10 Carbine Drills to Master

Carbines, modern, vintage or somewhere in the middle are exceedingly popular guns for general purpose readiness in prepper’s armories for good reason. Their combination of range, power and ease of use make them excellent guns for protection and harvesting game at nearly any feasible range.

In the close confines of a building or the wide open spaces of plain (or parking lot) carbines will help you get things done.

M1 carbine

That is, they’ll help you get things done if you can actually get lead on target. Due to laziness, lack of appropriate facilities or a little bit of both, to many preppers I know are embarrassingly weak with their carbines at 50 yards, and damn near abysmal with them at 100 yards.

For a class of firearm that is easily good out to 300 and beyond with a rifle cartridge, this is unacceptable!

In this follow up to my previous Practical Carbine Skills article, I have assembled a list of some of my favorite drills and variations thereof to help you hone your carbine craft to a razor edge.

With dedication and hard work, these drills can help you go from “nobody” to “nightmare” with a carbine in hand.


This article will not contain all of the nuts and bolts of real-world carbine efficiency that I covered in some depth in the previous article.

If you know you need to get better with your carbine, but don’t know what you don’t know, be sure to read that article after you skim this drills list.

It will explain the ‘what‘ and ‘why’. If you are already savvy with your carbine of choice or issue and just need to inject some new blood into your training and practice regimen, you are in the right place.

At any rate I’ll be expounding on the drills to give you some idea of what performing them will do for your aptitude and what skills it will test. Some of these drills are simple, some are damned tough, even for seasoned shooters.

Don’t take my proffered standards as gospel; feel free to tune and tweak them to suit your skill level but always make sure you are striving to meet a challenging goal for you and then move those goal posts further when you are consistently meeting or beating them.

One other thing that should definitely be part of your practice regimen: tracking your results. If you don’t know what you can do consistently, you don’t really know how good you are.

Sure, you can shoot your favorite qual drill cold and generally feel if you are slacking, on it, or killing it but if you use a timer and logbook you’ll know precisely what you are capable of when you consult your performance records from the past.

Accuracy First

If you do nothing else with these drills, let them be the catalyst for tightening up your own accuracy standards. This era, the onus for shooters is on blazing speed with acceptable hits.

What is an acceptable hit? Depends on the trainer or shooter you ask. Too much preaching on the virtue of “combat accuracy” instead of “bullseye accuracy” has led to a generation of really sloppy shooters.

Hits anywhere in the torso, marginal scratches and suboptimal targeting all fly today under the horsecrap aegis of “combat accurate.” Folks, please just call it what it is: a so-so hit.

Your goal is not to hit the scumbag; your goal is to shoot him in the chest. Your goal is not to shoot him in the chest; it is to but a bullet right through his heart. Your goal is not to shoot him in the face; your goal is to sink a shot right in his eye socket. Aim small, miss small.

While nothing is ever a guarantee, the surest way to get results against a motivated human being is to demolish the vital structures in his body, not hit all around them.

Make no mistake, catching any rifle round is a Bad Frickin’ Day™ no matter where it strikes, but it is the height of bad form to give yourself a pass on your lacking accuracy because of some doctrine or other.

Your ultimate goal is to be scorching fast and razor accurate, not one or the other, but if you are going to emphasize one, especially with a carbine, make it the latter.

I always hold myself to a high accuracy standard by using reduced size silhouettes or small index cards sited on the vitals of my target. I work hard every shot to hit those cards, not around them, not close. You should do the same.

10 Carbine Drills for Field Success

The following drills are in no particular order except the first one. If you are starting from scratch with a given gun or just embarking on a new and strict regimen of improvement you should always begin with that one for reasons that should be obvious.

In fact, aside from that drill (exercise, really) I make it a point to not begin my practice sessions with the same drill every time, or flow through a given course of fire in exactly the same way. It is too easy to “grease the groove” and gain counterfeit proficiency just from going through the motions.

We need novel challenges to work our brains as well as our bodies if we want to improve. This is not to say you should approach your regimen all haphazardly, only that you should shake it up well before you get too stale and too comfortable.

