[Minimum Standards] Shooting Ed Head’s CHL practice drill

At KR Training, one of our ongoing efforts is to identify acceptable minimum standards for defensive handgun skills.  Gunsite instructor Ed Head posted a drill he recommends as a good standard for any person carrying concealed, so John and I went to the range and shot the drill to give it a try.

The drill is simple:

  • 3 yards, draw from concealment.  Two rounds center mass, 2 seconds, strong hand only.
  • 3 yards, draw from concealment.  Two rounds center mass, 2 seconds, strong hand only.
  • 3 yards, draw from concealment.  Two rounds center mass, one round to the head, 3 seconds, two handed.
  • 3 yards, draw from concealment.  Two rounds center mass, one round to the head, 3 seconds, two handed.
  • 5 yards, draw from concealment.  Two rounds center mass on two separate targets.  4 seconds, two handed.
  • 10 yards, low ready position.  Two rounds center mass, one target.  4 seconds, two handed.
  • 10 yards, low ready position, Two rounds center mass on two separate targets, 5 seconds, two handed.

Ed suggests using USPSA or IDPA targets, or one with an 8″ circle representing upper chest, and 3″x5″ card for the head scoring area, which matches the dimensions of the F.A.S.T. target we used for our demo.

Drill Breakdown

At 3 yards, a 1.5 second concealment draw is a good standard to train to.  That leaves 0.5 second to make the follow up center mass shot, and another full second for the head shot on the 3-shot drills at this distance.

Moving back to 5 yards, the drill gives shooters a little more time:

  • Draw to first shot = 1.75 seconds
  • Follow up shot, target 1 = 0.75 seconds (2.50 elapsed)
  • Transition to next target and fire first shot = 0.75 seconds (3.25 elapsed)
  • Follow up shot, target 2 = 0.75 seconds (4.00 elapsed)

The 10 yard, low ready, 2 shots on one target string timing looks like this:

  • Low ready to first shot = 2.50 seconds
  • Follow up shot = 1.50 seconds (4.00 total)

If shooters are running 0.75 splits at 5 yards, doubling the distance allows doubling of the split time.

To me the allowed time on this string, compared to all the others, seems overly generous.

The final string – two shots on two targets at 10 yards,  has to be shot faster than the previous 10 yard string, if the par time is to be met:

  • Low ready to first shot = 2.00 seconds
  • Follow up shot = 1.00 second (3.00 total)
  • Transition to next target = 1.00 (4.00 total)
  • Follow up shot = 1.00 second (5.00 total)

Using this breakdown, the par time for the first string at 10 yards (low ready, 2 shots on one target) should be 3.00 seconds, not 4.  I suggest using a 3 second par time for that first string at 10 yards, or changing the start position for the one target at 10 yards drill to “drawing from concealment” to add a bit more work to the tasks to be accomplished in the 4 second par time.


This is a good 20 round drill that can be used in many ways:

  • Shoot it cold at the start of each practice session as pass/fail.  All 20 shots must hit inside the 8″ circle or 3″x5″ card, within par times, to pass.  Any string you fail, work on that string in practice until you can do it.
  • Daily dry fire.  Use a 1/3 scale dry fire target and use a “dead” trigger to fire follow up shots.
  • Add scanning and movement, or distance (change 3-5-10 yards to 5-7-15 yards or even 10-15-25 yards).
  • Run the drill with Comstock scoring instead of par times.  The total par time for all strings is 23 seconds.   If you use a USPSA target with B/C/D zones, and score using “minor” scoring (5 points for A, 3 for B/C hits, and 1 for D hits), dividing points by time, you can calculate a hit factor.  The original passing standard is 100 points divided 23 seconds, or a hit factor of 4.35.  Set a new goal of shooting the drill with a hit factor of 5, 6, 7, or higher!  A USPSA Grand Master level shooter should be able to run this drill with a hit factor over 8.



Book Review (Historical Handgun) – Shooting To Live (1942, Fairbairn & Sykes)

I’ve been developing a new course for KR Training, Historical Handgun, that teaches the history & evolution of defensive handgun skills.  Part of that work includes reading as many old books on shooting technique as I can find.

The 1942 book Shooting To Live, written by W.E. Fairbairn and E.A. Sykes, was a very influential work, introducing many concepts that remain a foundation for modern defensive handgun training.

Fairbairn and Sykes were in charge of the Shanghai Municipal Police in the 1930’s. During this time Shanghai was a very violent city.  During a twelve year period, there were 666 armed encounters with criminals documented by the authors.   They credit their techniques with producing a record of 260 criminals killed and 193 wounded, compared to 42 police killed and 100 wounded.

Key Principles

Their 3 key principles were:

  1. Extreme speed, both in drawing and firing
  2. Instinctive, as opposed to deliberate, aim
  3. Practice under circumstances which approximate as nearly as possible to actual fighting conditions.

This was in stark contrast to slow fire 25 and 50 yard bullseye shooting, which was still a mainstay of most law enforcement training, even in the FBI program.

Until Jeff Cooper, Jack Weaver and others in the late 60’s and early 70’s challenged the idea that there was “not time to use your sights” in close range gunfights, variations of what Fairbairn, Sykes and “Jelly” Bryce of the FBI were teaching were the standard.

