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Defensive Gun Skills, Good Enough?

What level of defensive handgun skills does it take to win in a gunfight? Of course, no two defensive gun uses are exactly the same. However, don't be fooled into thinking that this means you shouldn't train to any quantifiable standard. For example, we don't know how good your driving skills might need to successfully navigate various good to horrible traffic situations, but we still have minimum standards to get a driver's license. Basic proficiency is okay, but our goal should be superseding the basic standard.

shot timer

We have put a lot of thought into the basic skills and standards every concealed carrier should possess:

The good thing is that the minimum level of proficiency is obtainable by nearly anyone who will practice.

You're going to need a shot timer. Yeah I know, a lot of people are going to say that a shot timer is only for competitions.

Respectfully, that idea is wrong. Every gunfight has a ‘go' signal. And every gunfight has a par time. We just don't know what either of those will be beforehand. Furthermore, if you don't know how long it takes you to shoot a specific drill, you have no comparable metric to see improvement. Additionally, you can't know how you compare to other shooters.

I can't think of any legitimate reason anyone would not want to know if they are getting better or how their skills compare to someone else's.

So what are the standards?

So we have come up with four different drills that test various skills. For each drill, we have three standards for you to see where you stand. The three standards are:

  • Master
  • Gold
  • Passing/Minimum

We came up with these standards after looking at hundreds and hundreds of shooters' times over the years.

We agreed that a passing/minimum standard is average. The person is basically competent in common gun skills a concealed carrier would need in a typical gunfight. However, you can do better.

A gold standard shooter is someone who has a good level of automaticity for fundamentals like draw and sight tracking. Skills in this level are likely to be retained under stress.

Someone in the master class standard has achieved a high level of shooting ability. Maintaining a gold standard performance over time requires continual practice and maintenance of shooting skills.

What are the Drills?

The drills are simple to run and don't require a lot of rounds. In fact, if running through each of the four drills once, requires 16 total rounds.

You will need a target with an 8″ circle and a 3×5 index card. You can download and print out a target for free here. You will position the 3×5 card above the circle just like you see in the photo.

All the drills will be run from 7 yards or 21 feet. You should be using your everyday carry (EDC) handgun and holster for each drill. Each drill should be run from concealment.

riley bowman drills

These drills are all run from 7 yards and use the simple target setup as seen in the picture.

Drill 1. Draw to First Shot

This drill is exactly what it sounds like. On the beep, you will draw from concealment, and fire one shot into the 8″ circle.

The time standards for this drill are:

  • Master = 1.0 second or below
  • Gold = 1 to 1.5 seconds
  • Passing = 1.5 to 2 seconds

Drill 2. Bill Drill

The drill credited to Bill Wilson uses 6 rounds. One the beep, draw from concealment, and fire 6 rounds into the 8″ circle.

The time standards for this drill are:

  • Master = 2 seconds or below
  • Gold = 3 seconds or below
  • Passing = 4 seconds or below

riley shooting

Drill 3. Modified Failure to Stop

On the beep, you will draw and fire 4 shots into the 8″ circle, followed by 1 shot into the 3×5 index card.

The time standards for this drill are:

  • Master = 2 seconds or below
  • Gold = 3 seconds or below
  • Passing = 4 seconds or below

Drill 4. One Hand Modified Failure to Stop

On the beep, you will draw and fire 4 shots into the 8″ circle using only your strong hand.

The time standards for this drill are:

  • Master = 2.5 seconds or below
  • Gold = 3.75 seconds or below
  • Passing = 5 seconds or below

In summary, we hope you out to the range to see how your performance stacks up against these standards. The shot timer used in the video is our very own RangeTech Bluetooth Shot Timer. We think it is the best shot-timer for a bunch of reasons. Namely, because it is the only shot timer that has Bluetooth capabilities and it is by far the most economical timer you can buy. Oh yeah, and we personally make them here in Colorado!

Also, if you're struggling with your draw, we highly suggest you try our Draw Like a Pro training course.

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5 Responses to Defensive Gun Skills, Good Enough?

  1. Jose April 5, 2021 at 6:27 am #

    Heck of good drills! No frills, no theatrics, no useless stuff. You do it or you don’t. If not, start working. if you pass, start working up to the next level.
    Thank you for sharing.

  2. Brooks Harris April 9, 2021 at 10:32 am #

    The drills are sufficiently challenging, but the times allowed are unreasonable for drawing from concealment which is how any prudent person should all carry.

    • Matthew Maruster April 9, 2021 at 10:58 am #

      If you’re having issues with the par times from concealment, it means you might need to work on your draw more. They are absolutely achievable. Just keep working.

    • Steve Miller April 9, 2021 at 4:02 pm #

      Brooks Harris, may I ask what you believe more acceptable times would be?

  3. Brad Butler April 20, 2021 at 10:14 am #

    Any comparative should have a common starting point. Concealment requirements are different for different people. Concealment requirements can be different for an individual depending on the circumstances. I suggest the test should start with hand on the gun if you want to compare to some standard. Then, shoot it from your personal concealment with your hands ready for action but not giving away your intent. At this point the standard is your last best run ever.

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