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The Pistol Fundamentals Challenge

Welcome to another Marksman Challenge. The focus of this one the fundamentals of pistol shooting. The drill we’re using is a modification of the classic Dot Torture Drill popularized by David Blinder and the late Todd Louis Green.

I like this drill because it gives you a quickly-executed course of fire that tests the primary aspects of good pistol marksmanship. My version of this only requires 30 rounds as opposed to 50, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

The simple truth is that pistol shooting is important.

A lot of people, including myself, get wrapped up in rifles because they are easier to shoot well and at longer distances. Because they tend to be more fun, the average shooter reinforces their rifle skills over and over at the expense of pistols.

This all came to a head for me during a recent range day trip with Justin from Revolver Guy, who spends a lot of time practicing his dry fire and pistol skills. I could tell from watching him that he has “greased the groove” over and over. His target showed it.

My target, on the other hand, clearly showed that I haven’t been practicing.

Why Pistols Matter

Unless you’re in a profession where you’re employing a rifle as a primary weapon, the chances are much higher that you’re going to find yourself using a pistol in a defensive situation. Whether that means you’re carrying a weapon concealed day to day or keep one in a bedside safe, the handgun is simply what you’re more likely to have available to you.

In reality, your pistol skills are more important than your rifle skills for the real world. As a bonus, mastering the fundamentals of pistol shooting directly contributes to your rifle shooting.

One of the things that makes pistols so much harder is the trigger. On average, a handgun’s trigger weight is anywhere from the same weight as the pistol to two or three times the weight of the pistol.

That means handguns are very unforgiving of poor trigger control. If you master it here, then it only helps you in other contexts.

So let’s talk about the drill.

The Everyday Marksman Pistol Fundamentals Challenge

The challenge is simple. There are ten two-inch dots spread over a regular sheet of 8.5×11 printer paper. Each dot has a different set of instructions, with some instructions applying to pairs of dots.

For example, dot number one requires you to draw and fire a single shot three times. For dots two and three, you draw and fire a single shot at dot two and then a single shot at dot three.

The pattern repeats with variations of strong hand, weak hand, and a reload. 

Dots 1, 4, 7, and 10 are all single-dot exercises while dots 2/3, 5/6, and 8/9 are pairs.


The official challenge target, click image to download

You can download the official target as a .PDF by clicking here or by clicking on the image above. You can print it on any standard piece of printer paper.

Challenge Scoring

The challenge requires you to fire 30 shots. A hit counts if the center of the impact is on or within the black border of the circle. There is no fudging here by hitting outside the circle and having a slight tear hit the black. It must be the center of the impact. 

The first rule of completing this challenge is that you must clean the target. That means you fire 30 shots and have 30 hits in the appropriate circles.

The second rule of the challenge is that you must complete it within 5 minutes from the first draw to the last shot.

The level of badge you earn depends upon the distance.


Level 1

Complete the challenge by cleaning the target within 5 minutes from a distance of 3 Yards

Level 2

Complete the challenge by cleaning the target within 5 minutes from a distance of 7 Yards

Level 3

Complete the challenge by cleaning the target within 5 minutes from a distance of 10 Yards

Additional Information

The first shot of each string happens from the default “safe” configuration of the weapon. If you have a DA/SA, that means the hammer is down and the first shot from the draw is double action. Every time the weapon returns to the holster, or goes back to the low ready, then the hammer must be decocked.

For this challenge, I am not distinguishing different standards between striker-fired, DA/SA, or SA-only handguns. I realize that strikers or SA-only provide advantages here, but if you choose to carry a DA/SA like me- then you had better well practice working through it.

For the final dot, with the reload, it is not required to go to slide lock. You can perform a tactical reload.

Lastly, for the draw, if your range does not allow drawing or you do not have the right equipment, you may start with the pistol on a table instead.

Providing Proof

As with all challenges, you must provide proof of completion in order to earn the badge. For this challenge, you must show a picture of the completed target, your time, and the pistol you used for it.

I encourage you to use the information lines at the top of the target detailing the date, distance, time, and pistol used.

Of course, there is an honor system at play here since I can’t stop you from doing the challenge at 3 yards and saying you did it at 10. 

Don’t cheat yourself out of training.

Good Luck!

That’s it, good luck on the challenge and I look forward to seeing how you do!

  • Sunshine Shooter
  • Augray
Picture of Matt


Matt is the primary author and owner of The Everyday Marksman. He's a former military officer turned professional tech sector trainer. He's a lifelong learner, passionate outdoorsman, and steadfast supporter of firearms culture.


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Oldest First
Newest First

Question on the speed reloads: slide lock or no?

Replying to  Matt

Also, on target pairs (like 2 & 3, 5 & 6, etc.), is the desired learning point to exercise transition between targets (alternate for 6 shots) or transition plus draw stroke (low ready as applicable)?

Replying to  Matt

What about ranges that don’t allow drawing from a holster? Pick up from a table?

Sunshine Shooter

I like that more that one round follows the reload. It means that recoil control after the reload still matters. 1-R-1’s don’t expose a poorly gripped gun the way a 1-R-2+ does.


I am a bullseye pistol guy. I spend a lot of time at indoor ranges practicing. I watch the people shooting around me. For God’s sake, slow down and work on accuracy. Speed will come easily after you have accuracy. I rarely practice for timed and rapid fire stages, just slow fire, slow fire, slow fire. It’s not tacticool or sexy, but it works. Hang an index card at 25 feet, and shoot at it until you can hit it every time, then move it to 50, then 75. When you can shoot a 3 by 5 index card at… Read more »

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