Why Standardized Pistol Shooting Drills Are A Good Idea

At some point or another in our lives, we all pull off that “lucky shot.” Whether it’s a game-winning home run on the softball field or a three-point shot on the basketball court. Timing, location, and opportunity all worked together to help us achieve what is usually beyond our reach. 

Should the time come for you to you defend your life with a firearm, though, you’ll want more than luck. If you rely on a lucky shot to save your life, you are betting your life on some pretty long odds. A good pistol training class can show you what you can (and cannot) do with a pistol before the stakes are raised to where your life is on the line. Using standardized pistol shooting drills shows you where your skills are strong and where they need to improve.

Why Shoot Standardized Pistol Shooting Drills?

A shot timer is an essential tool

Targets measure accuracy. Timers measure speed. Both are essential when it comes to using a defensive pistol.

Standards are a level playing field that constantly judge us. Since our first day of grade school, we hear we need to achieve passing grades (or better) in order to succeed. That idea continues through our adult lives. Bosses tie salary bonuses to exceeding a predetermined standard of some kind. Even speed limits on the highway are there to tell us what velocity is safe on any given stretch of road. 

The same is true within the world of firearms training. It’s one thing for someone to say you’re a good shot. It’s another thing to know you can not only pass a standardized shooting drill but also pass it at a high level. Let’s go over the reasons why this is a good thing.

Pistol Shooting Drills Show You How Good You Are Right Now

There is a big difference between saying “I’m a good shot” and being able to prove that fact on-demand. It’s uncomfortable to think about, but the fact is, we are all the heroes of our own stories.

Our tendency is to think that we’re a lot better at a given skill set than we really are. For instance, most people think that they themselves are a good driver, but everyone else out there is an absolute maniac. What people fail to realize is that they are somebody else’s “everybody else.” Our driving habits can be as bad (or worse) than those maniacs we despise so much. 

The same thing applies to pistol marksmanship. Saying, “I’m a good shot” without any context is judging ourselves by our own (relative) standards. Judging yourself by a standardized pistol drill, though, not only gives you a snapshot of how good you are right now, it also lets you see how much you’ve improved as you work on getting better.

You Will Have Specific Goals For Improvement 

El Presidente drill

The El Presidente drill can show you what specific skills you need to learn

Based on what I saw at the range where I worked, the only goal most gun owners have when they go shooting is, “Have a good time turning money into noise, and stay safe.” This is just fine because as I’ve said before, shooting guns is fun. There is nothing wrong with just going out and having a good time shooting. 

However, for me, shooting well at the range is a lot more fun than just randomly poking holes in paper. Meeting (or exceeding) the shooting goals I set for myself is also lots of fun. Shooting just for the fun of it is fine. Shooting for fun, and also hitting where you’re aiming, should be our goal. 

For instance, I have a love-hate relationship with the Dot Torture Drill. I’ll talk more about this drill in an upcoming post, but the short version is, this is a pistol shooting drill that I struggle with. It demands that the fundamentals of stance, aim, grip, and trigger press are there 100% of the time. This can be an issue for me, because if I’m honest, I am not as consistent with a pistol as I want to be. However, I now have a specific goal in mind, which is shooting it clean with 9mm ammo in my CZ P07.  I’ll still have fun when I go to the range, but I’ll also have a purpose in mind: Improving my fundamentals with one of my pistols. 

You Will Gain Confidence In Your Abilities

Two to the body, one to the head

The Mozambique, or Failure to Stop Drill is another classic drill with real-world practical use

While I have yet to get on speaking terms with the Dot Torture drill, it has been very rewarding to watch my skill grow with the El Presidente drill. This is another drill we’ll cover more in a later post. I once was shooting it in around 15 seconds. Now, I’m to the point where an eight-second run is not out of the question for me. This time for this drill is just under where some of the best pistol shots in the world can perform it.

I’ll take it. 

It feels good to not only say “I’m a good shot” but to be able to show people that yes, I am a better-than-average shooter. Knowing that I can not only pass the FBI Pistol Qualification, but pass it at the highest level with my everyday carry pistol and holster, gave me a lot of confidence in my skills. I now am more secure in my ability to defend my life and the lives of those I hold dear with that gear. Speaking of which…

Your Record-Keeping May Be Admissible In Court 

Keep in mind that I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. One thing I learned, though, from taking Massad Ayoob’s renowned MAG40 pistol class is that all of the standardized drills and qualifications you pass may come in handy if you ever face legal challenges due to your actions.

If you (God forbid) need to defend a life and go to court, proof that you have passed a standardized pistol shooting drill may be admissible as evidence. It is not subject to cross-examination (how do you cross-examine a piece of paper?). The MAG40 class showed me how a documented list of qualifications you have earned, along with other evidence such as testimony from your instructors and other proof of your ability with a defensive firearm, can go a long way towards establishing your credibility and competency in the eyes of the law.

Upon This Rock, I Will Stand 

Setting goals for yourself and achieving (or exceeding) those goals is the basis for self-improvement in all areas of life, not just the shooting sports. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to show you some standardized tests that will help you gauge your ability with a pistol. These pistol shooting drills will help guide you towards areas where you’re doing well, and areas where you need to improve. We want you to have fun at the range, but also shoot well.