Over the course of teaching concealed carry and pistol classes, I’ve tested out my fair share of drills. While some fell short of expectations, six drills in particular always make their way into my curriculum. When conducting these exercises, observe all gun safety rules.
1. Grip: Water Bottle drill
Though we teach grip in introductory courses, it is the one area I see consistently overlooked. As it is the one aspect of shooting we can consistently control, it’s imperative that those that intend to concealed carry are able to achieve a consistent grip on their pistols. The Water Bottle drill is a dry fire activity designed to show flaws in grip before hitting the range or the streets.
One student should face a target at roughly 3 yards with firearm presented and ready to dry fire. As the student dry fires, I intermittently use an empty water bottle to lightly tap the bottom of the fire i.e. under the slide immediately after the trigger is pulled (see image). Not only does this work to simulate recoil, but it also takes students by surprise. This is the best time to analyze grip.
A firm grip will produce little movement when the pistol is struck. If the firearm bounces around in the students’ hand, then feedback should be given and their grip tweaked until no movement occurs.
2. Trigger control: Balancing Act
Jerking the trigger causes shots to land outside of the intended target. When concealed carrying, we always want our shots to land on target so as not to hit innocent bystanders so it’s imperative that we train and we teach good trigger control. My favorite drill to demonstrate proper trigger control is called The Balancing Act.
I prefer to first demonstrate this technique prior to turning it over to the students to practice. For this exercises, an unloaded pistol is required. Ensure all weapons are clear and verified by another student.
Get into preferred shooting position. Next, place a snap cap or coin (quarters work best) on the slide towards the nose of the gun. Pull the trigger. If the snap cap or coin is still resting on top of the handgun, then a straight and fluid pull was achieved. If the coin or cap tumbles to the floor, well then it’s time to work on eliminating the jerk.
3. Accuracy: Natural Aiming Area
Again, like trigger control, accuracy is imperative when concealed carrying. We don’t want to hurt innocent people so we must stay on target when we draw and fire. The preferred drill for improving accuracy is the “Natural Aiming Area” exercise.
When conducting this one in class, I prefer to have laser trainers ready for student use. These give instant feedback and I find students respond well to them. If laser trainers can’t be used, have students dry fire with their handguns. Before dry firing, ensure the firearm is clear and empty.
Students should face a target 3-5 yards away. For this drill the perfect target is usually a light switch or doorknob. The student should present the gun and then close his or her eyes. Have the student draw a figure eight with the gun. When using a laser system, have the student pull the trigger and then open their eyes. Evaluate where the laser landed in relation to the target. When dry firing, students may still pull the trigger but should focus on where their sights are aligned and where the firearm is pointed.
This is not about precision, but about accuracy. If the student is lined up on the doorknob or light switch then no need to alter anything; however, if the student is off target, adjust stance and grip until the exercise can be accomplished correctly.
4. Presentation of firearm: Drawing from concealment at ‘threat’
This sounds like an obvious drill, but you’d be surprised at the amount of concealed carry classes that don’t actually teach how to draw from concealment. Liabilities play a large part in some facilities opting not to teach this, but with inert training aides and laser systems there’s no reason to sit this one out. I’ve found students respond well to the practice and let’s face it; they’re in class to learn how to conceal.
Having explored the concealed carry world largely on my own, I have accumulated a vast expanse of holsters in all sizes and varieties. Instead of tossing them, they sit in a large bin that I pull out just for concealed carry classes. Students get to pilfer through, choose one and holster up. All firearms are unloaded and verified at this point and once checked, firearms go in the holsters.
Students are required to adequately conceal their pistols meaning, no printing. Then I have them mill about the rear of the classroom. I give them a few seconds to calm down, get comfortable carrying, and then I call “Threat!” At threat, they must present the firearm at one of the targets on the wall. Students should hold this position until evaluated by the instructor.
When we conduct this drill, we’ve already run through the previously mentioned exercises. Students should have a good grasp on grip at this point, so instructors shouldn’t focus exclusively on that aspect. Instead, the focus should be on ensuring students are able to draw successfully from concealment and do so safely, i.e. not sweeping.
This exercise is most useful to students because it gives them the opportunity to put what they are learning to practice and evaluate if the clothes their wearing will work for concealed carry. It’s also a great opportunity for students to get an initial opinion on what kind of holster might work best for them.
5. Malfunction: Tap, Rack, Pull
“Tap, Rack, Pull” doesn’t sound that exciting but it is a drill I think every instructor should employ in class. When things go wrong, they tend to go terribly wrong and self-defense situations are not exempt.
This drill is simple. Call students up one a time and use snap caps to introduce a “failure” in the student’s firearm. The student must then tap the magazine, rack the slide, and pull the trigger. Ensure while the student is handling the firearm, they are keeping it in a safe direction at all times.
There’s nothing fancy here with this exercise; but it’s a good one to get students comfortable with clearing their own malfunctions and also familiarizing them with assessing problems.
6. Awareness and assessment: Scan and Assess drill
Tunnel vision is a physiological reaction to adrenaline hitting the system. The dangers associated with this reaction is that concealed carriers may be so focused on the target ahead, that they might miss the bad guy creeping up from the side. Safe for dry fire or live fire, the very versatile “Scan and Assess” drill promotes awareness in students.
For this drill, students will fire three shots, look left and right, then re-engage the target with three more shots. To spice this drill up further, you can require students to fire, scan, and then change positions before firing again. On the range, instructors can also throw some colored paper into the mix and require that the first set of shots land on one color while the second round must land on a different color.
This activity is good to run both in the classroom and on the range. I suggest doing both to better prepare students.
Though we can’t control every aspect of concealed carry and defensive scenarios, we can give our students a fighting chance with preparation. Simple drills designed to improve grip, trigger control, accuracy, drawing and awareness produce well-rounded concealed carriers and that’s whom I want on my side.
Safety warning: Jacki Billings is a certified NRA instructor. Any methods or information described in this article is intended to be put into practice only by serious gun-owners with proper training.