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Skills Check Live: The Placement Test

For our November 2020 Handbook, Richard Mann pulled together a half-dozen drills culled from some of the most renowned self-defense trainers in the industry. One of the experts Mann contacted was John “Shrek” McPhee from SOB Tactical, a U.S. Army Special Operations veteran who has instructed civilians and Special Forces alike. Mann calls McPhee’s “Placement Test” the “most practical” drill out of the six, and for good reason.

When it comes to setting up drills, whether for this video series or on your own range, simplicity is key. What could be simpler than a 3-inch circle? That and three rounds are all you need for this drill. While it might sound easy, it’s not. The setup, however, is quite simple. You need a 3-inch circle, a distance of 3 yards, and a timer. From the holster, you are to draw your firearm and place three shots inside the 3-inch circle in 3 seconds or less.

McPhee uses the Placement Test as an evaluation tool for his students, and has them run it cold, one time only, taking notes on areas that could use improvement. We ran the drill twice because, as you can see, we were just a “little bit outside” in the first run. What makes this such a useful drill is that it tests your ability to draw your firearm quickly and efficiently, get on target promptly and fire multiple shots with little deviation.

What can you take away from the “Placement Test?” In three shots, you have a rudimentary gauge for how effective you might be in a real-life encounter. Can you present your pistol rapidly? The 3-second time limit means you need to retrieve your firearm from concealment and bring it to ready fast. Can you put shots on target accurately? Simply pressing the trigger as fast as you can might not be enough. And, best of all, in these times of expensive and elusive ammunition, you can run this test twice with what you’ve got in your pocket .380.

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