Last week, Robert wrote about the importance of using training drills when you go to the range. I have also been thinking about the subject, and I wanted to share my thoughts here as a follow-up to Robert’s post.
For the past few months, I’ve been starting all of my live fire range sessions with drills that are designed as tests. I make a point of shooting the drill or test cold. I do this to realistically track my performance. As Robert pointed out in a recent article, you don’t get to choose when trouble finds you and you don’t get to wait until your feeling tip top. You may be called upon to use your gun when you’re tired, sick, cold, hungry, angry, or frustrated. No matter how you feel, you have to be prepared to flip the switch and make it happen. That’s why I try to test myself every range session with some sort of metric that I can track.
Generally, when I make it to the range, it’s after work. I’m usually tired, I may have had a rough day with difficult calls, I may have had to skip lunch due to call volume, or the weather may be hot, cold, rainy, windy, or even snowy when I’m at the range. But, no matter what kind of day I’ve had or what the weather conditions are, I start cold with a test of some sort.
So far, I’ve used a few different drills for this purpose, and I’ll share them here briefly. I do try to vary it somewhat, as I don’t want the drill to become a practiced routine instead of an actual test of ability. First up, Ken Hackathorn’s Wizard Drill. I’ve written about this one before, and it’s a good, quick, and simple test that is applicable no matter what gun I’m carrying. Another one that is relatively new to me is Justin Dyal’s Five-Yard Roundup. Again, this one doesn’t require much ammo and is able to be shot with anything from a J-frame to a Glock.
Another drill that may be ideal and that can be shot with almost any concealed carry gun is the “Finding Your Level” drill. I just recently discovered this one after reading about it at the Priority Performance Blog, but I haven’t had a chance to try it yet. Apparently, it was created by member CCT125US at pistol-forum.com. Although I’m a member there, I had never heard of it before a few days ago. I have already printed out the targets to try the drill at my next range session. I like the concept because it offers a definitive way to assess and track your ability with only ten rounds.
A couple of others that I use on occasion and have written about before are Tom Givens’ Casino Drill and Bill Wilson’s 5×5 Skills Test. Both of these require a little more ammunition, 21 rounds and 25 rounds respectively. Both incorporate reloads, if that’s important to you. I rarely start with the Casino Drill, but I do shoot it fairly frequently. Maybe once every other month, I’ll shoot the 5×5 Skills Test just to see where I’m at. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a great shot, just average. I reliably score as a Marksman on the test, which coincidentally is the same rating I was given on my Gunsite 250 certificate nearly 14 years ago. I’m not ever going to give up on shooting better, though.
Finally, one more suitable drill is Gila Hayes’ 5×5 Drill. Five shots into a five inch circle at five yards in five seconds, from the low ready. Lucky Gunner has created a nice printable target for this one. Try Claude Werner’s variation and shoot it five times in a row to establish that you are consistent and not just lucky. Finally, for added challenge, shoot the drill from the holster instead of the low ready. Many instructors suggest that this drill represents the bare minimum skill level required of an individual carrying a concealed pistol. In fact, both John Correia of Active Self Protection and Greg Ellifritz of Active Response Training have both discussed this drill in videos and blogs in the past few weeks.
Recently, I was listening to the Skillset Podcast where they touched on this subject in an interview with Johnny Primo, owner of Courses Of Action. He mentioned how he starts all his classes much like how I start my range sessions. He does a safety brief, then has his students go downrange and shoot a drill cold with no warm up. Similarly, in the last Defoor pistol class I took, he started us shooting in class by having us shoot his Pistol Test 1. This is good precedent, and good practice.
I tend to shy away from using qualification drills for this process, mainly because I perceive most of them to be too unwieldy for the purpose I envision. Rather, my goal is to have a simple pass/fail benchmark to see how I’m faring any given day. The first three drills I mentioned are really ideal for this. They will work with any carry gun and system, they are pass/fail with realistic par times, and they don’t take up half a box of ammo to shoot. You could start a range session with one of the three and then have enough ammo left over to get in some meaningful practice of whatever skill you want to work on that day. As an example, on a recent range trip, I started with the Five-Yard Roundup and finished the box of ammo with Mike Seeklander’s Extend Prep and Press/Alternating Target Area. There are a lot of possibilities. Depending on how your initial drill goes any given day, you could gain some insights into where specifically you should be spending your practice time.
In the civilian gunfight context, there is no warm-up, and there are no do-overs. You will be fighting with whatever gun and whatever skills you’ve brought to the fight. Starting your training sessions with a realistic test of your abilities may give you some indication of how you’ll really perform when it’s for real. If you consistently pass, then good for you! If not, then we’re in the same boat and probably need some practice.
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