BACK AT IT AGAIN WITH THE ACCURACY DRILLS!  The Secrets of Highly Successful Gunfighters, and the Tactical Professor’s Baseline Establishment

Mark Luell of, “Growing Up Guns,” (left) Darryl Bolke (middle) and myself (right), at the 2016 RANGEMASTER Polite Society Tactical Conference.

As I’ve already written about in the past few posts, I recently attended the RANGEMASTER Polite Society Tactical Conference.  One class I attended there was presented by Darryl Bolke of Hardwired Tactical Shooting, from Dallas TX.  The lecture was entitled, “The Secrets of Highly Successful Gunfighters.”

Darryl talked about the legendary lawmen, of both the distant and recent past.  Some of these men had been his mentors, and he made careful notes  of the skills he observed these men to have in common.  A common thread through all of these men was their capability to deliver extremely accurate fire, under the threat and pressure of tense situations AND/OR incoming gunfire!  Having the ability to deliver, on demand, gunshots to either the fist-sized vital zone of the upper chest, or the fist-sized vital zone of the head, are the only predictable ways to cease violent or homicidal human behavior, with pistol projectiles, regardless of caliber.

Darryl also noticed that this unique group of men tended to spend their time in extensive dry-practice (which he uses instead of the term, “dry-fire,” for obvious reasons) live-fire practice on the range, AND in accuracy-intensive competition like NRA Bullseye or PPC matches.  If you’re wondering where I’m going with this, it’s that this unique sample group definitely subscribed to the, “accuracy FIRST,” ideal, and it served them well.

Unfortunately, gents like the aforementioned group don’t (or cannot) exist in law enforcement these days due to our hyper-sensitive, politically correct world.  Habitual gunfight survivors are cycled out of their duty positions, and modern law enforcement officers simply cannot accrue the body of experience and success that officers of past generations could, and did.  Not to denigrate past or current generations of law enforcement officers, but, “They just CAN’T make them like they used to!”  In the civilian/armed self-defense world, two gunfighters that stick out in my mind, are Lance Thomas of Santa Monica CA, who successfully defended his high-end watch shop from multiple armed robbers on several occasions, and Second Chance Body Armor inventor (and former pizza delivery driver) Richard Davis, who was also the victor in robbery attempts against multiple armed suspects.  I’m sure that there are others, but most victims of serial robberies change their vocation, or at least their location, after having experienced multiple existential threats.

Unfortunately, I missed Darryl’s range block that covered shooting drills relative to his lecture, because my match shooting time ran over due to previous shooters having some kind of conundrum.  But I took notes on what I could overhear coming off of the range!

Any of my eleven regular readers knows that I’m a big fan of Claude Werner, AKA The Tactical Professor.  Claude (no coincidence) is also a believer in the 100% accuracy club.  Below is a baseline performance drill Claude came up with, that has also been used by Super-Cop Greg Ellifritz from Active Response Training, as outlined here, on his blog.

THE TACTICAL PROFESSOR BASELINE PERFORMANCE DRILL (the goal, is 100% accuracy)  Claude originally posted this drill here, which I have bold printed in a direct copy, for your enjoyment:

The objective of this drill is to determine what distance you can make 100 percent hits on the vital area of a silhouette target. My feeling is that we need to work on achieving 100 percent accuracy because errant rounds in our homes or neighborhoods could be a major problem. Since I also think the first shot is the most important, I structured the session with a lot of first shots but also included multi-shot strings. A lot of people ‘walk their rounds’ into the target even with handguns. This is a huge problem and liability.

We don’t count hits on the head in this drill because they are actually misses if you are aiming at the body. The head is more than a foot away from the center of the body, if you hit the head when you’re aiming at the body, it’s just a lucky shot and doesn’t count in terms of performance measurement.”

Required equipment:

Any silhouette target; B-27, B-21, Q, IDPA, IPSC, etc.

Masking tape (preferred) or magic marker to mark the target.

