Pistol Drills – 3 to 7 Yards

As a follow on to my last article,  Setting (and Tracking) Realistic, Attainable Goals, I wanted to give some drills that will improve your pistol shooting with a target distance of 3 to 7 yards. Some of these will work at a stodgy square “bowling alley” range and others require a more permissive environment.

Bullseye Mode

This is the simplest and works at any range. The goal is to shoot the smallest group possible at any distance. For this drill I recommend cardboard because paper will have a tendency to tear out and make the group appear larger than it actually is. Start close and work your way back. I normally do a run of 6 rounds. You will not get fast with this drill; you need not draw from a holster. The goal is sight alignment, trigger press and breathing.

3 yards

If your target looks like this at 3 yards, you need more practice!

This is the number 1 static range drill and everyone reading has probably done it, but I would suggest you try it again, but set a minimum time between shots. Say 10 seconds. That is enough time to bring the gun down, take a few breaths and aim again. You might find you are capable of better accuracy than you thought!

Dot-Torture Drill

This drill was created by David Blinder at personaldefensetraining.com and can be found here. The instructions are printed on the target, so I won’t waste our time repeating them here. With no time limit required this drill is good for a static range that doesn’t allow rapid fire. If you can’t draw from a holster, use low ready. Once you can clear it at 3 yards, move back to 5. This drill requires a decent understanding of sight alignment and trigger press fundamentals.

Garcia Dots (or The Dots)

This drill was created by Frank Garcia and is recommended by many USPSA shooters and trainers. It is often confused with Dot-Torture but the only similarity is the size of the dot. This drill uses six 2 inch dots arranged in two rows of three. You need a shot timer and you must set the par time to 5 seconds. Upon the beep you draw and shoot 6 rounds into a single dot. You then continue with each remaining dot using the same par-time. Your actual time is irrelevant as long as you can beat the par beep. The goal is all six shots either within or touching the 2 inch circle. The drill is a total of 36 shots and it is scored as misses/shots fired, or 30/36, if you had 6 misses.

The drill is designed for 7 yards, but you should start at 3 yards and work back. Consistently cleaning the drill at 7 yards is difficult for the best shooters, so don’t get discouraged.

You can mix it up and shoot some dots strong hand only, some weak hand only, etc. When modifying the drill I shoot it a few times and see what my average time is, and then I set the par for 0.5 seconds less.

In all honesty I shoot this drill virtually every time I go to the range as a means of warm up. I feel it is a much better training aid than the Dot-Torture, but with its draw and rapid fire requirements it is not useable at most static ranges and it is not for beginners.

Doubles

This is simple drill that helps build speed. It can be done at any distance, but for maximum speed training I use 3 yards. The drill is simple; you draw from concealment and put two shots into the target as quick as you can identify two sight pictures. This is NOT A DOUBLE TAP! A double tap is two shots with one sight picture and normally leads to one shot in the center of the target and the other in the upper region of the target.

It is worth mentioning that some people like to perform a similar drill but only shoot a single round. I have done that and found you can cheat your sight picture and get lucky. Shooting two shots requires you identify the sight picture with each trigger pull.

With this drill you see a flash of a sight picture, fire and the moment the sights are aligned you pull the trigger again. For a target I use a USPSA Metric target or a 6” x 10” box on a piece of printer paper.

My first attempt at this drill was in Ben Stoeger’s Fundamentals class and he made a joke about using a sun dial. Now, using my USPSA Production gear I can average a 1.05 on the drill with good center A-zone hits. From concealment my speed drops to around 1.5 or so, but that is a function of a concealed IWB draw. I promise I didn’t start off that quick – this drill works!

If your range won’t let you draw from a holster you can start at low ready and practice the draw in dry fire. You don’t get the full effect of grip and draw, but you still get the training on sight alignment at speed.

Bill Drill

What type of 7 yard drill list wouldn’t include the quintessential drill? The original Bill Drill, as told by Rob Leatham (go to 1:32 on this video to hear Rob talk about the creation of the drill) was to draw and fire 6 shots into a IPSC A zone as quick as you can get the hits. This drill works on the draw stroke, sight alignment, recoil control and trigger press. You must have all of the fundamentals squared away to accomplish this drill in less than 2.5 seconds.