Drill #1 – Hard Zero and Confirmation of Trajectory and Holds

I hear the scoffs come from about half of you all the way from here. Trust me on this: there is no such thing as a straight-up 50/200 zero, or 35/120 or anything else.

The vagaries of the manifold interaction between bullet, barrel and atmosphere are too numerous to quantify here, but suffice it to say that the devil is in the details.

Oh, sure, your combo might not be exactly a 50/200 hold- yours is actually two inches lower at 200- but that is close enough for combat accuracy… Malarkey.

You must know precisely what your carbine and ammo combo will do at all ranges that you could conceivably shoot at so know exactly what you can do.

The only way to know for sure is, yep, shoot at those various distances. The only time you should bust out the manufacturer’s ballistic tables and roll off those is when all you have access to is a 25 or 50 yard range and you need to get your gun and optic zeroed yesterday.

Otherwise, deal with the hassle, cost or inconvenience of finding a suitable range and precisely ranging your intervals.

When the time comes to zero or record data on your holds, do your very best work: precisely build up the most consistent and consistently repeatable position you can. Employ a rest, bags, the works, then shoot a 5 round group.

Account for spoilers and record your data. If in any doubt, shoot another one. I like to do this in 25 yard increments, but 50 yard increments are acceptable much of the time.

Once you have the data in, plot it on a graph so you’ll know your rifle and ammo combo’s precise performance, then convert that to an easy-to-carry waterproof card and stash it with your kit or range bag for easy reference.

Also, never, ever, ever make the assumption that you can switch to another load featuring a bullet of identical weight and get exactly the same trajectory.

With this vital step done, you are ready to do some real work.

Drill #2 – 100 Yard “Bulls”

As elemental as any drill can get for a rifleman. Very simple: setup a target of your choice (recommend a silhouette, preferably one of a style and shape that will not make your job too easy) at 100 yards, and upon the start signal from your timer or training buddy mount the rifle while standing, aim well and fire a single shot as quickly as you can while maintaining accuracy standards.

You should endeavor to call every shot, and if you are performing all of your fundamentals correctly you will not need a spotter or target retrieval to know approximately where your shot struck.

Of particular import is feeling when a shot was dead-nuts on target. That is positive feedback in action.

Your objective is raw accuracy; hit exactly what you are aiming at! Your bullseye should be the precise location of the vitals on a silhouette, and every round should hit it.

If you cannot do this consistently and on demand at 100 yards, especially you younger guys with optics, you aren’t anywhere close to acceptable.

You can spice this drill up a little by adding a time constraint or making the target smaller, or even potentially incorporating multiple shots making follow through even more essential. Remember, no slacking! Accuracy first.

Once you have this down pat you can push the distance back to 150 or even 200 yards and do the same. For longer shots, you can start practicing getting into a different and more stable position, or bracing the rifle for a snap shot.

Drill #3 – Near to Far, Far to Near

This drill mandates a good sized range so you can place an array of targets at various distances.

Using a silhouette or another target of your choice, set up multiples a good distance from one another, say one at 25 or 50 yards, one at 100 or 125, and a couple more at 200 and beyond.

Using a training buddy or coach, have them all out a target to be engaged on command, and then shoot a proscribed number of rounds (preferably two or three).

The idea with this drill is to gain proficiency with your holds at various ranges in order to maintain precise shot placement no matter where your target presents itself. Mechanical offset is also an issue at very close range and so it can be worthwhile to incorporate some very close targets as well.

If you see consistent deviation in your POI, especially on the nearer targets, you are likely not adjusting your hold when you pick up your sights. Sure, what’s an inch or two between friends, right?!

It would still be an acceptable hit, even a very good one! Perhaps, but you are working toward a higher standard.

Don’t let yourself slide by with that; work this drill until you are automatically applying the correct hold to strike your intended POA at any distance.

If you start acing this, have your coach call out a series of targets and engage with more rounds.

Rapidly shifting your target distance will force you to apply a hold quickly and correctly to maintain speed and is one of my favorite simple drills.

