Slow Down to Speed Up: The Secret To Effective Pistol Presentations

By Michael Mills
Posted in #Skills
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Slow Down to Speed Up: The Secret To Effective Pistol Presentations

June 20th, 2022

7:31 runtime

We have all heard the saying on the range or in training classes — slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. Or maybe this one? You’ve got to slow down so you can speed up later. How about my favorite that most never explain? Skill-stacking.

Man showing shot timer under 1 sec
They say “slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” The author explains what this really means in practice.

Although these are very relevant and are really the keys to success, we are going to dive into these sayings and use them to build our skill levels together. Try to remember that each time we learn a new skill, we want to go through it slowly. After we have mastered that skill, we can add the next to it and progress through speed variations

Starting From The Bottom

A clean draw is the cornerstone of our range performance. It is where the grip starts, trigger press begins and shot placement follows. We don’t just go for 100% the first time we draw with a new pistol, holster or if we have never been on the range before. Instead, we start slowly by building the grip, marrying the hands, getting in the proper hand position with thumbs forward and finishing with trigger press. As our brain remembers the proper positions, we can speed this up.  If you have a shot timer, this is a great tool for training on and off the range.

Man at a range demonstrating pistol draw from holster
The foundation of handgun performance — be it on the range or on the street — is the draw. An inefficient draw wastes time.

Stacking Skills

Once your draw is good and you have progressed through the speed variations, it is time to skill-stack. With skill-stacking, you focus on the entirety of the process rather than simply perfecting just one part. Draw and press the trigger once you’re on target. Use the same speed strategy as before, of slow to fast. If you hang up on the draw, back off a bit on the speed until you can reliably draw and press the trigger without issue. Once you are comfortable with your performance, it is time to do it live. Load up your favorite ammo and work the drill live-fire. Keep the round count low, maybe 5 to 10 rounds for this, and the real fun will come later.

Man presenting pistol and pressing trigger slowly during practice at the range
Practice the fundamentals of the perfect trigger press slowly, and build your speed from slow to fast.

Beyond the Basics

One of the most fun drills to run at speed is the 1R1. This is when you draw fire one round, experience slide lock, conduct an emergency reload and finish with one round. I suggest you practice a few of these dry as I do in the video (steps listed below).

Man holding pistol in slide lock
The author recommends training reloads through a drill he calls the 1R1: one round, reload, one round.

If you have never experienced slide lock on a pistol due to being empty, you need to because it is very distinct. It may be a good idea to set your pistol up with only a round in the chamber and an empty magazine, fire the round and feel the difference as the slide locks to the rear. This will continue the speed methodology and really begin to compound your skill-building. Just think, we have gone from a simple draw to a compound drill in no time. 

Man demonstrating magazine release from semi-auto pistol
As your shooting skills increase, you can add reloads to the mix. Here the author practices an emergency reload.

Dry Practice Emergency Reload

  1. Activate magazine release dropping the empty mag
  2. Index your fresh magazine
  3. Slightly rotate your pistol to aid inserting the new magazine
  4. Either use the slide stop/over the top slide rack to complete loading

Make It Easy and Take It Easy

There are parts and tools that make all of this much easier. One is a shot timer. The PACT I use in this video is a great tool for growth. Having a full-size pistol with a flared magwell like the Springfield XD-M Elite Tactical OSP 9mm makes life a lot easier. Trying to do magazine exchanges on micro- or sub-compact pistols can be tough. You also need a good quality holster like the Blackhawk Omnivore, which will carry everything from an XD to a Springfield Operator 1911.

Man demonstrating reload at the range
Reloading a pistol is an essential skill. Training will help improve it. A flared magwell like the one on the XD-M Elite can also help.

You also have to take it easy on yourself. This is a lot to take on if you are new or have not been to the range for a long time. If you start getting frustrated or flubbing the magazine exchanges, just remember we all do it and we all need a break. When I take out new shooters, I have them shoot no more than 50 rounds that day. This allows for a fun experience, conservation of ammo and limits the length of time you are on the range — and potential frustration from fatigue.

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Michael Mills

Michael Mills

Michael Mills created as a way to help spread good information, shed positive light on the gun community and to have fun. He has always loved teaching and helping others, especially when it comes to gun rights. This passion was further ingrained during his service in U.S. Army Special Operations, and he is a Use of Force Instructor, Defensive Tactics instructor, DEA Firearms Instructor and Police Academy instructor. He also has 15 years of law enforcement experience from patrol to supervision.

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