Pistol, 50 rounds of ammunition

Eye and ear protection


This drill consists of five (5) Sequences of 10 shots each. The Sequences are untimed.


Place target at three (3) yards

Start loaded with five (5) rounds only.


The starting position is Low Ready. This means the pistol is aimed at the floor below the target. For double action pistols, you will decock after each Step.

Sequence 1 (10 rounds)

1) Start with handgun held in both hands, aimed at the floor below the target. Spare magazine loaded with 5 rounds or speedloader with 5 rounds or 5 loose rounds on the bench.

2) Bring the pistol up on target and fire 1 shot at the center of target. Followthrough for one second, then return to low ready. Decock, if appropriate.

3) Bring the pistol up on target and fire 2 shots at the center of target. Followthrough for one second, then return to low ready. Decock.

4) Bring the pistol up on target and fire 3 shots at the center of target. After two shots, the pistol will be out of ammunition. Reload it and fire the third shot. Followthrough for one second, then return to low ready. Decock.

5) Bring the pistol up on target and fire 4 shots at the center of target. After the shots, the pistol will be out of ammunition. Hopefully, the slide has locked back if it’s an autoloader.

6) Place your pistol down on the bench.

7) Bring your target back and mark all the hits, preferably with tape but a marker will do.

8) Write on the target how many hits you made in the body scoring area. I prefer to not count the outer scoring area as I mentioned in Why I hate the -3 zone. Use this format, (3) X/10, X being the number of hits. For this drill, do not count any hits in the head, they are actually misses.

Sequence 2 (10 rounds)

1) Send the target out to 5 yards.

2) Repeat Sequence 1 but with the target at 5 yards instead of 3 yards.

3) When you write on the target how many hits you made in the scoring area, it will be (5) X/10. The number in parenthesis is the distance in yards.

Sequence 3 (10 rounds)

1) Send the target out to 7 yards.

2) Repeat Sequence 1 with the target at 7 yards.

3) Write on the target how many hits you made at 7 yards. (7) X/10

Sequence 4 (10 rounds)

1) Send the target out to 10 yards.

2) Repeat Sequence 1 with the target at 10 yards.

3) Write on the target how many hits you made at 10 yards. (10) X/10

Sequence 5 (10 rounds)

4) Send the target out to 15 yards.

5) Repeat Sequence 1 with the target at 15 yards.

6) Write on the target how many hits you made at 15 yards. (15) X/10

“When you finish the drill, record your score for each yardage. Make this a part of your practice record. Shooting this exercise will give you a good idea of what your current proficiency level is. That’s an important starting point.”

Well, in the spirit of scientific inquiry, and since some of you like software, and some of you like hardware (and I love you all) I thought that I would run this baseline evaluation test with several guns and make sure that I’m using the guns I should be!  I used a paper version of the IDPA target, and I counted anything outside of the (-0) AKA, “down zero,” which is an 8″ diameter circle in the mid/upper chestal region of the target.  I added an additional record to the scoring, which is the total number of rounds that actually went onto the bad guy, in even the -1 or -3 areas.  You’ll notice in the photo sequence:


This is my ankle gun. A Smith and Wesson Model 640; one of the first ones made in .357 Magnum (although I carry .38’s in it). I dumped one shot out of the down zero at 15 yards, but all of the others were right there. Ammo was 130 grain ball. I plan to do this same test, with 135 grain GDHP (my carry load) in the immediate future. This one wears Uncle Mike’s Boot Grips, which are my favorite J frame grip, ever. They are a rubber copy of the Craig Spegel design, and the latest runs of J frames from the factory feature a rip off/not quite version of these. However, I find the old ones to be the best balance between recoil absorption, grip in the hand, and fabric grab on the overlying cover garment. And they get a nice patina to them after they’ve been buffed by a pant leg for a number of years.


