The Origin and Evolution of Dot Torture

Dot Torture is a well known practice regimen among skilled shooters. Its origins and evolution are less well known, however.

DT target pic

Shooting on dot targets, i.e., small filled in circles from 1.25 to 5.54 inches in diameter, as a speed shooting training and practice exercise, was originated by John Shaw, a World Champion shooter, in the early 1980s. In his book, You Can’t Miss: The Guide to Combat Pistol Shooting, he explains the training standard he established for his students. Until they could consistently hit the black bullseye (5.54 inches) of an NRA B-8 bullseye target from the holster in two seconds at seven yards, he didn’t allow them to move on to more advanced drills.

NRA B-8

Shaw’s school, the Mid-South Institute of Self-Defense Shooting evolved the concept of dot shooting to a high level. Combined with shooting at steel targets, as originated by Bill Rogers, founder of the elite Rogers Shooting School, dot shooting became a standard component used in the practice regimens of knowledgeable shooters who aspired to a higher level of competency.

The concept of dot shooting was so effective at teaching shooters to hit the target, it quickly became part of military counter-terrorist pistol training. The US Army Special Forces developed a course called ‘Special Operations Training’ [SOT] during the 1980s to train its personnel to use the 1911 pistol at a level not seen before that time in the military.

As the standards of competitive shooting continually increased over the years, dot shooting became a standard practice drill in the speed shooting disciplines such as International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC), United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA), and International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA). Competitive shooters evolved the dot practice concept into a series of drills to increase their performance. One of the earliest examples was explained on the Brian Enos Forum in 2001. It used a ten dot target drawn on a cardboard silhouette target.

Dot Drill 101 (2001) [2 ½ – 3 inch circles] by Pat Harrison on the Brian Enos Forum

  1. Six shots (slow fire) on #1 6/6
  2. One shot from holster on #2 (6 times) 6/12
  3. One shot from holster on #3, then 1 shot on #4 (6 times) 12/24
  4. Two shots from holster on #6, then 2 shots on #7 (3 times) 12/36
  5. Two shots from Holster on #9, reload, then 2 shots on #10 (3 times) 12/48
  6. Two shots, Strong Hand Only, on #5 from holster (6 times) 12/60
  7. Draw, transfer, and fire 2 shots, Weak Hand Only, on #8 (6 times) 12/72

Nerdy Professor types were even known to create a template out of Coroplast (yard sign material) so the targets would be easier to make.

Eventually, an Atlanta based trainer, named David Blinder, created a version that could be printed on a standard sheet of paper. The late Todd Louis Green, another trainer, popularized the drill and target. The target with drill instructions was published on Green’s website Pistol Training.  Note that the website personaldefensetraining dot com is no longer owned by David Blinder.

Dot Torture [2 inch circles] by David Blinder and Todd Louis Green (2007)

  1. Five shots (slow fire) on #1 5/5
  2. One shot from holster on #2 (5 times) 5/10
  3. One shot from holster on #3, then 1 shot on #4 (4 times) 8/18
  4. One shot, Strong Hand Only, on #5 from holster (5 times) 5/23
  5. Two shots from holster on #6, then 2 shots on #7 (4 times) 16/39
  6. One shot, Weak Hand Only, on #8 from Low Ready (5 times) 5/44
  7. One shot from Holster on #9, speed reload, then 1 shot on #10 (3 times) 6/50

Another version of Dot Torture specifically designed for Traditional Double Action pistols such as the Beretta 92 and Sig 226 was created by Sean Leffler.

TDA Dot Torture [2 inch circles] by Sean Leffler (2009)

  1. 2 pairs slow fire (DA/SA, DA/SA) on #1 4/4
  2. draw, one shot DA (x4) on #2 4/8
  3. draw, 1 DA on #3, 1 SA on #4 (x4) 8/16
  4. draw, 3 pairs (DA/SA) strong hand only on #5 6/22
  5. draw, 2 on #6 (DA/SA), 2 on #7 (both SA) (x4) 16/38
  6. ready, 3 pairs (DA/SA) on #8 weak hand only 6/44
  7. draw, 1 DA on #9, speed reload, 1 SA on #10 (x3) 6/50

John Hearne, a Federal Law Enforcement Officer and firearms trainer, created a shorter version of Dot Torture with smaller dots. The smaller dots create a more challenging exercise and the reduced round count facilitate incorporating other drills into a 100 round practice session.

