Self Defense Skills & Drills: The Bill Drill

Bill Drill
Self Defense Skills & Drills: The Bill Drill

U.S.A.-(AmmoLand.com)- The Bill Drill is a classic, low round count drill to help measure several skills. Shooters will be testing their draw speed, recoil control, and more as they try to balance speed and accuracy.

A Brief History of the Bill Drill

More than once I’ve heard the creation of this drill attributed to folks like Bill Rogers or Bill Jordan. While both of those men made incredible contributions to the shooting world, they are not the ones to thank for this drill. We should be thanking Bill Wilson, of Wilson Combat fame for developing it, with additional credit going to Rob Leatham for coining the term “Bill Drill.”

Setting Up Bill Drill

When setting up the Bill Drill you will need your pistol loaded with 6 rounds, a timer, a holster, and a USPSA A-Zone target. The eight inch circle of an IDPA silhouette or similar is also acceptable, though less ideal for those with weaker recoil control. Fun fact, folding the sides of a B-8 bullseye to the edge of the black circle results in a target the same size as an A-Zone.

bill drill ipsc torso
All rounds must stay within the red outlined A-Zone of the IPSC torso

There are several variations of the Bill Drill, for this version, everything is shot from 7 yards. Starting position is your choice, and I typically vary it over time. No penalties are given for equipment, so strap on your gamer rigs to get yourself that fraction of a second advantage!

Scoring Bill Drill

The Bill Drill is extremely simple to score. Keep everything in the A-Zone. You throw a round out of it? That’s a miss and an instant fail. There isn’t a hard par time per-se, however common “passing” numbers are 2 seconds from an OWB rig and 3.5 seconds from concealment. You should focus on getting your hits, and steadily work up the speed aspect. If you make the par time and launch every round into Nowhere Kansas, you’re missing the point as well as the target.

Per Bill Wilson, shooters should aim for three seconds with their carry equipment as a good par time.

Firing the Bill Drill

Start standing at 7 yards. Once the timer goes off, draw and go to work. Sounds simple enough, right?

That’s what I thought the first time I ran through the Bill Drill in 2019, and I was sorely mistaken. I attempted the drill three times to get an average picture of performance. All three ended up over par, with two attempts providing at least one dropped shot. I finally had a clean run on my final attempt, which was likely a fluke.

  • First Run: 3.51 seconds, two misses
  • Second: 3.94 seconds, one miss
  • Third: 3.86 seconds, clean

The next time I shot this drill was in July 2021, and the results were much better.

  • First Run: 3.28 seconds, clean
  • Second: 3.42 seconds, clean
  • Third: 3.15 seconds, two misses
  • Fourth: 3.57 seconds, clean
bill drill ipsc torso
Bill Drill IPSC Torso Results

My times are faster now, and the accuracy is almost always there. That being said, complacency kills. On my third iteration I sped things up a bit while also subconsciously relaxing my grip. That cost me two hits. I slowed things down for my final run, focusing on getting solid shots, ending on a high note for accuracy, but just slightly breaking the par time.

Most recently, I fired a single Bill Drill in January 2022. With this attempt I landed all rounds in the “A-Zone” in 3.45 second—a passing run. While a single repetition can’t show trend data, it can give a decent indication of on-demand performance. Even though I’m not upset about my results, I clearly have some room for improvement. A solid personal goal would be to consistently pass the drill, cold, with a secondary goal of that using Bill Wilson’s standards.

Analyzing my Bill Drill

As someone who isn’t law enforcement or military, all of my attempts at the Bill Drill have been from appendix concealment. My cold draw takes roughly 1.75 seconds to first shot with my hands relaxed at my sides. For Bill Wilson standards, this only leaves 1.25 seconds to fire six rounds. When using more relaxed standards that I commonly see, I have about 1.75 seconds remaining. This means I need to make somewhere between 0.25 and 0.35 second splits depending on your standard. That’s not blazing fast, but not quite a snail’s pace either.

Improving my draw is one way to cut time off the front end, giving me more buffer to make my shots. While a sub-second draw is the current rage, a 1.5 second draw has been the standard for years, and is something I strive for. Another way to make up time would be to spend less time over-confirming the first shot, which is something I’m apt to do. I burn at least a quarter second there, which is essentially completely unnecessary when the sights are where they need to be. With these two improvements, I’m easily buying another half-second to take more deliberate shots in the same amount of time or less.