As trainer Tom Givens points out in his instructor training courses, the duty and carry pistols of that time had tiny, hard to see sights, compared to the higher visibility sights that became common in the 1970s and beyond.  Similarly, the amount of light, and reliability, of flashlights of that era were significantly less than what became available in the 70s and later years. As Fairbairn observes in the book:

In any case, the sights would be of little use if the light were bad, and none at all if it were dark, as might easily happen.  Would it not be wiser, therefore, to face facts squarely and set to work to find out how to best develop instinctive aiming to the point of getting results under combat conditions?

Semi-auto vs. Revolver

Fairbairn favored the semiauto, referred to in the book as an “automatic”, over the revolver, for these reasons (which remain valid today):

  1. It is easier and quicker to recharge.
  2. It can be fired at far greater speed.
  3. It is easier to shoot with.

The authors write “that a beginner can be trained in the use of the automatic in a third of the time, and with the expenditure of less than half the ammunition required for the revolver.  Furthermore, once trained in the use of the automatic, men appear definitely to need less subsequent practice to maintain the standard of shooting which has been attained in the course of training.”

Unlike most gun writers that extolled the virtues of the double action revolver for beginners for decades after Shooting To Live was published, the authors were responsible for training over 1000 officers with less than 100 rounds available for annual training per officer per year.


The authors recommend an hour of dry fire practice before any live fire is performed, gripping the pistol in one hand, using a thumbs forward technique.  (The conventional wisdom in one handed shooting is to drop the thumb to make a full crush grip, which provides more grip pressure on the gun than “floating” the thumb.)

They taught a technique of starting with the pistol at a low ready position, arm fully extended, raising the pistol to eye level, but not taking time to find the sights, and firing.

Raising the pistol to eye level made it possible to use a rough form of visual alignment of the pistol (the back of the slide, the top of the slide, or even the front sight by itself without alignment with the rear sight) with the target.

This technique was taught by the US Army, as shown in the 2nd half of this video.  As you’ll see from the film, standards for acceptable hits were low compared to the 6″-8″ center mass hits expected in the modern day, and many had difficulty getting rounds on paper at all — but this technique produced better results than hip shooting techniques favored by the FBI.

The use of the fully extended arm ready position influenced the low ready positions used when two handed shooting became common. This article by Ralph Mroz is a good summary of different ready positions, with pros and cons.

One of two handed positions they recommend looks like the modern thumbs forward grip, with thumbs lower on the frame than is currently taught, and the other is a precursor to a Weaver stance, with bent elbow, but with the support hand grabbing the dominant hand wrist, as opposed to gripping the pistol itself.

Fairbairn and Sykes show other positions for close quarter shooting, that will look familiar to students of the 4-count draw stroke.

This video from Paul Gomez shows the modern manifestation of the idea of shooting from positions 2, 3 and 4 of the draw – same as Fairbairn/Sykes quarter hip (2) and half hip (3) positions, with Paul showing a 3/4 hip technique as “also shooting from the 4 position”.

Handgun Loading

Fairbairn and Sykes advocate carrying on an empty chamber, and racking the slide as part of the drawstroke. The pictures in the book show a shooter loading with gun down at waist level, finger on trigger, using a “pinch” method to manipulate the slide.  None of those techniques are considered acceptable at most (any?) modern schools.

They felt that the tiny thumb safety on the automatic pistol was too difficult to manipulate as part of the drawstroke.   Cooper, Weaver, and others, who began using timers and stopwatches and man-on-man shoots to understand what techniques produced effective first shot hits fastest, proved that it was faster to start with a round chambered, taking the safety off while drawing.  The development of larger safeties that were easier to manipulate were definitely a factor in that evolution.

Training Drills

Fairbairn and Sykes advocated firing multiple rounds each time the pistol was brought to target – a technique that is still taught today.  They used live fire shoot houses with realistic mechanical moving targets, incorporating no-shoot targets (with penalties for hitting the no-shoots), psychological and physical stress on trainees, ball and dummy drills to teach trigger press and malfunction clearing under stress, and many other concepts and techniques still in use today.


In addition to contributing to the evolution of shooting technique, Fairbairn (and Col. Rex Applegate) also contributed to the evolution of unarmed self defense, as shown in this video of them teaching their techniques in this vintage film.

Shooting to Live is definitely one of the top 10 most important books written on defensive pistol, with significant influence on the change from one handed long range slow fire bullseye shooting to what is considered standard training today.  Highly recommended.



Book Review (Historical Handgun) – Handbook of Handgunning (Paul Weston, 1968)

I’ve been developing a new course for KR Training, Historical Handgun, that teaches the history & evolution of defensive handgun skills.  Part of that work includes reading as many old books on shooting technique as I can find.

Handbook of Handgunning (Paul Weston, 1968)

Paul Weston joined the New York City Police Force in 1936, was on the NYPD Pistol Team and taught at the NYPD academy.  He served as a Chief Gunnery Specialist during WW2, returned to NYPD after the war, and was a prolific author, writing and revising police textbooks, as well as articles for American Rifleman, Field and Stream, Guns and Hunting and other magazines.

