Skills Check: Concealed-Carry Pistol Control Drill

posted on December 9, 2019

While shooters like to argue incessantly over the “best” defensive pistol and ammunition, I think it usually comes down to defending their choices. The simple fact is nobody likes getting shot—with anything—and what works for one person may be entirely inappropriate for someone else. Fortunately, we still have lots of guns and ammunition from which to choose, and the products have never been better.

While shooters love to argue fine points concerning every facet of defensive guns and ammunition, a subject often left out of the discussion is how well the shooter can control the handgun-and-ammunition combination in a test resembling a combat-shooting situation.

A number of instructors use variations of the test I’m going to suggest. It’s actually very simple, easy to set up and only requires a sheet of 8.5x11-inch sheet of paper, a defensive pistol and 15 rounds of defensive ammunition. Here’s how it goes:

After securing the sheet of paper to a target backer, step back to 3 yards and draw to the low-ready, muzzle-depressed position with one hand on the pistol. Using only one hand, fire five shots on the paper as quickly as you can manage the trigger.

Stepping back to 5 yards, repeat the five-shot drill using a two-hand grip on the pistol.

Stepping back to 7 yards, repeat the five-shot drill using a two-hand grip on the pistol. 

While there’s no time limit, you should endeavor to shoot as quickly as you can. A passing score is all 15 shots landing on the sheet of paper.

Seems easy enough, doesn’t it? It is, if you take your time and use practice ammunition. You may find it difficult if you shoot quickly and use your defensive loads. What I hope you’re going to discover is whether you can control your pistol with the ammunition you carry in it. Is the pistol too small? Is the ammunition too powerful to control?

For example, I know a lot of people who carry small, lightweight .357 Mag. revolvers and use full-power ammunition in them. These little guns bite at both ends, are unpleasant to shoot and make passing this test quite difficult. Might it be better to use a good defensive .38 Spl. in these little cannons? This test could provide the answer. Similarly, some folks carry anything from tiny .22 LR revolvers to little .380 ACP pistols, and they, too, might discover something about their choices by running this drill.

As the late, great Marine LtGen Chesty Puller was fond of saying; “You can’t hurt them if you don’t hit them.” Give this drill a try and make sure you can hit quickly.


Tokarev USA TX3 12 Hammer
Tokarev USA TX3 12 Hammer

First Look: Tokarev USA TX3 12 Hammer Shotgun

A pump-action scattergun that's compatible with Mossberg furniture.

Electronic vs. Non-Electronic Hearing Protection

Electronic protection is great, but passive ear protection never needs batteries.

Schrödinger’s Drill

Eliminate the dreaded flinch by adapting a famous thought experiment to your shooting practice.

First Look: Aridus 1301 Beretta Stock Adapter

Upgrade your Beretta tactical shotgun with a Magpul stock.

Safety Recall on Certain Tisas 1911s

Six models are affected. 

That Old Familiar Feeling

When in comes to your defensive pistol, familiarity breeds competence, not contempt.


Get the best of Shooting Illustrated delivered to your inbox.