Why Many are Missing the Mark With the “Dicken Standards”

Details from the recent active shooter incident in an Indiana mall indicate that the armed citizen who intervened Eli Dicken, shot 10 rounds at the bad guy from 40 yards, hitting him 8 times within 15 seconds. The particular circumstances birthed a new standard or shooting drill, called the “Dicken Standard” or “Dicken Drill.” From a shooting performance standard, the Dicken Standard is useful. However, I think many are focusing on the wrong thing and missing the point of it all. Allow me to explain.

The Eli Dicken Standards—

First, the particulars (what we know now at least) from the tragic shooting should challenge anyone who carries a handgun for defensive purposes to pause and think about their current skill set with the gun they carry. Especially because, in general, we all have a tendency to overestimate our abilities, and underestimate the reality of a deadly force incident.

For the folks who went to the range and set up a target at 40 yards, shot 10 rounds from concealment in 15 seconds kudos to you. If you didn't score 80% hits, it just means if you want to perform at that standard, you need to work on things. If you “passed” awesome.

decision making targets testing standards

Targets like these provide a great way to run various drills, all on the same target.

The way I see it, people are not missing the mark with the standards because they meet them or not. People are missing the mark in two major ways because of the implications drawn from the standards, and the argument over the standards themselves.

What's the purpose of Shooting Drills?

First, we shouldn't confuse shooting drills with actual use of force scenarios. The perfect example here is the Mozambique, or failure to stop drill. On the signal, the shooter draws and fires two rounds to the chest of the target, and then one shot to the head area. For many, this drill becomes a technique. Given the millions of unique factors of any given use of force, how can firing two shots to the chest and one to the head be a solution for every or even a majority of self-defense shootings? It can't and even if it is the solution to your specific circumstance, far more goes into survival and real world performance than performing a drill standard one day on a range.

Another example is the “draw to first shot” drill. The time it takes to draw your gun and get a hit on an attacker is a big factor on if you win a gun fight or not. I think the majority of concealed carriers can achieve a time of 1.5 seconds with just a little focused effort. But even this “standard” doesn't guarantee you'll survive a deadly attack.

Nothing Can Guarantee Survival—

If drills and standards aren't techniques, and passing them won't guarantee survival, what's the point? It seems logical then that shot timers and quantifiable metrics are irrelevant in a real-world shooting. Instead, shouldn't we just get comfortable shooting the gun we carry, and when the time comes, we will just perform? After all, many people who successfully defend themselves with a firearm aren't highly trained.

No, this isn't the approach we should take when considering performance during a stressful incident where human lives are at stake.

Instead, we should use drills like the Mozambique drill to test specific shooting skills. One of the skills tested during the Mozambique drill is the ability to transition from a large hit zone to a smaller one, known as a transition. Transitions are a shooting skill that is useful for a wide range of applications. Transitions between different size zones on an individual target are not much different from transitions between targets at different distances. Working on transitions helps your eyes and brain connect the sight picture necessary to get accurate hits on targets of various sizes.

target practice shooting drill

What is The Point of Tracking Metrics—

The draw to first shot helps us breakdown our draw and presentation so we can refine and optimize our movements. Not every incident requires a sub second draw, but the skills necessary in a sub second draw to first shot only make a surreptitious, 3-second draw all the better.

As a side note, there have been some reports that one of the people killed in the mall shooting also had a handgun, but he never drew it. Maybe he never saw the attacker, maybe he froze. Who knows? Carrying a gun and possessing skills to use it doesn't even guarantee survival. As defenders we are responding, and sometimes even a sub second draw doesn't win the fight.

The point here is just that we use drills for what we intended them for, to evaluate specific skills. If we have better shooting skills, not only will we perform better in drills, but we have a deeper skill set to draw from if we ever need to. Evaluating your skills in the framework of standards is a good way to develop and grow. We talk about that in this post.

Arguing Over Distances and Other Factors—

The Second problem is the debate over the standards themselves and the “achievability” of the “average concealed carrier.”

First, who cares if Eli shot him at 40 feet or 40 yards? For the individual concealed carrier, why don't you develop the skills to make both shots? Does anyone think that working on accuracy at 40 yards means you can't make a 40 foot shot? Of course not, skill is skill. In fact, success at 40 yards provides confidence that the 40 foot shot is within your wheelhouse.

But some argue that long distance shots are not common in self-defense. But the probability of needing a specific skill in a shooting should only drive how we allocate our training time and focus. We have a limited amount of training budget and time. So we should distribute our resources accordingly, not ignore building important fundamental skills.