In the late 60’s and early 70’s, he was an Associate Professor of Government and Police Science at Sacramento (California) State College, where he taught a college level course on handgun shooting.  His book “The Handbook of Handgunning” was the reference book for that college course.  Originally published in 1968 it was republished several times, including an updated edition in 1980.

It mainly focused on bullseye competition style shooting (as shown in the classic “hand in pocket” stance on the cover photo), including many hand drawn illustrations.  This one shows proper one handed grip, and aligning the pistol properly with the structure of the hand.  I cover this information when I teach NRA instructors, but it’s not presented as well in the NRA materials as it is in Weston’s book.   Having the gun twisted in the hand, so that the gun is recoiling over the thumb knuckle, is a very common problem we corrected in classes.  It almost always occurs because the shooter has chosen a firearm with a trigger reach too long for their hand, forcing them to twist the gun simply to reach the trigger, with no understanding of the negative consequences this has on their shooting.

As is common with all gun books written prior to the Gunsite/Weaver era, the two handed grip techniques shown depict various awkward and mostly ineffective use of the support hand, with that hand placed too low relative to the barrel, or in some variation of “cup and saucer” with the support hand under the grip.

There’s some discussion of seated and kneeling positions as well.

The proper technique for the “combat crouch” is shown, with a recommendation that the shooter practice their hip shooting by dry firing at a 12″ circular mirror.

A majority of the book’s text covers traditional fundamentals, from the perspective of a bullseye competitor training for a precision shooting match.  Included in the back of the book are Weston’s two written exams used in his college course: one on “area aiming” (using a target about the size of an IDPA 0-ring or USPSA A-Zone instead of a traditional bullseye), and one on trigger motion.  I used Survey Gizmo to put both tests online (since the book is out of print), so readers can take the tests and evaluate their knowledge of what was considered correct in late 1960’s firearms training.

Weston’s Area Aiming Test

Weston’s Trigger Motion Test

I may pick up a copy of the 1980 edition to see how Weston’s curriculum evolved in response to the big changes that happened in handgun technique from 1968-1980, probably the era of greatest technique and training evolution in the past 100 years of handgunning.

Evaluating a low cost nylon holster

Someone recently gave me a “one size fits all” nylon holster with integral mag pouch.

I’ve always told students this type of holster was a “don’t buy”, and thought they were a bad idea because of the difficulty in doing a decent reload with the mag pouch being on the wrong side of the body for traditional reload techniques.   I took the holster to the range and ran some drills with it.

The problems I found with the holster were:

  1. Not stable on the belt.  Loose and floppy in all axes of movement.  Moved up and down as I tried to draw from it. Actually came off the belt when I tried to draw at normal speed.
  2. “One size fits all” fits none.  The holster is big enough to fit a Desert Eagle. My standard size M&P went so far down into the holster that I could not get a proper firing grip on the pistol before drawing.  I could only get the bottom two fingers on the pistol with it holstered.
  3. Loose and floppy holster also meant loose and floppy mag pouch.  The holster moved around as I got the magazine out of the integrated pouch.
  4. Completely useless for concealed carry, even in winter with a large cover garment.
  5. Completely inappropriate for open carry due to total lack of retention and poor fit to all but the largest, widest belts.
  6. Metal belt clips, in addition to not providing much tension to the belt, will also scratch anything you rub against, like other people’s cars in parking lots, or the upholstery of anything you sit in.

I did several different reload techniques: I swapped the gun to my left hand, grabbed the magazine with my right hand, reloaded the gun the way a left handed shooter would, and transferred it back to my right hand to shoot. This was complicated and slow compared to a standard reload.  After a few tries, and moving the holster to a position in front of my hipbone so i could reach the magazine with my left hand, I was able to do some acceptable reloads with it, if I was able to get the magazine out without the holster flopping around too much. But that required moving the holster to a position I wouldn’t wear it for concealed or open carry.

The intended market for this holster was probably someone that has a bunch of different guns that are worn when out shooting on private property or during hunting season.  Even for that low intensity use, it’s not a good product.  Since there’s no retention for the gun, it’s likely to come off the belt if it snags against anything. Certainly not safe for wearing while climbing into a tree stand, into a deer blind or moving through thick brush.  It’s not a holster any reputable instructor would allow to be used in classes, nor would I expect it would be allowed at any IDPA or USPSA match.

If you are considering purchasing this product or something like it, don’t.

Spend a few extra dollars on a holster that rides closer to the body, is made specifically to fit your gun, offers some retention (even if it’s just the friction of fitted leather or kydex with screws you can tighten to snug the holster to the pistol), and has belt loops intended for use with the width belt you plan to attach the holster to.  (Better, get a holster that has belt loops that go all the way around the belt. They are less convenient for taking the holster on and off, but they will keep the holster on your belt much more securely.)


Historical Handgun – 1/2 day class AAR August 2017

Over the past year I’ve been developing a new course for KR Training, Historical Handgun, that teaches the history & evolution of defensive handgun skills.  On August 12, 2017, I taught the 1/2 day version of the course for the first time.  6 shooters braved the August heat to shoot 8 different qualification courses of fire, from 1940 to the present day, and listen to two short lecture blocks that included vintage film (video) clips and discussion of the evolution of shooting techniques and training standards.

