Five Drills To Help You Shoot Pistols Better

  • February 4, 2021
  • By Jared Daub

As you start the Journey of training with your pistol, it can be hard to know what to focus on first.

I remember vividly my first experiences with handguns/pistols. I expected that shooting them would be fairly straightforward. I honestly thought I would immediately do good with a pistol. I’ve always been pretty athletic, pretty coordinated, but as soon as I started practicing with a handgun the truth became abundantly clear: I sucked. Bad. Horribly. It was really frustrating. I can remember a specific day when I went to my parents house to shoot my M&P 9C (my first semi-auto handgun) and I missed the USPSA sized target entirely at about 7 yards.

Looking back on these experiences I can see clearly my mistakes. I know now that I did not have a goal or a clear mission other than “I hope I shoot good today”. What is “good”? What does that even mean? Can you measure that? Not really. Good is interpretive and up for debate. So what can we do and how can we as new shooters break through these roadblocks to become better with our handguns? We focus on specific basics.

Hitting a target is actually a very simple process. It simply requires us to properly align the sights on target, hold them there, and press the trigger without moving the sights. Simple doesn’t mean it will be easy, it just means it is not complex. As we started heading into 2021 I had this deep desire to do more to help others on their journey to shooting their firearms well. I remember the struggle. I remember seeing people much better than me and getting down because I could barely hit a man sized target even at close distances. This desire to help ultimately brought me to creating a basic paper drill series that focuses on the fundamentals of pistol shooting.

This paper drill is 100% free. I’ll link to it at the bottom of this blog. Download it, Use it, Share it. It helps you focus on the main aspects of pistol shooting BEFORE moving onto more complex skills. What good does running around on the range or working transitions do if your fundamentals aren’t there? The answer is simple: It does no good. Not only does it not help you, it can seriously create training scars and bad habits. One of my greatest mistakes in the shooting world was trying to go too fast, too soon. Focus on the basics first.

The Paper drill focuses on five drills:

1.) The first drill focuses on accuracy on the black square. You can do this at 3,5,7 yards. I’d suggest starting close at first as you start. Build a foundation first. Distance shows issues that can be hidden at closer distances, so use it, just keep it closer to start out. The goal of the black square drill is to take your time, get a good sight picture, and press the trigger without moving the sights. Easy to say, hard to accomplish. If you have a good foundation of trigger control, grip, and sight alignment, landing shots on or extremely close to the black square is achievable. If you notice tight groups but you’re low left or low right, there are other issues at play. At 3 yards it isn’t your sights.. its YOU. Use this drill to find where you stand. You will see if you flinch, you will see your progress. Take your time. If you get your hits or you are extremely close to the black box, move on. This drill is five rounds.

2.) From a compressed ready push out and fire one round into the circle. Again, simple, but now we add movement, sight acquisition, sight alignment, trigger press all together. Run this drill a few times. There is no need for a shot time here as you start out, but it is helpful to track baseline times. We need data to grow.

3.) On the third drill we are starting holstered. This can be open, concealed, doesn’t matter. Whatever you are most comfortable with now, do that. Draw and then fire one round on the 6″ circle. Do this about five times. Now we are working on our master grip from the holster, proper draw, sights and trigger press. Take your time and make sure you have good form. Once you do, it’s cool to push some speed to see where your skills fall apart.

4.) On the fourth drill we do something similar to drill 3. The difference is now we fire two rounds. This now begins to work all the skills of drill 3 but also adds recoil management and reacquiring the sights before firing your next round. It is very simple to go super fast and fire one round. It is more difficult to maintain sight picture and cadence when firing multiple rounds on target.

5.) The last official drill is essentially a modified Bill Drill. You will draw from your holster and fire 6 rounds into the 6″ circle. Start slow on this and use your shot timer. What we want to see is a consistent cadence. Your six shots should be evenly spaced apart. You can use a shot timer to check the split time between shots and see how your cadence is. This drill is again stressing follow up shots and sight picture. It also begins to introduce us to acceptable speeds depending on the target size. Larger targets like the 6″ circle are easier to go fast. If you find you can blaze extremely fast on the bigger circle, do the same drill on the smaller one. This is all about pushing our skills and learning to build solid foundations.

As you finish these drills you’ll probably notice one of three things: You may notice your shots are all over the paper. If your target looks like someone shot at it with a shotgun, don’t get down. Get focused. Figure out where you are losing ground and focus there and dryfire. Practice the skills you are weakest at as often as possible. You may notice acceptable times and accuracy. If you have nice, tight groups on all the drills, congrats! You have a good foundation. However, now you need to speed up. We WANT to see where we fall apart. These drills are not about 100% accuracy. They are about figuring out where your baseline skills are and pushing growth. You may also see some good groups, some misses. This is ideal. A good shooter knows that they have a baseline performance level and they know that at times we need to push this. Growth comes from data logging and practice. Write down your times. Keep notes. Snap a photo on your phone of your target. You may (most likely) suck at first, but over time you will see growth if you stay focused.

In the world of tons of information, it is sometimes hard to find GOOD information. I sincerely hope that at the very least this series of drills helps you stay focused. Build foundations and once you do, seek higher training and follow after others who are ahead of where you are now. I’m personally not a big fan of some of the weird flexing I see on the internet. I think it distracts us from the mission: To become more prepared. To become more proficient. To become an asset in our communities. To live well.

We are all on that journey. Onward.


Download your free paper targets here: https://tatargets.com/paper-targets/

If you would like to check out the full YouTube video showing these drills in action (we highly recommend it), click the video thumbnail below:


Jared Daub

VP of Design/Marketing