I will be attending Gabe White’s Pistol Shooting Solutions course next month. This will be my second time taking it and will also be the first time I attend a specific course a second time. I’m excited about it for many reasons. First and foremost, it’s a really fun class. Additionally, I came really close to walking away with one of the infamous pins my first time around, but that was two years ago and I’ve improved a lot since then. So I’m going back with the goal of getting a pin and seeing what I take away from this course the second time around.
The course has a lot to offer in terms of skill development. Aside from the technical drills used to earn a pin, the class gets into movement, working with barriers, making the draw stroke more efficient, and learning to call shots. There are also some really fun head to head challenges against other students. It also offers quite a bit of material with regards with improving the ways one practices in order to be more efficient and effective in developing one’s pistolcraft. I invite readers to check out the after action report I published on it in 2020 for a more detailed discussion on the course as I want to shift the focus of this post to talk about my preparations to earn a pin.
The pin award is based on one’s timed and scored performance on four drills that Gabe White refers to as the technical skill tests. The drills are the Bill drill (six shots to the body), Failure to Stop drill (two shots to the body and one shot to the head), Immediate Incapacitation drill (two shots to the head), and the Split Bill Drill (four shots to the body and two shots to the head). All of the drills are run from a distance of seven yards at either a standard cardboard IDPA or IPSC target with perforated scoring zones. Time penalties are added for impacts outside of the “A-zone” as follows: 0.25 seconds penalty for impacts in the C-zone, 1 second penalty for impacts in the D-zone, and 2 second penalty for misses. A time bonus of 0.25 seconds is granted if the drills are shot from concealment or from a duty holster with active retention.
In an ideal world, I would prepare for the technical skills tests by shooting these drills over and over on a daily basis until I can consistently shoot them clean (that is without incurring penalties) faster than the required times to earn a pin. However, I don’t have an endless supply of ammunition and I don’t have access to a range where I can set up and shoot these drills from a holster. As such, I am relying on dry practice, a handful of training tools I have available, and the theoretical breakdown of each drill that Gabe White has published on his website for my preparation.
Looking at the theoretical breakdown closely, there are three distinct pieces of data that I’m using to inform my practice sessions. The first is the draw to first shot times. In order to have a good chance to earn a dark pin a 1.5 second draw to first shot to the body and a 2 second draw to first shot to the head is going to be needed. For a light pin, the times are reduced to 1.25 seconds and 1.75 seconds respectively. For a turbo pin, the times are reduced even more to 1 second and 1.5 second respectively. Another data point is the split time between shots to the body. These are 0.4 second splits for a dark pin, 0.25 second splits for a light pin, and 0.2 seconds splits for a turbo pin. The final data point is the split time between shots to the head. These are 1 second splits for a dark pin, 0.75 second splits for a light pin, and 0.5 second splits for a turbo pin.
|Dark Pin||Light Pin||Turbo Pin|
|Draw to first shot to the body||1.5 seconds||1.25 seconds||1 second|
|Draw to first shot to the head||2 seconds||1.75 seconds||1.5 seconds|
|Split time to the body||0.4 seconds||0.25 seconds||0.2 seconds|
|Split time to the head||1 second||0.75 seconds||0.5 seconds|
Taking that information into account, the first thing that seemed to be the most obvious is to make use of the Hostage Rescue drill available in the Mantis X10. The drill is essentially a draw stroke to the first shot with a time limit. It also requires that the pistol be steady enough to shoot a very precise shot to the head. This seems like a perfect match for working on the draw to first shot to the head component. Consequently it also helps work on the draw to first shot to the body since the acceptable “wobble zone” for the front sight or red dot is larger which means we don’t have to wait as long for the pistol to be as steady to fire an acceptable shot.
Folks who don’t have access to a training aid like the Mantis can still work on improving their draw to first shot by using a shot timer with a par time feature.
Trying to incorporate something into my dry fire regimen to improve split times has proven to be a bit more challenging. One approach I’m using to work on this is using a shot timer with a par time feature to “shoot” the four drills dry. This isn’t ideal because the trigger pull regardless of the pistol used won’t be the same for every shot in the drill (this wouldn’t be the case if I was using a revolver, but I won’t be using a revolver in the class). Additionally, there is no recovery time from recoil to contend with between shots. So rather than matching the par time to pin requirements, I’m reducing the time requirements by 25%. I got this idea from a Steve Anderson podcast episode. The premise, assuming I understood Steve Anderson’s idea correctly, is to become familiar with the course of fire at high speed. This will require being honest about how the sights and dot are moving with each trigger pull and not getting lazy with a firm and solid grip.
In addition to the 25% faster dry drills, I’m working the drills with a SIRT pistol also under par time pressure. I’ve adjusted the SIRT pistol’s trigger to have a weight that is slightly heavier than the trigger of the pistol I will be using. The idea is to get a feel for how fast I have to work the trigger (one that actually resets between trigger pulls) to meet the requirements while getting feedback via the laser that the shots are good. Additionally, I don’t have a holster that fits the SIRT pistol so instead I’m using the theoretical split times to establish par times to work against also with a time reduction from a low ready start.
Putting all of that together here is what my daily dry fire practice sessions look like:
- Mantis X10 Hostage Rescue drill
- SIRT Pistol Drills (with 75% of Dark Pin split time limits)
- Bill Drill with a par time of 1.8 seconds from low ready
- Failure to Stop with a par time of 1.35 seconds from low ready
- Immediate Incapacitation with a par time of 1.5 seconds from low ready
- Split Bill Drill with a part time of 2.7 seconds from low ready
- Dry Pistol Drills (with 75% of Dark Pin time requirements)
- Bill Drill with a par time of 2.63 seconds from concealment
- Failure to Stop with a par time of 2.18 seconds from concealment
- Immediate Incapacitation with a par time of 2.25 seconds from concealment
- Split Bill Drill with a par time of 3.53 seconds from concealment
I plan on reducing those par times as the scheduled class date approaches. Of course, y’all can expect a follow up post after the class that will confirm whether or not this preparation paid off.