Block, Random, Specialized, and Integrated Training


Block and Random, Specialized and Integrated training.

Block: Practice the same thing for five minutes or more at a time.
Random: Mixing up the particulars regularly in a drill so as not to do the exact same thing more than a few times before changing it up.

Specialized: Practice each skill/task separately and improve them so they’ll be better when you later use them together.
Integrated: Every drill includes several skills/tasks (e.g., draw, reload, and movement.)

All of these are useful for different reasons. Block training is great for learning and honing a specific skill or practicing for something specific. Specialized approach drills down to particulars. Studies concerning field sport players have shown value in a Random approach after base skills have been developed as this emulates game situations and every individual skill needs to be Integrated with others.

You can have random, integrated practice (build a stage, run it three times, build another) or random, specialized practice (5 runs on bill drill, 5 runs on accelerator, 5 runs on criss cross, repeat SHO, repeat WHO). You can have block, integrated practice (run the same stage 20 times until you beat your par time down as far as possible) and block, specialized practice (spend 300 rounds on beating down your Bill Drill PR).

What’s annyoying is that the “it has to be ‘real’ or you can’t learn” mindset only really applies to a very narrow group of individuals.

Of all the sports and all the physical skills in the world, very few find the need to practice in a singularly “real” environment where small drills are eschewed. In fact, actual athletes and operators recognize the need and benefit of tightly-controlled block and specialized drills.

There seems to be a contingent of “wannabes” and those who bank on them (i.e., offering tactical courses) for whom the “realism” element is an end unto itself. It would seem that “pretending to” is an acceptable enough replacement for “never did”.

This does not just go for the shooting community, but for martial arts douches, peaked in high school footballers, and pretty much anywhere where some sort of glorification is involved.

Consider this:

Take note that Kobe Bryant practiced 800 jump shots in 4 hours like it was nothing. Not exactly playing a “real” game.


Who needs enemies with friends like this?


Post video of a skillful display of shooting and/or gunhandling, preferably one with a specific competitive focus.

Wait for other gun owners to explain why what was demonstrated didn’t count, isn’t realistic/relevant, uses unrealistic/gamer/rooney equipment, was faked, how they could do better if the shooting was more like the real stuff with real guns they use, etc.

It’s almost as if it’s an affront for others to be skilled.

Most gun owners are low-skilled and novice levels, including (especially?) law enforcement and military personnel. Most gun owners that aren’t involved in formal competition or higher-level instruction have never seen truly skilled shooter perform. Given that video demonstrations sometimes fail, the best way is to do live and in person, preferably at an event where everyone in attendance will also try. This sorts out who can and can’t and provides a deeper appreciation for those that worked hard to perform well.

Why Has Competition Slowed?

Review these old gun magazines and you’ll see the importance of competition back in the 1950 and 1960s.
page 5-6, lists various match results
page 5, Bill Toney, Askins, Hebard competition shooters writing articles with content about competitions
“My Favorite Gun” section features a conventional pistol competitor.
page 14, “Why Doesn’t Shooting Go Professional?”
That issue began with an interview with pistol champ Harry Reeves.
Four competition articles. The magazine has a specific “Competition” section because it regularly published enough material on this in every issue to warrant a dedicated section.

Consider the state of the NRA membership and its Competition Division back in 1961.

Back then, with a membership of 418,000 total, the NRA boasted 120,367 classified competitors and the Marksmanship Qualification Program had 374,112 participants. That is, roughly 29% of the membership was classified in formal competition and 90% participated in the MQP. Page 49 of that same issue details a drive for 500,000 members by using the Marksmanship Qualification Program and a push to get every NRA member involved.

Today, with over 4 million members, a tenfold increase, less than 100,000 members are classified shooters (about 2%) and the Marksmanship Qualification Program isn’t even tracked despite advances in information processing and computers.