The course was designed to be shot with one handgun, or up to 4 different gun types (1911, double action revolver, DA/SA style semiauto, and a striker fired semiauto).  Three students brought all 4 gun types, 3 chose to shoot all the drills with a single handgun.

Drill #1 – US Army handgun qualification (1940)

The first course of fire was the U.S. Army military qualification, which was one handed group shooting at 25 and 50 yards on the military L bullseye target, and 15 repetitions of ‘one shot from ready’ at 25 yards on the military “E” target.

Student scores ranged from 42% to 86%, with 5 of the 6 meeting the 60% qualification standard, and one exceeding the 85% threshold for Expert.

Drill #2 – FBI qualification course of fire, 1945

In earlier blog posts (and this update),  I discussed this course of fire.  It’s the most physical of the 8 that we shot, requiring prone, kneeling, sitting, quick movement between shooting positions, and hip shooting (at 7 yards).

It also covered the longest distance, with 5 rounds fired from 60 yards.Student scores ranged from 46% to 88%, with 4 of the 6 failing to meet a 70% passing standard, for a class average of 59%.

Drill #3 – Practical Pistol Course B

The NRA PPC course has been around since the 1950s, and is still shot today. According to the historians at the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco, the Texas Rangers used the PPC course as part of their qualification standards in the early 1970’s.

The PPC course starts at 7 yards and works back to 15, 25 and 50 yards, with prone, standing and barricade work similar to the FBI 1945 course but with faster time limits.

Scores ranged from 31% to 73%, with 4 shooters falling below the 70% passing threshold, for a class average of 56%.

Drills #4 and 5 – Gunsite 250 and 350 tests

Details of the Gunsite 250 and 350 tests can be found in these excellent articles from Gunsite instructor Ed Head.  They are both 10 round drills with 1 and 2 shot strings, from 3 to 25 and 35 yards.

The biggest challenge on the previous 3 drills was getting hits beyond 25 yards. The challenge in the Gunsite drills was draw speed – a skill not really tested in any of the older tests at all.  Late shots, not misses, affected student scores the most.

Of the 6 students, only one shot passing scores on both the 250 and 350 tests, with class averages of 60% (250 test) and 54% (350 test).  Most of the points were dropped on the close range strings, where a minimum draw time of 1.5 seconds was required.

Drill #6 – 1980s FBI

There are many videos showing people shooting this course of fire.  It includes elements of the 1945 FBI course, such as moving quickly from position to position, but uses two handed aimed fire (originally taught using the Weaver stance), and more shooting from closer distances (5, 7 and 15 yards).   The video shows students running the final string, which requires moving from the 7 to the 5 yard line, firing 5 rounds strong hand only, reloading, and shooting 5 rounds support hand only, in 15 seconds.

Student scores were higher on this course of fire, ranging from 64%-82%, but none met the standard of 43 hits inside the larger bottle of the QIT-99 target.  3 of the students shot the course using DA/SA style semiautos and the Weaver stance; the other 3 shot striker fired guns using a modern isoceles stance.

Drill #7 – Local Police Department qualification course, 1990s

For the last two drills, all but one student switched to striker fired pistols (one shot a 1911 for the entire course).  We ran a version of a nearby major city’s police department qualification course of fire.  It was a mix of 3, 7 and 15 yard shooting, including strong hand only and support hand only strings, with 6 rounds fired at 25 yards, and one reload.

The combination of familiar guns, and drills testing more frequently practiced skills resulted in higher student scores:  all 6 easily met the 70% threshold for qualification, with scores ranging from 88%-99%, and a class average of 93%.

Drill #8 – Current FBI qualification course of fire

The final course of fire was the current FBI shooting test, which several students had shot before in my own and other classes.

Scores on this test were also good, ranging from 87-95%, with a class average of 91%.


The scores show what people practice and what they don’t.   Courses of fire with lots of reasonably fast shots fired on midrange targets (7-15 yards) produced good scores; courses requiring fast presentation of the pistol from a holster, and slower speed accurate shooting at 25 yards and beyond were more challenging.

None of the students in the course had much (any) experience hipshooting targets at 7 yards, but most did reasonably well with that skill, after we ran a dozen 1 and 2 round draw and hip-shoot drills.

Because the goal of those drills was to replicate the shooting test of the 1940’s and 1950’s, students were not allowed to use speedloaders for revolver reloads, and there were a lot reloads required during strings of 15, 18, 20 and 24 rounds.   The 3 students running double action revolvers did not have period-appropriate belt pouches, and were loading from loose rounds carried in pockets.  This caused them to fire more quickly than perhaps they would have, if each part of each string was a separately timed event.

Based on lessons learned from this session, I’ll be adding some additional practice time on 25 and 50 yard shooting and 7 yard draw prior to running the tests in which those skills are essential.  For revolver shooters, I’ll be recommending students serious about doing it period-accurate invest in belt pouches. I’ll also allow those that would otherwise have to load loose rounds out of pockets to use speedloaders.  Students using semiautos for the older revolver-centric courses of fire will run them using faster par times, adjusted to provide them reasonable reloading time, but less than the 15-20 seconds budgeted for loose round revolver reloading.

