Shooting Dots

Start off with a 3-inch dot to focus on trigger management and sight alignment.

Start off with a 3-inch dot to focus on trigger management and sight alignment.

The longer I am in the business of teaching firearms and tactics, the more I realize how important the basic fundamentals of both are. The older I become, the clearer it is that other things such as eyesight and physical impairment of one sort or another hamper our ability to be fast and accurate. This is different for each person depending on what genes you were fortunate or unfortunate enough to inherit.

We get calls on a regular basis wanting to know at what “level” class the individual should start. Most of the time, this is a backdoor way of saying, “I already know how to shoot and I want to do the fun stuff.” Honestly, there are a few folks who have mastered the fundamentals pretty well, but most have not. No one wants to waste their money. I believe all professional trainers want whoever comes to their course to have a good class and get as much as possible out of that class. It does the school no good if the unhappy student thinks they have been ripped off. Word of mouth for all of us is critical, and bad word travels much farther than good.

Many people believe they have good training because they have a concealed carry permit, shoot some IDPA or have shot for a very long time. Those are all good things, but not necessarily good training. It does not mean you have a good understanding of the fundamentals. Most do not. Many lack good safety skills like keeping their finger off the trigger when they are not on target and prepared to shoot.


I first realized how important dots are when I was at the Mid South Institute of Self Defense Shooting.


Due to the location of our facility we do not hold firearms classes all year, Twenty degrees and snowing somehow puts a damper on the learning curve. I confess to not shooting as much in the winter for the same reasons. When I want to “tune up” for the season the first thing I do is go to the range and shoot dots. We use a 3-inch dot on cardboard, but any will do. This forces you to focus on trigger management and sight alignment, with trigger management being paramount. I generally start with one shot, work up to multiples on one target and adding speed. This can be done from the ready and the draw positions. Then, if you are successful, go to multiple dots. I start and end each training session shooting the dots just to reinforce trigger management.

If I cannot convince someone to start at the lower level I tell them to go out and shoot a 3-inch dot at 15 feet, one shot at a time coming from a ready position. If the person can hit 14 of 15 right out of the box, then we will consider them for a higher level class. I always leave a little room for error. After all, the only person who never misses is the person who never shoots. This usually convinces the individual to start in level one.

I believe in giving credit where it’s due. I first realized how important dots are when I was at the Mid South Institute of Self Defense Shooting. John Shaw owned the school at that time and still may. Most of the folks from SWAT Teams around the country and the Special Operations community started there as well. We all come up with our own twists and bends and an occasional good idea that helps us along, but good fundamentals and the importance of trigger management do not change. Remember, it is very cool to do all the high-speed low-drag stuff until you realize you can’t hit the target. Dots actually are fun to shoot.


Tactical Defense Institute
2174 Bethany Ridge
West Union, OH 45693
(937) 544-7228

This article is featured in the following categories:

Published By USCCA

We're here to help you

Prepare and Protect Your Family

  • - Knowledge
  • - Training
  • - Trusted Legal Protection