Safety and Training

Casino Drills and Drills for Proficiency

Woman shooting a pistol with a red dot sight at multiple targets

I would not swear to it in a court of law, but I would bet in Las Vegas that more than half of the folks carrying handguns have woefully inadequate — even poor — training. The basic administrative drill in concealed carry permit classes is meant as a beginning class, not the do all and end all. In 10–12 hours, we may only touch on the technical aspects of shooting.

I am not ready to convert from O2 to CO2 operation and practice as often as possible. Sure, I enjoy shooting. However, even when I am tired or not at my best, I keep my hands busy. Handgun shooting drills are an important part of training. Reality based training is essential.

Bob Campbell shooting a 9mm semi auto handgun with a brass casing in the air
Concentration is needed to run any drill successfully.

Many shooting drills, as far as realism goes, are a carousel pony compared to the reality of a bucking bronco. Just the same, every drill isn’t based on reality or the shootings I have studied. Rather, these drills are intended to force the student to think, to use proper skills, to practice sight alignment, slight picture, trigger press, and recoil control. Some shooting drills build a specific skill the student may need a little polish on. A shooting drill should stress marksmanship. Presentation from concealed carry, and mixing your skills in the same discipline, is important.

Then there are shooting drills that closely mimic the distance involved and the shots fired in certain famous gun battles. The Dicken drill is among these. I have never invented a drill. Some who claim they did, simply refreshed a drill in common use decades ago.

I have come up with variations and you can too. These variations are usually some type of modification or compromise that allow the drill to fit the yardages and layout of my firing range. I have developed training programs using a lot of ammunition and others with less ammunition.

I use a handful of drills to keep my shooting sharp. While the handgun should be a quality, reliable piece, a perfect score with many of these shooting drills is possible with pistols from Glock, SIG, HK, Springfield, S&W, CZ, and others. You don’t need a custom 1911 or SIG Legend. Even with top tier shooters a perfect score is unlikely.

Casino Drill

My research puts a name with this drill. Tom Givens of Rangemaster is credited with this one. Givens was a regular contributor to SWAT Magazine. SWAT was among the finest newsstand publications ever put together. Editor Denny Hansen, himself a double Kevlar survivor, put together a good crew. This group was high on practical police and military experience.

Casino Drill target
The Casino target is an interesting training tool.

The original drill has been murdered and misunderstood, which is par for the course. The workable distinction between the Casino drill and others is the demand for attention to detail and constant thought. You must consider what you are doing. This drill is challenging. If you change targets often enough, it doesn’t get dull. Needle sharp focus is needed to ace the drill. I am not certain I have ever made a perfect run.

You must handle the pistol well — smoothly moving from one target to the other. You cannot swing the pistol like a pipe wrench. The Casino drill is equated to a blackjack card game where 21 is the winning number. 21 shots are fired at six symbols on a single sheet of B 27 man-sized paper.

The six symbols are marked 2-4-6-1-3-5 or a combination adding up to 21. The time to beat is 21 seconds. On command you draw and fire at the first of the six symbols. You fire the number of shots in the symbol.

Bob Campbell shooting a Casino drill at an outdoor shooting range
The longer the range, the greater the challenge.

You may begin at the bottom of the line or the top, mixing the shooting up. The target is set at 7 yards, although you may begin at 5 yards and later move out. 7 yards is a challenge for most shooters. If you save your targets, it is easy to measure shooter growth by the size of the groups on each symbol.

The cognitive load is high in this demanding drill. While challenging, I consider the Casino drill a fun exercise that brings out the best in a trained marksman. You will have to speed load to finish the drill and most shooters will not be able to keep up a count — they know the gun is empty at slide lock.

On Demand Drill

We don’t know how many shots will be needed to stop an assailant. The level of intoxication, heavy clothing, size and muscle mass, and angle of fire all have a bearing on the ability absorb damage and keep going. Since you may need to reload the pistol, a speed load is part of this drill.

revolver being fired as the shooter conducts a drill against multiple paper targets
Running a drill fast becomes more enjoyable as speed and confidence build.

Two targets are set up at the 7 yard line. I don’t set them up shoulder to shoulder but about 5 feet apart with some offset in the range — one may be exactly 7 yards and the other 9 yards away. A small point of aim is stressed.

Area aiming (aiming at the whole target instead of a small spot on the target) is discouraged. It is easy to say aim where the shot will do the most good. But continue to put the bullets into the arterial region during training don’t simply give the aiming point lip service.

The drill is best set up with two cartridges loaded in the handgun and a spare, fully-loaded magazine. No, you won’t face a threat with only two rounds in the Glock, but this drill is designed to stress shot placement with a minimum number of rounds fired and a speed reload splitting the drill.

You draw and fire two rounds into center mass of the target. As the slide locks back, you speed load and get a center hit to the cranio ocular region. This takes time, so you must concentrate on the shot at 7 yards. After you fire this single shot, you will then move your focus to the second target and get center hits on that target.

Always begin with a presentation from concealed carry. If you miss the head shot, you will tend to miss the second try as well. So, in the beginning, if you miss the head shot move to the second target. Then, return to the first target. This drill demands marksmanship, a speed load, and builds skill if properly applied.

The 3.5 Drill

This drill is simple and has been around a long time. The set-up is simple. Tape or staple 3.5-inch index cards onto a larger target. I usually use five for 3, 5, 7, 10, and 15 yards. Firing five shots at each card allows the shooter to make two runs on each target with a 50-round box of ammunition.