Personally, from concealment using my S&W Shield, I generally turn in a 2.2 – 2.3  second run. With my USPSA rig I get 2.00 flat. I have gone faster, but that is not the average.

This drill is really fun but there are some downsides; you must have a rather liberal ran to do this drill for one and this drill will eat ammo. 10 runs, which is my minimum for this drill, will eat 60 rounds. But what a way to burn ammo!

For more information here is Caleb explaining and shooting the Bill Drill.

Four Aces

This is the final drill I consider a close range skill builder. It tests your draw, sight alignment, recoil control, ability to quickly change a magazine and then get back on target.   This drill is performed at 7 yards and consists of drawing and firing two rounds into an IPSC A zone or similar sized target, performing a mag change and then firing two more rounds at the target. As designed the gun does not go to slide lock during the mag change, but it is entirely acceptable to do so, just ensure you are consistent each time.

So there you have it, six drills that I have found work wonders within the 3-7 yard range. This list is not comprehensive and a quick search on the internet will reveal an overwhelming amount of drills. Frankly a great many of those drills are crap! The goal of this article was to give the new shooter, or any shooter looking to improve, a solid set of drills to start with. In the next article I’ll give some drills that build your skills at what I consider medium and long-range.

Pistol Drills – 3 to 7 Yards

As a follow on to my last article, Setting (and Tracking) Realistic Attainable Goals, I wanted to give some drills that will improve your pistol shooting with a target distance of 3 to 7 yards. Some of these will work at a stodgy square “bowling alley” range and others require a more permissive environment.

Bullseye Mode

This is the simplest and works at any range. The goal is to shoot the smallest group possible at any distance. For this drill I recommend cardboard because paper will have a tendency to tear out and make the group appear larger than it actually is. Start close and work your way back. I normally do a run of 6 rounds. You will not get fast with this drill; you need not draw from a holster. The goal is sight alignment, trigger press and breathing.

3 yards

If this is what your 3 yard group looks like, you need more practice!

This is the number 1 static range drill and everyone reading has probably done it, but I would suggest you try it again, but set a minimum time between shots. Say 10 seconds. That is enough time to bring the gun down, take a few breaths and aim again. You might find you are capable of better accuracy than you thought!

Dot-Torture Drill

This drill was created by David Blinder at personaldefensetraining.com and can be found here. The instructions are printed on the target, so I won’t waste our time repeating them here. With no time limit required this drill is good for a static range that doesn’t allow rapid fire. If you can’t draw from a holster, use low ready. Once you can clear it at 3 yards, move back to 5. This drill requires a decent understanding of sight alignment and trigger press fundamentals.

Garcia Dots (or The Dots)

This drill was created by Frank Garcia and is recommended by many USPSA shooters and trainers. It is often confused with Dot-Torture but the only similarity is the size of the dot. This drill uses six 2 inch dots arranged in two rows of three. You need a shot timer and you must set the par time to 5 seconds. Upon the beep you draw and shoot 6 rounds into a single dot. You then continue with each remaining dot using the same par-time. Your actual time is irrelevant as long as you can beat the par beep. The goal is all six shots either within or touching the 2 inch circle. The drill is a total of 36 shots and it is scored as misses/shots fired, or 30/36, if you had 6 misses.

The drill is designed for 7 yards, but you should start at 3 yards and work back. Consistently cleaning the drill at 7 yards is difficult for the best shooters, so don’t get discouraged.

You can mix it up and shoot some dots strong hand only, some weak hand only, etc. When modifying the drill I shoot it a few times and see what my average time is, and then I set the par for 0.5 seconds less.

In all honesty I shoot this drill virtually every time I go to the range as a means of warm up. I feel it is a much better training aid than the Dot-Torture, but with its draw and rapid fire requirements it is not usable at most static ranges and it is not for beginners.

Doubles

This is simple drill that helps build speed. It can be done at any distance, but for maximum speed training I use 3 yards. The drill is simple; you draw from concealment and put two shots into the target as quick as you can identify two sight pictures. This is NOT A DOUBLE TAP! A double tap is two shots with one sight picture and normally leads to one shot in the center of the target and the other in the upper region of the target.