Drill #4 – 2x2x2

A faithful drill for building close-quarters speed and efficiency, and one well known to shooters around the globe at this point. Start with three silhouettes at close range, evenly spaced about one to two full target-widths apart, about 10 yards distant or even closer.

The shooter begins with the rifle stock in the shoulder and the muzzle at low ready. Upon the start signal the shooter will bring the rifle up and fire 2 rounds into each target as quickly as possible.

Remember! Maintain a very high degree of accuracy; this drill is typically shot on IPSC cardboard silhouettes with a very generous A-zone, but you should strive to do better by negative taping or cutting out a smaller inner rectangle to keep yourself honest.

I like the latter method since I can spot my “misses” when they appear on the cardboard. If the target stays clean I am good to go.

This drill will quickly help you cut fat from your presentation and trigger manipulation as well as swinging the carbine to and stopping on a target. He-Man hard and fast is not always faster; experiment to find the sweet spot.

Keep in mind if you accelerate harder you have to brake harder and earlier to stop. Not ideal for settling your sights down consistently and finding them easily. Your goal is to maintain accuracy while getting your time lower and lower.

Drill #5 – 1 thru 5

Another oldie but a real goodie, and close-quarters focused. Think of this drill like the 2x2x2 above on steroids. You’ll begin with the same three targets as above, spaced exactly the same.

Only this time on the fire command you’ll engage the first target on either side (target #1) with a single shot, the next target (target #2) with two shots then the last target (target #3) with three shots before reversing course and engaging #2 with four shots and finally #1 with five shots. Get it?

If you think you can just go buck wild and hose lead to speed up while maintaining good hits you have another thing coming.

The near distance fools some, but this drill can be a real humbler and is a significant test of coordination.

This drill also features a strong practical component : if you are ever confronted by multiple assailants who are closing in, you’ll want to start doling out lead to all of them to catalyze their attack and hopefully halt their advance before coming back around on them for seconds (for anyone that needs them).

Objective is the same as before, strict attention to precise hits and constantly trimming time off your score.

Pro Tip: it is faster and easier to swivel your hips/legs to maneuver from target to target than “pushing” the gun around with your arms. Once you get really slick you’ll sound like a badass metronome.

Drill #6 – The 15-50

Another deceptively simple drill that is a terrific test of fundamentals (aren’t they all?). The 15-50 is shot on a single target at 50 yards. Note that 50 yards is an easy shot by any objective standard. Begin with the rifle in a relaxed position/port arms.

Upon the start command from your timer or your training partner, you’ll mount and present the rifle and fire five rounds from the standing position, then go to kneeling and fire five more and finally go to prone and fire five more. Your objective is all hits within 15 seconds and, friends, it is far easier said than done.

A single dropped shot is a fail. If you are a wee baby shooter, add a time penalty instead and work to improve your final time.

For you megaforce types you can incorporate a downloaded mag of five rounds in the gun and subsequent reload to finish, or try the 30-50 drill.

Fire the first 15 rounds as normal, above, and then reverse the sequence to standing- five more from prone, go to kneeling and fire five more, then back to standing and fire the last five. Par time for the soul crushing 30-50 is 25 seconds.

Before you start blathering about tactical utility this, and opportunity that, keep in mind this is a drill, not a tactic. A drill is designed to enhance skills.

Shooting this drill clean ensures you have your basics dialed in tight and can ably get into and out of positions quickly and efficiently- a necessary capability to survive a rifle fight.

Drill #7 – Barricade Blues

For this drill setup your targets at the edge of your practical capability when shooting supported. If that is 150 yards, do that. If it’s 200, do that. So on and so forth.

When challenged by a long range target, you are a fool to shoot off hand if you have literally any other option available to increase stability.

The best rests are large, heavy and immobile or nearly immobile objects that we can securely anchor the gun and ourselves to to greatly enhance our position.

Take it from me, you want a vert grip or even better a “barricade biter” on your carbine’s forend for exactly this purpose. Getting into position quickly to make a shot on a vanishing or shrinking target is half the battle.

