Best Drills to Make You a Better Handgunner ~ VIDEOS


The Dot Torture drill doesn't require anything special. You can print the targets at home. It's harder than it looks.
The Dot Torture drill doesn’t require anything special. You can print the targets at home. It’s harder than it looks.

USA –-( Just like holsters, there’s always a new shooting drill on the market that will test your skills and either make you feel invincible or humble you in depressing new ways. Here are a few of my favorites. They make the list for a variety of reasons including simplicity, a variety of skills tested, and challenge. Also, they all provide structure to your range outings and the ability to measure performance changes over time.

Dot Torture:

There are three things I really like about the Dot Torture drill. It emphasizes precision, and it’s a great way to stretch the practice value of a single box of ammo. It’s also measurable over time so you can see improvement or degradation in your skill level.

This drill comes from, well, I don’t know exactly where. I found it at They say it came from David Blinder at Anyway, to whoever invented it, thanks!

The gotcha is that it looks so easy. That’s the deceiving part. It appears easy to ace as the starting distance is just three yards. You can do that with your eyes closed, right? It certainly seems so, but you might be surprised at how much you have to focus to get a perfect 50 out of 50 score.

The target is printed on a standard 8.5×11-inch sheet of paper and consists of 10 dots, each just under two inches in diameter. The instructions for each dot are right on the target itself, so we won’t go through them in detail here. To summarize, this drill has you shoot some dots with a standard two-handed grip, others strong hand only, and one using your support hand only. Other dots require a draw and fire sequence and speed reloads. Still others use short transitions where you fire one or more shots at different dots. The drill forces you to exercise many of the basic skills with your single box of ammo investment.

Better yet, once you master it, you can increase the difficulty level just by adding a yard or two or three to the distance. If you consistently ace it at three yards, try moving to five, then seven. If you get to the point of acing this one at 25 yards, we’ll write an article about how you became the Chuck Norris of shooting.

45 Drill:

Got a convenience store on the way to your range? Good, then you have everything you need for this one. Get yourself some paper plates. If you want to make it more challenging, use smaller plates. The idea of the 45 drill is to practice basic defensive shooting – getting multiple shots on a reasonable target diameter quickly.

These Birchwood Casey Dirty Bird targets are six inches in diameter. Close enough, especially if you move them a bit farther out.
These Birchwood Casey Dirty Bird targets are six inches in diameter. Close enough, especially if you move them a bit farther out.

The drill gets its name from four different “5’s.” Start with a five-inch target. The average paper plate will be larger than that so either use the “flat” interior section for your target area or just estimate. Or you can get dessert-sized plates to keep things official. Set it up at a distance of five yards. Next, load your magazine or revolver with five shots. Last, you have five seconds to draw and put all five shots on your target. Here is a variation: ten shots in ten seconds

If you can’t draw at your range, that’s OK. Just subtract a second from the time limit and start from a low ready position to put five shots on target in four seconds. As with the Dot Torture drill, you can easily modify some parameters if it’s too easy for you. Increase the distance or reduce the time limits. I wouldn’t recommend shrinking the target size too much because the goal of this drill is to get multiple center mass hits on target quickly. If you’re shooting two-inch groups, you’re probably spending too much time. Push the speed to the point where it’s a challenge to get all shots in that five-inch circle.


I’ve been on a qualification binge recently. Various local, state and federal agencies use specific qualification courses to quantitatively measure shooting skills of officers and agents. If they don’t pass, they don’t carry a gun.

Both the FBI and Air Marshal qualifications use the QIT-99 targets. I was experimenting with different sights and ran the FBI drill on these. The Air Marshal qual requires that 27 (or more) out of 30 shots land in the inner target zones.
Both the FBI and Air Marshal qualifications use the QIT-99 targets. I was experimenting with different sights and ran the FBI drill on these. The Air Marshal qual requires that 27 (or more) out of 30 shots land in the inner target zones.

Two of my favorites are the 2019 FBI Handgun Qualification and the older Federal Air Marshal Qualification.

The FBI Qualification, like Dot Torture, is a great way to invest a 50-round box of ammo in skills development. It has you shooting from concealment at distances from three to 25 yards and exercising skills like support hand shooting, drawing from a holster, and magazine changes. It’s not particularly tough, but the time limits do add a bit of pressure. If you’re a competitive shooter, you’ll likely handle it fairly easily. If you’re in the “go to the range every few months” category, it’s a great way to get better and measure your progress.

Here’s the 2019 course of fire. Be sure to use a QIT-99 Target.

Distance Instructions
3 Draw and fire 3 rounds with strong hand, switch hands, fire 3 rounds with weak hand.
5 Draw and fire 3 shots in 3 seconds.
5 From the low ready position, aim and fire 3 shots in 2 seconds.
5 From the low ready position, aim and fire 6 shots in 4 seconds.
7 Draw and fire 5 shots in 5 seconds.
7 Fire 4 shots, reload, fire 4 more shots.
7 From the low ready, aim and fire 5 shots in 4 seconds.
15 Draw and fire 3 shots in 6 seconds.
15 From the low ready, aim and fire 3 shots in 5 seconds.
25 Draw and fire 4 shots, drop to kneeling, fire 4 more shots.

To score this one, count only shots inside the primary bottle area. Each shot counts for two points and it takes a score of 80 to pass.

The Air Marshal Qualification is tough. Putting men and women on planes where they might have to shoot accurately in crowded confines requires a high level of proficiency and the test is designed to measure just that. This one must be shot cold and from legitimate deep concealment. If you shoot it with your IDPA competition setup of an OWB holster with a phake photographers vest, you’re cheating. Besides shooting cold, it’s an absolute pass / fail scenario. If you miss either the score or any single time limit, you fail. Period. No reshoots of a stage. Come back in a month, again from a cold start.