It is worth mentioning that some people like to perform a similar drill but only shoot a single round. I have done that and found you can cheat your sight picture and get lucky. Shooting two shots requires you identify the sight picture with each trigger pull.

With this drill you see a flash of a sight picture, fire and the moment the sights are aligned you pull the trigger again. For a target I use a USPSA Metric target or a 6” x 10” box on a piece of printer paper.

My first attempt at this drill was in Ben Stoeger’s Fundamentals class and he made a joke about using a sun dial. Now, using my USPSA Production gear I can average a 1.05 on the drill with good center A-zone hits. From concealment my speed drops to around 1.5 or so, but that is a function of a concealed IWB draw. I promise I didn’t start off that quick – this drill works!

If your range won’t let you draw from a holster you can start at low ready and practice the draw in dry fire. You don’t get the full effect of grip and draw, but you still get the training on sight alignment at speed.

Bill Drill

What type of 7 yard drill list wouldn’t include the quintessential drill? The original Bill Drill, as told by Rob Leatham (go to 1:32 on this video to hear Rob talk about the creation of the drill) was to draw and fire 6 shots into a IPSC A zone as quick as you can get the hits. This drill works on the draw stroke, sight alignment, recoil control and trigger press. You must have all of the fundamentals squared away to accomplish this drill in less than 2.5 seconds. From concealment, using my S&W Shield, I generally run a 2.2 – 2.3. With my USPSA rig I get 2.00 flat. I have gone faster, but that is not the average.

This drill is really fun but there are some downsides; you must have a rather liberal ran to do this drill for one and this drill will eat ammo. 10 runs, which is my minimum for this drill, will eat 60 rounds. But what a way to burn ammo!

For more information here is Caleb explaining and shooting the Bill Drill.

Four Aces

This is the final drill I consider a close range skill builder. It tests your draw, sight alignment, recoil control, ability to quickly change a magazine and then get back on target.   This drill is performed at 7 yards and consists of drawing and firing two rounds into an IPSC A zone or similar sized target, performing a mag change and then firing two more rounds at the target. As designed the gun does not go to slide lock during the mag change, but it is entirely acceptable to do so, just ensure you are consistent each time.

So there you have it, six drills that I have found work wonders within the 3-7 yard range. This list is not comprehensive and a quick search on the internet will reveal an overwhelming amount of drills. Frankly a great many of those drills are crap! The goal of this article was to give the new shooter, or any shooter looking to improve, a solid set of drills to start with. In the next article I’ll give some drills that build your skills at what I consider medium and long-range.

ICORE moves International Revolver Championship to Universal Shooting Academy in Florida

In a press release that came out this weekend, the International Confederation of Revolver Enthusiasts announced that the 2016 International Revolver Championship will be held at Universal Shooting Academy in Frostproof, FL. This is a huge change, moving the match from the Hogue Action Pistol range in San Luis Obispo, CA.

ICORElogo135

I think that Universal Shooting Academy is a fantastic facility and that they’ll do a great job hosting the match. I’ve shot probably a dozen matches at USA over the years, and with the exception of one IDPA Nationals where I needed SCUBA gear to shoot, I always had a great time.

But I don’t like this call, and that’s where this post changes from reporting the news to an editorial. To understand, you have to look at a little bit of shooting sports history. In 2011, I shot the last Steel Challenge that was held in its historic location in Piru, CA. It was awesome. 2012-2013 the match moved to Frostproof at USA, and in 2013 the match had its lowest attendance in over a decade. This isn’t a knock on Frank Garcia or Shannon Smith, the operators of Universal Shooting Academy, because they run a solid business and have a great facility.

However, there’s a data point here from Steel Challenge that says when you move a West Coast match to the East Coast, you run the risk of losing participation. I really can’t stress hard enough that I’m not knocking Universal here, because I do think it’s a great facility, but it’s also in Frostproof. Which, if you’ve never been there, is in the middle of nowhere, FL. It’s about an hour and a half from Tampa or Orlando, there aren’t a lot of great restaurants around, and it’s just…not a great place to hang out for an extended period of time. Maybe I’m just a homer and miss California, but I think people would much rather go to the central coast region of CA for a match than go to Frostproof.