The next session of Historical Handgun will be Sept 16, 2017 at my A-Zone Range.  It will be a 1 day version of the course, including all 8 drills listed here, plus practice drills, historical film/video and additional lecture material on key historical figures and books.

Those that attend the 1 day session will be eligible for discounted slots in 2018 sessions of the full 2 day version of the course, which will include additional courses of fire, video, and lecture material.

Registration is open for the Sept 2017 session.

Historical Handgun – more on the 1945 FBI course of fire

Over the past year I’ve been developing a new course for KR Training, Historical Handgun, that teaches the history & evolution of defensive handgun skills.  Part of that effort has been searching for old handgun qualification courses of fire, and shooting them using the techniques and equipment used in that era.  In a previous article, I discussed the 1945 FBI qualification course of fire.

Trainer Tom Givens , who shares my interest in handgunning history, provided me with this additional information:

The original course was shot on a range that had individual shooting lanes that fanned out from the 60 yd line. When Hoover said 5 minutes and 45 seconds to run the course, that is how they did it. Once the start signal was given, each agent ran the course, with some ahead of and some behind others. Some time later, the individual stages were broken out and given a time limit because so few police ranges had the fanned out lanes that the original FBI ranges had.

The second stage to the Practical Pistol Course (PPC) consumed 40 shots and, thus, comprised the bulk of the PPC’s various elements. These 40 continuous shots (80% of the entire course) were fired within five minutes and 45 seconds over multiple firing strings at the 60, 50, and 25 yard lines.

Beginning in a standing position at the 60 yard line, at the signal, special agents drew their revolvers as they dropped into a prone position and used a two-handed grip to fire five shots using the thumb-cocking mode.

They then immediately reloaded, re-holstered, and ran or jogged forward to the 50 yard line. There they fired a total of 20 shots, using two hands to fire five shots each from four positions—sitting, prone, and right- and left-hand barricades—that simulated use of cover (e.g., the corner of a building or around a car’s fender). Reloading between these four strings was under time pressure.

After again reloading and holstering, special agents immediately ran or jogged forward to the 25 yard line where they fired a total of 15 rounds—five each from the kneeling, and then right- and left-hand barricade positions, to include reloading between strings.

According to Roberts and Bristow (1969, pp. 77-81), these 15 shots were to be fired trigger-cocked. Considered in its totality, this 40-shot stage brought a sequential closing by a special agent upon his target, something Weston (1973) characterized in the following manner: “The shooter assumes he is under fire from an armed opponent at all times . . . [and] . . . Each of the combat-shooting positions emphasizes target reduction, and the use of barricades suggests seeking available protection in real life combat” (p. 77). There was also somewhat of a military “assault” flavor to this stage since special agents were in a fashion “firing and advancing” on the target. While this is fairly easy to explain given the FBI’s training relationship with the U.S. military, it still seems a curious one for police work. Perhaps experiences such Law Enforcement Executive Forum • 2008 • 8(1) 51 as the prolonged encounters at Little Bohemia and elsewhere where special agents engaged in extended surveillance or conducted raids to apprehend dangerous suspects inclined the FBI toward this feature to the course.

The PPC was a far more complex course-of-fire than conventional bull’s-eye target courses. One of the major differences was in using prone, sitting, and kneeling firing positions akin to those used for rifle shooting positions in order to provide greater shooting stability. For example, in the prone position, one rested the forearms and/or heels of the hands on the ground to fire at the target 60 yards away and, thus, need not attempt to hold the handgun steady at arm’s length in a standing position. The kneeling and sitting positions also were intended to offer support to the shooting arm and hand.

Given the linear arrangement of general purpose ranges, shooters stand in a line perpendicular to the direction of firing. This is a safe arrangement since all shooters are at precisely the same distance from the target line (i.e., not staggered). Recall, however, that stage two of the PPC course had special agents run from the 60 to the 50 yard line, and then from the 50 to the 25 yard line under time pressure. On the conventional target range with its parallel, compact firing lanes, this would be extremely unsafe and pose unacceptable risks for trainees. The alternative of having one officer fire the PPC while others waited for their turns would have been administratively cumbersome.

The FBI overcame this problem to its satisfaction by arranging one area of its range complex in a radial or fan-shaped fashion with firing lanes emanating from a central hub. Several FBI agents would start close together and at angles to one another at the hub, and as they moved down range to the various specified distances, they also moved increasingly further apart on their respective lanes. Critical analysis of the PPC, including discussion of its positive aspects, shortcomings, and alteration by local and state departments is presented further below. Because it was an important development in police firearms training, first we examine how the FBI was able to so effectively promote the PPC’s use by U.S. police departments. Exporting the PPC to Local and State Police No other single police handgun training or qualification course-of-fire has a provenance so generally well-known and its elements so easily recognized as the PPC-based course-of-fire.

Q: Why was the course of fire based on 5 shot strings, when the revolvers of that time held 6?

A: It was a hold-over from bullseye days. All bullseye strings are 5 rounds, or multiples of 5, like 10 rounds. When the PPC was designed, everyone was shooting the NRA bullsye course. The 5 shot Chief wasn’t invented until the early 1950’s.
I believe the bullseye tradition came from carrying cap and ball revolvers and 1873 Colts with 5 beans in the wheel and an empty chamber under the hammer.