This is my EDC understudy, a S&W M&P 9mm Full size. My carry M&P has Trijicon HD’s, which have a, “drive the dot,” POI. This pistol has Warren Tactical Sights, with the front dot, and I spent a bit of time during the test figuring out at distance if my POI was at the top edge of the sight, or under the dot. I will investigate this further…


This is a, “new to me,” Glock 19 with Heinie Slant Pro sights (in the TOM GIVENS configuration…that is, black sights, with the front blade painted red). Again, I did some fiddling with the POI on this, and as you can see by the vertical stringing, I think I eventually got it nailed down. I marked this 49/50, but when you zoom in and look, the shot actually broke the line, so it really, I suppose, counts.


There are a lot of 1911 fans in the world, and I’m not mad at them. They are a flat, easy to carry gun. I got this particular version as an Undergraduate gift from my Mother. It is a Springfield Armory Custom shop gun. The sliding trigger takes some getting used to after shooting striker fired guns extensively, however if I don’t get jittery, it works great. It runs well, too. This was fired with 230 grain PMC ball, however this particular gun will feed Speer Gold Dot HP’s.


I included this Glock 21 as an homage to my friend Greg Ellifritz, who carries this behemoth on duty. Despite my Size 12 gloves and long fingers, this thing is BIG. I’ve never figured out why that wisp of a man, Rayland Givens carries this huge-ass gun, on JUSTIFIED (the prop guy is probably a Shrek-sized Ogre). This is a First Gen Glock 21 with a conservative home-stipple job. This particular version has old-skool Trijicon night sights on it, which to me, I find really distracting with the BIG white circles around the rear tritium lamps. If I were going to use this gun for serious purposes (and MORE practice) I would dumb down the rear vials with a red Sharpie, and hit the front sight with red nail polish, to really make it pop. It’s easy to forget how, “high,” sights have become in modern times, compared to the old Meprolight and Trijicon offerings of the 90’s. These suckers are LOW. I think that they still offer these types of sights in modern times, but with higher profile sights around, and nobody’s eyes aging in reverse, higher profile makes better sense.

In summary, precision fire from 3, 5, 7 and 10 yards isn’t particularly difficult. Where the rubber truly meets the road for ME, is at 15 and 25 yards. At those longer distances, I really have to slow down, lock into that front sight and get a smooth press to send the projectile into the desired terminus. Botch any one of those segments, and the shot goes wide. Seems simple enough! But alas, as anyone who has hammered on this stuff for hours/days/months/years, “Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear, well, he eats you!” Luckily for folks like me, the lone, armed citizen, shots that long are rare (albeit not unheard of!).  Try this drill, see how you fare, especially with your carry guns. And if you have a gun in your safe that you shoot BETTER than your carry gun, maybe look closer at WHY you made that choice. If you aren’t under any kind of work constraint or regulation to carry a specific sidearm, consider changing to something that you can produce 100% accuracy and thus 100% accountability with. And remember the ways of the past masters…as Larry Vickers says in his classes, “Speed is fine, but accuracy is FINAL!” Thanks for reading!


Here comes the BOOM!

This poster showing the anatomy of the Remington 870 shotgun hangs in one of the classrooms of the Memphis Police Department’s Firearms Training Unit.  Look at that vent rib/Ghost Ring barrel!


I LOVE shooting shotguns.  Whether it’s at birds, paper or steel, no other gun is more satisfying for me to shoot.  The noise, the smoke, and the on-target effect is dramatic.

I spent two hours this weekend in a block of defensive shotgun instruction with Jedi Master Tom Givens, at the 2016 RANGEMASTER Polite Society Conference in Memphis TN.  I have trained with Tom several times in the past, and I really appreciate the utility of his courses.  Tom couples a rich curriculum with a thoughtful, entertaining delivery, that is completely, 100% bio available to the lone, armed citizen.  If you are looking for some high speed military door kicking shotgun course, or some LE, “Patrol Shotgun,” course, look elsewhere.  Tom’s class prepares regular folks for the eventuality of defending themselves from a life-threatening attack in their home or business, with the shotgun.  Make no mistake…the curriculum isn’t, “easier,” or any less valuable than the aforementioned genres of classes.  The mission of the armed citizen is simply different than the military or LEO user.

