The Bill Drill

Video bill drill time

“Have good trust in yourself … not in the One that you think you should be, but in the One that you are.” -Maezumi Roshi

Robbie Leatham and I had this joke about practicing—we only shoot at 15 yards, because it is the ultimate distance. In competition, we rarely shot past 15 yds, which is the perfect distance to display your mastery of speed and accuracy.

1983 World Champs The Bill Drill

Left to right… Ross Seyfried, Mike Plaxco, Tommy “Gun” Campbell, BE, Robbie Leatham, and Bill Wilson.

The original Bill Drill was invented by Bill Wilson, and required 6 A-hits at 7 yards in 2 seconds or less.

A Bill Drill at 15 yards is the ultimate test: Draw and shoot 6 shots into the A-zone of a USPSA target as quickly as possible. Only all A-hits count for score, which is your time.

Examples: Your time was 2.3 seconds, with 5 A’s and one C—you don’t have a score. You fired 6 shots in 2.5 seconds, with all A’s. Your score is 2.5.

For a year, before beginning each practice session, I attempted to shoot a cold turkey Bill Drill at 7 yds in 2 seconds or less. After about 8 months, I finally nailed one. From that I learned: there is no relationship between being knee-deep in brass and shooting a “record run” in practice, and shooting a stage in a match.

The following year, the goal was to shoot a cold turkey Bill Drill at 15 yards in 2 seconds or less. It took me nearly a year to do it, and, from that, I learned the value of being fully warmed up before shooting the first stage in a match.

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Then to really hone your skills, take your Bill Drill game to 25 yards.

Robbie and I were practicing, shooting 7 yard Bill Drills only. We were down to 12 rounds; we each took 6 and decided to end with some fun. The goal became to to get 6 hits anywhere on the target in the fastest time possible.

I went first. I knew, to pull this off without a trigger freeze, I had to start and stay super relaxed. My only goal was to relax and let ’em rip. I didn’t care if any shots even hit the target.

It was the fastest Bill Drill either of us had ever shot—and with all A hits! The time was 1.48 seconds, which I didn’t think was possible. We looked back and forth at each other, wearing huge grins.

And they were not just “lucky A’s.” I saw the front sight lift and return each time in super slow motion. I can still remember it.

After we’d settled down, Robbie said “I’m going to do that.” He shot a 1.52, with all A’s! Which was his new personal record.

That marked the beginning of… End practice sessions with something fun, like SHOWDOWN!

The best things happen when you truly don’t care about the result.


Comments are welcome, and all questions will be answered.

I’ll post a new topic each Friday afternoon, in one of two categories. One will be on shooting, and the other will be on living. Or: how I learned to live from what I learned by competing.

Thanks for coming in.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>