1. The ability to use one’s knowledge effectively and readily in execution or performance.
  2. Dexterity or coordination, especially in the execution of learned physical tasks.
  3. A learned power of doing something competentlya developed aptitude or ability.

How many skills comprise the draw? Clearing the cover garment and grip are two.

There are several individual tasks, or skills, that give us the ability to perform in both training and practical application. They are physical in nature and are separate from the mental side of the equation.

Reloading is another skill. The specifics may change as you change platforms.

What are some of these? One’s grip on the handgun, followed by the draw (or presentation), acquiring and aligning the sights – regardless of the design, manipulating the trigger without disturbing those sights, reacquiring one’s sight picture (or video) while resetting the trigger. Loading, reloading, unloading, and clearing stoppages are also skills.

Working an in-battery speed reload.

All of these require practice and effort to learn and then maintain. That practice can be done in dry practice or live fire, focusing on one or multiple. You could start by practicing the acquisition of your sights from the point at which you have both hands on your pistol. Then, you could work with both hands before you, initiating the draw and going through a dry press of the trigger.


  1. To fix something in the mind or habit pattern by repetitive instruction.
  2. To impart or communicate by repetition.
  3. To train or exercise in military drill.

A carbine drill working cover at multiple positions while engaging a variety of target exposures.

A drill is an exercise in which one’s ability to perform multiple skills together is tested. Some that come to mind are the Bill Drill, El Presidente, Spaulding’s Skill on Demand, and my Two x Three.

In the Bill Draw, you start 7 yards from the target. You must grip and draw the handgun, acquire the sights, press the trigger six times, and manage the recoil while reacquiring the sights and resetting the trigger.

With the El Prez, you start with a 180-degree turn, followed by the grip and presentation. You are acquiring your sights and firing two shots before transitioning to a second and third target; then, you reload and repeat the process. The result is this article’s featured photo.

Your humble editor failed to make the standard for Spaulding’s Performance on Demand drill – with him watching.

Spaulding got this one from an Army service member. At twenty (20) feet, the shooter draws from the holster, firing two rounds into a 3″ x5″ card in less than 2.00 seconds. The skills evaluated? Grip, draw, sight acquisition, trigger press, recoil management, and the ability to repeat it.

For optic shooters, one of the concerns is the acquisition and re-acquisition of the dot. The Two by Three begins strong hand only for both the draw and the first two shots, followed by an in-battery reload and two more shots freestyle, then another in-battery reload, and the final two shots are weak hand only. In addition to the skills mentioned repeatedly, there’s the re-acquisition of the sights from a completed reload and doing it weak-handed, plus shooting that way.

Drills are a combination of skills. However, they may or may not be entirely realistic. And while I initially mentioned both dry practice and live fire, they can be done with other Non-Lethal Training Ammunition.


A sequence of events, especially when imaginedan account or synopsis of a possible course of action or events.

Now we get to scenarios. These are generally longer, potentially involving more equipment. They likely come with a narrative that explains why you are doing what you are about to do. These run the gamut from an event for one with Don’t Shoot/Shoot targets up to full mission profile events that test every part of an organization’s response to a specific event.

A low-light simulator run in Gunsite’s Pit with a shotgun.

The simulators at Gunsite and Thunder Ranch, among others, support scenario work. The combination of both indoor and outdoor simulators, as well as those elsewhere, allows the individual a wider variety of environments.

One of my favorite live-fire scenarios was developed for a specialty class at Gunsite. Rather than being told to enter and clear one of the indoor simulators – by oneself, the student was blindfolded and then walked through the structure. Instead of being walked directly to the starting, the path was intentionally circuitous and disorienting. Once the event began, each student had to fight their way out – instead of entering and clearing themselves.

An east coast police officer working a scenario during an indoor simulator run.

In addition to everything mentioned previously, during the scenario, they had to move, negotiate the structure, and locate and identify Don’t Shoot and Shoot targets. They might be able to solve the shooting problem with a pair, or it could require a failure drill. This scenario might require a reload or one-hand-only shooting.

This scenario involves moving quickly through this draw to get to a departure point – while still using your skills.

Skills are the specific tasks we need to learn and master; Drills are ways of testing our mastery of multiple skills. Spaulding talks about training and mastering those skills rather than practicing the drill. Finally, Scenarios can test both mental and physical skills more completely.