The target to Tom’s left has the pleural region obliterated by close range application of birdshot.  However, you’ll note the pattern of buckshot at the belt-line of the bad guy…which Tom sent from 25 yards away using the Federal Flight Control 12 gauge buckshot.  All nine rounds are still present on the bad guy.  The next target over to Tom’s left, with the tight shot group on the bad guy’s pistol, was fired from 15 yards, and it is still fist sized!  Amazing!

Tom’s approach to teaching the shotgun is very systematic and delineated.  There is an order of operations that must be practiced.  Tom said that unlike a handgun, which with careless use can cause an errant hole to appear in an unintended target, shotguns simply destroy things that are unintentionally shot.  Prevention is key, and that prevention is actionable through careful, regimented gun handling.  Safety was stressed throughout the class.  And, like Tom’s other range classes, Tom tells you exactly what he wants you to do (electronic ear protection is invaluable for training classes.  If you don’t have them, you need to get them) and then you do it.  It’s a game of, “Tactical Simon Says!”  If you keep up, and do things the way Tom tells you, you quickly see the majesty and superiority of the shotgun for close-in self defense scenarios.  The students that fell behind, or had trouble following directions, were coached back into the right algorithm by Tom or his wonderful wife, Lynn.

Although we only used birdshot for this class, Tom’s full shotgun course uses birdshot, buckshot and rifled slugs.  However, Tom demonstrated and explained the wonder of the Federal Flight Control OO Buckshot, at 5 yards, 15 yards, and 25 yards.  Even at 25 yards, all nine of the .33 caliber pellets were clearly present on the silhouette targets we were using.

Tom also talked about the rationale behind the shotgun.  Lately, in law enforcement (and in the civilian world, as a natural by-product of this) the trend for M4 or AR-15 type rifles use has become far more common than ever before in history.  M4’s, are mildly recoiling, and less intimidating to small framed folks, than the 12 gauge.  So many uninformed, uniformed folks feel, “better,” with an M4.  Even though engagement distances for nearly any domestic law enforcement and certainly any civilian self defense scenario are well within the range performance envelope of the shotgun, many people still opt for the carbines.  The, “non-standard response,” drill with the M4 dictates that 5-7 rounds are fired from the carbine into the bad guy to maximize the ballistic effect of the sometimes anemic and not always predictable 5.56x45mm or .223 Remington round.  Thus, a standard 28 or 30 round carbine magazine contains what Tom calls, “4-5 servings,” of projectiles.  From the shotgun, with Federal Flight Control ammunition (for example) a standard pattern 870 Express, Wingmaster, Police or Tactical has a tubular magazine that contains between 4 and 7 shells, each containing 9 projectiles.  This meets or exceeds the projectile delivery capabilities of the carbine!

My go-to shotguns for home/office defense.  The stocks are cut down to 12″ LOP.  That way they can be used by anyone in my family.  As long as I remember to keep my thumb straight, I won’t clobber myself in the face…despite that I am actually 6’4″ tall and could run a slightly longer LOP.  The Magpul stock, with no spacers, gives a good, “usable by anyone,” LOP, and so does the Hogue short stock.  The 870 on the left in the above photo has the, “DEA Barrel,” but currently (and what I ran in the class) wears an 18″ bead sighted barrel.  I like sights that are low on the barrel.  That’s my preference, and yours may vary.  So I tend to gravitate towards the bead on the pedestal or the bead mounted to the barrel.

