Skills Check: Ace Drill

posted on May 7, 2020

Regular practice of Ken Hackathorn’s Ace Drill will help shooters to develop and hone the essential skill sets of speed, power and accuracy that are essential to surviving a life-threatening encounter.

There’s probably no such thing as a new or original shooting drill. Somebody, somewhere, at some time has surely used or taught it, but some drills end up being standards and they become associated with specific trainers. Such is the case with the Ace Drill, a standard used by recently retired trainer Ken Hackathorn for many of his 43 years on the training circuit. 

As with the best of training drills, the Ace Drill seems easy on its surface, but don’t be lulled into taking it easy—it may be harder than you think. To perform the Ace Drill, you’ll need a paper target with an 8-inch bullseye or inscribed circle. When Hackathorn showed me the drill, he drew a circle on the target with the aid of a plate he filched from his hotel breakfast bar, so use your imagination. 

While you can shoot this with any handgun, I suggest you try it with your everyday concealed-carry handgun and carry ammunition. It takes six rounds, but I assure you you’re going to need more. This drill is a bit addictive and I think you’ll run it many times. 

Here’s the Drill
After setting up your target step back to 6 yards. Either self-starting with a timer set on delay, or having a friend time you, 

 On the start signal, draw from concealment and fire six rounds in 6 seconds. 

Pretty easy, right? Well, maybe not, you see, this is a pass/fail drill. All shots must be within the circle to pass and any cutting the line or outside the circle result in a fail. If you rush, you’re likely to miss and if you take your time, you’re going to fail by exceeding the time limit. While this is Hackathorn’s drill, he got his start as a trainer many years ago at Gunsite and you can see the institution’s influence of balancing speed, power and accuracy in this drill. 

As with any good drill there are lessons here. If your draw is clumsy or your holster won’t allow you to get a full firing grip you need to make some changes and practice more. Looking at the target, rather than the sights, will result in misses, as will rushing or failing to control the trigger. If you’re in the habit of carrying a tiny little pistol because it’s convenient you’re probably in for a surprise. By the way, this isn’t a pistol-only drill, you can shoot it with revolvers too, as we did with the new Colt Python during Colt’s writer event at Gunsite. 

Sometimes the simplest of shooting drills are the best and I think that’s the case with the Ace Drill. Give it a try and see how you do.


Rifle with suppressor and scope facing right
Rifle with suppressor and scope facing right

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