Some time ago, I was considered for a writing job sponsored by a nationally-recognized firearm/outdoor distributor and edited by a nationally-recognized publisher with a readership of around a quarter million subscribers. The Editor-In-Chief, who knew me from my various writing and editing work as well as my competitive shooting background, told me plainly they would not entertain any formal marksmanship instruction material and specifically shunned competition-specific coverage. This wasn’t due to a bias from the company, publisher, or editor, rather, it was due to them tracking reader feedback. Detailed marksmanship training beyond introductory fluff tracked the lowest interest and anything competition specific was notably poor. The subscribers simply weren’t interested. They were rather interested in gear reviews, product releases, and gun politics. So the general gun owning public is vitally interested in being told what toys to buy and maintaining their right to continue doing so but has little interest in how to actually use the stuff beyond a novice level.

Operator Readiness Test vs. Bullseye

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Operator Readiness Test from Redback One Training
The Operator Readiness Test was developed as a baseline assessment to test several key weapons manipulation skills relevant to fighting in close quarters.

Three tier levels of time allow for Unit / Agency benchmarking of individuals or sub-units.

Tier-1: 15 seconds
Tier-2: 18 seconds
Tier-3: 20 seconds

Individual skills being assessed during the ORT are: High Ready presentations, sustained recoil management, pistol change overs, combat reloads, reduced target size for extreme accuracy. The test is shot cold and on demand from 7-yards using the Redback One Zero target. The test must be performed in the presence of multiple observers where possible in order to place the student under performance pressure.

This is a test that should not be practiced. The elements of competency required for the test should trained and practice repetitions should be high to build correct neural pathways to success.

Other comments:

Other Redback One training

More about Jason Falla:

On Shot Timer Use

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I use one constantly to gauge the level of my performance so I can identify weaknesses that I must address. If we take the element of time away, all of this is easy.. The element creating the greatest degree of difficulty in any of this, competition, defense etc is the time element. If we had all day to analyze, decide and shoot, anyone could do it. In real life, as in competition, time is a factor and doing it “fast enough” is critical. The timer helps one know how fast one is actually going.

– Rob Leatham

I hate to beat this horse again, but it ain’t dead yet! In drumming, OUR “shot timer” is the metronome. The relationship between shooting and drumming is AMAZING! I see it regularly because I am passionate about, and do both. Much like the shot timer, the metronome is a tool to gauge progress. NOT just to play passages FASTER, but to gauge how fast you can play passages while remaining fluid with note placement OR remaining “ACCURATE”. Speed and precision are huge factors in drumming just as they are in shooting. The balance between the two is CRITICAL for both. Playing a passage fast means nothing if the notes being executed in the process are not spaced precisely and placed accurately. Much like presenting a firearm rapidly, but not executing combat accuracy with your shot placement. The idea while learning a “drum lick” is to play your passage slowly with a metronome to keep you on point with your time. Then gradually increase the metronome speed to find the threshold where playing the passage starts to feel uncomfortable. You STAY at that tempo until it becomes comfortable and then once again, gradually increase speed. The metronome is an AMAZING tool to help progress where the balance of speed and precision are paramount. This is why I have brought the metronome into my firearms training. In particular for presentation from the holster. I use a 4 step presentation. Each click of the metronome is a step in the presentation. I start with the metronome very slow and run some reps.Then I gradually increase. This keeps the space between steps equal. By the time I get “up to tempo”, meaning as fast as i can go while maintaining combat accuracy, my motion is very smooth. The motion becomes very close to being on “auto-pilot”. Not thinking about the steps anymore, just about the fluid motion. Like the shot timer, the metronome will NOT be there in a DCI, but it the practice realm, its an incredible tool for developing skill and making progress!! BTW…I discovered after the fact, that there are some folks on YT that use a metronome as well. I just use mine a bit differently. I use it with a bit more complexity. Subdivisions, etc, like I do in the drumming realm.

– Fran Merante

Drills and Skills…not one in the same…

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Dave Spaulding

SKILL: the ability, coming from one’s knowledge, practice, aptitude, etc., to do something well with a high expectation of success.

DRILL: any methodical, repetitive, or mechanical training, instruction, or exercise. Proof of skill.

Skill is the ability to perform an activity with a high expectation of success cold. A drill…in our case a shooting drill… is intended to show proof that a skill(s) can be performed. Skills must be learned, understood, practiced, mastered and then anchored to a level of what the motor learning community calls automaticity or what many think of as “auto pilot” or “unconscious competence”.

