Four Key Systematic Drills for Handgun Skill Developement

A Four Drill System to Make You a Dramatically Better Shooter.

I am going to give you a measurable, simple, four drill progressive training program for concealed carry shooting skill improvement.  But before I begin my article, let us develop an air of honesty between us.  I will break traditional writing rules here for a second by using all caps. Imagine that I am being loud and direct:  YOU HAVE TO DO THE WORK.   There, I said it. 

Since we’re all (yes me too) so distracted by “entertrainment” (entertainment + training), I sometimes wonder if all the program development I do is worthwhile .  I honestly believe that most shooters favor scrolling through the pink Glock pictures on Instagram more than reading, learning, and applying REAL skill development principles.  The material outlined in this article will make you a better shooter IF you put in the work.  I’m giving it to you for free.   And if you need this material, then you really need this material!

When doing shooting demonstrations or after my training classes I am often times asked for training drills to enhance skill with a handgun.  I often point students to the full training program in my book Your Defensive Handgun Training Program.  It contains dozens of good drills in a three-phase program.  However, I always default to four concrete drills that are beneficial for both the beginner and seasoned shooter.  I still use these drills in almost every training session!

Before I introduce the drills, let’s discuss a few important points.  First, we are always looking for something “advanced” or new.  The truth is, most people have the need to correct key deficiencies in their shooting mechanics before they ever get to the point where they should begin advanced training drills.  To put it more bluntly, most people simply can’t shoot as well as they should be able to in order to have the maximum confidence in a stressful self-defense shooting. 

Think about this for a second: most law enforcement shootings incur a very high percentage of misses by both the police officer and the criminal shooter. Coming from an untrained thug I might expect that, but what about the trained professional?    My point is that police officers often receive much more training in their academy training than the average concealed carry holder goes through in a concealed carry course.

So what makes the average person who never practices think that they are skilled enough to carry a gun and successfully use it to defend himself or herself under extreme stress? I don’t have the answer.  My assumption is similar to getting a drivers license.  Once they get the permit they incur a false sense of security.  The truth is that most people are not as prepared as they think they are.  The good news is that with a bit of work you can change course and begin to acquire the skill you will need to shoot and HIT the threat, versus the innocent bystander two yards to their right.

A bit of advice about technique.  Without the proper technique you will end up spinning your wheels with even the best-designed drills.  The point of performing repetitions in a training drill is to gain skill in the technique the drill includes.   If you are a new shooter, I strongly recommend you take a class or review the some good sources of technique.  One source is my handgun shooting Youtube series (search Mike Seeklander on Youtube).  If you are new to shooting, or simply want a great program that is free to follow, check it out first.  If you want the full Monty, you can check out my Defensive Handgun program too.

The drills I am going to assign in this article are specifically designed to allow you to work on key components of technique that are fundamental and required to be able to shoot well in a defensive situation.  You will find the drills at the end of the article but I want to introduce them quickly so you understand what you will be working on.   Each drill has a specific purpose.  They might seem overly simple, but I promise you that this is where you need to start, and you can progress from there.   Goals are also listed in the drill sheets, so you have something to set your sights for (no pun intended!).  The goals might be challenging for some of you, but don’t be discouraged.   If you’re a high-level competition shooter and can meet these goals easily, I suggest you reduce the goal time.

  1. Five Shot Group Drill – This drill is an untimed drill, meaning there is no time limit or relevance in this drill.  It’s purpose is to ensure your gun and ammunition is grouping where it should, and secondly that you can pull the trigger without moving the gun.  This is an incredibly important skill.
  2. Five Shot Pace Drill A – This drill is also five shots, but now we are going to add the element of time.  In drill one, we worked on the essence of fundamental marksmanship.  In this drill we apply those fundamentals under the constraints of time.   This drill will be done on the high center chest-scoring zone (zero) on an IDPA target.
  3. Five Shot Pace Drill B – This drill is five shots again, but we will use a different target area on the silhouette.  These are still going to be timed, but will be harder shots.  This drill will be done on the upper (head) scoring zone (zero) on an IDPA target.
  4. Three/Two Drill – This is the final drill in the series, and will be the hardest for most of you. In this drill we are going to combine the skills we worked on in drills one and two. Shooting pace will be learned here, specifically how fast you can shoot and hit each area on the target.

