What Is A Drill?

Drills are a method of repeating something over and over until you can’t screw it up. Courses of fire are timed scenarios that are designed to test our skills and diagnose what we need to work on. If there is one thing that I have learned from my time using guns, professionally or otherwise, its that drills are important. Drills are a great way of perfecting your skills to the point of becoming second nature. As shooters, it is important to always advance in our skills and become faster, and more efficient. But these skills do us no good if we are not able to implement them universally and adapt to any scenario. It is always good to test your speed and proficiency under stress periodically and some courses of fire are a great way of doing this. However, a lot of courses of fire used today are modified, turned into drills, and used without question. This is the case with most trends in the tactical/self-defense community. People will follow whatever looks sexy and may make them look like they’re part of the tack-tickle club.

These DRILLS are supposedly used to teach skills. But its as if the purpose of these DRILLS has been lost in translation from instructor to student through the generations. You will see people doing these courses of fire over and over until they break some time record like some kind of drill, hence why they are now called DRILLS. I intend to discuss why I think you shouldn’t use these courses of fire as drills, and how they should instead be implemented and why.

I just want to start by saying that I prefer to keep things simple and stay versatile and adaptable. My method of training and practicing are based off of perfecting things that are good with all platforms and situations. This means drilling properly on the basics only and learning speed through smooth repetition. Click here to watch my video on the few drills I do train on, how I do them, and why.

Drilling on timed courses of fire is quite popular for trying to teach several skills all at once, but they don’t really help you much. They are only going to build your skill in that specific course of fire. Let’s look at each course of fire and what it’s supposed to do for you/show you in theory. Click on the names to see videos of the drills being done the wrong way.

Mozambique/Failure drill: 

Made popular through Jeff Cooper, this drill in my experience has been modified to the point of complete fantasy that is more dangerous than helpful. It is originally supposed to be done by delivering two rounds to the chest, going back to the low ready for a pause to represent assessment of results, and then delivering a quickly aimed shot to the head. I was taught this when I was in the military and I was taught to go right to the head but with no real rush, maybe even drop to a knee beforehand. This was wrong and is completely unnecessary and even wasteful and overkill if used all the time.

Modern day experience and lessons in gun fighting has taught most of us veterans that two to the chest is a useless answer to a threat. In reality you should be training to shoot until the target has stopped fighting. The only time this type of response would be necessary, is when the threat just won’t stop from multiple shots and they are continuing to be a considerable threat, such as the case if they are wearing body armor. In this case, you should just do a headshot and not waste your rounds. However, most of the time you will not get feedback on your hits like in movies anyways. The only time you may see a definite involuntary physical response is if a loadbearing structure such as bone or joints are damaged or shattered. Other than that it is a purely psychological response to being shot that makes them stop.

It annoys me greatly to hear people talk about how they will just use this drill and make it their standard response. That makes zero sense if you think about this statement. If you just commit to doing two to the chest and then immediately shoot them in the head before they were even able to react to the chest shots, you just wasted two rounds. A world record time on this will do nothing but prove you don’t need to waste the two rounds. If you’re so darn skilled that you can hit a moving head at any distance, why wouldn’t you just do the headshot?

With this in mind, I conduct this drill sparingly, knowing that it actually takes time for a person to bleed out and that a headshot is rarely necessary to end the fight, save for the presence of body armor of course. With that being said, my method of conducting this drill is to deliver a random number of quick, aimed shots and then pause with my sights and concentration still on the threat, then I deliver an aimed shot to the head.

1-5 Drill:

This drill is actually an good test for round count discipline and multiple target engagement. I usually only use this drill to test my trigger discipline once in a blue moon. It absolutely should not be something you try to mainline, though. It should only be used as a test, not as a drill.

El Presidente Drill:

One of the most popular Jeff Cooper drills, but also one of the most misunderstood. This drill was supposed to be a basic test of a shooters ability to engage multiple attackers with multiple rounds, reload under pressure, and continue an engagement. This was supposed to be a drill that can be modified to test people based on their different skill levels. But that was lost in translation and now its just a drill that is used to try and set records and ends up just solidifying bad habits.

If you try to perfect it, this drill will only teach being static and delivering a set number of shots on each target. This has little if any practical application today and should only be used as a BASIC TEST of multiple target engagement skill. I like to deliver a random number of rounds to each target, incorporate movement to cover with the reload, and put only one round (headshots) to each target with the second follow-up to represent headshots of the still dangerous threats. Focus on accuracy, your reloads, your movement, and follow through. Fluidity of the individual skills and implementation of the basics are the main focus here. Be careful when timing this though, because you don’t want to get the idea that you have to set a world record to be considered well trained. Only use time to monitor progress, not just your overall skill level.

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The thing that is consistent with these courses of fire is that they are conducted from a static position, which is a terrible thing to train for. Originally the courses of fire I discussed were designed to TEST your ability to shoot accurately and quickly, transition between targets, efficiently conduct reloads, and to quickly draw and engage your targets. Trying to perfect these courses of fire can hurt your abilities if they are all you use to try to boost your individual skills. If you are wanting to have a set of skills that are universal and that are reliable in implementation, I encourage you to focus on the basics and always rotate your scenarios to keep yourself versatile and quick on your feet.

Now in no way am I saying that instructors are wrong for teaching these courses of fire, but I feel like people never really question what they are doing and ask how it is actually going to work. Its like they forget that instructors are humans too, not anointed beings sent by god to teach the way of the gun. You see, as instructors your taught these drills and courses of fire, so you teach them to other people and pass on the lessons you were given. The main problem here is that these courses of fire are being treated like gospel by those inheriting them, instead of like the building blocks or tests that they are. The instructors and students try to break time records on all of them, instead of diagnosing issues after a few runs and seeing what they struggled with. But worst of all, they do very little modification to these courses of fire to set a new standard, and fail to add in variables that will test adaptability under extreme stress. This is a severe problem when we are talking about teaching people how to respond to violence with precise and effective violence with a gun. Don’t let your training and practice suffer by doing repetitive drills that don’t actually help you.

Stay safe, stay vigilant, stay armed, and stay proficient.

Place any questions below.


This article is courtesy of David Donchess from The Arms Guide.