The Bill Drill

At first glance, the Bill Drill looks like an excuse to shoot a lot of rounds, really fast. The drill is simplicity itself. Set up a target seven yards away, preferably a competition target like a USPSA or IDPA cardboard target. On the start signal (usually the “BEEP!” of a shot timer), draw your pistol and engage the target with six rounds. That’s it.

In theory, that looks easy and really simple, until you realize two things. First, if you score this drill the way that IDPA scores it, every shot outside of the center-chest area adds a second to your score. Second, a great score on this drill requires you to get all six shots into the center of the target in under two seconds, from the holster. All of a sudden, this drill goes from just an excuse to send a bunch of rounds downrange to something that teaches you recoil management, a proper sight picture, and effective trigger management. 

The Bill Drill is named after its creator, competitive shooter and renowned gunsmith Bill Wilson. One of the nicer things about this drill is that it is equally applicable to competitors in practical pistol matches and defensive pistol owners alike. For the defensive shooter, the Bill Drill teaches you to maintain a consistent and accurate volume of fire. This is a critical skill in a defensive pistol situation, where one shot probably won’t stop the threat. The Bill Drill can show you how to keep your sights on target and get your hits when it counts the most. 

What It’s For

The Bill Drill teaches competition shooters how to keep your sights on target and get fast, accurate hits when they’re needed to win a match. Steel targets like the MGM Spinner require you to get your hits on target as fast as possible. The Bill Drill, when done properly, teaches you that exact skill. 

The amount of attention you pay to your sights varies with the target distance. For instance, at just one yard, you really don’t need a sight picture at all to get combat-effective hits. This changes as you move further away from the target. At three yards, for instance, many people can get center-zone hits by just seeing the shape of their pistol as it’s aligned to the target. At five yards and beyond, though, the sights start to become more important. 

Running The Bill Drill

Bill drill target

Six holes in the A Zone in two seconds or less is a terrific score for this drill.

At seven yards (the distance for shooting the Bill Drill), you should have a clear picture of your front sight and where it is in relation to your rear sights and the target. Your front sight picture is your gas pedal in this drill. If you’re not seeing at least a glimpse of it with each shot, you are going way too fast, and you will not be happy with your score. 

Let’s go over the Bill Drill procedure one more time:

  • Set up a silhouette target seven yards away 
  • At start signal, draw your pistol and engage the target with six rounds
  • Record the time
  • Score the target as appropriate

Whether you draw from concealment when doing this drill is up to you. When I’m practicing with my competition gear, I rarely use a cover garment. With the daily carry pistol, though, I always shoot the drill from concealment. Scoring, as I said, varies with your reason for shooting the drill. However, IDPA scoring calls for one extra second for each miss outside of the center-chest area, three seconds for each hit that is way outside of the center zone, and five seconds for each miss. This scoring forces you to pay even more attention to accuracy,  which isn’t a bad thing at all.

Bill Drill Variations 

Seven yards is the standard for this drill. However, life happens at distances other than just seven yards, so feel free to run this drill either closer or further away than the seven yard standard. Just be sure to adjust your expectations about how much time this drill will require as you adjust the distance. 

Another variation is to change the target. In order to help train me to shoot the center of the target, I frequently run this drill using a steel target the same size and shape as the center zone of a USPSA target. Shooting steel in this manner forces me to move the target back a bit from the 7 yards of the standard drill. However, it also forces me to get my hits onto a much smaller area. Shooting the Bill Drill with a smaller target can pay off when it comes time to shoot it again at a larger target. 

Running the Bill Drill 

When shooting the Bill Drill, take the time to see at least a glimpse of the front sight with every shot. Also be sure to keep your trigger press smooth with each shot. Blazing away at the target with no thought to your sights or how your trigger finger is affecting your aim is a sure-fire way to get a lousy score on this drill. I ran the drill four times for this article, twice using a cardboard target at seven yards and twice using a smaller steel target at eight yards.

On the fourth run, I let my inner speed demon take control and I let my sights get away from me, with predictable results. That fourth run was the only one where I let one shot get away from the center-chest region of the target. This really affected my score, and it stresses that the Bill Drill is about consistent accuracy rather than shooting fast. 

Getting Your Speed Up To Speed 

If there’s a disadvantage to the Bill Drill, it’s that it is shot from a holster and requires you to run it at a range that allows rapid fire. The first disadvantage can be overcome by shooting it from low ready position. Then, add a half-second to your score to make up for the lack of a draw. The second disadvantage? Well, I can’t help you much there, but I’m sure if you look around, you’ll find a club or a backyard range where you can safely perform this drill.

The Bill Drill has been around for many years, and there are good reasons why this is so. It’s easy to understand, but rather hard to master. It also teaches you valuable skills that are applicable to just about any pistol-shooting situation. Because it is all about controlling your gun under recoil, it’s a perfect compliment to your dry-fire practice routine. As an added bonus, it’s a lot of fun to shoot. Make it a part of your regular practice routine, and see how it helps you become a better pistol shot.