Shooting Drills…..Why?

In the last year or so, John and I have been posting more often about drills we have shot.  We have outlined what is entailed with the drills themselves and then described our own performance on these drills (sometimes our performances have been worth sharing, and other times less so!).  We share the drills because we figure our readers might be interested in shooting them as well.  And we share our performance on these drills so our readers can get a feeling for where our skill levels are at any given time.

But why shoot drills at all?  Why not just go to the range, hang up a B-27 silhouette or B-8 bullseye, shoot it, and be done with it?  Well, I used to do that.  I used to go to the range, hang up the silhouette, shoot 50 rounds at it, and if all hits at 7 yards (slow-fire) were inside the seven ring, I declared to myself that I was ready to take on all comers.  Then I got knowledge!

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Not what we mean when we talk about “shooting drills”.

Skills

There are many times that you might go to the range and not shoot specific drills.  Instead, you might choose to work on specific skills, possibly under no pressure of time.  You might work your fundamentals of accuracy doing some pure accuracy work.  You might practice slide-lock reloads.  You might practice controlled pairs.  In short, you do not always have to be shooting drills.  You should practice skills and then test them in drills.

Drills Test Skills

Different drills test different skills, with many drills testing more than one skill.  You practice the skill(s) and then test mastery of those skills by shooting drills.  Most—but not all–shooting drills include both accuracy and elapsed time elements, adding some pressure to the shooter. 

For example, let us look at the Casino Drill I outlined in this article.  The Casino Drill will test your draw to first shot on a small target, your ability to accurately place several shots on small targets at some speed (sight tracking and recoil management), the ability to focus on solving problems while shooting accurately (finding each small target on the larger target sheet and knowing how many shots you still need to make on a target after a reload), and your slide-lock reloads under time pressure.  Any of those skills can be practiced individually at the range (often shooting other drills!), and some even dry at home.

Drills Allow Comparisons to Self

Once a drill has been shot to establish a baseline score, the drill can be shot repeatedly over time to measure maintenance/growth/improvement (or, possibly, regression).  If you are shooting a drill that tests multiple skills, a shot timer could prove invaluable not just for the drill itself, but because it can help you determine what sub-skills might be slowing you down (examples would include your shot-to-shot times, usually called split-times, your reload times, etc.). 

Drills Can Help Determine A Shooter’s State of Readiness

Some instructors will include in their course descriptions scores/times on specific drills that potential students should be able to achieve on day one of the course.  These tend to be, of course, some of the more advanced classes out there.  Shooting drills on your own prior to courses like these can help you determine if the class is right for you.

Drills Allow Comparisons to Others

It should go without saying that your performance on specific drills can allow for comparison to others.  There are few things as motivating as shooting drills with a friend to see who can score the best.  Even if you cannot do so in person, relying on the honor system and comparing with a friend can motivate you to continue to work on the skills required for that drill.  Even if friends are not involved, if you are merely having a conversation with someone who has experience with these drills, it allows for a common “language” and comparisons (“how fast do you shoot the F.A.S.T. drill?  Oh wow, yeah, I’m only doing it in 8.5 seconds.”). 

Drills Allow Comparisons Across Platforms

How many times have you or someone you know said something like, “I shoot my Ruger LCP just as well as my Glock 19”?  How do they know?  If you want to determine if you shoot “X” as well as “Y”, the best way to find out, of course, is to test yourself with both guns on the same drills.  This can work not just for the firearms themselves, but also other bits of gear like holsters, magazine pouches, cover garments, sights, etc.  Recently, I have shot the NRA Basics of Pistol Standards with guns ranging from a Ruger LCP up to a Glock 17.  I have also been shooting the FBI Handgun Qualification course with several  different handguns in order to compare my performance across platforms (in this case, keeping my holster, style of cover garment, and magazine pouch the same, so all I am comparing is the performance of the pistols in my hands). 

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“The Super Test” is a great example of a shooting drill.

Final Thoughts

If you are one of those people who just goes to the range and plinks away at targets and scoff at those who shoot drills as elitist or just plain annoying, hopefully this article has provided some insight into the utility of shooting drills.  Drills help provide accountability to yourself and can help you structure your range visits and practice habits.  Oh, and they’re also fun!

As always, thanks for reading.  If you have any questions or comments, please post them below or on our Facebook page, as we always welcome civil discourse. 

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