Types of Drills

Types of Drills

Posted by Matt Little on 11th Dec 2023

“Every drill must have a purpose.” - Albert Pujols

Anyone who’s come to one of our classes knows that I divide drills into four broad categories: experimentation, isolation, combination, and validation. This way of categorizing drills allows me to structure my training as efficiently as possible, and addresses many of the weaknesses inherent in most institutional firearms training whether military, law enforcement, or civilian.

The first category, experimentation drills, is how you learn to optimize technique for your own physiology and psychology. The principles of sound technique are universal, but we all have to learn how to embody those principles in our own way. Simply imitating the way someone else’s technique looks doesn’t guarantee success. Especially in a skill like shooting where what makes a technique work isn’t always apparent from the appearance of that technique. The most well known example of an experimentation drill is probably the Doubles Drill. Typically, especially in institutional training, experimentation is neglected, if it is even done at all. Without it however, you are very unlikely to reach your full potential as a shooter.

The next type of drill, isolation, is where you grind away at speed and accuracy to make improvements. This is the work that gives you a high level of technical competence. Well known isolation drills include Bill and Blake Drills, Four Aces, and so on. Any drill where you are working on improving your performance in one isolated aspect of your shooting is an isolation drill. Far from being neglected in most firearms training, it is usually over-emphasized. Isolation work is indispensable, but if that is all you do, you will never be able to apply your shooting on demand at the same level of skill you’ve built in isolation.

The third category, combination drills, are where you learn to apply those isolated skills in complex combinations, on demand, and under pressure. Perhaps the simplest example of a combination drill would be the famous El Presidente. Combination drills are where you build consistency and performance on demand. Neglecting combination work is why many shooters can demonstrate a very high level of skill in simple stand and shoot drills, but fall apart when given a complex and unfamiliar course of fire.

The final category of drills is the validation drill. This is where you test yourself and give yourself solid data on your current level of skill, your strengths and weaknesses. You then use that data to create a feedback loop in your training, and work on weaknesses in order to improve as efficiently as possible. Test, train, re-test, and so on, so that continual improvement is possible.

Using these different types of drills in the right proportions based on where you are in your training cycle, and where you are in your training lifetime, will optimize your training. Use these to shatter plateaus and reach your potential as a shooter.