Handgun Drills

DISCLAIMER: Training with firearms is an inherently dangerous activity.  Be sure to follow all safety protocols when using firearms or practicing these drills.  These drills are provided for information purposes only.  Use at your own risk.


designed by Jody H
Range: 5yd
Start position: holstered with three rounds in the pistol
Rounds fired: 6
Shooter begins the drill with three rounds in the gun. Using a shot timer, give yourself a seven second PAR time. On the buzzer, draw and fire six rounds as follows:

  • one round at the 1″ square
  • two rounds at the 2″ circle
  • perform a reload
  • three rounds at the 3×5 rectangle

Range: 5yd
Target: torso zone (IPSC A-zone, IDPA zero-down, 8″ plate, 8.5×11 paper)
Start position: gun aimed in on target
Rounds fired: 3
This is a close-range drill that should allow you to practice your reload and re-acquisition of the target as quickly as possible. Remember, don’t go so fast that you miss the target regularly.

The drill begins with the shooter aiming at the target, finger on the trigger. On the start signal, fire a single round at the target. Then perform a reload and fire two more rounds at the target. This is an improvement over the traditional 1-reload-1 drill because by requiring two shots after the reload, the shooter is forced to get a good grip and visual awareness of the pistol after the reload in order to control the gun and get two accurate and fast hits.
Depending on how you perform the drill, your reload can be a slidelock (aka emergency) reload, a speed (aka in-battery) reload, or a retention (aka tactical) reload.

10 Round Assault Course

(designed by Ethan Johns of SWAT Magazine)
Range: 25yd, 15yd, 7yd, & closing
Target: NRA B8 replacement center
Start position: holstered
Rounds fired: 10
​​Target is a standard NRA B8 bullseye replacement center. Scoring is for actual points so a 10-ring hit is worth a lot more than peripherals.
Start from the holster at 25yd.

  1. On the buzzer, draw and fire two (2) rounds.
  2. Advance to the 15yd line keeping gun safely in control, fire two (2) rounds.
  3. Advance to the 7yd line keeping gun safely in control, fire three (3) rounds.
  4. Fire three (3) more rounds while advancing forward from the 7yd line.

Score is simply listed as points and time. Ethan recommends using 80 points in 20 seconds as a passing score.
Using a B8 target center instead of the big zone of an IPSC/IDPA target is what makes this such an interesting drill. Being able to turn in precision at speed (especially at the 25 and 15yd lines) is very representative of the performance standards Ethan and his military colleagues expect in their real world day jobs.
This and Ethan’s other new test appeared in the January 2014 edition of SWAT Magazine.

26662 DRILL

designed by Todd Green
Range: 3yd – 7yd
Target: special (see below)
Start position: holstered
Rounds fired: 5
This is a more advanced variation on the Changing Gears drill. It uses a target with two 2″ circles and one 6″ circle.  DOWNLOAD TARGET HERE

Range can be anywhere from three to seven yards depending on shooter skill level.

Draw and fire one round at the top 2″ circle, three rounds at the 6″ circle, and then one round at the bottom 2″ circle. Shoot the circles in that specific sequence. Record your time and establish a good par time for yourself. Then start to chip tenths of a second off the par to improve your speed. Once you are consistently getting all of your hits within 3-4 seconds, try putting the target out another yard or two and starting again.
To keep the drill from getting stale and to keep you from getting too familiar with the specific movement from circle to circle, rotate the target to a different orientation each range session. So sometimes the little dots will be on the right, sometimes of the left, sometimes on top, and sometimes on bottom.
The 26662 drill will help you develop a good, precise draw and the ability to change between high accuracy shots and high speed shots seamlessly.

Bill Drill

designed by Bill Wilson (sometimes erroneously credited to Bill Jordan, Bill Rogers)
Range: 7yd
Target: standard IPSC target
Start position: gun in holster, hands at surrender position
Rounds fired: 6
The Bill Drill is intended to improve speed without sacrificing accuracy. The details listed above are the traditional version, but any 6-shot drill done at speed on a single target can achieve the same basic goal.
Six shots are fired as quickly as the shooter can achieve six hits on the target. The drill teaches sight tracking, proper visual reference, recoil management, and trigger manipulation.

One important aspect of the Bill Drill is learning to follow your sights during recoil so that you can fire your next shot as soon as you have an adequate sight picture. Usually, this means pulling the trigger as soon as the front sight comes back down onto the scoring zone without waiting for precise alignment or for the sight to stop movement in the middle of the target. At full speed, the front sight is constantly moving, never coming to rest until the drill is over.

Bill Drill 2

designed by Bill Wilson 
Range: 7yd
Target: standard IDPA target 8″ -0 zone
Start position: gun in holster, hands at sides
Rounds fired: 15
This is a new version of the classic Bill Drill developed by Bill Wilson with a goal toward working the draw and different numbers of shots on target. Scoring is standard Vickers with a half second penalty per point down.
There are five strings of fire, each for time:

  1. Draw and fire 1 shot.
  2. Draw and fire 2 shots.
  3. Draw and fire 3 shots.
  4. Draw and fire 4 shots.
  5. Draw and fire 5 shots.

