The 3-3-3 Drill and Individual Self-Defense

7-Yard double-taps. Being able to do this on the range doesn’t guarantee you will be able to do it when it matters. But NOT being able to on the range almost certainly means you won’t be able to when it matters.

There is a thing called the 3-3-3 drill and this fellow wrote a post about it that brings up some very good points. He also draws some conclusions about it that I find questionable and promotes some neo-Fudd lore of his own. OK, now we know where the weeds are, let’s get into them.

What is the 3-3-3 Drill?

‘From the draw fire three shots at a man-sized silhouette at three yards. Success is having all three shots consistently in the A -zone.’

That’s it. A pretty simple drill and as part of a larger training scheme not a bad one. Like any other drill it is not the only thing you should practice, not is it any guarantee that you are prepared. The idea that it is- which I have never heard anyone express- is silly. Drills are training, and well-rounded training will include a number of drills as well as general target practice, mental preparedness, mindfulness, situational awareness etc.

Why is This a Problem?

If you rely on the 3-3-3 drill as your sole training standard you will not be well-prepared, and the author referenced above is correct about this. If you rely on any single drill or standard you will not be well prepared. Shootings are fluid, dynamic, chaotic and individual events. If you carry a firearm or keep one for self-defense you should engage in a variety of training and target-shooting as a matter of due-diligence.

That being said a hell of a lot of people have successfully defended themselves in a self-defense shooting with minimal training. I seriously don’t advise this course, but that doesn’t make it not true.

The Problem With Averages

The conventional wisdom is that the average civilian self-defense shooting occurs at less than three yards and involves less than three shots. I know of no body of statistics that supports this as an average, as the writer being referenced points out. Even if it is a statistically supportable average that doesn’t mean it’s the way any given shooting will transpire. I know of incidents that have occurred at ranges as far as forty feet or even further. They are outliers, but they happen.

Self-defense shootings are chaotic and highly variable in their details. They are also situational, and highly dependent on individual circumstances. I am not sure that averages are useful when contemplating a self-defense shooting.

So What is Likely?

OK, let me start by saying I am not an expert. I have no academic credentials related to this field. I have made no systematic study of this, have written no papers and am not ex-Spec-Ops or a Police trainer.

What I am is a person who has been keenly interested in the topic for four decades. I’ve watched trends come and go, watched society evolve and read hundreds of reports of civilian self-defense shootings and police shootings. I have also watched hundreds, perhaps over a thousand videos of shootings from security footage and seen analysis of many of these incidents. I am not unintelligent, and while I have not quantified the results or engaged in a systematic study I have made some observations. I have a legitimate basis for my opinions, but it is not the last or only word on the subject and my opinion should not be taken as received wisdom. That being said based on the information available to me I can offer some thoughts regarding civilian self-defense shootings.

  1. The majority of them happen at very close range.
  2. In most cases relatively few shots are fired.
  3. I have seen very, very few instances where the shooter needed to reload.
  4. In the overwhelming majority of cases the suspect flees immediately when the shooting starts.
  5. Multiple suspects nearly always means more people running away when the shooting starts.
  6. In very, very few cases was it necessary to shoot more than one assailant.

Based on my observations it seems likely that a self-defense shooting will happen at close range, involve few shots and the bad-guys will flee regardless of the quality or lack of quality of the hits. Does this mean I think that means a five-shot snub-nosed .38 is all anyone needs and they’ll be golden no matter what happens? Absolutely not.

So What Should You Do?

I don’t know you, I don’t know where you live, I don’t know your family, societal or financial circumstances. I don’t know your physical capabilities, your level of skill, training or moral attitudes. But I do know what you should do. You should think. Consider all of these things, think about what threats you are likely to encounter and how you are best capable of dealing with them. Inform yourself and decide how much and what sort of training is necessary and possible for your personal, unique circumstances.

If you read up on the subject consult multiple sources and compare and contrast them, then make up your own mind. Then do the best you can for you.


A Fudd is an old-fashioned person with a limited perspective, often informed by scanty or outright false ideas about guns and self-defense. Lately I have been seeing more and more of what I think of as Neo-Fudds, These are generally younger people with a limited perspective, often informed by scanty or outright false ideas about guns and self-defense. They can be spotted by several attitudes and assertions.

*They act as if every armed encounter will be with a person with an absolute commitment to killing you at all costs.

*They cite multiple assailants as meaning there is an absolute need for a high-capacity weapon and reloads.

*The cite anomalous incidents as things everyone needs to base their decisions on.

*The assertion that if you aren’t prepared for any possibility you aren’t serious about self-defense.

This last one is especially odious. You literally cannot prepare for every possibility, and it’s stupid to try. You need to evaluate what is likely for you, personally, and make your decisions based on that. Bear in mind, it’s still going to be a ‘best guess,’ and in the vanishingly unlikely event that you need to employ a firearm in self-defense you might have been completely wrong regardless of your preparations and forethought. You just have to do the best you can.

Any Advice?


Carrying a gun in a potent caliber with a high capacity when manageable is never bad advice. If stacking the odds is an option why wouldn’t you? But it might not be an option; you might work in a non-permissive environment where discretion is mandatory and outweighs other considerations. A lower-capacity weapon might be sub-optimal, but it’s hardly useless.


Practice however you can. Dry-firing is something pretty much anyone can do, and it’s not complete training but it’s better than nothing. Target shooting is an option for most people, and it’s not complete training but it’s better than nothing. Practice reloads. Practice clearing malfunctions. Practice drawing the weapon from your carry set-up. Practice shooting one-handed and with your off-hand. It all helps.


I don’t expect to need a reload, but I always carry one. Why? Because reloading is often the fastest way of clearing a jam.

Did I mention that your should think?

At The End of the Day…’s on you. You make the decisions, you accept the risks. You know yourself, your life and circumstances. Make the best decisions you can that fit you and your life. Don’t make your decisions based on someone else’s theories, ideas or mythology. Dive as deep as you feel comfortable and is practical for you.

Also you need to understand that anything you decide will be a compromise, and anyone that tells you different is probably selling something. Only you can decide what compromises to your own life are necessary and prudent. The more information you base those decisions on the better off you will be, but you need to examine that information critically. Garbage in, garbage out.

Stay safe and take care,

Michael Tinker Pearce, 26 February 2023

2 thoughts on “The 3-3-3 Drill and Individual Self-Defense

  1. Brett

    Well reasoned and thoughtful. I know younger people who laugh at my pocket pistols. The require a larger gun with more capacity sighting the same points you mention. Good for them. But I am always armed and they frequently are not depending on the clothing they wear. Funeral, beach, restaurant, birthday party, I am armed. I practice when I can. When the first round goes off the bad guys aren’t going to analyze what caliber, what size, what capacity. They will be trying to not get shot, and I will be looking for an escape route


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