Practicing one hole groups is useless for self defense…without this.

I talk a lot about how important it is to be able to shoot 1 hole groups at close distances with your carry gun.

And I get a lot of flack for it.

“That’s useless for self defense…you need to spread out your shots”

“Anyone can do that…if they can’t, they shouldn’t own a gun”

Literally THOUSANDS of comments like that from good, well meaning people who are




When you shoot at close distances where any gun with any ammo can shoot 1 hole groups, the outcome is a reflection on the shooter’s ability to execute the fundamentals in sterile conditions.

It’s a basic demonstration that you can accurately line up the muzzle and press the trigger without disturbing muzzle alignment.

And, if they can’t do that in sterile conditions, it’s almost guaranteed that they won’t be able to conjure up the skill under stress.

What I’ve found over the years is that only about 10% of people who carry a firearm for self defense can stand 5-10 feet away from a target and shoot a 5 round, 1 inch group on demand.  Civilian, police, military, competition, concealed carriers, even instructors…only about 10% can do it.

Not all through the same hole…just all the holes touching…a 1″ group.

Interestingly enough, about 99% of these same shooters THINK they can shoot 1 hole groups.

What happens?

They usually have flyers or misses due to visual issues or disturbing muzzle alignment while pressing the trigger.

It’s OK if you can’t shoot a 1 hole group right now…

It’s much better to have an accurate assessment of where you’re at than dangerously over-estimate your skill level.

But here’s where it gets interesting…

One hole groups in sterile conditions aren’t the end.  They’re just the beginning.

They are a BASIC test of whether a shooter can line up the muzzle and press the trigger without disturbing the muzzle.

I’ll quote Dusty Solomon’s paraphrase of Rex Applegate, “There is a tremendous difference between shooting methods that work well when you are trying to put holes in the target and those that work well when the target is trying to put holes in you.”

And, even though being able to put 5 rounds in a touching group at 6-10 feet in sterile conditions is relatively worthless in a self-defense context, it’s still a very valuable skill.


Because shooting is a crawl-walk-run process.

Shooting one hole groups shows that you can execute the fundamentals precisely when the stress level is low enough that you can think your way through the process.

Perfect sight picture

Embrace the wobble

Slow, steady pressure on the trigger without disturbing sight alignment until you have a surprise break.

You might even take time to get a perfect stance and time your breathing.

Great skills to have.

Very little application to self defense shooting with a pistol where you have to take the shot off balance and most ricky tick.

But shooting one hole groups in sterile conditions is still a VERY important step in the process.

Here’s why.

Typically, when you learn a skill, you think through the steps consciously.

You may remember how to do the skill a few days later, but it’s stored in a different part of the brain than a skill that you can execute at a high level without thinking through the steps.

This is important.

In a high stress situation, your brain increases performance by shutting down A LOT of normal functions and big parts of your memory.

You won’t have access to the memories of how to do skills that you have to think your way through.  They’re stored in “explicit memory.”

We see the impact of this fairly often when people shoot an attacker in self defense at kitchen distances and miss with 60%, 80%, or 100% of the shots they fire.

They may be able to drill bulls-eyes on paper.

They just didn’t have their gun handling skills stored in the right part of their brain.

In a high stress situation, you will have access to skills that are stored in implicit memory.  These are your conditioned responses.  Skills that you’ve practiced until you don’t have to think about them.

There are a couple of big physical/physiological problems as well…

In a fight for your life, you’re going to press the trigger quickly.  If you haven’t isolated trigger finger movement at high speed in practice, you’re not going to do it under stress and you’re going to disturb sight alignment.

Second, in a fight for your life, you’re going to try to reset the trigger quickly for the next shot.  If you haven’t practiced shooting multiple shots quickly, the tendency is to TRY to shoot quicker by moving your trigger finger a shorter distance…when you don’t let the trigger out far enough to reset, it’s called short-stroking and it creates a situation that feels like a malfunction.  This is common for shooters who don’t practice shooting quickly in practice and are shooting quickly for the first time when lives are on the line.

So, one hole groups are great…but they’re not the end goal…they’re a step in the process.

The end goal is to be able to shoot 1 hole groups subconsciously…as a conditioned response…with the skill stored in implicit memory…so you can access and use the skill in a high stress shooting situation when lives are on the line.

Once you can shoot 1 hole groups, you want to start speeding up until you’re able to shoot them faster than 1 round per second…then increase the number of rounds and stretch out the distance.  Even adding movement, stress, and decision making.


Like I said, you can think your way through shooting 1 hole groups.

But when you demand precision and speed up the splits to faster-than-one-second, the conscious mind tends to get overloaded after about 3-5 rounds.

If you’ve got precise conditioned responses stored in implicit memory, you can keep drilling rounds through the same hole for 5, 10, or more rounds in a row.

