Skills Check: The Compass Drill

North, South, East, West; keep practicing to shoot your best.

posted on January 2, 2023
hand shooting north south east and west

Many shooters shy away from support-hand-shooting exercises because these drills can reveal just how “weak” their non-dominant-side skills are. By working ambidextrous drills like the Compass Drill early on, new shooters tend to avoid the learned, fearful bias against one-handed and support-handed shooting. This drill requires the shooter to mentally shift gears between tasks to ensure that correct grip structure, trigger-finger discipline and muzzle awareness are established before presenting on target to shoot. For experienced shooters who primarily spend their range time on two-hand, dominant-side shooting, the Compass Drill provides a great detail-oriented, ambidextrous workout. In addition to your handgun, you will need a holster, magazine pouches with four magazines minimum (each loaded with four rounds) and a B8 or similar-size target.

At a distance of 5 yards, the Compass Drill begins with a standard two-handed, strong-side presentation from the holster to fire one round on target. The shooter then removes the support hand to engage the strong hand only with one round. Safely transition the pistol from the dominant hand to the support hand and engage with one round support hand only. 

Here’s the drill:

Setup: With one magazine loaded with four rounds, make ready and holster.

North: Draw, establish your standard strong-side, two-handed grip and fire one round.

East: Release your support hand and bring it to your heart. Fire one round, dominant hand only.

South: The inverse of North (aka southpaw), pass the pistol to your support hand and establish a reverse, two-handed grip. Fire one round.

West: Release your new support hand and bring it to your heart. Fire one round, support hand only.

Reset: Perform a slide-lock reload from your support hand, pass back to dominant hand, holster and repeat the drill three more times.

Total number of rounds fired: 16

Once the technique and safe transitions are mastered, experienced shooters may introduce a shot timer into the equation. Never compromise safety for speed. The timed standard for this drill requires the shooter to have precise handling skills and excellent recoil management, in addition to being able to track your pistol’s sights to make rapid, accurate and effective hits. 

The Compass Drill Standard: On the beep, draw from the holster, shoot the four compass grip positions, at 5 yards, in 5 seconds, all hits in the black of the B8 Target. This drill can be shot for practice, for precision or for speed and scored based on the shooter’s experience level. It is also an excellent warm-up exercise at the range.


shooter at range with instructor
shooter at range with instructor

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