Each drill sheet (found below) lists the key details of what you should be focusing on, as well as the number of repetitions and rounds shot.  I recommend following them as closely as possible.  If you were to go through each drill and do all of the repetitions in a practice session you would shoot around 120 rounds.  So take three fifty round boxes to the range with you and you will still have 30 rounds to work on anything you feel weak on!   Lastly, the key to your success will be the quality of the repetitions you do.

A few more things you will need to perform these drills:

The Program: Is simple.  Start with drill number one, shoot the prescribed number of rounds, and if you meet the goal you get to go to the next distance.  Then progress through the other drills.  If you meet the goal, go to the next distance.  See the notes below for lower level and advanced shooters.  Focus on becoming a better shooter. 

Pre-Assessment:  There is no pre-assessment in this mini program.  In most programs I develop, I strongly suggest a PA, but in this case there are pre-set goals for each drill at each distance.  Once you meet the goal, move to the next distance and repeat. Ultimately, I would like you to take the skill test called the 5×5 after you finish this program.  Once again, you can find that series on Youtube.

The Trigger Guard Index Point Starting Position

Starting position:  Trigger Guard Index. Each drill will start from this position.  It is the position where the support hand contacts and meets the gun under the trigger guard area during the draw.  The grip will be un-built in this starting position.

Magazine Preparation: Nothing complicated here, just make sure you are keeping your magazines prepared with enough ammunition to complete the string of fire.  If you prepare your magazines with ten rounds, that will keep things very consistent.

Required Equipment.  The training drills are designed to be very simple in nature, and require very little to actually perform them.  I designed them so the average shooter, with little range gear could use them without having to buy expensive steel targets, or specialized equipment.  You will need, at a minimum, the following:

  • I.D.P.A. Targets (recommended) or something similar that replicates the human torso and has combat effective areas marked.
  • An electronic timer, such as the Pact Club 3 to keep track of your time on the pace and 3/2 drill.
  • Pasters (find tape or pasters that are the same color as the targets you are practicing on)
  • (2) Target stands (I have used the folding ones made by GT and they work fine, but any design will work)
  • Target sticks (lath) to staple targets to
  • Stapler and staples

Starting Distance.  Each drill has a starting distance in the main body. I recommend that all shooters start using this distance.  Move to the next level distance once you meet the drill goal for that distance.   Having said this, the starting distance in the drill is for shooters that are beginner level so you might surpass this distance very quickly.  Remember, if you vary the distance used in the drill, document that for later reference in your logbook.

Goal Times. If you find these times challenging, go back and review your technique (watch the youtube videos!) and shoot at a pace to guarantee hits consistently before pushing your speed.  If the goal times are easily met, then push the distance (see note below), and start to reduce the time by .25 or .5 seconds each run. 

Note: If you are a very high level shooter (IDPA or USPSA Master), start the drill sequence at 7 yards, and increase to 10 and 15 as your skill progresses (see the drill sheets).

Fail to train correctly, and you can plan to fail when the stress monster jumps on your back!  Now get out and train!

Until Then, Train Hard

Mike S.

 

See the drills below

 


Five Shot Group Drill

Rounds Per Repetition: 5           Total Rounds:  25           Total Repetitions:  5

Accuracy and Time GoalsFive shots inside a three (3) inch circle no time.

Purpose:   To work on managing the sights, trigger, and grip (recoil control) and improving each of these areas on the second half of the draw process.

Distance: Five yards

Start position:  Trigger Guard Index

Target type andsetup: I.D.P.A. at 5 yards, centered on the shooter.   Draw a three inch circle with a black marker in the center of the 0 zone.

Prop setup: N/A

Action/s: There is no time limit on this drill, it will be shot slow fire.  All five shots should be fired in a row.  Fire five shots as accurately as you can, as slow as you want.

Critical Points:  Perfect sight and trigger management; building a proper grip and recoil control; follow through and reset.  The focus on this drill is firing the shot without moving the gun. However it is important that you are still building good grip and shooting habits.  Once you fire a shot, race back to the “wall” of the trigger.  DO NOT hold the trigger to the rear after the shot is fired and wait for the recoil impulse to stop before resetting.  Start the trigger finger resetting movement the moment the gun fires.

Visual Cues:  Focus your vision on the front sight, with a visual awareness of it being centered in the rear sight, and placed directly in the center of your three-inch circle on the target.

Mental Cues: Actively visualize the entire drill.

Advanced Distances:  Once you meet the three-inch group goal at each distance

  1. Increase distance to 7 yards
  2. Increase distance to 10 yards

Five Shot Pace Drill A

Rounds Per Repetition: 5           Total Rounds:  50            Total Repetitions:  10

Accuracy and Time GoalsFive shots inside an eight (8) inch circle in five (5) seconds.