I hope I’m wrong, and I hope the IRC continues to flourish now that it’s been moved to Universal Shooting Academy. I will say that November is the best time to hold a match down there, as the weather is actually pretty nice! Hopefully I’ll be able to pull the resources together and go shoot my first ever IRC at Frostproof this year.

Your First Match

I often recommend competitive shooting – specifically action pistol type matches – to anyone with a CCW.  Even so, there is always apprehension in people’s eyes.  What will they encounter?  Are they good enough?  Will they be laughed at?  Judged?  Yelled at?  With that in mind, here is a brief synopsis about what you can expect at your first match.

ricky bobby i want to go fast

First things first, you should show up early, find a range officer/safety officer or the match director and let them know this is your first match.  Expect them to give you a safety briefing.  In fact, most sanctioning bodies, such as IDPA or USPSA, have specific requirements for such safety briefings.  While safety is paramount at any match it should be your only concern at your first match.  You will have fun, I promise; but safety first.  You will likely be doing task and maneuvers that are new to you, all while holding a loaded hand gun.  Ensure you do it safely.

Don’t worry too much about gear; you can shoot what you have, provided you own a holster.  The mags can go in your back pocket.  I am planning on writing a post on beginner gear just too illustrate how cheaply you can get started.

Your first match experience will likely be similar to everyone else – mine was.  I showed up cocky and confident and left humbled and craving more.  If you have never shot a match before you might be surprised how quick some of the other competitors can be!  Don’t try to equal their skills, you will only do worse.

For example; my first match was an IDPA Classifier and I was supremely confident I would burn it down.  When it was all said and done, I had rushed, made stupid mistakes and even had a few misses.  I finished as SSP (and ESP) Sharpshooter which wasn’t bad but I was less than 2 seconds from Expert; had I shot to my skill level the misses likely wouldn’t have happened and that alone would have gotten me to Expert.  My cockiness got in the way; the experienced guys went fast, I wanted to go fast!

Even with my mistakes, I did some things correct.

As I mentioned above, I arrived early and immediately let everyone know I was a new shooter.  Doing so allowed me to quickly identify the proper people to talk with and ask questions.  There were 3 other new shooters that night and after completing registration, they pulled us aside for a 30 minute safety briefing.  If you read the rule book(s), none of what they say will be new or shocking.  Muzzle awareness, keeping your finger off the trigger during reloads, keep the gun in the holster unless directed to Load and Make Ready, where is the safe area and what is it for, etc.  It is all basic stuff, but they take it seriously!

After we got our assignments I began to load mags while waiting my turn.  Being an IDPA Classifier I knew the course of fire and had dry fired it once or twice, thus I felt prepared. What I wasn’t prepared for was jitters as it came closer to my time to shoot.  I became nervous because of match pressure.  I have written about it before and I feel it is worth repeating.  Match pressure is real and it brings stressors into your shooting you just don’t get on a square range.  If you want to read more about it, I suggest you give this a quick read: match pressure.

When the night was through and we were tearing down the stages I realized how much I had learned in a few hours and how much fun I had.  I was able to identify specific areas to improve on and came to terms with my own short comings.  It was a pivotal experience in becoming a better shooter.  It was FUN!

We can always improve our skills, but first we must identify those areas that need improvement.  A match is a perfect way to identify weaknesses and improve.  I recommend everyone go shoot a match, especially if you possess a CCW and chose to carry a gun for self-defense.  Even just one match will open your eyes to weaknesses and just how much fun you can have with a handgun.

Oh, and for those worried about being made fun of – Fuhgeddaboudit!  No one laughed at me, and short of a club composed of nothing but assholes, no one will laugh at you either.

Student or Dry Fire Hero?

Dry Fire. It is both proven to work and often misunderstood. It applies to competition and to concealed carry skills. Many swear by it and some (foolishly) scoff at it. Many times we hear people mention dry fire without actually explaining what it means so let’s get on the same page with regards to what dry fire is and isn’t.

Maggie Reese

Simply put, anything you can do to practice with your firearm that doesn’t require live ammo can be performed in dry fire. Dry fire is NOT aiming at the TV and pulling the trigger. It is not lying in your bed and aiming at the ceiling. You can use dry fire to improve your trigger with the proper regime. Check out the White Wall Drill for more information.