Springfield 1911 .45 ACP with the slide locked back atop a paper shooting target
The author’s treasured old Springfield was a top performer.

You may cut the requirement to three shots per target if you are on a tight budget or ammunition simply isn’t available.

You need a tight sight picture. More time is needed for each shot at longer ranges. You don’t move to longer range fire until all shots are tight at 3 and 5 yards. This drill is more challenging than it first appears. This is a great drill for novices and experienced shooters alike. The drill is self-paced and self-directed.

The Dicken Drill

This drill is sweeping the world. The drill is named after a shooter who took down an active shooter in a shopping mall and saved many lives. The shots were fired, and the shooter was down in a matter of seconds after the rampage began. In other words, the scene went from active murder in progress to shooter down in less than a minute.

Bob Campbell shooting a Dicken drill at an outdoor shooting range
The Dicken drill is best fired from some type of rest.

Dicken fired 10 shots with eight hits at a distance of about 40 yards. We may not know the exact distance, however it was longer than the average handgun shot. That is a long shot even a significantly longer range that the great majority of shots fired in a defensive encounter.

I have stressed the real need to fire the handgun at longer distance occasionally. Most indoor ranges and quite a few outdoor ranges have only a 25-yard pistol range. In this case, a reduced-size target will work. It isn’t ideal, but it stresses the shot and makes for good training. If you have a 40-yard range, all the better.

The target is engaged after you draw from concealed carry. Use a braced, barricade firing position. Ten shots are fired. Eight of ten shots on the target is a passing score. This is a difficult drill. As an example, when firing at man-sized targets at 10 yards, I find little differences in results with the Glock 43X and Glock 19X pistols.

Paper target multiple bullet holes
The author’s envelope shooting drill is ad hoc but works great.

When the range is stretched to 25 yards, I start seeing some difference and this is especially true at a long 40 yards. This drill stresses the need for precision shooting. This drill and others will prepare you for that one moment when nothing in the universe matters but survival. You had best have skills. If you are in a hole and not progressing in skill building, stop digging that hole and use a wide range of shooting drills to get yourself back on top.

Have you tried the Casino drill? What about the 3.5, On Demand, or Dicken drill? Which one is your favorite? Share your answers in the comment section.

  • Bob Campbell shooting a 1911 .45 ACP semi-automatic pistol one handed
  • Woman shooting a pistol with a red dot sight at multiple targets
  • Bob Campbell shooting a Casino drill at an outdoor shooting range
  • Silhouette target with multiple holes in the spinal column
  • Bob Campbell shooting a .357 Magnum revolver
  • Man engaging three silhouette targets during a shooting drill
  • 3 spot of a Casino Drill target with with bullet holes in and one out
  • Springfield 1911 .45 ACP with the slide locked back atop a paper shooting target
  • envelopes used as index card sized shooting targets
  • Paper target multiple bullet holes
  • two bullet holes in the 2 spot of a Casino Drill target
  • the 6 spot on a casino drill target with bullet holes
  • revolver being fired as the shooter conducts a drill against multiple paper targets
  • Bob Campbell shooting a 9mm semi auto handgun with a brass casing in the air
  • Bob Campbell shooting a Dicken drill at an outdoor shooting range
  • Casino Drill target

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.


Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Handloader
Rifle Magazine
Handguns
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns



Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (7)

  1. Thanks for explaining the Casino target, as I always wondered why it was that way. Now I will have to have a go at it. I for one am not bashful or ashamed of leaning against the wall at my range, or using the shelf, instead of just free standing, I use those “miniature” body profile targets mainly at 10 yards, or further, as it forces striving for better accuracy. Also a MUST DO is make sure what ever you are using is ZEROED for your use (my guess is Dicken’s was) average range. A good way to verify ZERO is at a set distance put 50 rounds on target aiming at the exact same spot each time, and at the end of 50 you should have about a 1″ diameter hole showing exactly how far off dead center you are hitting, and how much you need to adjust your sights. I will be coupling your info here, along with a great video by Lena Miculek, about how to get the MOST gun handling time out of a box of 50. Lena concentrates on many mag changes, and Miculek style getting on target fast. Like she says, MOST gun handling time for 50.

  2. Robert

    Excellent training!

    I agree with you on that. I like paper plates and steel gongs, each works well.

    Drive Slow
    Shoot Fast
    Bob

  3. Great article. Those drills are well spelled-out and challenging. I like to start slow and advance speed into them later, to the point accuracy is flawed. Then bring down the speed, gaining accuracy again. This can instill skills to shoot faster.

  4. Great article. Those drills are well spelled-out and challenging. I like to start slow and advance speed into them later, to the point accuracy is flawed. Then bring down the speed, gaining accuracy again. This can instill skills to shoot faster. All for training to react to possible real-world violent encounters.

  5. Good article. Those drills are well spelled-out and challenging. I like to start slow and advance speed into them later, to the point accuracy is flawed. Then bring down the speed, gaining accuracy again. This can instill skills to shoot faster. All for training to react to possible real-world violent encounters. Thank you again.

  6. I practice my double taps on a 6” steel round. When you attain skilled hits on the steel targets, head shots are simple & center of mass shots are also accurate. Hitting 6” target at 3,5,7 yards is good practice and if in a real situation, your confidence level is at it’s high. Center of mass is good, head shots are usually terminal. I have been using a 6” target for well over 20 years. Your may depend on this kind of sccuray. Retired LE.

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