find a knowledgeable police instructor.


I have been asked several times over the years what I could possible teach someone about the combative handgun, after all, “You were just a cop, not a member of the Special Operations Community.” Yep, that's true, I was never in the military…never wanted to be! I wanted to be a cop and I did so for over 30years. I have been carrying handgun daily for 40 years and have been in a few tight situations with it. I have studied its use in combat, making it my life's mission/passion. The handgun always has been and always will be the primary firearm of law enforcement! We do it well! Even within the Spec Ops. Community, the handgun is a distant second weapon, seldom used in combat. I have trained members of all the famous and not so famous Special Mission Units and they all tell me the same about handguns…it’s just not used that often and not a lot of time is spent training with it. Makes sense!


Does that mean these former military instructors run an inferior pistol course? Certainly not! But I don't think a solid LE instructor runs a course that is lacking compared to the military instructor. As a mater of fact, if you think you will lean some “secret of the ninja” by attending a pistol class taught by a former special operator you will probably be disappointed. They are BIG believers in the fundamentals. In addition, cops understand the legalities of using the handgun domestically, something I have seen missing in some former military-related courses.

This is why I will stay with teaching the combat handgun and refuse to take a back seat to anyone else in quality of content. I place my training up against anyone with the handgun! The carbine? Well, there are certainly a lot of others better qualified than I…

Thanks for checking in!

As you can see, he makes some interesting points. I would respectfully disagree with some of it. Although I definitely concur that pistol training should be the primary focus of someone who carries a handgun every day (open or concealed),  I take issue with the idea that a long gun isn't suitable for defense. In point of fact, all things being equal, it's a better choice. More on that here. Regardless, I learned a lot from Mr. Spaulding last weekend and I look forward to training with him again very soon. He's a superb instructor with outstanding gunhandling skills (I certainly wouldn't want to throw down with him) What are your thoughts on the handgun/long gun issue?

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