Purpose:   To work on managing the sights, trigger, and grip (recoil control) under the constraints of time.

Distance: Five yards

Start position:  Trigger Guard Index

Target type andsetup: I.D.P.A. at 5 yards, centered on the shooter.

Prop setup: N/A

Action/s: On the start signal from a timer, extend the gun and fire five shots as quickly as you can maintain hits in the 8-inch scoring zone.   Repeat for the number of repetitions assigned above.

Critical Points:  Sight and trigger management; building a proper grip and recoil control at speed.  Grip the gun hard, and then pull the trigger without increasing or decreasing the pressure on the gun (which is likely to move it).  DO NOT hold the trigger to the rear after the shot is fired and wait for the recoil impulse to stop before resetting.  Start the trigger finger resetting movement the moment the gun fires.

Visual Cues:  Focus your vision on the front sight, with a visual awareness of it being centered in the rear sight, and placed directly in the center of the scoring zone.  The key is to learn how much (or little) alignment is required to maintain hits in the zero zone.

Mental Cues: Actively visualize the entire drill.

Advanced Distances:  Once you meet the time limit at five yards –

  1. Increase distance to 7 yards and attempt the same time limit.
  2. Increase distance to 10 yards and attempt the same time limit.

Five Shot Pace Drill B

Rounds Per Repetition: 5           Total Rounds:  50            Total Repetitions:  10

Accuracy and Time GoalsFive shots inside an four (4) inch circle in six (6) seconds.

Purpose:   To work on managing the sights, trigger, and grip (recoil control) under the constraints of time on a hard target.

Distance: Five yards

Start position:  Trigger Guard Index

Target type andsetup: I.D.P.A. at 5 yards, centered on the shooter.

Prop setup: N/A

Action/s: On the start signal from a timer, extend the gun and fire five shots as quickly as you can maintain hits in the 4-inch upper scoring zone.   Repeat for the number of repetitions assigned above.

Critical Points:  Sight and trigger management; building a proper grip and recoil control at speed.  Grip the gun hard, and then pull the trigger without increasing or decreasing the pressure on the gun (which is likely to move it).  DO NOT hold the trigger to the rear after the shot is fired and wait for the recoil impulse to stop before resetting.  Start the trigger finger resetting movement the moment the gun fires.

Visual Cues:  This scoring zone is smaller, so increased alignment and focus is required.  Focus your vision on the front sight, with a visual awareness of it being centered in the rear sight, and placed directly in the center of the scoring zone.  The key is to learn how much (or little) alignment is required to maintain hits in the zero zone.

Mental Cues: Actively visualize the entire drill.

Advanced Distances:  Once you meet the time limit at five yards –

  1. Increase distance to 7 yards and attempt the same time limit.
  2. Increase distance to 10 yards and attempt the same time limit.

Three/Two Drill

Rounds Per Repetition: 5           Total Rounds:  50            Total Repetitions:  10

Accuracy and Time GoalsThree shots inside an eight (8) inch circle and two shots in a four (4) inch circle in six (6) seconds.

Purpose:   To learn how to transition from a larger (faster pace) target to a smaller (slower pace) target as well as the reverse.

Distance: Five yards

Start position:  Trigger Guard Index

Target type andsetup: I.D.P.A. at 5 yards, centered on the shooter.

Prop setup: N/A

Action/s: On the start signal from a timer, extend the gun and fire three shots as quickly as you can maintain hits in the 8-inch lower scoring zone, then transition and fire 2 shots to the 4-inch upper scoring zone.   On the next repetition, reverse the order.

Critical Points:  Putting all the shooting skills together in a progression. Pay attention to how much you need to slow down to hit the hard shots, as well as how much you can speed up when transitioning to the easy shots.   Learn what is needed in terms of technique to get the hits in the required area.

Visual Cues:  For the smaller scoring zone, increased alignment and focus is required.  Focus your vision on the front sight, with a visual awareness of it being centered in the rear sight, and placed directly in the center of the scoring zone.  The key is to learn how much (or little) alignment is required to maintain hits in the zero zone.

Mental Cues: Actively visualize the entire drill.

Advanced Distances:  Once you meet the time limit at five yards –

  1. Increase distance to 7 yards and attempt the same time limit.
  2. Increase distance to 10 yards and attempt the same time limit.

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