The Dot Torture Drill: The Toughest Drill You’ll Ever Love

In any hobby or sport, there are goals that indicate that you have achieved mastery when you accomplish them. For martial arts, there’s the black belt. In mountaineering, there’s summiting K2. In defensive pistol training, there is the Dot Torture Drill.  

The Dot Torture Drill is an aptly named drill. On the surface, it sounds easy. It’s shot at three yards. It’s just fifty rounds. Your target never varies, it’s always a two inch dot. I mean, how hard can it be? And then you realize that a passing grade in this drill is perfection. 50 out of 50 rounds must land in or on a two inch circle to pass. In addition to this, it’s not just 50 rounds shot with both hands. You’re shooting this drill strong hand only, weak hand only, doing reloads, drawing from a holster, and all sorts of things that can break your concentration. Consistently shooting the Dot Torture Drill with no errors is a sign that you’ve tamed the trigger and are well on your way to becoming an accomplished pistol shooter. 

Origins of the Dot Torture Drill

The Dot Torture Drill started with David Blinder of PersonalDefenseTraining.com. However, variations of learning trigger control shooting at small dots have been around for years. The idea behind those drills and the Dot Torture Drill is simple: By practicing to hit a small target on-demand, it makes it easier to hit a larger target when it matters most. 

Consistent performance is the name of the game for this drill. We have a tendency to remember the times we made a great shot, especially if it was in front of our friends. We tend to forget all those times we couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. The Dot Torture Drill reminds us that it’s our ability to deliver the shot on-demand that matters, not our hazy memories of a great shot made years ago. 

More than that, though, the Dot Torture Drill adds context to the skill of consistently making the shot. The drill consists of shooting 50 rounds at ten two-inch dots from a distance of 3 yards.

Dot Torture Drill Course of Fire

Dot torture target

Click on the image to download this pdf.

First Dot – Draw and fire one string of 5 rounds as accurately as possible. Ideally it should be one hole. Rounds required: 5 

Second Dot – Draw and fire 1 shot, holster, and repeat four times. Rounds required: 5

Third & Fourth Dots – Draw and fire 1 shot on Dot 3, then 1 shot on Dot 4. Holster and repeat three times. Rounds required: 8.

Fifth Dot – Draw and fire a string of 5 shots using only your strong hand. Rounds required: 5. 

Sixth & Seventh Dots – Draw and fire 2 shots on Dot 6, then 2 on Dot 7. Holster and repeat four times. Rounds Required: 16.

Eighth Dot – From ready or retention position, fire five shots using only your support hand. Rounds required: 5. 

Ninth and Tenth Dots – Draw and fire 1 shot on Dot 9, perform a speed reload and then fire 1 shot on Dot 10. Holster and repeat three times. Rounds required: 6. 

Tips for Each Dot 

  • 1st Dot: Consider this as a warmup dot. Your eyes should be focused on the front sight, and you should be looking for a surprise trigger break with each shot. Pay close attention with each shot here, because this is as easy as this drill gets. 
  • 2nd Dot: This is a great opportunity to work on your press-out and a smooth draw from concealment. Accuracy is still the goal here, but start to work on other techniques as well. 
  • 3rd and 4th Dots: These dots build on what you’ve learned in the first two dots and add in transitioning to another target. Don’t over-run the dot when moving back and forth. Rather, get a good sight picture and a trigger press with each shot on each dot. 
  • 5th Dot: Getting a good grip on your pistol and understanding how your sights move are the key to success on this stage. Chances are, this dot is going to be a rude wake up call for you. It’s very hard to shoot this dot clean unless you’ve made strong-hand only work a priority during your dry-fire and live-fire practice. 
  • 6th and 7th Dots: Mental concentration is the key to success on these dots. Because the shoot two then two rhythm is quite familiar to anyone who’s done some training or competition, it’s tempting to fall into bad habits on these two dots. Resist that temptation, and pay attention to each shot on these dots. 
  • 8th Dot: Long distance runners have “the wall,” and people who shoot the Dot Torture Drill have the eighth dot. Any flaws with your trigger press, sight picture, or grip come into sharp focus when you’re using only your support hand. If you can shoot this dot clean on a regular basis, you should be able to handle the other nine dots in this drill.
  • 9th & 10th Dot: The key to these dots is maintaining your concentration as you manipulate your gun. The reload forces you to briefly shift your attention from the front sight and trigger in order to slide a new magazine into your gun. This, in turn, can cause your mind to wander when it comes time to make the shot on the last dot.  

 

Shooting the Dot Torture Drill

Dot Torture Results

So close, and yet so far.

On my run, everything was just fine until I hit the strong hand only dot. Missing a shot can mess with your mind and cause you to miss other shots as well. Learning how to shrug off a miss and move on to the next shot is an essential part of mastering the Dot Torture Drill. Understand that shooting this drill is part of a learning process. I have shot this drill clean in the past, and I will do so again. What matters is I don’t get discouraged, and I take my misses as an opportunity to perfect my skill.

Variations

Resist the urge to shoot this drill fast. Shooting the Dot Torture Drill isn’t about speed, it’s about patience and persistent practice. For maximum effect, skip the .22LR pistol and try to shoot the drill with a gun chambered in a useful defensive caliber like 9mm. 

One of the nice things about this drill is that it is very easy to adapt to an indoor range. Aside from drawing from a holster, everything about this drill can be shot indoors, even on ranges with a time per shot restriction. If your range restricts you from drawing from a holster, shoot from a low ready position instead. If your range has a minimum target distance that’s greater than three yards, you can shoot this target instead (pdf link). The dots on these two sheets of paper have been scaled to be the same relative size at five yards as the dots on the standard drill are at three yards. 

Discovering where your weaknesses are and then overcoming them is an essential part of learning a new skill. Shooting the Dot Torture Drill can be a humbling experience, but mastering it at 3 yards and then pushing the distance even further gives you a huge confidence boost.