Pistol drill; 5x5 Wilson Skill Test

    What is the 5X5 skill drill?

    This drill was designed by Bill Wilson of Wilson Combat. The purpose of the drill is to quickly measure a person's skill and rapid fire shooting ability in a way that allows accurate comparison of one person's skill level to that of other shooters.

    The drill is done at a range of 10 yards using a standard IDPA target (International Defensive Pistol Association). The drill is timed and started with the hands at your side facing the target. Unlike normal IDPA competition, a concealment garment is not required. Total Rounds fired will be 25

    It is intended for a service IDPA legal 9mm or larger caliber pistol. A suitable concealed carry holster is used along with ammunition with a power factor (bullet weight X velocity at muzzle) of 125,000 or more. Scoring is standard Vickers method with a half second penalty per point down in the -1 area, 1.5 seconds in the -3 area, and 2.5 seconds for missing the target.

    There are four strings of fire, each for time:Draw and fire 5 shots freestyle.

    1. Draw and fire 5 shots SHO (strong hand only).

    2. Draw and fire 5 shots freestyle, reload from slidelock and fire 5 more shots freestyle.

    3. Draw and fire 4 shots to the body and 1 shot to the head freestyle.

    The sum of your times on the 4 strings of fire above is your score. Below are the rankings for your score.

    15 seconds or less Grand Master

    20 seconds or less Master

    25 seconds or lessExpert

    32 seconds or less Sharpshooter

    41 seconds or less Marksman

    50 seconds or less Novice

    Over 50 seconds Not proficient enough to carry a handgun

    Here is a video of the fastest time recorded on this drill by BJ Norris. BJ is a professional as you will see. This video was posted by Wilson Combat on Youtube with permission to be shared with other webistes.

    What is the Vickers standard scoring method?

    When IDPA was formed the scoring method used was called the Vickers standard method. The name has now been changed to the Unlimited Scoring Method. What it means is that a shooter can shoot as many shots as he wants at any given target. Even though the required # shots and that particular target may be only 2, the shooter an shoot more than that if he/she wants. Only the best 2 count.

    The reason for doing this is because the shooter may know that he has missed. Taking more shots will hurt his time but the penalty for dropped shots is high. There is an old saying in IDPA. "You can't miss fast enough to win".

    What equipment do you need for this drill?


    IDPA has a few classes of pistols which allow some very minor modifications but their main focus is the use of stock pistols just as you buy them over the counter. So just use your stock Glock or M&P or whatever and see what your can do.


    An IDPA target is specified for this drill. This is a carboard cut out resembling a human torso with a scoring ring perforated into where the vital area would be on a human. In the drill description, each dropped shot carries a one half second with it.

    This means if a shot is outside of this scoring area and does not touch the marking line of the boundary, you add one half point to the overall time for each one. If your total score was 20.1 seconds and you dropped 3 shots, you would add 1.5 seconds to 20.1 giving you a final score of 21.6 seconds.

    I have tried cutting my own targets out of cardboard and it can be done. Then the scoring area will need to be drawn on each. I could only draw the area. I had no means of perforating the carboard like the actual IDPA targets. The difference is you can see the scoring area but if you were in a real competition event you wouldn't actually see it on the real targets.

    We also made our own mobile target stands to allow different set ups out of 2x4s to allow quick changes to the shooting stage. None of these exist today. Our designs didn't last very long.

    My shooting buddies and I found though that we enjoyed shooting more and target making less. We found exactly what we needed on Amazon and started purchasing our targets there. We found a combination target stand, target and pasters to cover bullet holes that is a great deal. All of these are listed above below on Amazon.


    If you are really getting into pistols and pistol shooting, you really need to get a good competition grade timer. These are not just regular egg timers. They are designed to give the shooter a starting beep and then record the times of each shot thereafter.

    When the shooter fires his last shot the timer will display his exact time for the entire string. The "splits" or times between each shot can also be broken down so the shooter can see if there is any opportunity to improve with a better timing of shots.

    This, along with hit percentage is how all major pistol competitions measure the performance of each participant. You can have a lot of fun with your pistol shooting buddies using one of these in any competition string you can think of. Here is the one I purchased from Amazon and it has served me very well.


    The holster requirement for this drill is really open. It calls for just a suitable concealed carry holster. For IDPA compeitition I use the Comptac International. It is an OWB holster which dominates IDPA. Here is a picture of mine carrying my M&P and wearing the paddle mount.

    It also comes with a belt mount that fits competition size belts and a drop insert in case you want to wear the holster lower. Cant is also adjustable.

    This holster is the overwhelming choice of all IDPA competitors. It is used by the World Champion, Bob Vogel. I can't say enough good things about mine but I don't want this article to turn into a product review. I'll just say it has shaved seconds off of my times and I highly recommend it. Check it out here on Amazon.

    Tips for running the 5x5 drill

    Remember the old saying mentioned earlier, "you can't miss fast enough to win". Accuracy is #1 and fast is #2. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Review this article on how to shoot fast and accurately.

    A good strong grip that gives you the feel that both hands and the pistol have become one unit will allow you to get better at shooting the fast strings. Your hands and the pistol should feel as if they are one. It's really hard to describe it any better.

    There are tons of information available on the subject of the proper grip for pistol shooing. For the most part I agree with what has been widely communicated. However, everybody's hands are a different size, shape, with different finger lengths, and so on. In addition, all pistols have different dimensions on the grip, distance to trigger, etc. The point here is what works for one person might not work for the other.

    Use the standard pistol grip method with both thumbs pointing forward and the heel of the support hand filling the void on grip left by the strong hand. Don't be afraid though the modify this for you specific pistol and hands. Do whatever helps the create a cohesive one unit grip.

    With this one unit grip you will be able to get your shots off faster without waiting to see the front sight. With this grip I know that when the pistol comes to rest after a shot, the front sight is right back where it what when the shot was fired, because of the grip.

    The grip is like a vise that returns the pistol back to it's orginal position. All I focus on during a fast shot string up close is keeping the rear sight in the middle of the target. If I keep that right, the grip will put the front sight where it is supposed to be.

    I know this is really out of the norm and I've never seen this tip recommended anywhere else but give it a try. It works great for me.

    The other requirement of this drill is shooting one handed with the strong hand fast and accurately. You should try this away from the drill first. You will find that the pistol will move away and up from the hand your are using. A little practice applying resistance against this movement and keeping your wrist strong will go a long way toward reducing your time.


    You and your shooting buddies can have a blast with this one realtively inexpensively. When our group gets together every Saturday morning this is one of the first drills we go to, after all bragging rights from last week have been thoroughly covered.

    Getting your gun club into drills like this is a great way of increasing interest in shooting for young and old. The friends you make will last a lifetime. Explore some of the others on this site. Happy shooting.

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