KR Training August 2017 newsletter

Welcome to the KR Training August newsletter!  Upcoming highlights include Historical Handgun, a Basic 2/Defensive Pistol 1 combo, a Beyond Basics/Competition Pistol combo, and a late August Basic Pistol 1/Personal Tactics Skills combo for those just getting started in our program.

Check the schedule page on the KR Training website for the full list.

If you aren’t already a subscriber to receive this newsletter each month, you can subscribe here or follow this blog. You can also follow KR Training on Facebook or Twitter for more frequent posts and information.


50% price refresher slots available in all courses.  If you haven’t practiced the skills you learned in class in awhile, fall refresher slots are a great option.

Deal #1)  August 26th Basic Pistol 1 + Personal Tactics Skills $100 ($35 savings)

Deal #2) August 26th BRING A FRIEND!  Two slots in Personal Tactics Skills for $80 ($40 savings)

Deal #3)  Sept 9th Basic Pistol 2 + Defensive Pistol Skills 1  $160 ($40 savings)

Deal #4) Sept 23rd Beyond Basics Handgun + Competition Pistol 1  $160 ($40 savings)

Deal #5) Sept 24th Handgun Coaching + License To Carry $100 ($30 savings)

Deal #6) Sept 30th (Any 2) Basic Pistol 1 + Gun Selection Clinic OR Shooting Skills, Gun Cleaning and Maintenance $110 ($20 savings)

Deal #7) Sept 30th (All 3) Basic Pistol 1 + Gun Selection Clinic + Shooting Skills, Gun Cleaning and Maintenance $150 ($35 savings)

For all deals – must pay in full in advance.


August 12th – Historical Handgun 1/2 day preview (Rehn) & Reloading Clinic (indoors!) (Rehn)
August 19th  – Handgun Coaching (Howard) Gun Cleaning and Maintenance (Howard)
August 26th – Basic Pistol 1 (Daub)/Advanced Training 6 (Rehn) & Personal Tactics Skills (indoors!) (Rehn)
August 27th – Defensive Knife Clinic (indoors!) w/ Chuck Rives

September 9 – Basic Pistol 2 / Defensive Pistol Skills 1 (Rehn)
September 16 – Historical Handgun 1 day (Rehn)
September 23 – Beyond Basics Handgun / Competition Pistol 1 (Rehn)
September 24 – Handgun Coaching / License To Carry (Rehn)
September 30 – Basic Pistol 1 / Gun Selection Clinic (Daub)
September 30 – Shooting Skills, Gun Cleaning and Maintenance (Rehn)

Register here.


The 4th session of the biannual Paul-E-Palooza training conference is coming up August 19-20, in Garrettsville, OH.  KR Training has one slot we are giving away to any student that can attend and provide us with photos, video, and other info from the event that we can share on our blog and social media pages.  The scholarship is still unclaimed, so contact me to claim the free slot, which is a $300 value.


I have developed a new program called Historical Handgun, teaching the history of handgun training and skills, 1935-present. The full course is a 2 day program that I’ll start offering in 2018, at the A-Zone and on the road.  I’ll offer a 1/2 day preview of the shooting part of the class on August 12th, and a 1 day preview on Saturday Sept 16.  Students that attend either of the preview courses will also get credit that can be used toward slots in the 2 day version I’ll offer spring 2018.


Personal Tactics Skills is a 3 hour course that teaches the non-shooting skills essential to avoiding common mistakes in common armed citizen situations.  Being good at shooting is not enough to avoid making errors in tactics, decision making and communication.   There is much more to “self defense” training than marksmanship and gunhandling.  Here’s an AAR from a 2011 session of this course.   If you haven’t taken Advanced Training 2 because you don’t feel ‘ready’ for Simunition or Airsoft force on force training, this class is for you.  It’s also perfect for couples or friends to learn the basics of team tactics.  We are offering a Bring a Friend option – 2 slots for $80, which is a $40 savings.


Chuck Rives will return for a 5 hour knife clinic, suitable for students at all levels.  It will be conducted indoors in the cool, comfortable AC.


In July, John Daub attended a 2 day Dark Angel Medical course. In August, all the KR Training instructors certified to teach the License to Carry course will attend refresher training at the DPS academy.  In September, Karl will attend the School Safety Instructor certification course at the DPS academy, joining Paul Martin and Tina Maldonado as KR Training staff certified to teach this new state course.  In October, Karl will take a 2 day Vehicle Defense course taught by John Farnam in Victoria, Texas.   It’s important for trainers to continue to learn and improve by taking courses from others.


We look forward to training you!
Karl, Penny and the KR Training team

Historical Handgun – The 1945 FBI qualification course of fire

Over the past year I’ve been developing a new course for KR Training, Historical Handgun, that teaches the history & evolution of defensive handgun skills.  Part of that effort has been searching for old handgun qualification courses of fire, and shooting them using the techniques and equipment used in that era.

