On-Demand Drills

When a life-threatening encounter occurs, are your skills up to the task?

posted on May 11, 2022
shooting skills on demand

If you think you have your skills down cold, you should be able to apply them cold. Violent encounters rarely offer any do-overs.

One of the defensive skills we all need to work on is knowing what we can do, now, on demand. It’s one thing to examine your skill level after a range session with your favorite gun, but it’s something else entirely to have a realistic idea of what you can do at a moment of crisis with your carry pistol. Can you present your pistol quickly from concealment and make fight-stopping hits at a variety of distances?

In order to discover this, I suggest you try these three drills cold, meaning they are the first thing you do when you start a practice session—ideally with your carry pistol—from concealment and with your preferred carry ammunition. Perform each of these drills separately, during different practice sessions or follow them in order. All told, the drills consume 18 rounds of ammunition.

Regarding equipment, you’ll need a timer and an Option or silhouette target, or you can simply make your own using an 8-inch paper plate for the body shots and a 3X5-inch index card for the head shots. Effective training needn’t be expensive. Use whatever allows you to train frequently.

Here are the drills

Drill One
3 yards:
One shot to the head, 2 seconds
7 yards: One shot to the head, 2 seconds
10 yards: One shot to the head, 2 seconds
Three rounds total

Drill Two
3 yards:
Hammer to the body, 2 seconds
7 yards: Hammer to the body, 2 seconds
10 yards: Hammer to the body, 2 seconds
Six rounds total

Drill Three
3 yards:
Failure drill, 3 seconds
7 yards: Failure drill, 3 seconds
10 yards: Failure drill, 3 seconds.
Nine rounds total

Now, let’s define a couple of terms:
A hammer is two shots fired as quickly as possible off one sight picture, following through by getting back on the front sight after the shots. Front sight, press, press, front sight. Some refer to it as an accelerated pair or a dedicated pair because the two shots are dedicated to the first sight picture.

A failure drill assumes the first two shots to the body failed to stop the attack, so a head shot is required. It’s a hammer to the body followed by a head shot. From a defensive perspective, the idea is to hammer the upper chest, come up to the head and, if it’s there (the threat hasn’t collapsed or moved position) and the bad guy is still a threat, take the head shot.

Try these drills as I’ve described and see how you’re doing. It should give you an idea of skills you need to work on. If you’re acing them, good for you. Now, move back and try them at 15 yards. And, above all else, look at the sights, control the trigger and then follow-through.


Safariland tiger stripe duty holster
Safariland tiger stripe duty holster

First Look: Safariland Tiger Stripe Holsters

Go "old school," but still have all the latest innovations from Safariland to keep your firearm safe at your side.

HAVA Holds 13th Annual Family Day

Live entertainment, gifts, food, prizes and shooting exhibitions were just some of the highlights.

Can Perception Determine Reality?

How you appear to others can affect your safety.

BallistiClean 00 Buck Review

There’s less training conducted with the defensive shotgun than with any other defensive firearm. This is partly because shotguns recoil the hardest, and recoil is not something shooters typically enjoy. It’s also partly because shotguns—at least compared with handguns and carbines—are a bit expensive to shoot, especially if you’re training with 00 buckshot.

First Look: Anderson A4 Series with Picatinny Rails

Classically styled rifles, carbines and large-format pistols from one of America's most-popular AR builders.

Fightin' Iron: Those German Semi-Automatic Pistols

There are gun collectors who admire the craftsmanship and ingenuity of arms from other countries.


Get the best of Shooting Illustrated delivered to your inbox.