Bill Wilson suggests a 10-second total score as a goal.

Cadence drill

This drill has been tweaked in many ways by many instructors over time. This specific target belongs to Chris Cerino of The Cerenio Consulting and Training Group
Range: 10ft,20ft,30ft
Targets: Three vertical rectangle box target
Start position: Ready
Rounds fired: 12
Read each box starting from left to right and use that cadence to fire the 4 rounds into that zone. Start at 30′ for the box on the left. Move to 20′ and use the second box. Finish at 10′ with the box on the right.

Changing Gears

Range: 7yd
Targets: 3×5 card, 8″ plate
Start position: holstered
Rounds fired: 4+
This drill is intended to help shooters learn to change speeds as the situation requires. It uses two different size targets, a small (3×5 card) and a large (8″ plate). A shot timer is used set to a par time that pushes the shooter to shoot as quickly as possible while still getting hits. 3-4 seconds is a good start; once the shooter is getting a total of 5-6 hits per run, reduce the par time for a greater challenge.

There are two variants of the drill. Both should be practiced:

Draw, fire two rounds at the small target, then as many hits on the large target as possible before the par time runs out. This emphasizes a very precise draw and first shot, which is especially important on Traditional Double Action (DA/SA) guns. After hitting the smalltarget twice, the shooter must speed up to get as many hits on the large target as possible within the par time.

Draw, fire two rounds at the large target, then as many hits on the small target as possible before the par time runs out. This emphasizes control, because the first two shots should be very fast and then the shooter should slow down to get his hits on the smaller target.
Alternative targets: other targets can be used to get the same effect (for example, the head box of an IDPA/IPSC target and the torso zone of the same) or two identical targets can be placed at different distances (e.g., 5 yards and 15 yards).
A more advanced version of this drill is the X-Drill.

Dot Torture

This is a great marksmanship drill that came from David Blinder at personaldefensetraining.com.
Start at 3 yards. You have to get all 50 hits to pass. Once you can shoot the whole drill without a single miss, either increase the distance or add time pressure. For instance, try to finish the entire drill in under 5 minutes while maintaining 100% accuracy.


  • Dot 1 – Draw and fire one string of 5 rounds for best group. One hole if possible, total 5 rounds.
  • Dot 2 – Draw and fire 1 shot, holster and repeat X4, total 5 rounds.
  • Dots 3 & 4 – Draw and fire 1 shot on #3, then 1 shot on #4, holster and repeat X3, total 8 rounds.
  • Dot 5 – Draw and fire string of 5 rounds, strong hand only, total 5 rounds.
  • Dots 6 & 7 – Draw and fire 2 shots on #6, then 2 on #7, holster, repeat X4, total 16 rounds.
  • Dot 8 – From ready or retention, fire five shots, weak hand only, total 5 rounds.
  • Dots 9 & 10 – Draw and fire 1 shot on #9, speed reload, fire 1 shot on #10, holster and repeat X3, total 6 rounds.

(There is also a dedicated TDA (Traditional Double Action, aka “DA/SA”) version created by Sean Leffler:)


  • Dot 1 – Draw and fire two pairs (first shot DA, second shot SA) for best group. One hole if possible, total 4 rounds.
  • Dot 2 – Draw and fire 1 shot (DA), holster and repeat for a total of 4 rounds.
  • Dots 3 & 4 – Draw and fire 1 shot on #3 DA, then 1 shot on #4 SA, holster and repeat three more times, total 8 rounds.
  • Dot 5 – Draw and fire three pair (first shot DA, second shot SA each pair), strong hand only, total 6 rounds.
  • Dots 6 & 7 – Draw and fire 2 shots on #6 (first shot DA, second shot SA), then 2 on #7 (both SA), holster, repeat three more times, total 16 rounds.
  • Dot 8 – From ready or retention, fire three pairs (first shot DA, second shot SA), weak hand only, total 6 rounds.
  • Dots 9 & 10 – Draw and fire 1 shot on #9 (DA),  reload, fire 1 shot on #10 (SA), holster and repeat two more times, total 6 rounds.
El Presidente

attributed to Jeff Cooper
Range: 10yd
Target: three IPSC targets spaced 1yd from each other shoulder to shoulder
Start position: back to targets, hands above shoulders (“surrender position”), pistol concealed
Rounds fired: 12
At the start signal, turn, then draw and fire two rounds at each of the three targets. Perform a reload, then fire two rounds at each target again. There should be four hits on each target for a total of twelve.