Tom covered the various ways that one can carry and transport ammunition for the shotgun and have it ready for immediate use.  The two ways that we examined were the stock (butt cuff) carry, or receiver (sidesaddle) carry.  Tom prefers butt cuff carry.  He feels that having a sidesaddle changes the handling characteristics of the shotgun, making it thicker than he’d like around the middle. He also doesn’t like the mounting system for most sidesaddles which can pinch the receiver excessively, causing difficulties for the action bars to properly traverse the race ways inside the receiver.  This can tie up the gun, and that is simply a non-starter.  The butt cuff (or, the modern iteration, a nylon and elastic strip, attached with vehicular grade Velcro to the stock of the gun) offers a less obtrusive solution to the sidesaddle.  Another feature of the butt cuff that I noticed was that the rounds tend to be less susceptible to the effects of recoil, and thus actually stay in the loops, instead of falling out after long strings of fire, since the shells are located further from the axis of rotation during firing, and hence less susceptible to inertia.  My sidesaddles have notoriously dumped rounds (if they aren’t brass, “up,”) with astounding regularity.  Nobody wants a garage sale of spare shells at their feet when they need their life-saving equipment close at hand.

There were several different shotguns present in the class, ranging from 28″ barreled 870’s that were meant for bird hunting, to a Winchester Model 1200 Defender.  A few students brought guns that were either obsolete for the class purpose, or simply unsuited for the user.  One student brought some iteration of the Taurus Judge, in .410, but in shotgun form.  The same student also brought an Ithaca 37.  Since neither of those guns can be easily combat loaded (that is, have a round dropped directly into the chamber, and run the action forward and be ready to shoot) Tom told the student to leave those guns in their cases and borrow one of his loaner Remington 870’s.  Another student brought a shotgun that was nearly as long, as she was tall.  She traded that out for another one of Tom’s loaner guns, a 12″ Magpul stocked 870, that was MUCH easier for her to use.  Tom lectured specifically on the length of pull of a defensive shotgun…and why too many people use shotguns that have a woefully long LOP that they really cannot use.  Tom recommended that any defensive shotgun have a LOP between 12″ and 13″.  However, most shotguns come from the factory with a 14″ OR LONGER length of pull.  While a stock that long might work great for bird hunting, when the shooter is bladed at a 90 degree angle from the target, in defensive shooting, when our stance is more squared to the target, a shorter stock makes wielding the weapon easier, and more ergonomic.  Thus, Tom recommended that if people keep a shotgun in their home or office for defensive purposes, than they should keep the length of pull short enough to allow any family member to use it.  Also, people that are very tall can STILL use a short LOP shotgun!

I am a lifelong student.  I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on private training tuition over the last 20 years.  And I’ve spent over $500K on my graduate education.  I know what good training looks like!  And while I am always open-minded in classes, there are things that I hear, or learn that I simply choose, “not to incorporate,” into my mental utilization schema.  I can honestly say, in the three live-fire classes and the seven classroom presentations I’ve taken from Tom, I’ve never heard him recommend a concept or introduce an idea that I didn’t agree with.  Tom’s material works!  He has had 62 students successfully navigate the muddy waters of self defense shootings, and he has continually evolved his curriculum to reflect the changing context of the urban environment, as well as adapt to new emerging threats.  Tom has been at this for 35 plus years now, and the impact he has made on the self-defense industry is IMMENSE.  I always learn something new when I am in Tom’s presence.

The Rangemaster Polite Society Conference is THE best training symposium around.  You cannot find a deeper well of knowledge for such a low price, anywhere.  The expertise of all of the instructors and the attendees is truly a sight to behold.  I have so enjoyed the two Polite Society Conferences that I have attended, that I modeled the Paul-E-Palooza Memorial Training Conference after the Rangemaster conference, and even many of the same instructors teach at both events!  As Tom said this past weekend, “I put on a conference to see all my friends!”  And that is very true for me, too.  Some of the greatest, most honorable people I know on this planet were in attendance, and a good weekend of learning and fellowship was had by all.

From the left, Cecil Burch of IMMEDIATE ACTION COMBATIVES, Caleb Causey of LONE STAR MEDICS, and Mark Luell of GROWING UP GUNS


Mark, Tom and I.