  • Want to get your draws smoother – practice in dry fire.
  • Want to speed up your reloads – practice in dry fire.
  • Want to improve transitions – practice in dry fire.
  • Want to improve recoil control – LIVE FIRE, NOT DRY FIRE!

Dry fire allows us to work on a great many skills without expending any ammo or driving to the range. However, dry fire is not a replacement for live fire.

I dry fire roughly 4 times a week for 30-40 minutes per session. Some will see that as a lot and some will see that as too little. In all honesty, I should be dry firing more to achieve my personal goals in competition. Although with those dry fire sessions, I try to get in one live fire session a week. This isn’t always possible but it is important. It keeps your dry fire honest. It is really easy to fall into the trap of dry firing exclusively and becoming a dry fire hero. In all likelihood, you go to the range and realize the skills are not as polished as you thought.

You might have a sub 1.0 second draw time in dry fire but if you have never got up on the 3 yard line and actually practiced it with live ammo and a timer, you don’t really know. Likely, you won’t be as fast; your conscious mind (see, there it is again) will take too long getting the perfect sight picture vs an acceptable sight picture.

It is easy to dry fire your way to speed, but you must still look for every weakness in live fire and find a way to execute it better. If not, you will be quick in your dry fire dojo but in live fire and/or a match, you will be stuck at your current level.

Don’t mistake this to mean dry fire isn’t important; because it is.  Dry fire without live fire confirmation, in the form of mini-drills against a timer, will not take you to the level you desire.

Are you a competitive student that looks for ways to improve using both dry fire and live fire or are you a dry fire hero; burning down drill after drill in your basement but never verifying a thing at the range?

Are you overlooking some easy improvement in the name of a quick dry fire par time?

Where are you and where do you want to be?

Mitigating Match Pressure

Today’s subject is a brief discussion about match pressure. If you shoot competition, you already know match pressure is real. So how can we control it?

Shelley Rae on the move

You dry fire frequently on a regular schedule. You exercise before live fire to get your heart rate up. You feel prepared to handle the match stress. However when you get to the starting box and the RO says “Shooter ready”, you get nervous, jittery and fall apart. Your heart rate quickens and your palms sweat. Unless you are a top shooter and/or have years (decades?) of experience under your belt, it will happen to you.  So what are we to do?

The reason is simple to diagnosis and hard to correct. You are over thinking and your conscious mind is tripping you up. Yes, the physical effects are caused by adrenaline and body alarm response but those are driven by your brain. You are your own worst enemy at the start of a stage. You work through different scenarios in your head; the “what ifs”, the good and bad from your last stage, how you are going to attack the stage and then you heard the magic words: “Load and make ready”.

“The consciousness of self is the greatest hindrance to the proper execution of all physical action” – Bruce Lee

It is my hope that most of you will find nothing new about this phenomenon. If you are a member of the Brian Enos Forum (and you should be), then you are likely aware of Mr. Enos’ competition beliefs but he is not alone.  USPSA Grand Master, Steve Anderson, has a wonderful podcast that is almost exclusively about the mental game. Let us not can’t forget Olympic Gold Medalist Lanny Bassham and his book, With Winning in Mind.

Of course reading their works, their “Zen” if you will, won’t do much on its own.  You need something to drive your focus when you are in the shooters box. Something you can take with you to both dry and live fire practice. What that “something” is will be up to the shooter. For instance, I focus on my breathing and try to listen to the surrounding noises and activity when awaiting the glorious sound of “Shooter ready – Standby”. If at an outdoor match, are there birds chirping? Are there leaves rustling? Try to focus on something that YOU can use to help calm the conscience mind.

I will admit that this is not as easy to do as it is to talk about. When I manage it effectively, my speed and accuracy are at their peak; but when I fail to manage it, my times suffer and I make mistakes. Those mistakes are not a negative as long as you recognize each failure and learn from it. That is the key! Anyone can recognize they made an error but those who can use that recognition to learn will get better and ultimately quicker. You must never see your errors as a failure but as declaration of a weakness. An identification of where you need to practice.   Ironically, this applies to life in general and not just shooting.