30 round version by John Hearne on 1 ¼ inch dots (2017)

  1. Three rounds (slow fire) on #1 3/3
  2. Draw and fire 1 round on #2 (3 times) 3/6
  3. Draw and fire 1 round on #3, then 1 round on #4 (3 times) 6/12
  4. Draw and fire 3 round, Strong Hand Only, on #5 (1 time) 3/15
  5. Draw and fire 1 round on #6, then 1 round on #7, then 1 round on #6,
    then 1 round on #7, then 1 round on #6, then 1 round on #7 (1 time) 6/21
  6. Three rounds, non-dominant hand Only, on #8 from Low Ready (5 times) 3/24
  7. Draw and fire 1 round on #9, reload, then 1 round on #10 (3 times) 6/30

Another use for Dots is dry practice. The lack of recoil gives more feedback about sight picture and successful trigger manipulation than can be gained in live fire. One of the drills in the Concealed Carry Skills and Drills ebook is the 12 Trigger Press Dry Practice Drill.

12 Trigger Press Dry Practice Drill

This drill is practiced using the 12 Trigger Press target. It is done as eight strings, 12 presses total, untimed. Low Ready strings should start aimed at the base of the target stand, where the Threat’s feet would be. Observe the Dry Practice Safety Procedures described in the ebook whenever you dry practice.

12 Trigger Press dry practice target

  1. From the holster, draw and press 1 dry click at the lower left circle (1). Reholster.
    1. Repeat and remain at Low Ready.
  2. From Low Ready, press 1 dry click at the lower right circle (2).
    1. Repeat and then Reholster.
  3. From the holster, draw and press 2 dry clicks at the middle left circle (3). Remain at Low Ready.
  4. From Low Ready, press 2 dry clicks at the middle right circle (4). Reholster.
  5. From the holster, draw and press 1 dry click at upper left circle (5), then immediately press 1 dry click at upper right circle (6). Remain at Low Ready.
  6. From Low Ready, press 1 dry click at upper right circle (6), then immediately press 1 dry click at upper left circle (5).

Shooting at dots, both in live fire and dry practice, is an exercise that will increase any shooter’s marksmanship and weapons manipulation skills. Whichever version you choose to use, it should be a part of every serious shooter’s practice repertoire.

8 responses

  1. You can never go wrong by using small targets. They really help accuracy and excellent for dryfire. I like to start off cold and shoot 1.5-2” circles at 7 yards. Or finish off training with 1-2 “ circles.

    1. Ed McGivern was noted for being able to shoot playing cards at very high speed (5 shots in 3/5ths seconds) with a revolver. When he was asked how he was able to do it, he said “I’m not shooting at the card, I’m shooting at a spot on the card.”

      1. Ed Mcgivern is my favorite shooter. I do a drill now that mimics that drill. It was given to me by my training mentor and good friend Jim Higginbotham.

        5 yards from the ready put four shots in a 4×6 card in one second or less. Your shooting 5 shots so the first is free. The four after that are the one that count. It adds up to 4 splits off .25. I believe this is the way Mcgivern timed his speed drills. I like this better than Bill Drills excellent for recoil control and your using a small target .

        I bow hunt and can tell your accuracy will never become much . If all you do is shoot a big targets . Will I draw on a deer I’m aim at one spot about size of a dime on a deer.

  2. Good read and history lesson. I remember shooting dots in SF, at John Shaw’s and Roger’s Shooting School, but you forgot to add that Mike Green, founder of Green Ops, Inc (www.Green-Ops.com) invented a rifle version of Dot-Torture 😉 There’s a pic of it here: http://www.nationaltarget.com/product_info.php/dot-torture-p-412

    1. That’s good to know. Thanks.

  3. You are truly the “Professor”-thanks for the history lesson and drills!
    I try to shoot “Dot Torture” several times a year, for various purposes: to introduce myself to a new piece, as a trigger and sight focus exercise and well rounded practice session(draws, one handed shooting, multiple shots, reloading-all there).
    Respected Instructors and programs(Vickers/Hackathorn , HITS, GLOCK) still use “the bull” as part of their programs, and I would suggest the black bull at 10 yards is an evolution of dots.
    Be that as it may, I enjoyed your post, Professor, and will save it for reference. Thanks again

  4. […] Now on to the stuff I didn’t write: Claude Werner looks at the history of the Dot Torture Drill […]

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