If you don’t have precise conditioned responses, the groups will open up…FAST and WIDE.

What about 1 hole groups being bad for stopping threats?

That’s a myth based on misunderstandings.

The bigger the difference between your training conditions and reality, the more precise you should be.

If you’re shooting in sterile, slow, low stress conditions, strive for pinpoint accuracy.

If you’re doing force on force training in low light with multiple attackers shooting at you, just make your hits.

But the fundamental skills of being able to press the trigger without disturbing sight alignment and being able to put rounds where you want them to go is always something you should strive for, regardless of the situation.

You can ALWAYS speed up or choose to shoot looser groups, but you can’t conjure up the ability to shoot precisely on the fly…like if you need to make a head shot, distance shot, or shoot a partially exposed threat under or around cover.

Besides…in a dynamic, chaotic self-defense shooting situation, the movement of your attacker will more than likely spread out where the rounds impact, even if you drill each round through the exact same trajectory.

So, what’s the best way to move these skills that you probably already know how to do at the range with no stress to the part of the brain that will be firing on all cylinders when lives are on the line?

In short, it’s not more practice…it’s practicing smarter.

Not shooting a certain number of rounds or doing a certain number of dry fire reps or practicing for a certain amount of time, but using training methods designed to quickly drive skills deep into your motor cortex…way, way quicker and deeper than what you can do with traditional training methods.

How do you do that?

We use more than a dozen accelerated learning techniques in 21 Day Alpha Shooter and Draw Stroke Mastery to make it easy, and every shooter who carries a gun or owns one for self defense should go through these at-home trainings.  Once you’ve got a solid foundation, you REALLY want to go through our Dynamic Gunfight Training that will show you how to correctly integrate movement, stress, and decision making into your training.

Here’s a couple of things you should do no matter what…

When you practice, once you can do the base skill at a high level, add novelty and cognitive load instead of just grinding out endless, mindless reps.

For draw stroke, it might be dry fire practicing draw stroke standing on one leg instead of 2.

Or saying the alphabet backwards out loud as you do your dry fire reps.

Or stepping off the x as you draw, present, and acquire a sight picture.

The difference in learning speed is dramatic.

If you just practice the same skill, over and over with little variation, you’re not going to get much neurogenesis, or new neural connections in the brain.

But if you keep adding slight variations to a skill that you know, every few reps, you will create up to 1.7 MILLION new neural connections per second.

And, in case your fuzzy on that…1.7 million new neural connections per second is better than none 🙂

That’s just a tiny example of how we’re able to get better results in less time and for less money than what you can get with traditional training methods.  (We spell out how to do it >HERE<)

It’s not just a matter of dry fire vs. live fire…it’s a matter of HOW you train–training smarter–regardless of what tool is in your hands.

So, if you carry a firearm or own a firearm for self-defense purposes, you owe it to yourself to go through our training.  Now.

If you haven’t gone through 21 Day Alpha Shooter yet, it’ll guide you through a 5-15 minute per day follow-along dry fire training program that you can do in your living room.

When you finish it, your skills will be more refined than 90% of gun owners in America today.

It won’t make you a tactical ninja, but many high speed military and law enforcement shooters use this program to sharpen and streamline their fundamental firearms skills.  Start going through 21 Day Alpha Shooter right now by clicking >HERE<

Draw Stroke Mastery delivers more value than a 3-5 day live training and will give you the tools to become one of the top 1% of shooters in less time than what is possible using traditional methods.  Elite level shooters have reported dropping .2, .4, or more on their draw stroke times in just a couple of weeks after being stuck at a plateau for years.  Start going through Draw Stroke Mastery right now by going >HERE<

And our Gunfight Training?  🙂  Let’s just say…there’s nothing else that comes even close to the power of this training.  You’ll develop more real-world skill in less time than what is possible with any other training system or method available today at any price.  You can check it out by going >HERE<

Questions?  Comments?  Let me know by commenting below

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  • Sonny Anteau

    Reply Reply December 3, 2020

    How much,how many shots.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply December 7, 2020

      What, exactly are you referring to?

  • Dave

    Reply Reply July 13, 2020

    As shooters evolve to the gunfight training levels, one tool that might be helpful in a SIRT kind of training environment are the vests that give you a shock when you get shot. Not only does that provide the mental stress that you have to overcome but it reinforces the training for taking cover.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply July 13, 2020

      Absolutely…very pricey, but they can be very effective if used correctly. As you mentioned, “as shooters evolve” is key. If you introduce a pain component to training before the underlying skill has been myelinated, all it does is retard skill development. If you myelinate or reach automaticity first, the stressvest can be a great tool to make the underlying skill more resilient.

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