Everyone knows the first rule of a gunfight – “bring a gun”. But just having a firearm is not enough to maximise you chances in case of a self-defence shooting. You would also benefit from proper gear and most importantly – solid gunhandling skills. There are many drills designed to test shooter’s proficiency, but in my opinion, one of the the most challenging and exciting ones is the “Triple Nickel” drill.
This drill was designed in the early 2000s by Mr. Kelly Venden, retired Delta Force Sergant Major during his work in the Federal Air Marshal Service. The name of the drill comes from the fact that the shooter must engage five targets, two shots to each target, from five yards in five seconds (5-5-5) and “nickel” is the common name to the american five cents coin.
Unlike many other drills, Triple Nickel MUST be shot from concealment or with a standard duty rig, if the shooter is LEO/Military who carries his handgun in a duty holster. Also, during the course of fire, shooter must perform one speed reload before he shoots the last target. Here is a video of Kelly Venden himself demonstrating the proper execution of the drill.
What makes this drill great for an armed citizen, in my opinion, is the fact that it contains some of the major techniques applicable to everyday carry: fast draw from concealment, quick and efficient target transitions, speed reload.
Another advantage of this drill is very strict time and accuracy standards. Most people who carry concealed firearms don’t necessarily look for formal firearms training and don’t participate in any shooting competitions. Therefore, they don’t really have an objective criteria and standard that would allow them to measure their shooting skill. Simple drills like “Triple Nickel” allow anyone to see where his shooting skills are at, without spending too much time and ammo.
Obviously, “Triple Nickel” is not the only thing you should practice, there are other critical skills you need to work on – off-line movement and shooting on the move, retention shooting, force on force. But if someone can shoot “Triple Nickel” under 5 second with good hits he definitely has his fundamentals down.
Another interesting thing about the “Triple Nickel” is the fact that this drill created a very interesting and unique tradition of “challenge coins”. An individual must shoot this drill 3 times in one day with all the required hits to get a special “challenge coin” (pictured above). Two current coin holders have to be present to make sure that all the proper procedures were followed.
At the moment, there are 264 verified coin holders. Unfortunately, only LEO and Military shooters can actually get a coin, but nothing stops an average civilian from shooting this fun and challenging course of fire.
Back in the day, when I had regular access to handguns as a full time firearms instructor (generally, in Russia civilians are not allowed to buy or carry handguns due to insufferable Russian gun laws), I practiced this drill quite often. In my experience, it is great way to improve target transitions, draw and reload times. Also, it is just really fun, just as fun as shooting heads off cardboard targets (shown in the video below).
OK, let’s say you want to shoot a “Triple Nickel” drill. Fortunately, there is a whole Facilitator Guide you can use. It is especially important if you’re planning to obtain proper bragging rights among your buddies after you manage to shoot the course under 5 seconds. If you don’t know all the rules and subtle nuances you performance on this course of fire might upset you.
And that is exactly what happened when I was first introduced to this drill. One day, I walked into a bay at the “THEOBJECT” shooting range in Moscow and witnessed someone I know shooting this drill. This someone at the time was the leading firearms and tactics instructor of an elite Russian counter-terrorist unit. I asked him about the drill and he told me that many years ago a group of Russian special forces instructors were in the US with an official visit and someone introduced them to this drill: 5 meters, 5 seconds, 5 targets.
Since then, many people in the Russian unit tried to shoot this drill. Their times were well under 5 seconds, but they could never get all A’s on the IPSC (USPSA) targets and were quite upset and confused with their apparent poor performance.
I was really surprised, I knew they had some great shooters and did a little but of research. It turns out that Russian operators did not know that this drill is shot with either Tran Star-II or FBI-QIT targets and instead used standard IPSC targets thinking they must get all A’s. But the scoring zone of Tran Star-II or FBI-QIT targets is much bigger than A zone allowing to shoot faster and sacrifice some accuracy.
If you like me and just want to have fun and hone you skills, you can just use cheap USPSA targets and try to keep you hits in the A-C zone, making sure you’re not just spraying and praying trying to gain speed.
In conclusion, I don’t think that every concealed carry weapon owner must shoot this drill under 5 seconds and be a modern day gunslinger. But it is always nice to know where you stand in terms of skill level. I think if you know that you suck, you’re already one step closer to improving.