The “keep it simple, stupid,” or KISS, principle applies to most things in life. Training with a defensive handgun is no different. To employ a handgun effectively in a defensive situation, you must be able to get it into play smoothly and deliver accurate hits before the attacker injures or kills you. And the only realistic way to accomplish that is to practice the skills you could reasonably be expected to use in a life-or-death situation before it occurs. They include drawing the handgun, hitting the target, moving, using cover, reloading and clearing a malfunction. The following is a 100-round training regimen, consisting of five drills, that takes all these skills into account. Become proficient with them now, and you will be better-prepared for the dark day when trouble comes to call.
The Dot Drill (24 shots)
Position a target with six 2-inch circles at between 5 and 7 yards. Shoot one shot at each circle, drawing the handgun from the holster before each shot. The goal is to fire one shot at each circle and hit each target once. This is not a speed drill, but rather it’s an accuracy and gun-handling drill to help you establish a foundation for gun presentation, sight alignment and trigger control. Conduct this drill four times at the beginning of every trip to the range.
The Failure Drill (24 shots)
I agree, but to maximize training opportunities I like to incorporate head shots with torso shots in what’s called a failure drill. The failure drill presents the problem that you have engaged an attacker with two shots to the torso and they have had no effect. To stop the attack, you transition to the head as a target and fire one shot.
Position a silhouette target at between 5 and 7 yards. At the signal, draw your handgun and fire two shots in quick succession to center mass. Then, immediately fire one shot to the center of the head. You’ll have to slow down to make the head shot count. Something between three and four seconds is commonplace. Perform this drill eight times during each practice session to establish your average time. Work toward a goal of completing the drill with no misses in less than three seconds.
New also stresses the importance of practicing head shots from every position you can think of; not just while standing square in front of the target. You can do the same with the failure drill.
The 45 Drill (25 shots)
We cannot simulate the stress levels you’ll experience in a life-and-death encounter, but we can simulate your reaction. This is why I believe the adrenalin dump drill is important. If your reaction is going to be to shove the handgun toward the target and start yanking on the trigger, then learn how to do it effectively. I call my version of the adrenalin dump drill “The 45 Drill,” because the drill has four elements of five—five shots at a 5-inch circle at 5 yards in five seconds.
This is a difficult task for many shooters, especially when drawing the handgun from concealment. If you can successfully perform this drill on demand, under time, with no misses, you should be able to pass any shooting requirement necessary to obtaining a concealed carry license. Practice it five times each training session. At first you’ll probably have several shots land outside the 5-inch circle, and your time will be slow. Slow down your shot cadence even more and strive to get all five shots in the circle. Once you can do this consistently, gradually speed up with the ultimate goal of completing the drill in less than five seconds.
The El Prez—Modified (24 shots)
One of the most famous multiple target drills was made so by Gunsite founder Col. Jeff Cooper. It’s called the El Presidente. I’ve modified it through the years as a means to help me evaluate shooters and track skill development. My modifications come from my experience as a police firearm instructor and what I’ve learned from other shooters I respect and trust.
For instance, Sheriff Jim Wilson believes you should learn to shoot from cover. This makes perfect sense; there’s no use standing in the open while the bad guy shoots at you. “Top Shot” winner and former British Army Capt. Iain Harrison likes to incorporate movement, and this makes sense too—a moving target is harder to hit. And, if you stand in one place when you practice, you’ll likely do the same in a fight. Caleb Giddings, “Top Shot” competitor, revolver aficionado and active competition shooter, believes the ability to reload your handgun in a hurry is important. While it’s unlikely a defensive encounter will reach the point at which a reload is necessary, the steps to reloading are similar to those required to clear a malfunction.
This 12-shot drill is somewhat unrealistic, but it does provide the opportunity to evaluate a variety of handgun skills and is a good benchmark to use as an evaluation tool. Place a silhouette target at 3 yards, one at 5 yards, and one at 7 yards. Space them 5 feet apart laterally. Start by standing in front of the right or left target, and at the signal engage each target with two shots working from the closest to the farthest. Then, move laterally about 10 feet to cover, reload and repeat the drill from behind cover.
Completing this drill in less than 10 seconds with all kill zone hits demonstrates a high level of proficiency. Times between 12 and 18 seconds with no misses will be average. Run this drill twice at the end of each practice session. Use it as a standard evaluation exercise and over time you’ll see improvement in each skill the drill targets. Take your total time and add five seconds for every miss. Add the times from both runs together and divide by two to get your score.