In an article credited to J. Edgar Hoover in the July 1945 American Rifleman, the qualification course of fire for the FBI was described.   This vintage 1950’s FBI training film shows some of the techniques taught for shooting the revolver during that time.

The Colt Silhouette target was used during that era. It later became known as the B-21, with a number of variants produced, including the B-21X, with a small X ring in the center, and the B-21M.

I’ve ordered some B-21X targets, but had some B-21M’s on hand, so I used the B-21M for a test run on the 1945 FBI course.

My approximation of vintage gear was a S&W 686 revolver (in .357 magnum, but loaded with .38 special), and a fairly basic leather holster. My interest in historical handgun is as a trainer studying the evolution of technique, not so much as a reenactor.  A more appropriate gun for this drill would be a Colt Official Police .38 special revolver,  which would have had a 4″ barrel, a trough rear sight and narrow blade front sight. My 686 had modern target grade sights and a heavier 6″ barrel.

This particular 686 is a 7 shot model, which added some complexity to the reload, as I was loading with 5 and having to get the cylinder aligned properly so that the first 5 to fire were loaded chambers.  A true 5 shot revolver would have been easier to work with.

In the 40’s and 50’s, speedloaders were not in common use (or available), so reloading was done from pouches or pockets.  Modern shooters running semi-auto pistols can learn to change magazines in under 2 seconds (or even under 1 second).  Modern double action revolver shooters can reload in 3 seconds or less, as demonstrated by Massad Ayoob.  World record holder Jerry Miculek can reload a double action revolver at a one second pace, as shown in this video.

Loading loose rounds into a revolver cylinder is much slower.  A “fast” loose round reload for me was 15 seconds, compared to a 1.5 second semiauto reload, or 3 second speedloader revolver reload.

Course Breakdown

String 1:  7 yards.  Draw, shoot 5 from the hip, double action, reload, shoot 5 more double action.  25 seconds.

What this really means is “draw and shoot 5 in 3 seconds or less, reload in 18 seconds or less, shoot 5 more shots in 3 seconds or less.”  The hip shooting part was fun.  The target below was a 2.5 second run for “draw and hipshoot five shots at 7 yards”.   What I learned from running that drill was that you have to pay attention to where the first shot lands, so you can correct your “pointing” if needed before firing shots 2-5.

In the American Rifleman article, Hoover says the rest of the course takes “5 and 3/4 minutes to complete”.  Not finding a better breakdown of the time, I’ve tried to figure out what the likely string times were, by running the test multiple times.  All string times below are my estimates and may not match exactly how the test was run in 1945.  Assume that all shots fired for the remainder of the test are shot single action, thumb cocking the revolver for each shot.

String 2:  60 yards. Draw, drop to prone (2 handed), and shoot 5.  45 seconds.  Off the clock, reload and holster.

The picture shows the view from the 60 yard line.  The red arrow points to the target.

String 3:  50 yards.  Draw, drop to prone (2 handed), fire 5. Reload, shoot 5 from sitting (2 handed), reload, shoot 5 right hand only (right hand side of barricade), reload, shoot 5 left hand only (left hand side of barricade).  180 seconds. (3 minutes)  Off the clock, reload and holster.  Move “quickly” to the 25 yard line, per Hoover’s article (probably intended to raise shooter heart rate and induce some additional stress.)

The string breakdown is about 30 seconds for each set of 5 rounds, with 20 seconds budgeted for each reload.

String 4:  25 yards.  Draw, drop to sitting, fire 5 rounds (2 handed), reload, shoot 5 right hand only from right side of barricade, reload, shoot 5 left hand only from left side of barricade.  120 seconds (2 minutes).

This breaks down to 25 seconds for the 5 seated shots, 25 for the dominant hand only shots and 30 seconds for the non-dominant hand only shots, with 20 seconds for each reload.

Being faster at reloading with loose rounds buys you a lot of time to make your shots.  I dumped my brass on the ground during reloads.  I can’t find any records indicating the Bureau required agents to pocket their spent brass.


The B21 has “K” values on it: K5 is 5 points, K4 is 4 points and so on.  50 rounds, 250 points possible.  Multiply your “K” score by 0.4 to get your score. (Or just divide by 250 to get a percentage).

Hoover’s article did not specify a passing score, but typically 70% is passing on all other law enforcement tests, with a few requiring 80%.

My target from run #2 on the test:

I got 48 hits on paper, 41 in the K5 zone (205 points), 6 in the K4 zone (24 points), and one visible miss from the first shot after the reload on the hip shooting string.  The 2 hits off paper happened somewhere at 50 yards with the one handed shooting.  229 * 0.4 = 91.6%.  Reloads were my biggest challenge, as they seemed to take forever, leaving me feeling like I had to rush the shots.  At 25 yards I blew through that string in 79 seconds, leaving a lot of unused time.

When my shipment of proper B-21’s comes in I’ll run the test again and update this post with the results. A little work on my hipshooting, reloads, and shot timing should get me to the 100% level.


This is the oldest documented course of fire I can find that requires drawing from the holster and shooting from multiple positions (prone, sitting, from cover, crouched), reloading on the clock, movement, rapid firing at close range.  The design of the course appears to be heavily influenced by the methods and concepts in Lt. Col. Rex Applegate’s “Kill or Get Killed” book.  Famous FBI agent/gunfight Jelly Bryce was also a likely influence on this, at least the 7 yard hip shooting part.