Another thing a person can do, which I have used with success during the stage, is to view each shot as the only shot.  “Issha Zetsumei” is a Japanese phrase that literally means “one shot and expire”.  It points to the fact that each shot should stand alone.  Do not worry about your score!  Focus on the front sight. Press the trigger. Watch the front sight rise. Repeat. Don’t shoot faster than you can see, but at the same time, only see what you need to see.

So there you have it.  If you want to control match pressure you have to learn to control yourself. Shoot your game and let everything else go. The score will take care of itself based on your level of skill.  Don’t shoot faster than your ability and don’t shoot slower than you need.  Shoot your game, shoot at your level and have fun.

And most important, remember to have fun. After all, it’s just a game.

The business of the shooting sports: NRA Action Pistol and ICORE

Today is our final installment in the business of the shooting sports series. Previous articles covered 3Gun, USPSA, IDPA, and the general trends in the sport. In our final piece, we’ll have a bit of a double feature, covering two sports. NRA Action Pistol and ICORE. NRA Action Pistol is the sanctioning body for the Bianchi Cup, and ICORE is the International Confederation of Revolver Enthusiasts.

12-BianchiLogo

NRA Action Pistol
NRA Action Pistol is one of the oldest shooting sports; its championship the Bianchi Cup recently celebrated its 35 anniversary. We have covered Bianchi Cup extensively here on Gun Nuts, and will recap that coverage very shortly here. The Cup went through troubled times, but has recently reasserted itself as the premiere pistol championship in terms of sponsorships and media coverage. Attendance has been up for the past five years, and the Cup is showing no signs of stalling out.

But the sport of NRA Action Pistol is largely sustained by this one match. There is a world championship held every two years, with the most recent one this year in Rockcastle, KY. There are also a few regional matches, with the most well known being the Flagler Cup, which goes down the week before Bianchi Cup each year and is often used as a tune-up for the big match itself. There are also regional and state matches in Michigan and Virginia. There are almost no club level NRA AP matches, which for any other sport would be a problem, but not necessarily for NRA Action Pistol. As long as the Cup itself is successful, the sport as it is will continue to be successful.

The success of the Cup is also its greatest weakness for the sport, because NRA AP without a robust and successful Bianchi Cup would simply disappear. As long as the Cup continues to prosper and attract new shooters, the sport will prosper. While I would love to see more clubs putting in NRA AP matches, it’s actually not necessary for the sport to be successful. Because they’ve defined success as having a few big major matches, it’s really all about a successful Bianchi Cup each year.

ICORE
ICORE is also an interesting animal, in that it’s an all volunteer organization defined largely by its biggest match, the International Revolver Championships held each year in the prettiest place on earth, the Central California coast. Unlike NRA AP, ICORE does have established club level participation, with 59 clubs scattered across the USA. They have a classification system, and various regional, area, and state championships. The truth is ICORE isn’t really in any kind danger or flux – there is a steady and consistent population of wheelgun shooters and dabblers that will likely continue to support the sport for times to come.

Really, the greatest danger to ICORE is the fact that it’s an all volunteer organization. Burnout, aging volunteers, and a lack of suitable replacements is a huge concern for all of the shooting sports, but especially an organization that’s entirely dependent on volunteers. But on the flipside, ICORE’s been making it work since 1992, and because it’s such a niche sport the volunteers tend to be passionate enthusiasts about it. I do have an ICORE life membership, it’s worth noting, and yet I’ve never shot the IRC. One of these years…

As we wrap up our look at the shooting sports, there’s really only one conclusion to that I can arrive at. Despite the challenges facing all of the major games, we are absolutely in a golden age for shooting sports right now. There are more matches, more dollars, more media, more coverage, and just more opportunities to get your trigger finger going nationwide than there have been in the past. If you want to shoot a traditional concealed carry rig, you can. If you want to race your guns, you can do that. If you want to shoot a Glock 19 with an RDS, a tactical shotgun, and a Colt 6920, you can. That’s the great thing about this time – there is a sport that will take you, no matter what your gun and gear is. So get out there, and go shooting. There are few things more fun than running around with a gun in your hand shooting at stuff.

International Revolver Championships

That’s where I’ll be this coming June – San Luis Obispo, California for the IRC.  I’ll be shooting Classic division with my S&W 686, but here’s a taste of what the action looks like through the eyes of two time champ Julie G.