Prioritizing training Time—

For example, the likelihood you'll need to perform a magazine change during a defensive gun use is not high. Does that mean you shouldn't ever practice doing it? Of course not, it can't hurt to know how to do it. You just don't want, for example, to spend 90% of your time learning how to perform magazine changes, without having skills to draw and get hits at various distances.

I've also seen conversations saying making a 40 yard shot requires an extraordinarily high level of skill. I am not implying that a 40 yard shot isn't any more difficult than a 4 foot shot. That would be idiotic. What I am saying is that how much more difficult really depends on the individual's skill set. And that brings us back to actually getting out and learning how to get hits at the longer distances.

learn to draw better

If you've never practiced at further distances, you take yourself out of the fight if the solution to the problem is making a 40 yard shot. It's important to have an actual understanding of our skills. Sure, how we perform on the range isn't exactly how we will perform if we need to respond to an actual shooting. But it gives us a reference, and some confidence in formulating a realistic response.

The Range Will Never Exactly Simulate a Defensive Gun Use—

We know that nobody shoots back at you when you're practicing on the range. People aren't actually being killed in front of you and screaming for help. You're not telling your loved ones to seek cover before running toward a maniac with a rifle knowing you may die. We know all this. So to those saying that there is no benefit from the standards because they “don't replicate what really happens in a gunfight,” I must respond and say, yeah no kidding, what is your point?

Remember, drills are not scenarios, they just help us develop and quantify shooting skills. Tactics, decision-making skills, ability to think and problem solve under stress, these are also critical in determining if you'll survive. Running shooting drills can help in these areas to a degree. However, it's more about building skills to a level of automation. Then, our brain can reference our skill set, and problem solve with more options and at a higher level. Instead of worrying about IF I can make a 40 yard shot, I look at how I can get the best angle to give me the best view at 40 yards.

Continue Growing and preparing—

This post just scrapes the surface of mindset, training and preparation. But, I hope this content is beneficial in helping to put drills and standards in the proper context. I feel that my approach to defensive pistol training really changed in a positive way when I understood these concepts.

About Matthew Maruster

I follow my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who is the eternal co-equal Son of God. I currently live in Columbus, Ohio with my wife and daughter. I served in the Marine Corps Infantry. I was a Staff Sergeant and served as a Platoon Sergeant during combat in Iraq. After I was a police officer at a municipal agency in San Diego County. I have a Bachelors's Degree in Criminal Justice from National University. I produce the Concealed Carry Podcast and coordinate the Concealed Carry Instructor Network, and manage MJ Maruster Defense.


  1. Dave Harris on July 25, 2022 at 5:14 pm

    Thanks for your article.

    Your comment “…from the tragic shooting” was not tragic…it was a wonderful thing.

    Maybe you or others can comment on whether a red dot on the pistol is better than iron sights for long distance pistol shots? I’ve only used iron sights.

    • Jon on July 26, 2022 at 2:03 pm

      Red dot vs. Irons

      Bottom line: If you can, get and train with a red dot. But, if you can’t, just train with your irons.

      Red dots make shooting stupid easy. Just point and click, but you should train with irons as well because they may challenge your fundamentals much more than a RDS would. Plenty of shooters can hit an 8″ target at 50m with irons (see the National Match at Camp Perry), and some can still hit much farther targets. The most important thing is that you train with what you have. If you’re a knucklehead and you don’t replace your batteries in your RDS as often as you should (monthly or yearly depending on the manufacturer) you may end up using the irons anyways, so have that capability ready.

      • bob onit on July 27, 2022 at 10:45 am

        it was tragic because the shooter killed 3 people before kid could put him down

    • General Patton on February 26, 2023 at 1:06 pm

      I have stayed away from a Red Dot on my carry Pistol only for the reason of being able to draw un-impeded.

  2. Steve Moses on July 27, 2022 at 10:48 am

    This article and John Holschen’s post on Facebook addressing the Dickens Drill are likely spot on, most especially in the light that we don’t know exactly what transpired during this event yet.

    • Matthew Maruster on July 27, 2022 at 11:14 am

      Thank you Steve, I very much appreciate your words.

  3. Steven on July 28, 2022 at 8:48 am

    I notice that the media will not show this man or get more attention for this heroic act,so it shows me that all the media is politicized now what a shame people, we need to get our country back soon before we don’t have one Amen!!

    • Jim on July 31, 2022 at 11:22 am

      How is it not reported? I read about it on CNN which is why I’m here reading this post.

Leave a Comment