The FUNDAMENTAL Program Drills

I get this question all the time: “Mike, I am a defensive shooter and will be practicing on an indoor range, what drills should I do in this circumstance” and I always answer that a drill is simply an exercise that should repetitively work a technical skill until it is ingrained. The important question is not what drill to do, but rather what skill to build. If you have an idea of what skill you want to build, then selecting a drill is easy.

Enter my system of FUNDAMENTAL drills that I have tweaked over over twenty years of instructing and that I use in EVERY class I teach. These drills are simple, foundational, and synergistic (they build on each other). They are done in a very specific order initially, but then can be used as needed. They should be repeated in practice sessions over time and used continually to improve the technical skills needed to shoot fast and accurately.

If you were to purchase and use my Competition or Defensive Handgun Fundamentals Programs you would get and use a series of drills (14 or 17) in a very specific order to start to build your skill in a block by block approach. In this article, I am going to address the first five drills, which I call the Foundational Five. I am also going to include a free PDF listing the drills in the Fundamentals Programs. If I really pique your interest, consider buying the program so you can watch the full instructionals/drills.

Let’s break down the drills and how I suggest you use them. First, print the PDF off of the drill of your choice. You can take notes on the printed PDF if you like, and then take it to the range. Second, I recommend you memorize the drills and follow them in a very specific order. I am also giving you a glimpse of the exact drills I use in class to teach as well as diagnose shooter skills. Also, keep in mind that the PDFs contain a bit more detail than the list below is a short summary of each of the Foundational Five and what they entail. Check out the PDF for distance, the target set up, etc. In this article, I want to explain my process of introducing skill-based drills in a class or program.

Here we go:

  • Drill One: Five Shot Group Drill
    • Purpose: To verify the gun is zeroed, ammunition hits point of aim/impact, and that the shooter has the ability to fire the gun without moving it.
    • Actions: With a two handed grip, extend the handgun and fire five shots as accurately as possible. There is not a time limit, and the goal is specifically the most accurate group you can fire. Repeat as many times as needed.
    • Why I do this drill: My first goal as an instructor, as well as shooter when I am practicing is to verify that the gun is zeroed, and that the ammunition shoots well in it. This automatically sets me up for success for hte next drills. If I or the student know the gun/ammunition combination is good, then there are no excuses for shots that do not land where they should.
  • Drill Two: One Shot Extend, Prep, or Press Drill
    • Purpose: This drill is a grip building exercise. It allows the shooter to work on building and testing hand placement and pressure on the gun, one shot at a time.
    • Actions: Starting position is with an unbuilt grip but with the support hand index finger touching the underside of the trigger guard. Extend the handgun, prep the trigger and fire a shot. Make sure to reset the trigger quickly even though you are not firing the second shot.
    • Why I do this drill: It is critical that shooters know how to build a consistent drip on handgun. This drill allows for the repetitive practice of building a perfect grip, then watching the gun in recoil to see how it worked.
  • Drill Three: Five Shot Pace Drill (body)
    • Purpose: This drill adds to the previous one by allowing the shooter to contiue to test their grip.
    • Actions: Starting position is with an unbuilt grip but with the support hand index finger touching the underside of the trigger guard. Extend the handgun, build a perfect grip, and fire five shots to the body scoring zone.
    • Why I do this drill: Maintaining grip pressure is the KEY to shooting multiple shots fast. This drill tests that skill at a fast pace (fired on the body).
  • Drill Four: Five Shot Pace Drill (head)
    • Purpose: A second grip testing drill, but this one emphasizes harder shots. Start position and everything else is the same.
    • Actions: Starting position is with an unbuilt grip but with the support hand index finger touching the underside of the trigger guard. Extend the handgun, build a perfect grip, and fire five shots to the head scoring zone.
    • Why I do this drill: As with the last pace drill, maintaining pressure is the key. This drill gives me the ability to see if a shooter is maintaining pressure at a slower pace. Most shooters relax when they slow down. It also allows me to see if the shooter understands how to reset and prep the trigger repeatedly.
  • Drill Five: 3/2 Alternating Pace Drill (body/head)
    • Purpose: This drill is once again a five shot drill that allows continued work on the grip mechanics, but adds the element of having to apply different trigger mechanics and sighting to hit two varying target areas.
    • Actions: Starting position is with an unbuilt grip but with the support hand index finger touching the underside of the trigger guard. Extend the handgun, build a perfect grip, and fire three shots to the body, and two shots to the head scoring zone. Then repeat reversing that pattern. Why three/two? Simply because most students have at least 10 round magazines in class.
    • Why I do this drill: This critical drill is all about putting it all together. Is the grip perfect and pressure maintained through the fast and slow shots? Is the trigger manipulated as needed to ensure hits on the two different target areas? Is the shooter varying what they need to vary to properly verify gun alignment (soft focus versus hard focus)?

And those are the Fundamental Five. Notice how each drill builds on the last, and that they are all interrelated. Also, notice how each drill is done from the exact same starting position and now from the holster? That is by design. I want to keep the shooter focused on a very small number of skill details. Remember, if everything is a priority, then nothing is in terms of your drill repetitions.

That’s all for now! Get your PDFs here (and by the way, you will get 94 tips to becoming a better shooter as well when you opt-in).

Want to actually watch my technical instructional and see the drill in action? Pick a program on the left sidebar (or scroll down) and watch the entire series immediately. They are $30 off for a short time!

Until Then – Train Hard!

Mike S.

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