The Bill Drill: A Classic Skill Builder

— Travis PikeCADRE Dispatch

There are lots of ways to build your skills with a handgun. Dedicated training with skilled instructors is the best. Testing yourself with action shooting sports like USPSA is another great way to learn and become better. Of course, we also have what’s typically the most convenient skill builder: drills.

Drills are aimed at providing an exercise that’s often tied to a time and accuracy standard. One of the best drills you can do to improve your skills is the classic Bill Drill.

target with gun shots
The Bill Drill requires six rounds in an IPSC/IDPA target.

The Bill Drill is named after Bill Wilson. Bill Wilson is the founder of Wilson Combat, one of the premier M1911 manufacturers. Beyond the classic M1911, he’s also customized shotguns and AR rifles, as well as a few original firearms.

The man knows his stuff and designed the Bill Drill as a means to test and improve your handgun skills.

What is the Bill Drill?

The Bill Drill is a simple action-shooting-oriented drill that is mainly aimed at handguns. With an IDPA or IPSC target at seven yards, the shooter starts with their weapon loaded with six rounds and holstered.

At the timer, the shooter will draw and fire six rounds into the A zone or -0 zone, depending on the target. Any shot outside of the A zone or the -0 zone adds one second to your time.

 arex Delta gen 2 pistol in Safariland Incog X holster
The IncogX is a great holster for concealed carry and for this drill.

I’ve seen a lot of different par times being advertised as acceptable par times. In reality, as a normal person, your goal should just be to improve. With that said, we all need goals.

Chasing a 3.5-second Bill Drill is a worthy goal. For context, an expert time would be two seconds or less. That’s quite the challenge, but the point of training is to constantly get better.

Value of the Bill Drill

The Bill Drill challenges shooters to train their drawstroke and get the gun up and on target quickly. In any defensive situation, speed from the holster to the target is invaluable.

The average concealed carrier should challenge themselves to shoot the drill from their concealed carry holster. As an average Joe, I paired my IncogX with my Arex Delta and did just that. Police and other professionally armed citizens could pair this drill well with their favorite rig, like the 6380.

Drawing the gun
The Bill Drill starts with a draw.

Drawstroke is just one aspect. To really succeed with the Bill Drill, you need to practice your sight tracking. Sight tracking means following your front sight or red dot as it reciprocates as much as possible. Optimally, you never want the sight or dot to stop moving as you shoot.

Obviously, it does stop, but that stop should be so short it’s tough to perceive. If the sight stops moving, then you aren’t shooting, and if you aren’t shooting, you’re losing precious fractions of a second.

Learning to track your sights or red dot will make you a better shooter.

Red Dot reticle
Tracking your sight is important for the drill.

Next, you have to learn recoil control. Recoil control ties in with how you handle your firearm during its recoil impulse. Handling recoil properly allows you to get the gun back on target quickly and efficiently. The faster you’re on target, the faster you can shoot.

Managing recoil means having the proper grip, stance, and elbow position. Your goal isn’t to beat recoil but to tame it, force it to move vertically, and quickly get the gun back on target.

Grip on gun
The Bill Drill trains a good grip on your gun.

Finally, we get to trigger control. The ability to pull and release the trigger efficiently is a skill all its own. You want to be able to do so without disturbing your grip. It’s tougher than it sounds and is an important part of perfecting the Bill Drill.

Conducting the Bill Drill

The Bill Drill tests and improves the above skills. It sounds like a lot, so I tend to try to tell people to focus on one aspect at a time.

For new shooters, you can eliminate the need to draw and just start from the low ready. Allow them to see how the gun handles, and begin to learn how to track the sights. If you’re practicing the Bill Drill for the first time, I suggest the same to you.

Break down the individual skills and begin to tie them together. Drawstroke practice can be done dry without the need to expend ammo or go to the range. Things like sight tracking and recoil control do require range time and live ammo.

Man aiming red dot
The Bill Drill requires careful aim and a steady hand.

Practice the Bill Drill without a timer at first. Walk before you run. Practice each skill perfectly and only as fast as you can without compromising good practice.

It’s a bit like weightlifting. You should only lift the weight that allows you to maintain a safe and proper form. Heavy weight and poor form will get you nowhere. Speed and skill will come with time, and if you dedicate yourself to practice, it comes quickly. This is especially true if you work dry fire into your regiment.

Beyond Handguns

While the Bill Drill is a handgun drill and best used with handguns, it can be adapted to rifles. Rifles tend to be much easier to shoot, and you can’t draw them from a holster, so a sub-2-second Bill Drill with a rifle isn’t that tough.

The FNH SCAR rifle.
The SCAR is one of the most iconic FN Herstal weapons. [Photo: Jason Mosher]

What you will learn is a lesson in height-over-bore compensation. At seven yards, your shots will appear to hit low, but that’s due to the optic sitting higher than the bore. You’ll learn to recognize and compensate for that effect.

A lot of the same skills used for the pistol translate to the rifle; it’s just a lot easier with the three points of contact a rifle stock offers. If you want more difficulty, double the distance and try your hand at it with a rifle; it feels a fair bit more challenging.

Training Hard

One of the genius parts of the Bill Drill is the ease of conducting the drill. Seven yards, a target you can print, and six rounds are all you need. That’s all it takes for you to be able to conduct a Bill Drill. It’s a great test of skills that allows you to build skills without requiring a hefty amount of logistics.

Now get out there and get training!

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