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Great firearms training with low ammo count drills

There’s a slew of good low-round count drills available to improve our skills


Photo/Crystal Fletcher

This article is part of a year-long series for Police1 registered members from Todd Fletcher titled “Police Firearms: Discussion, Drills & Demos.” Todd will write about current hot topics related to police firearms training, outline firearms training drills and demonstrate shooting techniques on video. If you have a topic you would like Todd to cover, or a training problem you need to solve, email

As the ammunition shortage continues to plague law enforcement agencies, firearms instructors must evaluate their training and courses of fire. Instructors are being asked to deliver better training in less time and with less ammunition. Most instructors are innovative and are coming up with some great training and drills, proving we don’t need a lot of ammunition to provide quality firearm training opportunities for our officers.

Dry fire

The best way to conserve training ammunition is to properly utilize the benefits of dry fire training. Dry fire drills are inexpensive, and when done correctly, can greatly improve a shooter’s skills.

Dry fire drills help improve hand/eye coordination, which translates to improved weapons handling and marksmanship skills. These types of drills are similar to a professional baseball player hitting balls off a tee. The baseball player uses the tee to refine their hand/eye coordination. It also helps the player improve their focus on a particular spot on the baseball. As firearms instructors, we can use dry fire drills to assist our shooters in refining their hand/eye coordination and their ability to focus and concentrate on making good hits.

Dry fire training drills should include work on the draw, reloading, target transitions and trigger control. I like to set up my dry fire practice using a shot timer with a par time. For example, to work on my draw and trigger press, I’ll set a par time of 1.2 seconds and set the shot timer to a random start. I’ll put a 2” sticky note on the target stand and move back to the 7-yard line. When the shot timer goes off, I have 1.2 seconds to draw, obtain a sight picture and press the trigger. I’ll do this for a few draws then change the par time to 1 second.

On shot timers that allow for multiple par time settings, I like to set the first par time at 1 second for the draw and first trigger press then a second par time 1.8 seconds after that to work on my reloads. This gives me the ability to work on multiple skills during my dry fire practice sessions.

Even without a shot timer, a little dry fire time working on your draw and reloads can greatly improve your skills. Check out these videos for some more dry fire ideas and advice:

Live fire drills

As much as I appreciate dry fire practice and the positive effect it has on my skills, I can get a bit bored if those sessions go too long. This is when it’s time to put those benefits to work on the live-fire range. If you’re looking for a quick low-ammunition evaluation of your skill level, I recommend Tom Givens’ Baseline Assessment Drill.

Tom Givens’ Baseline Assessment Drill

The target is a B-8 target repair center that can be downloaded and printed for free off a variety of websites. It’s intended to be shot cold from concealment, but I have found the times are the same as from a secured duty holster:

  • 5-yard line: Draw and fire 5 rounds in 5 seconds (both hands).
  • 5-yard line: Start at low ready with handgun in the dominant hand. Fire 3 rounds in 3 seconds.
  • 5-yard line: Start at low ready with handgun in the non-dominant hand. Fire 2 rounds in 3 seconds.
  • 7-yard line: Start at low ready with handgun loaded with a total of 3 rounds. Fire 3 rounds, conduct an empty gun reload, and fire 3 more rounds in 10 seconds.
  • 10-yard line: Start at low ready with handgun in both hands. Fire 4 rounds in 4 seconds.
  • 20 rounds total.

The best possible score is 200 points. Anything over 190 is good, and if you’re over 195 points, you are doing excellent. This drill can give you a really good idea of your skill level and what you need to improve.

Ken Hackathorn’s Wizard Drill

To save even more ammunition, you could run Ken Hackathorn’s Wizard Drill. This drill uses an IDPA silhouette target, but you could substitute a USPSA or a similar target with realistic-sized center mass and head scoring areas. This drill is designed to be run from concealment, but once again, draw times from a secured duty holster are similar:

  • 3-yard line: Draw and fire one headshot dominate hand only in 2.5 seconds.
  • 5-yard line: Draw and fire one headshot in 2.5 seconds (both hands).
  • 7-yard line: Draw and fire one headshot in 2.5 seconds (both hands).
  • 10-yard line: Draw and fire two rounds center mass in 2.5 seconds (both hands).

Scoring on the Wizard Drill is a straightforward pass/fail. If you miss a shot or go over time, then you fail the drill. This drill is one of those that reads simple, but it really works on your ability to get the gun out of the holster efficiently and apply good marksmanship skills while under time duress.

Bill Blower’s Hateful 8

Another great low ammo count drill is called the Hateful 8 by Bill Blowers. This is a great drill that increases the difficulty considerably. If you think you’re a great shooter, this drill can be very humbling. This drill also uses a B-8 target repair center.

Start with the handgun holstered and loaded with a total of 4 rounds. Two spare magazines will be loaded with 2 rounds each:

  • 8-yard line: Draw and fire 4 rounds, conduct an empty gun reload, fire 2 rounds, conduct an empty gun reload, and fire 2 rounds.
  • Par time for the entire string of fire is 8 seconds.
  • 80 points possible.

This is one of the most difficult drills to shoot well. When I make the par times, my scores are generally in the low 70s out of a possible 80. I’ve never shot this drill clean and made the par times. Repeatability of skill is important, and this drill will help you determine if you have repeatable skill on demand.

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Cross-eyed Madness

I would be remiss not to include one of the drills students in our instructor development classes have created. One of my favorite drills is called Cross-eyed Madness. It was developed in our Building Better Shooters Advanced Firearm Instructor Course by Nick Ennis, Gary Upton, Allister Bunch and Ray Sevilla during a class hosted by the Multnomah County (Oregon) Sheriff’s Office. This drill uses two IDPA, USPSA, or any similar targets with realistic center mass and headshot scoring zones. The targets should be spaced three feet apart at the 7-yard line.

Start with the handgun holstered and loaded with a full magazine:

  • 7-yard line: Draw and fire 3 rounds to the center mass zone of the first target
  • Transition to the head zone of the second target: fire 2 rounds to the head zone then 3 rounds to center mass.
  • Transition to the head zone of the first target: fire 2 rounds to the head zone.
TF drill.png

This drill uses two IDPA, USPSA, or any similar targets with realistic center mass and headshot scoring zones.

Image/Todd Fletcher

This is another simple pass/fail drill. All your hits must be in the center scoring zone of the target. There is no par time for this drill, which is great to see how you improve over time. This gives you the opportunity to push your limits to see how well you can balance speed and accuracy.

We don’t need to shoot a lot of ammunition to get some high-quality firearm training completed. There’s a slew of good low-round count drills available to improve our skills, and I’m sure there are instructors all over the country who could contribute additional creative drills. If you have other drills you would like to share, send it to me and I’ll pass it on!

NEXT: Ammunition shortages and firearms training

Todd Fletcher is the owner and lead instructor for Combative Firearms Training, LLC providing training for law enforcement firearms instructors from coast to coast. He has over 25 years of training experience as a firearms and defensive tactics instructor. He retired after more than 25 years as a full-time police officer and over 31 years of law enforcement experience.

Todd is a member of the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) and the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA). He is a member of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), and was selected as the 2022 ILEETA Trainer-of-the-Year. He is also a member of the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors (IALEFI) and won the 2023 IALEFI Top Gun Award. He can be reached at