Final Thoughts on the Bill Drill

The Bill Drill can be used both as a drill and a measure of performance. The relatively high accuracy standard paired with tight par times forces shooters to focus on fundamentals. Just shooting this over and over again can work wonders for your grip, trigger control, and sight picture. Conversely, you can also revisit the Bill Drill from time to time to see how far you’ve come with your practice. My recommendation for those using the latter method is to test yourself every couple of months. Track progress in a notebook, along with your thoughts on your performance.

Have you ever shot the Bill Drill? If so, let us know in the comments!


About Dan Reedy

Dan is an Air Force veteran, avid shooter, and dog dad. With a passion for teaching, he holds instructor certifications from Rangemaster, Agile Training & Consulting, and the NRA. He has trained with Darryl Bolke, Mike Pannone, Craig Douglas, among several other instructors, amassing over 400 hours of professional instruction thus far. In his spare time you’ll find him teaching handgun, shotgun, and less lethal classes.

Dan’s work has been published by Primer Peak, and The Kommando Blog, and he has been featured as a guest on Primary & Secondary.Dan Reedy headshot

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Doug G.

Ammonland, I like these kinds of articles. They are practical, sharable and apply to wide range of guns. They are applicable to the concealed carry crowd as well as an average shooter looking to improve and they don’t require special knowledge or equipment. 5 Stars.

Wild Bill

Yes! I like sharing them in my gun club’s online newsletter, with proper attribution, of course.

Deplorable Bill

Good practice. This is almost a mag dump drill for CCW’s. Standard 1911 is 8+1 or 7+1 for officer sized. I don’t remember this one at ipsc but it was a long time ago so…… Probably the most important round you will ever fire in defense will be your first round. I do a LOT of draw and fire 1 round. At 7 yds., with a bit of practice, from concealed under a vest ala Mike Baine, sub 1 second hits become common After 10 solid a zone hits in a row comes double taps. After another 20 solid hits… Read more »

Sidrow

Dan, timely article for me as I initiate my quest for Low Round Count Drills. Curious as to whether or not you utilize the Enigma during the latest iterations of this drill. Thank you.

swmft

we did this dont remember what they called it but you did both strong hand and weak hand switched up eye ,

nrringlee

Excellent work. I first encountered this in the early 1980’s while going through a MEU SOC work up at Camp Lejeune. It has been around forever. It was also at Gunsight when I went through there in the mid 1980’s and has been around in many forms, under many names but keeps emerging as an excellent tool. In these days of limited and expensive ammunition it is a great tool to hone accuracy and speed as well as proper draw and presentation with a minimum use of ammo. Great article. Well done. Thank you.

JimQ

great drill! ages ago I fund a website with lots of pistol drills. I printed them out and put them into a three ring binder and keep in a canvas bag with targets that I take to the range. Now that ammo isn’t easily and cheaply replenished from ye olde ammo locker, I practice more deliberately with the binder full of drills. Dot torture is particularly challenging and touches on the draw, two handed, one handed, off handed, multiple targets and reloading. With one box of ammunition, the basics can be touched on and more areas for improvement can be… Read more »

Knute Knute

The more things change… the more they stay the same! No matter what the drill or contest is, get your hits first, and worry about speed after. “First comes right… then comes fast”. That’s what I learned 50 years ago, and it has not changed an iota now. If one starts with fast, that one will never develop accuracy. So start by getting the hits first, and from there on practice will make one fast automatically. Ever seen someone working an assembly line? Unbelievable speed, but doing it with ease. Why? Because they’ve done it thousands of times. Repetion makes… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Knute Knute
Knute Knute

Geez, if only I could get paid by the downvote the way you trolls do!
What’d you make off of these 4? 17 cents? A quarter maybe?
Well, You’ll get by. It don’t cost much to live there in your Mom’s basement, huh? 🙂

Russn8r

4 cent too beaucoup. 2 cent!

musicman44mag

You are absolutely right. First came learning riffs on the guitar at a very young age, then came draw and shoot and later came morse code. The same rule applies to all three. Accuracy first.

HAGD
OreGONE

Wild Bill

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Last edited 4 months ago by Wild Bill
Wild Bill

The stupid program pushes all the dots and dashes together.

Wild Bill

Yep, Drills are key, but I hate doing them.