In my time on the range I’ve come to the conclusion that most people who are shooting a handgun don’t really have a solid grasp on the fundamentals of handgun accuracy. As an example, a friend of mine was recently at an indoor range and he had the unmitigated temerity to actually try and shoot at a target 25 yards away, the maximum distance achievable at this facility. The “range safety officer” (I use that term sarcastically because when I went to that facility I never saw them intervene on an actual safety issue) expressed surprise that he was able to actually hit something 25 yards away. Most, in his experience, couldn’t.
The answer for that is simple: Most, in my experience, have had no useful instruction on the fundamentals of shooting a handgun. On the one hand it’s not all that complicated…get an acceptable sight picture and press the trigger to the rear without interrupting that sight picture. On the other we’re talking about a physical skill, and words are particularly bad at adequately communicating kinesthetic concepts. Compounding the problem is the size of the targets used for a lot of pistol training. Just to give you an example, one of the most popular qualification targets used in law enforcement is the B-27 target. When you actually start to staple that target up on a cardboard backer, the magnitude of the problem becomes clear. I’m not a little guy, but even I’m dwarfed by the size of whatever dude they modeled this target after. I can only assume it was Andre the Giant’s little brother, because he’s massive. The scoring rings on the B27 are insanely generous to boot, giving you a scored hit on this wide-blob of a bad guy where the bullet would have barely grazed even a pretty big guy in real life. People shoot at these massive targets at relatively close range and it masks just how bad their ability to place a shot on demand actually is.
So if shooting at Andre the Giant isn’t good for diagnosing your fundamentals, what should you try? Todd Green introduced me to a drill during an Aim Fast, Hit Fast course some years ago that I’ve come to lean on pretty heavily since then: Dot Torture. Dot Torture is a 50 round test that will give you a good read on your fundamental skill and on how performing standard manipulations (drawing, reloading, transitioning to a different target, etc) impact your ability to apply fundamental skills. The target itself prints out on 8.5×11 paper and has all the instructions necessary for running the test printed right on the target.
It works as an evaluation of fundamental accuracy skills for shooters at just about any skill level. At 3 yards a relatively unskilled shooter can still hit the target, but the circles are small enough that even slight errors in sight alignment and trigger control will show up very visibly. More skilled shooters will usually find the weak-hand-only sections of the test pretty challenging. Shooters who clean the drill at 3 yards can be challenged by upping the range to 5, 7, 10, or 15 yards…with each move back dramatically altering the difficulty of the drill. The person who can easily clean the drill at 3 yards may find that at 5 yards they’re dropping several points, especially on the weak-hand-only portion and it only gets harder from there. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone shoot 50 out of 50 on Dot Torture at 15 yards. If you’re one of the few who can, try it at 25…and if you can score 50 out of 50 shooting at 2″ dots from 25 yards, maybe you should think hard about taking up Bianchi Cup.
Dot Torture is entirely about fundamentals…so there’s no timer involved in the test. It’s all about delivering the best accuracy you can with each shot to give yourself a read on where you’re at with the basic ability to place a shot accurately on demand. If you’ve never run the test before try it at 3 yards, note your score, and then try it again at 5, 7, and 10 yards. You can certainly get creative with the test and add a timed element to some or all of the sections, or even get creative with the use of the target (I like to use math problems to make them shoot a certain number of shots on a particular dot) but try to refrain from doing that until after you’ve gone through the actual test as written a few times. Don’t get shooting ADD and lose the benefit by neglecting to really test your grasp of the fundamentals.
If you’ve never tried it, follow the link to download the target, print it out and give her a run.
Since Caleb’s on vacation and can’t protest, I’ll add a little motivation to the pot: If you give Dot Torture a run and send in a picture of your scored target to our Gun Nuts Facebook page within the next 7 days, I’ll throw your name into a hat and I’ll buy the winner of the random drawing a year’s subscription to GunUp magazine!
That’ll teach Caleb not to take any more vacations…