It’s been about a year since I set off on the project of learning to shoot better. It seems like a good time to stop and reflect on the approach I’ve taken and what results, if any, that I’ve seen.
Let’s talk about approach first. I have tried a number of drills and I have settled on a few that I like. In no particular order, they are:
- Draw and shoot one
- Dot Torture
- Bill Drill
- Head shots at 15 yards
I’ve shot each of these drills multiple times over the last year, and generated a fair amount of data on how I perform with them. I want to share that data with you as I seek to improve.
Draw and shoot one
Draw and shoot one is a drill that I came up with myself, though I’m sure it’s not unique to me. The purpose of the drill is to improve holster draw smoothness, consistency and speed.
The idea is simple: wait for the shot timer to beep, then draw and shoot one round on the body of the silhouette target. It’s somewhat inspired by Grant Cunningham’s “Press Out” drill in his Handgun Training book, but modified to include a full holster draw instead of just pressing out from the ready position.
Here’s how I’ve performed on this drill over time:
This drill generates kind of a ton of data, so I took each range session where I shot it and threw out every time I missed the center of mass of the target. Then I graphed my max time (bad), my min time (good) and the average (mean) of all my times. You can see that my best times were my session with an instructor that I blogged about on 6-Jan-2017.
Overall: Some improvement, but more work needed.
Dot Torture has the advantage of being very simple to represent graphically. You end Dot Torture with a score. Put the score in a graph and you’re done. The down side to Dot Torture is that it takes a whole box of ammo to shoot.
I like the way Dot Torture works on a variety of skills: slow fire marksmanship, transitioning between targets, single-handed shooting (both strong-hand and weak-hand) and reloads. But it puts what I consider to be an appropriate emphasis on each of the skills. I have always shot this drill at 3 yards with my EDC Beretta Nano.
Some improvement over time, with a major dip in the middle. I’ve yet to clear this drill with a perfect 50. Goals, I guess. If I can clear the drill pretty consistently at 3 yards, I plan to push it back to 5.
Bill Drill is another drill that I’ve shot a lot. The thing I like about the Bill Drill is that it trains a few critical skills: presentation to target and balancing speed against accuracy. Those are most of the motor skills needed in a defensive shooting against a single attacker.
Here are my results over time:
The Bill Drill is another one that generates a ton of data, except unlike Draw and Shoot One, I can’t just throw out the “misses,” because Bill Drill has a sliding score. I have also tended to shoot Bill Drill multiple times in a single range session, so I averaged my scores for a given session (that’s the blue line and the left-hand y axis) and put on the same graph the max/min/average (mean) times (green/yellow/brown lines and the right-hand y axis).
This view hides some important data: sometimes I shoot Bill Drill from the ready position (pistol held to chest with muzzle pointing downrange) and sometimes I shoot it from the holster. I shot from the holster on 14-Oct-16, 20-Oct-16 and 13-Jan-16. Other dates are from ready. Additionally, on 18-Nov-16 I shot Bill Drills with my Glock 20, which is a very different pistol than my Beretta Nano.
The upshot here is that I don’t seem to be improving much with this drill. My score hovers around 5, and my times bang around in the 6-8 second range.
Head Shots @ 15 Yards
This drill was inspired by Grant Cunningham’s “Chasing Precision” drill in his Handgun Training book. What I do doesn’t really mimic his drill, but this statement inspired me: “One of the interesting tidbits uncovered by researcher Claude Werner, former chief instructor at the Rogers Shooting School, is that defensive shootings occasionally require a higher level of precision than we have been lead [sic] to expect.” (48) Given that, I try to shoot head shots on whatever silhouette target I’m using at 15 yards to close out a shooting session.
I have always shot this drill untimed with my Beretta Nano.
OK, I was getting pretty good at this, and took a major nosedive last week. I don’t know if it’s because I was using a different target or what, but I was just off last week.
I feel like I have been improving on this drill and have way more confidence making headshots at 15 yards with my Nano.
Overall, I feel like I’ve improved in some places (like my holster draw and 15 yard headshots) and plateaued in others (like Bill Drill). The training I got last year was really helpful to me, and I think I need more training in order to improve from here. Stay tuned.