Here’s how to do it. Use a QIT-99 Target with a bottle outline and inner scoring zones in the head and body areas and set up all targets at 7 yards. By the way, unless noted as “low ready” everything is from deep concealment including magazine carriers. As your third grade Language Arts teacher would say, “If you’re cheating, you’re only hurting yourself.”

Stage Instructions Time Limit
1 Draw and fire 1 round from concealment. Repeat. 3.3 seconds total, 1.65 second average per shot.
2 From low ready, aim and fire two rounds. Repeat. 2.7 seconds total, 1.35 second average per shot.
3 From low ready, aim and fire six rounds. 3 seconds.
4 From low ready, aim and fire 1 shot, reload, aim and fire 1 shot. Repeat. 6.5 seconds total, 3.25 second average per string.
5 Set up two targets, 3 yards apart. From low ready, aim and fire 1 shot at each target. Repeat. 3.30 seconds, 1.65 second average per string.
6 Set up 3 targets, 3 yards apart. From concealment, facing away from targets, turn, draw, and fire 1 round at each target. Repeat while turning in the opposite direction. 7 seconds total, average of 3.5 seconds per string.
7 Set up your gun with 1 round chambered and an empty magazine. From low ready, aim and fire 1 shot. While dropping to kneeling position, reload. Fire 1 shot from kneeling. Repeat. 8 seconds total, average of 4 seconds per string.

To score, shots in the smaller inner zones count as 5 points. Anything outside of that, but still in the bottle counts as only two points. You must score 135 out of 150 to pass. So, you really need to get all shots in those small inner target zones to succeed. Also, if you blow any time limit, you fail immediately. Period. Keep in mind that within a single string, its the overall time that counts. For example, in stage 1, one shot can be 1.7 seconds while the other is 1.6 seconds. That still meets the 3.3 second total time allocation.

Shoot the Dresser:

We saved this one for last because I think it’s the very best time / results investment you can make. The great part is that it’s simple and there are no range restrictions on drawing, moving, and doing speed reloads. Ready?

It’s called dry fire practice and you can (and should) do it at home – with absolutely unloaded guns and magazines of course. Programming the body and brain to press the trigger perfectly without moving the gun is the best practice you can do. Without the flash, bang, and desire to look at your results on a down range target, you’re removing all the distractions from practice. It’s kind of like flossing your teeth. Everyone knows it’s good for you, but few do it with regularity. So, take the flossing and dry fire money-back guarantee. Spend five minutes five times a week practicing perfect trigger presses at home. Then see if your live fire skills haven’t improved appreciably. While you’re at it, practice some draws and magazine changes too. Those are skills that require practice and repetition. Be sure to use your normal carry and concealment attire so you’re programming in the motions you might need in the real world.

Why the dresser? There’s a big one in the hall about five yards in front of my desk. It’s a solid backstop and those drawer handles make great fun targets. Just don’t tell my wife, she thinks I am working.

About Tom McHale

Tom McHale is the author of the Practical Guides book series that guides new and experienced shooters alike in a fun, approachable, and practical way. His books are available in print and eBook format on Amazon. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

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Why does nobody ever mention my favorite target; foam cups? Maybe its because you need wide open space, like in Montana, for it. Just pick a backstop downwind. Drop a foam cup. The wind will take it downrange a couple yards. Shoot the lower edge to make it bounce up into the air, where the wind will take it further downrange, meaning it gets harder and harder on every hit. Remember that the goal is not to hit the cup, but to bounce it up without damaging it. If you do it right, when it gets far enough out, it… Read more »

Shorty Gooseman

Great article! But consider. None of the qualification courses actually qualify you to do anything! They only “authorize” you to carry for their respective agency/department. Basically, they are just weapons handling, and basic skill proficiency demonstration courses. If you shoot the qual course 4 times a year, you have spent a total of 8-10 minutes at the range. If you shootwith two hand guns, a shotgun, and carbine, you might make it up to an hour a year! In a year! This is why LE hit rates are so dismal. Most beginning boy scouts exceed that amount of practice. There… Read more »


@ShortyStuff, good points. My local sheriff… they handload a lot of their practice ammo in house. (Always ticks me off, because they pick up all their brass) . Anyhoo, they practice quite bit. I see them at the local gravel pit on a weekly basis. They provide deputies with some practice ammo and additionally let them get in on department orders, so they get good prices on bulk. Small department, but they seem to use funds pretty wisely. As for my practice. I divide between accuracy/ handling drills and tactical drills. So, practice on trigger pull and sight picture. Then,… Read more »

CAROL McCarthy

If you are looking for a structured and comprehensive course to bolster your marksmanship skills, know that Winchester/NRA offers a Marksmanship Qualification Program. This self-paced program comes with a workbook to track your progress and has very thorough instructions for a variety of firearms and also Air Pistol, Air Rifle and Muzzle Loaders. Report your results to earn certificates, patches or medals. The workbook is also loaded with resources such as information about leagues, training courses, camps and clubs and a free digital magazine sign-up.

Old Corps

Shorty G., right you are. Worked the federal side, an Interior Dept. agency. Our LEO’s had limited opportunities in between annual quals to stay sharp, so were expected to come out of pocket for ammo and range time. Some did, some, no. If we had a major incident, our response very well may not have been consistent. . Some more primary agencies like FBI shoot more frequent, especially since some of the shoot-out debacles of the past taught terrible lessons. . As for state, county and local agencies, most of my experience is based upon combined operations with them. There,… Read more »