The classic standard was to perform the drill in under ten seconds with all A-zone hits. Any run with less than 12 A-zone hits was a failure.
There have been many variations of this drill, including the “Vice-Presidente” which begins with the shooter facing the targets and which is usually performed at 7yd instead of 10yd distance.

Hackathorn Standards

designed by Ken Hackathorn
Range: varies (see below)
Target: three IPSC (or IDPA) targets spaced 1yd apart at heights (from left to right) of 5′, 6′, 4′.
Start position: varies
Rounds fired: 60
The Hackathorn Standards have become a mainstay of practical pistol performance evaluation. Designed by Ken Hackathorn in 1993, the “Hack Standards” formed the blueprint from which the IDPA Classifier was developed.
Scoring of the targets:

  • anywhere in the head, 5 points
  • A-zone (-0 on IDPA target), 5 points
  • C-zone (-1 on IDPA target), 3 points
  • D-zone (-3 on IDPA target), 2 points
  • miss, 0 points

Any time a head shot is required, a hit anywhere else on the target counts as a complete miss. Any time no target zone is specified, or body shots are specified, hits to the head box still score 5 points. Shots fired more than 0.30 seconds after the PAR time count as misses. (Ken grants a 0.30 second grace period on the PAR times. In other words, if a string calls for a 3.00 second PAR, any shot fired within 3.30 seconds counts for score.)
There is no concealment requirement. Strings of fire are shot from the holster unless specified otherwise.
No extra (“make up”) shots are allowed.
There are thirteen strings of fire:

2H = two hands, freestyle
SHO = strong hand only
WHO = weak hand only
A score of 250 or more is considered Excellent. From 200-249 is Acceptable. Below 200 is Needs Improvement.
Langdon 3.5 second Standards

designed by Ernest Langdon
Range: varies (see below)
Target: three IDPA targets
Start position: from concealment
Rounds fired: 80
For this drill, you will need three IDPA targets placed at shoulder height with at least two feet of separation between each target. You will also need a shot timer, set to a 3.5-second PAR time. Each string has a 3.5-second PAR time. You must get all “-0” hits within the PAR time for each run. Dropping any points or going past the PAR time is considered a failure.
T1 is the left target; T2 is the center target, T3 is the right target.

  • Head-Body-Head: 7yd
  1. two body  T1; two head T2; two body T3.
  2. two body T3; two head T2; two body T1.
  3. two head T1; two body T2; two head T3.
  4. two head T3; two body T2; two head T1.
  • Two-Reload-Two: 7yd
  1. two body T1; reload; two body T1.
  2. two body T2; reload; two body T2.
  • Shooting on the Move: 5yd to 10yd
  1. two body on each target left to right while moving from 10yd to 5yd.
  2. two body on each target left to right while moving from 5yd to 10yd.
  3. two body on each target right to left while moving from 10yd to 5yd.
  4. two body on each target left to right while moving from 5yd to 10yd.
  • SHO & WHO: 7dy
  1. 2 body on each target left to right, Strong Hand Only.
  2. 2 body on each target right to left, Strong Hand Only.
  3. 2 body on each target left to right, Weak Hand Only (start from low-ready).
  4. 2 body on each target right to left, Weak Hand Only (start from low-ready).

At the end, you should have 24 hits to the bodies of each T1 and T2; 20 hits to the body of T3; and four hits to each head. To get a passing score, Ernest requires the entire drill to be run twice with no misses and no shots fired past the PAR Time.

Throttle Control

Designed by T-Rex Arms
Range: 5yd
Start position: holstered with three rounds in the pistol
Rounds fired: 10

The goal is to put 4 rounds in the center circle, 2 rounds in the medium circles, and a single round in the small ones. In any order you want. From the draw. At 5 yards. Good drill to work basic target transitions and throttle control.  All on one piece of paper.

You can watch a video demo of this drill here.

X Drill
Range: 7yd
Targets: two targets each with a head (3×5 card) and torso (8″ plate) scoring zone
Start position: holstered or ready
Rounds fired: 32
This is another variant of the Changing Gears drill. The purpose of this drill is to build realistic multiple target shooting skills, and to further develop a shooter’s ability to regulate the balance between accuracy and speed necessary to get hits against different size and distance targets.
You’ll create two targets, A and B. Each target will have a 3×5 card as a head zone, and an 8″ plate as a body zone. It should look like this:
Shooter draws and fires two rounds at each target zone in an “X” pattern. Drill is repeated four times, starting with a different zone each time.
1. A-head, B-body, A-body, B-head
2. B-head, A-body, B-body, A-head
3. B-body, A-head, B-head, A-body
4. A-body, B-head, A-head, B-body
A key point in teaching and evaluating the X-Drill is that pairs fired at large body zones should be faster than pairs fired at small head zones. Shooters should learn to adjust their cadence to get off shots as fast as they can appropriate to the range and size of the target. If your head shots are just as fast as your body shots and you’re getting all hits, you need to be taking the body shots faster. Shoot at the speed the target allows.

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