In the world of firearms training and defensive shooting, we often talk about how many rounds it might take to stop a threat. We don’t really know. Sure, we can look at the research and study the data, but each individual encounter presents its own unique set of circumstances.

The best thing you can do is be prepared. Of course, to be prepared, you might work through some sort of “failure to stop” drill in which you send two rounds to the body and then another one immediately to the head. (Competition shooters often practice this “two to the body, one to the head” technique since many stages have this requirement for each paper target.) On the other hand, you might prefer to focus on natural reactions and reaction times and practice shooting somewhere between two to five rounds while visualizing yourself stopping the threat.

With these ideas in mind, I decided to try a drill that incorporates some marksmanship strategies but still requires a defensive mindset. Thus, the “3-RSquared Drill” was born.

Drill Setup

To run this drill, you will need to set up two separate targets — 2 to 4 yards apart — about 7 yards away (or choose a distance that is appropriate to challenge your skills). Each target will need a defined high-center-chest area of approximately 8 inches (or a paper plate) and a head shot or smaller target of around 2 to 3 inches (or a post-it note). You will begin with your pistol holstered, but feel free to start at a low-ready position if holstering is not allowed (or if you haven’t practiced it). Be sure to set up with a magazine loaded with two rounds and have another full magazine prepared and ready on a bench, table or, preferably, a magazine pouch or pocket (however you carry your reload).

For the “3-RSquared Drill,” you will encounter three separate shooting problems along with two “R” actions: an emergency reload and a return to the ready position. On a shooting command, a start signal or the sound of a timer, you will take two shots at the high-center chest of the first target, conduct an emergency reload and engage the target again with one precision head shot. Then you will return to a high-compressed-ready position in order to scan and assess (as you learned in the August/September issue of CCM; see “Scan & Assess: Training the Brain,” Page 26) and then recognize a new threat and engage the high-center chest of that second target with two to five shots. To begin again, be sure to set up another two-round magazine and a second magazine that’s full (or nearly so). After a few iterations, you can start with the target on the left side and switch to the one on the right. Or you can have a partner switch things up a bit by calling out which to engage first so that you don’t know and aren’t standing at the ready, waiting to present to a certain target.

Running the 3-RSquared Drill

This drill will help you work on several important defensive shooting skills, such as presentation from the holster, recoil management, emergency reloads, assessment, target transitioning and precision shots. The 3-RSquared Drill can also add a small cognitive load for you to remember the order and sequence of the targets and the number of shots needed to stop the threat or to respond to the directions from a partner regarding which target to engage first.

I would not recommend using a timer for this drill, as the assessment phase should not be hurried. Rather, force you to break focus on the targets and think about what’s happening while making observations. Of course, you can still get a good look at speed from the holster to the first shot, if you’d like — not to mention through the reload and the head shot. It’s up to you if you need a timer to spice things up. Just never let your skills suffer. For this kind of training, it’s better to get deliberate, correct repetitions than super-speed, wrong repetitions. Shots matter, so be sure to mark any misses before continuing and focus on getting good hits every time.