You can relax your accuracy standard a little here if you are just starting to flex your longer range muscles, but make your hits count. You’ll want to use some kind of supported position besides basic prone.

Set up some VTAC or similar barricades, a table, barrel, higher, lower, a stump, anything that is a “real life” rest besides dropping on your belly to shoot supported by the ground. Prone is not suitable in the real world nearly as much as you think.

Begin several yards away from your barricade or rest, and if possible, have multiple to choose from on the same firing line.

At the start command, move to the designated station and get into position to make best available use of cover and a rest to fire.

Here is where it gets fun: fire as many shots as you need to make a hit. Repeat the same evolution five times, recording your total time on target each time.

Assuming you hit every target, your score is the sum of your five evolutions, placing a heavy emphasis on speed, economy of motion, knowing your positions and nabbing the elusive first round hit. Work to get your score as low as you can.

Drill #8 – 4-Reload-2 to the Head

A great, short and sweet mixed purpose drill that will test several skills at once. Place a target at 10 yards and a target at 50 yards. The shooter begins with a four rounds in their gun and a spare magazine of two on their hip/gear/whatever.

At the start signal, the shooter engages the nearer target with four rounds, performs a reload when empty and then engages with a pair of headshots the far target. Drill must be shot clean to pass.

This incorporates the ever important and popular speed reload into practice and also forces you to speed up while paying attention to mechanical offset (the near target) and then slow way down and watch your holds (the far target).

A great drill that uses little ammo, and one that will severely punish any error in fundamentals or procedures.

Drill #9 – The Flying V

Setup an array of 5 targets in a wedge formation, the target nearest you being the point. The nearest target should be approximately 25 yards away, with the subsequent rows of targets 10 yards behind the former. Shooter begins the drill with a full magazine.

On the start command, shooter engages the first target with two rounds, then the next two left hand targets with two rounds each.

Shooter then engages the first target again with two rounds before engaging the right side targets with two rounds each before repeating the entire sequence. Reload as required. Par time is 30 seconds for guns holding at least 30 rounds.

This drill is high volume and high tempo but will force you to stay on your sights and move briskly to complete it and shoot it cleanly.

Drill #10 – El Presidente

Jeff Cooper’s legendary drill, and still one of the best for separating the groupies from the rockstars. I increase the range a little for working with a carbine.

Three targets are placed at 15 yards, one yard apart from each other. The shooter begins with six rounds in the gun, facing away from the target with the rifle slung and hands above their shoulders (surrender position).

At the start command the shooter acquires and mounts the rifle, turns and engages each of the three targets with two shots, performs a reload and then two more shots each for time. The drill must be shot cleanly! Any dropped shot or miss is a fail. The par time is 10 seconds.

This drill is still in many ways the king of close-quarters performance standards, and will suffer no error if you want to pass it.


The drills above are just a small selection designed to help you break out of your up-close, slow-fire, square range rut.

Running your carbine well in the field is a far different exercise than doing so at your local friendly shooting range and your practice sessions and the drills you perform should reflect that.

Start flexing your carbine muscles by incorporating some of these drills in to your next range outing.

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2 thoughts on “10 Carbine Drills to Master”

  1. Most of this is a crock. Try doing any of that in a combat situation and you will die! I spent 5 years in combat in the jungles of Southeast Asia and I know what I’m talking about. If you are going to prepare for combat then go into a real world situation with someone that has been there before. Drills are fine when they based in reality but these are not.

  2. While these drills are great overall if you’re preparing to shoot 3 gun, they tend to suffer when applied in real world combat. Yes, your carbine needs to be zeroed, and these drills are great for warm up, but you need to incorporate CQB drills also. We have learn after almost 20 years of continues combat that combat accuracy is valid. While a heart shot or head shot would be ideal, a lot of rounds on target work well also. There is a real world reason why we don’t train today like we did in 2000 and before. We have updated experience now, where we were working off mostly theory and old tactics from WWII through Vietnam prior to 2000. Tactics change!!!


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