In a gunfight…where we are fighting to save our life or the life of someone we care about… we can’t be thinking about how to perform the skills that will make us victorious, we need to be focusing on the fight itself, what our opponent is doing and what actions (based on our anchored skills) we can take to counter his/her moves. The shooting part of this conflict must be performed without conscious thought. If there were ever a time to perform a skill(s) to a high level of success COLD this would be it! What are the chances you just finished a 300 round practice session when your gunfight breaks out?

What part does shooting drills play in this process? Is shooting a drill the same as winning a gunfight? Should we be overly fascinated with popular shooting drill? To my way of thinking, a drill is nothing more than a test of a skill or skill sets. Emphasis should not be placed on shooting a successful drill, but on executing the needed skills at a high level so the drill will be a success…they are not the same thing. Instead of practicing the drill over and over until success is achieved, the student of combative pistolcraft should practice the required skills for that drill! This includes the smooth and efficient “chunking” together of skills into one fluid motion. As a matter of fact, it is this “chunking” process that makes any drill important as a drill is not a fight…it is merely a practice method for the anchoring of skills so they can be performed together automatically.

To become a “slave” to any particular drill is just silly, but I see it all the time. Regularly, my students tell me “I’ve been practicing the 2x2x2 Drill almost every day” and I ask “why?” “So I can win the buckle” is the normal response. Wrong answer. While practice is certainly worthwhile, it is the wrong train of thought. The 2x2x2 Drill is meant to test the skills of a smooth draw (from the student’s normal mode of carry), the gun arriving where it is needed, a clean trigger depression and recoil control performed in conjunction with the restaging of the trigger for the second shot. In reality, there is a lot going on in a very short time frame. My response to these students? “Don’t practice the drill, practice the skills that will make the drill a success!” It’s all in how you think about the process…

Drills should reinforce the proper execution and application of skill sets…they should not become the central focus of the student’s practice regime. They should be the test of the skills practiced and nothing more. Yes, it is fun and challenging to shoot such drills, but they are a means to and end and not the end result! To my way of thinking, drills should be shot at the beginning of a practice session COLD so they can offer an indication of where you stand in regards to skill development. To shoot them over and over until success is achieved is just false expertise.

In addition, the drills should be difficult…a challenge! If the shooter can do the drill on demand without difficulty then the skills required are ether anchored or the drill is just something the shooter likes to do, is good at and is not really a challenge. The drill should also have meaning! I see many instructors use drills in courses they like or look good shooting, but what do they mean? How do they advance student skill?

For example, my Fifteen to the Third Drill requires the shooter to draw and fire five rounds at fifteen feet into a 3 x 5 card, move laterally fifteen feet, plant and shoot five more into a 3 x 5 card before moving laterally again to the original position for five more rounds. What does it mean? The drill is used to get the student to chunk together the essential skills of drawing, shooting accurately (a 3 x 5 card is roughly the size of the heart and aorta), controlling recoil, moving explosively of the X to another position, planting, shooting accurately and then changing direction ASAP. It must be shot in 12 seconds to offer a sense or urgency. The drill can be found on the Handgun Combatives web site ( These are skills that have been used in actual gunfights time and again.

At Handgun Combatives, every drill we use in our courses is meant to reinforce a skill…or set of skills…that we feel is ESSENTIAL to prevailing in conflict and we always explain these reasons. We do not do arbitrary, random, trendy or the like. Our drills are challenging, meaningful and require regular practice in order to complete them successfully on demand. Even though they are drills of my creation I cannot do them successfully unless I have been practicing the required skills. Yep! I fail regularly…but I then know what I need to work on…something drills are really good at telling us.

Shoot drills by all means…but shoot them with purpose and do not let them control your practice sessions. Remember, practice is training and training is preparation…preparation is undertaken because you are smart enough to know you need it!

Target Angle and Hunting

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Shot placement is arguably the most important component of field marksmanship, right after having the experience to know when a given shot opportunity is high percentage for you.

Two articles you must review before getting ready for fall hunting season:

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