If you do only one drill at the range…do this one.
There are plenty of reasons why people chose to own firearms. Many firearm owners, like myself, own firearms for lots of different reasons. But there is one reason I have found that we all have in common—to protect ourselves and our families if we must. Honestly, I don’t know anyone that owns a gun that doesn’t say, “protection” as one of those reasons. I know people who own a firearm solely to defend themselves. In a Pew Research Center poll, 67% of gun owners report the main reason they own a firearm is for self-defense. No matter the reason, choosing to be a firearm owner means responsibly learning how to safely operate your firearm, as well as knowing how to clean and maintain that firearm. Buying a gun for protection and sticking it in a biometric safe next to the bed isn’t enough. Knowing confidently that you will be able to use that gun if you must is what can save your life. And the only way you are going to do that is by regular training and practice.
Practice keeps you proficient with the shooting fundamentals and basic handgun techniques. It helps you know the ins and outs of your firearm and how to keep it in tip-top working order. Training reveals your weaknesses. It creates positive muscle memory, so you can operate your gun efficiently in times of duress and hopefully, increase your speed and accuracy.
In Texas, we must take a course from a certified instructor in order to obtain a concealed carry license. Every instructor of that course will tell you at some time during those six hours that we “shoot to stop a threat.” It is highly unlikely that when you must use your gun to save your life, your first shot will put down an attacker. Though we cannot know what our exact reaction would be when faced with the situation in which we have to use our gun, most experts agree—you will not aim properly, nor will one round usually do the trick. When faced with a threat, your eyes will naturally stay on target and not your gun’s sights. That is why the simple Bill Drill is one of my favorite defensive pistol drills. It makes you practice your fundamentals but also prepares you for a self-defense situation and challenges you to increase your speed and accuracy. The Bill Drill focuses on a realistic aspect of a self-defense shooting—dumping your mag at a threat in close quarters.
Before doing the Bill Drill at the range with live ammo (you can easily perform this drill at home with airsoft or dry fire,) check with your range to make sure it is okay to draw from a holster and rapid fire. There are many ranges that ask you to keep 2 to 3 seconds between shots.
To do the Bill Drill you will need:
- IDPA or IPSC silhouette or another man-sized silhouette target
- One full magazine with at least six rounds loaded
- A 6×11 piece of paper, paper plate, index card, or another way to mark an area in center mass of the target
How to do the Bill Drill:
Put a paper plate in the center mass area of any man-sized target. Focus on speed and accuracy. Empty your magazine into the paper plate. Your goal is to have every round hit somewhere inside that paper plate.
- Hang a paper plate, index card or a 6×11 sheet of paper in the center mass area of the target. This is your “A Zone.” Send the target out to seven yards (Most self-defense shootings occur between 10 and 5 feet.)
- Either keep your gun in your holster or if your range restricts holster work, keep it on the bench or at the low ready.
- Have your shooting buddy tell you when to go and clock your time on a shot timer.
- Draw your gun from your holster, the bench or from the low ready and fire six rounds or your full magazine into the 6×11 area.
- Your ultimate goal is to hit every round in the A Zone in under three seconds.
Start out slow with the Bill Drill, eventually working your way up from eight seconds to three Do the drill cold. Meaning, let it be the first drill you do when you arrive at the range. Think about it—you won’t get a warm up in real life.
Modifications and Challenges:
- Reload quickly and perform the drill with another magazine
- Switch from a paper plate to an index card
- Practice reloads while keeping your eyes on the target
- Practice clearing malfunctions without taking your gun off target
The Bill Drill is not only a practical self-defense shooting drill, it also helps you develop faster recovery time for quicker and more accurate follow-up shots and better trigger control and recoil mitigation.
You can dry fire any drill at home. Dry fire gives you the opportunity to practice and train more often and save money, especially if your gun range has restrictive rules.
Note: If you have never drawn from a holster before, please do not attempt the Bill Drill with live ammunition. Accidents happen when people are inexperienced at drawing and reholstering. You must learn how to present your gun from its holster safely. Practice this at home without any ammo, graduating to snap caps before any attempts at drawing at the range with live ammunition.
No amount of training will completely prepare you for real-life self-defense use of your handgun, but regular practice will help you develop the muscle memory needed to function efficiently if you have to. It will help you overcome the adrenaline dump that causes tunnel vision, loss of fine motor skills and memory loss when your body experiences fight or flight.