Semi-Auto Update

Because modern semiauto pistols can be reloaded much faster, those that want to run the test can try these updated time limits, still using historical shooting techniques:

String 1: 7 yards. Draw, shoot 5 (one handed from hip), reload, shoot 5 (one handed from hip).  9 seconds

String 2: 60 yards. Draw, drop to prone, shoot 5.  45 seconds (no change).

String 3: 50 yards.  Draw, drop to prone, shoot 5, reload, shoot 5 from sitting, reload, shoot 5 right hand only from right side of barricade, reload, shoot 5 left hand only from left side of barricade.  120 seconds (reduced from 180).

String 4: 25 yards.  Draw, shoot 5 from sitting, reload, shoot 5 right hand only from right side of barricade, reload, shoot 5 left hand only from left side of barricade.  90 seconds (reduced from 120).

Allowing two handed sighted fire, and eliminating some of the reloads, due to the higher capacity of modern semiauto handguns could allow the par times to be reduced even further.

Students attending the 1/2 day and 1 day Historical Handgun classes coming up in August and September 2017 will get to shoot this course of fire, as will the students in the sessions I’ll be teaching at the 2018 Rangemaster Tactical Conference.

Defensive Pistol Small Gun class 7/29/2017 AAR

On July 29, 2017, KR Training ran another session of the Defensive Pistol Small Gun class. This class focuses on skills specific to subcompact semiauto pistols (Glock 42/43 sized), and snubnose revolvers.  It’s more than a repeat of the material in Defensive Pistol Skills 1, shot with smaller guns, although there is some overlap in course content.

It includes work drawing from a seated position and shooting from a vehicle, as shown in this video of student runs.  More about the class can be found in my USCCA article “Is A Small Gun Enough?”

As part of the course, students shoot the Three Seconds or Less test (3SL) with both their small gun and larger (belt holster carried) primary gun.  I collect this data to track the typical performance loss/gain students see when switching from larger to smaller guns.

Data from this year’s two sessions:

16 shooters

Small Guns: one SA (Sig 938), 5 DAO (Kahr, R9, snub revolvers), 10 striker fired (Shield, Glock)
Large Guns: all 16 were striker fired guns (Glock, M&P, Walther)

Average small gun score:  75/100
Average large gun score: 83/100

Performance gain from shooting the larger gun: 8%

Students passing the 3SL test with 70% or higher score using their small gun: 10 of 16.
Students passing the 3SL test with 70% or higher score using their primary gun: 13 of 16.

Students passing the 3SL test at the 90% level (desired) using their small gun:  1 of 16.
Students passing the 3SL test at the 90% level using their primary gun: 7 of 16.

The biggest problem for most students was draw time, particularly those using pocket holsters.  Many in the July session chose to run the class using an IWB belt holster for their small gun, as that was their method of summer carry.

Historical average of the entire data set of 48 shooters:

Small Gun score: 78/100
Larger gun score: 86/100

So this year’s class numbers were right in line with historical average of 8% gain.

Observations: Despite my efforts to promote it to that target market, very few low skilled shooters choose to take this course.   A goal for next year is to change the marketing of the course to try to attract more students from the “I passed the carry permit course, but never practice with the little gun I stick in my pocket or carry in my car.”  That will likely include allowing people to run all drills from a ready position as an alternative to pocket or holster work.

Those that attend are typically those that carry daily and have taken 16 or more hours of training with their larger gun.  What the data shows is that for shooters that have reached a reasonable level of skill: 80 points or better on the Three Seconds or Less test, transitioning to the smaller gun, for shots 7 yards and closer, is not a major problem, but most are still not at the level we’d like to see (90% or better on the 3SL test).







Paul E Palooza 4 – KR Training student scholarship

Trainer Paul Gomez passed away in 2012, at the young age of 40.  Paul was a colleague, a friend, a teacher and a student. He took classes from me, I took classes from him, I hosted classes he taught, including some of the first ECQC classes he and Craig Douglas offered, and we had many long discussions on the phone and email about training and technique.  I use some of his youTube videos as supplemental material in classes. The idea for the Historical Handgun course I’m developing came from our discussions about the evolution and history of shooting skills.

Paul was well respected within the national private sector training community. Every two years they hold a training conference, with the proceeds benefiting Paul’s children.

Paul E Palooza 4 – “Let the 4th be with you!” is coming up August 19-20, 2017 in Garrettsville, OH.

My schedule this year prevents me from attending, but to support the event, KR Training has purchased a student slot that I am going to give to a KR Training student as a scholarship to go learn from some of the best trainers in the country.

There are three requirements to claim the scholarship slot:

  1. You need to be a graduate of at least one KR Training course.
  2. You have to attend the event.  KR Training will cover your event fee; you have to cover your own travel and ammo costs.
  3. You have to send us photos, videos, and some event AARs so we can share them here on the blog and on all the KR Training connected social media sites.

The offer is open from now until someone claims it.  Please don’t claim the slot until you are 100% sure you can go. I will keep a wait list just in case whoever claims it has to cancel.