The Cornered Cat
The speed-up drill

“Most people have only one shooting speed, which is too slow up close and too fast for precision work at distance.” ~ Tom Givens

Want to hear about one of my favorite little practice drills? It’s designed to help you 1) master excellent trigger control, and 2) maintain that same excellent trigger control as you speed up. I learned the drill from Marty Hayes at the Firearms Academy of Seattle, where it’s used in the Handgun Safety Seminar with beginning shooters. But don’t let that fool you. This simple but flexible drill is useful for everybody, and I frequently use it for my own warm-ups.

Start with your target set at 5 to 7 yards. It should be close enough that you can comfortably get all your shots inside a handspread-sized circle at medium speed. If you are a less experienced shooter, bring the target closer. If you can reliably put one ragged hole through your target at 7 yards in slowfire, you can move the target out farther — though you may want to keep it closer so you can really push your speed. Play around with it. You’re looking for that Goldilocks spot: not so close that you feel no challenge, and not so far away that you get frustrated.

To avoid blowing through too much ammunition, download your magazines to 5 or 6 rounds each. This will give you good practice at different speeds, and give you some work on your reloads. 1

Each string fires all the shots in your magazine or revolver cylinder, without pausing.

Do a good reload between each string.

String One is a slowfire string. Take as much time as you need to get good hits.

We sometimes call this string, by itself, the “concentration drill.” That’s because its essence is concentration. Concentrate all of your attention on the proper alignment of your sights, with your eyes sharply focused on your front sight at all times. Do not look at the target between shots, but keep your eye glued to that front sight. Work to make each trigger press as perfect as you can make it: slow, controlled, smooth. Ideally, you can feel each tiny little mechanical flaw in the trigger during this drill. Feel the sensation of the trigger’s movement, perfectly timed at the same speed throughout the entire trigger press. Then follow through with each shot. As each shot goes downrange and recoil happens, keep the trigger fully pressed — all the way to the rear — until you have snapped the front sight back onto target. After the front sight is realigned, then (and only then!) you can let the trigger come forward to reset for the next shot.

Your group should be one ragged hole at this speed and at this distance.

String Two speeds you up a little.

If you were driving the gun at 20 miles an hour in the first string, try driving it at 30 miles an hour this time. It’s not twice as fast, but it is definitely faster. Keep doing everything you were doing — eye on the front sight, smooth controlled trigger press, good follow through on each shot — just do it faster.

String Three goes as fast as you can hit the target. Not as fast as you can shoot, but as fast as you can hit.

Again, keep doing everything you were doing in that first slowfire concentration string: focus on the front sight, smooth controlled trigger press, good follow through. Just do it faster, going as fast as you can hit. You should be able to keep all your shots in a handspread-sized group at this speed. 2

You can play with this idea in a lot of different ways. For example, you can add a superfast string that pushes you beyond your current speed limits, then immediately follow it with another slowfire concentration string to reinforce good trigger habits. Or go the other direction: challenge yourself to shoot one ragged hole in slowfire, then very gradually increase your speed without allowing your group to open up even a little bit.

Where’s your sweet spot for speed right now? Find it. Then work to make it faster.




  1. Practice tip: always do an efficient reload between strings. Don’t waste this opportunity to work on your reloads just because your primary purpose is another skill!
  2. That’s a six- or seven-inch circle, or well inside the sweet zone on an IPSC or IDPA target.

2 Responses to The speed-up drill

  1. keads says:

    Great drill Kathy. Can’t wait to try it out. Thanks!

  2. larryarnold says:

    [That’s a six- or seven-inch circle,]

    Or the flat part of a generic 9″ paper plate. Cheap targets.

Post a Comment